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ACT IV, SCENE i
ST. THOMAS, PETER OF BLOIS, A PRIEST
THOMAS These, my friends, are the things that ease all my toils, though I have endured many, and ones heavier than could be eased by any passage of time: that I have done nothing rashly, that I have lightly undertaken nothing against recent royal legislations, that I have rejected no thing with a black stone, which I did not understand to contrary to received usage and to have been previously condemned by the professors of Canon Law and the fatherly consent of the Cardinal Fathers, and that I likewise have anticipated to be destined for condemnation by the supreme pontiff.
PRIEST For a watchful and good prelate there is no consolation and joy so great as to remember having suffered evils at the hands of evil men on God’s behalf, for his flock and sacred altars. Oh, how much more your mind will deservedly rejoice within when it recollects having exchanged bitter days for happy, harsh exile for your nation! If you had dragged out your life in a quiet exile, alone in your dwelling and a stranger to your people, unwelcome death would have made a final ending to both your life and your strivings. Added to these things was the welcome peace of a Church long in turmoil. Exiled liberty returned with you, and not the least reward has been to overcome your enemies, or at least those that resisted you with their prayers. Great-hearted prelate, your deeds exhort you to enjoy great praises.
THOMAS I struggle for one thing, may God favor my prayers with a happy outcome. As an innocent man I suffer any bitter, harsh things, may uncontrolled rage bind my hands, may it heap on things worse than these sins, as long as the king adopts and holds a peaceful course with his mind appeased, controlling his former anger.
BLOIS I fear that the royal passion has not yet abandoned its ferocious threats, such is the commotion abroad. And the old man’s Court is fearful, uncertain emotion pervades all men. Nor does Rouen restrain its fears. Rumor has taken foot and we have begun to be afraid in our homes. As, even when placid calm prevails, the turbid sea prophetically swells before the horrid storm breaks and the tempest discharges its full bosom upon the ocean, so fear, herald of the king’s fury, invades all minds, striding on before. May God avert this omen, let a peaceful old man wield a great scepter!
PRIEST And England nurses its own anxieties closer to hand, since the household of the Court, devoid of hospitable concern, has abandoned the inexperienced youth to be a laughingstock. These great preludes justly bid us fear, these evil preludes forbid us from hoping for great things.
THOMAS What about the queen? What attitude have the other brothers amidst these things?
BLOIS The queen drags out doleful days, abandoned, since, afflicted and thinking herself neglected, she is unhappy and hates her sad existence. Their mother’s cause makes the boys waver between grief and fear. Both their parents pull them in opposite ways, timid with sorrow, although piety towards their mother perplexes them more and sways them in their doubtfulness. Yet no better standard disciplines their minds. Each passing day drives them to one thing or another. As has usually been the case, their young minds refuse to endure reason’s bridle.
THOMAS With your handiwork, Peter, you must artfully shape their future years, they should be indebted to you for their morals. Strive to rear them so that the rest of mankind will recognize them to be yours. But will you celebrate these holidays with me, my friends? Will you join me in giving thanks to God with friendly prayer for my return, and pray for a single happy bond for sacred and lay affairs?
BLOIS I am indebted you, my prelate, for both the one and for the other. My celerity, promised to the queen, bids me return.
PRIEST Count my prayers as joined with yours. But weighty business awaits me also. Meanwhile, you must continue as God’s sure champion, and ponder this which you already know full well: God has destined you for great exertions. Come what may, you will win a great prize either for yourself or for future posterity, and happy posterity will rejoice to have your deeds counted among its own. Venerable prelate, I beg a sign of your blessing as a token of final farewell.
THOMAS May He bless you, to Whose honor I dedicate whatever remains of my life. You fare well, my friends. I beg for your prayers that the Ruler of all may breing to completion this final duty He has enjoined.
BLOIS We as this unwillingly, torn from your bosom.
PRIEST May God approve it. [Exeunt.]
THOMAS In these affairs some hope still gleams, kindly Creator, that You have not abandoned Your England, although Your bishops abandon you, and, unmindful of their flocks (would that they were even a little mindful of their flocks, and would not deserted their abandoned flocks, a shameful thing!). These two still remain from a collapsing clergy, some part of so great a number, men whom no stain infects, whom none sways. There also remains a part of Your right hand. May it do its duty, may Your hand protect it unsullied. Thanks to Your care may a new number grow up and thrive, men to whose heart God and God’s bride are dear. Let there be those to whom faith is dear and sacred laws are a concern, no matter what you have decided concerning me, my Creator. Sweet Judge of men’s minds, You see what my soul, solicitous for You, breathes, and you see Yourself alone. By Your kindness, God, it conceives something ardent, which my mind scarce understands. It disdains light sufferings. Always on the alert, it scorns idle hours, it craves to go against its enemies, even unarmed. Careless of its own blood, it has no fear of swords, and it wholly bursts into flames. I have no idea where this weight is tending, it shows You are its author. On my knees, I wait to see what it will finally bring. He Who have it a joyous beginning will grant it a similar ending, consistent with its start. [Enter the angel.]
ACT IV, SCENE ii
AN ANGEL, ST. THOMAS
ANGEL Rise up, Thomas. The final of your strife is at hand. The final battle requires an alert mind. This is the prophesied day of Pontimacus. It will put an ending to the sufferings you freely chose. Hence, borne in my hands, as a victor you will pass through the sky. Why go to your triumphs with an anxious mind, when you were wont to go to battle with a ready stride? Or is he who was overcome by no suffering he bore to be dumbstruck in the presence of a crown? Let fear depart, let your anxious concern yield. Happily, eagerly grasp the surcease which heaven will give for your sufferings. Being raised aloft, grasp the palm of martyrdom for which you have yearned. Put on the gown of purple, never to be shed, let the pavement, destined to be kissed by kings, be dyed with your blood. This spilled blood will obtain for kings whatever is sought with pious prayers. You will fall by a happy stroke of fate (if that passage can be called fate’s stroke), you whose ashes will give health to the ailing, forgiveness for the man who repents his sins, consolation to the good,and happy turns of fortune for those with hard-pressed hearts, as a sun brightening English soil with your light, illuminating whatever pure faith the land admits. You will be called great. Thrice the frost will fall on the harvest, and thus often will icy winter yield to the rains, when the highest voice to rule the land will invoke reverend Thomas among the names of the saints. Thomas, the highest things for which you aspire are trifles. The choirs that sing the joys of the supreme Court wait the light of Thomas with its blazing torch, destined to illuminate the heart, destined to be joined to God.
THOMAS But, master, what of the Church?
ANGEL It will mourn a prelate it will later revere and truly call its patron. A happy peace will uplift it until churlish Wycliffe, come up from Hell, breathes heresy and pollutes the land. Eternal fire will swiftly make an end of that monster. Some centuries after, German Luther will stir up a foul toxin and give strength to evil, that fierce Fury of the northern clime. What massacres he will provide, what plagues for all the nations of the world, and what a profound evil will taint this land! Why does Thomas beg to flee? Come closer, see what eternity’s leaves show to be destined for that century. Behold with what pride arrogance comes over England, see how religion arms her champions against it. She will stir them to battle, and with the palm of victory set them, happy, in the choirs of heaven. Here unconquered More, and likewise the bishop of Rochester, urge them on. Both of them, decked with purple wreaths, set themselves among the ruddy stars. The sons of great Bruno will gain the palm, and Chartreuse will see its children shining in the sky. In the first battle many a primate will be absent, none will be taken among the rear guard. With a rain of blood the noble band will expiate its error in the second clash. How great a company will aspire to your honors, having changed nothing except their faces! Hence the presbyter will be able to attain to your shores. Through centuries —
Ah, that that century’s thread will be long in the drawing, and will suffer false turnings and false arts. To be evil will be deemed piety, a woman, accompanied only by deceptions and a vile crew, will work harm. Why do you weep? Great conflicts will crown pious men with an eternal wreath, do you see how great a company of men rises up against their foe, protected by the virtues’ flower? Persons will carry the banner: this, proclaiming the name of Jesus, will shroud the standardbearer’s cares under its consecrated protection. See his successes, his sufferings. Campion will give you a noble triumph, great man, and Southwell will give you his. Falsely-accused Walpole and Garnet, scarce injured, will happily mount to the stars, free of guilt. His face will remain as a miracle for this earth. Cassino will give these men comrades outstanding after their demise by a noble death, the Roberts, the Barkworths, renewing the battle with their eager hands. Nor should I pass you by, you Roman youth. Do you see? Here you have Sherwins, Harts, Haydocks, Newports. Another Gregory, rival to the Great, will send these. And from the other side, behold others who imitate these Roman examples, exiles whom excellent Seville, Rheims, and the valley of the pale olive send. You serve as a prelude for these. Holy freedom is weaving her garlands. Thomas, take the one she offers.
THOMAS You Who dispenses everything with a kindly hand, let this be done according to Your will, which You know to be better for Your honor and Your Church. Let death and life be at Your service.
ACT IV, SCENE iii
ST. THOMAS, MOREVILLE, TRACY, BRITO, URSE
THOMAS You company of young men I have been expecting, noble companions of the king, I give you greetings. What fear has entered your minds, why this pallor? I congratulate you on your happy return from France. Allow a father to embrace his sons, allow him once he has addressed you. Thus should a father and his sweet sons mingle.
MOREVILLE Proud prelate, has arrogance so invaded your haughty mind, has mad wilfulness so blinded your wits, that, being guilty of an offense and an enemy to the king, you dare look at us with your shameless face, and, though conscious of your guilt, you are so impudent (as you always are) as to want to be called our father, you evil traitor? Rather, get down on your knees, invoke the king, acknowledge your crime, and confess the royal authority and the condition of the realm to be damaged by your felony. While you nullify the king’s commands, you seek out Rome. This is the purpose of our coming, traitor, that you abate the king’s anger by humble entreaty, not so that you might manufacture silly words. A guilty man who denies his crime is doubly guilty.
THOMAS Whatever innocent man admits to wrongdoing, he makes himself the guilty man.
MOREVILLE Naturally you crave to be called innocent.
THOMAS I have been obedient to God and to the throne of Peter. If these things are to be called faults, I admit my guilt. But let old hatreds cease, I pray, I beg that your fierce minds relent. I have always wanted to defer to my sovereign, if it were permissible. I approve your dutifulness and praise your loyal mind, but I ask that it be more fair. Friends, I wish us to join hands in peace.
TRACY Me, a loyal man, embrace a rebel? Allow myself to touch crime-stained hands? Sooner will Phoebus look on Thyestes’ feast, sooner will dire Eteocles be joined to his brother on a single pyre, sooner will I visit the cave of Hell, dark Pluto’s realms, and, Tisiphone, touch your horned snakes with a friendly arm, before your unspeakable hand will infect mine, you destructive priest, you who complain that the scepter was given the king and the ancestral crown was set on his sacred locks by the bishops’ collective hands. Will this false piety and these hypocritically feigned words of innocence be able to wipe away the stain and sooth minds heavy with anger? While they remain provoked, kind speech enhances the evil, it scarcely moderates it.
THOMAS Perhaps I wanted to snatch the royal scepter from the king’s hand! Could this hand of mine, accustomed to render peace-offerings to our eternal God, now be sullied by foul crime, and be able to despoil a royal personage of his proper pedigree? Rather, I swear by that godhead and Mind whom I serve as a consecrated priest, with a humble prayer I would with him a hundred realms and crowns before I would set an unwelcome hand on the scepter. The king should have been crowned by this hand, not be dethroned by it.
BRITO So why complain that a dark deed has been done the crown? And why oppress with that baneful bond of yours the bishops who annointed their prince in accordance with the holy rite?
THOMAS The bishops’ error is being punished, the royal scepter remains unharmed, royal authority remains unsullied.
TRACY Namely, the authority which your wrath first broke, which your foolishness scorned.
THOMAS I never impiously broke it or put it to rout.
TRACY Then I suppose it is a small thing to have condemned the king’s peers, a small thing to have driven bishops from holy altars, who at the king’s command have earned your curses — unless you condemn your own actions.
THOMAS I admit this duty is owed the king, Tracy, nor do I condemn the deed. But this ought to have been done in the proper manner and ceremony, I condemn that crime.
MOREVILLE It was criminal to have consecrated a king?
THOMAS It was criminal to have consecrated him by the wrong hand.
MOREVILLE Which you deny to have been a lawful deed. You are complaining that such a great deed was done, you would wish it undone.
THOMAS I would wish that what was not done lawfully should be so done.
MOREVILLE Who can crown a head more lawfully than bishops?
THOMAS He who presides over them, the archbishop himself, whose responsibility it was.
URSE Then our shameful error should have recalled you, wandering where the Tiber flows in a faraway part of the world, at a time when everyone was hastening forward the great work and considerations of state allowed for no delays.
THOMAS I should have been recalled then, unjustly exiled, or the coronation should have been deferred. Now, since the mitered crew of bishops has insulted my rights in the bosom of the Church, it has richly earned a solemn thunderbolt and the Pope’s just anger weighs on them.
TRACY As if we are terrified by Roman threats! Let the meaningless thunderbolt of a word and the bilious fury of the triple tiara make an impression on weaklings.
THOMAS It should have moved you.
TRACY Men like yourself.
THOMAS Like me, like you, and like all men bathed by the sacred blood of Christ.
URSE The empty shadow of the triple crown should terrify me?
THOMAS The darkness of Hell will torment his foes.
BRITO A great crime, I presume. So do you pardon the bishops loyal to their king?
THOMAS Hold your tongue. I swear by the avenging altars of God, Whom you provoke, I swear by the eternal keys of the supreme father, by the name of Pope and God, it is my command that you shall obtain this. This blood of mine will stain your sword before this hand basely absolves them.
BRITO In future you will learn to obey, by means of your own misfortune. Exeunt murderers.
THOMAS It is an evil to obey wrongful commands. By his impious law the king wished to obstruct my free passage to Rome and to forbid me from consulting with the Pope. Alone, I resisted and opened my way to exile. The evil hastened to the worse. That wretch, impiously imagining that the sacred keys ought to be subject to the royal scepter, forbade deserved anathema to be visited on the wicked unless he approved. Now in vain did Christ give Peter the power of binding offenses, if this depended on the king’s judgment. I regarded this as an unworthy sin, in my person I retained the right of loosening and binding sinners. Hence the king’s anger, hence the peers’ great rage flared up against me. All-seeing God, You Who knows what manner of limit to set on the afflicted, see these things and with Your hand help me as I exult amidst these perils. Or if my blood can be of any use, by shedding it for You and Your holy altars let me purchase sweet peace for the Church of England, by paying whatever ransom You require.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
BRITO, URSE, TRACY, MOREVILLE, TWO CITIZENS
BRITO Loyal subjects, you are familiar with this hateful person: how, long hostile to both our kings, he has opposed them, how he has driven from their altars his enemies the peace-loving bishops, and, so they would not be less bold in crime, he strove to exempt the clergy from courtroom law so that they might act impiously, protected by their own brand of law.
URSE Hence his shameful flight, the act of a guilty mind. Hence his anger an error, and evil that knows not how to be swayed, and hence his mind, mulish even in exile.
TRACY And a mind mulish both at home and in exile is a rebellious one. A beneficiary of the king’s trust, he is given back to his nation. Would that he had given peace back to his nation! For as soon as he set foot here, with renewed vigor he insanely provoked new commotions, violating the sacred and the profane, harming on the one hand the king, on the other the bishops, the princes of the Church, its congregation.
MOREVILLE Who, mindful of king and realm, will suffer these misdeeds? Day by day his bold madness increases, it profits by our delay. It needs to be suppressed right now, lest our sluggish hand must yield to this evil.
BRITO Even he who has forgiven the exile hopes so, weary of this treacherous man. The elder king has sent us to attest to his mind, and as his servants, and likewise he begs you for your loyalty.
URSE Come then, with this plague removed, think on the welfare of the realm, the kings, yourselves, our holy things.
BRITO Come hither, citizens, come hither. In our minds we all equally loathe crime, and should all equally attest to this with a common effort. This very day will see that which the whole world should praise and Henry should acknowledge to be worthy of his subjects.
TRACY He has survived too long. He should have paid the price long ago and been plunged into Hell.
CITIZEN 1 Let the unjust fellow suffer whatever fate he has deserved.
CITIZEN 2 We subjects are loyal to the king, enemies of this guilty man.
BRITO Look, there is the hateful threshold. Men, there’s no value in talking, but in action. Let us make our way by force, and with our hands sweep away delay. Today will put an end to every quarrel. Let this sword bear witness to every man’s zeal in this cause, I’ll be the first to smash down the door.
[4.] Oh spirit fixed overmuch on cheap and transitory things, being more worthy of heaven, scorn the transitory, with a better flame put on a heavenly mind.
Initially warmed by a light emotion, the mind first moderates its small passions. Soon, propelled by unaccustomed fervor, it breaks out in flame.
Because of these flames, many holy prelates have given their lives. The Ruler of heaven sent them, bidding them scorch men’s hearts.
[1.] Burned by these, Peter made his way to men in a new world, to the blessed Britons themselves, living in a home cut off from the world.
Urged on by these goads of divine love, brothers have gone into voluntary exile from their homelands, seeking homes in distant climes, other ones with savage peoples. This one, coursing through deep snows, enters the chills of an icy world.
[2.] That one, in a diverse region, endures the dire heat of a closer sun. Oh you lofty men, worthy of your Creator, and servants worthy of God your Lord, later men have possessed your flames, later men have died by your flames, and the more mad fury rages against you, the more your glory grows.
But why delay in breathing the air of this degenerate earth?
For a long time, the promised realms, a peace that knows no end, and Thomas, having lived his final day, have been calling us.
Oh, may it be permitted priests to enjoy your triumphs for an everlasting day,
Those whom heaven’s splendor awaits, after the death of Thomas! Exit chorus.
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