Cleonice, Princess of Bithynia: a tragedy. As it is performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent-Garden. By John Hoole.
TELL me, ye Gods, ye arbiters of wit,
Who rule the heavens, or who lead the pit, addreſſing the gallery and pit,
Whence comes it, in an age refin'd by taſte
By ſcience poliſh'd, and by judgement chaſte,
We ſee the Muſe, in dignity ſublime,
Led on by prologue, ape-ing pantomime;
Whoſe ſportive fancy, and whoſe comic ſkill,
All muſt applaud—where Roſcius guides the quill;
Yet when Melpomene in grief appears,
Her ſuff'ring virtue bath'd in ſorrow's tears,
From Tyrant laws, or jealous love oppreſs'd,
Swelling with ſilence in her tortur'd breaſt.
How can the heart her genial impulſe ſhew,
Feel as ſhe feels, or weep another's woe;
When gay Thalia has ſo late poſſeſs'd
The laughing tranſports of the human breaſt?
Let each her province keep, let jocund mirth
To Epilogue alone give happy birth;
Eaſe the ſtruck ſoul from ev'ry anxious fcar,
And wipe from beauty's check the ſilent tear.
Twice Metaſtaſio's wings have borne our Bayes,
And ſafely brought him o'er the critic ſeas;
Fir'd with ſucceſs, he dares this awful night,
Cheer'd by your ſmiles to take a bolder flight;
Nor longer ſtoop beneath a foreign ſhade,
Like Dian ſhining from a borrow'd aid;
But comes impregnate with Icarian pride,
To ſtretch his pinnions, and forſake his guide;
Yet doubtful flies, leſt vapours damp his force,
And one black cloud ſhould ſtop his airy courſe,
To awful heights his proud ambition ſoars,
And the dread regions of applauſe explores;
'Tis yours to raiſe—or ſink him in the ſea.
Let Candour then proceed to try the cauſe,
That Magna Charta of dramatic laws!
JUDGES of Genius! from whoſe hands a bard
This night awaits the laurel of reward!
To you, the Tragic Muſe, in Britain's name,
Comes to announce the merits of his claim.
'Tis I have led him timorous to this field,
And bade him dare his country's guantlet wield;
Bade him aſpire to vault her fiery breed,
Nor humbly ſtoop to mount the manag'd ſteed.
Long had I ſeen his patient merit toil,
In culling chaplets from a foreign ſoil;
Whilſt, here, tranſplanted by his ſkilful hand,
Italia's honours bloom'd in Albion's land.
Long had I mark'd, as ſuch exotic boughs
Content he wove to veil his modeſt brows,
A ſpirit that in paths untrod before
Might ſnatch the nobler foliage of this ſhore.
Pleas'd with the hopes, that I had now deſcry'd
A future ſon, from whom the buſkin's pride
To this my favourite Iſle, again might riſe;
I touch'd his ear, and pointed out the prize.
"Wither my honours in this clime (I ſaid)
"Buds here no bounteous leaf to deck thy head?
"Are theſe once foſiering ſkies ſo over-caſt,
"That Genius dares not brave th' inclement blaſt?
"Come, let me lead thee, where my ſons of yore
"In Fancy's fields amaſs'd their laureate ſtore;
"Inſpir'd by kind acclaims of ſhouting crowds.
"Turn thee, where Shakeſpear wav'd the myſtic rod,
"And ſaw a new creation wait his nod.
"Behold where Terror, with eccentric ſtride,
"Burſts, like a torrent from the mountain's ſide!
"Behold where gentle pity heaves the ſigh,
"Sluicing the fruitful conduit of the eye!
"See love at whoſe approach, the airy Wiles
"Of Mirth and Freedom, or the jocund Smiles
"Of ſweet content, diſpers'd in wild affright,
"Mount on their ſilken wings and take their flight.
"See Jealouſy his hideous form uprear,
"Tine the quick brand, and ſhake the vengeful ſpear:
"While, cloſe behind, fell Anguiſh aud Diſdain
"Stalk ſullen by; and ſwell his gloomy train.
"Mark where Deſpair points to ſome diſtant ground;
"On blaſted yews, where Night-birds ſhrick around,
"Where yawning Tombs add horror to the night,
"And Meteors flaſh their momentary light.
"Here mark thyſelf, what various objects riſe,
"Nor truſt the medium of another's eyes.'
I ſpoke—and Genius ſtrait began to ſpread
His ready Plumage, and my voice obey'd,
Adventurous, thence he dares this night aſpire
To ſtamp the vivid ſcene with native fire.
'Tis yours, ye Britons, then, with kind applauſe,
To fan the flame I kindled in your cauſe:
Nor be it ſaid, when on your mercy thrown,
You foſter every ſpark, but what's your own.
From your dread ſentence, crown'd with laurels won,
I ardently expect to greet a Son:
The Palm I have depoſited with you,
And truſt your hearts to give it where 'tis due.
- ARTABASUS, King of Pontus, Mr. BARRY.
- PHARNACES, his ſon, under the name of Arſetes, Mr. LEWIS.
- LYCOMEDES, King of Bithynia, Mr. BENSLEY.
- ORONTES, Prince of the blood of Bithynia, Mr. LEE.
- TERAMENES, General of Bithynia, Mr. HULL.
- AGENOR, Friend to Pharnaces, Mr. WHITEFIELD.
- ZOPYRUS, Friend to Orontes, Mr. L'ESTRANGE.
- Officer, Mr. THOMPSON.
SCENE, a gallery.
AGENOR, ſtill Bithynia muſt retain
The ſword unſheath'd, and ſtill remov'd afar,
Shall Peace, in vain deſir'd, mock every hope,
Of dear domeſtic happineſs—the leagues
Of factious princes, whoſe aſſociate force
Has vex'd this bleeding land, now yield indeed
To Lycomedes' arms, or rather ſhrink
Before the genius of your noble friend.
Arſetes, bred in diſtant realms, and long
A wanderer o'er the face of earth, muſt hail
The hour that led his ſteps to tread your ſoil,
And gave him Teramenes for his friend.
Tho' now the rage of civil ſtrife is paſt,
Full well thou know'ſt, to-morrow's ſun declin'd,
His next returning beam lights up the day
That ends the truce with Pontus, and demands
Our ſtrongeſt force to meet a mightier foe,
Five returning ſuns
Have chang'd your vernal groves, ſince as the breath
Of Fame declares, your armies met and fought
On Hippias' banks, what time your martial powers
(Forgive me, if report miſlead my tongue,)
Bow'd to a foreign ſtandard.
Whoſe thirſt of glory in his vigorous life
Compell'd the neighbouring ſtates to bend beneath
Bithynia's yoke; when creeping time had clogg'd
Of active valour, by his generals ſtill
Maintain'd the field, and thro' the nations ſpread
His martial terrors, till that fatal day,
When Hippias, down his current, dy'd with blood,
The frequent corſe and glittering enſign bore:
Then, midſt the ſlaughter, fell a ſacrifice
To iron war, our king's lamented ſon;
A youth, the early darling of his ſire,
The ſoldier's hope, and nurſling of the field.
Oft have I heard Polemon's name, whoſe brave
Unpractis'd arm encounter'd Artabaſus,
And from his ſword receiv'd a glorious death.
But tho' the time's neceſſity compell'd
Bithynia to the truce, ſtill, ſtill the thought
Of his Polemon rankled in the boſom
Of our afflicted monarch, ſtill the hope,
Tho' diſtant hope of vengeance, glow'd within,
And fed eternal hatred in his ſoul.
While now to Pontus' bounds, his army ſpreads
Its conquering legions, he forgoes the ſtate
Of Nicomedias' palace, to reſide
Amidſt this city, whoſe oppoſing bulwarks
Riſe on the kingdom's edge, and dare the foe.
Fame ſpeaks your rival great, and gives the praiſe
Of might and wiſdom to the king of Pontus;
And more, 'tis ſaid, his ſon, amidſt the files
Of Rome's immortal legions, diſtant far
From Pontus, learns the rugged trade of war,
And gathers laurels in his blooming age,
That veterans view with envy: his return
Gives earneſt of new triumphs.
Let him come;
Would yet Arſetes aid Bithynia's cauſe
His ſword with brave Orontes join'd, whoſe hand
Muſt ſway the ſcepter of Bithynia's realm,
Might fix th' unſteady wing of victory
To Lycomedes' bands.
Your ſovereign deems to merit Cleonice,
Whoſe piety forſakes the pomp of courts,
The ſplendid eaſe of female life, to attend
But for Arſetes, thou remembereſt well
When firſt he join'd to thine his ſocial arms,
He pledg'd his faith for five returning moons
To abide your welcome gueſt, and now the tenth
Wanes in her ſilver orb.
What ſays Agenor?
My mind, tho' loth, recalls each circumſtance.
But ſtill I hop'd Arſetes might be won
To breathe our friendly air, ſtill mix'd among
Bithynia's warlike ſons, now hovering o'er
The verge of hoſtile Pontus, when the time
And place concurr'd to pour with ſudden inroad
The ſtorm of conqueſt on our hated foe,
To avenge a form, a worth ſo like his own—
—But ſee, he comes—
Belov'd Arſetes, welcome!
Youth, at thy preſence, buds with bloom renew'd,
Such as I was, when, on Arabia's ſands,
I cruſh'd the wandering robbers of the deſert.
My lord, too partial friendſhip ever finds
New praiſe for your Arſetes; if I claim
Of merit aught, here Heaven receive my thanks,
That bade me wield the ſword for Lycomedes.
And yet Arſetes now methinks forgets
To prize our country's honours; while the bond
Of friendſhip holds no more his changing heart;
That heart, which once I preſs'd with tranſport here,
Which ſeem'd with mutual tranſport to receive
The love I proffer'd, when my boſom glow'd
With warmth of gratitude to him, whoſe arm
Snatch'd Teramenes from impending death,
As fierce Lyſippus aim'd the threatening blade
At my defenceleſs head, when you ruſh'd in,
(Till then unknown) and ſav'd me from the foe.
'Twas ſure ſome happy ſtar, that led my ſteps
At that bleſt moment—if I ſav'd the life
Of Teramenes, I preſerv'd indeed
A faithful counſellor for Lycomedes,
An army's chief, but for myſelf a friend.
And wilt thou, my Arſetes, now forſake
Of conqueſt, taught by thee—now when the great,
Th' important moment comes, on which depends
Our monarch's fame, our vengeance—led by thee
And brave Orontes, we have ſtemm'd the tide
Of inbred tumult: every rebel head
Now lies ſubdued, and fluſh'd with great ſucceſs,
Our ſoldiers now demand, with loud acclaim,
To pour their fury o'er yon hoſtile bounds,
Beneath Arſetes and Orontes.
Be witneſs here, compulſive honour long
Has chanlleng'd my departure—yet, till now
I wav'd obedience to the frequent calls
Of duty; but the flame of civil broils
At length ſubſiding thro' your troubled ſtate,
I muſt (forgive me, chief, forgive me, friend,)
Yield to the powerful voice, and quit Bithynia.
By every toil my ſword has known in battle,
But moſt the toils I ſhar'd with Teramenes,
Unwilling and compell'd, I leave your clime,
And quit a country dearer than my own.
Farewell, Arſetes; think that Teramenes
Feels from his in moſt ſoul the fix'd reſolve
Of him, whom once he fondly deem'd by fortune,
From all mankind ſelected for his friend.
I'll ſeek the king—no leſs will he regret
Arſetes' loſs, whoſe preſence might inſure
His wiſh'd revenge, and fix his kingdoms glory.
Why droops Arſetes? O! diſcover all
Thy ſecret grief and let Agenor ſhare it.
Indeed thou doſt—my every thought is thine,
My other ſelf, my boſom's counſellor!
What needs there more to rend my heart, to fill
My tortur'd ſoul, while loitering here I wrong
My native ſoil, the voice of filial duty
Chides my delay, yet Love, the powerful God
Reigns in my breaſt, and mocks each ſettled purpoſe:
Come, my Agenor, with thy friendly aid
Confirm my thoughts, and teach me yet to tread,
Yet to reſume the path my ſeet have left;
To tear myſelf from love and Cleonice—
Yet again reflect,
Think who you are, to what has Heaven reſerv'd
Your virtues—Shall a kingdom's heir—
'Tis honeſt chiding—Shall a kingdom's heir,
(Thus would'ſt thou ſay) on whom th' expecting eyes
Of thouſands look for happineſs, on whom
A father fixes every deareſt hope
To ſee himſelf renew'd to diſtant times,
Shall he, forgetting all the claims of glory,
Forgetting all the ties of filial duty,
Defraud his longing people of their prince,
And from his ſire with-hold a darling ſon?
Say—ſhall Bithynia's hoſtile lands detain,
From Artabaſus' ſight his loved Pharnaces?
O! no—Agenor—thou haſt fir'd my ſoul;
My father!—yes, I will embrace the knees
Of him, whoſe love reproaches my delay.
Yet never, Cleonice, ſhall this breaſt
Forget its wonted flame:—Is it a crime
To adore the ſum of all her ſex's graces,
Tho' wayward chance has plac'd the hopeleſs bar
Of lineal enmity between our loves?
And yet, my prince; the indulgent hand of fate,
Perchance may weave your future web of life
With threads of brighter dye; even love itſelf
May find a way to clear the gloomy proſpect:
Diſcord perhaps may once again extinguiſh
Her hated torch that fires the rival nations,
And Cleonice be the bond of peace:
Too long, already, ſtrangers have we lived,
Alien from friends and home: tho' Artabaſus
Sent you beneath my father's guardian care,
To learn hard leſſons in the ſchool of glory,
Yet ſure the parent ſuffer'd in that abſence,
Which, as a king, his virtue deem'd would raiſe
Your fame, and fit you for a people's weal.
Yes, my Agenor, oft his tendereſt greetings
Have warn'd me to return, when circling time
Or when the pauſe of arms, or honour's duty
Permitted me to quit the hoſt of Rome.
And yet—my prince—
And yet—too true, Agenor,
I feel each juſt reproach—the land indeed
I left, and journey'd o'er a length of ſoil,
When fate (for ſure 'twas more than common fortune)
Prompted my ſteps to tread Bithynia's realm,
Where Lycomedes wag'd inteſtine war
With rebel arms.
Thy generous valour then,
Warm'd by the common cauſe of kings, to aſſert
A prince's rights, forgot thy country's foe.
Full well thou know'ſt I vow'd to every God,
By all the ſolemn ties that bind mankind,
Ne'er to reveal, while in this hoſtile land
My country or my birth; this, urg'd by thee,
I ſwore, when firſt I told thee my deſign,
To gaze on Cleonice's wondrous charms.
Nor vain the caution—think, O think, how far
It yet imports to keep the mighty ſecret:
Alas! my friend, I tremble, had your father
Been conſcious whither fortune led the ſteps
Of his Pharnaces; could he know the land
Of Lycomedes now detains his ſon—
Th' idea ſtarts a thouſand fears: ſhould now
Some dreadful chance betray you to the foe;
I ſhudder at the thought—then let us hence
And to the longing troops of Pontus give
A blooming hero, promis'd oft in vain:
Then let us haſten—by my father's ſhade
I now adjure you—for Pharnaces once
Rever'd his Tiridates—
How dear I held him!—Artabaſus only
Could claim a nearer duty o'er my heart,
The guide, the great example of my youth!
Methinks I now recall the fatal day
That ſnatch'd him from us—O my lov'd Agenor!
The ſcene is preſent to my eyes—I ſee
The battle rang'd, when to my ardent gaze
Of rigid war, and taught me where to drive
The thunder of the field; when Heaven ſo will'd,
A diſtant arrow ſent with deadly aim,
Pierc'd his brave breaſt—
Then midſt the diſtant fight,
It was not given Agenor's hand to cloſe,
A dying parent's eyes—
Theſe arms receiv'd
The venerable chief—"Take, take,"
"This laſt embrace—ſtill let the dear remembrance
"Of Tiridates' counſels move his prince,
"And, for my ſake, be kind to my Agenor."
He could no more, but left in thee his pledge
Of truth and amity—ſince which my ſoul
Has held thee ever partner of her ſame,
Her better half, her other Tiridates!
I am indeed thy Tiridates—yes,
My father, from thy ſeats of bliſs and peace,
See, how thy prince rewards thy loyal faith,
And, in his love, ſupplies a parent's loſs—
And yet, forgive me, prince, thy words awake
Remembrance of that day for ever mourn'd!—
Go, Agenor, ſince my laſt
Reſolves are fix'd—provide whate'er requires
To quit this court—to quit my Cleonice,
Tho' death is in the thought!—thy piety
Reproaches mine—ere yet the mounting ſun
Whoſe early ray now gilds the face of morn,
Attain his mid-day ſeat, the camp of Pontus
Shall ſee Pharnaces and Agenor.
Be ſtill, my beating heart—O Cleonice!
I feel her now—Inſtruct me every God
In ſoothing ſpeech—O! teach my lips to breathe
In gentleſt ſounds the fatal word—farewell.
—Orontes here!—and is not this the bleſt
The deſtin'd huſband of my Cleonice—
I ſhall relapſe—for if I think—diſtraction
Enſues, and fame and peace are loſt for ever!
Sure 'twas Arſetes! that malignant planet,
That thwarts my courſe, whene'er my fiery ſoul
Would, eagle-wing'd, ſtretch her aſpiring flight,
He ſoars above me ſtill—Have I not worn
The maſk of loyal faith, ſmooth'd o'er the dark
The ſullen brow of deep deſign, with ſmiles
My heart confeſs'd not?—What have I not done,
For thee, Ambition!—Let not pale remembrance
Review the paſt, or paint a ſcene to ſtagger
The ſickly reſolution—deeds long done,
That ſleep ſecure from every mortal ken,
Are but as ſhadows in the coward eye
Of conſcience—Hence!—Orontes' ſoul diſdains
The phantoms of remorſe.—
Now, my Zopyrus—
Speak; haſt thou aught that claims my ear?
That the young ſtranger, who ſo deeply witch'd
The madding multitude, prepares this day
To leave Bithynia's court.
It cannot be—
Arſetes!—ſpeak—what at this fated time,
When war again unfolds his brazen portals,
And Pontus brings to view its creſted thouſands;
A tempting proſpect yet untry'd, to prove
His ſword—It cannot be!
This hour Agenor
Declar'd Arſetes' purpoſe.
Speed it, gods!
Come near, Zopyrus, to thy faithful ear
I've oft diſclos'd the ſecrets of my heart,
Where Love, but moſt Ambition holds his ſway.
This ſtranger is my bane—I ſhrink beneath
His better Genius—even the field that once
Crown'd this good ſword with honours, yields me now
But wither'd laurels, which his brow diſdains;
While the blind herd on him, with full-month'd clamour,
Laviſh their ſhouts.
Yet fortune has ſecur'd
Your brighteſt hopes—has not our king declar'd
Have not the aſſembled ſtates confirm'd the right
Of juſt ſucceſſion? haſtening on the ſteep
Of downward life, our king, though high in ſpirit,
Blazing with waſting light, that ſoon muſt fail,
Shall ſudden ſink in night, and leave to thee
A glorious riſing to imperial greatneſs!
Fair Cleonice too ſhall bleſs your bed,
And with her beauty ſmooth the toils of empire.
'Tis true, the charms of Cleonice well
Might claim the tongue of rapture—yet, Zopyrus,
While great Ambition's ſun lights up my flame,
The ſtar of Love looks ſickly at his beams.
What more can crown your wiſh, when Happineſs,
In all your ſoul aſpires to, ſoon ſhall open
Her welcome arms—Mean-time the king, my lord,
Eſteems, and holds you high above the rank
Of Nicomedia's nobles.
Spite of the tardy warmth of cautious age
I've work'd me deep in Lycomedes' foul,
By more than common zeal to avenge his ſon.
But home-bred faction, ſpreading thro' the land,
Compell'd us to the hated truce with Pontus;
Till now, nine moons elaps'd, this upſtart chief
Stept in to bear away the prize of arms
Due to my elder ſword, while Teramenes
With partial eye beheld his every deed,
And idoliz'd the work himſelf had rais'd.
Yet common rumour ſpeaks that friendſhip holds
In ſtrongeſt bands Orontes and Arſetes.
Even ſo, my friend—and policy demands
That he, who runs the mingled race of life,
Should learn to veil himſelf, and oft appear
The thing he is not—
Should propitious Fortune
Remove your rival hence—
If this report
Be true, the dark eclipſe that late has frown'd,
No more, my friend, ſhall intercept my fame;
The war's great field, at this auſpicious time
But fall the harveſt of Orontes' ſword.
SCENE, A garden, with palm-trees, olives, and other Eaſtern plants.
ALAS! it will not be! and fond remembrance
In vain recals the paſt—where, where is now
That reaſon's boaſt, which o'er creation lifts
The pride of man, when fickle as the gale
That ſweeps the bloſſom from the bough, our paſſions
Veer with each hour, and ſhake our beſt reſolves?
How is my boſom chang'd!—no longer now,
From my example, mothers teach the young
And tender maid, who dreads each ſwelling wave
That heaves but gently o'er the ſtream of life,
To riſe ſuperior to her ſex's weakneſs—
Friend of my life, whoſe partial choice has given
Arſinöe long the privilege to paſs
The ceremonious bounds, which birth and title
Had plac'd between us, wherefore art thou chang'd
From her that lov'd, and lov'd but her Arſinöe?
Still art thou here the partner of my heart;
Then wherefore this reproach? and why complain
Of change that never yet this breaſt has known?
We were two plants that grew in friendſhip's ſoil,
And promis'd fruits of never-dying love.
Then every care that Cleonice knew
Arſinöe too has ſhar'd—but late I've mark'd
That Cleonice, different from herſelf,
Shuns even Arſinöe's preſence, ever ſeeks
The lone receſs, and brooding o'er her thoughts,
Nurſes ſome hidden grief—ſoon war again
Shall looſe its rage—perhaps the threatening danger
Alarms your fear.
Thou know'ſt that I alone
Remain'd the comfort of a father's age,
When fate, that tore Polemon from the hope
A hapleſs conſort ſever'd, thou remember'ſt,
My mother, ſad Arete, bow'd with grief,
Soon mix'd her aſhes with the ſon's ſhe mourn'd:
Then left, in early youth, my converſe oft
Sooth'd a fond parent's pangs, when recollection
Rais'd up the form of bleſſings loſt for ever!
While, as I grew, paternal fondneſs ſaw
With partial eye his Cleonice's mind
Expand beyond her ſex: hence not alone,
The ſoft, the winning talents, that to life
Give female poliſh, but the greater arts
Ennobling man were taught my ripening age.
But, o'er the reſt, my ſire, whoſe boſom glow'd
T'avenge his ſon, enur'd my thoughts to cheriſh
Deep hatred of the ſoe by whom he fell.
Hatred and vengeance ill agree, my friend,
With tender grief like thine—eſtrang'd from all
Thy wonted temper, ſolitude beſpeaks
Far other change—Then ſeek not to deceive
The ſearching eye of friendſhip.
I feel the woman here—thou ſaid'ſt but now
That war again muſt ſoon unlooſe its rage;
Is there no cauſe for fear? whate'er the tongue
Of ſtoic fortitude may boaſt, the mind,
The generous mind that owns life's deareſt ties,
Will nouriſh feelings pride diſdains to own.
Revolve our preſent ſtate, our country's ſword,
Now us'd to victory gives high expectance
Of future triumphs, while for you, my friend,
If love, if grandeur charm, Bithynia's throne
Shall raiſe you high, and Hymen light his torch
At Cupid's flame—Is not the firſt of men,
The firſt of heroes, yours? Yes, Cleonice,
Each anxious doubt ſhall fleet like morning miſt,
And all be loſt in your Orontes' arms.
Orontes' arms!—O Heaven! what have I ſaid!
By every tie of love—But whither—whither
Now rove my thoughts!—Leave me, leave me, my Arſinöe,
To brood in ſecret o'er my treaſur'd ſorrows.
[Page 18] Arſi.
Scarce from her tenth fair creſcent has the moon
Silver'd night's fleecy robe, ſince I've beheld,
Tho' ſilent, I've beheld thy alter'd mien;
Methinks ere ſince the day, when 'midſt the ranks
Of rebel arms my father 'ſcap'd with life.
Sav'd by the gallant aid of brave Arſetes—
Ha! thou art pale—and now the mantling blood
Returns once more—What can this mean?—My heart
Has caught the alarm, and, Oh! my ſoul forebodes
Diſtreſs and anguiſh to my hopeleſs love.
It muſt be ſo—hence, every vain reſpect!
I can no more diſſemble—Heat, Arſinöe,
Hear then and pity Cleonice's weakneſs!
While Lycomedes with a monarch's care,
Plans future ſchemes of greatneſs—Cleonice,
Loſt to herſelf, her rank, her ſex's glory,
Doats on the merits of a youth unknown!
Orontes!—name him not—
I own his worth—I own the ſacred rights
A king and father claim—but I muſt own,
Tho' while I ſpeak, confuſion fills my ſoul,
Arſetes bears down all; and tho' the pride
Of fortune rais'd me high above his hopes,
A pleader here, which nothing could withſtand,
By looks, by deeds, by all that can ennoble
The pride of youthful manhood, had prepar'd
My eaſy boſom to receive the gueſt,
That n [...]w, ſole tyrant, reigns my boſom's lord!
Then am I loſt indeed!
Go, my Arſinöe,
And learn if aught is rumour'd that pertains
To my Arſetes:—ſoon this favourd hero
Will leave Bithynia's court—but ſtill remember
Veil'd in thy faithful breaſt to keep my ſecret:
To thee I truſt my life, my fame, my all!
Loſt and bewilder'd ſtill I rove in fate's
Diſtreſsful labyrinth—Why, Cleonice,
Why didſt thou leave the ſhore of calm indifference,
To launch upon the dangerous ſea of love?
Enter LYCOMEDES, and TERAMENES
This day, my Cleonice, ſurely dawns
Join'd with Orontes, quell'd our rebel ſons▪
To whom the public voice gave every ſuffrage
Of grateful tribute, threaten'd to forſake
Our realm, and bear to other climes his ſword▪
But Teramenes, who with counſel ſage
For ever watches o'er his country's weal,
Has found the happy means to fix him here,
To graft his virtues on Bithynia's ſtock,
Bleſt earneſt of revenge!
What means my father?
My lord, the duty Cleonice owes
Her country's welfare, and her father's honour,
Demands my thanks for every aid that Heaven
Gives to Bithynia's ſtrength—and ſure, Arſetes
Stands firſt in martial praiſe—But ſay, my father,
What happy means has Teramenes found
To fix him yours?
Such means as oft have dealt
Deſtruction on mankind: what oft has drawn
The ſword of violence, may now ſecure
A nation's ſame and vengeance—Yes, whate'er
Arſetes' race or country, beauty's charms
Inſure his future ſervice.—Fair Arſinöe,
Thy virtuous friend, ſhall bind her native land
In grateful thanks for ſuch a hero's valour.
Our friend, our Teramenes, joins to his
Arſinöe's hand, and gives, in ſuch a ſon,
A great ally in Lycomedes' cauſe.
Led by Orontes' and Arſetes' valour,
What may Bithynia's ſquadrons not atchieve?
Support me, Heaven! [to Ter.] —Sir,
I confeſs the virtues
Of my Arſinöe, and her beauty's charms:
Permit me yet to aſk you, if Arſetes
Has e'er reveal'd—Perhaps ſome diſtant fair,
Whoſe love and beauty had poſſeſs'd his ſoul,
Impels him to forſake Bithynia's court.
No, princeſs—if this judgment, not unſkill'd
In human kind, can read the thoughts of men,
He loves Arſinöe: late have I obſerv'd
His boſom labouring with the ſtifled paſſion,
Owns, with a virgin bluſh, Arſetes' virtues:
Nor could a youth, whoſe fortune only reſts
In his own merits and his ſword, refuſe
That hand which Nicomedia's nobleſt peers
With tranſport would receive.
Why droops my daughter?
Still cheriſh hope; a train of better days
Succeeds, where vengeance brightens up the proſpect.
My age's darling! 'tis for thee my ſoul
Still labours, tho' declining years would fain
Woo me to ſhades of peace—to raiſe thee high,
With thy Orontes, and avenge my boy,
I ſcorn rep [...]ſe—nor will I reſt till theſe
Old eyes behold in chains or breathleſs ſtretch'd
The cruel foe by whom Polemon fell!
Come, Teramenes, let us ſeek Arſetes,
Then once again renew our vows to pour
The war's whole rage on Artabaſus' head.
[Exeunt Lyc. and Ter.
It is enough—misfortune now has ſpent
Her utmoſt ſhafts—and I defy the future!
O Cleonice! has thy ſtruggling boſom
For this ſo long contended? Oft when pride
Of inborn dignity, when ſenſe of fame,
And every duty to a father, urg'd
My ſoul to combat love—how have the words
Of perfidy enſnar'd my eaſy heart!
Deceiv'd—rejected—wedded to Arſinōe!
But hence!—avaunt!—I will—I would forget
The perjur'd, yet the once belov'd Arſetes!
But ſee!—the traitor comes!—O Heaven! away
With woman's weakneſs—meet him as befits
A princeſs ſlighted and her love betray'd!
While thus the faireſt of her ſex withdraws
To ſolitude and ſadneſs, ſhuns the gaze
Of admiration, let Arſetes yet
Intrude on Cleonice's lonely hours
Ere cruel fate compels—
My lord, forbear—
This needed not—a hero's towering ſoul
Soars high above the weakneſs of the lover:
Can here detain Arſetes—other charms—
But I forget myſelf—excuſe me, Sir—
Whate'er your aims—let not my preſence damp
The glorious fortune love and fate prepare—
And think not e'er awaken'd from her dream
Of fond credulity, that Cleonice
Will cloud your joys, or ſtop your path to greatneſs.
Where am I? ſure I dream—my every ſenſe
Is loſt in wild amazement—
All is ready,
And nothing now remains but that we quit
Bithynia's court for Artabaſus' camp—
What mean thoſe looks of ſorrow, wherefore heaves
Your ſwelling breaſt, while clouded with deſpair
Your eyes, in ſilent pauſe, reproach the Gods!
Alas! what ſhall I ſay—could'ſt thou believe it,
Agenor? ſhe for whom my ſoul had near
Forgot a kingdom's fame, a father's love,
Each nice reſpect of honour, made my name
To future times the ſcorn of every tongue,
That fathers to their ſons might point the example,
And bid them fear to fall as fell Pharnaces!
Even ſhe, my friend, has now with cruel ſcorn,
Repaid my love—
O Sir, forgive Agenor;
But ſure in pity fate concurs even here
To haſten your reſolves—whate'er the cauſe
Of Cleonice's anger, every moment
Is wing'd with peril—think what foes conſpire
Againſt your father's peace, his life and fame.
No more, no more, Agenor—beſt of friends,
In thee thy father Tiridates ſpeaks.
Pharnaces! ſtill thou ſhalt retrieve thy glory;
Burſt from the veil of dark obſcurity,
And blaze in virtue's beam.—But yet, Agenor!
O yet indulge a heart that ſinks beneath
Accumulated anguiſh—can I leave
My Cleonice thus—alas! who knows
How ſoon, by raſh reſentment urg'd, her hand
While abſent hence Pharnaces.—
Wilt thou then,
Wilt thou then linger here, unmindful ſtill
Of fame and Artabaſus?
Be witneſs, every power! we leave the court—
This only day indulge a lover's fondneſs!
The care be thine that Artabaſus ſoon
Receive this ſignet, whith the welcome news
That his Pharnaces, his expected ſon,
Will join, ere yet they reach the bounds of Pontus,
His native bands,—there, kneeling at his feet,
Implore forgiveneſs—in this interval
Of fate and love, theſe lips ſhall once again
Aſſail with every ſoothing eloquence
The cruel Cleonice; then, Agenor,
To Artabaſus will I open all
My ſecret heart—perhaps ſome future day
(O buſy hope!) may give me undiſguis'd
To plead my cauſe before her, when my ſight.
Shall in her breaſt revive the tender flame,
And love with endleſs rapture crown Pharnaces!
SCENE a gallery.
Enter LYCOMEDES and TERAMENES.
How ſtand the ſoldiers' hopes, my Teramenes?
What ſpirit breathes among their ranks, to give
A preſage of the war?
The troops on fire,
Demand alone Orontes and Arſetes;
With loud reproach they execrate the ſoe,
And hail with joy the near expiring truce.
Yes. Teramenes—civil Diſcord now,
That ſheaths her ſword, has left Revenge to rear
Her dreadful banner—Nemeſis has heard
Our ſolemn vows againſt exulting Pontus.
No more Polemon's ghoſt ſhall haunt my dreams;
Arſetes and Orontes ſhall extend
My name to lateſt times; the glorious love
Of empire and of arms, that fir'd my youth,
Shall warm my frozen age—too long compell'd
But when my ſoul forgets thy loſs, Polemon,
Diſgrace and ruin o'er theſe ſilver locks
Shed their black influence!—Orontes, welcome;
What hear'ſt thou of the foe?
The king of Pontus, from Heraclea's walls,
Has drawn the choiceſt ſons of valour forth,
That lie encamp'd beſide Parthenius' ſtream.
'Tis ſaid, they wait the arrival of Pharnaces,
(The kingdom's hope) whom Artabaſus ſent,
What time Bithynia ſign'd the truce with Pontus,
To diſtant Rome to train his youth in arms,
And Fame, with loudeſt tongue, proclaims his praiſe.
A ſtripling when he left his father's court?
He was; and now ſcarce twenty funs have ripened
Our fruitful years, ſince Artabaſus gain'd
By him a parent's name.—
Such as he is—
O, ſcorpion memory! ſuch perhaps had been
Bithynia's heir and Lycomedes' ſon!
O, Teramenes! O, Orontes! pity
A father's feelings—Thou, Orontes, ſaw'ſt
My hapleſs boy—thy pious arms embrac'd
My loſt Polemon, as life's guſhing ſtream
Sprinkled his budding laurels—where was then
A father's vengeful ſword, while to his tent
You hore him pale and ſenſeleſs, diſtant far,
Detain'd by coward age, theſe ears receiv'd
The dreadful tidings, when his frantic mother
Ended her wretched being—Powerful Jove!
Shed from thy bitter urn the dregs of anguiſh
On my poor ſpan of life, withhold each comfort
Which creeping years, o'erwhelm'd with ſorrow, claim,
If I forgive the cruel hand that cropt
This blooming plant, which elſe had flouriſh'd now,
And ſhelter'd with his ſhade my waſting age!
Soon ſhall welead th' embattled ſquadrons forth
On Artabaſus—ſhould this boaſted ſon
Return, tho' conqueſt plum'd, he comes perhaps
A fated victim—
[Page 24] Lyco.
O! that thought, Orontes,
Gives vigour to my nerves!—Ye powers of vengeance!
Hear, hear a father's voice, and thro' his ſon,
Reach Artabaſus' heart, that after years
Of tedious expectation, now at length
Return'd and ſcarcely welcom'd, he may fall
A dreadful ſacrifice—then thro' the ſenſe,
The thrilling ſenſe of fond parental love,
By his Pharnaces let him know the pangs
Of Lycomedes, when Polemon fell!
SCENE, a private apartment.
Enter CLEONICE and ARSINOE.
TALK not of comfort—'tis in vain. Arſinöe;
Arſetes leaves us—my relentleſs ſcorn,
Impell'd by frantic jealouſy, the madneſs
Of woman's love, drives from Bithynia's court
The firſt of warriors: his right hand, that ſtill
Held Victory captive, now to happier realms
Shall bear his fortune and his ſame—the ſun
That riſes on the war, ſhall ſee our troops
Pale and diſmay'd for their Arſetes loſt.
Who knows the event?—the ſame declining ſun
May bluſh upon Bithynia's ſhame, and gild
With favouring rays the tent of Artabaſus,
May ſmile upon his arms; while Lycomedes
Curſes each day that wider ſpreads his ſhame.
Alas! my friend, your warmth of temper frames
The gloomieſt proſpects of imagin'd terror—
Tho' Fortune now may frown—
Thee too, Arſinöe,
Thee have I wrong'd—forgive thy Cleonice—
Art thou to blame, if, fram'd for gentleſt paſſions,
Thy breaſt, the ſeat of innocence and love,
Confeſt the manly beauties of Arſetes,
Not bound by cruel ties of fame or duty?
Rouze, rouſe, my feeble virtue—yes, I feel
New ſtrength, and ſhould Arſetes yet remain—
I think, Arſinöe—Heaven, ſupport the thought!
I think,—I could reſolve to yield him to thee—
But ſee, thy father—
All the hopes we form'd
To keep Arſetes here, diſſolve in air:
Thus oft, preſumptuous man too fondly graſps
Ideal good: the hero, whom we deem'd
Secur'd by every tie, declines the hand
By Hymen given, endow'd with wealth and honours;
While candor bluſhes on his modeſt cheek,
He owns Arſinöe's virtues, owns the fate
That now forbids him to receive her love,
Or longer to remain Bithynia's gueſt.
Still art thou true, Arſetes!
Why heaves thy boſom?—Still our guardian Gods
We truſt will ſmile.
My lord, Arſi [...]ö [...] ſtands
Prepar'd for all—be witneſs, Heaven! how oft
I check'd each flattering hope: forgive, my father,
The involuntary ſigh! perhaps the laſt
The fruitleſs effort of expiring paſſion!
Call up the thoughts that ſuit thy ſex and rank:
Time ſhall, with lenient hand, relieve thy anguiſh,
Thy princeſs, with the gracious warmth of friendſhip
Shall ſhed the balm of comfort in thy wounds:
—Still art thou ſad?—permit me, Cleonice,
Awhile retir'd with dear paternal counſels,
To arm her tender breaſt, that peace again
May chaſe deſpair and eaſe an anxious father.
[Exit with Arſinöe.
Tho' my heart joys to find Arſetes true,
Still am I wretched—yet again methinks,
Fain would I once again behold that face
Where love, where [...]aith!—but O! 'tis madneſs all!
Doom'd to Orontes, when the lonely hour
Invites to ſhades of ſorrow, tyrant duty
Makes even my grief a crime—but let me ſtill,
Let me once more, while yet without reproach
I may indulge the ſight, behold Arſetes,
Take the laſt ſad adieu—and like a wretch
That ſhivers on the precipice of fate,
Enjoy the parting glimpſe of peace and happineſs.
Then ſink at once to miſery and Orontes.
Enter Lycomedes, Teramenes, and Orontes.
The Gods have heard our vows, my Teramenes,
Ere yet the night aſcends, to Pontus' camp
Pharnaces will return; even now we heard
From certain tidings, that the prince's ſignet
Receiv'd by Artabaſus, had confirm'd
His near approach—
My liege, the enemy
Will feel new vigour from the expected ſight
Of young Pharnaces—ere a few ſhort days
Are paſt, th' advancing troops by Arcas led
Will join our arms; united then, our bands
May ruſh to certain conqueſt.
Forgive me, if my ſoul revolts ſrom counſels
Which frigid prudence dictates—ſhall we then
Remain inglorious, ſkulk within our walls,
To wait uncertain aid—permit the foe
To gather ſtrength and courage from the prefence
Of this Pharnaces?—O! forbid it virtue!
That virtue which has fired Bithynia's ſons
To glorious conqueſt and extended ſway!
My empire's hope! on whoſe ſucceeding reign
Sits expectation: this Pharnaces ſtill
Turns every ſcale of fight; his towering ſpirit,
Enthuſiaſt of the battle, looks with ſcorn
On vulgar honours—
To this boaſted hero,
Deck'd in his foreign triumphs, ſend the trump
Of ſtern defiance, that Pharnaces' arm
May meet with mine before the camp, and give
A glorious opening to the morn of war!
—'Tis nobly utter'd—thy impatient ſword
May find employment—to the hoſtile camp
A herald ſhall to-morrow bear our challenge
To this Pharnaces, in the liſted field
Next day to engage in ſingle fight, the champion
Bithynia's king ſhall ſend—but ſince the life
Of my Orontes on the great event
Suſpended hangs—to thine ſix warriors more
Shall join their dauntleſs names.
[Page 27] Oron.
Let inſtant lots
Decide the combatant; or rather fix,
Without the chance of lots, Orontes' ſword,
Which here he tenders, vowing from Pharnaces
To tear his recent ſpoils, and to the manes
Of your Polemon ſhed his life, or fall
Himſelf a victim, happy in the applauſe
Of his lov'd ſovereign, and his country's tears.
Permit me, ſir, ſince time with rapid wing
Now mocks my ſtay, to waken your remembrance
That call'd by fate to other ties which honour,
Which duty muſt enforce, Arſetes now
Prepares to leave the court, reluctant leave
That court, where Lycomedes' royal hand
Sheds laviſh honours on his poor deſert.
Yet ere thou goeſt, thy valour that has long
Suſtain'd our arms, may add one labour more;
For ſtill methinks, Arſetes, would my ſoul
Detain thee here; but ſate, I know not why,
In thee from Lycomedes tears a hero,
Whom next Orontes he eſteem'd his ſon;
This very now, ere thy arrival here
A challenge was decreed to dare Pharnaces
To ſingle ſight—Orontes, 'midſt the liſt
Of noble candidates for fame, demands
The glorious peril, let us add to theſe
Arſetes' name, and inſtant lots decide
The champion fated on his venturous ſword
To bear Bithynia's vengeance—
Ha! what means
My wayward deſtiny!
Behold the champion
Thy choice ſelects—ſee, Lycomedes, ſee,
Suſpenſe is on his brow—Is this the man
Whoſe arms ſo oft—
Yes, 'tis the man, Orontes!
Who fought Bithynia's battles, he whoſe force—
But I am calm.—No, Lycomedes, think not
I ſhrink from honour's trial—ſhould the lot
Bring forth Arſete's name—believe me, ſir,
Whate'er Pharnaces—I alone perhaps
That what Pharnaces was, is then Arſetes.
Enough, enough;—thy zeal, Orontes, here
Prompts thee too far; nor thou Arſetes, heed
Orontes' eager warmth—to dare beyond
The level of mankind, and bravely reach
At virtue's height, is all that human firmneſs
Can boaſt her own—Succeſs, enthron'd above,
Beyond a mortal's power, by Heaven alone
Commiſſion'd, crowns the deed—now let us hence—
The lots once drawn, ſoon as the fated morn
Aſcends the ſteep to gild the turret's height,
Our knight ſhall wait the ſignal.
[Exeunt Lyc. Ter. and Oron.
Of blind events!—ſay, whither wouldſt thou lead
Pharnaces now?—yet let me once again
Behold my Cleonice, then forſake
This fatal realm, no more a feign'd ally
To tread with hoſtile ſtep Bithynia's court.
She comes—once more 'tis given me to addreſs
My Cleonice—'midſt ſurrounding perils
Yet happy, if I once again can pour
My ſoul's full anguiſh here—
What ſhall I ſay? how ſpeak my boſom's tumult?
I fear too much I wrong'd thee; tho' our fate
Can ne'er unite us, yet I feel my heart
Will never caſt Arſetes from the throne
Where Love had plac'd him.—
O! thou moſt unkind!
What had I done to merit!—when my ſoul
With anguiſh bled—
Alas! I thought thee falſe,
And tho' I knew thou never could'ſt be mine,
I could not bear another ſhould receive
That love, which once I deem'd was mine alone.
Another Cleonice! is there then
Amidſt the blooming circle of your ſex
A maid whoſe charms—what treacherous tongue has dar'd
Traduce my faith?
[Page 29] Cleo.
The king and Teramenes
Declar'd your purpoſe to eſpouſe Arſinöe:
Fir'd at the thought, my raſh ungovern'd temper—
Thou know'ſt the reſt.—
Forbear, I know too much:
For this, thou could'ſt unheard condemn the man
That lives not but in thee; bid the ſame breath
That warm'd my love to rapture, like a froſt
Nip every bloſſom of my future hopes!—
Thou never lov'dſt—
Then wherefore am I wretched?
Unjuſt Arſetes! give me back, ye powers,
That bleſt indifference, when as yet this pulſe
Had never learnt to beat, theſe nerves to tremble
With fear, ſuſpenſe, with all the nameleſs train
That baniſh peace for ever—In Orontes
I view'd a Prince, to whom paternal care
Had pledg'd my nuptials; till a ſtranger's virtues
Drove every thought from Cleonice's breaſt
Of intereſt or ambition—ſtill remember
I will—I would retain the inbred dignity
That ſuits the daughter of Bithynia's king.—
Enough, Arſetes, that my ſoul has ſtoop'd
To own her weakneſs—yet ſince cruel Fate
Forbids our union, when thy heart ſelects
Another love, may every happineſs
That crowns the fondeſt pair—
O! never, never!
This boſom traitor to its firſt—
Well doſt thou honour here the man whoſe ſword
May turn the tide of victory—my daughter,
Behold Arſetes, now decreed to meet
In combat with Pharnaces—know, the lots
Of fate are drawn; our fame is in thy hands;
Thou art our champion.
Since the will of deſtiny
Seals me thy warrior; till the morn diſſolves
The truce with Pontus, let me from the court
A while retire, on ſomething that concerns
My weal, my honour—when the bluſh of dawn
To Mars devoted, there thy guard ſhall find
A champion arm'd to meet Bithynia's foe,
If Artabaſus' ſon accept the war.
Till then the hours be all thy own—Nor claims
Bithynia, or Bithynia's king, from thee
But what befits thy honour—ſhould ſucceſs
Attend our hero's arms, theſe walls ſhall ring
With joyful paeans, and to crown the day
With jubilee, the day that ſets us free
From ſuch a foe, Orontes to the altar
Shall lead his Cleonice; and the garlands
Of Hymen's triumphs mingle with the palms
Which victory diſplays—The important hour
Demands my counſel hence—till next we meet,
Farewell—and ſhould Pharnaces, ſway'd by virtue,
Accept our challenge—may Polemon's death
Sit on thy lance—a mother's grief and death
Edge thy keen faulchion, and a father's ſufferings
Infuſe new ſpirit in the day of fight,
That every eye may view with tears of tranſport
Arſetes' laurels and Bithynia's glory!
Yet is there more! O, no! my fate has long
Frown'd in the diſtant proſpect—now the viſion
Draws near, and miſery with rapid ſpeed
Rides on the advancing hour—thy life, Arſetes,
Expos'd to peril in to-morrow's field
Excites each fear—for thee my prayers ſhall pierce
Jove's awful throne; yet muſt thy victory
Doom me a wretch for ever—led to grace
Thy triumph in Orontes' hated bands!
Yet be it ſo—fate, honour, virtue, all
Demand this ſacrifice!—and ſhould the event
Of battle crown thee with the victor's wreath,
And ſtill Bithynia's vows detain thee here,
Arſinöe be thy bright, thy dear reward—
She loves thee, my Arſetes—yes—O Heaven!
Why do I weep—let her beſtow that happineſs
Which Cleonice never—
[Page 31] Arſ.
Still thou know'ſt not
What fate has yet reſerv'd—the enſuing combat
May clear a myſtery, which till now compell'd
My bleeding heart had kept from all—from thee!
Then by each paſt, now hopeleſs hour of love,
Still cheriſh in thy breaſt the gentle flame
Arſetes kindled, till the expected ſun
Sets on the battle's fate; our fate perhaps
Hangs on the equal balance—Cleonice
Will ne'er refuſe theſe moments to Arſetes:
Thou know'ſt not what I feel for thee, my ſoul
Labours beneath a load of ſecret anguiſh;
While danger, ambuſh'd in a thouſand forms,
Waits every ſtep, and threats my way with ruin.
Thou haſt prevail'd, Arſetes; and whate'er
The fateful birth that waits to be diſclos'd,
My love ſhall hope the event—
The day declines,
And warns me hence—
O Heaven! we meet no more
Till that eventful time! yet go, Arſetes:
Go whither glory calls—Hear, every Power!
Raiſe o'er his head the buckler of defence,
Pluck from the hoſtile hand the nerve of ſtrength,
And bring him victor home—nor let a tear
From Cleonice ſtain the hour that gives
Bithynia ſafety, and Arſetes fame!
Methinks my pulſe more quickly beats, and all
My ſpirits rouſe, as nearer to the goal
Verges my fate.
O, my friend!
Reflect what perils hover round; ſome God
(Forgive me, prince!) that frowns upon our raſhneſs,
Has form'd the labyrinth that threatens now—
This combat by the king propos'd—
Did not Orontes mark the champion's lot,
Then Fate, perhaps—But yet, my friend, this fight,
This myſtic fight, may work ſome means to unravel
The knot of deſtiny—The hour now preſſes;
The herald ſoon will ſeek my father's camp.
[Page 32] Age.
Then let us hence!—The warlike troops of Pontus
Impatient wait to ſee their prince return;
Whoſe glories won in diſtant climes, attract
Each liſtening ear, while every ſoldier, warm
With expectation, pants to view that face
Where Mars propitious in life's opening prime
With youthful graces blends the victor's ſmile—
Your father too—
I feel, I feel it here!
The godlike, virtuous ardor! yes, Agenor,
My ſoul is up in arms—methinks I ſee
Good Artabaſus darting thro' the ranks
His ardent looks—methinks I hear him chide,
With fond paternal warmth, his tardy ſon.
Now, on his reverend cheek, where age begins
To ſhed its ſilver honours, ſtands the tear
Of tenderneſs, while all the parent longs
To ſee thoſe features ripening into manhood,
Which laſt he view'd in early bloom—I hear
The ſhout of charging hoſts! the neigh of ſteeds!
The battle joins, and no Pharnaces there!
Now danger ſtalks around, and Artabaſus—
Diſtracting thought! fly, fly my beſt Agenor,
Fly to redeem our fame, and ſave a father!
SCENE, another apartment.
Enter Orontes and Zopyrus.
Compoſe yourſelf, my lord.
Was it for this I deem'd his abſence near,
And now behold him with Orontes join'd
In glory's liſt—nay more, by partial fortune
Declar'd Bithynia's champion!—Should he fall,
He leaves a name in arms to cope with mine!—
But ſhould he conquer!—Hell is in that thought!
Who knows, Zopyrus!—whither may the king's
Too partial views incline?—The kingdom freed
From ſuch a foe—Polemon's death reveng'd—
He may, perhaps, forget—The crown, Zopyrus,
That miſtreſs of my ſoul, to which ambition
Points every aim, may grace a ſtranger's brow!
This right arm might reach
His life—but policy forbids my hatred
To blaze abroad—The many blindly dote
On him they ſcarcely know—Zopyrus, ſpeak,
Art thou my friend?—
Hold—let me think,—Orontes
Bears not the coward's ſcruples—there is yet
Perhaps a way—
Pauſe not, but ſpeak—
Arſetes muſt not live—Give but the word,
He dies, and dies ere he can meet Pharnaces!
Thou know'ſt that I command the guard
To eſcort Arſetes from the fane of Mars
To meet Pharnaces; from a deſperate band,
The power of gold, and vaſt reward, ſhall ſingle
A choſen few, that at a ſignal given
Shall rid your ſoul of every fear in him:
And more to blind ſuſpicion's eye, their arms,
Their veſts ſhall ſeem of Pontus' troops: the deed
Effected once, the enſuing fight ſhall ſee
Theſe tools of our great enterpriſe expos'd
Full in the front of ſlaughter, that in heat
Of onſet they may fall, and in their fall
Mock all diſcovery.
Come to my breaſt!
By heaven it ripens well—Then, when he's dead,
We lead the troops to well ſeign'd vengeance!—Say
Where lies the force of Pontus?
Bithynia's bounds, that thrice an arrow's flight
May reach their outmoſt guard.
Now, hated rival!
Now triumph for a moment—My revenge
Prepares ſuch greeting, never more thy deeds
Shall ſhine to vulgar eyes—on proud Arſetes
Death ſoon ſhall cloſe his everlaſting gate,
While life to me diſplays the glorious path
That leads the daring wind to fame and empire.
SCENE, An open place in the city.
WHENCE is this ſeeming weight? ſhake off, my ſoul,
This lethargy, and be again Orontes.
The truce is ended—all is ſafe—Arſetes
Accepts our challenge—and ere this Arſetes
Waits at the foreſt's edge—How ſlowly night
Has dragg'd her courſe! at length the day returns
To lift his beams upon thoſe eyes, that never
Muſt view his ſetting ſplendor—See! the king!—
Diſſimulation, ſpread thy ſubtleſt ſnares,
Teach me to amuſe the fond credulity
Of eaſy fools, with ſhew of what my heart
Diſdains to feel—but hold—
Enter Lycomedes, attended.
Yon' orient ſun,
That, glancing from the dewy mountain, ſheds
The day-ſpring's early bluſhes, on this morn
Shines with redoubled luſtre: on this morn,
That gives Arſetes to the field of fame
Our empire's champion—O, my beſt Orontes!
This hour, methinks, the hand of Heaven once more
On deſtiny's eternal page begins
To enroll Bithynia's honours—Speak, my ſon!
Thy generous ſoul, now wrapt with glory, pants
To ſhare Arſetes' danger.
I own my ſpirit rouzes at the call
Of martial conflict; yet, forbid it, Heaven!
My heart, impell'd by envy, ſhould repine
To view another's honours—by the hand
Of Mars, the patron of my wars, I ſwear
There's not a breaſt would feel Orontes' joy,
To hear the fate my ardent hope divines
This morn awaits the glories of Arſetes.
O truly great!—nor think thy noble ſword
Shall uſeleſs ſleep; no—ſhould the great event
Thy ſoul forebodes, attend Arſetes' valour,
Thyſelf with Teramenes join'd, ſhall pour
Our eager thouſands on the troops diſmay'd
Our glorious arms; and univerſal victory
Clap her glad wings—then every happy wreath,
That hope had form'd, ſhall deck theſe hoary temples,
And choral virgins hymn Bithynia's bands
Return'd in triumph home! Our Teramenes,
Already now, in pomp of martial pride,
Leaves theſe glad walls, and ſwells with war's deep notes
The ſoldier's ardor, while the plated mail
Heaves on each boſom—
Enter Cleonice, attended.
O, my Cleonice!
Age now, with backward gaze, on memory's plain
Revives forgotten honours—Say, my child;
Owns not thy heart a more than woman's feelings
On this eventſul moment!—
Yes, my ſoul
Expands to greater hopes—each other thought
Now ſleeps neglected—while the mightier claims
Of filial duty and my country's love
Poſſeſs me whole—the noble mind that draws
Its boaſted lineage from a race of kings;
Of kings, the ſacred delegates of Heaven;
Should baniſh every ſelfiſh view that tends not
To wide diffuſive good—Oh! ſhould the hand
Of proſperous fortune mark this happy day,
What thouſands then would hail with rapture's voice
Arſetes' bleſt return!—for this event
Old age ſhall lift his wrinkled palms in praiſe;
The virgin's tears ſhall vaniſh into ſmiles;
Redoubled warmth ſhall nerve the ſoldier's arm;
Till conqueſt ſwell the breath of ſame to ſpread
Bithynia's deeds, and lift her name to Heaven!
(dead march at a diſtance.
Whence is that ſound? that martial ſymphony
With Teramenes!—theſe are other ſtrains
Than joy or victory!—
The notes of ſorrow!—
And now 'tis ſilence all!— (muſic) —Again!
Beats high with anxious hope and fear.
[Page 36] Lyc.
What do I ſee! theſe aged eyes diſtinguiſh
A martial train with low inverted pikes,
And banners trailed to earth!—and hark! more near
Methinks I hear deep murmurs of diſtreſs,
And mingled groans, that peal in fancy's ear
Arſetes!—look, my father,
The low-hung trophy and the duſty arms—
[Enter in proceſſion a troop of ſoldiers, to a dead march, advancing ſlowly from the further end of the ſtage, firſt a company trailing their lances and trophies in the duſt, then the helmet. ſhield, and lance of Arſetes, borne by two ſoldiers; next Teramenes, and laſt a bier with a dead body, covered with a mantle, the ſoldiers bearing branches of cypreſs and palm: the proceſſion ad [...]ancing towards the front of the ſtage, halts, and the muſic ceaſes.]
Cleonice advancing towards the trophies.
Ha! ſure I know that creſt! That buckler's orb
Blaz'd with Arſetes' honours!—
Whence is this dreadful pomp of death?
I cannot ſpeak!—O, royal ſir, behold
Bithynia's champion! broken is the lance
Of war, the genius of the battle faints!
Arſetes is no more!—lo! there he lies
Pale from the hand of fate, no more to wake
To fame, to virtue, or Bithynia's cauſe.
My daughter!—Heaven! why am I thus unmov'd!
When age, unfeeling, ſinks not with the ſtroke
That now perhap▪—But ſhe revives—remove her
From this heart-breaking ſcene—
Ye ſhall not tear me hence—deſpair and grief
Now freeze my ſeat of life; the dreadful tidings
Shall load each paſſing gale, and every virgin,
Whoſe breaſt has known the agonies of love,
Lament with me, and mark this day with horror!
What means my daughter!
[Page 37] Cleon.
Orontes, pardon—to diſſemble further
Were inſult to his corſe—I lov'd Arſetes,
And I avow my flame—
In all, my rival!
Unhappy girl!—yet think not I will chide;
I feel thy anguiſh here!—
Where now is faith!
Where royal truſt in princes!—while Arſetes
Thus falls a ſacrifice to murderous treaſon,
And ends his life by an aſſaſſin's ſword!
Ha! murder'd, Teramenes!—
Each horrid circumſtance!—
Thou know'ſt, Arſetes
Directed, that Zopyrus might attend
Two hours from dawning day at Mars's altar:
But ere th' appointed time, a band of ruffians
Attack'd the hapleſs youth; in vain his valour
Oppos'd their fury; cover'd o'er with wounds,
Senſeleſs he fell; but when Zopyrus came
And aſk'd, with tears, the aſſaſſin's name, his eyes
Then nearly clos'd he rais'd, and murmur'd forth
Pharnaces' name, and died!
Be firm, my ſoul,
And hide thy ſecret triumph!
Pharnaces!—Artabaſus!—Gods, I thank you!—
I weep not now—my heart would fain aſſume
The cruel firmneſs of unfeeling woe!
Arſetes murder'd! murder'd by Pharnaces!
Where, where was juſtice, where the guardian powers
That watch o'er virtue!—Yet, it will not be—
My reſolution melts, and Nature pays
This ſtreaming anguiſh to Arſetes' memory!
My child, my Cleonice, in thy ſorrows
A king and father ſhare—for prayers and tears
Are all an old man's weapons: hoary age,
That breaks the vigour of Alcides, leaves
Theſe idle ſinews uſeleſs as the arms
Of female weakneſs!
[Page 38] Cleon.
Why, eternal Powers!
Why is not courage given to woman? ſhall not
Reſentment brace our ſex's feeble arm!
I feel, I feel it now—my boſom ſwells
With fury, with diſtraction—See Polemon,
A bleeding ſacrifice!—lo! next my mother
In death's convulſive pangs, and loſt Arſetes,
The murder'd victim of the worſt of foes!
Hear, mighty Jove! and ſend thy dread vicegerent
To weigh in equal ſcales the deeds of men!
See, Cleonice—ſee where Artabaſus
Shrinks in the awful trial!—ſoon, my daughter,
Vengeance ſhall rear her bloody creſt—Pharnaces
Shall pay the forfeit of his deed.
My hopes alone can triumph—
[here the bier is brought forward.
Thou know'ſt my weakneſs—then permit me here
To pay one mournful tribute—one laſt look,
To poor Arſetes!
[advancing towards the bier.
Hold! my Cleonice,
It is too much—forbear!—the nearer view
May ſtart thee into frenzy.
No, my father,
I can—I will ſupport it— [approaching the body] Is this Arſetes!
Is this Bithynia's triumph!—See the mantle
That wraps his clay-cold limbs, the fatal preſent
Of Cleonice's hand!—O, my Arſetes!
Pale, pale and lifeleſs!—murderous ſlaves!—O where,
Where are thoſe eyes that ſhed their beams of love
On Cleonice! where thoſe lips that wak'd
The heart-felt tenderneſs!—Diſtraction!—Hear me,
O Heaven!—Arſetes, hear!—while thus I claſp
Thy ſenſeleſs corſe, while yet thy ſpirit hovers
O'er thy cold clay, in pity to our ſorrows!
O never ſhall theſe eye-lids know repoſe,
This breaſt be ſtill'd to comfort—never—never
Till this accurs'd Pharnaces—Ha!—look there!—
Th' exulting murderer triumphs!—Stay, Pharnaces—
Tribunal met, where Minos lifts the urn—
His juſtice ſhall avenge my dear Arſetes!
Her griefs are wild—attend and ſooth her ſorrows.
(to attendants, as they go out.
Tears are but woman's tribute—to the ſoldier
A ſoldier pays far other dues—Arſetes
Demands Bithynia's gratitude—Here reſt
Your honour'd load, while on the cold remains
Of this lamented chief, Orontes vows
An offering to his ſhade—O! Sir, permit me
To ſecond, with my own, the ſoldier's zeal.
Thou art my age's hope, the ſtay on which
My kingdom leans—take all thy courage claims,
Go—lead the troops to arms.
This ſword, that oft
Has fought my ſovereign's cauſe, again unſheath'd,
Thirſts for the blood of Pontus—Yes, I ſee,
I ſee the genius of Arſetes lead
The embattled ſquadrons, while his ſpirit ſtill
Breathes in each breaſt, and marks the foe for vengeance.
Be it our care to pay the laſt ſad rites
To loſt Arſetes—to the clouds aſcend
His funeral flame, and call the Gods to witneſs
Our grateful tribute to the chief we mourn;
Then in a ſacred vaſe ſelect with care
His dear remains, to place them near the urn
Where the lov'd relics of Polemon, borne
A mournful trophy, ever in our ſight,
Feeds ſtill our grief, and miniſters the gale
That blows the ſmother'd flame of deep revenge!
[Exeunt, the proceſſion going off in order.
SCENE, a private apartment.
Enter Orontes and Zopyrus.
Deſtruction to my hopes! what Gods averſe
Could blaſt my fortune further!—Can it be!
Zopyrus—all our ſchemes abortive thus!
What he, whom lifeleſs now the city mourns,
Is not Arſetes—Arſetes and Pharnaces
There is no room for doubt—the tablets
Confirm the important truth.
A thouſand proofs [...]e [...]ur, that ſpeak too plain—
His birth conceal'd—ſurpriſe when Lycomedes
Propos'd the combat with the prince—diſtraction!
A turn like this may fruſtrate all!—it teems
With tenfold ruin!—Cleonice's love
To this Arſetes ſtarts another train
Of galling doubts—What's to be done?
The ſoldier pants impatient on the edge
Of battle—Who can tell the event? Pharnaces
May fall, and crown your wiſh.
But ſtill the chance
Of war is ever doubtful—Could we draw
Pharnaces from the tumult of the fight,
The tufted grove, that ſhades the fane of Mars,
Might hide an ambuſh'd force, to whelm at once
Our foe in ſwift deſtruction.
'Tis a thought
The cauſe itſelf inſpires.
Inflame the ſoldiers with Arſetes' name,
That name ſhall ſecond our deſign—I haſte
To lead them to the field—away—
Black Miſchief, child of hell, from the dire gloom
Of burning Acheron, whence perfidy,
Aſſaſſination, treaſon, (names that ſhake
The coward ſoul) breathe forth inſpiring aid
To vaſt Ambition, at whoſe dazzling ſhrine
Orontes ever bends—I feel, I feel
The ſacred influence here—If Fortune yet
Aſſiſt my arms, in ſight Pharnaces falls
An open victim; but if ſtill averſe
She thwart my glorious aims, what force denies,
Deep covert guile ſhall give; and all my fears
Be huſh'd for ever in Pharnaces' blood.
SCENE, the camp of Artabaſus.
Enter Artabaſus and Pharnaces.
Yes, my Pharnaces, my full boſom heaves
That knows the tranſport here, receive my vows
Of gratitude and praiſe: thy bleſt return
Each year ſhall chronicle; on that glad day
The hallowed fanes ſhall grateful incenſe breathe
To thoſe high powers, whoſe providential care
Reliev'd my anxious fears—Pharnaces lives!
In ſafety lives, claſp'd in theſe arms of fondneſs;
Yet I could chide—for O! reflect, my ſon,
How I have ſuffer'd in thy painful abſence,
Could'ſt thou ſo far forget—
O, royal ſir!
Believe me, while I ſwear, that oft the ſon
Reproach'd the lover [...] oft I ſympathiz'd
Tho' to partial nature
The warmer ſallies of ungovern'd youth,
Ere long experience turns the page of life,
Are venial errors, yet thy raſhneſs here
Startles belief—What perils haſt thou 'ſcap'd!
What deathful ſnares! perhaps, a fate like his,
Whom all Bithynia for Arſetes mourns.
Thou ſaidſt it was Araxes—
Whoſe mien and near reſemblance to your ſon:
Aſſiſted my deſign—When at my ſuit
You gave conſent to accept Arſetes' challenge,
I truſted to Araxes' breaſt my ſecret,
Diſguis'd him in the veſt and arms I wore,
When 'midſt Bithynia's ſquadrons, with deſign
Himſelf ſhould for Arſetes' wage the combat,
Inſtructed firſt to yield himſelf my priſoner:
From hence I hop'd to plan ſome happy means
Of peace, by conference open'd with the foe.
But this diſtreſsful fate, myſterious Heaven
Has caſt on poor Araxes, baffles all;
And leaves me loſt, uncertain whither points
This deed, or what inhuman breaſt deſign'd it.
Swear, my Pharnaces, never more to tempt
Our hoſtile Gods in Lycomede's court,
Nor give that life to hazard, which thy father
Would ranſom with his own.
[Page 42] Phar.
By this rever'd,
This awful hand, Pharnaces vows to ſacrifice
His all to filial duty, every act
Of his ſucceeding life ſhall ſpeak the ſon;
And O! if Fate requires! even Love itſelf
Shall bleed a victim at the ſhrine.
That Artabaſus will condemn the love
That honour ſanctifies—for Cleonice,
If ever Rumour's tongue can claim belief,
She merits all you feel—Nay, more, my ſoul
Could witneſs Lycomedes' regal virtues,
Did not ambition, that exceſs of kings,
That thirſt of widen'd empire, that too far
Inſpir'd his early reign, now, eve [...] in age
Impel him to unſheath invaſion's ſword.
The king, who, urg'd by partial glory, breaks
The ſacred ties that link a ſocial world,
Should boaſt no more the image of thoſe Gods,
Whoſe wide benevolence extends o'er all!
Still, ſtill my hopes, with fond preſumption, form'd
Ideal ſcenes of happineſs—Could Peace,
With outſtretch'd arms, embrace the warring nations,
Could Lycomedes learn one ſelf-ſame ſpirit,
Inform'd his foe Pharnaces, and his once
Belov'd Arſetes—Yet I dare, my father,
Boaſt a ſoft advocate in Cleonice.
O my Pharnaces, what can filial duty
With him that loves, and loves like Artabaſus!
Ere day can yield to night, a truſty herald
Shall to Bithynia's king, try every art
Of eloquence, to bend his ſoul to terms
That fit the king and father—Grant it, Heaven!
The day that ſees my lov'd Pharnaces happy,
Gives Artabaſus all—Then cloſe, ye Powers
Life's anxious ſcenes, and let me ſleep in peace—
Whence is that noiſe?
[Alarm and ſhout.
Enter Agenor, his ſword drawn.
To arms, my liege, the foe,
Led by Orontes, iſſuing from the town,
Advances on our eamp.—
[Page 43] Phar.
Has heard Pharnaces' prayer—My lord, my father,
My ſoul's on fire, and pants to meet in field
My hated rival!—
Go, Agenor; bear
Our inſtant orders to the troops, to range
Their ſerried files—Pharnaces leads them on
To fight—to victory—
Hear, God of Arms!
Whoſe ſmiles have grac'd my earlieſt youth—O hear
This laſt requeſt—Still in Pharnaces breathe
The ſpirit of the war!—
Thy ardor wakes
My youth again—Hear now, a father's voice;
With thy ſtrong genius, lead him thro' the maze
Of dangerous battle, that theſe eyes may trace
His fearleſs ſteps, behold his brandiſh'd ſword
Shine forth the guardian of a nation's honour;
And, while his arm aſſerts his country's cauſe,
Aſſert the common rights of all mankind.
SCENE, An apartment on the ſummit of a tower, commanding a proſpect of the fields without the walls. Two urns on two pedeſtals.
O Night! that ſoon wilt ſtretch oblivion's wing
O'er many a wretch, drive on the lagging ſhades
And cloſe the day's dire horrors!—tho' to me
Sleep brings no refuge, yet congenial gloom
Befits my anguiſh—five revolving years
Thy ſenſeleſs aſhes in their peaceful dwelling
Have every day, Polemon, wak'd remembrance,
And oft receiv'd the tributary tears.
But here's a ſtroke ſurpaſſing all—Arſetes
Shrunk to this narrow ſpace!—at early dawn
He tower'd in arms—a little hour he lay
A breathleſs corſe, and here his ſad remains
Warm from the funeral flame, are clos'd for ever!
If thou bring'ſt comfort, ſpeak!
Alas! my friend,
I know it not—ſince from the walls my father
Of brave Orontes on the ſoe, ſuſpenſe
Has dwelt on all—the citizens affrighted
Hearken to every ſound, that whiſpers aught
Of fight or victory—
Heaven guard my father.
Sure 'tis the diſtant murmur of the fight
That ſwells upon the wind, and ſee, Arſinöe,
Ere yet the ſhade of evening faintly ſpreads
O'er the dun fields, ſee thro' the duſty whirl
The flaſh of arms—
But hark! ſome haſty foot
Sounds on the ſteps that lead to this receſs:
O! let me fly, and eaſe my beating heart
For Teramenes' ſafety!
I hear the deepening roar—another ſhout!—
There, there perhaps, Pharnaces, hated name!
Sheds wide deſtruction!—can it be, ye Powers!
Can he who ſtoop'd to murder, riſe in aught
That's great or noble? ſure Arſetes' ſhade
Should hover round, and in the day of battle
Wither his ſtrength!—Some fatal news at hand!
Enter Teramenes, and Officer.
Where, where's the king?
Our lateſt hour is come.—
What means this tumult?
What from the camp—but now a peal of ſhouts
Broke on my ſlumbering ſenſe—how ſtand our hopes?
The foe is in the walls!—our bands repuls'd
By Artabaſus and his ſon, retreated
To gain the gates—with them the conquering troops
Of Pontus enter'd.—
'Tis enough—theſe eyes
Have ſeen enough of woe!—Where is Orontes?
I ſaw him laſt, with dauntleſs courage, brave
The hoſtile troops, when headed by Pharnaces
He vaniſh'd from my ſight, and O! I fear
He falls a victim to this dreadful day!—
But time forbids our vain laments—this inſtant
The victor may be here—one way remains
That yet may ſave my king—the weſtern tower
Is ſtill our own, and may perhaps ſuſtain
The foe's attack, till Arcas ſhall arrive—
But now, Arſinöe thither with a guard
I ſent—retire, my liege, with Cleonice,
In ſafety there.
No—tho' this trembling arm
Shrinks from the buckler's weight, I can provoke
The death I wiſh for from the pitying foe!
Come forth, this ſword, that long has idly ſlept,
Shall once again—
What means my father?—yet
Retract your purpoſe—think on Cleonice!
Forſaken here—I ſee, I ſee the hand
Of ruffian force drag by the ſilver locks
Thy venerable age—I ſee thoſe features,
That oft have fondly ſmil'd on Cleonice,
In agony diſtorted.—What remains
For me at that curſt moment?—wild with horror
To rend my ſcatter'd hair—againſt the pavement
Daſh theſe poor limbs—then bare my breaſt to meet
The ſteel, yet reeking with a parent's life,
And mingle blood with his that gave me being!—
Diſtracting image!—O my child! my child!
And ſhall I then—this moment I could yield
The laſt cold drops that linger in theſe veins—
And bleſs the hand that ſtruck me—yet when Death
Draws his dark veil—to catch a glimpſe of life,
But to behold thee die—Haſte, let me hence
To loſe the dreadful thought—a minute longer
May place us ſafe beyond the future reach
Of fate, of miſery, and Artabaſus!
O, hear me ſtill—yet let theſe filial tears
Prevail.—Death is the laſt, the ſure reſource,
And when Fate cloſes every path that leads
To future hope—this arm can then my father
Fix one great period to a life of woes.
[Page 46] Ter.
My ſovereign, Artabaſus and Barzanes
Are near at hand, from hence we may diſcern
Their bucklers blaze [looking out] ; away, my liege!
They ſhall be met—theſe withered limbs—look there,
See thoſe ſad monuments—
[points to the urns.
And ſhall the hands,
The murderous hands by which they fell, here graſp
The ſword in triumph?—No, theſe rambling feet
Shall meet their fury.
Yet—O yet, my father!
One moment hear—
Forgive me, royal ſir!
If thus compell'd—Learchus, help—
'Tis more than treaſon—hence!
[drops his ſword in the ſtruggle.
Lo! there, my father,
Some God deſcends, and from your nerveleſs arm
Strikes your reſiſting weapon.
O, ſhame! ſhame!
'Tis ſure the work of Heaven!—then all is paſt!
I yield—Lead, lead me where thou wilt!
Conduct them ſafely thro' the ſecret gate,
Meantime myſelf, with ſome few friends will ſeek
Orontes, and ſecure my King's retreat.
O! hear me, Heaven! for Lycomedes hear!
Still ſave him, ſinking in this gulph of ruin!
Or let one moment whelm us both in death,
And end a father's and a daughter's woes!
SCENE, an open place in the city.
Enter Artabaſus, Barzanes, and Soldiers.
Thus far, Barzanes, has the victor wreath
Crown'd virtue with ſucceſs—our arms, by Heaven
Impell'd to guard the ſacred rights of men,
Have to their deep receſs purſu'd the foe,
The city now is ours—the hoſtile bands
Submiſſive, or diſpers'd, contend no longer;
Then ſheath the ſword of death, and bid reſentment
To mercy yield her reign—the noble mind,
Tho' Juſtice draw the ſword, regrets that triumph
Give heedful orders, that whate'er ſhall chance,
To make him priſoner, to our better fortune,
They treat him with ſuch honours as befit
His name and rank, a captive of the war.
My liege, this inſtant Lycomedes taken,
With Cleonice, as they ſought to gain
The weſtern tower, conducted by the guard,
Attend your ſovereign will.
Enter Lycomedes, Cleonice in chains, Guards.
Lead me to him,
Whom Lycomedes' evil ſtar has rais'd
On fallen Bithynia's ruin—Cleonice
Aſſociate in thy father's woes—Are theſe
The hands that once I fondly preſs'd in mine,
When on my knee thy prattling infancy
Held me in all a parent's dear ſuſpence?
Are theſe lov'd hands now claſped in rugged ſteel
And ſlaviſh manacles?
Theſe hands, my father,
Exult in chains that give to Cleonice,
A glorious ſhare in Lycomedes' ſufferings,
Nor are they bonds, ſince ſtill theſe filial arms
Embrace my father—O! believe me, ſir,
To ſuffer thus with you is height of bliſs,
Compar'd to freedom baniſh'd from your preſence
If thou art he—O, Lycomedes!—hear
No more thy foe, but brother—would to Heaven
Thy age would now repoſe in peace! thoſe hairs
Demand reſpect and honour—let me then
Exchange theſe ſlaviſh ties, for other ties
Of amity and love.
[makes a ſign to the guard who takes off his chains.
For thee, fair princeſs,
What ſhall I ſay?—theſe arms prophan'd demand
More than a king's atonement.
(takes off her chains.)
Is there aught
Beſide the gift of freedom?
There needs no more—from him that ſlew my brother
All gifts are equal—tho' to the woman's weakneſs
The tribute nature pays;—then once again
Reſtore thoſe ſhackles—give me, to the depth
Of dungeon gloom—there's not a hoſtlie pang
That enmity inflicts, but Cleonice
Shall meet it all!—My father too—O, Heaven!
Hence female ſoftneſs—yes, behold that weak
Depreſs'd old age, behold this bloom of youth
Nurs'd in the pomp of courts—yet, Artabaſus,
This pair, unſhaken, dares your worſt of pains.
Hear every God my vows renew'd—hear too
Polemon's ſhade! whene'er this hand ſhall join
In friendly league with Pontus, haunt each hour
Of ebbing life with horror's direſt forms!
Yet hear me, Lycomedes, ſtill reflect,
Thyſelf a warrior once, in fight he fell,
Fell as a hero ounht.—In arms of old
When Demi-gods have fought, the fields have oft
Borne ſlaughter'd chiefs, whoſe parents from the ſky
View'd their pale ſons, and yielded to their fate.
Hear, hear, ye fathers; hear how cool the victor
Can palliate death, and ſooth a parent's loſs.
Polemon fell in fight—yes, Artabaſus,
Nobly indeed he fell—too daring youth!
Whoſe unfledg'd open valour met the arm
Of veteran cruelty—but hear, proud man,
Do all thy enemies ſo fairly periſh?—
How died Arſetes? hapleſs youth,—the laſt,
The glorious work of Artabaſus' race!
Midſt all my ſufferings, ſtill I joy to know
Polemon died a hero—Had the hand
Of Time drawn out his early age to years
Of ripe experience, he, like poor Arſetes,
Had fall'n the murderer's victim.
Thou know'ſt the work of fate,—the youth who fell
Was by Pharnaces—
I know it well—Is this the glorious hero,
The boaſted pupil in the ſchool of Mars?
Did he for this in Rome's immortal ranks
Learn the brave trade of arms, to edge the ſword
Of black conſpiracy might catch that life,
Which ne'er had ſunk in equal field of combat!
Yes—my Arſetes—to Pharnaces' cruelty
Thou fall'ſt a victim—fall'ſt by him, whoſe arm
Had elſe perhaps confeſs'd thy valour's force.
Then had thoſe limbs, my father, never felt
The weight of chains—yet ſhould Orontes live,
His valorous arm—perhaps Pharnaces' life
Atones for poor Arſetes—
Forbid the implication! Lycomedes,
Could I as well appeaſe each vengeful thought
For loſt Polemon, as I now can clear
The virtue of my ſon, by lying fame
Did not his lips all pale in death
Proclaim Pharnaces guilty?
Myſterious darkneſs lurks—but, Lycomedes,
Speak—ſhould the hero whoſe triumphant arm
Eſpous'd Bithynia's cauſe—ſhould he yet live—
Yet live! what means this cruel ſport with woe?
Hear then, and wondering hear—Arſetes lives,
Arſetes and Pharnaces are the ſame.
The ſame!—ſpeak, Artabaſus—
Haſte, my ſovereign!
Haſte to the grove of palms,—the prince aſſail'd
By numbers, with Orontes at their head,
A hundred lances glitter at his breaſt,
And all their cry is vengeance and Arſetes.
What do I hear! now, cruel Lycomedes,
Now, Cleonice, glut your rage,—yet know
Arſetes lives, and lives in my Pharnaces,
Or this dread moment ſeals perhaps his doom,
And ends a wretched parent!—
[Exeunt Artabaſus and Barzanes attended.
[Page 50] Cleo.
Does he live,
Live in Pharnaces! O myſterious Heaven!
Should it be thus, how has my ruthleſs hatred
Purſued the man whom moſt I lov'd—the man
(Madneſs is in the thought) who now may breathe
Forbid it, virtue!—Gods! I feel
A ſecret impulſe here—it muſt not be—
For me he oft has triumph'd—ſpite of age
And impotence of ſtrength, yet will I face
This laſt, this fatal ſcene—my Cleonice,
Thy courage will purſue thy father's ſteps;
Come, let us prove the worſt of fortune's malice,
Then cloſe our eyes in peace, and reſt for ever!
SCENE, a grove of palm trees, with the temple of Mars diſcovered at a diſtance.
(Claſhing of ſwords.)
Enter Orontes retreating before Pharnaces, a party of Orontes driven off by the ſoldiers of Pharnaces.
Enough, my friends; enough—this life demands
My ſword alone—for thee, whoſe murderous guile
With ſeeming manhood, drew me from the fight
To fall by numbers, from this arm receive
Thy treaſon's due reward.
Fortune at length
Deceives my aim;—but be it ſo—I ſcorn
To deprecate thy vengeance—well thou know'ſt
Orontes now—Zopyrus has confeſs'd,
Pale, trembling daſtard! ſinking by thy arm,
Our firſt device againſt the feign'd Arſetes—
This laſt is mine—tho' intereſt and ambition
Forbid me now to riſk an equal combat,
Yet ſince thy hated genius ſtill prevails,—
Hence every vain diſguiſe—as man to man,
I dare thy worſt.
Behold, thou double traitor!
The grove and temple where Araxes fell:
To enſnare Pharnaces—tremble now, while juſtice
Here lifts the ſword on this devoted ſpot,
Here claims a ſacrifice to every virtue,
Faith, friendſhip, loyalty, and poor Araxes!
Defend, defend my ſon!
There ſink for ever,
Nor leave thy equal here to curſe mankind!
Enter ARTABASUS and AGENOR.
Art thou then ſafe?—my ſon! my ſon!
Enter LYCOMEDES, CLEONICE, and TERAMENES.
Death has been buſy—ſure the battle's tumult
Rag'd here but now—
'Tis Cleonice's voice!
He lives indeed! 'tis he!—the guardian genius
That watch'd Bithynia's ſafety—
And yet it cannot—ſpeak,—O ſpeak, my father,
Ere this lov'd phantom—
Still Arſetes lives;
Behold him here;— [kneels] —No more unknown▪ who now
Aſſerts the lineal honours that await
A kingdom's heir and Artabaſus' ſon.
Pharnaces, riſe,—ſure 'tis illuſion all!
What then was he, whoſe pale and lifeleſs corſe—
The youth, whom late you mourn'd for ſlain Arſetes,
Was in his ſtead deputed for the ſight.
Orontes and Zopyrus have confeſs'd
The ſnare in which this hapleſs victim fell;
Orontes drew me now, by fraudful ambuſh,
To periſh here—behold where lies the traitor;
His guilty life faſt ebbing with his blood.
Orontes!—where! then where is virtue, Gods!
Why, Artabaſus, did Polemon fall!
Or fall by thee!—
Hear, moſt unhappy father,
Thou ſeek'ſt t'avenge Polemon's death,—behold
Him now reveng'd—lo! here his murderer lies!
The youth that fell by me!—
By thee he fell,
But fell unwounded—to his tent convey'd
Senſeleſs awhile, he lay—myſelf alone
Watch'd his returning life—at that fell moment,
Ambition, powerful fiend! held forth to view
Bithynia's crown—my ſacrilegious hand
Uplifted then, with murderous weapon ſtruck
My prince's life.
What do I hear!—my blood
Is chill'd!—pernicious villain!—take the vengeance
A father's fury— [draws, and is held by Art. and Ter.
Gracious Heaven!—my brother!—
Yet hold—tho' great your woe,—the guilty wretch
Already gaſps in death, and ſhivering ſtands
On that dread brink, where vaſt eternity
Unfolds her infinite abyſs.—
My murder'd boy!—
O thou bright ſun! whoſe beams
Now ſet in blood, doſt thou not haſte to veil
Thy head in night, while Nature, thro' her works
Shrinks from a wretch like me!—Come, deepeſt darkneſs,
Hide, hide me from myſelf!—hence, bleeding phantom—
Why doſt thou haunt me ſtill!—another!—hence!
They drive me to the precipice—I ſink—
Lo! there lies the ſerpent
That late I nouriſh'd in my breaſt, to ſting
My unſuſpecting heart—
A father's nature
Feels for thy dreadful trial—Lycomedes,
Receive this pledge of friendſhip—ſtill be thine
Bithynia's crown, nor claim I aught from conqueſt
This work of fate—But who ſhall ſearch the ways
Of Heaven inſcrutable, or dare to queſtion
Why the ſame power beheld Polemon fall,
And ſav'd Pharnaces for a father's love?
'Tis ours with humble praiſe to take from Jove
The cordial draught of joy, nor murmur when
He deals the cup of woe.
No longer now my foe—this honour'd hand,
This hand now free from my Polemon's death,
Confirm the brother's union—balmy peace
Reſt with his manes, and remembrance ever
With odorous praiſe ſurround his laurell'd tomb!
But yet I have a ſon—in thee he lives,
Lives in Pharnaces— [embraces] —Yes; my more than brother,
Our friendſhip knit ſhall plant the welcome olives
Thro' both our lands, and bleſs their ſons with peace!
It muſt, it muſt—ſome genius whiſpers now
Oblivion to my cares, and bright-wing'd Hope,
Like Cleonice, points my ſoul to bliſs!
If bliſs be Cleonice, ſhe is yours.
Once more, my ſon—
My daughter—every God
Propitious ſmile to crown your virtuous love!
Speak, Cleonice! does thy heart refuſe
To own the mighty rapture?
Think how my boſom throbs with various tumult
Of mingled joy and grief—My brother's fate
Still labours here, 'ſpite of the bliſs that fills
My conſcious heart; for bliſs it is to avow
My boundleſs paſſion—wife of my Pharnaces,
Or rather that dear name which firſt ſubdu'd
My virgin heart—my ever-lov'd Arſetes!
To thee, my ſon Pharnaces, I reſign
Bithynia's crown, while I, retir'd in eaſe,
Steal gently down the peaceful vale of life.
Behold the latent treaſon brought to light!
Tho' hid from mortal eye, the Eternal Mind
Pervades the deepeſt gloom—Confeſs, my brother,
And even ſeduc'd thy age: the monarch fir'd
With falſe ambition for a conqueror's name,
Is but the laſh of Jove to ſcourge mankind.
For thee, my ſon, by Lycomedes rais'd
To guide, with early hand, the reins of empire,
Remember what the duty of a king
Exacts, while each domeſtic bliſs ſhall crown
Thy private hours, to watch thy people's weal,
And ſhare, like Heaven, thy happineſs with all.
OUR author, all ſubmiſſion, ſends me here,
To make excuſes for your ſimple cheer;
And I, that have no intereſt in his ſcenes,
Muſt bear the train of tragic kings and queens.
Shall I ſupport the weakneſs of his Muſe?—
Egad—if ſo—I'll fit him with abuſe—
I'll ſoon diſſect his fine-ſpun work, and ſhow
That all his plot has more of farce than woe.
For, after all, the creature's much deceiv'd,
If e'er he thinks his tale can be believ'd.
So tame and ſo inanimate his maid is—
How very different from our modern ladies!—
What, could a blooming laſs with ripen'd charms,
Be held ſo long from her admirer's arms?—
If ſuch were truths in prudiſh Heathen climes,
Examples vary in our later times—
Then for theatric play—how poor! how cold!
A heroine's language ſhould be nobly bold,
Outſtrip the decency of vulgar life,
Mouth at the Heavens, and ſet the Gods at ſtrife.—
Time was indeed, an antiquated bard
Paid to that beldame, Nature, ſome regard,
And drew his females with ſuch ſimple features,
That all, who ſaw, believ'd them human creatures.
Plain Deſdemona bore no trace of art,
And Portia play'd a wife's domeſtic part;
While Conſtance ſhew'd, but what before we knew,
And only griev'd, as real mothers do.—
Shall this ſtale poet give the Drama law,
Who poorly copied only what he ſaw?
Nay, ſtole from life, in every clime and age,
The characters that fill his boaſted page?—
Well! as I live, 'tis he!—(looking out)—O, axe you come?
Does all go well?—poor devil!—ſeal his doom.
This live-long night he watches every eye,
Talks, like his heroes, in ſoliloquy—
Then ſtarts aſide—"What! ſomething goes amiſs?—
"Sure 'tis the diſtant murmur of a hiſs!"—
Alas! kind ſoul!—I pity his condition,
And will in his behalf this Houſe petition:—
To you, good folks above, for ever ready
To ſerve a friend, all Engliſh hearts and ſteady!
To you, ye men of candour, ſenſe, and wit,
Who fill the circle of this awful pit;
To you, ye ladies, ever prone to ſpare
The bard, who love and beauty makes his care;
I here commend him—take him to your favour,
And I'll be ſurety for his good behaviour.