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A Florentine Tragedy – A Fragment
by [?]

. Simone, I must go to mine own house.

. So soon? Why should you? The great Duomo’s bell
Has not yet tolled its midnight, and the watchmen
Who with their hollow horns mock the pale moon,
Lie drowsy in their towers. Stay awhile.
I fear we may not see you here again,
And that fear saddens my too simple heart.

. Be not afraid, Simone. I will stand
Most constant in my friendship, But to-night
I go to mine own home, and that at once.
To-morrow, sweet Bianca.

. Well, well, so be it.
I would have wished for fuller converse with you,
My new friend, my honourable guest,
But that it seems may not be.

And besides
I do not doubt your father waits for you,
Wearying for voice or footstep. You, I think,
Are his one child? He has no other child.
You are the gracious pillar of his house,
The flower of a garden full of weeds.
Your father’s nephews do not love him well
So run folks’ tongues in Florence. I meant but that.
Men say they envy your inheritance
And look upon your vineyards with fierce eyes
As Ahab looked on Naboth’s goodly field.
But that is but the chatter of a town
Where women talk too much.

Good-night, my lord.
Fetch a pine torch, Bianca. The old staircase
Is full of pitfalls, and the churlish moon
Grows, like a miser, niggard of her beams,
And hides her face behind a muslin mask
As harlots do when they go forth to snare
Some wretched soul in sin. Now, I will get
Your cloak and sword. Nay, pardon, my good Lord,
It is but meet that I should wait on you
Who have so honoured my poor burgher’s house,
Drunk of my wine, and broken bread, and made
Yourself a sweet familiar. Oftentimes
My wife and I will talk of this fair night
And its great issues.

Why, what a sword is this.
Ferrara’s temper, pliant as a snake,
And deadlier, I doubt not. With such steel,
One need fear nothing in the moil of life.
I never touched so delicate a blade.
I have a sword too, somewhat rusted now.
We men of peace are taught humility,
And to bear many burdens on our backs,
And not to murmur at an unjust world,
And to endure unjust indignities.
We are taught that, and like the patient Jew
Find profit in our pain.

Yet I remember
How once upon the road to Padua
A robber sought to take my pack-horse from me,
I slit his throat and left him. I can bear
Dishonour, public insult, many shames,
Shrill scorn, and open contumely, but he
Who filches from me something that is mine,
Ay! though it be the meanest trencher-plate
From which I feed mine appetite–oh! he
Perils his soul and body in the theft
And dies for his small sin. From what strange clay
We men are moulded!

. Why do you speak like this?

. I wonder, my Lord Guido, if my sword
Is better tempered than this steel of yours?
Shall we make trial? Or is my state too low
For you to cross your rapier against mine,
In jest, or earnest?

. Naught would please me better
Than to stand fronting you with naked blade
In jest, or earnest. Give me mine own sword.
Fetch yours. To-night will settle the great issue
Whether the Prince’s or the merchant’s steel
Is better tempered. Was not that your word?
Fetch your own sword. Why do you tarry, sir?