The Fate of Sparta.
The Rival Kings.
The Fate designated in the Title is no fate fraught with Woe, but the atchievement of the downfall of a Tyrant. The play was brought out at Drury Lane in 17881788. The Author’s Prologue gives Notice that its scene is not laid in the heroic times of Sparta, but in its latter days of luxury and weakness.
Finding however in its history, combined in one character, a Wife and Daughter with as much of the Heroism of her Ancestors as change of circumstances would admit of, so fine a theme excited the Author to present such a being to view—rather to raise the loftier passions than to subdue to the weakness and the tears in which Melpomene, laying aside her Dagger, full frequently indulges.
Thus Chelonice, in whose bosom reign co-equally filial and connubial love, arraigned before her Father for her attachment to her Husband, invokes, for the credit of his administration of Justice, the rigid Sentence of the Law, not Mercy to his Child; and yet, prefers the Exile with which her husband is threatened in his fallen fortunes, to the splendors of a Throne.
The Author’s object was but to display all the bearings of such a Character. With this view, and to constitute a Fable dramatic in its texture, the particular events of the Tragedy are, in a considerable degree, derived but from the Poet’s usual source—Invention. But, that Leonidas and Cleombrotus alternately dethroned each other, and that the Heroine of this play, the Daughter of the former and the Wife of the latter, devoted herself to soothing the fate of each, as he sought refuge in the Temple from the other—this is History.
To John Cowley, Esquire.
When Letters were yet in their Infancy, and knowledge and the arts were still groping their way through mists, some splendid Name was necessary to give an Author Celebrity—hence the custom of Dedications; hence those floods of Adulation that poured from the press, and outraged the feelings of the Addresser and the Addressed.
But now, when Poets and writers of every denomination accept Patronage only from the Public, and when Fame is to be obtained only by deserving it, the custom of dedicating can be continued only, as a medium through which to convey personal respect. It is delightful to make an offering to those we love, when that offering has had value stamped upon it by the voice of the Public. Thus The Fate of Sparta seeks you in the recesses of a Counting House; and, whilst you are engaged in supporting our national manufactures, and invoking Commerce from her distant realms, solicits your attention to the Muses.
When I hinted an intention of addressing this Tragedy to you, you shrunk from the idea, and desiredM2 164 M2v 164 sired me to chuse a worthier name. My dearest Brother, where shall I turn to find it?—This shall not be an address of Adulation, therefore I shall only observe, that those to whom you are known will acknowledge that I am justified in the choice I have made of a patron; and those who know you not, will do my pride the credit to believe that I should not have selected for that patron, a man whose name and situation did not reflect honour on me.
There is yet another motive for using my Poetic Wand to call your Shade before posterity. As your regard has been one of the chief blessings of my life, I wish those who succeed us to know how much I hold myself indebted to it. I wish my own children and your’s to feel the sweet influence of our mutual friendship; and, as they carry in their veins the same blood, to cherish in their hearts the same attachment. Dear Children! who will wander again and again over this page, after the hand which traces it moves no more, after the heart to which it is addressed hath ceased to beat!
I was about to conclude with this pensive idea; but, I recollect that I have not yet mentioned, in dedicatory form, the Work dedicated. The following Tragedy then, Sir, is in its fable and events Invention—except in the Conduct of Chelonice and the scene in the Temple; and with the circumstance on which that scene is founded I have taken some liberties. Other deviations from History will 165 M3r 165 strike; but, if I have altered Circumstances, I have still abided by Character. Leonidas, at Drury Lane, as in Sparta, is artful, tyrannical, and doats on his Daughter. The impetuous amd crafty Amphares, the destroyer of Agis, is here true to his System. Cleombrotus, ambitious and considerably obstinate, is yet sensible of the merits of his wife. He, though my Hero, is not—a faultless monster. If the Lady should appear too perfect, I appeal to the grave authority of Plutarch, who I believe is not suspected of writing Fictions to compliment women.
Struck with admiration at the slight, yet powerful, touches with which that Biographist had sketched the Heroine, I wondered such a character had never been brought on stage, in honour of the sex; yet, I had pleasure in reflecting that this was precisely the age in which it ought to be done, for this age boasts Mrs. Siddons.
The public prints bear testimony that the Tragedy excited the best efforts of that Lady, and of the other performers; and I record it with pleasure, not merely because it is flattering to myself, but because I wish the present I thus offer you, to be surrounded by every circumstance that can make it interesting.
To ask your Favour we’re by Custom bound,
So Prologue bows before you to the ground.
But, interchange of Favours we are told
Is truest method to make friendship hold.
My gift is this;—these chilly wintry nights,
Whilst hoar frost glitters, and the north wind bites,
I’ll waft you the gentlest Summer sky,
Where rose-buds swell, and softest zephyrs fly;
Where the bright Sun, with scarce diminished ray,
November’s month bids charm like florid May;
Where, ’neath sweet myrtle shades, the Lover dies,
As gales, with fragrance fraught, perfume his sighs—
Presto! I waft you now from Drury Lane,
To Greece, where first Taste rear’d immortal fane.
You’ve heard of Spartan Boys, who let young foxes
Feed on their blood, placid as beaus in boxes,
Sans shriek, or groan. You’ve heard of black broth too,
More prized than our ice-creams by me or you;
With many other mighty noble things,
At which less stubborn times have had their flings.
Alas! th’ events on which we found our play,
Were long posterior to that stoick day!
Sparta conceived a whim—to be polite,
Black broth, with changing fashion, took its flight,
And, Luxury her flood gates opening wide,
Wild dissipation came with headstrong tide,167 M4r 167
Plain dress, and frugal meals, no more were yokes,
And Godlike Spartans lived—like other folks!
Turned fiddlers brokers merchants, gamed, and betted,
Their Boast—but what they risked, or what they netted,
Till haughty Sparta, circled now by Walls,
Admits there’s Danger, and assaulted falls.
Of old, their Privy-Council urged a plan,
By double sway to curb degenerate man,
Each of two Monarchs wore a splendid crown—
Castor and Pollux like, this up, that down?
Oh no—they both together were enthroned,
And subject slaves, in double slavery, groaned.
Each Privy-Council’s wise!—yet, e’en away
This passed; but first, th’ Adventures of our play.
The ground work true, a little Fancy grant
Where Fact had in its tribute been but scant,
A trade in fibs all Poets are allowed,
By our’s, with hopes of pardon, ’tis avowed!
Leonidas, King of Sparta, Mr. Bensley.
Amphares, Mr. Barrymore.
Nicrates, Mr. Whitfield.
Sarpedon, Mr. Phillimore.Generals,
High Priest of Minerva, Mr. Wilson.
Cleombrotus, the deposed King, Mr. Kemble.
Chelonice, his Wife, Daughter of Leonidas, Mrs. Siddons.
Leaders of the Thracian Mercenaries in his Army,
The Fate of Sparta.
Act the First.
Scene I.A Forest. Moonlight. In the back ground a Camp. Beyond it Sparta. Enter Mezentius and Corex.
How the thick vapours clog the sultry air,
As glowing Sirius in his fervid rage
Sends noxious languors through the sickening sky!
Majestic Nature’s thunders through the day
In full terrific grandeur struck the ear.
Whilst elements with wrathful elements engaged
Through labouring Æther flew the living flame
The darken’d concave fiercely to illume,
The Heavens the Earth all aiding in the fray
And heightening terror to the region round!
The conflict of the elements is past,
The Tempest which so lately seemed to stir
All ’neath the louring sky, at length hath paused.
And agitated nature gained repose,
As, in the beauteous regions of the West,
Whilst gorgeous dyes their thousand tints gave forth,
And pour’d their utmost brilliance on the sight,
The Sun descending gradually withdrew.
Aye, for a time the stormy air is still,
Whilst other conflicts live in uncheck’d rage.
That war is past, and now, the war of men,
The rush of Armies, and the shouts of death,
Will reach the skies.
Olympus must take part,
When Empires vibrate in the scales of Fate.
Not more illustrious was the hour in which
Enthroned Gods hung o’er the fate of Troy,
And granted to celestial Juno’s hate
A People’s ruin!
May th’ avengeful Gods
Frown thus on Sparta, and its hoary Tyrant!
But, where’s Cleombrotus? The trumpets sound,
And sound to Arms in vain! Is this the Leader
Who from the fields of Thrace and proud Iberia
Brought us to reap the richer spoils of Sparta?
Where is the Courage that should lead us on
And rouze the tardy valour of the troops?
Suspect his courage! That his daring mind
Knows not to fear, his lofty well earned Name
Secures from wavering doubt.—Pierce thou the Wood171 M6r 171
Where yonder Cypress veils the dazzling moon,
I’ll this way bend my steps to seek the Prince,
For tis within these glades he shuns the camp,
And, in deep Thought, retreats awhile from fame.Trumpet sounds.
He’ll hear Bellona’s voice! its powerful charm
Will break the spell of gloomy solitude,
And give us back the Warrior and the King!
Resistless sounds! ye chace my lethargy,
And rouse the Soldier in my languid heart;
My Soul awakens to the glorious impulse!
But, may the Moon whose beams their silver shed
On those proud towers, as decking them for sacrifice,
Glide cloudless onward through th’ etherial plains,
That, when o’er yonder battlements war raves,
Check’d by her rays, the dreaded arm may spare
All those who Mercy ask! May her chaste light
Protect the Matron and the trembling maid
Inviolate to Safety!—Me it guides
To Chelonice, Daughter to my foe,
Yet my loved Wife!—Dian! avert from her,
And from my beauteous boy, each hovering ill,
Till I, enfolding them within my arms,
May soothe their terrors with the voice of Love!
At length then, Prince! I’ve traced thy lingering steps.
Th’ impatient warriors seek thee through the camp;
The meanest Soldier now his ardors boasts,
Whilst thou, whose all on this great hour depends,
Retir’st to Shades, sunk coldly in reflection.
Not cool, Mezentius, though alone, and thoughtful,
For oh! my breast with poignant feeling throbs.
The common soldier’s heart expands with joy
For the rude hour of plunder; mine, my warrior,
Contracts with fear—lest that wish’d hour should sink
In undistinguish’d ruin, her I love,
With him who, though her Father, I must hate.
These are a Lover’s fears—
They are a Husband’s!
Oh! when I ponder, in the Battle’s rage
What various ruin darts from ’neath its banners,
Not to be agonized were not to feel!
Unsparing War, that topples yonder Towers,
May, in blind sway, form Chelonice’s grave!
Hath she not fled thee? Yes, the Wife, thus loved,
Hath left thy bosom for a tyrant Father’s,
Who seeks thy Life and robs thee of thy Crown!
If Woman I can judge—
Thou can’st not her!
Her’s is no common heart. Melting with Love,
Alive to Nature’s softest impulses,
Tenderest of all her faithful tender sex,
Yet, where her duty bids, she hath a Mind
Firm and unbending as the laws of truth.
Of late, her wavering conduct gives surmise
Fame erred, thus speaking honour of her name.
With highest honour it shall speak, yet err not!
When th’ Ephori bestowed on me the Crown,
Which had been wrested from her tyrant father,
Making me colleague in the throne with Agis,
Quickly thou know’st Leonidas had planned
The fall of both, and thus to reign alone.
His fruitless efforts caused you but a Triumph!
Dethroned Leonidas for Refuge sought
Minerva’s altar: Chelonice quick
Her Father followed, left a splendid Court,
And all the State that waits on Royalty,
Within the Sanctuary to weep and watch
Around her Sire whom there she found o’erthrown.
Be Sparta’s daughters thence with reverence named,
And proudly boast amongst the Grecian maids
They breathe the air that nourish’d Chelonice.
But, to your home, oft since, you’ve vainly woo’d her!
Oh yes, and there to greet her would be transport!
But in her Heart, the Filial Principle
As strongly burns; and easier ’twere to woo
The murmuring ring-dove from her unfledged brood
Than her from him who gave the mourner life.
She thinks his Safety guarded by her presence;
Oh, can I blame the cruel charming Duty
Which thus detains her all unwilling from me!
Fortune! benignant reign throughout this eve,
And in a few hours we’ll see thee King and Husband!
Dear, glorious, titles! how my Soul does greet ye!
The Soldiers, all in arms, but Signal wait!
First, let the Altar’s blaze propitiate Heaven.
Mars and Bellona guide me in the battle!Draws his Sword.
Precede my chariot, nerve afresh my arm,
And give me energy to rule my fate!
Whilst Victory bends from yonder starry seat,
And waves her flag triumphant to the town,
The generous transport labours in my breast
And conquest beams already on my helm!
Scene II.The Palace of Leonidas. Enter Amphares and Nicrates.
My Amphares! how dread this hour for Sparta!
Of lofty import is indeed the hour.
See how the People throng! Each house pours forth
Its fearful inmates; whilst the eager hum
Of the enquiring multitude, that breaks
Like distant surges on th’ invaded ear,
Mars the strict due of soothing Night’s repose.
How widely swerves th’ event from foster’d hope!175 M8r 175
When first Leonidas, with Agis, reigned,
And lost his share of rule by Tyranny,
The Ephori adjudged his vacant seat
To Chelonice’s Lord. Exchanging thus
The Tyrant for his Son, they hoped to bind
The arms of Sparta with the wreathes of Peace.
Weak baseless hope! for hate most fierce and deadly
Gained hold in either breast, and, faction-nursed,
Grew strong, and shook th’ unsettled fabrick down.
—Whence, say, the King and the Princess?
From the Temple;
Where vows, and tears, and immolated victims,
Still strive to change th’ unfavouring will of heaven.
Stern Fate demands far other immolations!
Cleombrotus leads armies flesh’d and keen,
As hounds insatiate, that fiercely course
The lightning footed stag. Can none save Sparta?
None but the King! let him invest Cleombrotus
With the disputed sceptre, and the crown
Sparta adjudged him, and he nobly wore.
Your eye speaks surely Amphares a language
Too gay in glances for so dread a moment!
Brother! my spirit was not made for Peace!
The dark hued raven loves not more the tempest
In which he sails, up-borne by warring winds,
Than I the tempest of contending states.
Tis in such Storms superior natures rise,
And seize on stations niggard Fate had grudged them!
Though kindred, uncongenial are our souls!
Hadst thou possessed a mind less turbulent,
Cleombrotus upon a steady throne
Had now been seated, Lacedemon’s hopes,
Sustained and nourished ’neath the rule of peace.
Not so, for though Lycurgus gave the law,
By double tyranny to curb proud Sparta,
A Biarchy, beyond each mode of slavery
Wild Theory e’er formed to rule a People,
Is scheme least fraught with Peace. Tis thus that I,
With Envy leagued, Cleombrotus dethroned;
But with such secret, though commanding, skill,
He deems me yet his Friend!
And Agis reigned together, jointly sway’d
The Spartan sceptre, nor did discord ’twixt them
Disturb our peace whilst annual suns rolled on.
Short time Leonidas has reigned alone,
And all is Anarchy, Distress, and War!
And all shall so remain, till I have worked,
Through all these tempests, for myself a day,
With unextinguishable Lustre bright!
I would unfold my heart yet more—I’m stayed,
The King and beauteous Chelonice come.
Let all the troops be hasten’d to the walls—177 N1r 177
The Troops!—let every man can wield a Sword,
Let beardless boys, and indolent old age,
Rouse at the call! youth leave its darling sports,
Old age its aches forget, whilst all unite,
His hopes and proud Cleombrotus to crush.
Sigh’st thou, Chelonice?—can thy Heart,
Say dares it feel then one convulsive pang,
That a rebellious foe shall be opposed
That foe’s Husband to thy Child!
Too true he is; but, his foe is thy Father!
Speak then; wouldst see me be his slave or Conqueror?Pause.
Unduteous Silence! which too clearly means
Thou would’st behold me dragg’d from ’neath this dome,
My aged limbs with iron shackles braced,
My time-blanch’d head within a dungeon housed,
Because the man who perpetrates such ills,
Is the loved husband—of my only Child!
That he’s the husband of thy only child,
My conscious Heart doth feel! But, when that child
Forgets, amidst her griefs, that thou’rt her Father,
When she forsakes thee in the hour of sorrow,
Or owns a Duty to thy Conqueror—
Then may the skies refuse her every prayer,
And Shame alone associate with her name!
Then daughter, banish from your brow this gloomVol. II. N 178 N1v 178
That louring censures whom your Speech yet spares—Enter Sarpedon.
A soldier of the foe is seized.
Impelled by tortures slowly he confessed
Cleombrotus this night triumphant hopes
To fix his Standard o’er thy Palace gates.
His mercenary army, mad for plunder,
All the vengeance which such victors dare,
Urge on our fate. The battering rams approach,
And threat our walls with instant demolition.
Why then let ruin come!—’tis my Election!
Full twenty years I’ve borne the Spartan Sceptre,
And shall I yield it, tamely, at his bid,
Like a light toy of which possession cloys me?
No, I’ll reign still, and still alone, will reign,
Or give up Life and Sovereignty together.
Unhappy Sparta! thus thy fate is fixed.
T’ oppose is vain; we can but watch awhile
The gathering storm whose bursting will o’erwhelm us.
How Slave! a murmur at my Will! dispute
His word, whose voice annihilates thy race!
What are ye all?—dependents on my Breath!
Of me are held your Lives: if Death I lot
Who’s he averts the doom! ―― My Daughter,
Bear up your mind for this night’s dread event!
For, ere its circling minutes have been told,
Thou’lt through thy Father’s blood ascend his Throne,179 N2r 179
Or see thy Husband weltering at his feet.
Thy Heart must make a Choice, for one of us
Thy Prayers must mount to Heaven—tell me not which!
Lest my pierced breast thy husband’s probing steel
Should feel more keen, there knowing it was sped
By a loved Daughter’s wishes!
Fixed and mute,
She bears to grief a front beyond the port
Of common female minds.—I venture Princess,
To break a silence that has dread expression!
The Tear were better that gave sorrow vent.
Nicrates, tears! dost think such woes as mine
Can waste in tears? Bid lighter sorrows weep,
Mine shall be cherished in my bursting heart!
Mysterious skies! Why power and beauty given,
Why all the virtues can adorn a mind,
Yet gift them not with privilege from woe?
My Soul as firm is as its woes are keen—
Yet how my wishes shape? how shall my heart
Frame prayer aright, when every hope it forms,
Such my distracting fate, must be a crime
Against my father, or against my lord!
To sooth the torturous conflict in thy mind
Would I had words.
This is a night for Deeds!
And cannot I, and wherefore not, from both,N2 180 N2v 180
By some bold act, avert the ills that threat!
In this great exigence Olympus hear,
Inspire your suppliant, send a ray of light
To guide me midst the darkness that surrounds!
No deed can save that’s prefaced by Delay.
E’en whilst we speak Destruction hastens on,
Within the hour, your husband leaves his camp!
Heaven speaks through thee! Each female dread away,
Whilst I gain safety for our tottering State!
Princess, beware some sudden thought of frenzy!
Too dear to Sparta dangers to incur—
Oh! what are Dangers when such Duties call!
The Spirit of my Ancestors is on me,
A sacred fervour seizes on my soul,
A fire unknown within my bosom glows
And chases female fear!
How falsely said
The mind heroic but on Man’s bestowed!
My Father! and my Country! Oh, for these
An Army I would lead t’inspire the troops;
Ascend the breach, and, like him of Macedon,
Leap midst the foe to dare my followers on,
And, whilst death’s whizzing darts sigh’d round my head,
Scorn their vain terrors, and their painless wounds!
Not such risk now.—Should busy Fame e’er trump181 N3r 181
Her charge of Treason ’gainst me, close thine ear!
—The deed I venture I dare not confide,
Lest let officious bar me of my aim!
Then chilling Prudence hence! such Ardors seem,
In cause so good, the stirring voice of Fate,
That with inspiring Motives urges on
Its Fiat to atchieve!
Aid now each guide
Of human actions! Howsoe’er we plan,
Howe’er begun our deeds, th’ Event is your’s!
We name the goal, but, biassed as we run,
Take paths diverging to the end ordained!
Act the Second.
Scene I.The Tent of Cleombrotus. Cleombrotus, surrounded by Generals, ;c.
Perdicas ’gainst the Northern gate lead you
Th’ Iberian troops, and you Menecrates
Support the Thracians at the Eastern gate.
I will myself lead on my loyal Spartans;
Then, if I fall, I fall midst those whose Rights
I shall too cheaply purchase with my Life!
If I am Conqueror, with them to conquer
Will add to victory a sweeter sense
And make my Laurels dearer than my Crown.
Live Prince! long flourish, by the Sword, in Sparta!
True Princes flourish but by patriot rule,
Who lives not in the Love of those he governs,
Is not their Monarch, but their missioned Scourge!
The night wears on, and our intrepid troops
Demand to place thee, ere deep darkness fly,
Firm on the throne thou know’st so well to fill.
Instant I’ll join, and lead them to the battle.
Their force superior, and their honest cause,
Must doubly act upon our fear struck foes,
And prompt to spare the horrors of Assault—Enter Officer.
Well Sir, what tidings of the foe?
Hallowed beneath the sacred vest she passed
Nor friend nor foe presumed to know her errand,
Asks audience Prince, and now with hasty step
Eager she seeks thy Presence.
Priestess say’st thou?
Of highest import must the errand be
That asks a messenger so pure and holy;
My friends, her Office claims that you retire,
He, now, who bids you go, shall soon bid follow!
Nor give you stay, till his glad voice shall hail you
Victors in Sparta.―― Bid the Stranger in.Exeunt all but Cleombrotus. Enter The Priestess veil’d.
Thus, holy maid, respectful, yet surprised,
I greet your presence. Say, what great behest
At this hour brought thee from thy hallowed couch
To seek, amidst the hurry of a Camp,
A care-worn Soldier?
Dost thou then think within the mournful walls184 N4v 184
These feet have left, that one unfeeling wretch
Can seek a couch, or venture on repose?
Restore our banished rest! let soothing sleep
Again revisit our long watchful lids;
It is for this I seek thee in thy camp,
For anxious Sparta Respite to obtain
At least a day, that Conference may have room
T’ arrange all deadly strife and mutual claims.
But that I dared not touch thy sacred form
Thou should’st not humbly thus to me have bent!She rises.
But, for thy Errand to our martial plain,
’T were well the Fire that burns within your Temple
Yet felt your feeding hand.—Your Altars, virgin,
They are the places whence your Prayers should rise,
Thence, mixed with incense, they might reach Olympus,
But here, they fall on earthly ear obtuse,
Uncustomed to their sway.
Canst thou, who own’st
A Sovereign’s guardian feelings, think a moment
On the dread horrors of the waning night,
And yet resolve to guide the mischiefs on?
Bid him who governs save!—Leonidas
How wretched is this art! Yield me my Crown!
Nor thus descend to seek, by woman’s tears,
Th’ appointed hour of vengeance to delay.
By the bright flame that burns to chaste Minerva
Leonidas ne’er stoops to supplicate!
Knows not the step that I unprompted take.
’Tis well; his firmness shall be firmly met!
Return then, Priestess, let your king prepare
His roughest welcome for unbidden guests;
His roughest welcome all have sworn to merit!
Oh! for seductive wiles to perjure them!
’T were crime most holy!—Say, Cleombrotus,
Exists not one—say Stubborn! ask thy Heart,
Is there not one could move thee?—Chelonice!
Oh, name her not, her image doth unman me!
Her form, her supplicating look—resist her!
Oh. she could drag me from the path of Glory,
And make me turn with Victory at my sword!
That form is blest!—it henceforth is immortal
It saves my Country! View, Cleombrotus,Throws up her Veil.
See her before thee, even at thy feet.
Gods! wherefore this? must I upbraid, or thank ye?
Oh, thank ye ever—safe is Chelonice!Raising her.
Now rage, rage freely, furies of the War!
Bear fiercest vengeance to the Tyrant’s gates,
Devoid of every Fear attack, for now
My Chelonice breathes not in his walls!
Hear the impatient Soldiery! Lead on!
I’ll follow with an arrow’s swiftness—spare
One Moment spare me!—Hector thus did linger
In parley with Andromache, till caught
The Spirit fit for Victory, then darted
Amidst his foes, inspired by thought of her,186 N5v 186
And wreak’d his vengeance through th’ ensanguined field!
Darest thou deceive! this Chelonice’s power!Goes to the Side.
Stay your rash speed! your Prince commands ye stay,
Stir not till he shall lead you to your spoil!
My Chelonice, sink not from thyself!
Or that high Fate with which the moment teems!
My Crown this night, from Usurpation wrested,
Will grace thy brow!
Will decorate my Bier!
The crown of which Leonidas is robbed
Encircles ne’er this brow. But go, lead on!
My anxious ear shall catch the cry of Victory,
The Signal of my Death!
Though Woman’s voice
Oft makes the Heart a rebel to the Will—
Not a mere woman’s—but a Spartan’s threat!
The hour in which Leonidas you vanquish,
Shall view the Pile in flame around his Child!
New ties should abrogate a Father’s right,
Your Duty you mistake.
Mistake it! how?
My Husband asking respite for my Father!
Is this Mistake of duty?—if it be,
I’ll ever so mistake, and boast my error!187 N6r 187
Yes, till Leonidas sits throned in safety,
His Daughter shall forget she is a Wife,
Suppress each new traced fondness in her heart,
And own no ties, but those first awful ones
By Nature stampt!
Thy Honour and thy Fame’s derived from him,
Thy Happiness from that same source should flow.
How dear those hours, ah! wherefore passed away?
When thou hadst not an object but my Love.
Hadst thou, content with Love—
I’m born to reign!
And he so born knows fires the gentler mind
Could not endure. Let every Subject feel,
Let them be taught, that in the humble Shade,
Far from the glare of proud Ambition’s path,
Felicity hath raised her rustic seat;
Sound rule for them.—Felicity to us,
Is not a nymph in humble russet clad,
Sweet flowrets weaving on a streamlet’s bank—
Oh, no! she’s scepter’d! and her gifts are Crowns!
A Soul I have to prize her gifts like thine.
A mind I have that craves sublimer cares
Than Subjects e’er can know. I would be great,
And bear the cares of thousands.—But ambition,
And every lofty sentiment it gives,
Are airy nothing, to his life opposed
From whom I drew my own.
Were I disposed
To grant thee all, and sink from high estate,188 N6v 188
Yet am I bound my Troops to lead this night.
It is not Glory, nor the hope of Fame
The Mercenary feels—his god is Plunder!
Should I protract their promised hour of harvest,
Disgust and mutiny would fill their ranks—
I cannot—dare not—yield to thee!
I’ll be the Herald of thy near approach.
The child shall bid her father bare his breast
To her Lord’s sword; shall bid the citizens
Throw wide their portals to admit these plunderers!
Then, whilst our Spartans are o’ercome by Numbers,
And from a Parricide receive their chains,
Amidst her last deep sighs shall Chelonice,
Mixed with the shouts of victory, proclaim
Her murderous husband Lacedemon’s King!Going.
Her Spartan Firmness nothing can make shrink!
The last sad sighs of ―― Ah! my Chelonice—Follows, agitated, and leads her back.
Sweet cruel Tyrant, who is Victor now?—
Until to-morrow, respite I accord!
—Nature! in mockery thou gav’st us Mast’ry!
Th’ historic rolls, recording all the acts
That stand the loftiest in an empire’s fate,
Report but Woman’s will!
Ah! dost thou yield!
How my Soul thanks thee peaceful hours shall tell!
Now, on joy’s swiftest pinions let me bear
The grateful tidings to the gates of Sparta.
—May filial Duty ever thus be crowned
With Joy as pure as Chelonice feels!
The Conference thou heard’st! Where now the hopes,
The high raised hopes, that brought us here from Thrace?
They can exist no more. She who could win
To spare her Lacedemon for an hour,
Now, when the Soldiery for the Battle pant
And every breast is warm with martial glow,
Will next, like Omphale, her Hercules
Bid story in the Loom a bloodless siege!
And us disband! our steeds unrein’d and driven,
In envied freedom, to the neighbouring plains!
No, Thrace boasts Warriors of more stubborn nerve,
Who know no more to yield to Woman’s will
Than Man’s defiance. Well dost thou remember
When, through the numerous lets that gave delay,
In a dread moment when no thought of aid,
Of human aid, had glanced across his soul,
Down yonder Mountain’s haughty swell there rushed
Our numerous sons of war; at the blest sight,
What transport seized this Leader and his troops!
And is it but to truckle for a Peace,
That he enticed us from our native fields?
Forgot his tempting Promise of reward
Their herds their Jewels and their treasured wealth!
The wages of our labour are at hand,
The herds the jewels and the treasured wealth,
Our Troops obedient; why then not assault190 N7v 190
The city we were summoned to reduce,
And, for ourselves, the promised booty seize?
Our Country’s Genius, Corex, speaks in thee!
Astrea’s Balance useless were with us,
Her Sword is all we ask! He who bears that,
Carves Justice for himself. Let us then now
Away at once to where the timorous deer
In their enclosures herded wait their fate!
Let caution guide; Cleombrotus may yet,
Supported by th’ Iberians, defeat
The glorious perfidy we meditate!
Revolt seems ripe: see how resentment burnsLooking out at the side.
Amongst the troops, as he his Order gives
To spare Leonidas, for this one night,
The pain to be unking’d!
Let us assist!
The struggling flame with secret breath we’ll fan,
And thus, this Woman’s Soldier shall be taught,
The great events that turn each empire’s fate,
And stand examples to instruct the World,
Are not mere coin of female artifice,
But struck by Genius from a bolder die!
Scene II.The Palace. Enter Leonidas and Amphares.
Forsaken by my child!—If not, the hour
Were wanting still in congregated woes!
Doth th’ enemy advance?—My Daughter leave me!—
Left for a Rebel!—ah! the foe’s too tardy.
Destruction! slow to those who court thee, haste
Thy pace to me!
Destruction quickens on!
The Princess flown, and longing for thy Crown,
To conquest traiterous her husband goads!
I do not curse her—mark me—I abstain!
Leonidas and Cruelty are sounds
Combining freely in the mind of Greece;
Am I now cruel? These late turbid veins,
In which such raging fires have coursed each other,
Have now no pulse for cruelty.—Yet, should I,
The thought arouses all my latent rage—
Should I, whilst yet I live, encounter them,
Gods! grant me such a moment, that my life,
In that last act, may end more satiate
Than e’er it was by vengeance or by crowns!
Where is the King?Enters
Here’s he, who in an hour
May be a King no more!
Not so Leonidas!
Thine enemies, whose late deserted Camp
Sent forth its eager troops upon the Plain,
Are housed again within the tented field,
No Standard seen, Their Spears’ bright beams eclipsed.
Haste, prithee! whence is’t known?
As the Moon glides,
Giving each object perfect and distinct,
Crouds on the ramparts bless the favouring light
That shows their foes retiring and unarmed!
Tis but some subterfuge! the subtile Princess
The fraud hath framed with her ambitious Lord,
To lull thy mind in false security!
Well hast thou spoke the feint I had conceived.
But! who shall speak the Father’s mad despair!
Oh Sir, abstain! the Virtues of your Daughter—
Mention her not! henceforth to name the Rebel,
But with the title Parricide is Fate
To him who speaks. Your several stations gain.
The troops, too credulous, remit their fervour,
But I’ll restore and fix it in their hearts
To live yet Sovereign but an added day!Exit.
Stay, my prompt brother! Of Grace a moment grant
From duty so imposed. Your’s is the storm,
Now raging in his heart against his child!
I know I raised the storm, and there will urge it.
Ah! to what end? she’ll scarce life escape,
So fierce and rageful is her father’s anger!
Not to that air of menace I reveal,
But to thy love fraternal which insures
Guard from exposure if no needful help.
From the same Father we descent acquire,
On one maternal neck delighted hung;
Yet not such ties—the Father whom we loved,
Nor the chaste Mother round whose neck we clung,
Shall bribe me to forget superior Duties,
Or aid thee in a cause disclaimed by virtue.
Warm from the Schools, you’re still full glib in phrase,
In empty declamation prompt.
For still simplicity, in Spartan schools,
Disclaims, proscribes, misleading Eloquence.
You, bred in Athens, taught each mental skill,
’Tis you who boast the gloss of Rhetoric,
That makes a shadow seem substantial good
As lurking guile ’neath flowery periods glides.
—Yet wherefore, ’gainst her Sex’s paragon,
You still persist t’ inflame the King, impart!
A Paragon I thought her! and her Birth,
That made her Dower a Kingdom, fix’d me her’s.Vol. II. O 194 O1v 194
Our line, a scion from that root whence sprung
Leonidas, well warranted my hope.
In Athens ’twas I learned Cleombrotus,
Become her husband, was co-equal King.
Had I been here, his sceptre on that day
Were stained with blood ere closed the solemn rite.
But now, my hate’s in unslack’d vigour,
Their Ruin I have sworn!
Their ruin say’st thou!
Interrogative brother, yes!—his Death!
Were he no more, then Lacedemon’s free,
And who could stand ’twixt me and Royalty
But a weak Boy?—whose tender bud of life,
Fatality or accident may nip.—
With eye so firmly fixed, and moody look,
Dost vainly ponder counteracting spells?
Nor spells nor prayers, for they alike were vain,
Nor shall I reason ’gainst thy villain hope,
Nor bid thee dread the vengeance from above;
For, on a mind the Furies thus possess,
Virtue and Reason urge their claims in vain.
But, whilst thou spread’st thy toils and lurking snares,
And brav’st the Skies—my vigilance still dread!
Intrusive Insolence, impede me not!
Nor intercept one race for a Crown195 O2r 195
And dares his hopes to fix on Sparta’s Princess!
Thy moderate strength, as well might hope, good Brother,
A solid Pyramid’s firm base to stir,
As me to move from purposes so grand.
Thou prat’st of Virtue! I behold a Throne!
Me thou bidst fear—all hope for Chelonice!
Act the Third.
Scene I.The Tribunal. The People assembled. Enter Leonidas, Amphares, Sarpedon and others.
Yes, the morn’s Sun beholds me yet a King,
Cleombrotus is yet beyond our walls!
For this, let Altars blaze with sacrifice,
And hallowed victims yield the sanguine stream.
In vain shall hallowed victims yield their lives,
Or blood of hecatombs bedew our altars,
If Treason, deep veil’d, silently spreads snares!
Her mask shall be removed, her snares exposed.
Here, in this awful seat, where great Lycurgus
Woo’d Justice from her high Olympian court,
And bade her rule unswayed by partial tie,
Here shall Leonidas his glory emulate
And rise e’en o’er the pleaded claims of Nature!
—Say, deep in Sorrow was the Princess found?
Not sunk in tears, but in more haughty grief,
Denied to vindicate her secret visit,
Her virgins tell she passed the sleepless night.
Great Sir!—You’re on your guard!
Her vaunted Duty
To test most dread I’ll bring! If that she shun,
Hence tears and feigned Submission! Not my Child,
Unfilial Traitress will she stand before me,
And lose her Father in th’ offended Prince.He seats himself.
See, she advances in her wonted grandeur!
Yet, as composed and calm as if prepared,
Not gracious pardon to beseech, but grant!
Ill Daughter suits it with such deeds as your’s
T’ approach with looks, thus unabashed, before us!
Repentant tears, and cheeks tinged deep with shame,
Would best become your traitorous frauds and guiles.
Ah! may my cheeks indeed be tinged with shame,
And tears repentant, all unheeded, flow,
When traitorous disobedience brands the life
Of wretched Chelonice!—Oh, my father!
Whence are these Charges?
From the mouth of Sparta!
Who stiles those traitors that desert to foes.
Princess of Sparta thus art thou accused!
If merited the charge, the death she dooms198 O3v 198
To traitors fall on me! Not Daughter now,
Mere Subject, and arraign’d, I bow before thee,
Not to a Father pleading, but, a Judge!
’Tis Lacedemon calls thee to th’ ordeal.
Nay, ’tis all Greece will turn its eyes towards thee,
And, as thou act’st at this important hour,
Will load thy name with honour, or dispraise.
Beware of Weakness then! with Rigour try me!
And, if the crime imputed shall be proved,
Then, Agamemnon like, devote thy child
A victim due to your immortal Fame!
The World demands such lessons; and ne’er fear
Leonidas’s child will meanly shrink,
Or e’er disgrace thee in the part assigned her.
Such Firmness should by Innocence be sanctioned!
—Last night, disguised, you passed our centinels
And bent your steps where your rebellious Lord
Plots Lacedemon’s fall. Your Motive now,
To this mysterious visit, we demand!
Behold it in your undemolish’d walls!
Behold it Sparta in your station’d domes,
Which yet untoppled to the skies aspire;
See it ye Mothers in the tender babes,
Reposing safely in your matron arms;
And you ye Husbands,Addressing all assembled.
in whose sheltering homes
Your wives yet breathe inviolate and pure.
—These the high motives of my secret visit!
What! Sparta’s welfare, and her Matrons’ honour,199 O4r 199
Hang on a thread so slight! Our brazen Gates
Escape their fall but at a Woman’s bid!
Forgive the seeming boast, yet had not I,
Last night with lonely and adventurous steps,
Stole secret to my Husband’s camp to win him
To change the purpose of the hour, and wrest
A day for Parley ere the die was cast,
This roof, beneath whose dome I stand accused!
Had now resounded with the shrieks of Death.
If this thy purpose, and if such th’ event,
Then Daughter, Lacedemon owes to thee
That she enjoys an added day of Safety,
Short torturous respite from impending Woe!—Draws her aside.
Were’t in thy power her safety to prolong—
Oh! would’st thou, for an end so sanctified,
Boldly resolve to be a Spartan Daughter,
And tear unworthy Weakness from thy heart?
What can exist that I would not resign,
To save my Country, and affirm thy reign!
Oh moment glorious! ’twill be Fame immortal!
The name of Chelonice shall be heard
Wherever female acts of worth and daring
Rescue the sex, and equal them with Man.
—Thy Country’s Enemy! ceased he t’ exist,
Thrace and Iberia would withdraw their troops
And Sparta rest from deadly Civil War!
In Sparta, every Virtue’s made to yield
To that is held the welfare of the State.—
Invite him from the Camp! propose this night200 O4v 200
To meet him in the Grove, he shall be met
By those less tender than my Chelonice!
Dost shrink? Is this thy Patriot boast!
It was my Father! ’twas my Father spoke!
I have no Answer!
Rebel! answer’s made;
This Test assures that all is false pretence
With which thou’st gloss’d thy visit to the Traitor—
Thyself a traitor leagued with Sparta’s foe!
Inspire me Heaven, with firmness to submit!
Submission now is all the Duty left thee,
And thou shalt learn to practise it in chains.
Bear her to Prison, as a Rebel guard her,
And with the Mother let the Son be captive.
Ah! mercy yet! amidst the Judge’s firmness,
The Parent’s love steps in to bar despair;
I yield me to my chains!Officers enter and put them on her wrists.
In Conflict now
Are filial duty and connubial love,
Opposing Principles—and one must yield!
Forgive! if, trembling, filial duty fail,
And give the dubious triumph to a husband.
Who told thee that those Principles oppose?
That one must yield? Has Nature then, improvident,
So narrow formed the Heart, that only one
Of all the various Duties she commands,
Can there have rule? Misjudging Reasoner know,
The duties of the Wife and Child may each,
Without opposing, sway the heart.—In mine
They both, co-equally, exist!
Oh, spare her!
Hear us Leonidas!
Ah! spare thy child!
Judge, Sir, in Mercy! See, th’ astonished People,
With supplicating looks, before thee bend,
Shall they implore in vain? They ask a Sire
To judge in Mercy when he fates his Child,
Oh, hear their Prayers! Their voice is that of Sparta!
Plead for a Rebel! Pity were misplaced!Addressing herself around.
Should I be spared, the gate to Treason’s open;
For, could the Prince dare punish in another,
The crime his child is convict of and spared?
Lead to my Prison.—Murmur not! be proud
That in your Sovereign you have found a Hero!
Will punish those, most precious to his heart,
When crimes, ’gainst Sparta’s weal, his sentence ask!
Lead forth.Exit, with Guards
See! self-arraign’d, the Princess goes,
Acknowledging the justice that condemns!
Were I, a Sovereign, weakly to refuse
A Sacrifice that Patriot Love demands,
Of Crown bereft, myself would merit chains!
List this way Amphares!— CleombrotusLeads Amphares aside.
Would come as General, with a train too costly
For frugal Sparta’s charge.—Is there no way,
To gain an interview where watch no Guards!
By heaven the man who should perform such Service,
I’d rank for ever next my Crown and Life.
Swift execution instant should attend
The Will of Princes soon as ’tis revealed.
Methinks there might be found a man in Sparta,
Who, bribed thus highly, would despise all risk,
And deem all glorious, that his Country saves!
If such a man there be—thou know’st the rest!
Time presses hard, my friend, and Fate allows
But a few hours for acts, whose fame shall live
Through Ages yet unborn.—I’ll leave thee now—
For Sparta’s welfare be thy mission sped!
For Sparta’s welfare! Dost think me to cozen?
’Tis mere Ambition that assumes the port.
—The furtive mission to the Camp is well!
Cleombrotus, thy fall my hope subserves,
And, whilst I seem but to obey, I rule!
Scene II.The tent of Cleombrotus. Enter Cleombrotus followed by Mezentius.
Mark me! the man who stirs towards the town,
With hostile views, shall find his death, not there
But from my arm. Your mad’ning Thracians seem
Like midnight Wolves that scent the air for prey,
Rather than Soldiers, bravely me to right
An injured King.
So think them!— Midnight wolves
Will not without their scented prey retire;
Resolve then to dismiss, or lead us on!
I can do neither. I am bound by Oath,
The oath e’en he reveres who rules Olympus,
Not to begin till springs to-morrow’s sun.
Who forced thee to the oath?
Oh thee to tell,
Obdurate Thracian! were to utter words,
Whose stranger-sounds whilst striking on thy ear
Whould fail to fix an image in thy mind.
What dost thou know of all th’ enchanting sway
That love connubial owns? Why talk to thee
Of the sweet edicts spoke by rosy lip
Of chaste, yet tender, beauty? Ears like thine204 O6v 204
Would find no music in the tale, nor own
E’en ruin pleasing, so to be undone!
Undone indeed, and—
Nay, not so! My word
Binds but few hours; ere heaven’s lofty arch
Shall in its present height receive again
Yon radiant Orb, by arms, or peaceful terms,
I shall be Sparta’s Sovereign!
Was not the prospect thou held’st forth, to draw
Us from our homes!
Then, War and Victory
Seemed the sole road to lead me to my throne.
But, should Leonidas propose those terms
On which I must consent the siege to raise,
Then due reward shall gratify the troops
Without the deadly labour that they crave.
Our troops will not accept a Largess, Prince,
Where they can seize a Right! And on thyself
Rest all the mischief of thy broken faith!
Behold the messenger of Peace approach!
What humbler cause could Amphares bring hither?
You wish the Conference private. May th’ event
Be happier Prince than that of yesterday,
When, by a soother, you were guiled of Victory,205 O7r 205
Shame! with the Laurel just within your grasp.
Unfurl your Banners, and let breathe the trumpets!
Receive the Spartan Lord with that salute
You give your Generals, and conduct him on.Enter Amphares.
When last, my Amphares, we met ’twas not
A Camp that witnessed our embrace.
We met thou know’st beneath a festive dome;
Where echoes trilled with music’s sweetest sounds,
And sparkling beauty lent its powerful spells
To cheer the hour and every joy refine!
Such hours yet wait us, ’neath the reign of Peace.
Leonidas, I trust, hath now resolved,
To spare the slaughter in devoted Sparta,
And drain of blood in dread pursuit of crime.
He counsels secret, Prince! nor do I know
Whether the Tyrant doth your sword await,
Or means to yield thy Crown without compulsion.
Art thou not come th’ Ambassador of Peace!
I’ll founded hope!
Had’st thou such hopes?
Or know this hour were, Amphares, not his,
To waste in insolent deliberation.
But, if not Peace, what cause—
I know thy Question.
Though on no public errand I approach,
Yet will you think the cause of not less pith
Than were an Empire holden of my breath,
Aye, e’en an Empire’s fate! for what were that
Compared with those dear interests of the Heart,
Which, though perchance less splendid, still have sway
Beyond the interests of haughtier name.
Then thou ’rt Ambassador from Chelonice,
What says my most beloved? what pleasing message
Breathed her sweet lips, for him whose Fate she rules?
No message bear I, Prince! for, unsolicited,
Have I come forth, perchance return unthanked!
Forbid it Courtesy!—What urged the visit?
Say rather, what urged thee to sleep last night
Within thy Camp, whilst every Spartan eye
Kept wakeful to salute thee once more King?
What, but the powerful influence thou hast named,
This contrived she too?
And snatch’d thy Sceptre from thee!
This sudden flashing of thy eye? this scorn?
Her filial tortured heart asked yet a day
For Sparta and her Sire.
For Sparta, and—
But I repress the name! Say, dares your eye
Witness for whom she knelt?
For whom sayst thou!
Why should I speak? such tales meet surly welcome.
Hard ’tis t’ excite Belief, of what to yield to
Is to endure the keenest Agonies
Fate hath prepared for man!
I see thou’rt come to raise Suspicion here
Where yet Suspicion never knew to live,
At least to live when pointed at my Wife!
This is the wonder-working magic philtre
Bestowed by Hymen in the bridal cup;
Which taken, makes man what his Wife may please,
Credulous, doating, disbelieving, blind!
Were I of that quick temperament that flames
And blazes at a touch, thou’st said enough,
To raise a fire unquenchable, in which,
Thou, its first victim, should’st be sacrificed!
Yet, though my Passions even level seek,
They’ll mount, when stirred, as doth the boisterous ocean
That all that dares it in its rage o’erthrows—209 O8v 208
I’m caution’d from Regard, not Fear.
I’m from Suspicion free, as you from Fear!
Since Chelonice at the Altar vowed
The duties of connubial love to me,
Her Heart I’ve studied, watch’d each turn of Temper,
And ne’er had there Caprice a moment’s sway.
Her Virtues, though blent all with female softness,
Are of the lofty, grand, and stubborn cast,
And, in firm league, upon temptation smile.
All then is well.
Not so. For though no Doubts,
That might dishonour her, can reach my heart,
To justify her Fame, I must all know
That malice dares suggest.
If to the Grove,
Whose shades impervious bound the Palace gardens,
You’ll bend your evening steps, you’ll there behold—
Whom I forbear to name! These ears imbibed
The whisper’d assignation, as, unseen,
I loitered near. The impulse of the Moment
Bade me convey discovery so dread.
Though, Amphares, Distrust assail me not—
Who was the Villain? tell me that—his Name!
No trifling! ’Twere more safe t’obstruct209 P1r 209
The deadly Tyger’s path than thus delay
My course from wild surmises to the Truth!
Thou know’st Cephisus, on whose downy cheek
The half-blown blossom spreads its doubful red,
Whose tuneful voice seems softest note of Love,
And whose light form bespeaks a Sylvan God—
Him wilt thou find.
Now Amphares enough!
Untouched am I by Doubt; but, I will prove,
For Chelonice’s sake, I’ll prove this night ――
Farewell! escort this stranger to the walls!
Evening’s first shade is the appointed time,
This, and the watch-word Ceres, lets you pass.
The air’s too close.—Now, I can breathe again!
Could this be Jealousy! Suspicion? What
Of Chelonice?—Oh beloved! much sooner
Could I suspect ―― But he the whisper heard!
Whisper—who whisper’d? not my Chelonice!
I’ll, fearless, hie me to the threaten’d Grove,
Whose venerable Dyrads’ hope were vain
Her graceful steps amidst their haunts to view!
Act the Fourth.
Scene I.The Palace. Enter Amphares hastily, followed by Nicrates.
True, I am suspicious.
Your private visit to Cleombrotus,
Who, you admit, is but your hate and envy,
Th’ impatient steps with which you seek the King,
The fiery thoughtfulness within your eye,
Which ever indicates some fostered evil,
Give my suspicions birth.—Thus your eye rolled
Whilst planning ruin for the generous Agis,
And such the brow you wore, this early day,
When, by your arts seduced, the wretched King,
Instead of Blessings, gave his Daughter chains.
If thou believ’st that I have power and will
To crush to earth the beings that offend,
Why so licentious in reproof? If Agis,
Throned as he was within his People’s hearts
Is from their bosoms dragged; if Chelonice,
Beloved to dotage by her tyrant Sire,
Seeks, at my bidding, patience in a prison,211 P2r 211
What Fate threats thee? Why dare the sway that rules
The fate of Agis, and of Chelonice?
Thy threat appals me not! thy fatal sway
May reach my Heart, but shall not taint my Virtue!
I’ve not been tamed to fear to give reproof
For evil deeds, though acted by a Brother!
And shouldst thou dare to screen thy guilty brow,
Within the awful circle of a Crown,
Reproof shall then but glow with added strength,
And what the Brother scorns, shall reach the King!
Accept my caution, and beware! In Words
Thou speak’st rude brother, Monarchs speak in Deeds!
Thy rapid steps were winged to my desires,
So short the time they, Amphares, consumed.
Secrets of state require this hour for privacy!Exit Nicrates.
When Expectation pants, detail of Question
Is all too cold to suit its ardors. Speak,
Speak Amphares, and ease impatient thought!
Should all your Hopes but meet with the success
That crowned my task, Leonidas would rank
Most fortunate of Kings!
The Victim’s snared?
Not snared; but rushing eager to the toils.
And are they toils from which he may escape!
Yes, when the Dove escapes the Eagle’s strike
Who cowers above her, watching from the clouds.
What can reward thee? Amphares explain,
Unfold the Guile that triumphed o’er his mind.
Thou know’st Cleombrotus, though bold as Soldier,
Bears all the Lover’s weakness in his heart,
Doating t’ excess on beauteous Chelonice.
Excess of Love—how easy to make jealous!
I talked of Rival, named the fatal Grove,
As guilty spot where lawless Cupids reign.
He will be there?
Yes, with night’s earliest shades.
And thou wilt meet him there?
Is’t your command!
’Tis my most fervent wish, my ardent hope!
Are these not strong enough to urge thy arm?
Then think of thy reward—’tis Chelonice!
Her widow’d heart shall know no Lord but thee,
Son of my choice, and partner of my throne!
Hear Jove!—th’ avenger of each broken vow!
Whilst thus by Sparta’s guardian god I swear,213 P3r 213
Not to behold thee, till this loyal arm
Hath sent from earth the man whom thou dost dread.
Ah! would the coming torturous hours were passed,
Whose tardy course delays our Sparta’s Safety!
Not hours, but Minutes interpose their pause;
Eve’s shades already mantle all the sky.
A new anxiety each moment brings!
Be firm, succed—thy boon is Chelonice!
Scene II.The Prison. Chelonice enters at a distance, And advances to her son, who is asleep on a Pallet.
Whilst forth her hidden throne the soothing Night,
Coeval Power to whom all Nature yields
Well pleased obedience, rules the drowsy world,
Still o’er this Infant’s brow extend thy veil
Sweet Sleep! ’Neath thy reign blest, nor Prison walls,
Nor chains, nor parent’s cruelty, have power
T’ inflict a pang. Oh! ’tis reflecting Thought,
And a sense full waken’d in the mad’ning soul,
That misery acts on to intense Perception.
The blow how impotent that wounds not Mind!
—Celestial Power! shall future time e’er know,
From senseless Nothing why we’re called to Life,
And gifted thus with nerve to agonize?Bends over her Child.
Excluded now from deeds that pass without,
I fancy converse with thy future life,214 P3v 214
Thy sovereign Passions, each the other urge
And restlessly oppose, in Thought survey.
—What are these chains that bind the shackled arms,
Compared with Passions that enthral the Mind!
Our Sects of Sophists urge—the mind is free!
Yet, mourns it not, rejoices, or despairs,
By Reason free’d not, as our Passions list,
Slaved Reason acting but t’enforce their will?
—Our Passions Masters! Reason aids, not curbs!
Whence the controul, who regulates the Heart,
And gives for masters Passions that will bless?
Whence, for my Child, shall I beseech the boon
The Vices of our hundred Gods deny?
Will coming Time e’er give the Light we want,
And clear from mystery whence the World is ruled!
—My sweet one wakes! How now, my lovely Boy,
Art thou refresh’d? thy slumber hath been long!
Would it were longer! for, I’ve had such dreams,
Such pretty dreams! I am grieved to wake.
I thought, dear mother! that this gloomy place
Became a Palace, and these wicked chains,
That make me weep to look at them, dropt off—
Oh let me tear them off—Attemps.
Were I a Man
How proud I’d be of Strengh—to free my Mother!
Regard them not, my Love! This chain of Steel
That loads thy mother’s arm, a heart doth neighbour
More peaceful far than that within the breast
On which, hereafter, you perchance may see
The golden chains of showy Grandeur ranged.
Oppose me not; admittance I must have—
I to the King will answer it.
Who’s this215 P4r 215
That spurns at all restraint, and visit makes
To the sad inmates of a dungeon’s gloom?
It’s Nicrates? Generous youth,
Ah! why risk you offence, to largess Pity
Where Pity’s tenderest looks must glance in vain?
’Twas not with Pity to intrude I came,
Though thus to see you, royal, virtuous, lady,
Will force a sigh that cannot be restrained!
I came for cousel, and, to rend your ear
With things so dreadful, that will demand
All the high Firmness of your lofty mind
To bear with Fortitude!
Delay the shock ―― oh yet breathe not a sound ――
Excuse that Woman, for a moment, fears!
—But now, I’m firm! Speak, freely, harshest truth,
Whilst I for steady fortitude breathe prayer.
Oh that in gentle terms, and due gradation,
The torturing tale I might unfold! But time
Too closely presses, for, this very hour,
Unless some tutelary God shall speed
And aid thee now with sudden inspiration
To save thy Husband ―― look not wildly thus!
Your apprehensive mind—
Where is he—speak!
Advancing to the toil my Brother’s hand
Hath spread. Lured singly to the Grove,—
I see it all!—Unshackled murderer—
These chains—I’ll fly—unrivet me these chains
That I in pride of Reason have contemn’d!
Tis now I feel their power!—they hold me here—
And oh! are Fate to my Cleombrotus!
Princess, abstain! be firm!
I’ll pass the guards!
They cannot, dare not—
The attempt is fruitless.
Their Lives must answer should they let you pass.
Not even this heart-piercing Agony,
Or all the eloquence inspired by Grief,
Will make them dare be faithless to the King.
Oh, for some secret pass, through which to force
This wretched frame.—Vain! ’tis in vain! here fixed,
Here madden’d I must stay ―― Ah! where’s my Father?Eagerly.
My Father did I say! ’tis he destroys him!
With Amphares—my Brother he’s no more—
He now did part. Though ordered to avoid them,
I staid within the sound of all that passed,
Then hastened to your presence, here, perchance,
To learn the effort due.
From me away!
Speed onward to the Grove! tend swiftest steps217 P5r 217
To where the Murderer crouches for his prey!
Save my Cleombrotus! his danger show—
But ―― still be tender to a Father’s name
Whose Heart is victim to a villian’s guile!Exit Nicrates.
—Now come my Son! within our dismal cell
Prone on the earth we’ll supplicate the Gods
To scant the measure of encreasing woe!
Scene III.The Grove Dark.
Why gently undulates the scented air?
Why, fragrant Zephyrs, why so sweetly breathe?
These glades I passed all agonized with dread,
Pursue their mazes with such shuddering horror
As the mad Priestess feels, within whose soul
The Demon whispers forth unknown events.
A grave-sent spectre in the deep of night
Could scarce give horror to a shrinking sinner
More than to me would give the form of Man.
The day yet lingers; but, within these woods,
Where eager night intrudes her earliest shade,
Adulterous vice may, fearless, converse hold—
Yet, ’tis but Slander!—Oh! to be assured,
What were the Crown of Sparta, the Dominion
Of the wide Universe ―― whence came that sound—
Again! be faithful then my ear, and guide me!
These gloomy shades forestall the night, and Jealousy
Ere this hath brought my prey within my grasp.218 P5v 218
Now then, Cleombrotus, I do forgive thee,
Forgive thy glorious fate that gifted thee
With regal power, and chained me down thy Subject,
This hour thy life, thy wife, thy crown, are mine!
—Why linger thus to seize my destined prey?
In which concealed recess hath Fate ordained
The earth imbibe his blood? This way I’m drawn—
By heaven I miss’d him! if my eyes are true,
The base of yonder Statue is his rest—
He lifeless Statue soon!
Fate! thou’rt obeyed!
The act’s attested by this point that reeks
With blood a moment since in kingly veins!
But hark!—That groan’s his last, for sure I am
This crimson steel was in his bosom fixed.
—Now then, Leonidas, dread thou the arm
Thou’st taught to murder!
Stay! stay, Fratricide!
He’s gone, and thinks atchieved his villainy,
I cannot on ――Sinks down
by wound so sure unman’d!
Whence flow these piercing moans of Death—ah! speak
What wretch art thou?
Ah! is ’t Cleombrotus?
I’ve saved thee!—Sent by Chelonice
To warn thee hence from threat’ning Death which now
I’ve drawn on me. But I—e’en now—rejoice
Too generous youth, speak on; for yet,
Who ’tis that speaks this failing light denies me.
I am his Brother, by whose arm I die!
He loves the Princess, and would reach thy Crown—
He here appointed thee ―― to meet his Sword
But—plunged it haply in a meaner breast—
Fly, fly this spot—it is – – – Nicrates bids thee.
Ah, then ’twas Amphares!— hath vice no bounds!
His arm that pierced thee thus!
From Rage and Horror scarcely can I question—
Yet, breathe one word—say – – – where is Chelonice!
Chained and imprisoned by ―― oh ――Expires.
Chained and imprisoned! wild distraction! speak!
Still let thy fleeting Spirit linger, tell ――
E’en now his spirit fled!—What would I know?
Do I not know that Amphares is villain?
Do I not know my Chelonice true220 P6v 220
To thrill my Heart with every sweetest Joy!
—This hapless Youth Fate gives not time to mourn;
To Amphares I’ll on till Justice find
Its rightful prey! ―― her prison shall I seek—
Or her traducer’s breast?—With mind relieved,
Thus guised, I yield me up to trackless Chance
Lead it to Vengeance, or to Chelonice!
Act the Fifth.
Scene I.The Prison. Enter Leonidas and Amphares, followed by the Officer of the Prison.
Inform the Princess that her Father comes
To break her chains, restore her to his love!Exit Officer, at a distant part of the prison.
The rending tumults of her grief I dread,
As, on her widow’d heart, the full woe bursts.
Not abruptly should the tale of woe
Be trusted to her ear; her mind first cherish
By tokens of your love—by due degrees
Prepare her for her loss—and last for Vows
My raptured heart pants eagerly to pay.
Farewell those keen distrusts, which have too long
The tender flow of love paternal staid!
Cleombrotus, my Rival, is no more,
And Chelonice now no more shall feel,
The torturous anguish of her father’s frown—222 P7v 222 Enter Chelonice, looking wildly.
Ah! my loved Child! the bonds, the King commanded,
Thy Father, thus impatiently takes off!
Chelonice.Passes him, and hurries on to Amphares.
Where is my Husband!—Murderer!—say where?
Why start’st thou thus!
Why question me fair Princess
Of him whose Station is before our walls,
The army leading that may level them?
Is it? ―― or is it in the Grove! say—pale one!
That hue! guilt’s clearly tinctured in that cheek!
I’ll hence and seek him!
Say, whence this?— Cleombrotus!
Some Deity’s against us, or th’ opinion
Philosophy doth spread about the world
Is true; the Soul survives its humbler part,
And his must have revealed our dreadful secret!
Pardon, that thus unbid I rush before thee!To Leonidas.
Thee Amphares I sought, t’ impart a Murder!
What murder?—Why, to me, are all the tales
Of Murder pointed! Can’t a Spartan bleed,
But strait the public eye is bent on me!
You chiefly it concerns.
And why! whose death
Would’st speak then?
Abruptly I must tell ――
Fallen is Nicrates by Assassin’s hand!
Say’st thou Nicrates ’twas that fell!
As true as that our Lacedemon boasts
No higher gifted youth.
Well hast thou said.
But, whose the guilt?
Th’ assassin fled unknown.
Unknown, and fled! the Furies keep him pace
Whatever land his guilty feet may press!
Where fell my Brother?
As I search’d the Grove,
My evening duty, I observed the Base
Of great Lycurgus’ statue stained with blood!224 P8v 224
I traced the sanguine steps, and found full near
The lifeless body whence the blood had flown.
You found not him!—fell torturer say no ――
Nicrates bled not there!
Alas! full well
These eyes each feature knew, as from his neck
This honoured badge I took, by Agis given.
Go. Thou’st done well.
Why breathless, Amphares?
Why breathe I now, thou rather should’st demand—
I’ve slain my Brother!
Wasn’t then him you slew!
I am his Murderer! ’twas the fraud of Night.
Lycurgus’ Statue was the spot where I
Plunged in his heart the instrument of Death!
The Furies ’gainst his murderer you invoked,
The Prayer was just! and speed it winds to Heaven!
Fool! this the End of all thy Perfidies?
Thou, he to wear a Crown, and wed my Daughter!
Henceforth away, ill-destined man, and bid
Ambition quit a mind whose faculties
Are vassals to the humbler fates, nor dare
To loose thy thoughts again towards a Throne!
Revenge!—come thou, enlist this humble mind!
Ambition, Hatred, both are crossed; and now
Revenge be thou the Passion of my heart!
Yes, I will cherish thee to mad’ning rage,
And, in the remnant of my hated life,
No thought will nurture not inspired by thee!
Scene II.A colonnade in the palace Enter Sarpedon, followed by others.
Sarpedon.Speaking as he enters.
Pursue not me! haste through each avenue,
Rouse every street, where, lulled in false security,
Our citizens repose.—I’ll to Prison
Where but a moment since I left the King,
The Prison which full soon may be his home!
Of well known haunts I vainly trace the scite,
For Amphares escapes my vengeful eye!
Nor can I find the gloomy mansion holds,
From my fond gaze, the Innocence he slurs.
Ah! sure ’tis she who moves at distance on—
It is—’tis she, that witching form that step
That graceful air proclaim my beauteous Wife!
As eager zephyrs haste them to the Rose,
I to the sweeter presence of my Love!
Cleombrotus! yet scarcely can I credit
That ’tis thy arm enfolds. My Lord beloved
My trembling faultering steps e’en now were bent
To mar a deed of such extreme of horror
I shudder at the thought!
My Guardian Love!
How thy sweet tenderness o’erpays all risk!
—Who thus approaches?
Speed! retire my Lord!
It were not safe he should behold thee here
Where, Princess, is the King?
Whence is thy haste?
A part of th’ Army of Cleombrotus
Beset our walls; they have begun th’ attack,
And with a fury that bespeaks belief
Our efforts will be crushed. The rest, reserved,
Advance not yet. I anxious seek the King!
Dishonest warrior! Is it thus the man,Enter Cleombrotus.
Aspiring to be King, observes his oaths?
Is’t thus thou break’st thy solemn pledge of Truce,227 Q2r 227
Stealing like midnight robber to thy prey,
From whom, through fear, the beams of day had kept you!
By heaven the wretch who hath infringed the oaths
That bound the promise you from me extorted,
Shall by my Sword be taught how I detest
So black a perfidy! This ne’er had been
Had not fell Amphares seduced me hither.
This moment, in my Camp, would I, impatient,
Have waited terms of Peace thou bidst me hope.
Mezentius is the man— Revenge awaits him!
What! risk thyself where each side holds thee foe,
I dare not! for, in such a Cause,
I must resist thy Prayers, thy Tears, thy Love!
Large is thy sway; but, thou’st a Rival now,
The only Rival thou can’st ever dread,
’Tis Honour! and, what she suggests, my Soul
Ne’er balanced in debate. Her high behests
Are not mere worded Rules, but innate impulse,
The native spirit of Morality,
Which, if we pause to analize, is lost!
Go then, obey such impulse, and chastise him.
Fly swiftly then, and bid Demophilus
Lead his division quickly to the breach;
I’ll follow with my own.—Who was it, Daughter,
Abruptly parted hence as I advanced?
Ah! well may’st thou hesitate,
Before confessing ’twas my mortal foe,
Whose troops this instant burst my city’s gates!
He, whose skilled sword is levelled at my breast
My faithless Daughter presses to her own!
’Tis harsh reproach! he knew not of th’ attack,
And left me now, to punish him who leads.
Dost thou believe? oh, Woman’s easy faith!
His troops beset our walls without Command!
—How wilt thou greet him, when he soon shall stain
These Pillars with my blood!
As my worst foe;
As him I’m bound to shrink from! Thee I’d join,
Remain till breathless on thy funeral pile.
My child! I press thee, once yet, in my arms!
Hear me acknowledge in this awful moment,
Perhaps the last we e’er shall pass together,
That the vast ruin which this dark hour threats,
The loss of Empire, Liberty, and Life,
Could not afflict my soul with half the anguish
Thy disobedience would bestow. Thy love,
Thy filial tenderness, is cordial sweet
To tortures in my breast. Posterity,
Whilst my demerit will thy fame enhance,
With charge of Cruelty receives my name,
But oh, Parental Love hath ne’er one instant
Lost its sweet influence in this beating heart!
Is this our parting moment! If it be,
Bear witness to my oft repeated vow;
This bosom ne’er shall shelter him whose sword
Shall pierce my Father’s! oh! thy blessing give,
Horror on either hand assails my mind—
Heaven grant it be not Frenzy!
I do bless thee;
My Soul doth bless thee child. Awhile Retire.She goes, he gazes after her.
I’d fain indulge my eyes a little longer,
Lest they should shortly close on her forever!
What spell is this, that suddenly unnerves me?
Why loiter here?—All Energy is gone,
Each feeling of a King, or Soldier, flown!A violent noise.
That noise, that speaks the Battering-rams atchieve,
By wrathful efforts that convulse the walls,
Our Sparta’s ruin, cannot rouze my blood,
Nor the proud Marbles as to earth they fall,
At one view giving ruin vast and wild!
Corroding Age hath thus unsinewed me
In fatal hour!
Joy, great Leonidas!
Joy! and to me?
The Enemy’s repulsed!
They fly beyond the town.
By whose atchievement?
Cleombrotus himself opposed his soldiers,
And forced his conquering troops beyond the breach!
Mere Battle’s rumour! he force back his troops!
They were but Thracians, by Mezentius brought
Who fell beneath Cleombrotus’s arm!
Soon as they saw their Leader fall all fled.
All fled! Oh, had Cleombrotus but staid,
The fortune of the hour had been complete!
Still are thy wishes sped! Cleombrotus,
Espying Amphares, had rushed upon him,
And instant was closed in. Then, like the flame
The Lightning darts that cleaves each obstacle,
O’erprowering all he quickly forced his way
And reach’d Asylum at Minerva’s Altar.
Gods, ye retaliate! Astrea then
Hath not retreated back to heaven. Mark’st thou?
Ten circling Moons have scarcely o’ver our fields
Their silver brightness shed, since I myself,
His faction Victors, hied for Sanctuary,
Flying unarmed before the Slaves I governed,
To that same Temple which now shelters him.
Now great Leonidas thou’rt safe!
My blood231 Q4r 231
Flows warm again within my veins! I thought
Chill cowardice had sprung of cankering age
And seized upon my Heart; ’tis now I find
’Twas but despair that sent its torpid stream
Through every pulse. Bright hope hath chased it hence,
I feel again the animating fires
That have so oft destroyed the foes of Sparta!
Let us away, one foe doth yet remain,
When he’s no more, I shall indeed be great!
Scene III.The Temple. Present Minerva’s Priests. A noise without.
Who is’t thus claims the holy Sanctuary
Of our bright Goddess?
He, who was late our Prince, now asks a refuge
Beneath this sheltering dome!
Ne’er fancy wove
Vicissitudes more strange than each hour knows!
Cleombrotus advance, dread no approach;Enter Cleombrotus.
Minerva’s Altar doth ensure protection,
Midst every threatning danger may arise
From all the potent Nothings that embroil
From Age to Age the Sons of mad Ambition!
I bend to thee, great Pallas! and to thee,232 Q4v 232
The Chief amongst her Priests! You lately saw
My seat a Throne, now, thou beholdest me
In flight o’erprowered by troops full oft I’ve led!
’Tis not to vulgar minds the Gods decree
Such strong Reverses. When they fate a Soul
T’ encounter all th’ extremes of human change,
They gift with Fortitude. Sustained by virtue,
Be grateful then that thus the Gods have framed thee,
Nor grudge the Ease that meaner minds enjoy.
In this I hail Minerva! and myself
Yield willing prisoner beneath her sway.
My Son! is’t now you first your freedom lose?
Ambition’s Vot’ries ne’er can boast they’re free!
Bound to consult the people’s wild desires,
To gain the powers of Rulers they are Slaves!
Prepare your Greetings Priests! the King arrives!
Comes hither then my Foe!
Beneath this roof,
Foes lose their power, and enmity its war,
The slightest menace here is sacrilege.
Have I then found thee!
Meet I thee but here?
Would ’twere another place!
The place is fit,
The rights of Kings are sacred and uncurbed.
Vicegerents from the Gods, their power we wield,
Their temples our’s.—Yet, I will not imbue
The sacred pavement with thy rebel blood;
Bear him away! and instant to the block
His forfeit head convey.
The Sanctuary’s claimed!
Bold Priest, retire!—away with all thy tribe!
Soldiers! your duty—why advance ye not?
The Altar grants him its Asylum.
The fortune of the day shall I resign,
Because you’re scruple-bound!—Cleombrotus,
The favouring Fates will me to be the priest
To render thee a sacrifice to them.
Nay then—forgive me Goddess! as from henceHurries to the Altar.
I seize thy sacred glave, with that secure
Th’ asylum which thy altar doth accord!
Armed ’gainst my Father!
Oh, was this well!
Now, bear him to his Death!
Death to my husband! Oh, remember now,
How on the very spot on which we stand,
Successive days and nights, at thy feet sunk,
I wept, and watch’d, and pour’d my soul in prayer,
When hither thou, by the ’Ephori, wert driven
Who made my husband King!—I left his Throne,
Thy mind perturbed to soothe with tender tears,
And bind the Cypress round the riven Crown.
I scorned his splendid Diadem, and here
For ever I had staid, had not thy fate
Again restored thee to thy Royal seat.
Now!—spare my husband’s life!
Chelonice.Approaching the Altar.
Then now receive me, Goddess, at thy Altar,
For here from henceforth I’ll remain, nor quit,
So aid me Pallas, till—
Thy rash vow cease!
Without thee what were Royalty? Thus far
I will reward thy long tried filial love—
Accept thy husband’s Life! But, be he banished
To the most distant region of our realm,
There guarded close.
Dost think me sunk t’ accept
Mercy from thee!
Bring here the Diadem!They bring it on a Cushion. He places it on Chelonice’s head.
Your Queen salute! Henceforward Sovereign
She reigns with me. Ye, who would bounties ask,
Or mercies gain, ’tis through your Queen alone
You can know either.—Queen of Sparta, hail!
Hail Queen of Sparta!
Sweet joy swells my heart!
I see thee safe, thy enemies are fled.
Thou art secure upon thy Throne! And I,
I too am Queen, crowned and hail’d Sovereign!
—And what’s he yonder?—But an exiled man!
Who’s banished hence without a Comforter,
From Sparta banished. ―― Off, unvalued toy!Placing the Crown on the Altar.
My homeless, friendless, banished Love, I’m thine!
Be it in the desart lands, or sun-scorched climes,
May arm shall pillow thee, my bosom rest
Thy aching head.
Child.Hanging upon her.
And will you not be Queen!
Boy, we must hence. Come, lead us for the Port
From whence we bid farewell to Lacedemon!
Thou matchless woman!
Most ungrateful Daughter!236 Q6v 236
Would’st leave me then to solitary age?
Abandon him who lived to cherish thee!
Not for whole worlds—wert thou not King again!
But, how could I give joy to thee, myself
A wretch? With heart unmated cold and joyless,
A wanderer within my father’s palace!
This is my home, my resting place, and here
Will I forever dwell.
Ingrate! may he,
For whom thou sacrific’st so much, reward thee
With scorn neglect and hatred, wring thy heart,
And thus retaliate my bitter pangs
On thee who giv’st them!
Could’st thou do this? Oh no! thy Soul I read
In the pure honest beaming of thine eye
That speaks unchanging love.
And will so speak,
E’en when unnerving time shall dim its beam,
Or quench the brighter flames that live in thine.
And when, in some ambitious hour, my Soul
For Sceptres sickens, and revolves on crowns,
Th’ alluring Phantoms I will bid avaunt,
Prefer the dearer empire of thy Heart!
There I will reign, with undivided sway,
And rule with all the tyranny—of Love!
My Father, hear’st thou what a banishment237 Q7r 237
Thou hast decreed! We, instant, will begin
That life of Joy the marble colonnades
Of regal domes were ne’er known to secure.
—My sweet Boy come! in Exile thou’lt not learn
The graceful arts of Courts; but, thou shalt learn
The higher art, the art to emulate
Each deed of dignity, the art to scorn
A vicious act, though ermined robes may shield it.
Whence these deep moans? that groan was surely Death’s!
Oh! Nature aid me in this torturous view!
From Amphares my parent bleeding flies—
Now, now Cleombrotus be true to Virtue,
Preserve my Father!
Stay! behold a form
More meet than his t’ arrest thy murderous sword!
An arm more fit to give due chastisement
To vices deep as thine!
Within his breast,
My sword already hath atchieved revenge;
And when from thine its satiate point hath drawn
The life-blood stream, the Crown of Lacedemon
Shall decorate the brow of him thus scorned!
Thy brow doth find its Diadem in dust!
Leonidas’s sword, by my arm urged,
Hath worked a double vengeance! this alone
Could expiate thy slanders ’gainst my Wife!
Oh, had my erring sword ―― but ―― ’tis too late
Thy fortune triumphs!—if my breath would hold
To speak the maledictions that I ――
Look up my Father! see the Traitor lie
Fallen at thy feet.— Cleombrotus—my Husband!
With grateful Pride I will repeat the sound,
My Husband hath preserved thee from thy foe!
Oh then be cheer’d, and thro’ long years to come—
Nor added years, nor instants, now remain!
Yet, yet, support me! Thee to bless I came
With dying breath. Yes, to my closing eye,
Be thou the last dear object, thou ―― these pangs!
For whom my soul was ever full of Love!
Ascend my Throne—thy husband hath revenged—
The crown of Lacedemon, and thy Heart,
His rich rewards!—and—may ye ever ――
Th’ unfinished Blessing, check’d by death-closed lips,
T’ Elysium wafts his Soul.—But, where am I!—
Left here, with heart replete with filial love,
Of every pleasing filial care bereft!
The voice of Consolation now were gross,239 Q8r 239
Thy tears I’ll cherish and thy sorrows aid.
But, Spartans bear ye witness to my Life!
Your Glory, and my Chelonice’s bliss,
No other objects shall be hence my aim.
The bleeding body to the Palace bear,
And screen it from the insults of the crowd,
Who now will triumph with indecent joy
O’er him whose nod a moment since was fate.
But, ere we hence, we’ll lowly bend to Heaven,
In adoration of the hidden will,
Which, when the eager glance of Hope’s obscured,
Doth thus, through darkness, work our brightest Days!
Spoken by Mrs. Siddons.
Think you our Author copied from the Life,
In drawing such a Daughter, such a Wife?
Judging from what we know, I’m half afraid
The piece is Fancy! yet, I ask your aid
To fix my Judgment. Fairly try the Cause,
Try it by the sublimest of all laws
An English Jury!—I recall the word!
Ha! ha! was ever Mortal so absurd,
Soon comes the Verdict with with the sternest fury,
Should Brother Scribblers be amongst the Jury!
Oh, let the Court—take any other Form
And my firm Soul abides the pitiless storm!
Resolve yourselves Committee of the House
And prosecute—yet ah! no panting mouse
At stern Grimalkin could conceive more fears,
What! try a Poet by her scribbling Peers!
No Wit could save her, and no Hope could cheer,
The crime would be so plain, the case so clear,
Mercy, thrice blest! her power would vainly try,
And Guilty! Guilty!—Death! would be the cry.
—All others I make Judges as you sit,
Ye dear Celestials! Gallery! Boxes! Pit!241 R1r
I’m now a Pleader; mark me pray, the same,
Counsellor Siddons—do you know the Name?
I have no Brief ’tis true—Sighing, and looking at her hands.
But there, my case
By many a Learned Brother’s kept in face.
Many with clear white band, and powdered tye,
That with the blossoms of the hawthorn vie,
Parade the Hall, and nod, and smile, in vain,nodding.
Attornies smile again, but—dont retain!
Whilst the Leviathans of Law’s vast ocean
Their jaws distend, and gobble every Motion.
I’m only talking!—I’ve forgot to plead!
If your kind eyes speak Truth, I’ve now no need.
With heighten’d hopes, in their bright beams we bask,
You seem prepared to grant all I can ask;
Your Hands I ask! Such thunders never fright!
Repeat the peal once more! and now—Good Night!