"The Story of Dorothea"

An unpublished tale from The Earthly Paradise, edited by David Latham

The Text

Argument.

The Holy Maiden Dorothea was slain
because of her faith, and as she was
passing to her death she was mocked
by a certain man; which mock God
rebuked in a wonderful way, so that
the mocker died as she had done.

_____________

In the old days when Rome was flourishing
And through the world there was no prince or king
But held his crown and sceptre at the will
Of him who there the golden throne did fill,
5
A man there dwelt of old and noble race,
Who lacked for neither wealth or reverend place,
Dorus by name; who in his you th indeed
Had led such life as young men love to lead,
But as the grey hairs one by one grew up
10
The false love-token and the drinking cup
He cast aside, for now in middle age
The world began to seem like some vast cage,
Barred with inevitable death about
The clinging lovers and the conquerors shout
15
And the great gift of life seemed small enow.

And so chanced men then began to know
Within Rome-town the true and only God,
And worship him who many a rough way trod
Ending all ways at last with shameful death;
20
And, as my author in the old tale saith
This Dorus came to hear the truth at last,
And often through his mind the good thought passed
That, were it true, it were no little thing
That he a weak man should be still living
25
In joy and peace, when all was passed away
That seemed so strong, well made to last for aye.
Which thing it was Gods will he should believe
And all the truth into his heart receive,
The Love of God the fear of sin and Hell,
30
The scorn of death, and all the word can tell,
And from the font he passed with soul washed clean
And wondering at the strange thing he had been.

So for five years he led a quiet life,
And in that time he took to him a wife
35
And two fair daughters unto him she bore,
And far more peace he knew than ere before.
But when the sixth year rose upon his head
Within his palace lay the Emperor dead,
Who was a good man and of gentle heart,
40
And left his folk at quiet for his part
And all was changed within a little week.
Because the new-made Emperor did seek
To win the Gods to smile upon his reign.

So soon the Tiber carried down again
45
Its load of wretched corpses to the sea,
And folk were haled toward perpetually,
And in the marble theatre, limb by limb
Were men and women torn for trusting Him
Who has not failed them: everywhere was cried
50
“The Christians to the Lions, so that we,
Our wives and babes may all live quietly.”

Awhile with trembling heart regarding it
Within his marble house did Dorus sit;
At last one night arising quietly
55
While the town slept, he gat him to the sea,
Bearing with him his little ones and wife,
And one tried slave he trusted with his life,
And taking ship, to Asia he passed,
And so to Cappadocia came at last;
60
And going inland there from the great sea
He came unto a noble fair city
Called Cesarea; where he dwelt in rest
A poor man now, but yet by none opprest
For five years more, and late in the third year
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Of his sojourn his wife to him did bear
Another daughter, whom he took straightway
That Adam’s sin might clean be washed away,
Unto the bishop, and the name she had
When in her white robe she was newly clad
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Was Dorothea, who in that same place
In strength and loveliness grew up apace.

But when her sixteenth year was fully come
Her father and her mother were called home,
And in a quiet place their bodies laid,
75
Where fearfully the burial rites were paid.
For now in Cæsarea as in Rome,
New orders from the Emperor were come
That duly Jove should now be worshipped,
Nor longer Citharea veil her head
80
So there was slain full many a Christian man
And crimson with their blood the channels ran.

Moreover some there were within that place
Who rather chose to live on earth a space
That life despised even by the heathen wise,
85
Than pass through death to joy in Paradise.
Amongst whom Dorothea’s sisters twain,
Eriste and Calliste, fearing pain,
And doubting of the happy life to come,
Reared up a little altar in their home
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Unto the idols, though indeed no one
Had harmed them ought, but let them live alone.

So when they thus had given up their faith
For earthly life, then, as the old tale saith
The seven other devils came to them,
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And finding them at last outside the hem
Of Christs robe, put in their hearts straigtway,
That from this earth all folk pass quick away,
And well it is to live in joyance there.

So when at night each others body fair
100
Each one beheld and saw herself thereby,
So tall and straight, and made so cunningly,
Then would she redden, thinking is not this,
That which all men desire past all bliss;
Does it not pass in few and doutful years,
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Will bring it back; and for the lending it
Among rich things and jewels may I sit,
And men will give me love and kisses sweet,
And grovel on the ground before my feet.

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So thought they to themselves, and soon for gold
Their virgin shame fast beauty had they sold;
With whom dwelt Dorothea none the less,
But as she might hiding her loveliness
From lustful eyes: and yet did God ordain
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That her great beauty blossomed not in vain,
Since in the end it bore her such a crown.

Because the Emperors prefect in that town,
By name Fabricius, passing through the street
Some great lord at the city-gate to meet
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Chanced to behold that virginal sweet thing
The doorway of her house just entering;
And when he saw her such a flame of love
Shot through him that he scarce had power to move
Though in one little moment she was gone:
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Then turning round about, he said to one
That rode beside him, “Who dwells in that house”
“Sir” quoth his Knight, two damsels amorous
Who from the Christian folly late have turned
Because they saw some wretched damsel burned.”
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“Nay truly” said the prefect, “was she such
I saw just now, that any man could touch
Her body if he lists, so seemed she not
But like a perfect maid without a spot.”

“Yea” said the other, “neither said I so,
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The damsel who stood there I nowise know
Although ere now myself have had the grace
To spend some happy hours in that place,
When slaves enow I saw about the house,
None other but the sisters amorous.
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And, as to her, I think that verily
Of some near kin unto them she must be;
For like to them she is, but fairer still

And lower down the right side of the hill
On the worse side whereof all beauty wanes.
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Also it seems to me that whoso gains
Her lovely body, will be strong and wise
For she looks hard to win as Paradise.”

No answer made the prefect thereunto
But going forth, did that he had to do,
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But never on that day could he forget
The lovely girl, and still his heart was set
On gaining her by good means or by bad.

Now in his house a certain slave he had
Faithful to him, and cunning as a slave,
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To whom next morn he told what he would have;
Who straigtway went to where there dwelt the twain
Eriste and Calliste: There in vain
He waited long the coming of the maid.
Who all that day within her chamber staid
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For coming evil sorely did she dread;
Though nowise conscious what above her head
Hung, ready to destroy her body sweet.
So willingly she would not show her face
Within the streets of that great wicked place.

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Therefrom passed both her sisters, with their feet
Just showing from the thin and silken gown,
And many a women slave, both white and brown,
But nowhere could he see that lovely one
Fair as an angel, hooded like a nun,
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With her demure, and thoughtful eyes above
The sweet red lips, that knew no kiss of love.
At last he came to think, that openly
He needs must ask if lucky he would be,

But just then came there forth a woman old,
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Who peering all about did soon behold
The prefect’s slave, and said, “what dost thou here
Who by this house all day hast loitered near;
Thou art a slave, what would thy master then,
Thou knowest that my ladies hate not men.”
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Then said the slave, “Mother, a fair lady,
Who dwells within this house I fain would see.”
“Nay sir,” she said Come in and wait awhile
And so with talk the time will we beguile,
For from the house my ladies twain are gone
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And I am left dismal, well nigh alone.”
So in he went, and soon the two sat down
In a high room that ovelooked the town.

Then quoth the crone, And hast thou anything
Within that purse, as jewel or rich ring
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What harm to show it me, for even the old
Still love to see the gleam of gems and gold.”
“Nay” said the slave “what sayest thou to this,
Is it enough to buy my lord a kiss?”
And on the board he laid five pieces down
195
That bare on golden sides the name and crown.
“What dost thou here,” the woman said, with these
And thinkest thou with such poor wage to please
My ladies?” “Nay my mistress certainly”
The man said, but I put them there for thee;”
200
Then grinned the crone and said, “Then something strange
I warrant me thou wantest in exchange.
Well, in this house full hand is aye gaining,
Say on, what wouldst thou;” “But a little thing”
He answered, “but that I might talk alone
205
Upon my lords part, with a certain one
That dwells here, neither of may ladies twain:
And if indeed I talk with her in vain
Still may you keep what in your hand you hold,
If she is kind to us, why then in gold
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Your fingers may you glove if so you will.”

“Nay then must you and I use all our skill”
The woman said, “for truly she is such
A thunderbolt would hardly move her much
If she had will to set out any where.
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She is the sister of my ladies fair
The children are they of one dam & sire
But she is like them as the sun a fire.
And though far fairer is she than are they
Patient and simple goes she on her way
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Longing for nought nor wishful to be seen:
And besides all she thinks the Nazarene
Is or will be the master of all things.
And those that serve him will be more than kings
When thy are dead; alas if I could think
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Such things as these who am upon the brink
Of evil death, and my most cherished joys
Are less to be desired than the toys
My elders laughed to see me play withal
So long ago by the vine covered wall
230
Before my very hopes began to spring
That now have made this old wretched thing –
You laugh, ah, I forgot; but for your gold
This wonderful young thing you shall behold.
But little hope have I of any more
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And surely she will try your patience sore” –

Therewith she went out quickly from the place,
And left him waiting with a smiling face
And counting up the gold that he should get
If in his masters arms the maid he set.

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But even his sluggish heart within him burned
When leading that sweet thing the crone returned,
So sweet she was, and gentle as the spring,
As with her young face pale, and lips trembling
For fear of evil stealing over her,
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She spoke, and said, “What wouldst thou with me, Sir?”

“Lady,” he said I fain would speak with thee
Alone, if so thou wouldst will it so to be.
“So be it” she said, but make no long delay,
Because I fear what thou mayast have to say.”
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Therewith she turned round softly to the crone
And in the place those two were left alone.

Then said the man “Why dost thou tremble so;
For now, O lady, if thou hast a woe
This day and hour will end it certainly:
255
My lord the Prefect pineth sore for thee,
And bids me give these things into thy hands,
Wise men have drawn together from all lands,
And brave men snatched from crown of Prince & King,
Bids me too say, this is a little thing
260
To that which he will do for thee henceforth,
There is a green vale sheltered from the north,
That he has walled about from hill to hill,
There has he gather every stream and rill
Into a river lined with marble white,
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That runs through gardens made for all delight
About the marvellous house that he has made
And at the back are woods with many a glade.

There shalt thou dwell, he says, from day to day
And have all things that any mortal may;
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And neither shalt thou pass thy life alone
For there of slaves shalt thou have many an one,
Both foul and fair to deal with as thou wilt
Nor shall a deed of thine be held for guilt.
And thither will my lord come day by day
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with lords and dames to pass the time away,
And honour thee as far as in him lies.”

Silent sat Dorothea, to her eyes
Gathering the tears that soon began to fall,
And sobbing she turned round unto the wall,
280
Moaning. “O Lord, and now the day is come,
When thou wouldst have me taken to thy home,
Why do I feel so full of misery
That little of thy glory I can see;
Why do I faint, and weep so sore for this
285
Surely I am not meet to share thy bliss.”

Then spoke the slave. “Lady, has thou not heard
And has my master spoken a light word.
Why weepest thou to hear this joyous thing
That thou shalt live as Queen of a great King?”
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Then round she turned to him with gasping breath
And said “O man thou will bring me my death;
And though indeed my death will bring me life,
And give me deep rest after pain and strife.
Yet is my weak heart fain to linger here
295
Where many things I find both sweet and dear
And full strange things for I am young enow
And may a hidden thing have I to know.”

“What did I say of death,” then quoth the slave.
If thou within thy hands these things wouldst have,
300
I have been bidden to bring here for thee
All thoughts of death right far away would be.
For would he give to one that he loved not
Such things few princes in their crowns have got?”

“Nay, in your gems,” she said, “there lies the threat
305
As in the olive wreath of old was set
The grinded sword: leave me and let me be
For I would weep alone and silently
The remnant of my life.”

                         Then straight he fell
Upon his knees, and still to her did tell
310
The prefect’s love, and all that he would do.
“In that place,” said he, “none would know of you
And if you still hold to the Nazarene
Of all Gods else the Palace should be clean.
For he will think it good enough for him
315
To worship there thy body limb by limb.
So thou shalt have thy faith, and bliss also,
Upon this earth, if this thing thou wilt do.”

“Alas” she said, “and when wilt thou be done.
Dost thou then think our God is such an one
320
Be gone I pray, and leave this foolishness,
For I will hearken neither more nor less.”

“Yea lady,” said he, I will go away,
But I may carry on some other day
Far other words than these.”

                       Then on her brow
325
There came a frown, she said, “Thou sayest it now.
Truly today thy threat is little hid.
And now this message to thy lord bid.
That in a city once there dwelt a King
Who would be wed, and had a certain ring
330
So wrought, that whoso gat it on her hand,
Were she the fairest thing in all the land,
And seeming perfect, body soul and limb,
Nevertheless it would be known to him
If she had sinned: now therefore many an one
335
Fair as they were the wise Kings bed did shun:
At last came one who in most secret wise
Had wrought her sins, arrayed in royal guise
But on her finger was there set the ring
And she began to babble everything
340
Spite of herself, and so was led away
And ended all her life upon that day
Being burnt with fire according to the law.

Now in likewise I without spot or flaw
Have will to be presented to our King,
345
Who sits above and governs everything
But if I sin my sin shall not be this,
To come before Him, praying for his bliss
With my right hand, and my left hand to hold
Heaped up with earthly pleasures smeared with gold.

350
Take now these words in answer to thy Lord,
Nor will I listen more to any word,
And those thou saidst are not remembered
For now indeed I count myself as dead.

So from that chamber forth she passed; & he
355
Unto the prefects place went thoughtfully
And told him straight how little was his speed
Since neither gifts or threats the girl would heed.

Then raved that Lord and swore by Juno’s head
That in a week she should be his, or dead,
360
And on that night would neither eat nor drink,
Nor slept so much upon her did he think;
But when the next day came to him the slave,
To ask him what thing he should do, he drave
The man with curses from before his face,
365
And all the day went wandering through the place
Distraught and moody; and thus day by day
Speaking few words he passed the time away
And ever gloomier to all he grew
But could not find it in his heart to do
370
The thing he thought of, till a month was gone.

Then on a day bright glistering helmets shone
Outside the house where Dorothea dwelt,
And the poor maid a sickening terror felt
Because they drew up close beside her door.
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Then came the man that she had seen before
Into her chamber, where, the time being cold,
A fire burned; which same man did hold
A certain parchment sealed with some great seal.
And when she looked thereon her brain did reel
380
For fear and woe, for certs she read there
An order to this man forthwith to bear
Her body to the justice-hall, that she
Might answer there or her impiety
Unto the Gods: so no word spoke the man
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Till she had lifted up her countenance wan
And all the writing had been fully read,
Then with a smile he laid it down, and said.

O mistress here this paper will I burn
If to my lord you yet have heart to turn
390
Then in no sadness ever shall you pine,
And all that erst I spoke of shall be thine.
Or else indeed by this you well may guess
What shall befal you for your stubbornness,
The bonds the hangman’s hands, the open shame
395
The torturing lash, the gibbet and the flame;
The dark void waste instead of this bright world,
And the dishonoured body rudely hurled
To dogs and birds outside the city gates.

Think well of all this torment that awaits
400
A foolish word, and take from out my hand
This jewel worth the tribute of the land;
And for an answer set within your glove
A little writing with three words of love,
And there remains to you full many a year
405
Of happy life all free from pain and fear.”

She answered weeping, holding forth her hands,
“Delay no more to do your Lords commands;
For mid the jewels that you brought to me
A while ago these torments could I see.
410
And I am glad that this last day is come
Who for this past month have dwelt here at home
A wretched life, shaken by hopes and fears,
Now weeping for the ending of my years;
Now praying God to let me live awhile
415
That I might see once more the summer smile
Upon the land, now praying that I might
Be smitten dead in sleep some dark ning night,
Nor life to die with unnamed miseries
Before mens pitiless and prying eyes.
420
And now although I meet the worst at last.
Yet in a little while will all be past
Then surely little shall I count that pain.
Behold my hands all ready for your chain.”

Nought answered he for pity and for shame
425
But called aloud, and unto him there came
The sergeaunts with their bonds, and so the may
Unto the judgement-hall was led away

And as she passed between them down the street
Noted she was of those that they did meet,
430
And few there were that saw her but were fain
Her body to have rescued from that pain
Yea so the hearts of some within them burned
That round about to follow her thy turned
To see the end of it: withal was she
435
Within that cruel place brought speedily.

There in the midst upon a gilded throne
Was set her shameless lover all alone,
And on each side of him but lower down
The lawyers sat in solemn hood & gown.
440
Behind, the sergeaunts with their javelins stood;
And, quite apart, strange things of brass and wood,
And cords and pulleys, and a stout ship’s mast.
About which things three rugged fellows past
With hooks and scourges in their hands.

445
And straight before the throne two men with wands
Of gold and ivory, stood, all clad in gold.
Whereof a golden basket one did hold,
One a gold censer with a silver chain;
And betwixt these, that helpless thing and vain
450
They called a God, wrought all of silver stood,
Whose marble altar, with some poor beasts blood
Yet reeked, before the eyes that heeded nought.

Giddy and fainting there the maid was brought,
But when the prefect saw her in that place
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A red flush first spread over his swart face,
And then he grew as pale as very death
And through clenched teeth awhile he drew his breath.
Then struggling with himself he spoke, and said.

“We hear by true report unhappy maid,
460
Thou art of those who give no gifts or praise
Unto the Gods that give us happy days,
And therefore dost thou merit will to die;
Yet will the Emperor grant thee full mercy,
And quite forget forgetfulness oer past
465
If in this flame some incense thou wilt cast,
And with a thankful and glad heart go hence
And give to all the Cods due reverence.”

“My Lord,” she said, “false words they spoke to thee
Saying I feared not God, and certainly,
470
This treason never shalt thou see me do
That I may live upon the earth some few
And doubtful years in fear of death each day

Then said he, “Maiden turn thine eyes that way
And tell me what things thou dost there behold.”

475
Then through her heart there shot a tremor cold
And paler grew her pale and troubled face;
Because his finger pointed to the place
Where stood those rough men waiting for their prey.
But trembling still she found the words to say.
480
“I see, my Lord, thou wilt not spare, me shame
I see strange things I have no skill to name,
Although my shrinking flesh deems what they be.
Alas, my Lord, well may it seem to thee
These are too terrible for one poor maid
485
To strive against, and yet when all is weighed
Against the power of my King and Lord
They are but as my needle to thy sword
Red with the Persian blood. Ah well I know
For all my words thou wilt not let me go
490
Nor spare me any little of my pain;
Yet hearken, it may chance to thee in vain
To pitiless folk with helpless hands to pray
Then mayst thou think if me upon that day
And ere that time comes on thee, mayst thou not,
495
Upon thy bed laid feverish and hot
In dead of night, and utterly alone,
Although of all the Gods thou fearest none,
And though thou mockest both at heaven and hell,
Remember somewhat that the poets tell
500
Of right and justice and avenging fate.
And as thou strugglest with the heavy weight
Of thy wrong-doing thou mayst wish indeed
Thou hadst not sown this bitter grain of seed
Amongst the others: Ah my God, my God
505
This weary way before me thou hast trod,
Must I a tender-nurtured maiden bear
These things he threatens me withal whose fear
Has made strong men and wise falloff from thee
An I, I scarcely know what pain can be.”

510
“Maiden,” the prefect said, “Thy words are vain;
And yet since I am merciful, and fain
To save thee for long years of joyous life,
It is my will to lengthen out this strife;
Yea and moreover, nowise willingly
515
Thy tender body tortured would I see
Though thou shouldst scape from dreadful death thereby.
Therefore in prison somewhile shalt thou lie,
And if thereafter thou still thinkest good
To die, then am I guiltless of thy blood;
520
Nor shouldst thou blame me if thy stubbornness
Bring down upon thee shame and sharp distress
Before thou diest; because verily
By torments will I strive to conquer thee,
Which if thou livest will mayst thou forget
525
And live to praise me many sweet years yet.”

Yea, I shall live” she said, “and not alone
Until no trace is left of all this stone
And moths have long consumed these braveries
And midmost here some yellow lion lies
530
Unchid of any, and the Roman tongue
With pain and toil from old records is wrung;
Yea, Yea, not only till the world is done
And no more use is found for moon or sun;
Happy and tireless I shall love for aye
535
Feeling no lapse of time or change of day.”

“A dream,” he said, “for which the warm delight
Of being alive, thou barterest, and the sight
Of lovely things; for which thou givest up
The sweet and glorious, if too swift-drained cup
540
The Gods hold to our lips: think well of it
I pray you while the next few hours flit.”

Then from the maiden did he turn away
And though upon the throne on that same day
He sat to hear out causes, nonetheless
545
No thought it was of them that did oppress
His acheing head, and made him so distraught.

So to the prison Dorothea was brought,
Who through the sleepless night prayed earnestly

That short at least her suffering might be:
550
But in the morning did the prefect send
Some women folk her stubborness to bend,
Who at the first sung but the selfsame song
The slave had done: she should live loved & long;
And lack no thing a woman could desire:
555
But when they found no promises could tire
Her faithful heart, then they began to tell
From point to point, what agonies befell
Such as were rebels to their might Lord;
Still Dorothea weeping, said no word
560
But sat and gazed upon them patiently,
As their wrath kindled and their words grew high
And with their bitter tongues they strove to wound
The gentle maid: then one upon the ground
Cast dreadful things, and bade her mark them well,
565
And therewith gan the use of them to tell:
But though she shrunk with horror and afright,
And sat with fixed eyes and her lips grew white,
And though the tears stopped, and her golden head
She could not turn away, no word she said.

570
Then they, who had no power to harm her more
Departed for the day now onward wore
And from his height the sun began to fall:
So Dorothea leaned against the wall
Passed many a weary hour of day and night
575
And slept no whit till dawn was making bright
The eastern sky, and then she slept, and dreamed
A simple dream: for unto her it seemed
She was a child again, and on her head
Her father set a crown of roses red,
580
And in kind arms and strong he took her up
And gave her wine from out a golden cup.
But when she woke up to her misery
And nought about her but grim walls could see
And so remembered all things in a while,
585
She could not choose but weep to miss the smile
And tender handling of that father dead.
But yet she raised her fair hand to her head
As if she thought to find the garland there,
That nothing met except her golden hair.
590
Therewith she smiled again, and sighed, & then
Forgot awhile the cruel deeds of men
And fell to thinking of the happy place
Where now so soon she should behold Gods face,
And all her troubles should have happy end.

595
Now in meantime Fabricius did send
To fetch her sisters, who being come, the twain
He sent to try if they his end could gain;
Who trembling and all ill at ease soon came
Unto the prison, and downcast for shame
600
Nor unforgetful of the former days.

So they being led by many wretched ways
The turnkey brought at last unto her cell:
They entered weeping, for they loved her well
In such way as they might: then straightway she
605
Beholding them arose up suddenly
And round about they clung sorrowing
And she spoke to them many a tender thing

Then they half shamed began to her to pray
She would not cast her happy life away,
610
But yield this once; ‘then quoth they we will go
To some far land where no one will us know
There dwell in peace, doing no harm at all;
Till late and quiet death upon us fall.’

“Sisters,” she said, “would you abide with me?
615
Surely I know you would, then verily
One way I know, none other: for today
I think indeed to journey a long way;
Where whoso to that land of lands cometh
Knoweth no turmoil and can fear no death;
620
And will ye all forgetful of that land,
Still be content outside the gate to stand
While I within that lovely place and green
Must quite forget that ye have ever been?
O Sisters in God’s name I promise this
625
That ye today may be with me in bliss;
Is it a light thing that all stains, and sin
Shall be forgotten, and that ye may win
An equal place to spotless ones and pure,
And, by one hour of torment, may make sure
630
Of that, once Godly ones have lost at last.

And for that you do pray me not to cast
My life from me, in turn to you I pray
This life unending not to cast away.
From this day forth from you I shall be gone,
635
And perchance sisters you, being left alone,
May fall from bad to worse, nor ever turn
From your ill lives until in hell ye burn.
Alas I needs must say this word to you,
For I am dying now, and false and true
640
I see far clearer that before this day.
O sisters, sisters, what thing will ye say?”

Then spoke Eriste sobbing, Ye full well
I know that I shall die and go to hell
If I turn not; but yet I thought that day
645
When some few years in joy have passed away,
I will return – also then did I see
Such things as they this day will do to thee
Alas, alas! that folk who so soon to die
Should work their fellows such great misery.”
650
But rose Calliste with dry eyes and bright

And pale firm lips, and said, “thou sayest right
Let us return again while yet we may;
O sister Dorothea, on this day
Thou shalt not die alone for I will go
655
And give my body up to earthly woe.”

Then when Eriste heard her sister speak
Into a bitter wailing did she break
And sank adown and nothing did she reck
That Dorothea round Callistes’ neck
660
With joyful sobs and soft caresses hung,
For unto life right earnestly she clung
Fearing alike the pain she knew full well
And all the unknown threatenings of hell.
But in a while she lifted up her head,
665
And half arose, and to her sister said,
“Now let one go with thee, and I will try
To end my fear of death and misery:
Yet am I weak as water, and today
My weakness will be tried in many a way:
670
Come quickly now before I change again
And fall to thinking of the deadly pain.”

Then Dorothea cried, “yea sister go
And may God grant the time pass not too slow
Before we meet again at eventide
675
Upon that unknown rivers blissful side.”
So strange farewells unto her there they made,
And left her full of joy yet half afraid,
Because she knew indeed their way of life,
Yet trusted God would fit them for that strife
680
And that she need not count them now as lost
But they should win Heaven at whatso cost.

So these being come unto the prefect’s place
Calliste told him with a steady face
How they had sped; and when he laughed aloud
685
In their despite, and round about did crowd
His men their lovers once, and mocked at them
Then wept Eriste, holding by the hem
Of fair Calliste’s sleeve – and cried that lord,
Reddening for rage, “If you have said this word
690
In earnest, as I doubt, then small debate
Will I with you to save you from your fate
Take heed now either straightly sacrifice,
Or before night shall no one be so wise
As ye, in knowing what our torments are,
695
And last about you shall the fire flare:
Consider well if this is to be borne:
For truly little will ye get but scorn
If ye should bid the hangman hold his hand
When naked first beside the cross ye stand
700
As I should think indeed that you would do
Or at the most your stripes will be but few;
Yea or indeed mighty will be the gain
To suffer half the anguish & the pain
That martyrs do, and at the last he led
705
And cast the incense with down-hanging head
Yea should ye die, I doubt your God will think
That bitter cup unwilling ye did drink
So if perchance things are as ye have thought
Still ye will suffer all these woes for nought.”

710
Now though Eriste still wept bitterly,
She spoke the first and said, “Yet we will die
And in these torments wash away our sin
Against our will thou dost us grace herein”
But for her part no word Calliste said
715
But as her sister spoke she bowed her head,
And turned to go; and loud the Prefect cried
Go lead them forth and let the two be tied
Back unto back, and cast them in the fire
When of tormenting them at last ye tire,
720
I would be rid of such like fooleries;
But should they chance to grow a little wise
Before they die then for their beauty’s sake
Let then go, even if unto the stake
The torch is drawing nigh; and well I think
725
Their fair feet will not come so nigh the brink
Of Death as that, and they will cry enough
Before they feel the hangman’s finger’s rough
On the gold buckles of their silk gowns laid
If it be so then let his hand be staid
730
Or else forsooth the two must bear what pain
They think it worth their foolish dream to gain.”

So forth they led them, but upon the way
Full many and idle word the men did say
And strove to turn them both by mock and prayer
735
Until being come unto the great hall where
Such things were done, and finding all else vain
They wrought upon then hard and frightful pain
Beyond their wont, till sunset was anigh,
Then back to back their bodies did they tie,
740
And utterly consumed them in the fire
And in such wise they reached to their desire.

Meanwhile Fabricius to the judgement hall
Went with the lords, and bade the serjeants tll
Bring forth the holy maid before his face –
745
And full of people was the dreadful place.
Who crowded round to see the fair thing pass
At last she came, whose eyen grey as glass
Looked not to right or left, but straight before
A little raised were set, as though the shore
750
Where swell the blessed she beheld e’en now
Nor was their any fear in mouth or brow.

So when Fabricius looked on her, he saw
That in her faith there was no speck or flaw,
Yet gazing on her long at last did say
755
O Maiden will thou choose to live to-day
Or rather bear the worst that we can do

“My lord,” she said, “have I not answered you?
Behold now if you have it in your heart
To torture me and slay me, do your part
760
Without all fear; for fear has gone from me”

Then turned he to the serjeants sullenly
And signed to them to lead the maid away,
But as their hands upon her they did lay
To bring her to the place of tormenting
765
Well nigh he groaned, having no hope to wring
Any consent from any cruel thing
That they might do; and on that day he hid
Full oft his restless face within his gown
And often laid his ivory sceptre down
770
To wring his hands, at sounds that he did hear;
Once and again, too, scarce could he forbear
To take her from betwixt the cruel hands,
But feared the rumour through the Roman lands
And shame and mocks: at last the time being late
775
Before his throne did Dorothea wait
Once more, to hear the final doom from him

Then by his straining eyes did all things swim
As with worn, pale, changed face, but unchanged heart
She stood with steady eyes and lips apart,
780
Her slender, hands laid trembling on the rail
That fenced the prisoner’s place: haggard and pale
He rose up from this throne and spoke once more

“Is it then not enough, O maid, that sore
And cruel torments have been laid on you,
785
Be reconciled unto the Gods anew.
Live a new life, and I myself will strive
I do so much that happy you may live
Forgetting this day and its foolishness
So for long years the dear Gods may you bless

790
Then answered she in weak and broken voice
“O vain and foolish man, now I rejoice
For the short time twixt me and my reward,
When I shall see the face of my dear lord,
And wander in some place where flowers and fruit
795
Spring up together from a happy root
Dost thou suppose that I have fear of this
That I have fear to meet unending bliss
That in my heart there lingers any fear
To meet the crowd of faces kind and dear
800
By tender hands through flowers to be brought
After the shameless things that ye have wrought
On this poor body trembling now with pain.
Cease henceforth from such foolish words & vain
And slay me now in whatsoever way
805
Seem good to you, but make no more delay
For weary are all things on earth to me.”

So then Fabricius gazing earnestly
Upon her said, “So be it, since in vain
I strive with thee, yet soothly was I fain
810
That thou shouldst live: headsman & ye that wait
Lead her forthright without the city-gate
And there with a sharp sword let her be slain
Yet needst thou not to put her to more pain
Than in the slaying of her must be done.”

815
Then mazed and grieved he sank back in this throne
And soon he gat him back unto his home,
Nor dwelt there long, but journeyed unto Rome,
And there he lived and died in unbelief
How beit of all lords well nigh the chief.
820
Now forth they lead the maiden pale, but glad
That such short ending to her woes she had;
And as she turned to go, was standing by
Theophilus the Protonotary,
Who as she passed him mocked at her & said,
825
“O maid I should be glad by Juno’s head
If you would send me shortly but a few
Of those fair flowers, which would be unto you
Surely a little matter since your King
Is able to do this and everything
830
And you shall be his love, as would indeed
That your fair body was my earthly mead”

Then toward him did she turn her earnest eyes
As though she knew not he spoke mockeries;
And said “Ye ask a good thing, so believe
835
This that I say, ere sunset on this eve
These goodly fruits and flowers shall ye have”

Then thought Theophilus she does but rave
Poor soul, her misery weighs on her so
No great deed was it thus to mock her woe.

840
Now down the hall steps do they lead her forth,
And through the streets a cold wind from the north
Blew on her fevered body as they went
And through her tottering limbs a shudder sent
And though the sun shone coldly, yet in snow
845
She set her feet as she began to go
Propped by a strong mans arm on either hand;
For still the winter clung unto the land
With icy thaw and doubtful sleety frost
And gained one week what the last had lost.

850
But unto her anigh to Paradise
What mattered now the snow or half thawed ice.
On her last journey, from cold street to street
She passed, and pitying people she did meet
Sighed, looking at her, though indeed in turn
855
She well might pity them, whose heart did burn
To find her rest and dear reward at last.
So onward through familiar streets she past
And uncomplaining came unto the gate
And with a smile passed through to meet her fate.
860
There on a soldiers cloak the maiden knelt,
And little further pangs her body felt
For with one blow they smote off her fair head.

Then decently they laid her body dead
Upon a bier, for many folk were come
865
To bear it to the Churchyard nigh her home
Thither with song they bore it reverently
And there unto this day her bones may lie.

In the meantime Theophilus was come
Through many streets unto his proper home
870
Upon the other side of the great town,
Some minutes ere the frosty sun went down
But as he set his foot on his threshold
He heard a sound and turning did behold
A strange and fearful but most lovely sight

875
There stood an angel clad in raiment bright
Of lovely blue set thick with stars of gold
Drawn round the girdle stead in many a fold;
A green wreath had he on his golden hair
And in the thickening frosty evening air
880
From both his shoulders wondrous wings arose
With feathers stranger and more fair than those
The solitary bird is wont to bear
Over Egyptian deserts, and these were
Still moving gently, that his naked feet
885
Rosy and bright scarce touched the wintry street
And on his lips a gentle smile he had,
But calm his face was though so sweet and glad.

Moreover did Theophilus now behold
Within his hand a basket of fine gold
890
Therein three apples, goodly ripe and red,
Three roses where the worm had never fed,
Half open whence delicious odour came
Then half in deadly fear and half in shame
He hung his head down, til a sweet voice said
895
“Fear nought Theophilus, but raise thine head
And with good heart reach out to me thine hand;
She, who is now within the peaceful land,
My sister Dorothea, sends thee these
Plucked from the odorous, ever-blooming trees
900
That blossom and bear fruit upon the shore
Where with the spouse she swelleth evermore.”

Then trembling sore Theophilus did take
Those beauteous things, and therewithal did wake
As if from sleep and saw thing as they were;
905
And, beating with his wings the darkling air,
The angel went upon his heavenly way.

Now furthermore the ancient tale doth say
That this Theophilus in no long time
Met Dorothea in the happy clime
910
For soon he bore the martyr’s palm & crown
Being slain by stoning midmost of the town.

End of Story of Dorothea.


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