Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

By Charles Amable Lenoir (1860-1926)

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The Lament for Icarus

And now Samos, sacred to Juno, and Delos, and Paros, were left behind to the left hand. On the right were Lebynthus, and Calymne, fruitful in honey; when the boy began to be pleased with a bolder flight, and forsook his guide; and, touched with a desire of reaching heaven, pursued his course still higher. The vicinity of the scorching Sun softened the fragrant wax that fastened his wings. The wax was melted; he shook his naked arms, and, wanting his oar-like wings, he caught no more air. His face, too, as he called on the name of his father, was received in the azure water, which received its name from him.

But the unhappy father, now no more a father, said, “Icarus, where art thou? In what spot shall I seek thee, Icarus?” did he say; when he beheld his wings in the waters, and then he cursed his own arts; and he buried his body in a tomb, and the land was called from the name of him buried there.

Metamorphoses, Book VIII: 183-235

Love and the Death of Cleopatra

CLEOPATRA. He comes too late to invade the rights of death!
Haste, bare my arm, and rouse the serpent’s fury.
[Holds out her arm, and draws it back.]
Coward flesh,
Wouldst thou conspire with Caesar to betray me,
As thou wert none of mine? I’ll force thee to it,
And not be sent by him,
But bring, myself, my soul to Antony.
[Turns aside, and then shows her arm bloody.]
Take hence; the work is done.
SERAPION. Break open the door,
[Within.]
And guard the traitor well.
CHARMION. The next is ours.
IRAS. Now, Charmion, to be worthy
Of our great queen and mistress.
[They apply the aspics.]
CLEOPATRA. Already, death, I feel thee in my veins:
I go with such a will to find my lord,
That we shall quickly meet.
A heavy numbness creeps through every limb,
And now ’tis at my head: My eyelids fall,
And my dear love is vanquished in a mist.
Where shall I find him, where? O turn me to him,
And lay me on his breast!—Caesar, thy worst;
Now part us, if thou canst.
[Dies.]
[Iras sinks down at her feet, and dies; Charmion stands behind her chair, as dressing her head.]

The Ghost of Hamlet’s Father

HAMLET: Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I’ll go no further.
Ghost: Mark me.
HAMLET: I will.
Ghost: My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
HAMLET: Alas, poor ghost!
Ghost: Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.
HAMLET: Speak; I am bound to hear.
Ghost: So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.
HAMLET: What?
Ghost: I am thy father’s spirit,
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night, 10
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine: 20
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love–
HAMLET: O God!
Ghost: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
HAMLET: Murder!
Ghost: Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.
HAMLET: Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love, 30
May sweep to my revenge.
Ghost: I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:

‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.
HAMLET: O my prophetic soul! My uncle! 40
Ghost: Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,–
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!–won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:
O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline 50
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine!
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on garbage.
But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon, 60
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine; 70
And a most instant tetter bark’d about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch’d:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible! 80
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire: 90
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.