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Ill-Knotted Fire

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LUSSURIOSO: Come Vindice, speak privily with me.

I'll bid you help me in a small assay.

VINDICE: My lord -- now Duke -- your bidding's my command.

(aside) You've paid me gold, what am I but your whore?

LUSSURIOSO: You've marked, upon my cheek, these scars I bear?

VINDICE: I've seen you take a razor to your skin.

And make the blood spring fresh: why do you so,

My lord? What secret guilt reveals thus?

LUSSURIOSO: My secrets must continue quite unseen.

My blood is red, and yet my sins are green...

Does not your sister make a show with knives?

VINDICE: She throws her blades so carefully that they

Do never harm the one she hurls them at.

'Tis all for sport: my aim is truer.

LUSSURIOSO:                           Good.

I'd have you mark a third line on my face

As mourning for my late father the Duke.

And, kind for kind, I'll pierce you with my sword.

VINDICE: I see you do not mean a blade of steel

but one of flesh, that's conquered more than one

maidenhead -- and likely not just maids

But men. My lord, I had not thought --

LUSSURIOSO:                                Do not.

Stay me from thinking, let me slake my thoughts

and drive away your own as your hand takes

your knife -- you have a knife? -- to tender skin

and opens up a way for thoughts to flee

borne free by blood. My other humours will

pour out in you and drown your thoughts betimes.

VINDICE: A handsome offer. I shall think on it.

LUSSURIOSO: Think not, for thoughts turn crooked on themselves

when comets blaze above. I am not pleased

at that ill-knotted fire that hangs o'er

the city, like an harbinger of doom,

beyond command by me. The deadly light

Of that celestial messenger turns men's minds

To fatal falls.

VINDICE:      It marks your father's death

And your own --

LUSSURIOSO: -- what?

VINDICE:                   -- your own rise to his place.

LUSSURIOSO: Rise? Ha! Tis true I rise: set your hand here

And feel --

VINDICE:    oh! --

LUSSURIOSO:        -- how I rise: come, lie by me

And slake my blood as I do slake my lust.

VINDICE (aside) Had I but known he'd clasp me to his breast

As he did Gloriana (my dead love)

With poison I'd have painted o'er my lips

As I did Gloriana's skull, that slew

the late Duke in his concupiscence. Well,

My knife shall learn the taste of his vile blood.

LUSSURIOSO: Rise but in this and you shall never fall

VINDICE: I rise, my lord, but you shall conquer me.

LUSSURIOSO: Here, 'neath the other mark: a little cut

to let the blood and fury fountain out

and show the world my grieving for the Duke.

Ah! There, yes, there.

VINDICE:                   Ah! You are bold, my lord,

and I must lie and take you as have all

those ladies you have wooed with jewels and silks,

those lords who -- ah! -- did think themselves your match.

(aside): But here's my steel, pressed sharp against your skin.

Would it might slip and stab your wanton eye.

I enter you as you do enter me.

You'll bear my mark more visibly than I

do wear your own, a canker on my soul.

Your blade is hot, you stab me yet I live

My blade is keen and cold: it is your death.

Ill-knotted fire smoulders in my heart

The Duke's lust moves me not, e'en though his blood

drips like false tears from his face to mine.

My knife will find a firmer home in him

before the comet passes from our sky.

My sister's knives are glittery with light.

My dagger's dimmed and tarnished with my spite.

-end-