Epilogue to the Tragedy of Essex by Margaret Fuller

Spoken in the character or the Queen. — From the German of Goethe.
(She advances, leaving her attendants in the background.)

No Essex here! Unblest! They give no sign;
And shall such live while Earth’s best nobleness
Departs and leaves her barren. Now, too late,
Weakness and cunning both are exorcised.
How could I truth those whom I knew so well?
Am I not like the fool of fable — he
Who in his bosom warmed the frozen viper,
And fancied man might hope for gratitude
From the betrayer’s seed. — Away. — begone —
No breath — no sound shall control my mood;
Begone, I say. The Queen would be alone.
(They all go out.)
Alone and still. — This day the cup of woe
Is full, and while I drain its bitter dregs
Calm — queenlike — stern — I would review the past.
Well it becomes the favorite, of fortune,
The royal arbitress of others’ weal,
The world’s desire, and England’s deity,
Self-poised, self-governed, clear and firm to gaze
Where others close their aching eyes — to dream.
Who feels imperial courage glow within
Fears not the mines which lie beneath the throne,
Bold he ascends, though knowing well his peril,
Majestical and fearless holds the scepter;
The golden circlet of enormous weight
He wears, with brow serene and smiling air,
As though a myrtle chaplet graced his temples;
And thus didst thou. The far-removed thy power
Attracted and subjected to thy will;
The hates and fears which oft beset thy way
Were seen, were met, and conquered by thy courage;
Thy tyrant father’s wrath, thy mother’s hapless fate,
Thy sister’s harshness — all were cast behind;
And to a soul like thine, bonds and hard usage
Taught fortitude, prudence, and self-command,
To act or to endure. Fate did the rest;
One brilliant day thou heardest “Long live the Queen!”
A Queen thou wast. And, in the heart’s despite,
Despite the foes without, within, who ceaseless
Have threatened war and death, a queen thou art
And wilt be while a spark of life remains.
Yet this last deadly blow — I feel it here,
(laying her hand on her heart.)
But the low-prying world shall ne’er perceive it.
Actress! they call me! — ‘Tis a queen’s vocation;
The people stare and whisper — What would they
But acting to amuse them? Is deceit
Unknown, except in regal places?
The child at play already is an actor.
Still to thyself, let weal or woe betide,
Elizabeth, be true and steadfast ever,
Maintain thy fixed reserve; ’tis just; What heart
Can sympathize with a Queen’s agony?
The false, false world, it woos me for my treasures,
My favors, and the place my smile confers,
And if for love I offer mutual love,
My minion, not content, must have the crown.
’Twas thus with Essex. Yet to thee, O heart,
I dare to say it, thy all died with him.
Man must experience, be he who he may,
Of bliss a last irrevocable day.
Each owns this true, yet cannot bear to live,
And feel the last has come, the last has gone —
That never eye again in earnest tenderness
Shall turn to him, no heart shall thickly beat
When his footfall is heard, no speaking blush
Tell the soul’s wild delight at meeting — never
Rapture in presence — hope in absence more
Be his — no Sun of Love illume his landscape;
Yet thus it is with me, within the heart
Deep night, — without no star. — What all the host
To me — my Essex fallen from the heavens!
To me he was the centre of the world,
The ornament of time. Wood, lawn, hall,
The busy mart, the verdant solitude
To me were but the frame of one bright image.
That face is dust; those lustrous eyes are closed,
And the frame mocks me with its empty centre.
How nobly free, how gallantly he bore him,
The charms of youth combined with manhood’s vigor;
How sage his counsel, and how warm his valor,
The glowing fire, and the aspiring flame,
Even in his presumption he was kingly.
Yet ah! does memory cheat me? what was all
Since truth was wanting, and the man I loved
Could court his death to vent his anger on me,
And I must punish him or live degraded?
I chose the first, but in his death I died,
Land, sea, church, people, throne, — all, all are naught;
I live a living death and call it royalty.
Yet, wretched ruler o’er these empty gauds,
A part remains to play and I will play it.
A purple mantle hides my empty heart;
The kingly crown adorns my aching brow;
And pride conceals my anguish from the world.
But, in the still and ghostly midnight hour,
From each intruding eye and ear set free,
I still may shed the bitter, hopeless tear,
Nor fear the babbling of the earless walls.
I to myself may say, -I die, I die;
Elizabeth, unfriended and alone,
So die as thou hast lived, alone, but queenlike.

Source: The Dial (January 1842) pp. 380-382