Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell





     Dagonet.     I’m but the ghost of mine old former self,

Who once a jester, am now but the jest
Of some outrageous fortune. Sleep hath fled,
My meat hath no more taste unto my mouth.
The wine but heavy lees within the cup.
I am so held in love for Vivien,
That I must end this foolish spark o’ life.
My heart leaps up for joy to see her face,
A silly joy, such as a child might have,
Loving some star for plaything, out of reach.
Oh what would I not do to even dare
To press the velvet of her dainty hand!
Back, down, poor foolish dreams! Now I must play
The frothy merriment of a world that’s grey.

There may be poison in the cup
But still the foam must cling.
To keep the strong world’s courage up
Poor fools must laugh and sing;
With sobs below and smiles above,
Amasking day by day,
On trampled, bleeding hopes of love.
So whirls the world away!

There may be breaking of the heart
Though merry laughs the eye.
Still we poor fools must act our part,
And laugh, and weep, and die.
Still must we sportive battles wage,
With foam of lightsome breath,
While underneath the currents rage
And wrecks are churned to death.


Enter VIVIEN, DAGONET starts.


     Vivien.     Thou growest grewsome, Dagonet; where hast lost thy


     Dagonet.     I know not, Vivien, I know not, belike I am a fool indeed.

  Poor Dagonet is no more himself.


     Vivien.     Poor Dagonet.


     Dagonet.     Why not call me fool, dost thou pity me?


     Vivien.     Yea, I do.


     Dagonet.     And since when?


     Vivien.     Since I knew that thou wert a man.


     Dagonet.     Dagonet, the fool, a man?


     Vivien.     Yea since I knew as thou couldst love indeed.


     Dagonet.     That I love, Vivien, what knowest thou?


     Vivien.     Yea, that thou hast a heart under thy mask. Yea, more, for

  whom thou hast this feeling. Wouldst thou win her grace?


     Dagonet.     (Falls on his knees.) Yea, yea, Vivien, for one look, one

  smile. Oh Vivien, well thou knowest I am thy slave.


     Vivien.     What would’st thou do for my love?


     Dagonet.     Thou hast my heart bare in thy sight. Write on it what

  characters thou likest, for I am thine. I tell thee I am thy dog, thy slave.


     Vivien.     Not dog, nor slave, but lover. (Vivien holds out her hand,

  Dagonet crawls near and takes it.)


     Dagonet.     Oh Vivien, dost thou mean this?


     Vivien.     Yea, in sooth I will try thy love. Would’st thou win my love



     Dagonet.     Dost thou mock me?


     Vivien.     Nay. (Takes a little box from her girdle and opens it.) Dost

  see this pill? (Leans near and whispers in his ear. Dagonet starts back.) Nay! nay! not that!


     Vivien.     That or nought!


     Dagonet.     Wouldst thou use me thus?


     Vivien.     Thou art the man who’d have my love! I tell thee so must all

  who’d love Vivien.


     Dagonet.     Nay, nay, I must think. This is indeed death, death.


     Vivien.     Yea, death or nought! I thought thou wert a man?


     Dagonet.     For that reason am I now in hell.


     Vivien.     (Takes his hand.) Dagonet, dost thou love me?


     Dagonet.     Oh God! Yea Vivien, give me the pill, I am not myself any

  more. I am thine, I will do it. Vivien, thou wilt not fail me?


     Vivien.     See that thou dost not fail me, and be sure that thou doest

  this well.


     Dagonet.     I will.

[Exit Vivien


     Dagonet.     At last Dagonet thou hast thy wish, and hast crossed the

  barrier that separates comedy from dark tragedy.
Dagonet, now thou art a man!
Thou art pitied! Thou canst win love.
Thou canst snuff the candle out o’ a life.
Dost know thy features any more? And all for love!

O Love, that lights this world
Yet leaves us i’ the dark;—
I led thee to my couch,
A grave-cloth was thy sark!
O Love, we would be clothed,
And thou hast left us stark.


Yea, I am on fire. Snow! snow! Would I had snow to cool me.
Fool, thou art no more a fool. Dagonet, thou art a man!
Thou lovest. This must be done. (Goes out.)