A FRAGMENT OF A TRAGEDY
SCENE I. Field of Battle.
Alarum. Enter King STEPHEN, Knights, and Soldiers.
Stephen. If shame can on a soldier's vein-swoll’n front
Spread deeper crimson than the battle's toil,
Blush in your casing helmets! for see, see!
Yonder my chivalry, my pride of war,
Wrench'd with an iron hand from firm array,
Are routed loose about the plashy meads,
Of honour forfeit. O that my known voice
Could reach your dastard ears, and fright you more!
Fly, cowards, fly! Glocester is at your backs!
Throw your slack bridles o'er the flurried manes,
Ply well the rowel with faint trembling heels,
Scampering to death at last!
First Knight. The enemy
Bears his flaunt standard close upon their rear.
Second Knight. Sure of a bloody prey, seeing the fens
Will swamp them girth-deep.
Stephen. Over head and ears,
No matter! 'Tis a gallant enemy;
How like a comet he goes streaming on.
But we must plague him in the flank, hey, friends?
We are well breathed, follow!
Enter Earl BALDWIN and Soldiers, as defeated.
Stephen. De Redvers!
What is the monstrous bugbear that can fright
Baldwin. No scare-crow, but the fortunate star
Of boisterous Chester, whose fell truncheon now
Points level to the goal of victory.
This way he comes, and if you would maintain
Your person unaffronted by vile odds,
Take horse, my Lord.
Stephen. And which way spur for life?
Now I thank Heaven I am in the toils,
That soldiers may bear witness how my arm
Can burst the meshes. Not the eagle more
Loves to beat up against a tyrannous blast,
Than I to meet the torrent of my foes.
This is a brag, be 't so, but if I fall,
Carve it upon my 'scutcheon'd sepulchre.
On, fellow soldiers! Earl of Redvers, back!
Not twenty Earls of Chester shall brow-beat
The diadem. [Exeunt. Alarum.
SCENE II. Another part of the Field.
Trumpets sounding a Victory. Enter GLOCESTER. Knights, and Forces.
Glocester. Now may we lift our bruised vizors up,
And take the flattering freshness of the air,
While the wide din of battle dies away
Into times past, yet to be echoed sure
In the silent pages of our chroniclers.
First Knight. Will Stephen's death be marked there, my good
Or that we gave him lodging in yon towers?
Glocester. Fain would I know the great usurper's fate.
Enter two Captains severally.
First Captain. My Lord!
Second Captain. Most noble Earl!
First Captain. The King
Second Captain. The Empress greets
Glocester. What of the King?
First Captain. He sole and lone maintains
A hopeless bustle mid our swarming arms,
And with a nimble savageness attacks,
Escapes, makes fiercer onset, then anew
Eludes death, giving death to most that dare
Trespass within the circuit of his sword!
He must by this have fallen. Baldwin is taken;
And for the Duke of Bretagne, like a stag
He flies, for the Welsh beagles to hunt down.
God save the Empress!
Glocester. Now our dreaded Queen:
What message from her Highness?
Second Captain. Royal Maud
From the throng'd towers of Lincoln hath look'd down,
Like Pallas from the walls of Ilion,
And seen her enemies havock'd at her feet.
She greets most noble Glocester from her heart,
Intreating him, his captains, and brave knights,
To grace a banquet. The high city gates
Are envious which shall see your triumph pass;
The streets are full of music.
Enter Second Knight.
Glocester. Whence come you?
Second Knight. From Stephen, my good Prince, Stephen!
Glocester. Why do you make such echoing of his name?
Second Knight. Because I think, my lord, he is no man,
But a fierce demon, Anointed safe from wounds,
And misbaptized with a Christian name.
Glocester. A mighty soldier! Does he still hold out?
Second Knight. He shames our victory. His valour still
Keeps elbow-room amid our eager swords,
And holds our bladed falchions all aloof
His gleaming battle-axe being slaughter-sick,
Smote on the morion of a Flemish knight,
Broke short in his hand; upon the which he flung
The heft away with such a vengeful force,
It paunch'd the Earl of Chester's horse, who then
Spleen-hearted came in full career at him.
Glocester. Did no one take him at a vantage then?
Second Knight. Three then with tiger leap upon him flew,
Whom, with his sword swift-drawn and nimbly held,
He stung away again, and stood to breathe,
Smiling. Anon upon him rush'd once more
A throng of foes, and in this renew'd strife,
My sword met his and snapp'd off at the hilts.
Glocester. Come, lead me to this Mars and let us
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