Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




SCENE I.—(Rise outer Curtain.) Enter two Soldiers.

     1st Sol.     Ho, without there!


     2nd Sol.     What news?


     1st Sol.     Arthur is back for England with all his forces, and the King

  hath sent an army to withstand his landing, and himself leaveth to night to follow them.


     2nd Sol.     He be a rare King this Hunchback. He hath a marvellous

  power. His Knights be feared of him, but ’tis said he’s just.


     1st Sol.     He be not lawful got, ’tis said, but none can say his rule be



     2nd Sol.     ’Tis said that the new Queen be a witch an’ hath holpen

  him wi’ her deviltries.


     1st Sol.     God save us if it be true! Yet it is safe to say; God save the

  King an’ Queen. ’Tis better to cry a witch Queen than to be split ’i the gullet.


     2nd Sol.     Yea wi’ plenty ale ’i the pewter and meat ’o the spit, no

  matter who queens or kings it, so says I. I’m for Mordred an’ the Witch.


     1st Sol.     So be I till the next change comes.

[Exit both.


(Rise inner Curtain.) Enter VIVIEN as QUEEN with many Ladies and Pages—takes her state.
Enter a Knight, who kneels.


     Vivien.     What news from France, Sir Bors?


     Knight.     Arthur cometh back, my Lady.


     Vivien.     Nay!


     Knight.     Yea, my Lady, the army be embarked.


     Vivien.     Oh short and bitter!




     Mordred.     Well, Madam!


     Vivien.     (To the Ladies) Begone!

[Exit all.


(To MORDRED.) Hast thou heard the news?


     Mordred.     ’Tis as I have long expected. He now cometh back.


     Vivien.     Art thou prepared?


     Mordred.     Yea, if ’tis death thou meanest.
And ’twere better so. Thou art a Queen already!
I had not thought thou wouldst so look the Queen.


     Vivien.     Mordred, would that thou mightst also see
I wear a heart, a woman’s heart, beneath
This queenly mask.


     Mordred.     A heart?


     Vivien.     That beats and breaks for thee.


     Mordred.     I’m not myself, I am a hunchback king,
Who stole his father’s rule by subtlety.
And keepeth it by power of being a devil.
I know not love. Woman, thou art mad!
Art thou not satisfied with what thou art?
I made thee all that woman’s heart might crave.
Revenge, ambition, these all can I grant,
But love, a commodity not in Mordred’s giving.
Use this thy power to surfeit while it lasts,
To morrow it will topple. I’m o’er-weary
Of all this sycophancy of creeping men,
Who fear my power and sneer upon my back;
A pageantry of lies where human worms,
Who crawl to-day, tomorrow get a sting
And use it on the hand that ’friended them.
I cannot mould the face to popular form,
And hide the thought behind the outward act.
And make good ill, ill good by royal patent.
Nay, I can scorn, and I can hate,—yea strike,
When rules the mood, yea, I’m a very devil;
But cheat myself and others to what I am,
And be a popular dream, a fancied god,
The victim of a world’s delusiveness,
What manner I am, I were not made for this.
Yea coming struggle I meet thee with a joy
’Twere scarce expected. Madam, I bid farewell.
We worked this masque together, thou and I,
And if it like thee little, blame not Mordred.
I go to-night to meet my Sire in battle.
Such fight will be this kingdom hath not known
In all its sorrows. Britain’s darkest hours
Are blacking on her, I feel I go to death.
I leave some knights to guard thee. If thou desirest
Thou canst withdraw unto some convent close,
Till this blows over.


     Vivien.     Nay, Vivien flees not. She dies first! Woman or Queen
She will be found where dangers threaten thee
And menace thy kingliness, Oh Mordred,
Thou knowest not the woman that I am.
Take me with thee as thy heart’s true slave,
Where thou diest, there would Vivien die,
Or where thou goest, there would she wander too.


     Mordred.     Nay, nay, ’tis vain, I am a man apart.
Thou knowest not the iron I am become.
Mordred needs no shield of kindly help
Other than what unkind nature gave him.
Woman, thou dost unqueen thyself, I tell thee.
Thou wastest thy words on Mordred.


     Vivien.     Oh brute, Oh cruel shape, not natural man,
Hast thou no feeling?


     Mordred.     I go forth to-night.
To wreck my father, stem his tide this way
Unto his rightful kingdom. Speak me love!
Rather tell the lamb skipping the mead,
Go ask the wolf for suckle.


     Vivien.     Nay Mordred, slay me now and thou wilt know
Vivien had blood full warm to flow for thee.


     Mordred.     Woman, I’m all iron and adamant
And yet I pity thee for thou hast hell.
I would not slay thee—rather fare thee well.



     Vivien.     Oh God! Mordred! Mordred! Is this all?
And I have moulded him unto this iron
I beat against. It is my punishment!
Oh God! Oh God! Nay, I will go with him,
And die with him if need be. Now my wits!
But how? How? How?


Enter a Page.


     Page.     Madam, the King?


     Vivien.     He hath just left—Stay, dost thou go with him?


     Page.     Yea, Madam.


     Vivien.     Doth see this jewel?


     Page.     Yea Madam, it be wondrous indeed.


     Vivien.     It will be thine—wilt thou stay,
And let another go in thy stead.


     Page.     The King trusteth me.


     Vivien.     ’Tis the will of one who loveth the King far more than ever

  thou couldst. ’Tis my will. Thou must stay. Quick, this way.
[Exit both.


Re-enter MORDRED with his Knights.
Trumpets without.


     Mordred.     Make haste! Make haste! Where tarrieth this Squire of
  mine? We must ride to Dover ere it darkens.


     A Knight.     He cometh now, Sire.


Enter VIVIEN, disguised as a Squire.


     Mordred.     Dost thou keep thy king? thou wert long in coming.


     Vivien.     I came with all speed, Sire.


     Mordred.     Thou seemest over pink and white for this work
Canst thou fight?


     Vivien.     Yea, Sire, I can use a dagger.


     Mordred.     Then follow—Ho, there without! Now for Mordred’s