Cast of Scene 4:
Richard, lord of the Yarbury estates
The Anchoress, a female hermit enclosed in a cell built into the wall of St. Julian’s church, accessible only by an interior window, whom later history would know as “Julian of Norwich”
Mary, Richard’s wife
[Richard enters St. Julian’s Church]
Richard: How chill! How dark!
Not unlike my heart.
And yet, even in darkness, my heart knows the way.
Even though plain sight is forborne
By these shadows and flickering candle-flames,
I know where her window lies.
I know its shape, its height, its width, its rocky curvature,
But most of all, I know the face
Of she who dwells inside.
Anchoress! Are you there?
Answer me, lest my anguish unsanctify
Thy office with thy former name,
Much beloved to my ears!
The Anchoress: I am here, as ever I am.
What disturbs thee, Lord Yarbury?
Richard: Oh, throw not these daggers at our former affection!
Speak thou my name, if thou canst still remember it!
The Anchoress: Our former affections belong elsewhere—
Another world: created, judged, and ended long ago.
Richard: Yes, Anchoress, I know.
I am not here to play the God of resurrection,
And render a field of dry bones breathing.
But still, ‘twould speak peace to my heart
To hear thee say my name.
The Anchoress: Why come ye here, Richard?
Richard: To ask about the love of God,
And of his judgment.
The Anchoress: Have I the answers to such mysteries?
Make question of the crucifix, thorn, and chalice;
Inquire of the blood of Christ,
And thou shalt learn the open secret
Of uncreated love
And the judgment of our sins.
[The doors of the church are thrown open, and Mary enters]
Richard: Speak, Mary. What’s happened?
Mary: He dies. Charles. Our son.
Let thy words be hateful jest,
Or mistake of darkness born;
But let it not be truth.
Mary: Truth it is. Yes…dead.
And here I find thee,
Not abiding at my side,
Not courageously making stand
Against my hateful, ill-chosen words
In order to be strength to me
When most I needed thee.
No, here I find thee,
Trading whispers in the dark
With thy once-and-ever love.
Richard: ‘Tis not for lack of love for thee,
Nor for consolations from my younger days
That I take refuge with the Anchoress.
I seek out here the truth of what thou spoke:
Is it I? Is my sin the cause of Charles’ death?
God help me, Mary, I must know!
It was thy words that drove me here.
The Anchoress: He speaks truth, Lady Yarbury.
He asked me of God’s love and judgment.
Mary: I need not hear your voice, Anchoress.
My husband’s love was always yours,
Always and forever yours!
Your smile, your peace, your flaxen hair,
They haunt his dreams;
They haunt my life!
He chose thee; thou chose the cell,
And left me with the dregs
Of exhausted, emptied affection!
I remember watching when they entombed thee there,
Stone by stone,
And the peace in thine eyes was hateful to me,
Because with every stone laid down,
Mortared solid ‘gainst the world,
I saw my Richard’s heart entombed,
Forever banished to a godless crypt
From whence no blessed resurrection
E’er could set it free.
Speak not to me, Anchoress.
Richard: Too harsh, Mary.
If any fault, it was my own.
I have striven to love thee,
Labored and learned,
With all that I could offer.
Mary: It wasn’t enough;
The offering lacked thy truest self.
And now the one treasure we had built together
Dead and gone.
And so then am I.
[Mary turns to go]
Richard: Mary, wait!
Whatever failures went before,
Let not this moment be added to the list!
Let me weep with thee.
Mary: Tears shared among strangers
Are bitter consolation.
Stay here with the shadow
Of thy first-chosen, much-preferred life.
‘Tis the only one remaining thee.
[Mary exits. A moment later, Richard runs out after her.]