Persons in the Drama.
Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Albemarle, with Norman Lords.
Arden, with the Saxon Lords.
Before the records of renown were kept,
Or theatres for dying heroes wept,
The race of fame by rival chiefs was run,
The world by former Alexanders won;
Ages of glory in long order roll'd,
New empires rising on the wreck of old;
Wonders were wrought by nature in her prime,
Nor was the ancient world a wilderness of time.
Yet lost to fame is virtue's orient reign;
The patriot lived, the hero died in vain,
Dark night descended o'er the human day,
And wiped the glory of the world away:
Whirled round the gulf, the acts of time were tost,
Then in the vast abyss for ever lost.
Virtue, from fame disjoin'd, began to plain
Her votaries few, and unfrequented fane.
Her voice ascended to almighty Jove;
He sent the muses from the throne above.
The bard arose; and full of heavenly fire,
With hand immortal touch'd th' immortal lyre;
Heroic deeds in strains heroic sung,
All earth resounded, all heaven's arches rung;
The world applaud what they approved before;
Virtue and fame took separate paths no more.
Hence to the bard, interpreter of Heaven,
The chronicle of fame by Jove is given;
His eye the volume of the past explores,
His hand unfolds the everlasting doors;
In Minos' majesty he lifts the head,
Judge of the world, and sovereign of the dead;
Dooms to perdition, or to heaven admits;
Dethrones the tyrant, though in triumph hurl'd,
Calls up the hero from th' eternal world,
Surrounds his head with wreaths that ever bloom,
And vows the verse that triumphs o'er the tomb.
While here the muses warbled from their shrine,
Oft have you listen'd to the voice divine.
O nameless youth beheld with noble rage,
One subject, still a stranger to the stage;
A name that's music to the British ear!
A name that's worshipp'd in the British sphere!
Fair Liberty; the Goddess of the Isle,
Who blesses England with a guardian smile.
Britons! a scene of glory draws to-night!
The fathers of the land arise to sight:
The legislators and the chiefs of old,
The roll of patriots and the barons bold,
Who greatly girded with the sword and shield,
At storied Runnamede's immortal field,
Did the grand charter of your freedom draw,
And found the base of liberty on law.
Our author, trembling for the virgin muse,
Hopes in the favourite theme a fond excuse.
If while the tale the theatre commands,
Your hearts applaud him, he'll acquit your hands;
Proud on his country's cause to build his name,
And add the patriot's to the poet's fame.
Act. I. - Scene I.
The Hall of a Baron's Castle. Martial music. Enter at opposite doors, Albemarle with Norman Lords, and Arden with the Saxon, Archbishop, Barons, Knights, and Squires, in complete armour, and with the train of chivalry.
Archb. Barons of England's realm, high Lords of Parliament,
Hereditary guardians of the kingdom!
Your country calls you to her last defence,
Our ancient laws, our liberties, our lives,
May in a moment fall. Red o'er our heads
The ruthless tyrant holds oppression's rod,
Which, if not warded by heroic hand,
Will crush the British liberties for ever.
Ourselves, our children, our posterity,
Are slaves for free from this decisive hour;
For now the crisis of our fate is come,
And England's in the scale.
Albem. I boast no more
The fire and spirit of my youthful days;
Days when, with Richard in the grand croisade,
We raised the siege of Ascalon; displayed
The British banners in the Holy Land,
Drove from the field the millions of the East,
Compell'd the mighty Saladine to fly,
And o'er the crescent raised the glorious cross.
My arm refuses now to draw the sword;
But let my counsel weigh: our quarrels dropp'd,
Let factions now unite; with one accord
Let us deliberate for public good;
We stand united, or divided fall.
Arden. Deliberation does not suit the time,
This is the hour of action and of war.
While we consult, the tyrant, on his march,
Comes like a conflagration through the land,
Marking his way with ruin. Every step
Treads on the mangled bodies of the dying.
The wail of England weeping o'er her sons,
The voice of justice, and the cry of blood,
Call loud, 'To arms, to arms!'
Baron. The voice we hear;
It sounds not to the deaf. You gallant host
Return this answer which we now retrun.
[Drawing their swords, and coming foward]
Archb. I love your zeal; It is a flame from heaven;
'Tis the high temper of the Britons bold;
And while this ardour in your bosom burns,
You never will be slaves. At such a time,
When order's fled, when government dissolves,
When the great course justice thwarted stops,
And in the roar and riot of misrule
The voice of law is silent, Nature then
Resumes her ancient rights, ascends anew
A sovereign on her throne; recalls the sword
Which with the sceptre to the king she gave,
And whirls it flaming in her own right hand,
To dash the tyrant from his blood-stain'd ca,
And guard her free-born sons.
Arden. The glorious sons
Of Gothic sires, who broke the Roman arm,
Stretch'd out to wield the sceptre of the world,
Who on the ruins of Imperial Rome,
And in the blood of nations and of kings
The firm foundation of their freedom laid,
Will never bend beneath a tyrant's yoke.
Rather than wear dishonourable chains,
Or follow captives at the trophied car,
Give us again the wildness of our woods,
And the fierce freedom of our great forefathers!
Archb. Forbid it, Heaven, that Britain see anew
What these sad eyes have seen! When o'er the land,
The dire devoted land, the curse of Rome
Flew like the thunder of avenging Heaven,
And smote the people. Then religion fled.
No bell did summon to the house of prayer;
No vested priest atoned the wrath of Heaven;
But sitting solitary, wept and wall'd
His fane forsaken, and his altar low.
Unnamed, unsprinkled in the fount of life,
The infant raised the lamentable shriek.
The bridegroom and the bride bewail'd apart
Their rites unfinish'd, and their luckless love.
Against the dying saint Heaven's gate was shut.
They sung no requiem to the parting soul,
Nor laid the ashes in the hallowed ground;
Earth seem'd a charnel-house, and men like ghosts
Who cross in silence at the midnight hour,
And beckon with the hand.
Arden. Yes, Barons, Britons,
The history of the tyrant's reign has run
A period marked with the tears, the groans,
The blood of Britons. He began in blood
His direful reign, and with unnatural hand
Stabb'd his own nephew kneeling at his feet,
And pleading for his life. Have you not seen him
The mighty hunter of the human prey
In a waste forest? Has not England seen
The cradle of her infants stain'd with blood;
The bower of chastity, the bed of love
Assaulted, violated? Lo! you stand
Upon the recent tomb of parents slain!
Had such dire bloodshed cursed the former age,
Our valiant fathers would have shook the throne.
Albem. We are as valiant as our fathers were;
Nor does the Norman to the Saxon yield.
To curb the tyrant, not to shake the throne,
We draw the sword. -- Arden, remember --
This is no time for quarrel. Have you heard
That the perfidious Dauphin--
Albem. What! Perfidious!
Archb. The Dauphin, whom you courted to your aid,
He whom your great deliverer you hail'd,
Means to make you his ministers, to gain
A kingdom to himself, and then to take
Your heads, as traitors, to your native Prince.
Melun, entrusted with the bloody secret,
In his last hour reveal'd it.
Arden. God of heaven!
Archb. I mark your wonder: Hear what I advise,-
Too long the land hath suffer'd, and hath bled,
With deadly strife, with battles fiercely fought
Between the Saxon and the Norman race.
By feud and faction all the land is torn;
The nation's genius acts against itself.
Shook from its central poise, reels all the isle,
The noble Romans, when the foe approach'd,
Forgot their strife; and, holding out the hand,
With girt patrician, girt plebeian march'd,
The common sons of Rome: But, fierce and fell,
While the conspiring nations hem you round,
You wage with one another horrid war.
The vaunting foe rejoices in your strife,
And lists your agents to your own destruction.
Proof against foreign power, the nation stands:
By Britons only Britain e'er can fall;
Sound in itself, this island is the world.
Albem. With dire intestine ills the nation groans,
And would to Heaven the remedy were found!
Arden. So every lover of his country prays.
Archb. Then hear the oracle of heavenly truth:
You both are brave; both through the world renown'd:
And now the time demands an union firm,
Never to be dissolved. The past forrgot,
And ever blotted from the book of fame,
In cordian concord let the future run.
Your wisdom will suggest some solemn rite,
Or public deed, to ratify th' event,
A bond of union and a pledge of peace,
For ages to remain. - You, Albemarle,
Are happy in a daughter fair, the boast
And beauty of the isle: On whom can you
So well bestow her hand, as on the man
To whom the bravest of our warriors bow?
Your rival houses will be reconciled,
And one the Norman and the Saxon prove.
Albem. There is a bar which cannot be removed:
Elvine, the gallant lover of her youth,
Returning laurel'd, from the holy war,
Reigns in her heart.
Baron. He's in the Dauphin's camp,
And fights the battles of perfidious France
Against his native land.
Another Baron. The brave Lorraine,
His chosen friennd in distant Palestine,
Whose beauteous sister is the flower of France,
Has won that hero to the Dauphin's side.
Albem. Though William's royal blood flow in his veins,
And he ranks nearest to the Norman line,
Yet to my country I devote myself,
Devote my all. Give me thy hand, my son,
I know that thou art brave.
[Saxons and Normans meet with one another and embrace.]
Arch. Illustrious chiefs,
I praise your wisdom, equal to your zeal.
Propitious Providence! I hail the day
That makes one nation of the British race.
Now quarrels cease, and faction is no more.
For freedom and the laws, we draw the sword,
And lose the private in the public cause.
One effort more remains: So great an host
Requires a general to lead them forth.
This day determines that important choice.
To you two nations, now in union join'd,
Look up, and hail their leader and their chief.
[Barons express their consent.
Arden. Barons, the soldier of your choice will strive
To prove him equal to supreme command,
And worthy of your trust. When I behold
The warlike spirit spread from man to man,
And wide the flame of liberty extend,
I hear, with joy, the trumpet's sound, which calls
The host to freedom, and the chiefs to fame.
Archb. Then to the holy altar let us march,
And in the fane, which future times will reverence,
Renew our league, and seal our sacred blood.
[Gates of the chapel open. Procession to the altar. Barons kneel around. Archbishop administering the oath.]
Now, at the altar, in the name of Heaven,
And in the presence of th' Eternal Power,
You ratify your bond of peace! You swear
To march the champions of your native land,
Never to sheathe the sword, till you restore
The ancient rights and liberties of England;
And while you bind a tyrant by the laws,
To guard the glory of the British crown!
Barons. This is the presence of High Heaven we swear!
Trumpets - French Ambassador, Barons.
Amb. The Dauphin, anxious for his noble friends
And eager for the hours that shall restore
To rescued England liberty and law,
Entreats you, Lords, to name the fittest time
To join our forces for the future fight.
Arden. What means my gracious Lord?
Arden. My meaning's plain.
We have detected his designs. We know him.
Go tell your master - instant to depart,
And waft his army to the coast of France.
Tell him that Britain never will become
The provice of a foreign kingdom. Tell him,
That when he wields the thunder, and gives law
To the wild ocean, and the wind of heaven:
Then let him think on Britain.
Amb. (To Albem.) Noble Lord,
The illustrious Dauphin, and the heir of France,
Intrusts a message to your private ear.
Albem. I have no secret with him. Speak it out.
Amb. I best may speak it to yourself alone.
Albem. Speak it to all the world.
Amb. Illustrious Lord,
On your the Dauphin's happiness depends.
Albem. On me! ---
Amb. You have a daughter - Fair Elvina -
The crown of France may sit upon her head.
Albem. My daugher's to that noble Lord betrothed.
Arden (To the Amb.) You may withdraw.
Arden. Barons, we now are one;
We are invincible. An host like ours,
A league of patriots, and a band of friends,
Will front the world. We need no foreign aid.
Britain's almighty in the cause of Britain.
Albem. By my command my daughter hither comes.
Arden, the affection of a friend I've shown;
Now let the counsel of a parent weigh.
Valiant thou art; invincible in war;
But that avails not now. The accent stern,
The fierce demeanour, and the lofty look,
Will not invite th' affection of the fair.
Now let the warrior to the lover yield;
Put on the gay caparison of courtship;
Caress and conquer. Women, to be won,
Must first be woo'd. Engage the tender sex
By tender cares, and merit love by loving.
When soften'd to a smile, the beave and bold
Assume the accents, and the looks of love,
They win at once the heart of woman-kind.
Arden. I do not know these arts. The pliant face,
The honey'd accent, and the silken smile,
The sport of boys and girls, are not for me.
The manners of my fathers I retain,
The Saxon spirit, and the Saxon garb.
They did not bow the knee to woman-kind,
Nor at the gate of beauty beg a boon.
In ancient days the day of mighty men,
Love was the meed of valour and renown;
The bravest warrior clasp'd the fairest maid.
But what the honour of a Baron owes,
And what the daughter of a Baron claims,
Shall be perform'd. Behold the virgin comes.
Albemarle, Arden, Elvina.
Elvina. You sent for me, my father?
Albem. Yes, my child.
In these heroic but disastrous times
All have their part to act: For who would wish
Nor mark it with renown? Who does not hear
The voice of glory when his country calls?
A change of times arranges human minds,
And noblest spirits find the highest place.
Yours, as becomes you, is a brilliant sphere.
This hero, chosen to the chief command
Of England's patriot host, intreats your hand
In noble love; the Barons have agreed,
The time requires, and I have pledged my word
That he shall be your husband.
Elvina. Heavens! my husband! -
Arden. Let not my honest speech offend thee, Lady.
Bred in a camp, my business has been war.
The tent has been my home; and oft this hand
Has rea'd the harvest of the bloody field.
If high respect for your illustrious line,
And true affection to a form so fair,
Win your approving smile, you send me forth
Your champion to the field, at once to gain
The palm of beauty and the prize of arms.
Elvina. My Lord, my heart yet trembles from the shock
Of such a serious unforeseen event,
On which my future destiny may turn.
Forgive me, if alarm'd, I seek to pour
My secret accents in a father's ear.
Elvina. Alas! I have no more a father's ear
To hear my voice; no more a parent's breast
That yearns with pity for his daughter's woes!
And will you give me to the deadly foe
Of all your house, and wed me to despair?
Albem. Be calm, my child. He is no more a foe.
Think of the noble and the patriot ends
Of such an union: Ancient feuds will cease;
Our rival houses will be reconciled.
And from the Normans and the Saxons join'd,
One mighty nation will go conquering forth;
And the whole land will raise a grateful eye
To thee, the cause of all.
Elvina. To quell the feuds,
And reconcile the families of foes,
Am I the sacrifice? Alas! my father,
And will you offer up with your own hands,
Your child a victim? - What have I to do
With states or nations? - I've a single heart,
And it is Elvine's -- Dost thou then forsake
Thine ancient friend? --
Albem. He hath forsaken us.
Now in the Dauphin's camp he draws the sword
Against his native country; if thou hast
The sense of honour glowing in thy frame,
Thy contry's spriit, or thy father's blood,
Thou too wilt cast him off. ----
Elvina. I cast him off ---
I cast off Elivine! -- O! thou knowest him not.
Albem. I know him false. A traitor to his country
Will ne'er to friendship or to love be true.
Elvina He is no traitor. He hath been belied.
Soaring above the sphere of common men,
They aim their secret and the venom'd shafts
To bring that eagle from his sky of fame.
Ah! once he was beloved! ---
Albem. My child, no more.
Think of that passion as a toy of youth,
And with the gewgaws of thy early days
Be it dismiss'd. Think of thy duty now.
Respect thy father, and regard thyself.
Elvina. I need not try to allter your resolves,
Which now seem firm, inflexible, and arm'd
Against your daughter: let me just recall,
That, in your eye, and with your kind consent,
I loved my hero with the love of youth.
'Twas you that kindled first the tender sparks
Of an eternal flame. Blooming you brought,
In infant beauty, to Aldarno's vale,
The noble orphan of the Norman race,
The lovely sun-beam of a setting line.
When hand in hand we sported in your hall,
You fondly marked with paternal smiles
The young Elvina for young Elvine's bride.
Albem. My child, you trespass on a parent's love
To name the trifles of your early days.
Elvina. Let me, at least, repeat your gracious words.
Would, too, I could recall the tender looks
With which you spoke them. Sometimes you have deign'd
To bless Elvina with a fonder glance.
My mother too: and here you will not blame,
For I have seen you weep upon her grave;
And now she shines above, a saint in heaven!
My mother, sitting on that ghastly bed
From which she never rose; call'd us around;
Held us embraced with cold and dying hands;
Then lifted up her closing eyes to heaven -
'O God! to thee, to thee I leave my children.'
She spoke no more. - One parting kiss she gave;
Then join'd our hands, and died. I see you weep.
I see the father melting in your eye.
[Falling at his feet.
I am yet your child - O! if you ever loved me!
Oh! if my life be precious in thy sight;
If e'er my woes did wet a father's cheek!
If e'er my shrieks did pierce a patent's ear!-
Oh! if the future fortune of my life,
My peace on earth, or happiness in heaven,
Can aught avail to win me to thy heart,
O! save me, save me from the worst of woes,
Save me, my father! --
Albem. Rise, my lovely child!
Come to thy mansion in a parent's heart!
But, ha! - Alas - What can thy father do?
I've sworn that you shall be the wife of Arden.
Elvina. Sworn? --
Albem. At the altar.
Elvina. Sworn that I be Arden's?-
Alem. Hear me, Elvina: hear a parent speak
Till now you've ever been a duteous daughter
And often made this aged heart o'erflow
With secret gladness: In the lonely hour,
I've lifted up my hands, and blest the day
When thou wert born. Not often have I blamed thee,
Or used the harsh tone of authority.
It is not so that we have lived Elvina;
But here the Baron issues his commands.
If, when this storm of war is pass'd away,
You do not wed the leader of our host,
You are no child of mine: I cast you off.
You hear my fix'd, irrevocable word.
Elvina. If I am doom'd in wretchedness and wo,
And doom'd by you! - your will shall be obey'd.
Elvina. Oh! Emma! I am wretched. Arden - Heavens!
Shall Arden be my husband? Gracious powers!
Forbid that hour. Now in my deep distress,
It is well, by Heaven! he's in the Dauphin's camp.
Invite th' Ambassador. -
[Writes a letter in great agitation, tears it, and writes again.]
[Emma returns with the Ambassador.
Elvina. Say, is not Elvine in the Dauphin's camp?
Amb. Lady, the camp is honour'd with his presence.
Elvina. May an unfortunate and friendless maid
Interest the favour of a gallant knight
To give these letters to his secret hand?
Amb. Lady, by beauty and by birth renown'd,
His hand shall hold them ere the day decline.
Elvina. (giving him the letter.) Forlorn, forsaken, to your care I trust
My future fate, the secret of my soul.
Howe'er by faction or by feuds disjoin'd,
No deadly hate in man to woman dwells;
The knight is courteous to the hapless maid.
Ambassador alone, looking at the letter.
No superscription here. Her troubled mind
Forgot to add the name. Ha! Yes, by Heaven;-
It dawns, the work of fortune and of fate -
This to the Dauphin I will straight advance,
And warn the wishing bridegroom of the secret.
A passion slighted, and a rival loved!
This is the insult, the fell injury
Which man or woman never can forgive.
With Albemarle then Arden is at war;
The Normans hence and Saxons will divide,
And thus divided may be conquer'd still.
Ardent in arms impetuous Britain fights,
Refined in arts, France plots and overcomes.
Act II. - Scene I.
Trumpets. Enter Archbishop and Albemarle at one door, Arden and Barons at the other.
Albem. What from the camp, my Lord?
Arden. The hosts are join'd.
All friends and fellow soldiers, they compose
One mighty army. Rivals now are friends,
And brothers of the war. Yon field displays
A scene of glory to a soldier's eye.
I never saw the face of war so gay,
So beauteous. Glancing in the sun, behold
The camp in motion, and the field on fire.
The soul of freedom animates them all.
Impatient for the trumpet's sound, they act
The future fights; and, brandishing their arms,
With flaming circles sweep the empty air.
Archb. Bold is the heart for liberty that beats,
And strong his arm who draws his country's sword,
When for a nation's rights the banner flies,
The victor's laurel with the olive twines:
The host of freedom is the host of God.
[Enter a Messenger with a letter to Arden.
Arden. The news I have received concern us deeply.
Barons, we tremble on the verge of fate.
In this confederate host a traitor lurks,
Who has betray'd our measure to the foe,
And holds a correspondence with the Dauphin.
Albem. A traitor among us?
Arden. A secret foe,
Who plots our ruin. Guards, arrest th' Ambassador:
Bring him before us. Now, before we know
This great offender, Barons, it is meet
That we pronounce his doom, lest he should stand
Too near our heart, by friendship or by blood,
And so elude the sentence of the laws.
Albem. Although my nature leads me to be mild,
Yet here the highest punishment is due,
And timely rigour is humanity.
By this our high authority we guard,
And strike astonishment and terror round
To all offenders in the time to come.
No favour or affection will seduce
The steady patriot from the public good.
He to his country his own life devotes:
Nor will he spare a traitor's.
Arch. Instant death
He merits. Rousing at the call of Heaven,
Now when the noblest spirits of the world
Plan for the public; when the bravest hands
Are raised to strike for freedom and mankind;
When just pronounced in the fane of Heaven,
The recent vow yet trembles on the tongue;
If meanly lurking, mid a chosen band
Of patriots and of heroes, one be found,
False to his trust, his honour, and his oath,
Who, scorning sanctions, human and divine,
Betrays his country to her foes, divine,
Th' inheritance of future times, and sells
Eternal honour for eternal shame;
'Tis then that justice, reddening into wrath,
Demands a victim for the public good:
A great example will restore the host;
A traitor's blood will reinstate the laws.
Arden. Does then the general voice pronounce his doom?
Barons. One is our voice; and death is the award.
Arden. The bonds of friendship, and the ties of blood
Cancell'd, then awful justice holds its course.
His country is the parent of the brave,
Who march devoted where she points the way. -
[Noise behind the scenes. Ambassador brought in.
Amb. This is the insolence of anarchy!
Though you have risen against your rightful King,
I hope you still regard the law of nations.
Why, even in barbarous, and in savage states,
Ambassadors are sacred --
Arden. When they're honest.
But, if they plot against the kingdom's weal,
They answer with their life. There is a letter
Sent by some traitor to your prince the Dauphin.
Produce that letter, and in peace depart.
[Ambassador gives it to Arden, who peruse it with marks of agitation.
Albem. You start! From whom, my Lord?-
Arden. (giving it to him.) Inform yourself.
Albem. (reads the letter.) "To the Dauphin.
"A dark design is going on against us;
Why art thou absent in the day of war?
Come on the wings of love to save the fond,
Ah! If you come not, the undone-
My daughter? Heavens! It is impossible!
Elvina, entering unseen by Albermarle.
Elvina. What means this tumult? Oh! Eternal Powers!
I am betray'd! The fatal secret's known -
Albemarle (recovering from his astonishment, reads again.)
"A dark design is going on against us;
Why art thou absent in the day of war?
Come on the wings of love to save the fond,
Ah! If you come not, the undone -
Undone Elvina! Ah! Undone indeed!
Ha! Take her from my sight. Alas! my daughter,
Thou wast an angel once! - Ye shades of death
Fall round, and wrap me in your gloom for ever!
Arch. Unhappy father! we lament thy woes.
The sacred season of the hoary hair
Such shocks of destiny can ill sustain.
In this dark hour of trouble and despair
We look to thee alone.
Albem. Support me, Heaven,
In this tremendous hour, and give me strength
For such a trial! Ah! what have I done?
All-righteous God! what have I done,
That, in the fall of life, thy heavy hand
In wrath should crush me to the ground, and bring
My hoary head with sorrow to the grave?
You wonder at me: Tell me how to act;
Ye that are fathers, tell me what to do?-
Shall my Elvina? - Must my daughter die?
Oh! must the parent doom his child to death?-
You answer not. Your silence, and your tears,
Point out my path - I was a father fond,
Fond to distraction of an only child-
But I am just; and I have not forgot
What to my country and my oath I owe.
Nature may cry, but justice must be heard:
Dear, dear as she is to me - she shall die!
Arch. Hard is thy duty now, heroic father;
But high the part appointed thee of Heaven.
Resume thy spirit: Call thy virtue forth.
Now in the conscious eye of Heaven and earth,
Thou actest for the glory, for the good
Of ages yet to come: Thou standest forth
A great example to the wondring world.
- I see it plain: Behold the hand of Heaven
Stretch'd from the sky, and beckoning thee to tread
A high heroic path! - The latter days,
The fate of England in succeeding times,
The fame and glory of the British Isle,
Hang on the passing hour.
Albem. (in astonishment.) What means my Lord? -
Arch. Lo! now 'tis thine, by one immortal deed
To form the character of future times,
And raise a spirit that shall never die.
See! what a family you will embrace;
You rise the founder of a mighty state.
The father of the free! The nation takes
From you its temper; and the ages rise
To call you patriot. Ah! who would not wish
A destiny so high?
Albem. 'Twas thus, when Rome her liberty regain'd,
A father doom'd his darling son to death;
He won immortal glory, and inspired
Rome with his spirit. From his patriot deed
Went sudden virtue living o'er the land.
The Roman kindled when he heard the tale,
And stepp'd a hero forth; and eager burn'd
For Rome to combat, and for Rome to die.
Hence heroes, patriots, croud the historic page;
Hence consuls, senators, a God-like train!
Hence a great people rose, the Lords of earth;
Hence many centuries of glory roll'd
In long procession; and eternal Rome,
The Queen of nations, did ascend the throne,
And sway the sceptre of the sea-girt world.
Albem. Thou hast no daughter. -
Arden. In the dreadful shock
Of this disaster, Barons, it is meet
That to a parent's feelings we appeal,
And bid the father of his country judge.
[The Barons retire to the bottom of the Theatre.
Albem. (on the front.) Am I the judge? my country, at thy voice,
This old grey head shall wear the helm again:
Bare in the field these scars shall bleed anew.-
O powerful nature! I'm a father still -
Thou bleeding innocence! Ah! should the sword
Just aim to touch that tender trembling bosom,
'Tis mine to ward the blow - Shall I direct
The dagger to the bosom of my child,
And stop the dearest current of my blood?
But justice, truth, imperious honour, call -
Forgive me, O my country, if I stain
A Roman's virtue with unmanly drops!-
'Tis done. The irrevocable doom is seal'd.
- Where am I? Ha! the shades of death surround me,
And graves, and monuments, and ghastly forms -
That path leads down to blood - Thou sainted shade,
Who gav'st a blooming cherub to my arms,
O turn thy tender eyes from this sad scene,
Nor look upon the deed! - Ah! piteous sight!
Stretch'd on the block, the trembling victim's laid;
The pale hand waves that should have closed my eyes.
That was the sign of death! - What do I see?
A headless trunk; a mangled corpse - Oh! Oh!
- Barons, the dreadful sacrifice is made;
But spare me, spare a father the sad sight! -
-Yet ah! before I go let me behold her,
To take a long last look of my Elvina
Before she dies, before we part for ever.
- I hear her step. The trembler comes, looks
As she were innocent. Her face is woeful,
Yet it is lovely; I could look for ever -
My daughter - Thou art doom'd - These tears will tell thee -
My child! my child!
[Looking earnestly upon her as he goes out.
Baron. Alas! unhappy man!
Thy age is desolate. Ill-fated maid,
In prime of youth and beauty doom'd to death!
And honour's cause demands, Barons, prepare
A place of combat in the listed field;
If any knight or baron of the land
Will stand a champion to defend the fair.
Arden. This happy morning, Lady, you appear'd
The wife of Arden in the eye of England,
And though our hands were not in wedlock join',
Our interest is one. I have a right
To interpose in your concerns; and more,
I feel your sorrows as they were my own,
For I lament you more than I can blame.
Elvina. I hope, my Lord, you come not to disturb
The dying moments of a wretched maid,
And wring a heart that soon shall cease to beat.
Arden. I come not to renew, but end your woes.
I've a proposal for thy serious ear,
On which the fortune of thy life depends.
Elvina. My Lord, I listen to it.
Arden. You are young,
Elvina, you are beautiful; allured
And dazzled with false glory, you have err'd
One step from duty; if reflection soon
Recalls you to the path from which you've stray'd,
You add one beauty to a virtuous life,
Which spotless innocence can never boast.
If you renounce for ever that opprobious love,
Then I this instant to the plain descend,
The champion of your cause: A husband's arm
Will wipe the stain that rests upon thy name,
And upon mine: My honour is at stake:
A Baron of the realm, an English chieftain,
Arm'd, and invested with supreme command,
Will never brook dishonour, never bear
The shadow of affront; nor suffer man
To point the finger, or to lift the look
Of scorn against him.
Elvina. In this hour of wo,
Your noble generosity, my Lord,
Hath given another pang to this sad bosom,
Which yet, alas! no just return can make
Inviolable vows oppose your claim;
Stronger than vows, unalterable love
Reigns in a heart that owns no second lord.
Arden. That is the language of aversion fix'd.
Elvina. It is the language of aversion fix'd.
Arden. And have merited thy steadfast scorn?-
Elvina. I scorn thee not. I can distinguish well
A lover's passion from a baron's pride.
The candid bosom opens to the day;
Nor clothes ambition in the garb of love.
Your virtues I revere; your rank respect;
But who can teach a tender heart to throb?
I look upon thee as my father's friend,
My country's champion: Never as my knight,
Or as my husband.
Arden. Then behold your judge.
Guards, watch the prisoner.
Now the die is cast;
And I have seal'd the sentence of my death.
O Thou that helper of the helpless art!
O be not absent in the hour of wo!
Forsake me not when by the world forsaken.
No hope have I on earth: To thee I fly,
As to my father's arms: I have no father,
No friend, but thee alone. God of my youth!
Thou didst receive me with paternal arms
When cast an infant on a wretched world;
And when a stranger thou didst guide my feet
Through the wild maze of life: O leave me not,
My God, in my last hour! -
[Going off with the Guards, Albemarle enters, takes her by the hand, and leads her in silence to the front of the Stage.
Albem. Alas! my daughter,
The day of trouble now hath come upon us:
I am an old man: I am miserable!
And thou art fallen, friendless, and forlorn!
Alas! Elvina! thou hast brought us low.
Elvina. I'm every way unhappy and undone.
Albem. After what pass'd this morning, what you've done
So wild, so monstrous seems - it is incredible.
Alas! it was the effort of despair.
I would not shock thee now - 'twould be an insult.
O Heaven! what agony the bosom rends
When the curse comes upon the hoary head!
Elvina. Oh! I am doubly wretched to involve
My father in despair.-
Albem. O fond old man,
O foolish father! I, delighted, thought,
This tempest o'er my evening would be beight,
And my departure like the setting sun.
I fondly thought, when better days return'd,
Safe under shadow of the vine to sing,
And bless my children's children; fondly thought
To see a race of thine around me rise,
The young Elvinas of the age to come;
Trace my own features in their opening looks,
Hear the first accents of their lisping tongues,
Woo their embraces, fold them in my arms,
And like an old man prattle in their praise.
Then looking heaven-ward, to depart in peace
In his good hour: Within their arms and thine,
Th' embrace of nature! look my last adieus
And smile, and fall asleep - O God of heaven,
Now I am childless! -
Elvina. 'Tis too much, my father!
I was prepared to meet thy stern rebuke;
I could hvae borne the looks and words of wrath.
But shield me, Heaven! for I can ne'er support
A father's tenderness, a father's tears,
That look forlorn that marks the bursting heart.
Albem. To what is age reserved? I never thought
That thou wouldst pluck these white hairs by the root,
And dig thy father's grave. I thought not so,
What hast thou done? - Yet thou art still my child:
Thou art my only child!
[Taking her in his arms
By Arden awed,
None of our barons will defend thy cause;
I wll defend thee; I will be thy champion.
Old is my arm, but in a cause like this,
A daughter's cause, it still can draw the sword.
I'm young again--
[Drawing his sword.
Elvina. A combat so unjust,
A spectacle so dire, I must forbid,
In this alone I from your voice appeal,
Never to yield. O you have ever been
The noblest friend, the best, the fondest father!
And can you think that I would poorly prove
Such an ungrateful and unnatural child
As e'er endanger, in the strife of death,
Your life for mine one instant? All I ask
I my last moments, O forget my fault,
The fault of too much love; at last forgive
A child - who never can offend you more!
When I am silent, as I shall be soon,
Let not reproach assail my virgin fame,
And heap dishonour on the head laid low.
Defend your daughter when she's in the dust.
Let not the voice of slander pierce my tomb,
To break the peaceful Sabbath of the grave,
And call my spirit from the land of rest,
I would confer in secret with my maid.
Adieu, my father! If we meet no more,
Adieu for ever!
Albem. O my lovely child,
Adieu! - Th' Eternal eye alone beholds
When we shall meet again -
Elvina. My faithful Emma,
My dear companion in the days of youth,
Before distinction of our birth was known
I would depart in peace with all the world.
If ever I have treated you with rigour,
Or chid you without cause -
Emma. O never, never!
My noble Lady, you have ever been
The best, the kindest, and the sweetest mistress,
And less your servant than your friend I've lived.
O would to God that I could die for you!
Elvina. I have a last request to make, my Emma,
A dying charge to give! Find out that youth
For whom in early years I'm doom'd to die;
O tell him, charge him, if he ever loved me,
To guard, to pity, and solace the age
Of my poor father! as another child
My place to fill, my duty to perform.
Tell that for him I would have wish'd to live:
Tell that for him I died; and all I ask
Is for my sake, for his Elvina's sake,
To love my father, and remember me.
I know his tender heart; I would not wish him
To mourn my fate in bitterness of soul,
And waste his days in solitude and sorrow.
Yet I would have him - sometimes to be sad -
To think of her who died for him; to come
And wet my ashes with a lover's tears.
Then in th' appointed house I'll rest in peace,
And wait the morning that awakes the dead.