3.1. ACT III. SCENE continues.
Oſwald and Leolyn.
PAtience!—Curſe Patience: why doſt thou talk of Patience,
With the ſame Breath, the ſame cold, taſteleſs, Calmneſs
That ſpoke Diſtraction to me? Haſt thou not told me
That ſhe confeſſes it? that this proud Beauty,
This haughty, fierce, diſdainful, marbly Vertue,
That ſcorn'd my honeſt Paſſion; this auſtere Frowner!
Has been—Perdition on the Name! 'Twou'd choak me.—
Haſt thou not fir'd me with the baſeſt Truth
That ever ſtung the Heart of a Fool Lover!
And doſt thou talk of Patience?—Give it to Stateſmen;
I ſpurn the ſervile Leſſon. Patience! ſaid'ſt thou?
Rage and Deſpair have broke upon my Soul,
And waſh'd away all Patience.
Thank Heaven! is none of theſe wild fiery Racers;
That, like a Spark in Flax, if not ſtrait ſmother'd,
Burns up the Road it runs thro'; yet I feel Warmth,
When chaf'd by Provocation: And let me tell you,
There may be ways, and we may find 'em, Prince,
To reach this proud Preſumer.
I muſt not aid thee:
He was my Friend; and then, my Life was his,
By Tie of Duty.—He was, ſince, my Enemy;
And then, again, 'twas his, by Claim of Conqueſt.
I've loſt Revenge, to Honour.—I have no Right
To lift my Arm againſt him: For, from a Hand
Oblig'd as mine has been, Juſtice itſelf
Would redden into Murder.—But, were I Oſwald,
Wrong'd, as thou art, and free to weigh thoſe Wrongs,
Without this Counterpoiſe of Obligation,
I would hunt Athelwold to the World's Verge;
Nay, would leap after him, and ſnatch at Vengeance,
Through the unfathom'd Depth of dark Eternity.
I too, perhaps,
Who have as light a Spring as you, Prince Leolyn,
Might try that dreadful Leap, could I be ſure
That it was bounded, but by Depth and Darkneſs:
But, ſhou'd there lie ſome Realm of Light beyond,
I ſhould look fooliſhly, when I fell through,
To find my State grown worſe than 'twas before,
And no Road back again.—Methinks, 'tis ſtrange,
That you, hot Fighters, Friends of bare-fac'd Anger,
Have never learnt our ſafer courtly Art
Of Vengeance without Danger!—You injure me,
And I aſſault you openly:—Man againſt Man
Gives Chance an equal Caſt: 'Tis you or me:
Suppoſe, as firſt you wrong'd, you, now, ſhou'd kill me?
Where's Vengeance then?—What Equity is here!
No;—let me pay th' Affront, with a firſt Blow,
Whereby I hazard nothing: That ſets us equal;
And, if I not ſtrike home, he's, then, at liberty
To ſtand on even Terms, and try, once more.
What dar'ſt thou do, for Ethelinda's Honour?
Force him—to pleaſe her on, and marry her.
He cannot marry her.
Why truly, he who has, unmarried, won
What others marry for, will wed at leiſure.
Cannot,—I ſay.—Death! thou art ſuch a Trifler!
If you had ſaid he wou'd not marry her,
Your Doubt had err'd, with Likelihood.—But that a Man
Has taught a Maid what Wives alone ſhould learn,
And cannot therefore make that Maid his Wife,
Is a new Point in Logick!—Troth, I have ſeen
The Court thick ſown with theſe inſtructed Virgins,
Who all grew up, to Husbands; and, ſometimes,
Have ev'n learnt on, for Life, from their firſt Teachers.
Tire me no more, with this provoking Lightneſs,
Upon a Theme that ſtings me.—I tell thee, he cannot;—
Mark me,—he cannot marry Ethelinda;
Becauſe—he has already married Elfrid.—
Elfrid! what Elfrid?
Why, that far-nois'd Elfrid;
What is her Father's Name? The Weſtern Duke?—
Death!—I remember nothing:—Cornwall:—He:
The Duke of Cornwall.—She! whoſe fancied Charms
The King was wiſe enough to chuſe this Athelwold,
His Ear's Engroſſer, and his Eye's Pourveyor,
To go and look at for him.—A ſtrange mad Humour
Work'd in his Brain, that ſhe might prove his Idol,
His wild Church Shadow that you have heard him talk of:
You know it as well as I.—What do you gaze at?
You liſten as if I propheſied!
And happily foretels the long-wiſh'd Downfal
Of our State Column.—This Atlas Athelwold!
Who bears the Heaven of Favour on his Shoulders,
And ſhadows all beneath him.—But, are you ſure?
I told it, not to aid thy dark Deſignings,
But to lament the ruin'd Ethelinda.
What will Fate do with that unhappy Charmer?
Honour forbids me, now, to wiſh her mine;
And he who has undone her is another's
Enter Edgar haſtily.
The Prince, provok'd to Warmth,
By News ſcarce credible, and loſt in Wonder,
We heard not, Royal Sir! your near Approach.
What News? What Wonder?—Warm?—The Prince was warm?
Yes;—The hot Britiſh Blood, your Country's Proverb,
The Lightning of your Tempers, flames, I find,
To its full Violence.—What mad Preſumption
Licens'd your Arroganee, ſo near my Preſence,
To quarrel with Earl Athelwold to Day,
Whoſe Friendſhip is your Fortune?
Tho' Fortune wrongs him, in Reſtraint of Power,
Thinks, like a Prince, as when his Throne ſuſtain'd him.
His Throne? Proud Leolyn!
Thy Father was a Rebel.—Detected Treaſon
Inverts the vanquiſh'd Traitor's Property,
And he and his loſt Blood are Forfeits, all.
—I love the fearleſs Bravery of free Spirits;
But thy blind Fierceneſs ſhocks me.—Urge it no farther:
A moving Pity pleads thy Cauſe within me;
Nor wiſh I, thou ſhouldſt blaſt it.
The Prince, unlike his Father, fought your Cauſe;
And ſtartles me with News, which (when I tell you
It joins the Names of Athelwold—and Traitor)
Will juſtify the Wonder it has given me.
Traitor—and Athelwold? Profane Conjunction!
As well might the two Poles be preſs'd, to join,
And cruſh the unbelieving World, between them.
—Take heed, raſh Men! when ye dare touch the Honour
Of envied Athelwold, that ye not fail
To prove his Guilt, till, like a Sun-beam's Glare,
It dazzles my Faith's Eye, and makes it weep;
Or your vile Malice ſhall but fan the Fire,
That kindles to conſume ye?—What has he done?
Leolyn?—Oſwald?—Speak:—One of ye, ſpeak?—
Or muſt I wait, till you invent ſome Wile,
To skreen your trembling Envy?—What wou'd ye ſay
Prince Leolyn aſſerts,
That he has married the fam'd Weſtern Beauty,
And has deſcrib'd her falſly.
Edgar, after a Pauſe.
Oh! that the Power that rules the Heart of Man
Wou'd, ever, thus, make Miſchief impotent!
—See now this Falſhood! Learn to know this Traitor!
This Athelwold! whom your inferior Souls
Want Sympathy to judge of?—His Heart's Refinement,
His Elegance of Will, adorning Duty,
Has plotted, with a Subject's ſweet Deceit,
To cheat his King, to Extaſy!—By Heaven
I had not known, but for your bold miſtaking,
That he had form'd this dear Deſign againſt me.
To Night he means, when Triumph's weary Noiſe
Is huſh'd in Darkneſs, and my Mind, unbent,
Has room for mighty Pleaſure, to ſurprize me;
To pour upon my unexpecting Soul
A Tide of Gladneſs. He but held it back,
To make its Flow more welcome.—But I have ſeen her;
Thou, too, haſt ſeen her, Oſwald.—The big Joy
Bears down all Mem'ry, that you both preſum'd
To wrong the Man I love; and I forgive it,
That you may learn to worſhip Athelwold!
Nay, I have ever ſaid, even to his Enemies,
That he was form'd for Loyalty!
This doubling Stateſman's Baſeneſs, and the Joy
Of his imperious Maſter, have uprooted
The Prudence of my Patience:—I muſt ſpeak,
Tho' every Glance of his diſdainful Eye
Shot a new Ruin at me.—Sir!—by this Tranſport
Of a bleſs'd Lover, near his promis'd Joy,
Judge of the Vaſtneſs of my Siſter's Grief;
Whom lone Deſpair, and Senſe of hopeleſs Love,
Abandon to Diſtraction.
Is it well done
To chuſe this Time, this Place, and this raſh Manner,
To goad a conſcious Frailty?
Had been too late: For, when your Heart is fill'd
With Elfrid, and with Rapture, how ſhould I hope
There can be room, for Thoughts of a paſt Promiſe,
Or abſent Emma's Claim?
Now, by the Stings,
Which thy abrupt, unartful Inſolence
Has rouz'd, to fix their Points on my touch'd Heart,
The Power of Millions, warring on my Realms,
Shou'd never force me to thy Siſter's Arms.
Had ſhe a Charm, for every Fault of thine,
Nature has curs'd her with one ſingle Stain,
That blots out all her Vertues. The Part, ſhe ſhares
Of thy rebellious Blood, is Bane to Love.
—O Athelwold! how am I bleſt in thee!
The Guilt of others, held againſt thy Worth,
Reflects it ſtronger on me.—Well may Traitors
Malign thy Loyalty. Antipathies
Hate, by the Law of Nature.—Take his Sword:
Why have I Power, if not to curb Preſumption,
When it inſults my Pity?—
See him a Priſoner in the Caſtle-Tower?
And, when I am no longer angry,—ask me
What I reſolve concerning him? [Exit Edgar.
The World and I, grown weary of each other,
Can ſeparate, without Sorrow.
See, if good Fortune
Brings not Earl Athelwold into the Garden!
Diſſemble your Concern; and I will move him
To ſtir in your Behalf, and reconcile you
To the King's Pardon.
Shame on thy ſupple Soul!
Thou art the moving Shadow, on the Dial:
Point'ſt at each diff'rent Hour, with equal Eaſe;
But, meaſuring all, art nothing.—
By good Saint Auſtin,
An apt and keen Conceit!—The Caſtle-Tower,
And Solitude, will ripen Meditation,
Till your Wit quickens, and your Fire flames double.
Enter Athelwold, ſtarting at Sight of Leolyn.
Prince Leolyn!—of all th'unwelcome World,
The laſt I wou'd have met! [Retiring.
Hold, Sir;—a Word.—
He has bcthought him of my good Advice,
And takes the Hint, he ſcoff'd at.—
When my Friend ſerves me, I forget him not.—
Let me diſcharge a Debt my full Heart owes you;
It may be long, e're we ſhall meet again;
Therefore, before we part, I judge it needful
To whiſper in your Ear—that Athelwold
Is a deteſted Villain.—
A Villain? Leolyn?— [After a Pauſe.
Yet—keep thy Life.—Thou haſt been injur'd by me.—
The wrongs that I have done, forbid Revenge
Againſt the Wrongs I ſuffer.
[Puts up his Sword.
Racks on thy Heart!
Forbid Revenge? how dar'ſt thou name Revenge?
Thou looſe Betrayer! Thou Reproach of Greatneſs!
Thou dignified Deceiver! Revenge!—Great Heaven!
Let Ethelinda's ruin'd Innocence
Riſe-on thy trembling Soul,—'twill fright Revenge,
And ſhake thee into Senſe of ſilent Shame.
Thou calm, cold, Ruiner!
Nay, now, thou know'ſt, thou wrong'ſt me:
I have been, too Reſolv'd, and dar'd a Guilt,
I will not dare to juſtify.—Farewel;
When, in ſome cooler Moment, thou deſerv'ſt
To hear my ſerious Thoughts, I may confeſs
I have been faithleſs to thee.
Stay—e're thou goeſt,
Let my exulting Heart proclaim one Joy;
Edgar, betray'd like me, has Power, and Will,
To puniſh his Betrayer.—I have told it,
Oſwald already knows;—the King too knows it;
And the whole World ſhall join; to curſe thee for it,
That thou haſt married Elfrid.—
That happy Secret
Was all, that Fortune leſt me, for my Vengeance,
And I have given it to the Tongues of Millions.
Thou haſt not done that Outrage on thy Honour?
Not done it?—By the Pangs which wrung my Soul
For Ethelinda's Ruin, but I have—
Not done it?—'Twas the laſt, the livelieſt Stroke,
That I cou'd pierce thy Heart with.—
Athelwold, drawing again.
Then, thou ſhalt die.
My Guilt, abſolv'd, by baſer of thy own,
Diſclaims Contrition,—re-aſſumes Revenge,
And gives thee up, to my remorſeleſs Anger.—
Defend thy Life, more bravely than before,
Or thy hot Blood ſhall bluſh upon my Point,
To expiate thy Diſhoncſty.—
See, where my Sword,
Lodg'd in a colder Hand, ſecures thy Bravings.
Now boaſt the well-tim'd Triumphs of thy Tongue,
That, ſafely, dares a Priſoner.
Reſtore it, Oſwald;
How, or by whoſe Command, 'tis thine, no matter.—
I have not Leiſure now, to ask, or hear it:
Give him his Sword, this Inſtant.—
My Lord, I hold it by the King's Command.
Athelwold, forcing the Sword from Oſwald.
Talk not to me of Kings!—Leſs than a God
Wou'd now want Power to keep it;—give me the Sword,
On Pain of thy own Life, refuſe it not.
Away—nor interrupt us.
How fruitleſs is good Counſel! [Runs out haſtily.
Here, take thy Sword,
And teach it, if it can, to guard thy Baſeneſs.
Oh! that my boiling Blood had no Reſtraint,
But Fear of what thou threaten'ſt!—and that this Morning
Had left Reſentment free; nor curs'd my Memory
With that loath'd Life, which, ſince 'twas ſpar'd by thee,
Is mine no more, againſt thee.—
Periſh the poor Pretence
That covers thy Confuſion!—If aught, I did,
Had Merit to with-hold thy Arm, take Notice,
That I renounce it.—I deſpiſe thy Gratitude,
Falſe, as thy Boaſtings.—If thou want'ſt yet more,
To re-inſpire thy Rage, and wake thy Honour,—
I will invent Diſgraces, to provoke thee!
If, in Contempt of thy too weak Reſiſtance,
I ſpar'd thy Life,—Againſt my Mercy, weigh
My Triumph, o'er her Innocence who charm'd thee;
That makes the Balance even.—Oh! Thou haſt rais'd me
To ſuch a burning, ſuch unmaſter'd, Anger,
That I grow baſe, as thou art,—and thy Blood
Will ſtream in vain to quench it.
Rail on.—I'll wait,
'Spite of thy Arrogance, I'll wait,—nor kill thee:
Till ſome new Injury ſets free my Rage,
And blots out Obligation.
Tortures and Fire!
Shalt thou inflame me thus,—Unſeat my Soul;
Tear out wrong'd Patience from my bleeding Heart,
And work me into Tempeſt! Then grow cool,
And, inſolently mild, with Stoick Tameneſs,
Hope,—thou coud'ſt ſtop me, in the ſteepeſt Fall
Of my whole hurried Vengeance.—No,—if thou wait'ſt
New Provocation, it attends thy Call;
This will enrage thee, to renew thy Raſhneſs; [Strikes him.
And meet the Death I mean thee.
Yes—That has done it:
Now, thou haſt freed me, from all fond Reluctance,
And ſanctified the Will, that ſinn'd before. [They fight.
Haſte—or we come too late.—
[Enter Guards, and beat down their Swords.
We are prevented.
Then I muſt wait, and groan for Liberty,
To thank thee, as I ought.
Oh! doubt it not.—By Heaven it ſhall be thine:
I will, myſelf, find means to force thy Freedom,
That I may claim thy Life, in juſt Exchange.
Where ſhall we meet? [Softly.
Weſt, on yon terraſs'd Cliff.
Expect Deliverance, e're an Hour be paſt;
Then haſte,—and find me there.
Quick—ſeize Prince Leolyn.
It ſhall not need; my Sword is yours, again,
Conduct me, at your Pleaſure.
Oſwald, to the Guards.
Lead to the Tower.
[Exeunt Leolyn, Oſwald, and Guards.
Be huſh'd, my Heart;—forget this raſh Man's Rage,
And, till I meet him next, be weak as Woman;
For Ethelinda comes, and brings Reproach,
That bows me to the Duſt, in conſcious Shame.
Enter Ethelinda, to Athelwold.
Cool'd, by a ſhort Reflection, into Hope,
That I miſtook your Purpoſe, let me, yet, ſay,
You are well-met, my Lord.
Oh!—wou'd I were!
The Time has been, when if we two were met,
There was no World beyond us.—
But, now, I wander, like ſome fabled Ghoſt,
Trembling, and earneſt to impart his Secret,
Yet wanting Power to ſpeak it.
Such Ghoſts, they ſay,
Wait, to be ſpoke to, firſt; then, they reveal
Their dreadful Wills, and vaniſh.—'Twill be thus
With your proud Heart: Soon as I have accus'd you,
Cover'd with Shame, your Anſwer will be ſhort,
Confus'd, and fatal; and you will vaniſh from me,
Alas! I fear, for ever.—Look on me, Athelwold!
Raiſe your fal'n Eyes:—They once cou'd gaze, delighted,
And hung their Beams on mine, as both were form'd,
Of one divided Flame, which parted, hard,
And ſtruggled for Re-union.—Teach 'em, once more,
To fix an unmov'd, ſtedfaſt, Look upon me;
Hold them, thus earneſt, nor decline their Lids,
Till you have anſwer'd me this one ſad Queſtion:
What have I done, that could deſerve, from Athelwold,
That he ſhould boaſt my ruin'd Peace, to Leolyn?
Your conſcious Eye ſinks, guilty.—My Lord! my Lord!
The Virtue that inſpires this gen'rous Shame,
Had ſhewn a nobler Influence, had it taught you,
That Inſult, always baſe, is doubly ſo,
When he who caus'd the Crime, upbraids it too.
Can you believe me ſo deprav'd a Wretch,
So loſt to Honour, Gratitude, and Shame,
As to be conſcious of a purpos'd Guilt,
Thus infamouſly vile?
I do, by Heaven!
Nay, know you guilty; for, ſince I ſaw you laſt,
My Uncle cruelly reproach'd me with it,
And told me, you proclaim'd it.
Proclaim'd it! No:
I am unhappy, but I am not baſe.
It were too long, and too perplex'd a Tale,
While Miſery lies, unloaded, on my Heart,
To undeceive thee, now.—If thou believ'ſt
I am that low unmanly Wretch thou ſpeak'ſt me,
Take this diſhonour'd Sword, pierce my falſe Breaſt,
Revenge thy Wrongs, and ſave my Tongue the Shame
Of what it, ſoon, muſt tell thee.
What would'ſt thou tell me?
Thou trembleſt! and I read ſome dreadful Meaning,
That ſtruggles to break on me!—Why wilt thou kneel?
There glows a gen'rous Tenderneſs about thee,
Which half abſolves thy Purpoſe, and bids me hear thee
With Firmneſs, and with Pity.
Out with it,—ſpeak,—Wou'dſt thou not ſay,—I hate thee?
No, by my Soul, tho' Time has chang'd my Love,
'Tis chang'd, but as the Diamond, that grows brighter,
And loſt but Duſt, in poliſhing.—'Tis, now,
No more a fierce wild Flame; but, in its Place,
Truth, calmer, and more laſting. 'Tis ſoft Reſpect;
'Tis tender Thought, kind Will, and grateful Mem'ry.
'Tis Friendſhip.—'Tis ſuch Love as Angels feel,
Who mix their meeting Fires;—and flame together.
Such was the falſe, the artful Eloquence,
That lur'd me to my Ruin. But my Heart,
Inſtructed by Diſtreſs, can now read Meanings.
Who, that is new in Paſſion, could believe,
That this fair Picture, of thy faded Love,
But proves, thou lov'ſt another?
What wilt thou ſay,
When thou ſhalt hear me own, That Fear is juſt?
When I confeſs, abhorrent of Deceit,
That Love, which ſeem'd to root my Soul in thee,
Has new tranſplanted it, to Elfrid's Boſom?
You ſtart! as if my Guilt were yet a Secret,
Tho' Leolyn, confeſſes he has told it:
For, in his ill-retaining Breaſt, I truſted
The fatal Secret, of my double Falſhood,
Both to my King, and thee. He ſhould have added,
How I was loſt.—That Will, and Faith, and Reaſon,
At once gave Way, beneath a Weight of Paſſion;
And againſt Judgment, Honour, Love of thee,
Fame, and Allegiance, I was born away,
Till ſhe, who ſhould have been my Maſter's Queen,
Deceiv'd, like thee, became,—oh!—turn aſide
Thy Eyes—while I have Voice to ſay—my Wife.
Thou art not mov'd.—Some Power divine
Suſtains thy gentle Soul!
I pity thee So mean a Stratagem,
Shamefully form'd, to force me upon Leolyn,
And free thee from the Pain of long diſſembling.
Go on,—that I may teach my Heart to hate thee.
This low Contrivance, this poor Trick of Art,
Is baſer than Inconſtancy!
Sorrow, like mine,
Sinks the ſad Heart too low, for Artifice,
And my proud Soul out-ſwells, and floats above it.
That I am loſt, beyond Redemption loſt,
My Roof, that once grew proud, in Hopes of thee,
Conceals too clear a Witneſs.—Yet may'ſt thou curſe me,
If I not rev'rence and eſteem thee, ſtill,
With my Heart's inmoſt Softneſs. Thy Power improves,
Ev'n by Defection. Loſt, to my frailer Senſe,
My Soul adores thee, like ſome nameleſs Being,
In which, the Woman mixes with the Angel,
And makes a new Divinity.
Thy Looks, diſorder'd, and thy trembling Frame,
Fill me with Fear and Wonder.—It cannot be,
Thou ſhould'ſt, thus mov'd, and movingly, diſſemble:
By Heav'n! I will be ſatisfy'd.—Thou ſay'ſt,
This Rival, this imaginary Elfrid,
Is now in thy Apartment: I will fly thither;
And, when I have unravel'd all thy Guilt,
Let looſe Deſpair, at once, and die, diſtracted.
Oh! ſtay:—For Pity's Sake! for your own Sake!
For mine! For the King's Quiet!—
I'll not be held,
Tho' Kings, and Flames, and War, and Devaſtation,
And Death himſelf ſtood threatning. [Breaks away, and runs off.]
What! hoa!—Lord, Athelwold.
'Tis the King's Voice!
What has, thus long, disjoin'd thee from my Joy?
Hid from thy Sight, by the dark Grot between us,
Thy Voice took Pity on my Heart's Impatience,
And taught me how to trace thee. Pomp cou'd not pleaſe,
While Friendſhip waited for me: Sudden, I left
Th' unfiniſh'd Triumph, fill'd with a nobler Joy,
And wanting Soul to taſte it, in thy Abſence.
—But thou art grown a Lover, Athelwold!
An angry Lady left thee!—Is it poſſible,
That the unjudging Sex have Wills, ſo blind,
That Athelwold, in Love, can ſigh in vain,
Puniſh the peeviſh Beauty with Neglect,
And fly to thy King's Heart, for Refuge from her.
I bluſh,—and am confounded,—my gracious Lord!
To be ſurpriz'd in my unguarded Weakneſs,
By your too piercing Eye.—Yet Woman's Power—
Teach the tall Pine to bend, before the Wind.—
What! has not Edgar felt the Power of Woman?
They toy with Scepters,—and the Frowns of Kings
Serve them to ſmile at. When the wanton Tyrants
Play over their ſoft Triflings to the Heart,
They ſet their Eyes on Fire, to light us up,
Then, melt us into Warmth, that ſoftens Wiſdom,
And we receive the Stamp their Folly gives us.
But why haſt thou deceiv'd thy Prince's Truſt?
Thou art for ever forming ſome kind Plot,
To quicken Pleaſure's Reliſh, by Surprize:
But I have now detected thee,—and mean,
For once, to ſpoil the Grace of thy Deſign,
And break upon thy Purpoſe.
If ſome malicious Foe—
Yes, yes, they charge thee,
And all thy Guilt lies open:—But thy Plottings
Make Loyalty look dull, and ſhame plain Duty.
I have unveil'd the Secret. Lead—to thy Lodgings:
When we are there, I will convict thee, Athelwold,
Of ſuch Deſigns againſt thy Sov'reign's Reſt,
As more than I ſhall thank thee for.
Whither will Fortune drag me?—I am diſcover'd,
And he but puts on Joy, to ſhame my Ruin
With the Contempt of Eaſineſs.
Stateſmen ſhall learn, from thy deſerv'd Renown,
From Honours thou ſhalt owe my ſtrengthen'd Crown;
That, where the Monarch is not blind of Heart,
Affection is the Favourite's wiſeſt Art:
While, to Self-ſervers, due Contempt is ſhown,
Let Friends, who ſeek our Int'reſt, find their own.