The Duchess of Padua
Alas, my Lord,
Such common things as neither you nor I,
Nor any of these noble gentlemen,
Have ever need at all to think about;
They say the bread, the very bread they eat,
Is made of sorry chaff.
Ay! so it is,
Nothing but chaff.
And very good food too,
I give it to my horses.
Duchess [restraining herself]
They say the water,
Set in the public cisterns for their use,
[Has, through the breaking of the aqueduct,]
To stagnant pools and muddy puddles turned.
They should drink wine; water is quite unwholesome.
Alack, your Grace, the taxes which the customs
Take at the city gate are grown so high
We cannot buy wine.
Then you should bless the taxes
Which make you temperate.
Think, while we sit
In gorgeous pomp and state, gaunt poverty
Creeps through their sunless lanes, and with sharp knives
Cuts the warm throats of children stealthily
And no word said.
Ay! marry, that is true,
My little son died yesternight from hunger;
He was but six years old; I am so poor,
I cannot bury him.
If you are poor,
Are you not blessed in that? Why, poverty
Is one of the Christian virtues,
[Turns to the Cardinal.]
Is it not?
I know, Lord Cardinal, you have great revenues,
Rich abbey-lands, and tithes, and large estates
For preaching voluntary poverty.
Nay but, my lord the Duke, be generous;
While we sit here within a noble house
[With shaded porticoes against the sun,
And walls and roofs to keep the winter out],
There are many citizens of Padua
Who in vile tenements live so full of holes,
That the chill rain, the snow, and the rude blast,
Are tenants also with them; others sleep
Under the arches of the public bridges
All through the autumn nights, till the wet mist
Stiffens their limbs, and fevers come, and so —
And so they go to Abraham’s bosom, Madam.
They should thank me for sending them to Heaven,
If they are wretched here. [To the Cardinal.]
Is it not said
Somewhere in Holy Writ, that every man
Should be contented with that state of life
God calls him to? Why should I change their state,
Or meddle with an all-wise providence,
Which has apportioned that some men should starve,
And others surfeit? I did not make the world.
He hath a hard heart.