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John de Waltham

A Fragment of a Play

                                    SCENE: A FOREST

        Enter Marion Levenoth, a reputed witch, and a disguised Priest.

        Priest.  “Tis about her hour. There’s no Ave Maria to re-
mind Christabel, but as soon as the day slopeth the sweet child
maketh her way hither. She cometh for consolation to our divine
effigy. (Points towards the bower.)

        Marion.  She cometh for consolation to me!

        Priest.  ‘Tis a miracle of God that these Gospellers and loud
Puritans have not discovered our blessed crucifix i’ the Forest.
We have hedged Him from the fury of these desolate years. But
shall we hear the Angelus again? Will these invaders triumph
for ever?

        Marion.  Their time is nigh past. Their day sinketh. Some-
what telleth me a new time dawns.

        Priest.  I do long to say Mass again. Our old Abbey of
Waltham hath stood the pillage an hundred years, and now lieth
prone like a huge ghost of the cross. Marion, thou art a divining
woman. If God be with thee, say will the King carry it and the
persecuting of our holy Faith cease? Marion, they report thee a
witch. Thou hast a familiar? I’m afeared to speak with thee.
Tell me, are not those whom Satan assaileth found dead i’ their

        Marion (bringing plants from her basket).  That’s Vervain
and Solanum. That eases babes i’ their convulsions and women
in travail. They say I’ma witch. But sith I make ointments out
of the resin of the earth that soothes them they come humbly
again, and ask more. My mother taught me the properties of the
wild grasses o’ the woods. There’s hemlock and enchanter’s night-
shade. That’s saffron. Whiles these kind herbs do cure them,
they say the magick’s white, but while’s they fail because of
their unbelief, the magick’s black. But hark you. All’s magick!
The wind and the stars and the sea and the unutterable depths o’
things are the secret of a divine Magician. And thoughts which
come like waves i’ the mind and are invisible, and speech which
beckoneth and doth allure men by words which are invisible things,
and sorrow which doth crumble our hearts away—that’s all sor-

cery! ‘Tis all invisible power. Hark you, many a woman hath
brought hither her sick babe to me and many a babe have I car-
ried at my heart through the night i’ the Forest and bathed it in a
pool in red moonlight, and heard its little sobs grow dumb in a
soft sleep. There’s no ill that hath not its remedy could we but
find it.

        Priest.  But the Church, the Holy Mother, Marion, hath
ever burnt herb-gatherers and witches as evil-doers.

        Marion.  Your Church is blind. Sooth, from the beginning
she hath persecuted the physician of the body and called him
poisoner, but lo, now medicine hath triumphed, and all men run
to it.

        Priest (earnestly).  Canst thou make gold, Marion? Canst
thou build me an invisible Church in the which I might pray and
hear the old musick, the old chants and see the effigies of the ex-
pelled saints?

        Marion.  There is an invisible, invulnerable world raised
above the tossings of this.

        Priest (suddenly).  Look, Christabel comes.

            (Enter Christabel in haste.)


        Christabel.  Good e’en, Father; Good e’en, Marion. O, I’ve
come in haste!

        Marion. Priest.  What now?

        Christabel.  In haste to tell ye what hath happed. Have we
not cast spells for my father’s liberty? Well only a doubtful
miracle hath been vouchsafed us. Verily my poor father was
ta’en out, but ’twas to lay a trap for him and me. ‘Twas to com-
pass a foul bargain that John de Waltham brought him out. Wot
you what, he did propose to marry me, and sith I spurned it, the
old man was convoyed back to the loathsome prison. O his cries
and his curse were loud against me and a’ called down God’s visita-
tion upon me whiles the vile chains were locked on him again.

        Priest.  Nay, Sir Hubert had no ought to command you to
love. ’Tis a thing impossible. Duty not love may be commanded.

        Marion.  John de Waltham made love to you?

        Christabel.  Ay, his eyes shone with a ribald agony on me.

                                    John de Waltham

        Marion.  Trouble yourself not. His date is out. His date
is in the prophetick almanack. Tell your father still to have a
patience till his enemy hath been overblown.

        Christabel.  Yes, I whispered it to him, but he hearkened
not. He may die i’ the prison. O all’s in doubt. Who knoweth
if verily the ins will carry it.

        Marton.  Fear not. (Takes a philtre out of her basket). Drink
this. That’s electrum. ’Twill protect you against his evil spirit
when he striketh at your maidenhood and at your life.

            (Christabel drinks, and keeps the phial.)

                                                           And get you
by moonshine and gather hedge hyssop, moonshade and saffron,
and thereafter wash ye in a river flowing South. But the name of
your enemy, look ye, ’tis writ amongst the stars of death. This
plenary physick ’ll protect you from him.

        Christabel (kissing Marion).  O thanks to thee, Marion. Thy
nigromancy easeth me somewhat, and yet I am afeared for my
father’s curse.

        Marion.  I have read i’ the books of the alchemists that a
man may be killed by the imagination of another. We’ll evoke
the forbidden for you. I’ll to my incantations.

            (Goes within the hut.)

        Priest.  The sun sinketh. Shall we not on our knees?
Christabel. Ay, father, lead forward.

                                                              BENJAMIN SWIFT

MLA citation:

Swift, Benjamin. “John de Waltham. A Fragment of a Play.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 2, 1905, pp. 111-113. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2022. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Toronto Metropolitan University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2022,