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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Death of Jack Cade

By Robert Taylor Conrad (1810–1858)

[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1810. Died there, 1858. Aylmere, or, The Bondman of Kent. A Tragedy. Written for Edwin Forrest, and first produced by him at the Park Theatre, New York, 24 May, 1841.—Aylmere … and Other Poems. 1852.]

SCENE: The Guildhall in London. AYLMERE seated at a table. Enter MOWBRAY, WORTHY, and others, with BUCKINGHAM and ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.

BUCK.In the King’s name, Lord Mortimer, we come,

To ask why thus you fright his peaceful realm

With wild rebellion?
AYL.Why!—You mock us, lords!

Are ye so deaf that England’s shrieks ye hear not?

So blind, ye see not her wan brow sweat blood?

BUCK.My lord, if you seek power in this, remember,

The greatness which is born in anarchy,

And thrown aloft in tumult, cannot last.

It mounts, like rocks hurled skywards by volcanoes,

Flashes a guilty moment, and falls back

In the red earthquake’s bosom.
AYL.Sagely said!

Go back unto the court, and preach it, where

Fraud laughs at faith, and force at right, and where

Success is sainted if it come from hell!

I leave your royal toys to idiot kings;

And seek the right—the right!
BUCK.Disband your force;

We promise mercy.
AYL.Now ’fore Heaven, you’re kind,

You’ve scourged, and chained, and mocked us; made God’s earth

A dungeon, and a living grave; and now,

When we are free,—our swords in our right hands,

Our tyrants shivering at our feet—ye prate

Of promised mercy. Hark ye! if you yield not,

The wolf shall howl in your spoiled palaces!

Better were England made a wild, than be

The home of bondmen!
BUCK.What do you demand?

We would have peace, if not too dearly bought.

AYL.We’re deaf. Say lives! Till he be rendered up,

We know no word like peace!
BUCK.He is in ward,

And, to appease the commons, shall be tried.

AYL.Pah! He is tried and sentenced by a nation!

Give him, or—we will take him!—We can do it;

And, gentle sirs, ye know it!
BUCK.Be it so;

[To attendant.] Bring from the tower Lord Say!
ARCHBISHOP.[aside.]Can we not save him?

BUCK.[aside.]’Tis now too late.
AYL.[aside.]It is no dream—no dream!

The hour has come!
BUCK.We yield thee Say:—what further?

AYL.That the king grant this charter to his people.[Unrolling and exhibiting the scroll.]

BUCK.What doth it covenant?
AYL.Freedom for the bond!

BUCK.For all?
AYL.For all; all who breathe England’s air,

Henceforward shall be free!

BUCK.This too, we grant.

AYL.Now can I die in peace!—It frees, moreover,

The people from all tyrannous exactions,

Taxes, and aids, to feed a rotten court.

BUCK.All this,—conditioned you withdraw your host.

AYL.A pen, a pen!—I will, my lord—I will.

Your name, my Lord Archbishop.

Yours, my lord.

BUCK.Art now content?
AYL.Not till the realm’s broad seal

Make the chart sacred.
AYL.[impatiently.]The seal—the seal!

BUCK.As you will.[To officer.]Bear this to the tower, and bid

My secretary stamp this charter with

The great seal of the realm.
AYL.And, Mowbray, thou

With him and haste! That hope! that hope!—And when

’Tis done, shout the glad tidings to our host;

And bid their hearts and voices tell the heavens,

That they are slaves no more![Exit MOWBRAY.]

Enter officer with SAY.
Ha! ha! ha! ha!

Now do I almost love thee, for this hour!

Why bridegroom ne’er met bride with such a joy

As I meet thee!
STRAW.[rushing forward.]I’ll strike him down!
AYL.Hold, knave!

I cannot spare a hair of that proud head—

A drop of that foul heart. All, all is mine!

SAY.Thou fierce and savage man!
AYL.Fierce! I am gentle;

Gentle and joyous. Fierce! You see I laugh!

[Sternly.]Thou hadst a bondman once—his name was Cade,

A white-haired man?
SAY.I had.
AYL.And for some toy,

That harmless man was flayed. And thou stoodst by,

And saw the red whip pierce his quivering flesh,

Until it fell, piecemeal, into the blood

That gathered at his feet! You murdered him!

SAY.The villain was my bond.
AYL.Your bond! His child,

A pale boy, struck you down, and spurned you—spurned you,

And he, too, was your bond!
SAY.The carle escaped.

AYL.Ay, but forgot you not, though years and troubles

Passed darkly o’er him! But thy victim’s widow—

Ha! doth her name appall thee? Thine the arm—

Coward! that smote her! Thou it was that gave

Her wasted form to the fierce flames! thou! thou!

Thought’st thou not of her boy? The poor Jack Cade

Is now the avenger! Mortimer no more—

Behold me—Cade the bondman!
SAY.Thou! Heaven shield me!

AYL.Even I! Ha! ha! The grace of noble birth!

Poor Cade, the bondman, worshipped as a prince!

Poor Cade, the bondman, giving laws to princes!

But no! Cade is no bondman! England’s sun

Sees not a slave; and her glad breeze floats by,

And bears no groans save those of her oppressors.

Now for thy doom. The scourge that slew my father

Shall, from thy shrinking flesh, lap up the blood

That gushes at its greeting, till thy frame

Is ragged from the lash. Then to the stake!

My father’s torture and my mother’s death!

SAY.[aside.]No, never by the torture will I die—

Nor die alone! I have a weapon still.

[Tauntingly.]How fareth Mariamne?
AYL.Wretch! But he

Shall move me not.
SAY.Clifford was a rough wooer.

AYL.And wooed his death.
SAY.The murderess sank a maniac;

And dainty warders had she in the castle.

Her mingled shrieks and laughter liked me not.

I sent her to the dungeon.
AYL.To the dungeon!

SAY.And, as she raved, we bound her.
AYL.Bound! Just Heaven!

SAY.To the damp wall, unlit and cold, we bound her.

On you she called, in mingled shrieks and prayers.

To calm her, we withheld both food and drink,

Till nature sank within her.
AYL.God of heaven!

SAY.’Tis said the scourge will tame the wildest maniac,

AYL.And what?
SAY.I bade the steward bring

The hangman’s whip.
AYL.The whip! I’ll hear no more!

Die, dog, and rot!

[AYLMERE stabs SAY. They grapple. SAY strikes AYLMERE with his dagger. Attendants interpose. SAY falls.]
LACY.[to AYLMERE.]You bleed!
SAY.He bleeds? Why then I triumph still!

My steel was venomed and its point is fate.

[SAY is withdrawn.]
AYL.Take down to hell my curse, thou blackest fiend

That e’er its gates let forth! Oh, Mariamne!

MAR.Have I been dreaming? or have I been mad?

The smoke that palled my brain

Flies from life’s deadening embers now away,

And leaves me but the ashes. Ha! my Aylmere!

[She totters to his arms.]
AYL.Thou knowest me? Dost thou not? Now blessings on thee!

MAR.Nearer, my Aylmere, nearer! I do lose thee!

Is not this death? Our boy, they tore me from him:

Buried they him?
AYL.Alas, I know not.[She faints.]Faint not!

’Tis I—’tis Aylmere holds thee, Mariamne!

MAR.I see thee not, nor hear thee.—Bless thee! Bless thee!

AYL.Look up, love! Wife! My Mariamne! Cold!

Dead! dead![Weeps.]

[He rises—sinks again—is caught and supported.]
Why should I weep? Go I not with her?

Is Atlas’ burthen on me? Say struck home!

The charter—is it come?
LACY.Not yet.
AYL.All slain!

Say hath slain all! I come, my Mariamne!

[He sinks upon her body. A distant shout. Another and nearer. AYLMERE partly rises.]
AYL.That shout?
LACY.Mowbray proclaims the charter.
AYL.Doth he?

[Another shout.]

[A cry without, “The charter! the charter!” MOWBRAY rushes in, bearing the charter, unrolled, and exhibiting the seal.]
MOW.The charter! seal and all!
[AYLMERE starts up with a wild burst of exultation, rushes to him, catches the charter, kisses it, and clasps it to his bosom.]
AYL.Free! free!

The bondman is avenged, and England free!

[Totters towards MARIAMNE and sinks.]