Poetical Tragedies

Morning: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




PLACE—Home of LEONATUS in the city of Avos.

Enter BLUFF.


     BLUFF.     Welcome to-morrow, when through his master’s name
This Bluff shall rule this city.


Enter a Priest, a Merchant and a Lawyer.


     BLUFF.     Good morrow, gentlemen, what is your will with me?


     Priest.     We would see your lord.


     BLUFF.     (aside) Yea, all come to him now. This is my day,

To-morrow ascends my prime. This day three days
I will be half a god. (to them) He now is absent,
But will soon be home.
Could you your business speak, I, as his agent,
Am in his confidence. Yea, with all modesty,
Hold even powers.


     Priest.     (aside) This is our man. (to BLUFF) Sir Bluff, a word with you.


     BLUFF.     Sir Bluff! I am risen already.


     Priest.     Your lord we fear, for all our confidence,

But respect your wisdom. Use your power with him
And you may use us.


     BLUFF.     Honors, I am your servant, your very humble,

The servant of the city and the people,
Being my master’s. Speak, what is your will?


     Lawyer.     You know the public purpose?


     BLUFF.     I know somewhat. We feel our responsibility,

But, being modest, we will do our best.


     Priest.     For this same honor that we all do wot of,

I need a pledge that he will aid the priesthood,
And keep them in their struggle with the people.


     BLUFF.     Then you shall have it. Name this special need

And it is yours. (aside) Promises are like June plums, they rot
Ere you can pick them. I will give away
More than Melchizedek, who gave Abram
The spoils of his enemies.


     Priest.     I represent the priesthood of the city.

We ask a tax, a heavy tax on all,
To build our temple.


     BLUFF.     Then is it built, I make my vow, my lord.

You know my lord is pious, and if not,
His servant is.


     Priest.     We know him honorable, spoken well of all,

Therefore he gets our votes. But on this pledge,
Most noble sir,—


     BLUFF.     (aside) Most noble! I am risen to the stars.


     Merchant.     And I stand here to voice the monied men.


     BLUFF.     Most honored, I hold your purse.


     Merchant.     Scarce yet, illustrious!


     BLUFF.     Illustrious? and I have married a wench!

The daughter of a barber heckles me!
Henceforth I’ll know myself; she’ll know me proud!
(to Merchant) Well, noble sir, your servant, the people’s servant,
Awaits your will. You spake of monies?


     Merchant.     The hand that holds my money holds strong power,

And knows in privy when to give or take.
You know full well we hold your master’s credit;
Did we withdraw he were a ruined man!


     BLUFF.     (aside) And I a tailless kite that’s lost its string.

(to Merchant) You would not, noble sir? You would not?


     Merchant.     Nay, he is ours, but for the monied element

We ask a tax to suit our special good.
On this alone, and this, he is elected.


     BLUFF.     ’Tis easy, sirs; my master’s will is yours.

Who are indeed, if you are not, the people?


     Priest.     In sooth we are; see that our will is carried,

Most noble Bluff!
[Exit all but BLUFF.


     BLUFF.     Sir! Illustrious! Noble! I am made!

I’ll divorce my wench and marry a great lady,
Breed senators and daughters to the crown.
The die is cast; betwixt the church and state
This rising Bluff is destined to be great.
I’ll get me armor, glaze it on my shield,
And quick forget that I was misbegotten.


Enter LEONATUS. BLUFF bends very low.


Hail, Leonatus! most noble master, hail!


     LEON.     Bluff, forbear thy crazes; anger not

Deity with thy mawkish love of pride.
Honor on honor, we still are under God.


     BLUFF.     (aside) He ever crushes me where others raise.

I am myself save only in his presence.
He hath no sense of fitness for a man
Who climbs such golden splendors. (to LEONATUS) Yea, my lord,
But ’tis a mighty office, this, my lord.


     LEON.     All life is great, is sacred to that man

Who holds responsibility. It is not
The millions to tread that makes an emperor, but
The will to rule himself.


     BLUFF.     I much do fear me thou art pitched too high

For this plain city.


     LEON.     Nay, never too high for truth, too lofty for love.

Who have been in mine absence?


     BLUFF.     A deputation of the state who voice

The priesthood and the merchants, who would pledge
Your piety and your interest. (aside) Speak I plain,
I’ll break their eggs before the brood is hatched.
Vague words spell loud, but oft mean less than silence.
(to LEONATUS) in short—that is all—


     LEON.     I honor the priesthood so far as they are God’s.

I am a merchant; they know mine honesty.
I keep their interests and the public weal.


     BLUFF.     I told them so. I spoke you well, my master.

Was I not right?


     LEON.     Yea, speak for me as I will speak to-morrow.

Where is my daughter?


     BLUFF.     She hath gone out, my lord.


     LEON.     When she comes in, see that your send her to me!


     BLUFF.     (going out, aside) He soars too high. I fear we ride to rash,

But Bluff will cling his neck though he doth topple.


     LEON.     Heaven is too good; it makes my head a folly.

Those plaudits ring me yet; where’er I passed
’Twas Hail, Leonatus! Will not she be happy,
My well-beloved, my pure, sweet daughter, Morning?
Now calm my mind and honesty keep my heart.
I stand at brink of some weird eminence,
Too high for what is mortal. I must hold
The iron in me up unto one high thought
Of one grave purpose; truth be with me now,
Nor mock me, if amid this iron of life
I had a dream for my sweet daughter’s sake,
To build a future and an honored house.




     VULP.     Hail, Leonatus, aged in honor and wealth,
Most happy of men! Even thou, Leonatus,
Must feel a vanity.


     LEON.     And did I, were it not a natural feeling?

What man reached honors honestly who ne’er felt
Their golden radiance, but tempered surely
With iron responsibilities?


     VULP.     Then I’ve a doubt if there be not a rift

’Twixt true success and solid piety,
This life ne’er crost.


     LEON.     Vulpin, it seemeth me for all my years,

Thou art the older by an age of ages.
Didst ever enjoy a passion, indulge a hope,
Or feel a touch of springtime in thy blood,
A glad enthusiasm or an ecstasy?
Is life all evilment? Then wherefore live?


     VULP.     It is this very doubt that keeps me living.

My doubt of life but breeds my dread of death.
Did I doubt nothing I would die to-morrow,
To dare the net span of immortality.
But I doubt all things, even mine own self,
And chief of all I doubt thee and these honors
Life gilds about thee, that their base is true.
I doubt the source of thy vague reputation,
That very honor which men laud thee for.


     LEON.     If all were life thee, life would sink in ruins.


     VULP.     And better it did. If thou didst only know

This rotten apple to which thou art the bloom,
This fetid carcase that gilds thee as its horn,
Thou wouldst then wonder at thy credulity.


     LEON.     Nay, I know it not, nor would I know it

As thou dost know; better an age of dark
Than knowledge such as thine.


     VULP.     Then thou wilt know to-morrow.


     LEON.     To-morrow?


     VULP.     Yea, then indeed, if thou art what thou sayest.

I tell thee, Leonatus, to-morrow thou wilt find
Thy senatorship the pledge of foul corruption.


     LEON.     What meanest thou, thou slanderer of a people?

To me? Leonatus? What pledge have my acts spoken,
That thy foul thoughts should taint the air I breathe
With such insinuation? Begone, thou maggot!
Never! As I am a man, I rule in honor
Or not at all!


     VULP.     (aside) This tower of wrath can thunder at my lance.

(to LEONATUS) Then thou wilt never rule; thou canst not scale
This golden public will and keep thy truth.


     LEON.     I seek it not. If it hath come to me,

It comes through years of honest care and toil
To aid the general good. I follow it not,
But doth it come I take its burden up,
A high responsibility sent from God
Enlarging my work here.


     VULP.     So far ’tis well. But thou wilt surely find

Thou art not master, where a snarling pack
Of lucre-hunters squabble at thy heels;
Where at thy councils plot and treason sit
To use thine honesty or to tear it down;
Where louse-like creatures dwell in their conceits,
Who live on public folly, parasites
Who batten on the revenues, keep the keys,
Nohap who rules, and lackey at all doors
That lead to loud preferment; Janus-like,
Sponging for party at the state’s expense,
So that they prosper, nohap who may sink
Or rise to splendors. Further, thou wilt find,
Man is so blinded, these political leeches
Are stronger even than the public rage
Which party lulls or reddens at its will.


     LEON.     Where I do go justice shall go with me,

And simple truth. These should rule a world.
The people ask for right, and they shall have it,
Or I’m no senator.


     VULP.     Or what the priesthood call it. Dost thou think

That thou canst rule without a priest or merchant
Buzzing like carrion flies at either ear?


     LEON.     Yea, under God. The priesthood are His teachers

Where they are right, but human liberty asks
No final judge but man’s God-given conscience.


     VULP.     Then thou art not orthodox.


     LEON.     I believe in God and His eternal laws,

Founded on justice, truth and liberty.


     VULP.     Hast thou any favored classes?


     LEON.     None. I am for the man, the man alone.

The ruler of a state should rule for all.
Meting out, in equal measure parcelled,
Perfect justice, perfect liberty.


     VULP.     Wilt say all this to-morrow?


     LEON.     Yea, and more.


     VULP.     Then wilt thou never be a senator.


     LEON.     I cannot believe it that the people lie

In such corruption as thy mind doth picture;
That they reject all honor, truth and right.
Thou art a crow, a bird of carrion mind,
Perched upon thy sordid limb of life,
Seeing ever only the rotten side.


     VULP.     Each soul is free to see as sense dictates.


     LEON.     God made the dome-walls of this splendid world,

Carpet it as you may. I choose to dream
Its vaster splendors in His vaster light—
That man is built in visions of splendid might,
And not in sinister smallness, shriveled up
In base conceptions.


     VULP.     Wait, thou wilt see to-morrow, and if thou dost?


     LEON.     Then let it come. I only will do right

And leave the rest to God.


     VULP.     Thou leavest much to God. Even thy daughter

Would not do so much.


     LEON.     My daughter! my daughter, sirrah! what of her?


     VULP.     She is our fairest, worthy of all pride,

Worthy a throne. And yet, and yet, Leonatus,
Thou wouldst wreck her fortunes.


     LEON.     Thou hast me there upon the weaker side.

I would go far, short of dishonor’s gate,
To make her happy. Do you think her set
So strong up in this?


     VULP.     So strong upon it that her very life,

Her happiness, is founded on it. Do
You call yourself her father and not know
Your daughter’s life, her hope, is in this Varra?


     LEON.     Yea, I have seen it. Doth he make her happy,

’Tis all I ask.


     VULP.     But wherefore all so blind as not to see

That in your daughter he marries not alone
The woman he loves, but the future senator’s daughter?


     LEON.     Sirrah, read your evil side o’ life,

But slander not young Varra! Did I dream
He held my daughter such poor property
As second to advantage in this world,
I’d rather see her dead, a thousand times,
Than wed, his wife. Nay, thou lovest to cavil.
Even to hearken to thine evil thoughts
Insulteth all that’s living. Thou dost go
About earth’s gardens seeking for her blights,
Her poison flaws, revelling in defect.
Were I as thee I’d seek some speedy death
And quickly end me. Life is not one ill,
One grievous fester, poisoning this world;
But built of purpose, splendid, vast in promise
For him who walks in reverence.


     VULP.     Thy aims are high.


     LEON.     I speak not for the brutal, but the men

Who hope and feel and love and hate, and toil
Toward life’s white headlands, fixed on its white stars.
These are my mariners, battlers on the road
From past to future.




     MORN.     Father, they said you wanted me.


     LEON.     Yea, so I did; but here his Vulpinus

Would make me think these glories all a rainbow
Shattered in its own sunlight.


     MORN.     Ah, Vulpinus!


     VULP.     Madam, hail!


     MORN.     Let me look into thy very soul!

[Gazes at him.


     VULP.     What see you there?


     MORN.     I see a muddy pool, wherein a serpent

Goes coiling ever, biting its own tail.


     VULP.     Ha! ha! (uneasily, aside) With what a scorn she scorns me! (to

  her) But, madam,
At least I am that one true thing, myself,
You will give me credit.


     MORN.     I’ll credit you for nought, you are too much

In debt to nature for what she first did lend you.


     VULP.     Then I am bankrupt.


     MORN.     Bankrupt? Hadst thou feelings thou mightst be pitied.


     VULP.     And what of you?


     MORN.     (coldly) I am my father’s daughter.


     VULP.     And heiress to life’s unhappiness. Fare you well!

(to LEONATUS) Fare you well, Leonatus, till to-morrow!


     MORN.     Father, why hold that horrid man so close

Upon your confidence? He is a breathing sneer,
A creeping hatred of they very sun
And all that’s holy. Life must breed a curse
Where his soul enters.


     LEON.     I like him not; and yet I see in him

A subtle, keen and iron-pointed wit.
Throughout our city he doth hold a power
Would make another man.


     MORN.     I like him not; his eyes hold such an envy

Of all our happiness. I sometimes fancy
He means no good and tenders you a harm.


     LEON.     Fear not, my child. I fear nor him nor other.

Be we but true to our own higher selves
No spirit of ill may harm us. Now, my child,
We will forget him in the dream of good
The morrow brings us.


     MORN.     Yea, father, my heart is glad to know that you,

The honored and the wise, are chosen thus
To fill the civic chair. It gives me joy
To know you are my father.
[Kisses him.


     LEON.     This is my happiest moment: even the plaudits

Of old and young, of splendid and of wise,
When I sit yonder, crowned in sceptred state,
Were not so sweet as thus to know your love.
I only pray that in this white old head
There may be wisdom; in this worn old heart
True purity to rule this people well.
But, Morning, my daughter, what of thine own heart?


     MORN.     Father?

[Looks down.


     LEON.     Come, come, my daughter, trust your fond old father.


     MORN.     Father, what mean you?


     LEON.     You know I have a rival; what of Varra?


     MORN.     You know I love him, father!


     LEON.     How much, my child?


     MORN.     As much as my mother, who gave her love thee.


     LEON.     Yea, I am happy in your happiness,

And will be happier soon; to-day his father
Bespoke me on it.


     MORN.     Father?


     LEON.     All is arranged; to-morrow the chief senator

Proclaims his daughter trothed to young Lord Varra;
Mine honored office mates his noble house
And makes us equal.


     MORN.     But father?


     LEON.     Morning, my child, I have watched you all these years,

Have seen you grow before me life a flower;
So like your mother; it would break my heart
To know you were not happy.


     MORN.     Father, I love you so, I’m not afraid

To say to you that only Heaven doth know
How much I love him.


     LEON.     Oh, my child!


     MORN.     Father, forgive me if I speak the truth.


     LEON.     Then you could not give him up?


     MORN.     Father, what mean you?

[Starts back.


     LEON.     Nought, my child; but did some terrible dream,

Some barrier of human iron of life,
But come between you, could you give him up?


     MORN.     Father! Ask me not: this is

Too terrible!


     LEON.     Could you not, Morning, for thy conscience’ sake?


     MORN.     O nature, nature, this is too, too dread!

Father, my father, why must you try me thus?
[Voice of VARRA outside, calling.


     LEON.     Ha! there he is! Kiss me, my child, and go!

Love calls, love calls, this other love must go.


     MORN.     (going, then coming back) Father, you understand! you



     LEON.     (embracing her) I do, my child, I do; now go, now go!


     MORN.     Nay, I will not; he must come here for me!

Here at your heart!


Enter VARRA.


     LEON.     Hail, Varra!


     VAR.     Hail, Leonatus! Hail, my sweet, true Morning!


     LEON.     Take her, Varra, the sweetest, purest bud

That ever loved a childish, weak old man.
I give her to thee, and as thou dost serve her
May God serve thee!


     VAR.     I meet the event; the gods have given me that

Which only gods deserve!
[Goes out with MORNING.


     LEON.     Yea, as he treats her, let his fate treat him.

I had not dreamed it was as deep as this!
I live it over all again in her.
She is my child; God help her if he be
A shallow surface! This indeed doth make
My path the harder. Yet, in face of all,
This direst consequence I will meet to-morrow.
Senator or no, Leonatus will be
True to his God, his people and himself.