Athelwold: a tragedy. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, by His Majesty's servants.



LONDON: Printed for L. GILLIVER, at Homer's-Head, over-againſt St. Dunſtan's Church, Fleet-Street. M.DCC.XXXI.

Perſons repreſented.



Edgar, King of England,
by Mr. Mills.
Athelwold, Earl of Lancaſter,
by Mr. Bridgwater.
Leolyn, Prince of North Wales,
by Mr. A. Hallam.
Oſwald, Miniſter of State,
by Mr. Theo. Cibber.
Edwyn, a Gentleman, Attendant on Athelwold.
by Mr. Fielding.


Elfrid, Daughter to the Duke of Cornwall,
by Mrs. Booth.
Ethelinda, Neice to Oſwald,
by Mrs. Cibber.
Lady, Attendant on Elfrid,
by Mrs. Grace.
  • Officers, Guards,
  • Men and Women Attendants.

The SCENE, Cheſter.

PREFACE to the Reader.


IF there is any Thing, in my Writings, that deſerves to be remember'd, They will live, without Patronage: If They ought to be forgotten, They wou'd die, in ſpite of Protection. So I commit them to the World, unſuſtain'd by Dedication.—No Patron's Authority can protect a bad Work.—And a good one can want no Protection.

I am afraid, we need look no farther, than the Dedications of our Poetick Writings, for the Source of that Neglect, which the Art, Itſelf, complains of.—While Poetry preſerv'd its Honeſty, it was conſider'd with Diſtinction; But, when it degenerated into a Traffick, between Praiſe and Reward, it became deſpis'd, like the Gold of Utopia, not by Ignorance of its Value, but through ſcorn of the Uſe, It was put to.

Before I ſpeak of the following Tragedy, I am oblig'd to take Notice of another, the firſt Dramatic Sally of my Youth: And which, I ſhou'd be aſham'd to confeſs, I had the Folly to begin and finiſh in a Week, but that I have Occaſion, from that Confeſſion, to hope Pardon of its Faults; and admire the Engliſh Good-nature, which receiv'd it, with undeſerv'd Indulgence.—It was written on the ſame Subject with This, (upon Mr. Booth's recommending it to my Choice.) It was, alſo, acted at the ſame Theatre; and is, ſtill, a Living Evidence, againſt me, under the Name of Elfrid; or, the Fair Inconſtant.

As I knew nothing of the Rules of Writing, the Play was, conſequently, an unprun'd Wilderneſs of Fancy, with here and there, a Flower, among the Leaves; but without any Fruit, of Judgment.—I know not how it came to paſs, that Athelwold, [Page] even in That Piece, deſerv'd ſome little Pity: But, I am afraid, I was too Dull a Painter, to hit a Likeneſs for the Ladies.—Elfrid ſuffer'd more, by my ill Conduct, than Her own; and was a lighter Inconſtant, than the Hiſtories of thoſe Times have ſhown her: And, as for Edgar, The Monarch came out of my Hands, as one of his Succeſſors, out of the Arch-Duke of Auſtria's; ſtript of Every Thing that became his Condition, and only a King in his Title.

I therefore conſider'd myſelf as not deſerving Pardon, from the Publick, till I had purchas'd it, with ſomething, Better, on the ſame Subject.—This was the Original of Athelwold.

The New Play has neither Thought, Deſign, nor Expreſſion, in the leaſt, reſembling the Old one; And my only Reaſon, for troubling the Reader with this little Story, is, becauſe, ſhou'd there be any Thing in the ſecond Attempt, greatly Preferable to the Firſt, it will be a Proof, that Fancy (for, to ſay Genius, wou'd be making bold, with what is none of my own,) wants the Aid of the Judgment; and ſhou'd have Regard to the Rules, of an Art, which, like Religion, had an Orthodox Eſtabliſhment; but (like that too) has been warp'd, and weaken'd, by myſterious Dullneſs, and the dry Pride of Commentators.

I am unable to execute any Thing in Poetry, if I have waſted the Care, I beſtow'd on this Tragedy:—Nor can I have ſo unjuſt an Opinion of the Publick Taſte, (tho I think Nobody will celebrate it, for Poetry,) as not to know, that ſhou'd there be Merit in Athelwold, there are Spirits, in the Nation, who have Influence, and Generoſity, to awaken others, into their Sentiments.—I ſay this, for the ſake of the Stage; for, as to myſelf, the Diſtinction of Deſerving to be Read, is all the Advantage I propoſe from my Writings.



Spoken by Mr. WILKS.
OUR Author's Wiſhes, partial to the Stage,
Not for himſelf, your Favour wou'd engage:
Not his own Cauſe, but ours, he wou'd defend,
Nor fears an Enemy,—nor tasks a Friend:
But, frankly, bids me own, that from his Plays,
He means no Profit, and deſerves no Praiſe.
Yet, has he one fond Paſſion to impart;
One favourite Weakneſs, that has warm'd his Heart!
Conſtant, he doats on a declining Fair;
Yet, recommends his Miſtreſs to your Care;
Tho' paſt her Bloom, ſtill tempting ſhe appears,
A mid-ag'd Matron,—of three thouſand Years!
Slight not Dame Tragedy,—nor fancy, Sirs,
That Pain, and Spleen, and Age, alone, are hers:
Old, as you think her, ſtill, ſhe moves, and warms,
Smiles thro' the Soul, and ſwells the Heart with Charms.
But the vain Prude, too coy, to yield, at Pleaſure,
Vows, ſhe'll be wedded,—or withhold her Treaſure.
Take her, to Wife;—the Match cou'd ne'er be wrong,
But, for one Quality—ſhe'll live too long.
Cou'd ye, for once, forgive the ſerious Strain,
And bear a uſeful Truth, undreſs'd, and plain?—
Fain wou'd the Muſe remind you, that the Stage
Receiv'd moſt Honour, from the wiſeſt Age.
Athens ſhone brighteſt, when the crowded Scene
Fir'd her bold Sons,—to dare,—to act,—to mean!
Greatly, to copy the departed Great,
And be the Chiefs, they learnt to emulate.
[Page] Warm'd, by this Heat, which to their Plays they ow'd,
The guided Paſſions of a People glow'd:
High beat their cheriſh'd Hearts, in Glory's Cauſe;
Firm ſtood their Freedom, and long liv'd their Laws:
Charm'd into Virtue, and by Pleaſure taught,
The raptur'd Youth, the meant Impreſſion caught,
Grew up to Greatneſs, Liberty, and Arts,
And ſnatch'd the Heroe's, from the Player's Parts.
Oh! cou'd we live, to hail the future Day,
When ſparkling Folly ſhall give Genius way;
When low, light, Scenes ſhall tempt the Eye, in vain;
And Paſſion's Power impreſs the Heart, again;
Then ſhall the Muſes, like their Monarch, ſmile,
And all Heaven's Bleſſings crown his happy Iſle!


Spoken by Mrs. BOOTH.
THIS whining Tragedy has made me hoarſe,
Yet, as an Epilogue's a Thing of courſe,
I can't help telling ye, before we part,
I'm glad my Husband's dead, with all my Heart:
That's one Confeſſion,—and one more ſhall be,
I wiſh the Author were as dead as he:
His murdering Muſe, in downright Love of teizing,
Kills one, for being pleas'd, and one, for pleaſing:
Stabs Ethy—'cauſe her Love was an untrue one,
Drowns my good Man, becauſe he lik'd a new one:
Lud! Lud!—what Work 'twou'd make among the Fair;
Shou'd every Belle be drown'd, that loves a Pair:
And, as for Beaux,—who make no Bones of erring,
They'd fill the Seas, all round, like Shoals of Herring!
A fine Example, truly! don't it move ye?
Were it well follow'd—how 'twou'd ſoon improve ye!
Send ye, in Pairs, to Heav'n, where good Folks Truſt is,
Martyrs, Lord help ye! of Poetic Juſtice!
I, for my Part, had a ſweet Race to run,
I,—not to be a Queen;—muſt be a—Nun!
No, Ladies, have a care oſ that:—The Poet
Belies the Story,—and, thank Heaven! I know it:—
Elfrid was wiſer, and the King was kinder;
Even, in the Convent, he knew how to find her:
He, pious Prince! lov'd Penitence ſo well,
That, oft, he trac'd it to the lonelieſt Cell;
Confeſs'd the Saints Himſelf—bleſs'd Occupation!
Freely beſtow'd his Princely Conſolation;
And eas'd the Father Girards of the Nation.
Nay, tis no laughing Matter—I am ſerious,
I meant no Miſchief, I:—no Hint mysterious!
Ask Hollinſhead;—He'll tell ye, if tis new t'ye,
That Edgar was a Lyon—at Church Duty.
One of His Virtues needs muſt Envy raiſe,
He was the verieſt Patriot, of His Days!
He, not to Maids, alone, thought Pity due,
His will, unwearied, work'd for Husbands, too.
Dependent Princes ſent their Wives, by th' Dozen,
To tax This Bounty of their Royal Cozen!
And Eight dubb'd Monarchs, of his own Creation,
Row'd him, in grateful Triumph, round the Nation.
This being ſo—what does our Author Merit,
Who wrongs a Prince—of ſuch a Publick Spirit!
Hang him, dull Poet!—I'll ſay nothing for him,
In good King Edgar's Quarrel, I abhor him:—
Take him among ye,—and, if e're you'd mend him,
To ſome kind Jeſuit, for new Notions, ſend him.


1. 1

1.1. ACT 1. SCENE 1.

A Rocky Coaſt, without the City of Cheſter.
Athelwold, Elſrid, Edwyn, Men and Women Attendants.
Athelwold, to an Attendant.
BACK to the Boat; caution the Mariners,
When ask'd, what Lady ſhar'd our illtim'd Wreck,
To anſwer, at their Peril, as I taught 'em.
Edwyn.[Exit Attendant.
My Lord?
Haſte, watchful and unmark'd,
Climb that high Path, and, ent'ring my Apartment,
Thro' the cloſe Grove that bounds the Palace Garden,
Warn Egbert to receive us: So ſhall we ſhun
The City's buſy Eye.—Elſrid, my Wife! [Exit Edwyn.
My Hope! my Fear! my Pride! my Soul's ſoft Joy!
Was ever fatal Shipwreek tim'd like ours?
Why kept we not the Sea? Thoſe unſeen Shoals
Had then been left, far diſtant.
[Page 2] Athelwold.
Shame on this Pride
That ſwells the Hearts of Kings!—But that I ſhunn'd
His wide-ſtretch'd Navy, whoſe expanded Wings
Inclos'd you empty Triumph, we had, in Safety,
Held on our Courſe for Lancaſter,—and Edgar,
And Cheſter's dreaded Walls, been paſs'd, unſeen.
Why ſhunn'd you Edgar? You had ſtruck no Shoal,
Had Jealouſy not wreck'd you. Where was the Danger,
Had we, amid the ſhouting Swarms, approach'd
His glitt'ring Barge? that, proud of eight Kings Rowing,
Methought, mov'd, conſcious of her glorious Freight,
And felt her Sovereign's Triumph!
Edgar is young,
Am'rous, impatient, hot as the Summer Sun;
But as the Shadow changing.—Emma, the Siſter
Of Leolyn, my Friend, muſt be his Queen.
That Day once paſt, that Day, now near, my Elſrid,
Trembling no longer, for my Soul's beſt Treaſure,
I ſhall unveil thee to the Eye of Edgar:
Then, in full Luſtre, break upon the Court,
Charm the glad World, and ſwell the Voice of Wonder.
Till then—
Till then, you think, a Woman's Honour
Is ſafeſt when not truſted?—Come, be wiſe;
Laugh at your Sex's Notions, and ſee Truth,
Unprejudic'd by Maxim. You have been taught
That a Man's Caution guards a Woman's Vertue:
Believe me, 'tis an Error.—Wrong'd by the Doubt,
We make that Doubt our Licence, and grow light,
To juſtify Suſpicion.
Of thee not jealous:
I fear the Heart of Edgar: There is a Secret
[Page 3] Which, yet, thou muſt not know!—For all the Glory
Fortune could heap upon a happy Wiſher,
I would not he had ſeen thee.
Why chuſe you then
To lodge me in the Gardens of his Palace?
Safely conceal'd, in my Apartment, there,
While Triumph buſies the tumultuous Court,
Fair as thou art, thou may'ſt remain unknown,
Till ſoon we re-imbark for Lancaſter:
But Fate has driven me under Edgar's Eye,
Nor can I ſhun his Preſence.— [A Shout at diſtance.
The Barge, triumphant,
'Twixt the two ſounding Banks, floats proudly in;
See! the broad Sprinklings from the golden Oars,
Daſh'd, in gay Miſts, againſt the glitt'ring Sun,
Scatter a liquid Lightning!—E're the King lands,
Retire, my Soul's ſoft Charmer. From this Boat,
That foremoſt ſtrikes the Shore, deſcends a Lord,
Wily, ſuſpicious, flatt'ring, baſe, and buſy:
Malice and Fear divide his motley Soul:
Soft'ning Submiſſion dwells on his cool Tongue;
But his Heart burns with Envy.—See! he lands;
Oſwald, the State's Prime Miniſter.—Retire;
He muſt not ſee thee.—Look!—Edwyn attends thy Coming. [Exit, leading Elfrid.
Enter Oſwald, attended.
Away,—away!—Here! Eldred!—Hubert!—Arnold!
Creep you this reptile Pace, when a King's Honour
Hangs on your drowſy Motion!—You to the Hall,
See the Port-Reeve prepar'd to line the Streets,
With his furr'd Gowns and Scarlet.—You to the Caſtle: [Exit firſt Meſſenger.
Say to the Governor, the King lands ſhort,
[Page 4] And means to paſs the Bridge.—Haſte you too, fly; [Exit ſecond Meſſenger.
Bid holy Dunſtan, and his white-rob'd Train,
Throw wide the brazen Gates of the Cathedral.— [Exit third Meſſenger.
All this was well provided for, before;
But 'tis no Fault, to ſeem too diligent,
Where Buſtling goes for Loyalty.—Earl Athelwold!
Re-enter Athelwold.
Fortune befriend your Hopes, my noble Lord,
As ſhe does ours: Who, on a Day like this,
When Sovereign Edgar triumphs like a God!
Brings back his Godlike Fav'rite, to partake
A Splendor, thought imperfect, wanting you.
Oh! 'tis too kind, my Lord, amidſt your Cares,
To waſte this fine Court Rhet'rick, on a Plainneſs
So unadorn'd as mine!—In War's big Pomp,
The King, ſometimes, in the broad Battle's Front,
Finds Athelwold, moſt near him: But, for a Day
So ſafely plum'd as this, a thouſand Feathers,
Loftier and far more gay than mine had been,
Were proud, no doubt, to wave in State about him.
Nay, my good Lord! your Enemies muſt own
Your Valour's ableſt Rival is your Reaſon.
Why will you angle, with too ſhort a Line,
In Depths of cautious Honeſty?—I know you.—
Why will you ſtill, you and your envious Faction,
Bow, to the happy Favourite you hate,
And ſmile your Curſes on me?—Shame on your Meanneſs!
If I deſerve Eſteem, give it, ſincere:
If not, diſdain to court the Man you fear,
And, with brave Truth, renounce me.
Why, thus 'tis, ever!
Diſtruſtful Men but nouriſh new Suſpicions
[Page 5] From the beſt Means we uſe, to quench the old.
Still I am miſconceiv'd.—My Lord! My Lord!
Ill Agents have been buſy.—And here comes one,
Re-enter Edwyn.
Whom Oſwald ſhould avoid.—I'll charm the King
With News of your Return. [Exit Oſwald.
A new-born Love
Is full of ſoft Impatience!—Soon as arriv'd,
I was commanded to return, and preſs you
To ſhorten your meant Abſence.
Is ſhe ſafe?
Egbert is warn'd, ſhou'd the King quit the Crowd,
And but approach the Garden, to conceal her.
Then I will fear
No longer, but expect the King; and meet him
With a mask'd Smile of Innocence.—O Edwyn!
Should Ethelinda know I have married Elfrid,
How wretched would it make her!—Oſwald hates thee:
As if he read our Secret, through thy Heart;
Saw there thy gen'rous Silence, which conceals
My dearſtol'n Night of Joy with that ſoft Charmer.
Who that ſaw both, could think her Neice to Oſwald?
So, my good Lord, would her falſe Servant ſay;
That doubly faithleſs Fair-one, who betray'd
To me her Lady's Honour, yet forſook me!
She wrong'd her Miſtreſs; but ſhe lov'd thee ſurely!
Who, in that Secret, gave up both our Honours,
To thy ſafe Keeping.—But, ſince all was told thee,
'Twere now a fruitleſs Point of proud Reſerve,
With thee, to keep that Silence, which the Favour'd
Shou'd hold, in rev'rence of a Lady's Honour,
As ſacred as his Glory.—Oh! ſuppoſe not,
[Page 6] Becauſe ſhe bleſs'd my Wiſhes, that Ethelinda
Yielded like common Beauties.
'Twas plain, You lov'd her;
For, when her Horſe was drown'd, in Severn's Ford,
You, from your own, leapt, raſh: Thro' the ſwol'n ſtream,
Plung'd on, and ſnatch'd her, ſinking.
True, I lov'd her,
But lov'd her with Deſire: while, in Her Breaſt,
Love, which, at firſt, was gen'rous Gratitude,
Drew all its Warmth from Pity.—Never, never,
Shall I forget, how bliſsfully I won her!
'Twas the dear Night, before this fatal Journey;
I found her, Edwyn, ſunk on her Couch, alone,
Weeping, with am'rous Grief, for coming Abſence:
Looſe and enchanting-negligent her Dreſs;
Faint was her Air; and a kind nameleſs Languor
Sigh'd, in ſhort Heavings, from her ſoften'd Heart;
And every Breath was Tenderneſs and Love!
There, while tranſported, on my trembling Knee,
Bending, I gaz'd, and hung devoutly o'er her,
Raptur'd, and charm'd, I plung'd amidſt Attraction;
Sigh'd on her Eyes; breath'd o'er her panting Boſom,
And ſnatch'd her Soul, unguarded:—Millions of Vows,
Fierce, burning, Vows! of Everlaſting Love,
Tranſport, and Marriage, and Eternal Truth,
Thaw'd her reluctant Vertue to Belief:
Then—in the ſoft Deſire's new Warmth, I preſs'd her,
Till, in the beating Tumult of her Heart,
She gave—ſhe knew not what—nor meant Compliance!
Fortune renounce me, Edwyn, but my Reaſon
Prefers her, even to Elfrid:—My Paſſion did not.
The Love ſhe felt for me, I feel for Elfrid;
And am unwillingly undone—like Her.
A warlike Symplony.
[Page 7] Hark!—the King lands. Th'avenging Hand of Heaven
Points out my Baſeneſs.—How ſhall my guilty Eye
Meet the wrong'd Goodneſs of the Royal Edgar!
How ſhall I skreen the Charms of injur'd Elfrid
From the King's ſight!—What ſhall my bleeding Heart
Say, to loſt Ethelinda?—Yet, Edwyn, find her:
Tell her I come, while every buſy Eye
Hangs on the Pomp, to ſigh my Soul out to her.
Say in the Inmoſt Garden—The Cloſe Walk,
That points upon the Grotto.
Fatal Wreck!
Heaven, that commiſſion'd it, avert my Fears. [Exit Edwyn.
Athelwold, alone.
He comes—I'll walk a Turn behind theſe Rocks;
And gather Firmneſs, to ſuſtain his Eye,
Whom, moſt of Men I love; yet, moſt have wrong'd. [Exit.

1.2. SCENE. II.

Enter Edgar, from the Triumph, atttended by Leolyn, Oſwald, &c.
Cheſter, This Act, to Time's laſt Hour, renowns
Thy Name, with Edgar's. Far, as the bounded World
Gives Space for Fame to breathe in, ſhall be ſpread
The Boaſt of this Day's Triumph.—Yet, Thou ſay'ſt,
Nations, whoſe Names lie deep, in unborn Time,
Will riſe, and cenſure, and miſtake our Purpoſe.
Many will judge amiſs, and call it Inſult.
I know it, and deſpiſe it. My freed Soul
Then, ſtript of her Encumb'rance, mounting ſtrong,
[Page 8] Shall riſe, above Ambition; nor hold Fame
By the faint Tenure of weak mortal Praiſe:
But from the Partners of her bright Enlargement!
Spirits! that judge unprejudic'd, and move
Unbounded, and, in Millions, fill thoſe Voids,
Which Thought ev'n akes, to gueſs at!
The Forms of Homage
Differ, with Sovereign's Wills: yet are but Forms.
Kings ſuffer not by Seemings; if they did,
The Shame, that follows Inſult, wou'd cut double,
And wound the Wounder deepeſt.
Nobly ſpoke!
Spoke like the Friend of Edgar, and of Athelwold!
Malignant Envy will not dare misjudge
The Virtues of our Monarch. Rais'd to this Height,
Our Wiſhes are outſtript; and all our Task
Is, to receive, and wonder at, our Bleſſings!
No Flattery, Oſwald.—Tis my nobleſt Pride
To have deſerv'd Applauſe: To liſten to it
Sullies the conſcious Glory.—Athelwold!—
Re-enter Athelwold.
Friend, of my Soul! my Life's beſt ſelf! my, Light!
My every Wiſh at once, and every Bleſſing!
Athelwold, kneeling.
My Gracious, partial, Sovereign!
Riſe—nor diſtreſs me,
With this vain Ceremony. Bow, but to Heaven,
That made thee not a King, to make thee more;
And ſtampt thy Soul divinely!—Cornwall's Daughter,
I find, deſerv'd not, I ſo long ſhou'd loſe thee.
All thy long Letters, welcome, as they were,
Brought me no Hope from Elſrid: Fame, it ſeems,
Deceiv'd us, and had flatter'd her.
[Page 9] Athelwold.
She's Fair:
But never cou'd have been that ſtriking Charmer,
So found and loſt at once. She flames not out
With That ſtrong Blaze of Charms; that living Fire!
That burns, unquench'd, upon your Royal Memory.
No, Athelwold;—I ſee, I hear, ſhe cannot.
Elſe, had thy Eyes catch'd Fire, and ſtream'd it on me.
Elſe, had thy labouring Heart, oppreſs'd with Meaning,
Shook, like an Earthquake, in Diſcharge of Paſſion.—
Thou art a cold Deſcriber!—Oh!—the Day!
The dear, remember'd Day! when, at the Altar,
Where, in Thankſgiving, I had bow'd to Heav'n,
Heav'n ſeem'd deſcending on me!—My rais'd Eye
Met her flaſh'd Charms, amidſt a gazing Crowd,
Who, from the Scaffolded Cathedral's Sides,
Pour'd their bold Looks upon me: Greatneſs, and Languor,
Flow'd, in a ſoften'd Radiance, from her Mien,
And kindled every Shrine, with new Divinity!
Sweetneſs ſat ſmiling, on her humid Eye-balls:
And light-wing'd Fancy danc'd and flam'd about her!
Scarce were the ſolemn Duties of the Place
Remember'd, while I ſaw her!—At laſt—with Pain,—
Slow—dragging my reluctant Eyes away.
I loſt her;—e're Religion licens'd Love
To ſteal a ſecond Wonder.
Strange! that ſince then,
Inquiry ſhou'd have toil'd in vain to find her!
One wou'd have thought, the Light that paints the World,
Might have been loſt, as poſſibly as hers!
But, ſince all Search is vain, and far-fam'd Elſrid
[Page 10] Fails my laſt Hope, I will redeem my Heart,
And quench the blazing Image.—Danger, and Arms,
Shall fright the trembling Softneſs from my Soul.
I will reſume War's Thunder.—Athelwold!— Leolyn!—
Help me to conquer: Wake me again to Glory:
Tear me from Love,—and guide me to Renown. [Trumpets without.
Hark!—They move on.—Stay;—Friends have much to ſpeak of.
Anon, we meet again.— [Exit Edgar, follow'd by Oſwald, &c.
Prince Leolyn,
You had a warlike, tho' unhappy, Father.
Yon rugged Hills have eccho'd with his Glory.
But, that his laſt too fatal Raſhneſs forfeited
Half Wales, your Patrimony, Edgar bluſhing,
Muſt have remember'd, when He ſpoke of Love,
You have a Siſter's claim.
Emma, my Lord,
Was then a Sovereign's Daughter: now, ſhe is ſunk,
To Siſter of a Subject. Time was, when Edgar,
Short of his preſent Fortune, weigh'd my Daring;
And vow'd, my Siſter ſhou'd partake his Throne:
He ſees me, now, grown tame: an humble suff'rer!
And, while he holds my Lands, neglects my Blood;
And boaſts another Love, to ſhame my Patience.
Hope better from him. The King's Heart is Noble:
And his paſt Promiſe ſacred. Paſſion's Tide
Bears him a-ſlant, and muſt, a while, have Way.
Unite your means with mine: my Fate requires
Your Siſter ſhou'd be Queen. Urge Rights of Faith,
And leave th'Event to me.
I can urge nothing.
Let me conſeſs, that Love, the ſmiling Ruin,
[Page 11] Love! has unman'd me, till my ſoften'd Heart
Wants ev'n the Will to murmur.—Ethelinda,
The gentle Ethelinda! fills my Soul.
Why ſtart you at her Name? why have you ſhunn'd
To urge her Pity, in your Friend's Behalf?
You ſav'd her Life, and muſt have Int'reſt in Her,
To aid a Lover's Wiſhes.
Oh! Friendſhip! Friendſhip!
To what wilt thou reduce me!
I doubt not Friendſhip.
I ſpeak of Love—my Love to Ethelinda.
Be wiſe, and think no more of Ethelinda.
Bid me not live, and I'll obey you gladly.
But, when you bid me ceaſe to think of Her,
You bid me live to Senſe of all Death's Pains,
And die to all Life's Comforts.
How deaf is Paſſion!
You muſt not think of Ethelinda.
I muſt not?
Unleſs you ceaſe to preſ my Aid, you muſt not.
Great is your Power, 'tis true, and no where Greater
Than in the Breaſt of Leolyn.—Yet, ſure!
A Prohibition, of ſuch fatal Weight,
Owes your Friend's Ear ſome Reaſon?
I have no Reaſon.
Ruin and Fate break in upon my Schemes,
And plunge me in Confuſion.
Ruin and Fate!
Schemes and Confuſion!—This Diſorder proves,
[Page 12] What I've long fear'd, that where I hop'd a Friend,
I fir'd a Rival's Jealouſy.
You wrong me, Prince:
Widely, you wrong me!
Oh!—Grant, Heaven, I may!—
Eaſe my Impatience, quickly then, and ſay,
Whence that Confuſion roſe?
From you; from you:
From Ethelinda, Friendſhip, Honour, Pity:
Spare me the Torment of a plainer Reaſon,
And, truſt my Faith, there is one.
Is one?—Ha!
What plainer Reaſon?—Periſh all my Hopes
Unpitied,—Let my hated Name be blotted
From every Liſt of Honeſty and Fame,
If I renounce not Athelwold's falſe Friendſhip,
And, from this Moment, hold him for my Foe,
Till he diſcloſes this pretended Secret,
That my Heart ſprings to ſnatch at.
Hot Leolyn!
Raſh, headſtrong Man!—Now, by th'eternal Power!
By Heaven's all-dreaded Throne! thou ſhalt not.—
Shall not! What!
Not marry Ethelinda?
Impatient Leolyn!
Why doſt thou interrupt me?—
Impatient, ſaid'ſt thou?
I am Froſt, Rock, Ice, Adamant!—Perdition!
Impatient? I am an Anvil.—Shall not marry her?
I ſee you mov'd,—and bleed with Pity for you.
You ſaid I was your Rival: Hear me, raſh Man!
[Page 13] For I will ſhame Suſpicion, by a Truſt
Your Levity deſerves not.—Am I thy Rival?—
Take then this Secret from me: Yes, Leolyn,
Woman and Love have made a Traitor of me.
I have, indeed, been falſe; but not to thee:
I have deceiv'd the King,—have married Elſrid;
And found her Beauty more than Fame had ſpoke her.
This known, deſtroys me: Yet ev'n this I tell,
To eaſe the throbbing Doubt of thy fond Heart.
Eaſe! what! whom!—ſaid'ſt thou not that Ethelinda
Muſt not be mine? that Ethelmda ſhall not?
And, while Life trembles at it, thou wouldſt ſooth me
With a ſlight Tale of Elſrid!—Why doſt thou trifle with me?
Or doſt thou know, for, by my Heart's loſt Hope,
Thou ſeem'ſt to mean it,—ſome black ſecret Story
That her fair Fame is touch'd by?—Ha!—by that Heaven
That doom'd me, from my Birth, to Wrongs and Shame!
Thou haſt thyſelf betray'd my Ethelinda!
My tortur'd Mem'ry recollects your Looks,
Her Bluthes, your Confuſion, when by chance
My Entrance has diſturb'd your Privacies,
With an unwiſh'd Intruſion.—Oh! 'tis plain,
Thou haſt deſtroy'd my Peace: Thou haſt poſſeſs'd her.
Thou!—Thou!—thy guilty Silence owns it; proves it.
Was it not ſo?—Say; anſwer me;—ſpeak; tell me?
Mad, as the Winds in Tempeſt!—till thou cool'ſt
I will not anſwer thee.
Leolyn, drawing his Sword.
Curſe on my Life's beſt Wiſhes,
If I not force the Secret from thy Heart,
Or drown it in thy Blood.
Away, light Threat'ner!—
'Twas Friendſhip's undeſerv'd and gen'rous Delicacy,
[Page 14] That, in a tender and unguarded Moment,
Has wak'd a Jealouſy, that will diſtract thee.—
Honour, forgive me, if, too nicely urg'd,
I ſeem to wrong thy Laws!—and tell this Madman,
I have myſelf a Claim to Ethelinda,
That blots out his, for ever.
Married to Elfrid!
And yet a Claim to Ethelinda too,
That blots out mine!—Die, and be dumb for ever,
Thou lying, babling Traitor.
Nay, then,
Defend thyſelf, raſh Boaſter. They fight, Leolyn is diſarm'd.
Enter Oſwald, with a Guard.
Shame, my good Lords!
Shame on this ſudden Boldneſs of Diſpute,
So near the Royal Preſence!—At the Hill's Foot
Your Warmth alarm'd the King, and he requires
Your Preſence, Prince.
Oh! that the King's Command
Were kind enough but to indulge the Death
Proud Athelwold deſpis'd the Power of giving me! Exit, with Oſwald and Guards.
Athelwold alone.
Why hop'd I Peace, who had declin'd from Virtue!
The Innocent alone act ſteadily;
The Guilty can but mean it.—O Ethelinda!—
In the dark Race of Vice, when once begun,
We ſtart on Miſchiefs we moſt wiſh to ſhun:
Puſh'd by the Fate of Guilt, and thence accurs'd,
New Crimes grow needful, to ſupport the firſt;
Till, from Diſhonour, we to Ruin fall,
And one disjointed Virtue looſens all. Exit.
The End of the Firſt ACT.

2. 2

[Page 15]


A Grove, in the Palace Garden.
Athelwold, Ethelinda.
ALL this is falſe in Reaſon; but your Eloquence,
Proud of its Power, provokes you to offend,
That you may force Forgiveneſs.—Was it not cold,
Too cold for Love, in all this cruel Length
Of chearleſs Abſence, when your dang'rous Charge too,
Was but to gaze on Beauty, never to write?
Never to bid me hope, the much-fear'd Elfrid
Had left your Heart ſtill partial to my Fondneſs?
A Fondneſs that deſtroy'd me! Turn your Eyes from me;
—They look as they'd reproach me: Do not ſee me,
But tell me why you made ſuch ſpeed to leave me?
Had you but ſtaid, to add one Hour of Peace
To thoſe of guilty Softneſs; Had I been yours;
Your Wife, that fatal Morning, you do not know
What Tears it wou'd have ſav'd me.
Oh! ſpeak no more;
Your Words are wing'd with Fire; they pierce my Soul:
They enter, and burn in me!—Oſt have I trembled,
As I do now, when Rev'rence and Deſire,
Shot from thoſe Angel Eyes, have warr'd within me:
Yet never was I thus diſtreſs'd, before!
[Page 16] Ethelinda.
That you are gen'rous, my fond Heart confeſſes;
Elſe, how deſtroy'd a Wretch were Ethelinda!
If, like the Baſe among your Sex, you ſhunn'd me,
Nor pitied the kind Weakneſs that betray'd me,
But added Shame to Guilt, and grew inconſtant,
And left me, for another; Save me, ye Saints!
To what a dreadful Depth of ſtartling Miſery
Had my loſt Honour plung'd me!
Grac'd, as you are,
With artleſs Vertue, and unconſcious Beauty,
Strengthen'd with Wiſdom, ſanctified by Truth,
And ſainted o'er with Sweetneſs!—Tho' your Voice
Is tun'd to Tranſport, and each melting Accent
Shakes to my Soul, and ſwells Deſpair, to Muſick;
Yet is there ſomething ſo diſorder'd, here,
That I ev'n wiſh thee ſilent!—Thy ſoft Words,
Moving, and warm, and gentle as thy Boſom,
Strike me, like Death, when his eternal Froſt
Creeps, in cold Anguiſh, o'er us!
Oh! my kind Lord!
To feel this wondrous Extaſy, for me!
This nobleſt, tend'reſt, Mark of mournful Paſſion!
Is ſuch a ſweet Atonement ſor my Tears,
That I could weep for ever.—Be it my Glory,
My Duty's Pride, and my full Heart's chief Joy,
To give unbounded Love, in ſoft Exchange,
For your indulg'd Endcarment.—Let me not live,
If I prefer not that dear Name, your Wife,
To all thoſe empty Sounds, thoſe titled Nothings,
Which Edgar treaſures for his unknown Queen!
—My Lord!—you ſtart;—and tremble, and look pale!
Come;—this quick Senſe of Gratitude and Love
Works too intenſe, and I muſt chide you for it.
[Page 17] Athelwold.
It is too much:—And Honour and Humanity
Diſclaim the brutal Heart that cou'd bear this,
And be leſs mov'd than I am.—Curſe on the wild,
The boundleſs Luxury of wanton Love!
What have I loſt! What am I doom'd to ſuffer!
Who cou'd heap Suff'rings here!
Suff'rings, my Lord!
And wanton Love?—What Love?—Whoſe Sufferings?
Mine, mine, thou injur'd Truth!—who cou'd name wanton,
And mix a Thought of thee?
But you nam'd Suff'rings!
What Lover lives without 'em?
A Lover's Sufferings
Once paſt, give preſent Joys a livelier Reliſh:
The ſacred Tie that firms a Wife's foſt Claim,
Will free pain'd Mem'ry from the Bluſh of Weakneſs.
Athelwold aſide.
How mean is Guilt, that it muſt bow the Heart
To Falſhood and Diſguiſe!—New in Diſſembling,
I ſhall betray my Grief, and ſhame my Art.—
—The Suff'ring that I meant, my Ethelinda,
Was, that an ill-tim'd Chance, a while, with-holds
Our Hands: But what are nuptial Forms, to Love!
Prince Leolyn, my Friend,—alas! he loves you;
Loves you, my Soul's ſweet Pain, to ſuch Exceſs,
That his Life hangs but on his Hope of you!
Jealous, he dies with Fear, that I am now
His Rival in your Love:—what will he feel
When I am own'd your Choice!—May not your Pity
[Page 18] Indulge Appearance, for my Friend's wiſh'd Eaſe,
Till Time, or Accident, gives means to ſave him?
Mean while.—
What wou'd you do, mean while, my Lord?
You wou'd not ſure! that I receive him? hear him?
That were too much. It might, perhaps, ſuffice,
Shou'd I, more rarely, and with Caution, ſeek
The Bleſſing of your Preſence.
My Lord! my Lord!
You are detected.—My taught Heart, at length,
Blind as Love made it, ſees your Baſeneſs through;
And burns with Shame; and burſts with Indignation.
This poor Deceit was form'd, but to evade
My due Repair of Honour. 'Twas the word Wife,
That made this ſudden Politician of you!—
Soften thoſe angry Eyes, which ſparkle on me.
—Away,—nor bring Contagion to my Soul.
—Oh! what a dreadful Change in my poor Heart
Has one weak Moment made!—ſcorn'd, like the Vile,
Diſhonour'd, infamous, deſpis'd, for ever,
I muſt become a Wanderer round the World;
Meet Cold—and Hunger,—Poverty and Shame;
Anguiſh and Inſult.—Better, all, than Man!
The faithleſs Murd'rer, Man!—What am I doom'd to?
Whom have I truſted! Oh! revenging Heav'n!
See my Diſtreſs, and puniſh me with more;
I cannot be too wretched.—Begone, Deceiver.
I wou'd not curſe thee.—I will not wiſh thee Pain:
But, never, never, let me ſee thee more.
Be not tranſported thus.—
[Page 19] Ethelinda.
Inſolent Coldneſs!
But I deſerve it all.—My Fairy Dream
Muſt laſt no longer, and I wake, to Woe.
The pleaſing Folly ſinks; and, in its Room,
Riſe Penitence, and Scorn, and laſting Pain.
Now, now, the ſhifting Scene makes haſte to change!
Now, now, comes on the Race of Shame, and Grief,
Which every Woman is condemn'd to run,
Who truſts her Honour to betraying Man!—
Yet, every Woman, where ſhe loves, believes;
Tho', not to doubt, is thus to be undone!
Oh! what a Diff'rence, 'twixt the Calms of Vertue,
And theſe heart-rending Pangs of Guilt, and Shame!
Far has your fatal Journey out-gone all
That my ſlow Fears forboded!—Theſe are the Joys,
The Sweets, the Tranſports, the Eternal Rounds
Of Love, and Tenderneſs, and Gratitude,
Which were to charm away my ſenſe of Ruin!—
O Woman! Woman!—What is Vanity!
What is Belief, that, tho' a Thouſand fall,
We ſhall Conquer, and ſtill hold our Conqueſts!
By the ſweet Mem'ry of that deareſt Night!
Curſe on th' ill-choſen Oath!—All, you can ſwear
By That, will be as falſe and baſe as you are.
Looſen your hated Hold:—I will not hear you.
Cou'd you ſay hated?
Off—By the Eye of Heaven,
That ſaw my Faith betray'd, not all thy Arts
Shall ſooth me to forgive thee.—Away.—Be gone.
Look yonder!—
By all my Hopes of Peace, your Uncle Oſwald,
[Page 20] And Leolyn, in Conf'rence!—Oh! think.—Recover
Your ſcatter'd Spirits; and, round the neighb'ring Grot,
Let us take diff'rent Walks, and ſhun their Eye.
When next I ſee thee, may my Woes!
Oh! hold.—
That Oath wou'd kill me.—Why do you tremble thus?
Shall we not meet again?
Once—and no more,
Till in Eternity.
An Hour hence, here. [Exeunt ſeverally.

2.2. SCENE II.

Enter Oſwald, and Leolyn.
What! and was this your doughty Cauſe of Quarrel,
Becauſe he boaſts to have won from Ethelinda,
That Woman's Toy you ſigh for?
I wiſh, indeed:
But cannot wiſh diſhonourably.
That is,
You wou'd not tell, as he does:—why that's generous!
Honour, in Love, is ſilence.—But two ſuch Friends
As you and Athelwold, cannot, methinks,
Have fought an am'rous Quarrel.—Your Rival's Thoughts
Are fill'd with high State Projects? ſomething like Jealouſy
[Page 21] Of Truſt ſuppos'd betray'd?—ſome Plot? ſome Schemings?
Some Aim your Caution ſtarted at? or which
Your Oath to Edgar check'd your wiſh'd Aſſent to?
Something like this, no doubt, provok'd proud
No matter.—Fear him not. Oſwald has Power:
And can procure you the King's Thanks, perhaps,
Ev'n againſt favour'd Athelwold.—As for his Tale
Of Ethelinda; Women are paſſive Agents;
And, when Love prompts them, can out-ſuffer Martyrs.
I wou'd not ſwear he wrongs her: yet I think ſo.
Believe him not, till I have ſounded her.
Half Wales, with Leolyn, a Prince reſtor'd,
Shou'd pleaſe a Woman, better than Earl Athelwold,
A Traitor, fall'n from Power.—Was it not thus?
Speak frankly to your Miſtreſs's Diſpoſer,
And let Her thank your Loyalty.
Lord Oſwald,
I am unpractis'd in the Arts of Court;
And my free Thoughts range open as my Eye-balls.
Wrong'd as I am by Athelwold, my Heart
Diſdains to hide his Virtues.—He may have wiſhes:
He may deceive, in Love, but not in Loyalty.
A brave Man cannot ſerve a Prince, and wrong him.
Nobly remark'd.—In Faith your Honour charms me!
We live in dang'rous Times, and Men muſt learn
To try the Boſoms they wou'd truſt their Peace in:
What ſudden Ruin might not careleſs Innocence
Draw on a great Man's Fortune?—Had I unwarily
Eſpous'd your Int'reſt, e're my Art had pois'd
Your hop'd Fidelity, I had not known you!
Now, all that Ethelinda holds is yours
But what's already Athelwold's.
By Heav'n!
I cannot bear th' inſinuated Guilt.
[Page 22] The ſhadowy doubt diſtracts my tingling Heart;
And I cou'd kill thee, but for trifling on it.
Kind, temp'rate, Madman!—Take my Thanks, ſo due
To your indulg'd Forbearance.—By good Saint Auſtin!
Theſe Lovers are the wildeſt of all Lunaticks;
Their Ravings have no Intervals!—But ſee,
Your ſmiling Stars have ſent your Miſtreſs hither;
That Madneſs may be match'd, and ſooth'd with Folly.
Oh! my full Heart!—Tis ſhe.—
Thou finiſh'd Lover!
Come—Hear me charge her, for thee.—So, Ethelinda!
Enter Ethelinda.
Alone? and Cheeks thus roſy!—One wou'd have ſworn,
The Sun, as lively as He looks to day,
Had wanted warmth, without a Lover's Aid,
To light up that Carnation!
I meant, my Lord,
To have left the Garden—But miſtook the Walk,
I know not how—I found the Inner Door
Faſt lock'd—So came about, this ſhadier Way.
You ſeem confus'd, methinks?
But warm, my Lord.
'Tis a good Omen to a Lover's Hopes,
That you bring Warmth about you.—Prince Leolyn
Has ſigh'd a thouſand Raptures, in your Praiſe,
And, that he loves you truly, take this Mark;
Elſewhere he's Eloquent—Dumb in your Company:
And never look'd ſo like the Thing he is not,
As you now ſee him.
[Page 23] Leolyn.
Oh! judge not of my Pain,
By this too light Deſcription.—Did not ſoft Termblings
Seize on my Tongue, I cou'd have told my Paſſion,
In words, that humbler Truths have taught to ſpeak it.
'Tis yours, my Lord, by Priviledge of Blood,
To treat me without Ceremony.—But—Sir!
If you wou'd have me think, you really love,
Swear but to grant the firſt Requeſt I make,
And I ſhall wiſh you happy.
I ſwear, with Tranſport.
This moment leave me, then, nor ever more,
Speak of your hopeleſs Paſſion. [Exit Leolyn, bowing.
I did not think that thou had'ſt half this Brav'ry;
Nor knew thee for a Heroine!—why, what a Pity!
This well-tim'd Fierceneſs, this high Flaſh of Spirit,
Met not the ſame deſerv'd ſucceſs, as now,
When try'd againſt Earl Athelwold!
Againſt Earl Athelwold?
Againſt him, for him, on him, or about him.
I am not nice, in Women's Rhetorick:—
If I muſt ſpeak it plainer, it had been well
You had defended your loſt Honour, there,
As, here, your peeviſh Pride.—Come, come,—I know you!
Theſe Secrets keep not long, in our Court Air:
Already 'tis the Whiſper of the Drawing-Room;
And by To-morrow the King's Grooms will have it.
What have I liv'd to hear!—Is it, my Lord,
A wonder that I tremble?—Who? what bold Villain,
[Page 24] Has gather'd Malice, from the Forge of Hell,
To charge this Flaſhood on me?
Why, thou woud'ſt call him,
No Doubt, Sweet Athelwold!—Ay, ſtare,—no matter.
When next you meet, my Honour againſt yours,
Great odds, as Things go now! He'll be forgiven.
Did Athelwold, the ſoft, the gen'rous Athelwold!
Say This, of Ethelinda?
Say it?—He ſings it;
Boaſts it, proclaims it.—Nay, within this Hour,
Hung it on his Sword's Point, and held it out,
To clear the love-dim'd Eyes of Leolyn.
Oh!—ill-known Athelwold!
Where ſhall afflicted Ruin reſt conceal'd.
If in a Breaſt like thine it finds no ſhelter?
Only forbear to curſe me.—I do not kneel
In Hope of fruitleſs Pardon.—Infamy,
And Scorn, and Want, and Shame, are light Revenge,
To what I feel, within me!—Conſcious Remorſe,
And Rage, at my own Weakneſs, plunge Deſpair,
And Agony, and Madneſs, thro' my Breaſt;
And I thou'd be a Slave, if I cou'd wiſh
To live, and let the Sun's broad Eye look on me.
Riſe, Ethelinda,—and hide thee in thy Chamber:
There, as thou can'ſt, be comforted.—Anon
I will conſider, with thee, what is due
To Pity, what to Honour.—In yon croſs Walk
Of meeting Sycamores, or my Eyes cheat me,
Or I diſeem the King!—Tis he!—Begone. [Exit Ethelinda.
What brings him hither, at a Time like this?
His ſt [...] more haſty too, and his rais'd Look
More ardent, and intent, than I have ſeen it!
[Page 25] Enter Edgar.
Oſwald!—where is ſhe?—paſs'd ſhe not this Way?
Who? Gracious Sovereign!
She,—the only She:—
Star of my Hope! The Phantom of Deſire!
The Power! that, thro' my Eyes, ruſh'd on my Soul,
And reigns, unnam'd, within me!—Mounted, but now,
I led the ſhouting Thouſands ſlowly on:
Rounding the Hill, beneath the terraſs'd Garden,
There, from above, her Angel Form look'd over,
And beam'd Amazement on me.—As once, in Arms,
Thou did'ſt behold me, like the Lightning's Flaſh,
Shoot from my Saddle, to the Aid of Athelwold,
Diſmounted, and in Danger; ſuch was the Fire
With which I leapt, from my wide-ſtarting Horſe,
That ſide-long fled my Shadow! Low on the Ground,
I knelt, and gaz'd up at her!—The ſudden Stop
Spread an Alarm thro'out; and the check'd Triumph
Halted, in ſhort Confuſion.—This, when ſhe ſaw,
Surpriz'd, ſhe darted inward from my Sight,
And left Deſpair behind her!
Was it now,
My Ever-gracious Lord?
This Inſtant; now.
Bleſt by unuſual Chance, a private Key
Gave me ſwift Entrance, thro' the Poſtern Door,
To ſeek her, in the Garden.—Am I awake!
Enter Elfrid.
Look! Oſwald, look!—Again, the ſhining Viſion
Breaks on my glowing Eyes!—Thou Pride of Day-light!
Thou faireſt, lovelieſt, nobleſt Work of Nature!
If thou art mortal, as my beating Heart,
[Page 26] And my fierce Wiſhes promiſe, how have I loſt thee?
Where is the Happy Corner of the World,
That cou'd, thus long, conceal thee?
Elfrid aſide.
Again, the King!—
Such was the conqu'ring, the commanding Softneſs,
With which he knelt, at the remember'd Altar,
Whence my long Woes took Date!—Sir,—is it generous,
With this light Freedom of licentious Raillery,
To ſhock a Stranger's Modeſty?
Be dumb.— [Exit Oſwald.
Why have thoſe piercing Eyes ſo ill diſtinguiſh'd
The Rev'rence of my Ardour?—Licence and Freedom
Wou'd, in your Preſence, be diſſolv'd to Awe,
And flow in Sighs to ſoften you.—This Hand!
Oh! give it me,—and I will ſwear upon it,
That my charm'd Spirits never roſe, till now,
In ſuch a Tide of Extacy!—That Heaven
Has left your Sex in ſhade, to light up you,
With every Grace that ſwells Deſire in Mortals;
Or gives your Guardian Angel Pride to view you!
What am I doing? Whither am I drawn?
Oh the too charming, the perſuaſive Speaker!
I feel his powerful Voice, in every Vein,
As if my Heart expected, and confeſs'd him.
Sir!—if a Woman, flatter'd thus agreeably,
Can judge unprejudic'd, you ſeem of Birth,
Of Honour, and of high Accompliſhment:
I cannot therefore doubt, that when I tell you
Earl Athelwold protects me, you will forbear
To preſs upon the Solitude I ſeek,
And, for his ſake, regard me.
[Page 27] Edgar.
If Athelwold
Protects you, I am Athelwold's Protector;
And you are doubly ſafe.—
Perhaps, my Sovereign!—
Forgive an Ign'rance, that cou'd ſee and hear you,
Yet waited, to be told, you were a King.
Heaven has diffus'd around your ſpeaking Air
A Glow of Majeſty, that marks you Royal.
I ſhou'd have knelt, before, and paid this Duty,
Undoubting that I ow'd it.
Riſe—dear Divinity!
And charm me with the ſweet, the heav'nly, Name
You muſt be worſhipp'd by?—You ſaid that Athelwold
Was your Protector: Are you of his Blood?
Nothing but that can make him dearer to me!
Ask me not, what I muſt of Force conceal,
And ſhou'd have more conceal'd, but my Surprize
Drew it unpurpos'd from me. There is a Reaſon,
A pow'rful Reaſon! why I muſt inſiſt
You ſuffer me to leave you: my Stay wou'd ruin me.
If you have ever felt an am'rous Tenderneſs,
And have not feign'd it now, you will not wiſh
To make a Woman wretched.—I dare no more
Than this—You cannot love, if you detain me.
Riddles and Torture!—my charm'd Soul is fill'd
With unſpoke Meanings for an Age to come,
And you are meaſuring Moments!
Are you a King?
Is it your Right to rule?—Command your Paſſion.—
There is a Liberty, that dwells with Love,
[Page 28] Too brave for forc'd Submiſſion.—Stir not to follow me:
For, if you do, by all that's holy here,
And dreadful in Eternity! I ſwear,
I will be loſt for ever. [Exit Elfrid.
The conſcious Grandeur of her inborn Pride
Inflames her, for a Queen! Aw'd by her Frown,
I ſtood, inſenſible, and unreſolv'd,
Nor knew that I obey'd her.—How blind is Love!
Who wou'd have hop'd, this Soft'ner of my Soul,
While Athelwold was wand'ring in her ſearch,
Was of the Blood, and in the Houſe, of Athelwold.
In vain proud Man, with buſy Blindneſs, ſtrives:
And, thro' long Mazes, each dark Purpoſe drives.
Loſt, on the Depth of Heaven's unſounded Will,
We ſtill float doubtful, yet are active ſtill:
Unwearied with Miſtakes, err on, content,
And deviate into Bleſſings, never meant.
End of the Second ACT.

3. 3

[Page 29]

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.
My Spirit,
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.
[Page 30] 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.
[Page 31] Leolyn.
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!
'Tis Prophecy!
And happily foretels the long-wiſh'd Downfal
Of our State Column.—This Atlas Athelwold!
[Page 32] 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.
Who is another's?
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?
Sir,—a Prince,
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;
[Page 33] 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.
Gracious Sovereign!
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
Of Atheldwold?
Prince Leolyn aſſerts,
That he has married the fam'd Weſtern Beauty,
And has deſcrib'd her falſly.
Edgar, after a Pauſe.
Malicious Ignorance!
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,
[Page 34] 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?
To-morrow, Sir,
Had been too late: For, when your Heart is fill'd
With Elfrid, and with Rapture, how ſhould I hope
[Page 35] 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.
'Tis well:
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.—
[Page 36] Oſwald.
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.—
Athelwold, drawing.
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!
[Page 37] Athelwold.
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.
[Page 38] Athelwold.
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.
Alas! Alas!
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
[Page 39] 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.
Leolyn, drawing.
Yes—That has done it:
Now, thou haſt freed me, from all fond Reluctance,
And ſanctified the Will, that ſinn'd before. [They fight.
Oſwald, without.
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.
For Liberty!
Oh! doubt it not.—By Heaven it ſhall be thine:
[Page 40] 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.
Enter Oſwald.
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.
[Page 41] Ethelinda.
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,
[Page 42] 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.
Oh! Ethelinda!—
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:
[Page 43] 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.
Go on.—
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 Words,
Thy Looks, diſorder'd, and thy trembling Frame,
[Page 44] 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.]
Edgar. [without.]
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—
[Page 45] Edgar.
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.
Royal Sir!
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.
Athelwold. [aſide.]
Whither will Fortune drag me?—I am diſcover'd,
And he but puts on Joy, to ſhame my Ruin
With the Contempt of Eaſineſs.
Yes, Athelwold,
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.
End of the Third Act.

4. ACT IV.

[Page 46]

4.1. SCENE: Athelwold's Apartment.

Elfrid, and a Lady.
WHAT does her Coming mean?—He could not ſend her.
Of what Diſtinction ſeems ſhe?
In her Deportment,
Awfully ſad, or proudly angry, Madam.
I ſaw her from the Window. She ſeems much mov'd,
And carries, in her Face, a kind of War,
Of Sorrow, againſt Pride; that ſhades, yet ſoftens
The Rigour of her Beauty; as I have ſeen
A hovering Cloud obſcure too fierce a Sun,
And make his Influence ſweeter.—Said ſhe, my Lord
Commiſſioned her to ſee me.—
Madam, ſhe did;
On ſudden Buſineſs, of the utmoſt Conſequence,
To your own Peace, and his.
Look!—what Impatience!
She ſtays not your Return.—Wait, within Call. [Exit Lady.
Enter Ethelinda.
I thought myſelf ſo much a Stranger, here,
That I receive you, Madam, in Surprize,
[Page 47] I may have Cauſe to bluſh at, when I've learnt
To whom I owe this Favour.
You owe it, Madam,
To the too liberal Will of one, whoſe Favours
More of your Sex, than you, have been oblig'd to.
So kind a Purpoſer, as Athelwold,
Means much, he leaves imperfect.—You had rather
He ſhould have come, his own Ambaſſador,
Than ſent a Repreſenter, ſuch as I am;
Unqualified to ſmooth your angry Brow,
That frowns cold Welcome at me.
I frown, indeed!
To hear the Name of Athelwold pronounc'd
With this familiar Licence!—Sure! You know him
With more than common Intimacy, Madam,
Who treat him with this Frankneſs?
If to have been his Intimate,
May licence Frankneſs toward him, the Court has Claimers,
Who can diſpute their Title to your Lover,
By Rights, of longer Date, and juſter Tenure,
Than thoſe you hold him by.
Your Pardon, Madam,
I find, I was miſtaken in your Purpoſe;
But 'twas my Woman's Error. She inform'd me,
You came from Athelwold. Had ſhe ſaid for him,
I ſhould have better known with what Reſpect
To entertain your Viſit.—On my Word,
He was unkind, to give a Lady Pain,
Who loſt him thus reluctantly.—You watch
His firſt Return to Court, with Eye, too keen,
To be ſo coldly look'd at.
Though he told me,
His Roof conceal'd a Witneſs of his Guilt,
[Page 48] I took you for a Shadow. But, I perceive,
His Falſhood may be truſted, when he ſpeaks
Of his own Baſeneſs.—Think me not abrupt.—
If Oaths had Power to bind, he ſhould be mine.
Triumphant in the proſperous Pride of Beauty,
Your eaſy Scorn inſults the Miſerable,
Unconſcious of their Anguiſh.—Senſe of loſt Peace,
Perhaps, tranſported an afflicted Heart,
And I appear'd too warm.—
I ſhall no more invade your wiſh'd Repoſe;
All I would ask is—Pardon the dreadful Queſtion,
Are you the Wife of Athelwold?
The Wife!
What Right of Claim could he preſume, to Me,
But what that Title gave him?
Farewell—for ever.
Kneel, and pray Heaven, to whoſe indulgent Hand
You owe Attraction, to increaſe, and guard it;
Elſe will your deſtin'd Ruin ſoon inſtruct you,
That he, who, tempted by your Charms, betray'd
His Heart's vow'd Miſtreſs, and deceiv'd his King,
Will, for ſome new Temptation, give up you,
And leave you ſubject to another's Pity,
As I am, now, to yours.
Stay, Madam, ſtay.
You have alarm'd me, to my inmoſt Soul;
And I adjure you, as you hope Return
Of your departed Peace, not to go hence,
Till you explain the fatal Myſtery,
Which your laſt Words were fill'd with.—
The Part I bear
In the black Meaning, my ſad Soul determines
To feel in Silence, till I ſhake it off,
To Diſtance, whence it can return no more.
[Page 49] —For you, the King, who ſent this truſted Favourite,
To court you to the Bed of Royal Edgar,
Not that of Athelwold,—The King, thus wrong'd,
Will puniſh your falſe Lover, with Revenge,
Which, amidſt all my Agonies, I dread;
And tremble for his Woes, who has deſtroyed me.
O my foreboding Heart!—A thouſand Wonders,
A thouſand Myſteries, at once reveal'd,
Come ruſhing on my Memory!—Now, Athelwold,
No longer is it doubtful to my Thought,
Why the King's Eye was judg'd more dangerous
Than Shoals, and Rocks, and Shipwrecks!—Now the Myſtery
Of Royal Edgar's Words, ſo lately heard,
Opens, unveil'd, upon my frighted Soul;
And Pain, and Terror, and Confuſion, ſhake me.
Oh! cruel Undeceiver! why have you wak'd me?
Why have you torn me from my joyleſs Calm?
Which, though it gave no Tranſport, lull'd me in Quiet,
And kept theſe Storms of Life from breaking on me.
Enter Lady.
Madam!—The King!—
What would'ſt thou ſay?
The King is entring here!
And my Lord with him.—Scarce had I Breath, to fly
Before,—and give you Notice.
Save him, kind Heaven!—
Teach me, ſome Angel, to avoid this King.
Teach my diſtracted Heart to 'ſcape this Precipice.
Which Way may we retire?—Yon inmoſt Door
Opens upon the Gallery.
[Page 50] Lady.
'Tis lock'd, and they are here!
Oh! the ſevere Reſolve of righteous Heaven!
They come!—I tremble, for this falſe Man's Fate;
And my unwilling Feet are rooted here!
Enter Edgar, followed by Athelwold.
Why doſt thou linger, Athelwold?—Look here!
The Secret thou would'ſt have withheld, yet longer,
Shines out, like the Sun's Heat, to gladden Nature,
And make Creation ſmile!—Elfrid!—my Queen!
Soul of my Kingdom's Hopes! my Fame! my Glory!
Thou art his Gift!—Oh! let thy Angel-Tongue
Join, to confirm my Vow, to this lov'd Friend!
This Friend, to whom I owe the ſweet Surprize,
That I thus gaze upon thee, thus approach thee!
Lend me thy wiſh'd Conſent, to firm this Oath,
Which, by my Soul's eternal Hopes, I ſwear!
That Day and Night ſhall ceaſe, and Time be loſt,
And Nature's ſlack'ning Springs unwind the World,
E're I forget his Intereſt in my Heart;
Or hold my Athelwold leſs dear than now.
Confirm his Oath, kind Heav'n!
Thou ſaint-like Goodneſs!
How ſhall my ſwelling Heart contain this Joy!
This over-pow'ring Gladneſs!—Bleſs'd, as I am,
Center'd in Happineſs, 'twixt Love and Friendſhip,
I can look down on my neglected Throne;
Can ſee the Pride of Power riſe, far beneath me;
And Heaven has ſcarce reſerv'd one Bliſs, to wiſh for.
Oh! blind, blind Man! [Exit diſorder'd.
[Page 51] Elfrid. [Aſide.]
Her ardent Senſe of Wrongs
Points at her Life, and Charity compels me,
To ſave her, from herſelf. [Exit Elfrid.
What mean their Looks?
Signals of Terror, and diſorder'd Partings!
Why are they vaniſh'd thus?—Ha! By my Soul!
Thou, too, art touch'd with the contagious Madneſs!
Now has ſome Devil, malignant to thy Truth,
Wrought to perplex thee.—No Part of Earth I govern,
Dares cheriſh Miſchief that could wound my Friend,
With this quick Senſe of Anguiſh!
Oh! that all Language
Cou'd be expreſs'd by Looks! or that my King,
Great Subſtitute of Heaven, could read my Heart;
Like that firſt Power who made it!
What haſt thou ſuffer'd?
I think I ſhould have ſaid, what haſt thou done?
But that I ſpeak to Athelwold.
How baſe,
How like a Coward, fighting blind, is he,
Who dares commit the Crime he dares not own;
And, bold enough to know himſelf a Villain,
Fears, leaſt Another knows it!
Stop.—Say no more.
Art not thou Athelwold? Let me look on thee.—
No:—By thy ſacred Empire, in my Heart,
It cannot be.—I am at Peace, again.
Go on—thy Enemies, in vain, accus'd thee;
But thy own Words alarm'd me.—Yet, my glad Eyes
Have trac'd thee over, and abſolve that Form,
[Page 52] Even from the Power to harbour a mean Mind,
Unſuited and deceitful.
What can I ſay?
Guilt, when it meets Suſpicion, or Reproach,
Suſtains itſelf, within, and learns to balance
Offence, by Puniſhment. But where it finds
Compaſſion, and has wrong'd a gen'rous Confidence,
It ought to bluſh, in Blood; and has no Way
To Pardon, or to Peace, but this—through Death.
Edgar. [Diſarming him.]
Hold thy raſh Hand—And, like my Subject, learn,
To die, when I command thee.—Can it be poſſible,
One, brave, as Thou art, ſhou'd have Guilt, to juſtify
This Fear of a Friend's Eye?—Is Elfrid mine?
Or, truſted with the Wants that preſs'd my Soul,
Haſt thou, inſtead of giving, robb'd me of more,
And left thy Prince a Bankrupt? Unbleſs'd by Love,
And yet depriv'd of Friendſhip!
What has not Love
Made Honour guilty of!—Turn, Royal Sir,
Turn your Eyes inward, and, in Emma's Tears,
Read the too fatal Power of Elfrid's Beauty.
How cou'd weak Athelwold expect to conquer,
Where god-like Edgar fell!
Heav'n! 'tis Thy Hand,
When Subjects, thus, from Prince's Crimes, grow bold,
To charge their Treaſons on their King's Example,
And ſhame us into Juſtice!—True, I have err'd;
But mark, what Difference 'twixt my Guilt, and that
Which thou nor dar'ſt to ſpeak, nor I to hear.
By Elfrid won, from Emma; Love, in me,
Prov'd but too ſtrong for Love. In thee, not Love,
To Love was treacherous.—But Love, to Honour,
To Friendſhip, Loyalty, to ſworn Obedience;
To all the violated Laws of Life!—
What Subject, though unfavour'd, dares invade
[Page 53] His Sovereign's Claim?—But, when that Subject is
A Servant too, bound by the double Tie,
Of Duty and Allegiance; when, beyond all,
His King, his Maſter, whom he wrongs, ſelected him;
Treaſur'd his Hopes and Wiſhes, in his Heart;
Liv'd in his Breaſt; partial but in his Cauſe;
And, againſt warring Worlds, wou'd have defended him!
What can that faithleſs Traitor's Reaſon urge,
To match his Guilt, with mine?
Enter Elfrid haſtily.
The injur'd Stranger, ſtrong, by Deſpair's wild Rage,
Breaks, like a Tempeſt, from your Servant's Care,
And meditates Deſtruction. No Voice but yours
Will calm her into Patience.—In her Heart's Anguiſh,
She calls on Athelwold, till Shrieks of Woe
Eccho, from Tower to Tower, your Fatal Name,
And the wide Caſtle rings, with her Reproaches.
Go—and appeaſe her Grief, thou Source of Sorrow!
Free my dim'd Eyes from aching at thy Preſence,
And leave me to the Pain of ſharp Reflection,
What thou ſhould'ſt ſuffer, from a Prince's Hand,
Who is this Wretch, by thine! [Exit Athelwold.
Too fatal Beauty!
Why have I found thee, but to loſe thee more,
And change a painful Hope, for certain Miſery!
If, in your royal Heart, I hold ſuch Influence,
Abate your Wonder at my Power in Athelwold's.
Why were you Friends, but that your Souls had Sympathy,
And purpos'd, each like other?—'Tis ſcarce a Moment,
[Page 54] Since I firſt learn'd, that when he preſs'd his Paſſion,
He wrong'd his Sov'reign's Meaning: Yet, already,
I find the Fault moſt yours.—Love is a Leveller,
And all Degrees are equall'd, where he reigns.
Why was another ſent, if Edgar lov'd me?
Why was not Cornwall honour'd by your Preſence,
When your unnumber'd Navy ſwept her Coaſts,
In your laſt Guardian Circuit?—Had you then landed,
Indulgent to my loyal Father's Prayer,
From what a dreadful Length of deſtin'd Woe,
Had my ſad Heart been guarded!
I ſaw thee, firſt,
Unknowing thou wer't Elfrid, at the dread Altar,
Where, from our aweful Dunſtan's holy Hands,
The conſecrated Oil confirm'd me King.—
How wer't thou loſt, ſo ſoon?
Swear but to pardon
The gen'rous, tho' unfaithful, Athelwold,
And I will ſhew you, we were doom'd unhappy,
But by the Will of Heav'n.
Kings ſhou'd be juſt:
And ſuch compulſive Oaths, too lightly ſworn,
Make That Neceſſity, which might be Choice,
And ſtrip the Grace from Mercy.
Then hear my Vow:
Since you decline to bind your doubtful Will,
Thus, on my Knees, all-powerful Heav'n! my Soul
Appeals thy righteous Throne.—Hear,—and afflict me
With every woful Curſe, thy Wrath has ſtor'd
For Perjury, if ever I conſent
To quit the Breaſt, or Claim, of Athelwold.
Or, ſhould he fall, by your revenging Hand,
[Page 55] If I not ſhun, for ever, even to Death,
The Sight, the Voice, the Name, of Royal Edgar.
Cruel, cold, proud, diſdainful,—glorious Elfrid!
What has thy Raſhneſs ſworn?—Yet, let me periſh,
If to have ſworn it, has not made thy Lovelineſs
As awful as Divinity!—Was ever
Diſtreſs thus hopeleſs? Could your untouch'd Heart
Have Senſe of what mine ſuffers, you wou'd have fear'd
To wound me, with this Pain of fix'd Deſpair.
Now, ſhielded by the Safeguard of my Oath,
Virtue may ſpeak, ſecure, and own its Weakneſs:
There was a Time, e'er Athelwold was mine,
When, to have been the Wife of uncrown'd Edgar,
Wou'd have been more than Monarchy, to Elfrid.—
Fatally curious, from the deep Impreſſion
Of an alarming Dream, I ſaw you crown'd,
Hid, in a clam'rous Preſs, that ſhouted, round me,
And ſhook the ſacred Dome, with Peals of Joy.
Oh! tell it me again.—Was I ſo bleſs'd,
That you then thought with Tenderneſs on Edgar?
What was that Dream? Charm me, thou riſing Wonder,
With each ſoft Circumſtance of pleaſing Pain:
For, while I die, with Terror of my Fate,
'Tis Heav'n to hear it, from a Voice like thine.
Oh! ſooth not Miſery.—Forbear to ſpeak
With this untimely, this forbidden, Softneſs!
Aw'd, by Rememb'rance of my dreadful Dream,
I tremble, ign'rant of the Will of Heaven,
Too dimly gleam'd upon my diſtant Soul.
I dreamt I ſat, and ſaw th' Imperial Crown
Plac'd on your ſacred Head: Your Form the ſame,
As when I, after, view'd you at the Altar,
And, fainting with Reflection, left the Throng!
Soon as the Diadem adorn'd your Brow,
[Page 56] You turn'd, methought, with Brightneſs more than mortal,
Held it, preſented thus; and, high in Air,
Stept to the Seat that bore me! When ſtrait a cold,
A ſhadowy Hand divided us: Loud Shrieks
Rung thro' the Temple: The gay Pomp was darken'd,
And a broad Sea of Blood roſe high, between us,
And bore us from each other.
Thy ominous Dream
Creeps, in cold Tides, and curdles all my Veins.
Seek we, thou loſt Inflamer of Deſire,
The falſe, the fated Athelwold.—My Heart
Heaves, with unuſual Bodings. Powerful Pity
Struggles with Juſtice; and 'tis more painful to me,
To think, my Friend, ſhould fall, to need Forgiveneſs,
Than to forgive my Enemy.
This is, indeed,
To reign! So reigns the World's ſupreme Diſpoſer.
All Things, but one, are ſubject to his Power;
But even his Pow'r, itſelf, obeys his Mercy.
Proud of Dominion, yet enſlav'd to Fear,
Kings who love Blood, thro' one long Tempeſt ſteer,
While the calm Monarch, who with Smiles controuls,
Roots his ſafe Empire, and is King of Souls.
When Woman, form'd to ſoften Man to Peace,
Fans his Diſquiet, and gives Care Increaſe,
Love is a Weakneſs, and to wiſh in vain,
Were a forc'd Freedom, and Eſcape from Pain:
But where our Hearts are charm'd, by Forms like thee,
Where Paſſions ſympathize, and Souls agree,
There to love hopeleſs, is, in Life, to die,
And, languid, in void Blanks of Being, lie.
End of the Fourth Act.

5. ACT V.

[Page 57]

5.1. SCENE: The Garden.

OH! Shame! Why keep'ſt thou this alarming Diſtance?
Cruelly kind, preſs inward, on my Heart;
But fright not Reaſon, cling not to my Thought,
Blot, blot Remembrance out, ſtrike Home, at Life,
Pour, all at once, Oblivion on my Soul,
And quench me, into Quiet.
Enter Athelwold.
I come.—
How dareſt thou?
I would find a Voice
To tell thee, I cou'd die, to bring thee Comfort.
Comfort from thee!—Falſe Man! till thou wer't baſe
I never wanted Comfort.—
[Page 58] Till my wrong'd Heart had Weakneſs, to believe,
And ſhare the Pains I gave, I knew no Grief:
Honour, and Peace, and Innocence were mine:
I never felt a Wiſh, that was my own,
Or Woe, but for another.—Now, thou ſeeſt me
Shun'd, hopeleſs, blaſted, infamous, and ſcorn'd;
Cut off from every ſocial Joy of Life;
Pitied by others, hated by myſelf,
Forſaken even by thee, for whoſe ſole ſake,
All other Joys forſook me!—Yet thou dar'ſt
Inſult my murder'd Peace; and, proudly charitable,
Feed famiſh'd Hope with the cold Alms of Pity!
Be Witneſs for me, That all-dreaded Power,
Who made my tortur'd Heart, and knows it beſt,
Till Elfrid's fatal Beauty forc'd my Will,
I never had a Wiſh, beyond thy Love.
My Hopes dwelt on thee, and my doating Soul
Drew Taſte and Purpoſe from thee. At thy Voice
Awaken'd Life leapt, liſt'ning, to my Ear,
And I became all Eye, whene'er I ſaw thee.
Thou wer't Poſſeſſion and Deſire, combin'd,
All that Ambition wiſh'd, or Fancy form'd:
With thee there was no Grief, no Joy without thee.
Inhuman Flatt'ry all! and Smiling Murder!
The barb'rous Elegance of Man's ſoft Art,
To cheat believing Innocence!—E'er long
Thy Elfrid, the reſiſtleſs Charmer!—She!
Will hear thee poorly urge the ſame Excuſe,
When ſome third Fool believes thee.
Wou'd kind Fate
Point my loſt Heart a Way to prove its Pain,
What wou'd I not, with Tranſport, ſuffer for thee,
To eaſe the Woes I gave?
[Page 59] Ethelinda.
One Way there is,
And Love, and Honour point it. But have a Care;
Refuſe not to my kindled Hope its Claim;
Leſt in my half-huſh'd Boſom, thou ſhould'ſt rouſe
New Swarms of torturing Miſchiefs, whoſe dire Stings
Will drive us both to Madneſs.
Name it to me,
And if I not obey the wiſh'd Command,
Think me, indeed, the Wretch thy Anger paints me.
Redeem me from the Shame I ſuffer for thee:
Forſake this Woman, who uſurps my Right,
And do a noble Juſtice, to my Love,
And thy own injur'd Honour.
She's my Wife.
The Law's firm Knot has bound her mine, forever.
The Wife!—O patient Heaven! What leſs am I?
Did not, I, firſt, receive the plighted Vow?
Did not I fondly truſt th' affianc'd Faith
Of nuptial Contract?—If to join her Hand,
In Breach of Oaths that bound thy Soul, to mine,
Firms her thy Wife, and ſets aſide my Claim,
So ſacred, and ſo ſworn!—Then, ſolid Rights
Are Shadows; and the empty Forms of Time
Take Place of Truth, and Reaſon.
'Twill not be.—
My Soul is torn with a vain War of Paſſions:
Honour, and Shame, and Grief, and gen'rous Pity,
Deſire perplex'd, and ſtrong divided Will,
To doat forever on the Guilt I hate,
And ſhun the Worth that charms me!—Righteous Heaven!
[Page 60] Look down on Ethelinda! Revenge her Wrongs,
Do her that Juſtice, which in vain I wiſh her;
Curſe this deſpairing Wretch, who cannot bleſs her,
And dart thy blaſtful Light'nings, on a Flame
No earthly Fire can conquer.—I am a Traitor;
A mean abandon'd Starter from my Faith;
A falſe forſworn Deceiver!—Give me thy Pity;
And, if thou can'ſt have Goodneſs ſo extreme,
Refuſe me not thy Pardon.—But for Love!—
Alas! forget it.—Fly me,—hate me,—fear me,—
Oh! ſhare not in the Miſery I am doom'd to;
Join not thy Virtue to a Fate ſo curs'd,
So fall'n, beyond the Reach of loſt Relief,
As the unhoping Athelwold's.
I thank thee:
Thou haſt awaken'd me, to feel Heaven's Juſtice;—
But, now, ſo low, ſo poor, doſt thou appear
To my returning Reaſon, that I hate not
My Guilt itſelf more bitterly than thee,
Or than my own weak Heart, for having lov'd thee!
What Woman e'er ſhall live, belov'd, and flatter'd;
Yet, timely, wiſe enough to think it poſſible,
That one, ſhe ſees, and hears, as thou haſt been,
She ever can behold, as thou art now!
Inhuman Sex! who ſmile us into Ruin!
And love us into Infamy!—Begone—
Fear for thyſelf: Kneel, pray, ſolicit Heav'n,
Think not of me, or my Afflictions, more:
But, by Repentance, waſh away the Stains
From thy own perjur'd Soul, leſt my ſhock'd Spirit,
When it meets thine, in a leſs guilty World,
Renews its Pangs, cv'n there, to ſee thee tortur'd,
Beyond my Pow'r to bear, tho' doom'd, for me. [Exit in Diſorder.]
[Page 61] Athelwold alone.
She's gone!—and I am left, to walk the World,
Like a pale Shade, that ſhuns the Paths of Men.
Light ſearches me too deep.—My conſcious Soul
Starts inward, and eſcapes the Eye of Day.
Oh! Boſom Peace, now loſt!—Were there, in Guilt,
No Weight more painful, than this Low'r of Brow,
This eye-dejecting Senſe of infelt Shame!
Yet ſhun it, all, you, who have Hearts like Men,
That you may raiſe the Front, and look like Virtue.
I hate myſelf, beyond the Taſte of Hope.
Why live I then? There is a Gloom, in Death,
Will hide me from my Thoughts:—Yet, weigh that well;
Shou'd I die now, 'twou'd ſeem Deſpair, not Juſtice:
'Twou'd look like ſhrinking from a Senſe of Pain;
Like wanting Strength, myſelf, to cope with Scorn;
Yet meanly leaving it to a wrong'd Woman.
O Ethelinda!—What a Slave am I!
Thus to have kill'd thee, with Diſgrace and Ruin,
Who never had'ſt a Stain on thy white Soul,
But one, thy Pity for thy Murderer gave thee?
For whom became I this black Wretch?—For Elfrid!—
Her! who already ſcorns my Traitor Flame,
And burns, to the King's Wiſhes!—Why ſtaid ſhe with him?
What cou'd ſhe hear? what ſay, in that nice Juncture?
Hell to my Heart! Into what reptile Poorneſs
Does a Man creep, who dares not ſee his Shame?—
Whoſe Crimes compel him to be dumb, when wrong'd,
Becauſe Complaint is only due to Innocence!, [Throws himſelf on the Earth.]
[Page 62] Enter Edgar, and Elfrid.
Athelwold! I was once thy Friend, and thought thee
The Wealth of a King's Heart. I truſted thee,
And was deceiv'd. Thou! in whoſe Breaſt I lodg'd
My Hopes of Peace, haſt let in Miſery on me!
What ſhall I do, to ſave inſulted Majeſty
From the Contempt of Weakneſs?—Yet convince thee,
That I can bid my Pity be thy Puniſhment.
Alas! my gracious Sovereign, wound him not
With too ſevere Reproach, whom your great Soul
Determines to receive to unhop'd Mercy.
—The King, my Lord! too gen'rous to revenge
The Lover's Falſhood, on the Subject's Faith,
In kind Rememb'rance of your Virtue's Strength,
Forgets your am'rous Weakneſs.—'Twere too much
For gaining me, to loſe a Monarch's Love.
No—Madam!—I am fall'n, beneath your Favour.—
KINGS,—born to think ſupremely, know 'tis Glory
To riſe, above Revenge.—But you, who thus
Can ſpeak, and look, the Queen you are not, yet,
Muſt find it difficult to pardon Guilt,
That robs you of your Royalty.
My Lord!
That jealous Brow, and thoſe reproachful Accents,
Wrong the good Meaning of a Heart that loves you.
Shame on thy Blindneſs, arrogant Miſtaker!
So cold to Senſe of thy own Guilt! ſo warm
To charge another's Innocence!—Her Prayer
[Page 63] Firſt won me from my Anger.—For her Sake,
I force my ſtruggling Soul to mean thee Pardon.
But take it, with Condition.—Take it, thus, [Gives him his Sword.
And heedfully remark it. If, henceforth,
Thou dar'ſt aſpire to Elfrid, call her thine,
Or talk, or think, or dream of thy bold Claim,
Thou ſhalt not live an Hour.—Till then, breathe on.
The Infamy of thy diſloyal Act
Is Vengeance, as ſevere as I can wiſh thee.
Oh Sir! reſume a Gift, I cannot ſtoop
To hold, on ſuch Conditions. Death wou'd bleſs me.
'Tis what I wiſh, and merit. I deſerve
All Puniſhments, but Life, with Loſs of Elfrid.
Shock'd, and unworthy a Debate, like this,
I ſhou'd be ſtill leſs worthy, cou'd I hear it,
Unconſcious of the Wound it gives my Honour.
—Oh! Thou, Eternal Ruler of the World!
Here, by thy dreadful Name, I kneel and ſwear,
I will be neither Athelwold's nor Edgar's.—
Safe, at Thy Altar's conſecrated Foot,
In ſome ſtill Convent's ſolitary Gloom,
Aweful Religion ſhall benight my Eyes,
And hide me from the World.—There will I weep,
And wiſh myſelf forgotten.
Explain, or limit, the too-haſty Vow.
Thou mean'ſt but to retire, till I am dead,
Or till his Death who wrong'd thee.
Shou'd he fall
For me, may Heav'n refuſe my parting Soul,
If I not keep my Vow, unbroke, for ever!
[Page 64] Edgar.
Hear this—and bluſh, at thy baſe Jealouſy,
Thou blind Profaner! [A Shriek without.
That alarming Shriek
Rings to my trembling Heart, and wakes its Fear
For One, more wretched yet,—more loſt, than I.
[Exit haſtily, and Athelwold is following.
Athelwold!—Come back.
A Curſe on Guilt;
It ſinks the Brave, to Cowards!—It was, once,
My Heart's proud Joy, to meet my Sovereign's Eye.
'Tis, now, my Soul's worſt Torment.—Hide me, Earth,
From Edgar's angry Brow: From my own Shame,
Not Death itſelf can hide me.
I have bethought me,
That Love and Fate deny, we both ſhould live;
The Heart of Elfrid, when thou art no more,
May teach her to forget thee.—I, or Thou,
Muſt fall.—It was the King's Intent to pardon
The Subject's Treaſon. The King does forgive thee;
But the Friend cannot pardon.—Let us, then,
On equal Terms, diſpute our doubtful Claim,
To Death and Quiet, or to Life and Elfrid.
Here I renounce Diſtinction, give Allegiance
To the wild Winds, as thou haſt done, before,
And ſeek an Equal's Vengeance for my Wrongs. [Draws.
—I know that I deſcend, and that the Throne
Diſdains a Subject Foe. But I diſclaim
That cold Prerogative of a King's Safety;
To teach thee, that I need no borrow'd Pow'r:
[Page 65] Myſelf the Guardian of my injur'd Honour,
Myſelf my Strength, when my falſe Friend betrays me.
Athelwold. [Kneeling.]
O gen'rous Edgar! my Imperial Maſter,
Whoſe Spirit reigns, diſtinguiſh'd among Souls,
As among Kings, thy Perſon; think me not,
How plung'd ſoever in the Guilt of Falſhood,
So loſt to Senſe of the unmeaſur'd Diſtance,
Between my Prince and me, to dare defend
One aching Atom of this hated Breaſt,
Againſt a Wound he wiſhes me.—No; take [Lays his Sword at the King's Feet.
My Sword.—It has been drawn, with ſome Succeſs,
In your lov'd Cauſe; direct it to the Heart
Of this new Traitor. At your ſacred Feet,
The tainted Blood will flow, with willing Waſte,
And waſh away the Mem'ry of his Crime,
Who lives too long, when he not lives for you.
Riſe, and provoke me, if thou would'ſt be kind,
By ſome wiſh'd Mark of Arrogance.—Preſume,
Talk inſolently of thy Worth; defy me;
Smile at my Sword's rais'd Point; threaten,—accuſe,—
Deny,—Calumniate.—Any Thing, but this!
Spare this ſoft Sorrow, hide this ſweet Humility,
And I ſhall keep my Purpoſe.—O Athelwold!
Why haſt thou pain'd my Soul, with this ſharp Conflict?
Why haſt thou wrong'd me, into Will to hurt thee? [Throws down his Sword.
How ill ſhou'd I deſerve your unwiſh'd Mercy,
Did not my Life become more odious to me
Than was the Guilt I fall for!—From my Birth,
With fix'd, unalterable, deadly Hate,
[Page 66] I puniſh'd faithleſs Rebels. Truſt me, now,
Againſt myſelf. My Sovereign ſhall not need
Revenge his Wrongs, on Athelwold.—One Pray'r
Has Boldneſs, yet, to urge your royal Ear;
Then, I have done with Wiſhes, and the World.—
Prince Leolyn, whom I have made unhappy,
Now ſuffers, for my Guilt. So greatly wrong'd,
I ſhall not reſt, in Death, till your try'd Goodneſs
Permits his Freedom, and beſtows on Him
My forfeit Honours, and the Lands I leave.
I charge thee, as thy Heart wou'd wiſh my Pardon,
Attempt not on thy Life. Wait, and expect
Thy Doom, from the ſlow Workings of my Soul,
That labours to reſolve, but knows not how;
For Leolyn, thy gen'rous Wiſh has mov'd me.
Go—bring him to my Preſence.—I will walk,
And meditate, alone, till thy Return. [Exit Athelwold.
Edgar. [Alone.]
How ſhall I move, in this dark Maze of Paſſion!
'Tis true, my Favourite has betray'd me, baſely;
But he was firſt, himſelf, betray'd by Love;
That Tyrant of the Heart, more King than I,
Ranks Monarchs with his Slaves.—Let me weigh
By my own Wiſhes, and, then, puniſh him,
When I can ſee, unmov'd, thoſe Eyes which charm'd him.
How ſhall I act? at once, to ſhield my Fame,
And ſatisfy my Love.—Cou'd Reaſon's Force
Tear the unlicens'd Image from my Heart,
Or, patient, leave to Time, th'unhaſten'd Means,
To bleſs my fierce Deſires; Who knows what Chance,
Or Death, or Thought, or Woman's changeful Will,
Or my own conquer'd Wiſhes, may produce.
—Kings ſhould, however injur'd, do no Wrong:
[Page 67] They cannot err alone, ſince what They act,
They authorize in others.—Let me, then,
Extinguiſh low Deſires, leſt, at my Flame,
I light a Nation's Wiſhes.—I will ſtrive
To check this riſing Paſſion; and forget
That ſhe who charms me thus is in my Power,
Till I can bend that Pow'r, to Reaſon's Rule.
—They come!—I will avoid them,—and reflect
What Meaſures to reſolve on. [Exit Edgar
Re-enter Athelwold, followed by Leolyn.
Turn—whither would'ſt thou lead me?
In this Place,
But now, I left the King.—A little farther,
And we ſhall find him, ſoon.
Stay—for we find,
In theſe provided Swords, what well reminds us
Of our late Parting.—Thou haſt perform'd thy Promiſe,
With Bravery ſo noble, that, again,
'Spite of my burning Wrongs, I almoſt love thee.
—It cannot need, that I ſhou'd ſpur thy Will,
To what remains unfiniſh'd. [Taking up a Sword
I had forgot it.
Guilt, and Repentance, and the Tears of Shame,
Had waſh'd the Indignation from my Heart.
—Methinks we were not born for Enemies:
Enough, already, have we wrong'd our Friendſhip.
Let us be Foes no more.
[Page 68] Leolyn.
Firſt, periſh Leolyn.
Didſt thou not blaſt my Honour by a Blow?
Fir'd with a Ruffian's Boldneſs, ſtrike a Prince!
And can he live to pardon?—Shame to thy Heart,
Or give my Glory the Revenge it claims,
Or I will brand thee with a Coward's Marks,
And teach light Boys to ſcorn thee.
If it muſt be,
Spare me a Moment's Pauſe—'Twill ſoon be paſt,
And Death will want to Time to ſate his Purpoſe.
—What ſhall I do?—To truſt him with my Softneſs,
To tell him what, at my Requeſt, the King
Was won to grant him, were to ſeem afraid,
And ſhrink from his Revenge.—O fatal Chain
Of long depending Woes, that Guilt is bound to!
Conflicting Paſſions blaſt the bad Man's Hopes,
And all his Thoughts are Whirlwind!—
Come on.—
Thy Blow burns hot, and I will wait no longer.
Hold—Leolyn! Be ſlow.—The Chance of Conqueſt
Is various, and unknown—and, ſhou'd I fall,
Thou wilt have Cauſe to grieve, thou didſt not hear me.
Never—till Vengeance has been paid its Full,
Never will I grow tame, and hear thee more.
Athelwold. [Taking up the other Sword.]
Take thy own Way then.—Let Deſtruction fall,
And find thee, without Shelter.—But ſee, the King,
[Page 69] His coming—(in this Place) prevents our Purpoſe,
On, to th' appointed Terras.—Follow me. [Exeunt together.
[Re-enter Edgar, with an Officer.
What Oſwald told me, of a ſecond Quarrel,
Renews my Anger againſt Leolyn,
And wakes me, into Fear of ſome new Conſequence,
From his Enlargement.—Take a Guard, and bring him,
To anſwer this Preſumption.— [Exit Officer.
Enter Oſwald.
Oh, Sir!—Unhappy Ethelinda reſts;
Her Sorrows are no more.
What has Fate done?
See, Sir! Yon Terras, which o'erhangs the Sea!
Thence, falling ſteep at once, the frighted Eye
Akes, down a Depth of Rocks, to reach the Surge,
That breaks, unheard, below!—There walking ſwift.
With frantick Action, in a long, loud, Speech,
The poor diſtreſs'd Complainer talk'd, and wept
To the wild Oceani; told the Waves her Woes;
And, liſt'ning, earneſt, oft, in dumb Suſpence,
Paus'd, for an Anſwer:—'Till, at laſt, more ſhrill,
She ſcream'd Reſentment, to the diſtant Deep.
—Thou art, ſhe cry'd, as cold, and deaf, as Athelwold.
Then, ſudden, from her Breaſt, in raſh Deſpair,
Snatching a Dagger.—She, with all the Rage
[Page 70] Of a reſolv'd Deſtruction, plung'd it, thrice,
In her diſtracted Boſom.
Alas! for Athelwold!
How will he meet this Sight?
Re-enter Officer, and Guards, with Leolyn.
Anſwer me quickly,—where is Athelwold?
Immortal,—and at Peace.
What!—Haſt thou murder'd him?
Ungrateful, and deteſted! Murder'd Him!
Him, who alone obtain'd thy Freedom from me;
And, in the gen'rous Anguiſh of his Guilt,
Pray'd, that his Titles, and his forfeit Lands,
Might all be Thine! whom, as he wrong'd in Life,
He could not reſt in Death, to leave unhappy.
This had been Daggers to my guilty Soul,
Could he have fall'n, by me:—But, like a God,
Who ſmiles, and pardons, when provok'd by Mortals,
He met my Rage, with a ſerene Contempt,
Maſter'd, a ſecond time, my failing Sword,
And gave me Life, in Puniſhment.—Live, Leolyn!
He cry'd, and ſpoke it with an Air unmov'd,
Superior, not inſulting.—Live—and know,
That, had not conſcious guilt a Point, more ſtrong
Than thine,—No Wound could reach the Breaſt of Athelwold.
—Yet, tho' he will not be compell'd to die,
He chuſes not to live;—for he has wrong'd thee.
Come, and ſee Juſtice done thee.—At that Inſtant,
The Shock of Ethelinda's dreadful Fate,
[Page 71] Heard, as we paſs'd, upon th' extended Terras,
Alarm'd his Care, too late.—I ſaw him, Sir,—
Go on.—
I ſaw him, Sir, as I drew near,
Raiſe his fall'n Victim, from the bloody Ground,
And, on his Cheek, ſupport her bending Head;
But her weak Joints ſoft ſinking from their Truſt,
She hung ſuſtain'd, and bled upon his Boſom.
He groan'd,—look'd wild,—call'd loud upon her Name,
And, for a Moment, ſtopt her flying Soul.
Twice, at his Voice, ſhe ſtretch'd her dying Eyes,
And gaſp'd,—and ſtruggl'd,—and wou'd fain have ſpoke;
But, failing—in a ſhort, convulſive, Sigh,
Breath'd out her Soul,—and ſunk upon his Boſom.
He!—ſtanding near the downfal of the Cliff,
Strain'd her, with Rapture, in his circling Arms,
O Leolyn! he cry'd, forgive me, now:
Tell the wrong'd King, I leave his Elfrid, free,
And, thus, too late, do Right to Ethelinda.—
Then, ſpringing furious, o'er the dreadful Rock,
Leap'd, with the Dead, to Death!—Together, both
Fell, frightful, to the Deep; which, cloſing o'er them,
Veils them, from Senſe of Woe, in Reſt, forever.
Great was his Guilt, and greatly 'tis aton'd!
Nothing is ſafe, but Innocence!—Be it your Care
To ſend out Boats, that their recover'd Bodies
May reſt, beneath one Marble; over which
I will erect a Cloiſter, and endow it,
For hourly Prayers to Heaven, to reſt their Souls.
—Haſte, all! and watch th' afflicted Elfrid, near,
Aſſiſt her,—guard her,—wait, at her Apartment,
And ſave her, from her Sorrow.—
[Page 72]
Oh! Leolyn, be obſtinately juſt;
Indulge no Paſſion, and deceive no Truſt:
Let never Man be bold enough, to ſay,
Thus, and no farther, ſhall my Paſſion ſtray:
The firſt Crime, paſt, compells us into more,
And Guilt grows Fate, that was but Choice, before.