BETA

The Death of King John.


’Tis evening, and the ancient towers of Swin-
stead Abbey lie
1
In calm, majestic stateliness, beneath the pale moon’s
ray.
2
On a low couch, a stricken man rests under yonder
trees,
3
And monks and abbot vainly strive the suff’rer’s
pain to ease.
4
The torchlight throws a lurid glare those deathlike
features o’er ;
5
A sceptre lies beside the hand that ne’er may grasp
it more ;
6
And royal robes the litter deck, and jewels rich and
rare,
7
Gleam from yon crown-encircled casque, with fitful
radiance there.
8
The suffering, weak, and helpless form, that racked
with anguish, lies
9
On that low couch, is England’s lord, King John,
whose restless eyes
10
Are for a moment closed in sleep; but, ere the night
is o’er,
11
His throne will be another’s, and his place know
him no more.
12
The fight has gone against his arms : upon the field
to-day,
13
Defeated, borne down, overcome, his soldiers fled
away.
14
And yet unwounded he has been, no sword has
harmed the King
15
A treacherous hand has laid him low, with poison’s
subtie sting.
16
He wakes—the dying monarch wakes ! and fiercely
gleam his eyes
17
With wild and feverish brilliancy ; and see, he vainly
tries
18
To raise himself upon his arm—too weak to bear
him now ;
19
While cold big drops of agony bedew his aching brow.20
Fall back, fall back, ye shaveling monks ! Ah !
wherefore rest I here ?
21
How goes the battle, Hubert ?— say ! Alas ! your
words I fear !
22

* As read by Mr. J. M. Bellew.
Oh ! tell me not the day is lost—it must not, shall
not be !
23
Give me my armour, helm, and shield—and, Hubert,
follow me !
24
Good Hubert, prithee answer me—Why stands
young Arthur there ?
25
It was not I who murdered him !
share !
26
’Twas you who did the guilty deed. Let him not
blast my sight !
27
Oh ! shield me from his cruel glare, which chills my
soul with fright !
28
I choke ! A cup of water—quick ! for I am
parched with thirst !
29
Oh ! may the slave who poisoned me be evermore
accurst !
30
My veins are filled with molten lead—my vitals seem
on fire !
31
I scorch with heat, and all my frame is racked with
anguish dire !
32
Oh, God !— to think that I, a King, should suffer
torment so !
33
A thousand shadows ’f ore mine eyes are passing to
and fro.
34
Back—back ! ye fierce, accusing sprites ! your fiend-
like mockery cease.
35
By all the demons ye obey, leave me to die in peace !36
Away !— nor press so round my couch! I’m
choking !— give me air !
37
I cannot breathe! Again I see young Arthur stand-
ing there !
38
I see again the golden curls, again the boyish face.39
Oh, Arthur ! torture me no more! Spare me, for
love of grace !
40
Brave Falconbridge, my trusty friend, I’m glad
that you are here ;
41
I am forsaken now ; save you, there’s none but
Hubert near.
42
Of all the fawning sycophants, who basked around
my throne,
43
Not one remains to tend on me—the cormorants
have flown.
44
What sound was that ?  The battle call !  You
shall not hold me down !
45
My strength returns to me again. What, ho ! my
sword and crown !
46
Full soon shall yonder traitors fly, like chaff before
the gale.
47
Stand back !— nor dare to hinder me !  The King
shall yet prevail !
48
Are ye, too, leagued to baffle me ? Alas ! I can-
not stand ;
49
This arm of mine is powerless now to grasp the
warlike brand ;
50
My limbs refuse to bear me up, and I am faint and
weak ;
51
My brain seems whirling round and round—I—I
can scarcely speak !
52
A strange, cold numbness seizes me. How thick
the air has grown !
53
A mistiness obscures my sight. I dare not die
alone !
54
Then grasp my hand, that I may know that ye are
standing by.
55
Again the poison tears my frame !  ’Tis o’er !  I
faint !— I die !”
56