1. THE ORPHAN of CHINA.
1.1. ACT I.
Enter MANDANE and MIRVAN.
NO, never; Mirvan, never—ſtill this heart
Muſt throb with ceaſeleſs woe—All-gracious heav'n!
Will not this palace drench'd in gore; the crown
Of China's kings fix'd on the Tartar's brow;
Will not a tract of twenty years in bondage!
Ah! will not theſe ſuffice, without freſh cauſe
Of bitter anguiſh in Mandane's breaſt?—
Better ſuppreſs theſe unavailing tears,
This fruitleſs flood of grief.—
It will not be—
Ev'n mid'ſt the horrors of this diſmal hour,
When fate has all transferr'd from loſt Cathai
To vile barbarian hands;—in ſuch an hour
This heart, revolting from the public cauſe,
Bleeds from a private ſource; bleeds for the woes
That hang o'er Zamti's houſe—
Amidſt the gen'ral wreck, who does not feel
The keen domeſtic pang?
We all Muſt feel the kindred-touch;—daily the cries
Of widows, orphans, father, ſon, and brother
In vain are ſent to heav'n;—the waſteful rage
Of theſe barbarians,—theſe accurs'd invaders,—
Burns with increaſing fire;—the thunder ſtill
Rolls o'er our heads, threatning with hideous craſh
To fall at once, and bury us in ruin.
And quickly fall it muſt!—The hand of heav'n
Weighs this great empire down.—
Nay, tax not heav'n!
Almighty juſtice never bares it's arm
'Gainſt innocence and truth.—'Tis Timurkan,
That fell barbarian—that inſatiate waſter—
May curſes blaſt the Tartar!—he—'tis he
Has bore down all, and ſtill his ſlaught'ring ſword
In yonder field of death, where Corea's troops
Made their laſt ſtand for liberty and China,
Crimſons the land with blood.—This battle loſt,
Oh! then farewel to all.—But, Mirvan, ſay,
How came the tidings?—
From yon lofty tow'r,
As my eyes, ſtraining tow'rd the diſtant plain,
Sent forth an anxious look, thro' clouds of duſt
The ſavage bands appear'd; the weſtern ſun
Gleam'd on their burniſh'd helms;—and ſoon a ſhout
From the glad multitude proclaim'd th'approach
Of Timurkan; elated with new conqueſt,
The tyrant comes, and where his wrath will ſtop
Heav'n only knows.—
Oh! there—there lies the thought
At which imagination ſtarts, appall'd
With horror at the ſcene▪ her buſy workings
Have colour'd to my ſight—there lies the thought
That wakens all a mother's fears—alas!
I tremble for my ſon—
Your ſon!—kind heav'n!
Have you not check'd his ardour?—with your tears,
Your ſoft authority, reſtrain'd the hero
From the alarms of war?—
Alas, good Mirvan,
Thou little know'ſt his danger—but that truth
Muſt never paſs theſe lips.—
I hope Mandane
Doubts not my honeſt zeal—full well you know
I bear this tyrant deep and mortal hate;
That under him I liſt, and wear this garb
In hopes that ſome occaſion may arrive,
When I may ſtrike an unexpected blow,
And do my country right.
Thy truth, and honour have been ever ſpotleſs.
Beſides thy wrongs, thy countleſs wrongs, the wounds
He gave your injur'd family and name,—
Alas! thoſe wounds muſt ſtill lie bleeding here,
Untented by the hand of time—Not all
His lenient arts, his favours heap'd upon me,
Shall cool the burning anguiſh of my ſoul.
What he, that ſlew my father! dragg'd my ſiſter,
Blooming in years, to his deteſted bed!
Yes, tyrant, yes;—thy unextinguiſh'd foe
Dwells in this boſom.—Surely then to me
Mandane may reveal her griefs—her wrongs
Will add new fuel to my hidden fires,
And make them burn more fiercely.—
Urge no more—
My woes muſt reſt conceal'd—yet ſhould the tyrant
Learn from the captives of yon vanquiſh'd hoſt,
That China's Orphan breathes the vital air,
And to himſelf unknown within his breaſt
Unconſcious bears the gen'rous glowing flame
Of all the virtues of his royal line;
Oh! ſhould they know that the dear youth ſurvives,
That for his righteous cauſe this war began,
Their fury then would kindle to a blaze,
Might wrap the world in flames, and in the ruin
My blameleſs ſon might periſh.
Seek not thus
To multiply the ills that hover round you;
Nor from the ſtores of buſy fancy add
New ſhafts to fortune's quiver.—Zamti's care
Hath ſtill deceiv'd ſuſpicion's wakeful eye;
And o'er the mandarine his manners pure,
And ſacred function have diffus'd an air
Of venerable awe, which e'en can teach
Theſe northern foes to ſoften into men.
Yes, Mirvan, yes—Religion wears a mien
In Zamti's perſon ſo ſeverely mild,
That the fierce Scythian reſts upon his ſpear,
And wonders what he feels.—Such is the charm
Of heart-felt virtue; ſuch is nature's force
That ſpeaks abroad, and in rude northern hearts
Can ſtamp the image of an awful God.
From that ſource ſprings ſome hope:—Wretch that I am!
Hope idly flutters on my trembling tongue,
While melancholy brooding o'er her wrongs,
Lays waſte the mind with horror and deſpair.
—What noiſe is that?—
Compoſe this ſtorm of grief;
In ev'ry ſound your fancy hears the Tartar—
Your huſband this way bends—
What lab'ring ſighs heave in his breaſt?—what terror
Rolls in the patriot's eye?—haſte, Mirvan, hence;
Again look out; gather the flying news,
And let me know each circumſtance of ruin.
Ah! what haſt thou ſeen?
What haſt thou heard?—tell me,—has fate decreed
The doom of China!
China is no more;—
The eaſtern world is loſt—this mighty empire
Falls with the univerſe beneath the ſtroke
Of ſavage force—falls from its tow'ring hopes;
For ever, ever fall'n!
Yet why, ye pow'rs!
Why ſhould a tyrant, train'd to luſt and murder,
A lawleſs ravager from ſavage wilds,
Where chearful day ne'er dawns, but low'ring heav'n
For ever rolls a turbulence of clouds;
Why ſhould a monſter thus uſurp the world,
And trample fair ſimplicity from ill
Beneath his ruffian feet?—
Far hence, Mandane,
Thoſe happy days, alas! are fled, when peace
Here nurs'd her blooming olives, and ſhed round
Her foſt'ring influence.—In vain the plan
Of ſacred laws, by hoary elders taught,
Laws founded on the baſe of public weal,
Gave leſſons to the world.—In vain Confucius
Unlock'd his radiant ſtores of moral truth;
In vain bright ſcience, and each tender muſe,
Beam'd ev'ry elegance on poliſh'd life—
Barbarian pow'r prevails.—Whate'er our ſages taught,
Or genius could inſpire, muſt fade away,
And each fair virtue wither at the blaſt
Of northern domination.
More fatal e'en than that, which firſt beheld
This race accurs'd within theſe palace walls,
Since hope, that balm of wretched minds, is now
Name not the day
Which ſaw this city ſack'd—freſh ſtream my eyes,
Freſh bleeds my heart, whene'er the ſad idea
Comes o'er my tortur'd mind.—Why, cruel pow'rs!
Why in that moment could not Zamti fall?
Thy ſanctity, the ſymbol of thy God,
Made ev'n the conqueror ſuſpend his blow,
And murmur ſoft humanity.—High heav'n
Protected thee for its own great deſigns;
To ſave the royal child, the new-born babe,
From the dire ſlaughter of his ancient line.
Yes, my Mandane, in that hour of carnage,
For purpoſes yet in the womb of time,
I was reſerv'd.—I was ordain'd to ſave
The infant boy; the dear, the precious charge,
The laſt of all my kings;—full twenty years
I've hid him from the world and from himſelf,
And now I ſwear—Kneel we together here,
While in this dreadful pauſe our ſouls renew
Their ſolemn purpoſe.—
Thou all-gracious Being,
Whoſe tutelary care hath watch'd the fate
Of China's Orphan, who haſt taught his ſteps
The paths of ſafety, ſtill envelop him
In ſev'n fold night, till your own hour is come;
Till your flow juſtice ſee the dread occaſion
To rouſe his ſoul, and bid him walk abroad
Vicegerent of your pow'r;—and if thy ſervant,
Or this his ſoft aſſociate, ere defeat
By any word or deed the great deſign,
Then ſtrait may all your horrible diſpleaſure
Be launch'd upon us from your red right arm,
And in one ruin daſh us both together,
The blaſted monuments of wrath:—
Mandane vows ne'er to betray his cauſe,
Be it enroll'd in the records of heav'n!
And now my heart more lightly beats; methinks
With ſtrength redoubled I can meet the ſhock
Of adverſe fate.
And lo! the trial comes—
For ſee where Etan mourns—See where the youth,
Unknowing of the ſtorm that gathers o'er him,
Brings ſome new tale of woe.—
My honour'd father,
And you, my helpleſs mother,—ah! where now,
Illuſtrious wretched pair, where will ye fly?
Where will your miſeries now find a ſhelter?
In virtue—I and this dear faithful woman,
We aſk no more.—
Ah! quickly, Etan, ſay
What means that pallid look?—what new event
Brings on the work of fate?—
Say, does the tyrant
Return unglutted yet with blood?—
Ev'n now his triumph moves within the gates
In dread barbaric pomp:—the iron ſwarms
Of Hyperboreans troop along the ſtreets,
Reeking from ſlaughter; while, from gazing crowds
Of their dire countrymen, an uproar wild
Of joy ferocious thro' th' aſtoniſh'd air
Howls like a northern tempeſt:—O'er the reſt,
Proud in ſuperior eminence of guilt,
The tyrant rides ſublime.—Behind his car
The refuſe of the ſword, a captive train
Diſplay their honeſt ſcars, and gnaſh their teeth
With rage and deſperation.—
With theſe a youth, diſtinguiſh'd from the reſt,
Proceeds in ſullen march.—Heroic fire
Glows in his cheek, and from his flaſhing eye
Beams amiable horror.—
Be not alarm'd, Mandane—What of him?
On him all eyes were fix'd with eager gaze,
As if their ſpirits, ſtruggling to come forth,
Would ſtrain each viſual nerve,—while thro' the crowd
A buſy murmur ran—If ſame ſay right,
"Beneath that habit lurks a prince; the laſt
"Of China's race.—The rumour ſpreads abroad
From man to man; and all with loud acclaim
Denounce their vengeance on him.—
Ha! what ſay'ſt thou, Etan?
Heav'ns how each black'ning hour in deeper horror
Comes charg'd with woe!
It cannot be.—Ye vain,
Ye groundleſs terrors hence.—
My honour'd lord,
Thoſe eyes upturn'd to heav'n, alas! in vain,
Declare your inward conflict.—
I prithee leave me—but a moment leave me.—
Heed not the workings of a ſickly fancy,
Wrought on by ev'ry popular report.
Thou know'ſt with Morat I convey'd the infant
Far as the eaſtern point of Corea's realm;
There where no human trace is ſeen, no found
Aſſails the ear, ſave when the foaming ſurge
Breaks on the ſhelving beach, that there the youth
Might mock their buſy ſearch.—Then check thy fears—
Retire, my love, awhile; I'll come anon,—
And fortify thy ſoul with firm reſolve,
Becoming Zamti's wife.—
Yes, Zamti's wife
Shall never act unworthy of her lord.
Then hence I'll go, and ſatisfy each doubt
This youthful captive raiſes in my heart,
Quick panting with its fears.—And O ye pow'rs!
Protect my ſon, my huſband, and my king!
ZAMTI and ETAN.
Come hither, Etan—thou perceiv'ſt the toils
That now incircle me—
Alas! too well
I ſee th'impending ſtorm.—But ſurely, ſir,
Should this young captive prove the royal Orphan,
You'll never own th'important truth.—
Dream not, young man,
To ſtand ſecure, yet blooming into life,
While vengeance hovers o'er your father's head.
The ſtock once fall'n, each ſcyon muſt decay.
Then let me periſh;—witneſs for me, heav'n,
Could Etan's fall appeaſe the tyrant's wrath,
A willing victim he would yield his life,
And aſk no greater boon of heav'n.
So fervid in a ſtranger's cauſe—
A ſtranger! he!
My king a ſtranger!—Sir, you never meant it—
Perhaps you would explore the fiery ſeeds
Of Etan's temper, ever prompt to blaze
At honour's ſacred name.—Periſh the man,
Who, when his country calls him to defend
The rights of human kind, or bravely die,
Who then to glory dead can ſhrink aghaſt,
And hold a council with his abject fears.
Theſe tow'rings of the ſoul, alas! are vain.
I know the Tartar well—ſhould I attempt
By any virtuous fraud to veil the truth,
His lion-rage again ſhall ſtalk abroad,
Again ſhall quaff the blood of innocence;
And for Zaphimri all the poor remains
Of China's matrons and her hoary fires,
Her blooming virgins, and her liſping babes,
Shall yield their throats to the fell murd'rer's knife,
And all be loſt for ever—
Then at once
Proclaim him to the world; each honeſt hand
Will graſp a ſword, and, 'midſt the circling guards,
Reach the uſurper's heart—or ſhould they fail,
Should overwhelming bands obſtruct the deed,
They'll greatly dare to die!—better to die
With falling liberty, than baſely lead
An ignominious life.—Zaphimri loſt,
Ne'er ſhall fair order dawn, but thro' the land
Slav'ry ſhall clank her chains, and violation,
Rapine, and murder riot at the will
Of luſt and lawleſs pow'r.
Thou brave young man,
Indulge my fond embrace—thy lovely ardor
It glads me thus to ſee.—To eaſe at once
Thy gen'rous fears,—the prince Zaphimri's ſafe;
Safe in my guardian care—
This pris'ner, ſir,
He does not then alarm you?—
No! from thence
I've nought to fear.—
Oh! ſir, inform your ſon
Where is the royal youth?
Seek not too ſoon
To know that truth—now I'll diſcloſe the work,
The work of vengeance, which my lab'ring ſoul
Has long been faſhioning.—Ev'n at this hour
Stupendous ruin hovers o'er the heads
Of this accurſed race—
I'll tell thee—
When Timurkan led forth his ſavage bands,
Unpeopling this great city, I then ſeiz'd
The hour, to tamper with a choſen few,
Who have reſolv'd, when the barbarians lie
Buried in ſleep and wine, and hotly dream
Their havock o'er again,—then, then, my ſon,
In one collected blow to burſt upon 'em;
Like their own northern clouds, whoſe midnight horror
Impending o'er the world, at length breaks forth
In the vaunt lightning's blaze, in ſtorms and thunder
Thro' all the red'ning air, till frighted nature
Start from her couch, and waken to a ſcene
Of uproar and deſtruction.—
Oh! my Father,
The glorious enterprize!
End of the Firſt
Mark me, young man.—
Seek thou my friends, Oraſming and Zimventi.
In the dim holy cloiſters of yon temple
Thou'lt find them muſing—near Oſmingti's tomb
I charge they all convene; and there do thou
Await my coming.—Bid them ne'er remit
Their high heroic ardor;—let them know,
Whate'er ſhall fall on this old mould'ring clay,
The tyrant never ſhall ſubdue my mind.
1.2. ACT II.
DREAM on, deluded tyrant; yes, dream on
In blind ſecurity:—whene'er high heav'n
Means to deſtroy, it curſes with illuſion,
With error of the mind.—Yes, wreak thy fury
Upon this captive youth;—whoe'er he is,
If from his death this groaning empire riſe,
Once more itſelf, reſplendent, rich in arts
That humanize the world,—he pays a debt
Due to his King, his Country, and his God.
His father,—whereſoe'er he dwell,—in tears
Shall tell the glory on his boy deriv'd;
And ev'n his mother, 'midſt her matron ſhrieks,
Shall bleſs the childbed pang that brought him forth
To this great lot, by fate to few allow'd!—
What would'ſt thou, Mirvan?—
A rev'rend ſtranger craves acceſs to Zamti—
His head hoary with age, with galling tears
His eyes ſuffus'd; his ev'ry look impatience—
Give him admittance—
How my ſpirits ruſh
Tumultuous to, my heart—what may this mean?
Lo! where he comes—
Ha!—thro' the veil
Of age,—that face—that mien—Morat!
Let me once more embrace thee—
Good old man!
But wherefore art thou here?—what of my boy?
Ah! what indeed?—Ev'n from the ocean's margin,
Parch'd with the ſun, or chill'd with midnight damps,
O'er hills, and rocks, and dreary continents,
In vain I've follow'd—
Think not thy Morat urg'd him to the deed.
His valour was the cauſe; and ſoon as fame
Proclaim'd the prince alive, the mighty din
Of preparation through all Corea's realm
Alarm'd his breaſt—Indignant of controul
He burſt his covert, and now, hapleſs youth—
Ah!—dead!—in battle fall'n!—
Alas! ev'n now
He drags the conqu'ror's chain.—
May ſtill embrace her ſon.—My boy may live,
To know the ſweets of freedom, e'er he die.
Alas! the meaſure of your woes is full.
Unconſcious of our frauds, the tyrant thinks
The prince his pris'ner in your ſon.—
Wild thro' the ſtreets the foe calls out on Zamti.
Thee they pronounce the author of this fraud;
And on your Hamet threaten inſtant vengeance.
There was but this—but this, ye cruel pow'rs,
And this you've heap'd upon me.—Was it not
Enough to tear him from his mother's arms,
Doom'd for his prince to wander o'er the world?
—Alas! what needed more?—Fond fooliſh eyes,
Stop your unbidden'guſh—tear, tear me piecemeal
—No, I will not complain—but whence on him
Could that ſuſpicion glance?—
This very morn,
E'er yet the battle join'd, a faithful meſſenger,
Who thro' the friendly gloom of night had held
His darkling way, and paſs'd the Tartar's camp,
Brought me advices from the Corean chief,—
That ſoon as Hamet join'd the warlike train,
His ſtory he related.—Strait the gallant leader
With open arms receiv'd him—knew him for thy ſon,
In ſecret knew him, nor reveal'd he aught
That touch'd his birth.—But ſtill the buſy voice
Of fame, encreaſing as ſhe goes, through all the ranks
Babbled abroad each circumſtance.—By thee
How he was privately convey'd—Sent forth
A tender infant to be rear'd in ſolitude,
A ſtranger to himſelf!—The warriors ſaw
With what a graceful port he mov'd in arms,
An early hero!—deem'd him far above
The common lot of life—deem'd him Zaphimri,
And all with reverential awe beheld him.
This, this, my Zamti, reach'd the tyrant's ear,
And riſes into horrid proof.—
Oh! what a ſacrifice muſt now be made!
But when the ſecret ſhall be known—
Does thy poor bleeding country ſtill remain
Dear to thy heart?—Say, doſt thou ſtill revere
That holy pow'r above, Supreme of Beings,
Miſtaken by the Bonzée, whom our fathers
Worſhipp'd in happier days!—
For twenty years hath giv'n me ſtrength in exile.
Then bending here, before, his awful throne,
Swear what I now unfold, ſhall ever lie
In ſacred ſilence wrapp'd.—
Now mark me—
Morat—my ſon— (turning aſide.) Oh! cruel, cruel taſk,
To conquer nature while the heart-ſtrings break;—
Why heave thoſe ſighs?—and why that burſt of grief?
My ſon—his guiltleſs blood—I cannot ſpeak—
Burſts into tears.
Ha!—Wilt thou ſhed his blood?—
Oh! had you known the virtues of the youth;
His truth, his courage, his enlighten'd mind—
I prithee urge no more—here nature's voice
Speaks in ſuch pleadings:—Such reproaches, Morat,
—Here in my very heart—gives woundings here,
Thou can'ſt not know—and only parents feel—
And wilt thou, cruel in thy tears—
In pity to a father ceaſe—Think, Morat,
Think of Zaphimri—
Ah! how fares the prince?
He fares, my Morat, like a God on earth,
Unknowing his celeſtial origin:
Yet quick, intenſe, and burſting into action;
His great heart labr'ing with he knows not what
Prodigious deeds!—Deeds, which e'er long ſhall rouze,
Aſtoniſh, and alarm the world.—
Thoſe myſtic ſounds?
Revenge, conqueſt, and freedom!—
Ay!—Conqueſt and freedom!
The midnight hour ſhall call a choſen band
Of hidden patriots forth; who, when the foe
Sinks down in drunken revelry, ſhall pour
The gather'd rage of twenty years upon him,
And vindicate the eaſtern world.—
The news revives my ſoul.—
And can'ſt thou think
To ſave one vulgar life, that Zamti now
Will marr the vaſt deſign?—No;—let him bleed,
Let my boy bleed:—In ſuch a cauſe as this
I can reſign my ſon—with tears of joy Reſign
him,—and one complicated pang
Shall wrench him from my heart.—
The conqu'ror comes!
Warlike muſic within.
This is no hour for parlying—Morat, hence,
And leave me to my fix'd reſolve.—
Think of ſome means to ſave your Hamet.—
It cannot be—the ſoul of Timurkan
Is bold and ſtirring—when occaſion calls,
He ſprings aloft, like an expanding fire,
And marks his way with ruin.—Now he knows
Zaphimri lives, his fear will make him daring
Beyond his former crimes—for joy and riot
Which this day's triumph brings, remorſeleſs rage
And maſſacre ſucceed—and all our hopes
Are blaſted, for an unimportant boy.
A ſecond flouriſh.
That nearer ſound proclaims his dread approach—
Yet once more, Zamti, think—
No more—I'll ſend
Thoſe ſhall conduct thee where Oraſming lives—
There dwell, unſeen of all.—But, Morat, firſt
Seek my Mandane.—Heav'ns!—how ſhall I bear
Her ſtrong impetuoſity of grief,
When ſhe ſhall know my fatal purpoſe?—Thou
Prepare her tender ſpirit; ſooth her mind,
And ſave, oh! ſave me from that dreadful conflict.
Two large Folding-gates in the Back-ſcene are burſt open by the
Tartars, and then enter
TIMURKAN, with his Train.
Hail to this regal dome, this glitt'ring palace!
Where this inventive race have laviſh'd all
Their elegance—ye gay apartments, hail!
Beneath your ſtoried roof, where mimic life
Glows the eye, and at the painter's touch
A new creation lives along the walls;
Once more receive a conqueror, arriv'd
From rougher ſcenes, where ſtern rebellion dar'd Draw
forth his phalanx; till this warlike arm
Hurl'd deſolation on his falling ranks,
And now the monſter, in yon field of death,
Lies overwhelm'd in ruin.—
There he fell,
No more to ſtalk thy realm; the eaſtern world
From this auſpicious day, beneath your feet
Lies bound in adamantine chains.—
Shall Timurkan diſplay his conqu'ring banners,
From high Samarcand's walls, to where the Tanais
Devolves his icy tribute to the ſea.—
But firſt this captive prince.—
Yes, Octar, firſt
Zaphimri gluts my rage—bring him before us—firſt;
We'll cruſh the ſeeds of dark conſpiracy—
For Zamti—he, that falſe inſidious ſlave,
Shall dearly pay his treaſons.—
'Twere beſt to leave unpaniſh'd:—vers'd in wiles
Of ſly hypocriſy, he wins the love
Of the deluded multitude.—'Twould ſeem,
Should we inflict that death his frauds deſerve,
As if we meant deſtruction to their faith:
When a whole people's minds are once inflam'd
For their religious rights, their fury burns
With rage more dreadful, as the ſource is holy.—
Octar, thou reaſon'ſt right:—henceforth my art
To make this ſtubborn race receive my yoke,
Shall be by yielding to their ſofter manners,
Their veſture, laws, and cuſtoms: thus to blend
And make the whole one undiſtinguiſh'd people.
The boy comes forth in ſullen mood—what paſſions
Swell in his breaſt in vain!—
Enter HAMET in chains.
Thou art the youth,
Who mow'd our battle down, and fleſh'd your ſword
In many a ſlaughter'd Tartar.—
Too well I mark'd thy rage, and ſaw thee hew
A waſteful paſſage thro' th'embattled plain.
Then be thou witneſs for me, in that hour
I never ſhunn'd your thickeſt war;—and if
In yonder field, where my poor countrymen
In mangled heaps lie many a rood extended,
Kind fate had doom'd me to a noble fall,
With this right arm I earn'd it.—
Say, what motive
Unſheath'd thy rebel blade, and bad thee ſeek
The love of honourable deeds;
The groans of bleeding China, and the hate
Ha!—take heed, raſh youth—I ſee
This leſſon has been taught thee.—Octar, haſte,
Seek me the mandarine—let him forthwith
Attend me here. (Exit Octar.)—Now tremble at my words!
Thy motive to theſe wars is known—thou art
Falſe one, yes;
Thou art Zaphimri—thou!—whom treach'rous guile
Stole from my rage, and ſent to diſtant wilds,
Till years and horrid counſel ſhould mature thee
For war and wild commotion.—
I the prince!
The laſt of China's race! nay mock not majeſty,
Nor with the borrow'd robes of ſacred kings
Dreſs up a wretch like me—were I Zaphimri,
Think'ſt thou thy trembling eye could bear the ſhock
Of a much injur'd king?—could'ſt thou ſuſtain it?
Say, could'ſt thou bear to view a royal orphan,
Whoſe father, mother, brothers, ſiſters, all,
Thy murd'rous arm hath long ſince laid in duſt?
Whoſe native crown on thy ignoble brow
Thou dar'ſt diſhonour?—whoſe wide waſted country
Thy arms have made a wilderneſs?—
Thou haſt been tutor'd in thy lone retreat
By ſome ſententious pedant.—Soon theſe vain,
Theſe turgid maxims ſhall be all ſubdued
By thy approaching death.—
Let death come on;
Guilt, guilt alone ſhrinks back appall'd—the brave
And honeſt ſtill defy his dare; the wiſe
Calmly can eye his frown;—and miſery
Invokes his friendly aid to end her woes.—
Thy woes, preſumptuous youth, with all my fears,
Shall ſoon lie buried.—
Now, pious falſe one, ſay, who is that youth?
His air, his features, and his honeſt mien
Proclaim all fair within.—But, mighty ſir,
I know him not.—
Take heed, old man, nor dare, As thou do'ſt dread my pow'r, to practice guile Beneath a maſk of ſacerdotal perfidy: Prieſtcraft, I think, calls it a pious fraud.
Prieſtcraft and ſacerdotal perfidy To me are yet unknown.—Religion's garb Here never ſerves to conſecrate a crime; We have not yet, thank heav'n, ſo far imbib'd The vices of the north.—
Thou vile impoſtor!
A vow Zaphimri, whom thy treach'rous arts
Conceal'd from juſtice; or elſe deſolation
Again ſhall ravage this devoted land.
Alas! full well thou know'ſt, that arm already
Hath ſhed all royal blood.—
Traitor, 'tis falſe;—
By thee, vile ſlave, I have been wrought to think
The hated race deſtroy'd—thy artful tale
Abus'd my cred'lous ear.—But know, at length
Some captive ſlaves, by my command impal'd,
Have own'd the horrid truth;—have own'd they fought
To feat Zaphimri on the throne of China.
Hear me, thou froward boy;—dar'ſt thou be honeſt,
And anſwer who thou art?—
Dare I be honeſt?—
I dare;—a mind grown up in native honour
Dares not be otherwiſe—then if thy troops
Aſk from the lightning of whoſe blade they fled,
Tell 'em 'twas Harriet's.—
'Tis—it is my ſon—
My boy,—my Hamet—
Far hence remote, in Corea's happy realm—
Where the firſt beams of day with orient bluſhes
Tinge the fait wave—there on the ſea beat ſhore
A cavern'd rock yielded a lone retreat
To virtuous Morat.—
The pious hermit in that moſs-grown dwelling
Found an aſylum from heart-piercing woes,
From ſlav'ry, and that reſtleſs din of arms
With which thy fell ambition ſhook the world.
There too the ſage nurtur'd my greener years;
With him and contemplation have I walk'd
The paths of wiſdom; what the great Confucius
Of moral beauty taught,—whate'er the wiſe,
Still wooing knowlege in her ſecret haunts,
Diſclos'd of nature to the ſons of men,
My wond'ring mind has heard—but above all
The hermit taught me the moſt uſeful ſcience,
That noble ſcience, to be Brave and. Good.—
Oh! lovely youth—at ev'ry word he utters,
A ſoft effuſion mix'd of grief and joy
Flows o'er my heart.
Who, ſaid he, was your father?
My birth, the pious ſage,—I know not why—
Still wrapp'd in ſilence; and when urg'd to tell,
He only anſwer'd that a time might come,
I ſhould not bluſh to know my father.—
With truth declare, haſt thou ne'er heard of Zamti?
Of Zamti?—oft enraptur'd with his name
My heart has glow'd within me, as I heard
The praiſes of the godlike man.—
Each circumſtance arraigns thy guilt.—
Oh! heav'ns! Can that be Zamti?
Yes, that is the traitor—
Let me adore his venerable form,
Thus on my knees adore—
I cannot look upon him,
Left tenderneſs diſſolve my feeble pow'rs,
And wreſt my purpoſe from me—
Hence, vain boy!
Thou ſpecious traitor, thou falſe hoary moraliſt!
Confuſion has o'erta'en thy ſubtle frauds.
To make my crown's aſſurance firm, that none
Hereafter ſhall aſpire to wrench it from me,
Now own your fancied king; or, by yon heav'n,
To make our vengeance ſure, thro' all the eaſt
Each youth ſhall die, and carnage thin mankind,
Till in the gen'ral wreck your boaſted Orphan
Shall undiſtinguiſh'd fall.—Thou know'ſt my word
Is fate.—Octar, draw near—when treaſon lurks
Each moment's big with danger—thou obſerve
Theſe my commands—
Talks apart to Octar.
Now virtuous cruelty repreſs my tears.
—Ceaſe your ſoft conflict, nature.—Hear me, Tartar.—
That youth—his air—his ev'ry look, unmans me quite.—
Wilt thou begin, diſſembler?
Down, down, down—
It muſt be ſo, or all is loſt—That youth,—
I've dealt by him—as ev'ry king could wiſh
In a like caſe his faithful ſubjects would.
Ha!—doſt thou own it?—Triumph, Timurkan,
And in Zaphimri's grave lie huſh'd my fears.
Brave Octar, let the victim ſtrait be led
To yonder ſacred fane; there, in the view
Of my rejoicing Tartars, the declining fun
Shall ſee him offer'd to our living Lama,
For this day's conqueſt:—thence a golden train
Of radiant years, ſhall mark my future ſway.
Flow, flow my tears, and eaſe this aching breaſt.
Nay, do not weep for me, thou good old man.
If it will cloſe the wounds of bleeding China,
That a poor wretch like me muſt yield his life,
I give it freely.—If I am a king,
Tho' ſure it cannot be, what greater bleſſing
Can a young prince enjoy, than to diffuſe,
By one great act, that happineſs on millions,
For which his life ſhould be a round of care?
Come, lead me to my fate.—
Exit with Octar, &c.
Hold, hold my heart!
—My gallant, gen'rous youth!—Mandane's air,
His mother's dear reſemblance rives my ſoul.
Oh! let me fly, and find the barb'rous man—
Where—where is Zamti?—
Wild as the winds, the mother all alive
In ev'ry heartſtring, the forlorn one comes
To claim her boy.—
And can It then be true?
Is human nature exil'd from thy breaſt?
Art thou, indeed, ſo barb'rous?—
Fix not your ſcorpions here—a bearded ſhaft
Already drinks my ſpirits up.—
'The truſty Morat—Oh! I've heard it all.—
He would have ſhunn'd my ſteps; but what can 'ſcape
The eye of tenderneſs like mine?—
I cannot ſpeak to thee.—
Think'ſt thou thoſe tears,
Thoſe falſe, thoſe cruel tears, will choak the voice
Of a fond mother's love, How ſtung to madneſs?
Oh! I will rend the air with lamentations,
Root up this hair, and beat this throbbing breaſt,
Turn all connubial joys to bitterneſs,
To fell deſpair, to anguiſh and remorſe,
Unleſs my ſon—
Thou ever faithful woman,
Oh! leave me to my woes.—
Give me my child,
Thou worſe than Tartar, give me back my ſon;
Oh! give him to a mother's eager arms,
And let me ſtrain him to my heart.—
How dear my boy is here:—But our firſt duty
Now claims attention—to our country's love,
All other tender fondneſſes muſt yeild;
—I was a ſubject e'er I was a father.
You were a ſavage bred in Scythian wilds,
And humanizing pity never reach'd
Your heart.—Was it for this—oh! thou unkind one,
Was it for this—oh! thou inhuman father,
You woo'd me to your nuptial bed?—So long
Have I then claſp'd thee in theſe circling arms,
And made this breaſt your pillow?—Cruel, ſay.
Are theſe your vows?—are theſe your fond endearments?
Nay, look upon me—if this waſted form,
Theſe faded eyes have turn'd your heart againſt me,
With grief for you I wither'd in my bloom.
Why with them pierce my heart?
Alas! my ſon,
Have I then bore thee in theſe matron arms,
To ſee thee bleed?—Thus doſt thou then return?
This could your mother hope, when firſt ſhe ſent
Her infant exile to a diſtant clime?
Ah! could I think thy early love of fame,
Would urge thee to this peril?—thus to fall,
By a ſtern father's will—by thee to die!—
From thee, inhuman, to receive his doom!—
—Murder'd by thee!—Yet hear me, Zamti, hear me—
Thus on my knees—I threaten now no more—
'Tis nature's voice that pleads; nature alarm'd,
Quick, trembling, wild, touch'd to her inmoſt feeling,
When force would tear her tender young ones from her.
Nay, ſeek not with enfeebling fond ideas
To ſwell the flood of grief—it is in vain—
He muſt ſubmit to fate.—
She riſes haſtily.
He ſhall not die—rather—I prithee, Zamti,
Urge not a grief-diſtracted woman:—Tremble
At the wild fury of a mother's love.
I tremble rather at a breach of oaths.
But thou break thine.—Bathe your perfidious hands
In this life blood.—Betray the righteous cauſe
Of all our ſacred kings.
Our kings!—our kings!
What are the ſcepter'd rulers of the world?—
Form'd of one common clay, are they not all
Doom'd with each ſubject, with the meaneſt ſlave,
To drink the cup of human woe?—alike
All levell'd by affliction?—Sacred kings!
'Tis human policy ſets up their claim.—
Mine is a mother's cauſe—mine is the cauſe
Of huſband, wife, and child;—thoſe tend'reſt ties!
Superior to your right divine of kings!—
Then go, Mandane—thou once faithful woman,
Dear to this heart in vain;—go, and forget
Thoſe virtuous leſſons, which I oft have taught thee,
In fond credulity, while on each word
You hung enamour'd.—Go, to Timurkan
Reveal the awful truth.—Be thou ſpectatreſs
Of murder'd majeſty.—Embrace your ſon,
And let him lead in ſhame and ſervitude
A life ignobly bought.—Then let thoſe eyes,
Thoſe faded eyes, which grief for me hath dimm'd,
With guilty joy reanimate their luſtre,
To brighten ſlavery, and beam their fires
On the fell Scythian murderer.
And is it thus,
Thus is Mandane known?—My ſoul diſdains
The vile imputed guilt.—No—never—never—
Still am I true to fame. Come lead me hence,
Where I may lay down life to ſave Zaphimri,
—But ſave my Hamet too.—Then, then you'll find
A heart beats here, as warm and great as thine.
Then make with me one ſtrong, one glorious effort;
And rank with thoſe, who, from the firſt of time,
In fame's eternal archives ſtand rever'd,
For conqu'ring all the deareſt ties of nature,
To ſerve the gen'ral weal.—
That ſavage virtue
Loſes with me its horrid charms.—I've ſworn
To ſave my king.—But ſhould a mother turn
A dire aſſaſſin—oh! I cannot bear
The piercing thought.—Diſtraction, quick diſtraction
Will ſeize my brain.—See there—My child, my child,—
By guards ſurrounded, a devoted victim.—
Barbarian hold!—Ah! ſee, he dies! he dies!—
She faints into Zamti's arms.
Where is Arſace?—Fond maternal love
Shakes her weak frame— (Enter Arſace.) Quickly, Arſace, help
This ever-tender creature.—Wand'ring life
Rekindles in her cheek.—Soft, lead her off
To where the fanning breeze in yonder bow'r,
May woo her ſpirits back.—Propitious heav'n?
Pity the woundings of a father's heart;
Pity my ſtrugglings with this beſt of women;
Support our virtue:—kindle in our ſouls
A ray of your divine enthuſiaſm;
Such as inflames the patriot's breaſt, and lifts
Th' impaſſion'd mind to that ſublime of virtue,
That even on the rack it feels the good,
Which in a ſingle hour it works for millions,
And leaves the legacy to after times.
Exit, leading off Mandane.
End of the Second
1.3. ACT III.
SCENE A Temple. Several tombs up and down the ſtage.
THIS is the place—theſe the long winding iſles,
The ſolemn arches, whoſe religious awe
Attunes the mind to melancholy muſing,
Such as befits free men reduc'd to ſlaves.—
Here Zamti meets his friends—amid theſe tombs,
Where lie the ſacred manes of our kings,
They pour their oriſons—hold converſe here
With the illuſtrious ſhades of murder'd heroes,
And meditate a great revenge— (a groan is heard) a groan!
The burſt of anguiſh from ſome care-worn wretch
That ſorrows o'er his country—ha! 'tis Zamti!
ZAMTI comes out of a tomb.
Who's he, that ſeeks theſe manſions of the dead?
The friend of Zamti and of China.—
Come to my arms, thou good, thou beſt of men—
I have been weeping o'er the ſacred reliques
Of a dear murder'd king—where are our friends?
Haſt ſeen Oraſming?
Thro' theſe vaults of death
Lonely he wanders,—plung'd in deep deſpair.—
Haſt thou not told him?—haſt thou nought reveal'd
Oh! thou art ever faithful—on thy lips
Sits penſive ſilence, with her hallow'd finger
Guarding the pure receſſes of thy mind.—
But, lo! they come.—
Enter ORASMING, ZIMVENTI, and others.
Droop ye, my gallant friends?
Oh! Zamti, all is loſt—Our dreams of liberty
Are vaniſh'd into air.—Nought now avails
Integrity of life.—Ev'n heav'n, combin'd
With lawleſs might, abandons us and virtue—
Can your great ſouls thus ſhrink within ye? thus
From heroes will ye dwindle into ſlaves?
Oh! could you give us back Zaphimri!—then
Danger would ſmile, and loſe its face of horror.
What,—would his preſence fire ye!
This night ſhould free us from the Tartar's yoke.
Then mark the care of the all-gracious Gods!
This youthful captive, whom in chains they hold,
Is not Zaphimri.—
Unconſcious of himſelf, and to the world unknown,
He walks at large among us—
This night, my friends, this very night to riſe
Refulgent from a blow, that frees us all,—
From the uſurper's fate!—the firſt of men,
Deliv'rer of his country!
Can this be poſſible?—
It is moſt true—
I'll bring him to ye ſtrait— (calling to Etan within the tomb)
what ho!—come forth—
You ſeem transfix'd with wonder—oh! my friends,
Watch all the motions of your riſing ſpirit,
Direct your ardor, when anon ye hear
What fate, long pregnant with the vaſt event,
Is lab'ring into birth.—
ETAN comes out of the tomb.
Each ſtep I move
A deeper horror ſits on all the tombs;
Each ſhrine,—each altar ſeems to ſhake; as if
Conſcious of ſome important criſis.—
A criſis great indeed, is now at hand!—
Heav'n holds its golden balance forth, and weighs
Zaphimri's and the Tartar's deſtiny,
While hov'ring angels tremble round the beam.
Haſt thou beheld that picture?
Hath paus'd on ev'ry part; yet ſtill to me
It ſhadows forth the forms of things unknown;—
All imag'ry obſcure, and wrapp'd in darkneſs.
That darkneſs my informing breath ſhall clear,
As morn diſpels the night. Lo! here diſplay'd
This mighty kingdom's fall.—
Alas! my father,
At ſight of theſe ſad colourings of woe,
Our tears will mix with honeſt indignation.
Nay, but ſurvey it cloſer—ſee that child,
That royal infant, the laſt ſacred relict
Of China's ancient line—ſee where a mandarine
Conveys the babe to his wife's foſt'ring breaſt,
There to be nouriſh'd in an humble ſtate;
While their own ſon is ſent to climes remote;
That, ſhould the dire uſurper e'er ſuſpect
The prince alive, he in his ſtead might bleed,
And mock the murd'rer's rage.—
Thro' all my frame, and my mind, big with wonder,
Feels ev'ry pow'r ſuſpended.—
That ſtrong imagination burns within thee.—
Do'ſt thou not feel a more than common ardor?—
By heav'n my ſoul dilates with ſome new impulſe;
Some ſtrange inſpir'd emotion—would the hour
Of fate were come—this night my dagger's hilt
I'll bury in the tyrant's heart.—
By all the mighty dead, that round us lie,
By all who this day groan in chains, I will.
And when thou doſt—then tell him 'tis the prince
The prince's wrongs ſhall nerve my arm
With tenfold rage.
Nay, but the prince himſelf!
Thou art China's Orphan;
The laſt of all our kings—no longer Etan,
But now Zaphimri!
O wond'rous hand Of heav'n!
A crow'd of circumſtances riſe—
Thy frequent hints obſcure—thy pious care
To train my youth to greatneſs.—Lend your aid
To my aſtoniſh'd pow'rs, that feebly bear
This unexpected ſhock of royalty.
Thou noble youth, now put forth all your ſtrength,
And let heav'n's vengeance brace each ſinew.—
That word has ſhot its light'ning thro' my ſoul.—
But tell me, Zamti—ſtill 'tis wonder all—
Am I indeed the Royal Orphan?—
Thou art the king, whom as my humble ſon,
I've nurtur'd in humanity and virtue.
Thy foes could never think to find thee here,
Ev'n in the lion's den; and therefore here
I've fix'd thy ſafe aſylum, while my ſon
Hath dragg'd his life in exile.—Oh! my friends,
Morat will tell ye all,—each circumſtance—
Mean time—there is your king!—
All kneel to him.
Long live the Father of the eaſtern world!
Is then a great revenge for all the wrongs
Of bleeding China; are the fame and fate
Of all poſterity included here
Within my boſom?—
They all riſe.
Yes; they are; the ſhades
Of your great anceſtors now riſe before thee,
Heroes and demi-gods!—Aloud they call
For the fell Tartar's blood—.
Oh! Zamti; all
That can alarm the pow'rs of man, now ſtirs
In this expanding breaſt.—
Anon to burſt
With hideous ruin on the foe.—My gallant heroes,
Are our men ſtation'd at their poſts?
It is:—Will Mirvan join us?
Doubt him not.—
In bitterneſs of ſoul he counts his wrongs,
And pants for vengeance—would have join'd us here,
But, favour'd as he is, his poſt requires him
About the Tartar's perſon.—The aſſault begun,
He'll turn his arms upon th' aſtoniſh'd foe,
And add new horrors to the wild commotion.
Now, bloody ſpoiler, now thy hour draws nigh,
And e'er the dawn thy guilty reign ſhall end.
How my heart burns within me!—Oh! my friends,
Call now to mind the ſcene of deſolation,
Which Timurkan, in one accurſed hour,
Heap'd on this groaning land.—Ev'n now I ſee
The ſavage bands, o'er reeking hills of dead,
Forcing their rapid way.—I ſee them urge
With rage unhallow'd to this ſacred temple,
Where good Oſmingti, with his queen and children,
Fatigu'd the Gods averſe.—See where Arphiſa,
Rending the air with agonizing ſhrieks,
Tears her diſhevell'd hair: Then, with a look
Fix'd on her babes, grief choaks its paſſage up,
And all the feelings of a mother's breaſt
Throbbing in one mix'd pang, breathleſs ſhe faints
Within her huſband's arms.—Adown his cheek,
In copious ſtreams faſt flow'd the manly ſorrow;
While cluſt'ring round his knees his little offspring,
In tears all-eloquent, with arms outſtretch'd,
Sue for parental aid.—
Go on—the tale
Will fit me for a ſcene of horror.—
Oh! my prince,
The charge, which your great father gave me, ſtill
Sounds in my ear.—E'er yet the foe burſt in,
"Zamti," ſaid he—Ah! that imploring eye!—
That agonizing look!—
"Preſerve my little boy, my cradled infant—
"Shield him from ruffians—Train his youth to virtue:—
"Virtue will rouze him to a great revenge;
"Or failing—Virtue will ſtill make him happy.
He could no more—the cruel ſpoiler ſeiz'd him,
And dragg'd my king—my ever honour'd king,—
The father of his people,—baſely dragg'd him
By his white rev'rend locks, from yonder altar,
Here,—on the blood-ſtain'd pavement; while the queen,
And her dear fondlings, in one mangled heap,
Died in each other's arms.—
With more than lion's nerve I'll ſpring upon him,
And at one blow relieve the groaning world.
Let us this moment carry ſword and fire
To yon devoted walls, and whelm him down
In ruin and diſmay.—
By raſhneſs you may marr a noble cauſe.
To you, my friends, I render up my charge—
To you I give your king.—Farewell, my ſov'reign.—
Thou good, thou godlike man—a thouſand feelings
Of warmeſt friendſhip—all the tendencies
Of heart-felt gratitude are ſtruggling here,
And fain would ſpeak to thee, my more than father.
—Farewel;—ſure we ſhall meet again.—
Farewell—Zamti, farewell. (Embraces him) Oraſming, now
The nobleſt duty calls us.—Now remember
We are the men, whom from all human kind
Our fate hath now ſelected, to come forth
Aſſerters of the public weal;—to drench our ſwords
In the oppreſſor's heart;—to do a deed
Which heav'n, intent on its own holy work,
Shall pauſe with pleaſure to behold—
Exit, with conſpirators.
May the Moſt High
Pour down his bleſſings on him; and anon,
In the dead waſte of night, when awful juſtice
Walks with her crimſon ſteel o'er ſlaughter'd heaps
Of groaning Tartars, may he then direct
His youthful footſteps thro' the paths of peril;
Oh may he guide the horrors of the ſtorm,
An Angel of your wrath, to point your vengeance
On ev'ry guilty head.—Then,—then 'twill be enough,
When you have broken the oppreſſor's rod,
Your reign will then be manifeſt—Mankind will ſee
That truth and goodneſs ſtill obtain your care— A dead march.
What mean thoſe deathful ſounds?—Again!—They lead
My boy to ſlaughter—Oh! look down, ye heavens!
Look down propitious!—Teach me to ſubdue
That nature which ye gave.—
A dead march. Enter HAMET, OCTAR, guards, &c.
Here let the victim fall, and with his blood
Waſh his forefather's tomb.—Here ends the hated race.—
The eaſtern world thro' all her wide domain,
Shall then ſubmiſſive feel the Scythian yoke,
And yield to Timurkan.—
HAMET. Standing by the tomb.
Where is the tyrant?—I would have him ſee,
With envy ſee, th' unconquer'd pow'r of virtue;
How it can calmly bleed, ſmile on his racks,
And with ſtrong pinion ſoar above his pow'r,
To regions of perennial day—
Of the whole eaſtern world ſhall mark thee well,
When at to-morrow's dawn thy breathleſs corſe
Is born thro' all our ſtreets for public view.
It now befits thee to prepare for death.
I am prepar'd.—I have no luſt or rapine,
No murders to repent of.—Undiſmay'd
I can behold all-judging heav'n, whoſe hand
Still compaſſing its wond'rous ends, by means
Inextricable to all mortal clue,
Hath now inclos'd me in its awful maze.
Since 'tis by your decree that thus beſet
Th' inexorable angel hovers o'er me,
Be your great bidding done.—
The fabre's edge
Thirſts for his blood—then let its light'ning fall
On his aſpiring head.—
Guards ſeize Hamet.
Off,—ſet me free.—Inhuman, barb'rous ruffians.—
What means that woman with diſhevell'd hair,
And wild extravagance of woe?—
Scorn all reſtraint—I muſt—I will have way.—
She enters, and throws herſelf on her knees.
Me,—me, on me convert your rage—plunge deep,
Deep in this boſom your abhorred ſteel,
But ſpare his precious life.—
Hence, quickly bear
This wild, this frantic woman.—
You ſhall not force me hence. Here will I cling
Faſt to the earth, and rivet here my hands,
In all the fury of the laſt deſpair.
He is my child,—my dear, dear ſon.—
How, woman! Saidſt thou your ſon?—
Yes, Octar, yes;—my ſon, My boy,—my Hamet (ſhe riſes and embraces him.)
Let my frantic love
Fly all unbounded to him—oh! my child—my child!—
Suſpend the ſtroke, ye miniſters of death,
Till Timurkan hear of this new event.
Mean time, thou Mirvan, ſpeed in queſt of Zamti,
And let him anſwer here this wond'rous tale.
The time demands his preſence; or deſpair
May wring each ſecret from her tender breaſt. Aſide.
And then our glorious, fancied pile of freedom
At one dire ſtroke, ſhall tumble into nought.
Why did'ſt thou dare return?—ah! rather why
Did'ſt thou ſo long defer with ev'ry grace,
And ev'ry growing virtue, thus to raiſe
Your mother's dear delight to rapture?
In the deep miſts of darkling ignorance,
To me my birth's unknown—but ſure that look,
Thoſe tears, thoſe ſhrieks, that animated grief
Defying danger, all declare th'effect
Of nature's ſtrugglings in a parent's heart.
Then let me pay my filial duty here,
Kneel to her native dignity, and pour
In tears of joy the tranſport of a ſon.—
Thou art, thou art my ſon—thy father's face,
His ev'ry feature, blooming in his boy.
Oh! tell me, tell me all; how haſt thou liv'd
With faithful Morat?—how did he ſupport
In dreary ſolitude thy tender years?—
How train thy growing mind?—oh! quickly tell me,
Oh! tell me all, and charm me with thy tongue.
Myſterious pow'rs! have I then liv'd to this,
In th' hour of peril thus to find a parent,
In virtue firm, majeſtic in diſtreſs,
At length to feel unutterable bliſs
In her dear circling arms—
Enter TIMURKAN, OCTAR, &C.
Where is this wild
Outrageous woman, who with frantic grief
Suſpends my dread command—tear 'em aſunder,—
Send her to ſome dark cell to rave and ſhriek
And dwell with madneſs—and let inſtant death
Leave that raſh youth a headleſs trunk before me.
Now by the ever-burning lamps that light
Our holy ſhrines, by great Confucius' altar,
By the prime ſource of life, and light, and being,
That is my child, the bloſſom of my joys—
Send for his cruel father,—he—'tis he
Intends a fraud—he, for a ſtranger's life,
Would yield his offspring to the cruel ax,
And rend a wretched mother's brain with madneſs.
Sure the ſad accents of Mandane's voice
Struck on my frighted ſenſe.—
Once more, thou ſlave!—
Who is that ſtubborn youth?
Alas! what needs
This iteration of my griefs?
Thou marble-hearted father!—'tis your child,
And would'ſt thou ſee him bleed?—
On him!—on him
Let fall your rage, and eaſe my ſoul at once
Of all its fears.—
Support her, heav'n! ſupport her tender frame—
Now, tyrant, now I beg to live— (kneels) lo! here
I plead for life;—not for the wretched boon
To breathe the air, which thy ambition taints;—
But oh! to eaſe a mother's pains;—for her,
For that dear object,—oh! let me live for her.
Now by the conqueſts this good ſword has won,
In her wild vehemence of grief I hear
The genuine voice of nature.
Ah!—where is he?
He is my ſon—my child—and not Zaphimri—
Oh! let me claſp thee to my heart—thy hard,
Thy cruel father ſhall not tear thee from me.—
Hear me, thou frantic mourner, dry thoſe tears—
Perhaps you ſtill may ſave this darling ſon.—
Ah! quickly name the means.—
Give up your king,
Your phantom of a king, to ſate my vengeance.
Oh! my much honour'd mother, never hear
The baſe, the dire propoſal—let me rather
Exhauſt my life-blood at each guſhing vein.
Mandane then,—then you may well rejoice
To find your child,—then you may truly know
The beſt delight a mother's heart can prove,
When her ſon dies with glory.—
The ſtripling's pride—
Talks apart with Octar.
Ye venerable hoſt,
Ye mighty ſhades of China's, royal line,
Forgive the joy that mingles with my tears,
When I behold him ſtill alive,—Propitious pow'rs!
You never meant entirely to deſtroy
This bleeding country, when your kind indulgence
Lends us a youth like him.—
Oh! I can hold no more—let me infold
That lovely ardor in his father's arms—
My brave,—my gen'rous boy!—
Doſt thou at length
Confeſs it, traitor?—
Yes, I boaſt it, tyrant;
Boaſt it to thee,—to earth and heav'n I boaſt,
This,—this is Zamti's ſon.—
At length the hour,
The glorious hour is come, by Morat promis'd,
"When Hamet ſhall not bluſh to know his father."
Kneels to him.
Oh! thou intrepid youth!—what bright reward
Can your glad ſire beſtow on ſuch deſert?—
The righteous Gods, and your own inward feelings
Shall give the ſweeteſt retribution.—Now,
Mandane, now my ſoul forgives thee all,
Since I have made acquaintance with my ſon;
Thy lovely weakneſs I can now excuſe;
But oh! I charge thee by a huſband's right—
A huſband's right!—a traitor has no right—
Society diſclaims him—Woman, hear—
Mark well my words—diſcolour not thy ſoul
With the black hue of crimes like his—renounce
All hymeneal vows, and take again,
Your much lov'd boy to his fond mother's arms,
While juſtice whirls that traitor to his fate.
Thou vile adviſer!—what, betray my lord,
My honour'd huſband—turn a Scythian wiſe!
Forget the many years of fond delight,
In which my ſoul ne'er knew decreaſing love,
Charm'd with his noble, all accompliſh'd mind!
No, tyrant, no;—with him I'll rather die;
With him in ruin more ſupremely bleſt,
Than guilt triumphant on its throne.—
Inhuman tyrant, I defy thy pow'r—
Lo! here, the father, mother, and the ſon!
Try all your tortures on us—here we ſtand
Reſolv'd to leave a tract of bright renown
To mark our beings—all reſolv'd to die
The votaries of honour!—
Then die ye ſhall—what ho!—guards, ſeize the ſlaves,
Deep in ſome baleful dungeon's midnight gloom
Let each apart be plung'd—and Etan too—
Let him be forthwith found—he too ſhall ſhare
His father's fate.—
Be it my taſk, dread ſir,
To make the rack ingenious in new pains,
Till even cruelty almoſt relent
At their keen, agonizing groans.—
Be that thy care.—Now by th'immortal Lama
I'll wreſt this myſt'ry from 'em—elſe the dawn
Shall ſee me up in arms—'gainſt Corea's chief
I will unfurl my banners—his proud cities
Shall dread my thunder at their gates, and mourn
Their ſmoaking ramparts—o'er his verdant plains
And peaceful vales I'll drive my warlike carr,
And deluge all the eaſt with blood.—
Mandane, ſummon all thy ſtrength.—My ſon,
Thy father doubts not of thy fortitude.
Mirvan, do thou bear hence thoſe miſcreant ſlaves.
Exit, after Zamti.
Allow me but one laſt embrace—
To the guards.
Would I could reſcue thee.—
Inhuman, bloody Tartars.
Exeunt, on different ſides
End of the Third
1.4. ACT IV.
SCENE, a Priſon. HAMET in chains.
Enter ZAPHIMRI (diſguiſed in a Tartar dreſs) with MIRVAN.
HERE ſtretch'd at length on the dank ground he lies;
Scorning his fate.—Your meeting muſt be ſhort.—
And yet I tremble for th' event;—
Why would'ſt thou venture to this place of danger?
And can'ſt thou deem me then ſo mean of ſpirit,
To dwell ſecure in ignominious ſafety;
With cold inſenſibility to wait
The ling'ring hours, with coward patience wait 'em,
O'er Zamti's houſe while ruin nods?—
Thy fate's ſuſpended on each dreadful moment.
I will hold converſe with him; ev'n tho' death
Were arm'd againſt the interview.—
HAMET, ſtill on the ground.
—What wouldſt thou, Tartar?
Riſe, noble youth,—no vulgar errand mine—
If under that diſguiſe, a murd'rer's dagger
Thirſt for my blood—thus I can meet the blow.
Throwing himſelf open.
No ruffian's purpoſe lurks within this boſom.
To theſe lone walls, where oft the Scythian ſtabber
With murd'rous ſtride hath come; theſe walls that oft
Have ſee th'aſſaſſin's. deeds; I bring a mind
Firm, virtuous, upright.—Under this vile garb,
Lo! here a ſon of China.—
Opens his dreſs.
Yes, thy garb
Denotes a ſon of China; and thoſe eyes
Roll with no black intent.—Say on—
Inflam'd with admiration of heroic deeds,
I come to ſeek acquaintance with the youth,
Who for his king would bravely die.—
Doſt thou applaud the deed?—
By heav'n, I do.—
Yes, virtuous envy riſes in my ſoul—
Thy ardor charms me, and ev'n now I pant
To change conditions with thee.—
Then my heart
Accepts thy proffer'd friendſhip;—in a baſe,
A prone, degen'rate age, when foreign force,
And foreign manners have o'erwhelm'd us all,
And ſunk our native genius;—thou retain'ſt
A ſenſe of ancient worth.—But wherefore here,
To this ſad manſion, this abode of ſorrow,
Com'ſt thou to know a wretch that ſoon muſt die?—
By heav'n, thou ſhalt not die—I come to ſpeak
The gladſome tidings of a happier fate.—
By me Zaphimri ſends—
Kind pow'rs!—Where is the king?—
His ſteps are ſafe;
Unſeen as is the arrow's path.—By me he ſays,
He knows, he loves, he wonders at thy virtue.—
By me he ſwears, rather than thou ſhould'ſt fall,
He will emerge from dark obſcurity,
And greatly brave his fate.—
Ha!—die for me!
For me, ignoble in the ſcale of being;
An unimportant wretch!—Whoe'er thou art,
I prithee, ſtranger, bear my anſwer back—
Oh! tell my ſov'reign that here dwells a heart
Superior to all peril.—When I fall,
A worm,—an inſect dies!—But in his life.
Are wrapp'd the glories of our ancient line,
The liberties of China!—Then let him
Live for his people—Be it mine to die.
Can I bear this, ye pow'rs, and not diſſolve
In tears of gratitude and love?—
That flood of grief?—and why that ſtifled groan?
Thro' the dark miſt his ſorrow caſts around him,
He ſeems no common man.—Say, gen'rous youth,
Who and what art thou?—
Who and what am I!—
Thou lead'ſt me to a precipice, from whence
Downward to look, turns wild the mad'ning brain,
Scar'd at th'unfathomable deep below.—
Who, and what am I!—Oh! the verieſt wretch
That ever yet groan'd out his ſoul in anguiſh.
One loſt, abandon'd, hopeleſs, plung'd in woe
Beyond redemption's aid.—To tell thee all
In one dire word, big with the laſt diſtreſs,
In one accumulated term of horror,—Zaphimri!—
He!—that fatal wretch;
Exalted into miſery ſupreme.
Oh! I was happy, while good Zamti's ſon
I walk'd the common tracts of life, and ſtrove
Humbly to copy my imagin'd ſire. But now—
Yes now—if thou art He—as ſure
'Tis wond'rous like—rais'd to a ſtate, in which
A nation's happineſs on thee depends.
A nation's happineſs!—There, there I bleed—
There a [...]e my pangs.—For me this war began—
For me hath purple ſlaughter drench'd yon fields—
I am the cauſe of all.—I forg'd thoſe chains—
For Zamti and Mandane too—Oh! heav'ns!—
Them have I thrown into a dungeon's gloom.—
Theſe are the horrors of Zaphimri's reign.—
—I am the tyrant!—I aſcend the throne
By trampling on the neck of innocence;
By baſe ingratitude; by the vile means
Of ſelfiſh cowardice, that can behold
Thee, and thy father, mother, all in chains,
All loſt, all murder'd, that I thence may riſe
Inglorious to a throne!—
Alas! thy ſpirit,
Thy wild diſorder'd fancy pictures forth
Ills, that are not—or, being ills, not worth
A moment's pauſe—
Not ills!—thou can'ſt not mean it.—
Oh! I'm environ'd with the worſt of woes;—
The angry fates, amidſt their hoards of vengeance,
Had nought but this—they meant to render me
Peculiarly diſtreſs'd.—Tell me, thou gallant youth,
—A ſoul like thine knows ev'ry fine emotion,—
Is there a nerve, in which the heart of man
Can prove ſuch torture, as when thus it meets
Unequal'd friendſhip, honour, truth, and love,
And no return can make?—Oh! 'tis too much,
Ye mighty Gods, too much—thus,—thus to be
A feeble prince, a ſhadow of a king,
Without the pow'r to wreak revenge on guilt,
—Without the pow'r of doing virtue right.—
But when?—when thou art loſt,—
When Zamti and Mandane are deſtroy'd—
Oh! for a dagger's point, to plunge it deep,
Deep in this—ha!—Deep in the tyrant's heart.—
There your revenge ſhould point.—For that great deed
Heav'n hath watch'd all thy ways; and wilt thou now
With headlong rage ſpurn at its guardian care,
Nor wait the movements of eternal Juſtice?—
Ha!—whither has my phrenzy ſtray'd?—Yes, heav'n
Has been all-bounteous.—Righteous pow'rs!—
To you my oriſons are due—But oh!
Complete your goodneſs:—Save this valiant youth;—
Save Zamti's houſe; and then,—if ſuch your will,
That from the Tartar's head my arm this night
Shall graſp the crown of China—teach me then
To bear your dread vicegerency—I ſtand
Reſign'd to your high will.—
And heav'n, I truſt,
Will ſtill preſerve thee; in its own good time
Will finiſh its decrees.—
Yes, Hamer, yes;
A gleam of hope remains.—Should Timurkan
D [...]fer his murder to the midnight hour,
Then will I come,—then burſt theſe guilty walls,
Rend thoſe vile manacles, and give thee freedom.
Oh! no—you muſt not riſk—
A band of heroes
For this are ready; honourably leagu'd
To vindicate their rightis.—Thy father's care
Plann'd and inſpir'd the whole.—Among the troops
Nay in his very guards, there are not wanting
Some gallant ſons of China, in that hour,
Who will diſcover their long-pent-up fury,
And deal deſtruction round.—
And ev'ry thing diſpos'd?
In ſilent terror all intent they ſtand,
And wait the ſignal in each gale that blows.
Why did'ſt thou venture forth?
What, poorly lurk
While my friends die!—that thought—but, generous youth,
I'll not think meanly of thee—No—that thought
Is foreign to thy heart.—
But think, my prince,
On China's wrongs, the dying heroes' groans;
Think on thy anceſtors.—
What is't to me a long-deſcended line,
A race of worthies, legiſlators, heroes,
—Unleſs I bring their virtues too?—No more—
Thy own example fires me.—Near this place
I'll take my ſtand, and watch their buſy motions,
Until the gen'ral roar;—then will I come,
And arm thee for th' aſſault.—
Oh! if thou do'ſt,
Yet once again I'll wield the deathful blade,
And bear againſt the foe.—
Yes, thou and I
Will ruſh together thro' the paths of death,
Mow down our way, and with ſad overthrow
Purſue the Tartar—like two ruſhing torrents,
That from the mountain's top, 'midſt roaring caves,
'Midſt rocks and rent-up trees, foam headlong down,
And each depopulates his way.—
A flouriſh of trumpets.
That ſudden and wild harmony?—
The conqu'ror, and his fell barbaric rout,
For this day's victory indulge their joy;
Joy ſoon to end in groans—for all conſpires
To forward our deſign—and lo! the lights
That whilom blaz'd to heav'n, now rarely ſeen
Shed a pale glimmer, and the foe ſecure
Sinks down in deep debauch; while all awake,
The genius of this land broods o'er the work
Of juſtice and revenge.—
Oh! revel on,
Still unſuſpecting plunge in guilty joy,
And bury thee in riot.—
To wake from that vile trance—for e'er the dawn,
Deteſted ſpoiler, thy hot blood ſhall ſmoke
On the ſtain'd marble, and thy limbs abhorr'd
I'll ſcatter to the dogs of China.—
Break off your conf'rence—Octar this way comes.
This garb will cloak me from each hoſtile eye;
Thou need'ſt not fear detection.—
Pointing to Hamet.
Lead him to where Mandane's matron grief
Rings thro' yon vaulted roof.—
Oh! lead me to her;
Let me give balm to her afflicted mind;
And ſoften anguiſh in a parent's breaſt.
Exit, with Mirvan.
What may this mean?—I dread ſome lurking miſchief.—
Exit on the oppoſite ſide.
When the boy clings around his mother's heart
In fond endearment, then to tear him from her,
Will once again awaken all her tenderneſs,
And in her impotence of grief, the truth
At length will burſt its way.—But Timurkan
Thus with diſorder'd looks,
Why will my ſov'reign ſhun the genial banquet,
To ſeek a dungeon's gloom?
Oh! valiant Octar,
A more than midnight gloom involves my ſoul.
Haſt thou beheld this ſtubborn mandarine?
I have; and tried by ev'ry threaten'd vengeance
To bend his ſoul: Unconquer'd yet by words
He ſmiles contempt; as if ſome inward joy,
Like the ſun lab'ring in a night of clouds,
Shot forth its glad'ning unreſiſted beams,
Chearing the face of woe.—
At firſt with tears and bitter lamentations
She call'd on Hamet loſt;—but when I urg'd,
She ſtill might, ſave her boy, and ſave herſelf,
Would ſhe but give Zaphimri to your wrath,
Her tears forgot to flow;—her voice, her look,
Her colour ſudden chang'd, and all her form
Enlarging with th' emotions of her ſoul,
Grew vaſter to the ſight.—With blood-ſhot eyes
She caſt a look of ſilent indignation,
Then turn'd in ſullen mood away.
Perdition O'erwhelm her pride.—
Might I adviſe you, ſir,
An artful tale of love ſhould ſoftly glide
To her afflicted ſoul—a conqu'ror's ſighs
Will waft a thouſand wiſhes to her heart,
Till female vanity aſpire to reach
The eaſtern throne; and when her virtue melts
In the ſoft tumult of her gay deſires,
Win from her ev'ry truth; then ſpurn to ſhame
The weak, deluded woman.—
I cannot ſtoop with love-ſick adulation
To thrill in languiſhing deſire, and try
The hopes, the fears, and the caprice of love.
Enur'd to rougher ſcenes, far other arts
My mind employ'd,—to fling the well-ſtor'd quiver
O'er this manly arm, and wing the dart
At the fleet rain-deer, ſweeping down the vale,
Or up the mountain, ſtraining ev'ry nerve:
To vault the neighing ſteed, and urge his courſe
Swifter than whirlwinds—thro' the ranks of war
To drive my chariot-wheels, ſmoaking with gore:
Theſe are my paſſions, this my only ſcience,
Above the puling ſickneſſes of love.
Bring that vile ſlave, the hoary prieſt, before me.
By heav'n their fortitude erects a fence
To ſhield 'em from my wrath, more pow'rful far
Than their high-boaſted wall, which long hath ſtood
The ſhock of time, of war, of ſtorms, and thunder,
The wonder of the world!—
What art thou, Virtue, who can'ſt thus inſpire
This ſtubborn pride, this dignity of ſoul,
And ſtill unfading, beauteous in diſtreſs,
Can'ſt taſte of joys, my heart hath never known?
ZAMTI, in chains.
Mark me, thou traitor, thy deteſted ſight
Once more I brook, to try if yet the ſenſe
Of deeds abhorr'd as thine, has touch'd your ſoul.
Or clear this myſt'ry, or by yonder heav'n
I'll hunt Zaphimri to his ſecret haunt,
Or ſpread a gen'ral carnage round the world.
Thy rage is vain—far from thy ruthleſs pow'r
Kind heav'n protects him, till the awful truth
In ſome dread hour of horror and revenge
Shall burſt like thunder on thee.—
Nor rouze my lion-rage—yet, ere 'tis late,
Repent thee of thy crimes.—
The crime would be
To yield to thy unjuſt commands.—But know
A louder voice than thine forbids the deed;
The voice of all my kings!—forth from their tombs
Ev'n now they ſend a peal of groans to heav'n,
Where all thy murders are long ſince gone up,
And ſtand in dread array againſt thee.
Ungrateful mandarine!—ſay, did not I,
When civil diſcord lighted up her brand
And ſcatter'd wide her flames; when fierce contention
'Twixt Xohohamti and Zaphimri's father
Sorely convuls'd the realm; did not I then
Lead forth my Tartars from their northern frontier,
And bid fair order riſe?
Bid order riſe!
Haſt thou not ſmote us with a hand of wrath?
By thee each art has died, and ev'ry ſcience
Gone out at thy fell blaſt—art thou not come
To ſack our cities., to ſubvert our temples,
The temples of our Gods, and with the worſhip,
The monſtrous worſhip of your living Lama,
Prophane our holy ſhrines?
Nor dare with horrid treaſon to provoke
The wrath of injur'd majeſty.—
Yes, thou haſt ſmote us with a hand of wrath;
Full twenty years haſt ſmote us; but at length
Will come the hour of heav'n's juſt viſitation,
When thou ſhalt rue—hear me, thou man of blood—
Yes, thou ſhalt rue the day, when thy fell rage
Imbrued thoſe hands in royal blood—now tremble—
The arm of the Moſt High is bar'd againſt thee—
And ſee!—the hand of fate deſcribes thy doom
In glaring letters on yon rubied wall!—
Each gleam of light is periſh'd out of heav'n,
And darkneſs ruſhes o'er the face of earth.
Think'ſt thou, vile ſlave, with viſionary fears
I e'er can ſhrink appal'd?—thou moon-ſtruck ſeer!
No more I'll bear this mockery of words—
Or ſtrait reſolve me, or, by hell and vengeance,
Unheard-of torment waits thee—
Know'ſt thou not
I offer'd up my boy?—and after that,
After that conflict, think'ſt thou there is aught
Zamti has left to fear?—
Yes, learn to fear
My will—my ſov'reign will—which here is law.
And treads upon the neck of ſlaves.—
The law in China!—Ill-inſtructed man!—
Now learn an awful truth,—Tho' ruffian pow'r
May for a while ſuppreſs all ſacred order,
And trample on the rights of man;—the ſoul,
Which gave our legiſlation life and vigour,
Shall ſtill ſubſiſt—above the tyrant's reach.—
—The ſpirit of the laws can never die.—
I'll hear no more.—What ho!—
(Enter Octar, and guards)
—Bring forth Mandane—
Ruin involves ye all—this very hour
Shall ſee your ſon impal'd.—Yes, both your ſons.—
Let Etan be brought forth.—
Etan, my liege, Is fled for ſafety.—
Thou pernicious ſlave!
Him too would'ſt thou withdraw from juſtice?—him
Would'ſt thou ſend hence to Corea's realm, to brood
O'er ſome new work of treaſon?—By the pow'rs
Who feel a joy in vengeance and delight
In human blood, I will unchain my fury
On all, who trace Zaphimri in his years;
But chief on thee, and thy devoted race.
Enter MANDANE and HAMET. Mirvan guarding them, &c.
Woman, attend my words—inſtant reveal
This dark conſpiracy, and ſave thyſelf.—
If willful thou wilt ſpurn the joys that woo thee,
The rack ſhall have its prey.—
It is in vain.—
I tell thee, Homicide, my ſoul is bound
By ſolemn vows; and wouldſt thou have me break
What angels waſted on their wings to heav'n?
Renounce your raſh reſolves, nor court deſtruction.
Goddeſs of vengeance, from your realms above,
Where near the throne of the Moſt High thou dwell'ſt,
Inſpher'd in darkneſs, amidſt hoards of thunder,
Serenely dreadful, 'till dire human crimes
Provoke thee down; now, on the whirlwind's wing
Deſcend, and with your flaming ſword, your bolts
Red with almighty wrath, let looſe your rage,
And blaſt this vile ſeducer in his guilt.
Blind frantic woman!—think on your lov'd boy.—
That tender ſtruggle's o'er—if he muſt die,
I'll greatly dare to follow.—
I'll put thee to the proof—Drag forth the boy
To inſtant death.—
They ſeize Hamet.
Come on then—Lead me hence
To ſome new world where juſtice reigns, for here
Thy iron hand is ſtretch'd o'er all.—
Now by the pow'rs above, by ev'ry tie
Of humanizing pity, ſeize me firſt;—
Oh! ſpare my child, and end his wretched mother.
Enter a Meſſenger in haſte.
Etan, dread ſir, is found.—
Ah! China totters on the brink of ruin.
Emerging from diſguiſe.
He ruſh'd amid the guards that led forth Hamet;
"Suſpend the ſtroke," he cry'd; then crav'd admittance
To your dread preſence, on affairs, he ſays,
Of higheſt import to your throne and life.
Ruin impends, (aſide) Heed not an idle boy.—
Yes, I will ſee him—ring him ſtrait before me.
Angels of light, quick on the rapid wing
Dart from the throne of grace, and hover round him.
Enter ZAPHIMRA, guards following him.
Thou com'ſt on matters of importance deep
Unto my throne and life.—
I do.—This very hour
Thy death is plotting.—
Quick, give him to my rage,
And mercy ſhall to thee extend.—
I meanly come to ſave this wretched being.—
Pity Mandane—Save her tender frame— Kneels.
Pity that youth—oh! ſave that godlike man.—
Wilt thou diſhonour me, degrade thyſelf,
Thy native dignity by baſely kneeling?—
Quit that vile poſture.—
Raſh intruder, hence.—
Hear me, thou ſtripling;—or unfold thy tale,
Or by yon heav'n they die—Would'ſt thou appeaſe my wrath?
—Bring me Zaphimri's head.—
Riſing up, and pointing to himſelf.
I am Zaphimri—I your mortal foe.—
Now by yon heav'n! it is not.—
Since nought but royal blood can quench thy thriſt.—
Unſluice theſe veins,—but ſpare their matchleſs lives.—
Would'ſt thou deceive me too?
Here on his knees, Zaphimri begs to die.—
Oh! horror, 'tis my ſon—by great Confucius,
That is my Etan, my too gen'rous boy,
That fain would die to ſave his aged fire.—
Alas! all's ruin'd—freedom is no more.—
Yet hear me, Tartar—hear the voice of truth—
I am your victim—by the gods, I am.—
Laying hold of Timurkan.
Thou early traitor!—train'd by your guilty ſire
To deeds of fraud—no more theſe arts prevail.—
My rage is up in arms, ne'er to know reſt,
Until Zaphimri periſh.—Off, vile ſlave—
This very moment ſweep 'em from my ſight.
Alas! my huſband.—Oh! my ſon, my ſon—
May all the hoſt of heav'n protect him ſtill.
Exeunt Zamti and Mandane, guarded by Octar, &c.
ZAPHIMRI, ſtruggling with Timurkan, on his knees.
Ah! yet withold—in pity hold a moment—
I am Zaphimri—I reſign my crown—
Away, vain boy!—go ſee them bleed—behold
How they will writhe in pangs;—pangs doom'd for thee,
And ev'ry ſtrippling thro' the eaſt.—Vile ſlave, away!
Breaks from him, and exit.
ZAPHIMRI, lying on the ground; officers and guards behind him.
Oh! cruel!—yet a moment—Barbarous Scythians!—
Wilt thou not open earth, and take me down,
Down to thy caverns of eternal darkneſs,
From this ſupreme of woe?—Here will I lie,
Here on thy flinty boſom,—with this breaſt
I'll harrow up my grave, and end at once
This pow'rleſs wretch,—this ignominious king!—
—And ſleeps almighty Juſtice? Will it not
Now waken all its terrors?—arm yon band
Of ſecret heroes with avenging thunder? By heaven that thought (riſing) lifts up my kindling ſoul
With renovated ſire (aſide.) My glorious friends,
(Who now convene big with your country's fate,
When I am dead,—oh! give me juſt revenge—
Let not my ſhade riſe unatton'd amongſt ye;—
Let me not die inglorious;—make my fall
With ſome great act of yet unheard-of vengeance,
Reſound throughout the world; that fartheſt Scythia
May ſtand appall'd at the huge diſtant roar
Of one vaſt ruin tumbling on the heads
Of this fell tyrant, and his hated race.
End of the Fourth
1.5. ACT V.
Enter OCTAR; ZAMTI and MANDANE, following him.
WHY doſt thou lead us to this hated manſion?
Muſt we again behold the tyrant'sfrown?
Thou know'ſt our hearts are fix'd.—
The war of words
We ſcorn again to wage—hither ye come
Beneath a monarch's eye to meet your doom.
The rack is now preparing—Timurkan
Shall ſoon behold your pangs, and count each groan
Ev'n to the fulleſt luxury of vengeance.
Guard well that paſſage (to the guards within), ſee theſe traitors find
No means of flight; while to the conqueror
I haſten, to receive his laſt commands.
Exit Octar, on the oppoſite ſide.
ZAMTI and MANDANE.
Thou ever faithful creature—
Can'ſt thou, Zamti,
Still call me faithful?—by that honour'd name
Wilt thou call her, whoſe mild maternal love
Hath overwhelmed us all?—
Thou art my wiſe,
Whoſe matchleſs excellence, ev'n in bondage,
Hath chear'd my ſoul; but now thy ev'ry charm,
By virtue waken'd, kindled by diſtreſs
To higher luſtre, all my paſſions beat
Unutterable gratitude and love.
And muſt—oh! cruel!—muſt I ſee the bleed?—
For me death wears no terror on his brow
Full twenty years hath this reſounding breaſt
Been ſmote with theſe ſad hands; theſe haggard eyes
Have ſeen my country's fall; my deareſt huſband,
My ſon,—my king,—all in the Tartar's hands:
What then remains for me?—Death,—only death.
Ah! can thy tenderneſs endure the pangs
Inventive cruelty ev'n now deſigns?—
Muſt this fair form—this loſt perfection bleed?
Thy decent limbs be ſtrain'd with cruel cords,
To glut a ruffian's rage?—
Alas! this frame,
This feeble texture never can ſuſtain it.
But this—this I can bear—
Shews a dagger.
Do thou but lodge it in this faithful breaſt;
My heart ſhall ſpring to meet thee.—
My horrour'd lord, who taught'ſt me ev'ry virtue.
Afford this friendly, this laſt human office,
And teach me now to die.—
Hence let me bear this fatal inſtrument—
Takes the dagger.
What, to uſurp the dread prerogative
Of life and death, and meaſure out the thread
Of our own beings!—'Tis the coward's act,
Who dares not to encounter pain and peril—
Be that the practice of th'untutor'd ſavage;—
Be it the practice of the gloomy north.—
Muſt we then wait a haughty tyrant's nod,
The vaſſals of his will?—no—let us rather
Nobly break thro' the barriers of this life,
And join the beings of ſome other world,
Who'll throng around our greatly daring ſouls,
And view the deed with wonder and applauſe.—
Diſtreſs too exquiſite!—ye holy pow'rs,
If aught below can ſuperſede your law,
And plead for wretches, who dare, ſelf-impell'd,
Ruſh to your awful preſence;—oh!—it is not
When the diſtemper'd paſſions rage; when pride
Is ſtung to madneſs; when ambition falls
From his high ſcaffolding;—oh! no—if aught
Can juſtify the blow, it is when virtue
Has nothing left to do;—when liberty
No more can breathe at large;—'tis with the groans
Of our dear country when we dare to die.
Then here at once direct the friendly ſteel.
One laſt adieu!—now!—ah! does this become
Thy huſband's love?—thus with uplifted blade
Can I approach that boſom-bliſs, where oft
With other looks than theſe—oh! my Mandane—
I've huſh'd my cares within thy ſhelt'ring arms?—
Alas! the loves that hover'd o'er our pillows
Have ſpread their pinions, never to return,
And the pale fates ſurround us—
Then lay me down in honourable reſt;
Come, as thou art, all hero, to my arms,
And free a virtuous wife—
It muſt be ſo—
Now then prepare thee—my arm flags and droops
Conſcious of thee in ev'ry trembling nerve.
Daſhes down the dagger.
By heav'n once more I would not raiſe the point
Againſt that hoard of ſweets, for endleſs years
Of univerſal empire.
Ha! the fell miniſters of wrath—and yet
They ſhall not long inſult us in our woes.
Myſelf will ſtill preſerve the means of death.
Takes up the dagger.
Enter TIMURKAN and Octar.
Now then, deteſted pair, your hour is come—
Drag forth theſe ſlaves to inſtant death and torment.
I hate this dull delay; I burn to ſee them
Gaſping in death, and weltr'ing in their gore.
Zamti, ſupport my ſteps—with thee to die
Is all the boon Mandane now would crave.
TIMURKAN and OCTAR.
Thoſe raſh, preſumptuous boys, are they brought forth?
Mirvan will lead the victims to their fate.
And yet what boots their death?—the Orphan lives,
And in this breaſt fell horror and remorſe
Muſt be the dire inhabitants.—Octar, ſtill
Theſe midnight viſions ſhake my inmoſt ſoul.—
And ſhall the ſhad'wings of a feveriſh brain
Diſturb a conqu'ror's breaſt?—
Octar, they've made
Such deſolation here—'tis drear and horrible!—
On yonder couch, ſoon as ſleep clos'd my eyes,
All that yon mad enthuſiaſtic prieſt
In myſtic rage denounc'd, roſe to my view;
And ever and anon a livid flaſh,
From conſcience ſhot, ſhew'd to my aching fight
The colours of my guilt—
Billows of blood were round me; and the ghoſts,
The ghoſts of heroes, by my rage deſtroy'd,
Came with their ghaſtly orbs, and ſtreaming wounds;
They ſtalk'd around my bed;—with loud acclaim
They call'd Zaphimri! 'midſt the lightning's blaze
Heav'n roll'd conſenting thunders o'er my head;
Strait from his covert the youth ſprung upon me,
And ſhook his gleaming ſteel—he hurl'd me down,
Down headlong, down the drear—hold, hold! where am I?
Oh! this dire whirl of thought—my brain's on fire—
Compoſe this wild diſorder of thy ſoul.
Your foes this moment die.—
What would'ſt thou, Mirvan?
'Near to the eaſtern gate, a ſlave reports,
As on his watch he ſtood, a gleam of arms
Caſt a dim luſtre thro' the night; and ſtrait
The ſteps of men thick ſounded in his ear;
In cloſe array they march'd.
Some lurking treaſon!—
What, ho! my arms—ourſelf will ſally forth.—
My liege, their ſcanty and raſh-levied crew
Want not a monarch's ſword—the valiant Octar,
Join'd by yon faithful guard, will ſoon chaſtiſe them.
Then be it ſo—Octar, draw off the guard,
And bring their leaders bound in chains before me.
TIMURKAN and MIRVAN.
With ſure conviction we have further learn'd
The long-contended truth—Etan's their king—
The traitor Zamti counted but one ſon;
And him he ſent far hence to Corea's realm,
That ſhould it e'er be known the prince ſurviv'd,
The boy might baffle juſtice.—
Ha! this moment
Ourſelf will ſee him fall.—
Better, my liege,
At this dead hour you ſought repoſe—mean time
Juſtice on him ſhall hold her courſe.—Your
foes Elſe might ſtill urge that you delight in blood.
The ſemblance of humanity will throw
A veil upon ambition's deeds—'tis thus
That mighty conqu'rors thrive;—and even vice,
When it would proſper, borrows virtue's mien.
Mirvan, thou counſel'ſt right: beneath a ſhew
Of public weal we lay the nations waſte.
And yet theſe eyes ſhall never know repoſe,
Till they behold Zaphimri periſh. Mirvan,
Attend me forth.
Forgive, my ſov'reign liege,
Forgive my over-forward zeal—I knew
It was not ſitting he ſhould breathe a moment:
The truth once known, I ruſh'd upon the victim,
And with this ſabre cleft him to the ground.
Thanks to great Lama!—treaſon is no more,
And their boy king is dead,—Mirvan, do thou
This very night bring me the ſtripling's head.
Soon as the dawn ſhall purple yonder eaſt,
Aloft in air all China ſhall behold it,
Parch'd by the ſun, and welt'ring to the wind:
Haſte, Mirvan, haſte, and fate my fondeſt wiſh.
This hour approves my loyalty and truth.
Their deep-laid plot hath miſs'd its aim, and Timurkan
May reign ſecure—no longer horrid dreams
Shall hover round my couch—the proſtrate world
Henceforth ſhall learn to own my ſov'reign ſway.
Well, Mirvan, haſt thou brought the wiſh'd-for pledge?
My liege, I fear 'twill ſtrike thy ſoul with horror?
By heav'n the ſight will glad my longing eyes.
Oh! give it to me.—
Enter ZAPHIMRI (a ſabre in his hand) and plants himſelf before the tyrant.
Now, bloody Tartar, now then know Zaphimri.
Accurſed treaſon!—to behold thee thus
Alive before me, blaſts my aching eye-balls:
My blood forgets to move—each pow'r dies in me—
Well may'ſt thou tremble, well may guilt like thine
Shrink back appall'd;—for now avenging heav'n
In me ſends forth its miniſter of wrath,
To deal deſtruction on thee.—
'Tis falſe!—with coward-art, a baſe aſſaſſin,
A midnight ruffian on my peaceful hour
Secure thou com'ſt, thus to aſſault a warrior,
Thy heart could never dare to meet in arms.
Not meet thee, Tartar!—Ha!—in me thou ſee'ſt
One on whoſe head unnumber'd wrongs thou'ſt heap'd—
Elſe could I ſcorn thee, thus defenceleſs.—Yes,
By all my great revenge, could bid thee try each ſhape,
Aſſume each horrid form, come forth array'd
In all the terrors of deſtructive guilt;—
But now a dear, a murder'd father calls;
He lifts my arm to rivet thee to earth,
Th' avenger of mankind.
By heav'n, I'll dare thee ſtill; reſign it, ſlave,
Reſign thy blade to nobler hands.
Snatches Mirvan's ſabre.
What ho! bring help.—Let not the fate of China
Hang on the iſſue of a doubtful combat.
Come on, preſumptuous boy.
Now, lawleſs ravager, Zaphimri comes
To wreak his vengeance on thee.
Oh! nerve his arm, ye pow'rs, and guide each blow.
To him, enter HAMET.
See there!—behold—he darts upon his prey.—
May curſes blaſt my arm
That fail'd ſo ſoon.—
The Tartar drops his point.—
Mercy was never thine—This, fell deſtroyer,
This, for a nation's groans.—
The monſter dies;—
He quivers on the ground—Then let me fly
To Zamti and Mandane with the tidings,
And call them back to liberty and joy.
HAMET remains; to him ZAPHIMRI.
Now, Hamet, now oppreſſion is no more:
This ſmoaking blade hath drunk the tyrant's blood.
China again is free;—there lies the corſe
That breath'd deſtruction to the world.
Tyrannic guilt, behold thy fatal end,
The wages of thy ſins.—
Where is the king?
Revenge now ſtalks abroad.—Our valiant leaders,
True to the deſtin'd hour, at once broke forth
From ev'ry quarter on th' aſtoniſh'd foe;
Octar is fall'n;—all cover'd o'er with wounds
He met his fate; and ſtill the ſlaught'ring ſword
Invades the city, ſunk in ſleep and wine.
Lo! Timurkan lies levell'd with the duſt!
Send forth, and let Oraſming ſtrait proclaim
Zaphimri king;—my ſubjects rights reſtor'd.
Now, where is Zamti? where Mandane?—ha!—
What means that look of wan deſpair?
Oh! dire miſchance!
While here I trembled for the great event,
The unrelenting ſlaves, whoſe trade is death,
Began their work.—Nor piety, nor age,
Could touch their felon-hearts—they ſeiz'd on Zamti,
And bound him on the wheel—all frantic at the ſight,
Mandane plung'd a poniard in her heart,
And at her huſband's feet expir'd.—
Fatal raſhneſs!—Mirvan, ſay,
Is Zamti too deſtroy'd?—
Smiling in pangs,
We found the good, the venerable man:
Releas'd from anguiſh, with what ſtrength remain'd,
He reach'd the couch, where loft Mandane lay;
There threw his mangled limbs;—there, clinging to the body,
Prints thouſand kiſſes on her clay-cold lips,
And pours his ſad lamentings, in a ſtrain
Might call each pitying angel from the ſky,
To ſympathize with human woe.—
The great folding doors open in the back ſcene.
See on that mournful bier he claſps her ſtill;
Still hangs upon each faded feature; ſtill
To her deaf ear complains in bitter anguiſh.
The corpſe is brought forward, Zamti lying on on the couch, and claſping the dead body.
Ah! ſtay, Mandane, ſtay,—yet once again.
Let me behold the day-light of thy eyes—
Gone, gone, for ever, ever gone—thoſe orbs
That ever gently beam'd, muſt dawn no more.
Are theſe our triumphs?—theſe our promis'd joys?
The muſic of that voice recalls my ſoul.
Riſes from the body, and runs eagerly to embrace Zaphimri; his ſtrength fails him, and he faints at his feet.
My prince! my king!
Soft, raiſe him from the ground.
Zaphimri!—Hamet too!—oh! bleſs'd event!
I could not hope ſuch tidings—thee, my prince,
Thee too, my ſon—I thought ye both deſtroy'd.
My ſlow remains of life cannot endure
Theſe ſtrong viciſſitudes of grief and joy.
And there—oh! heav'n!—ſee there, there lies Mandane!
How fares it now, my father?
Lead me to her—
Is that the ever dear, the faithful woman?
Is that my wife?—and is it thus at length,
Thus do I ſee thee then, Mandane?—cold,
Cold is that breaſt, where virtue from above
Made its delighted ſojourn, and thoſe lips
That utter'd heav'nly truth,—pale! pale!—dead, dead!
Sinks on the body.
Pray ye entomb me with her?—
Then take, ye pow'rs, then take your conqueſts back;
Zaphimri never can ſurvive—
ZAMTI, raiſing himſelf.
I charge thee live;—
A baſe deſertion of the public weal
Will ill become a king—alas! my ſon,—
(By that dear tender name if once again
Zamti may call thee)—tears will have their way—
Forgive this flood of tenderneſs—my heart
Melts even now—thou noble youth—this is
The only interview we e'er ſhall have.—
And will ye then, inexorable pow'rs,
Will ye then tear him from my aching heart?—
The moral duties of the private man
Are grafted in thy ſoul—oh! ſtill remember
The mean immutable of happineſs,
Or in the vale of life, or on a throne,
Is virtue—each bad action of a king
Extends beyond his life, and acts again
Its tyranny o'er ages yet unborn.
To error mild, ſevere to guilt, protect
The helpleſs innocent; and learn to feel
The beſt delight of ſerving human kind.
Be theſe, my prince, thy arts; be theſe thy cares,
And live the father of a willing people.
My father!—ſee—ah! ſee!—he dies—his lips
Tremble in agony—his eye-balls glare—
A death-like paleneſs ſpreads o'er all his face.
Is there no help to ſave ſo dear a life?
It is too late—I die—alas! I die—
Life harraſs'd out, purſu'd with barb'rous art
Thro' evry trembling joint—now fails at once—
Zaphimri—oh! farewell!—I ſhall not ſee
The glories of thy reign—Hamet!—my ſon—
Thou good young man, farewell—Mandane, yes,
My ſoul with pleaſure takes her flight, that thus
Faithful in death, I leave theſe cold remains
Near thy dear honour'd clay.—
And art thou gone,
Thou beſt of men?—then muſt Zaphimri pine
In ever-during grief, ſince thou art loſt;
Since that firm patriot, whoſe parental care
Should raiſe, ſhould guide, ſhould animate my virtues,
Lies there a breathleſs corſe.—
My liege, forbear,—
Live for your people; madneſs and deſpair
Belong to woes like mine.—
Thy woes, indeed,
Are deep, thou pious youth—yes, I will live,
To ſoften thy afflictions; to aſſuage
A nation's grief, when ſuch a pair expires.
Come to my heart:—in thee another Zamti
Shall bleſs the realm—now let me hence to hail
My people with the ſound of peace; that done,
To theſe a grateful monument ſhall riſe,
With all ſepulchral honour—frequent there
We'll offer incenſe;—there each weeping muſe
Shall grave the tributary verſe;—with tears
Embalm their memories; and teach mankind, Howe'er
Oppreſſion ſtalk the groaning earth;
Yet heav'n, in its own hour, can bring relief;
Can blaſt the tyrant in his guilty pride,
And prove the Orphan's guardian to the laſt.
A Letter to you from an Engliſh author will carry with it the appearance of correſponding with the enemy, not only as the two nations are at preſent involved in a difficult and important war, but alſo becauſe in many of your late writings you ſeem determined to live in a ſtate of hoſtility with the Britiſh nation. Whenever we come in your way, ‘we are ferocious, we are iſlanders, we are the people whom your country has taught, we fall behind other nations in point of taſte and elegance of compoſition; the ſame cauſe that has witheld from us a genius for painting and muſic, has alſo deprived us of the true ſpirit of Tragedy; and, in ſhort, barbariſm ſtill prevails among us.’
But, notwithſtanding this vein of prejudice, which has diſcoloured almoſt all your fugitivepieces, there ſtill breathes throughout your writings ſuch a general ſpirit of Humanity and zeal for the Honour of the Republic of Letters, that I am inclined to imagine the author of the Engliſh Orphan of China (an obſcure iſlander) may ſtill addreſs you upon terms of amity and literary benevolence.
As I have attempted a Tragedy upon a ſubject that has exerciſed your excellent talents, and thus have dared to try my ſtrength in the Bow of ULYSSES, I hold myſelf in ſome fort accountable to M. DeVOLTAIRE for the departure I have made from his plan, and the ſubſtitution of a new fable of my own.
My firſt propenſity to this ſtory was occaſioned by the remarks of an admirable critic* of our own. upon the
ORPHAN OF THE HOUSE OF CHAU, preſerved to us by the induſtrious and ſenſible P. DU HALDE, which, as our learned commentator obſerves, amidſt great wildneſs and irregularity, has ſtill ſome traces of reſemblance to the beautiful models of antiquity. In my reflections upon this piece, I imagined I ſaw a blemiſh in the manner of ſaving the Orphan, by the tame reſignation of another infant in his place; eſpecially when the ſubject afforded ſo fair an opportunity of touching the ſtrugglings of a parent, on ſo trying an occaſion. It therefore occurred to me, if a fable could be framed, in which the Father and the two Young Men might be interwoven with probability and perſpicuity, and not embarraſſed with all the perplexities of a riddle, as, you know, is the caſe of the HERACLIUS of CORNEILLE, that then many ſituations might ariſe, in which ſome of the neareſt affections of the heart might be awakened: but even then I was too conſcious that it muſt be executed by a genius very different from myſelf.
In this ſtate of mind, ſir, I heard with pleaſure that M. De VOLTAIRE had produced at Paris his L'ORPHELIN DE LA CHINE: I ardently longed for a peruſal of the piece, expecting that ſuch a writer would certainly ſeize all the ſtriking incidents which might naturally grow out of ſo pregnant a ſtory, and that he would leave no ſource of paſſion unopened. I was in ſome ſort, but not wholly diſappointed: I ſaw M. De VOLTAIRE ruſhing into the midſt of things at once; opening his ſubject in an alarming manner; and, after the narrative relating to GENGISKAN is over, working up his firſt act like a poet indeed.
Meum qui pectus inaniter angit Ut Magus.
In the beginning of the ſecond act, he again touches the paſſions with a maſter-hand; but, like a rower who
has put forth all his ſtrength, and ſuddenly ſlackens his exertion, I ſaw, or imagined I ſaw, him give way all at once; the great tumult of the paſſions is over; the intereſt wears away; GENGISKAN talks politics; the tenderneſs of a mother, flying with all the ſtrong impulſes of nature to the relief of her child, is thrown into cold unimpaſſioned narrative; the role pour Pamoureux muſt have its place, and the rough conqueror of a whole people muſt inſtantly become Le Chevalier GENGISKAN, as errant a lover as ever ſighed in the Thuilleries at Paris. Your own words, ſir, ſtrongly expreſſive of that manly and ſenſible taſte, which diſtinguiſhes you throughout Europe, occurred to me upon this occaſion: ‘Quelle place pour la galanterie que le parricide & l'inceſte, qui deſolent une famille, & la contagion qui ravage un pais? Et quel exemple plus frapant du ridicule de notre theatre, & du pouvoir de l'habitude, que Corneille d'un côté, qui fait dire à Théſée.—’
Quelque ravage affreux qu'étale ici la Peſte;
‘L'abſence aux vrais amans eſt encore plus funeſte. Et moi, qui, ſoixante ans apres lui, viens faire parler une vielle Jocaſte d'un viel amour: & tout cela pour complaire au goût le plus fade & le plus faux qui ait jamais corrompu la literature.’ Indeed, ſir, GENGISKAN, in the very moment of overwhelming a whole nation, uſurping a crown, and maſſacring the royal family, except one infant, whom he is in queſt of, appeared to me exactly like the amorous OEDIPUS in the midſt of a deſtructive plague. ‘Nunc non erat his locus.’—How would that noble performance, that Chef d'oeuvre of your country, the ATHALIE of RACINE, have been defaced by the gallantry of an intrigue, if a tyrant had been introduced to make love to the wiſe of the high-prieſt? or if JOAD, entertaining a ſecret affection for ATHALIE, and being aſked what orders he
would give relating to the delivery of his country, ſhould anſwer, "aucune," none at all.—And yet this is the language of a northern conqueror, whining for a mandarin's wife, who has no power of reſiſting, and having no relation to the royal family, could not, by an intermarriage, ſtrengthen his intereſt in the crown But to you, ſir, who have told us that Love ſhould reign a very tyrant in Tragedy, or not appear there at all, being unfit for the ſecond place; to you, who have ſaid that NERO ſhould not hide himſelf behind a tapeſtry to overhear the converſation of his miſtreſs and his rival, what need I urge theſe remarks?—To fill up the long career of a tragedy with this epiſodic love muſt certainly have been the motive that led you into this error; an error I take the liberty to call it, becauſe I have obſerved it to be the hackneyed and ſtale ſtratagem, of many modern writers. Within the compaſs of my reading, there is hardly a bad man in any play, but he is in love with ſome very good woman: the ſcenes that paſs between them, I have always remarked, are found dull and unawakening by the audience, even though adorned with all the graces of ſuch compoſition as yours, of which it is but juſtice to ſay, that it beſtows embelliſhments upon every ſubject.
For me, ſir, who only draw in crayons, who have no reſource to thoſe laſting colours of imagination with which you ſet off every thing; a writer ſuch as I am, ſir, could not preſume to ſupport that duplicity of paſſion which runs through your piece. I could not pretend, by the powers of ſtyle, to ſuborn an audience in favour of thoſe ſecondary paſſages, from which their attention naturally revolts. A plainer and more ſimple method lay before me. I was neceſſitated to keep the main object as much as poſſible before the eye; and therefore it was that I took a ſurvey of my ſubject, in order to catch at every thing that ſeemed to me to reſult
with order and propriety from it. A ſcantineſs of intereſting buſineſs ſeemed to me a primary defect in the conſtruction of the French ORPHAN OF CHINA, and that I imagined had its ſource in the early date of your play. By beginning almoſt "gemino ab ovo," by making the Orphan and the mandarine's ſon children in their cradles, it appeared to me that you had ſtripped yourſelf of two characters, which might be produced in an amiable light, ſo as to engage the affections of their auditors, not only for themſelves, but conſequently for thoſe alſo to whom they ſhould ſtand in any degree of relation. From this conduct I propoſed a further advantage, that of taking off the very obvious reſemblance to the ANDROMACHE, which now ſtrikes every body in your plan. This laſt remark I do not urge againſt accidental and diſtant coincidencies of ſentiment, diction, or fable. Many of the Greek plays, we know, had a family-likeneſs, ſuch as an OEDIPUS, an ELECTRA, an IPHIGENIA in TAURIS, in AULIS, a MEROPE, &c. But what is a beauty in RACINE, ſeems in his great ſucceſſor to be a blemiſh. In the former, nothing depends on the life of ASTYANAX but what was very natural, the happineſs of the mother: in the latter, the fate of a kingdom is grafted upon the fortunes of an infant; and I aſk your own feelings, (for no body knows the human heart better) Whether an audience is likely to take any conſiderable intereſt in the deſtiny of a babe, who, when your Zamti has ſaved him, cannot produce any change, any revolution in the affairs of China? No, ſir; the conquered remain in the ſame abject ſtate of vaſſalage, and the preſervation of the infant king becomes therefore unintereſting and unimportant. He might die, ſir, in cutting his teeth, of the hooping cough, or any of the diſorders attendant on that tender age: whereas when the Orphan is grown up to maturity, when he is a moral agent in the piece, when a plan is laid for revenging
himſelf on the deſtroyers of his family, it then becomes a more preſſing motive in the mandarine's mind; nay, it is almoſt his duty, in ſuch a caſe, to ſacrifice even his own offspring for the good of his country. In your ſtory, ſir, give me leave to ſay, I do not ſee what end can be anſwered by ZAMTI'S loyalty: his proſpect is at leaſt ſo diſtant, that it becomes almoſt chimerical. And therefore as hiſtory warrants an expulſion of the Tartars, as it was not upon the firſt inroad, but in proceſs of time and experience, that they learned to incorporate themſelves with the conquered, I had recourſe to my own preconceived notions. Whether I was partially attached to them, or whether my reaſonings upon your fable were juſt, you, ſir, and the public, will determine.
You will perceive, ſir, in the Engliſh Orphan ſome occaſional inſertions of ſentiment from your elegant performance. To uſe the expreſſion of the late Mr. DRYDEN, when he talks of BEN JOHNSON'S imitation of the ancients, you will often track me in your ſnow. For this I ſhall make no apology, either to the public or you: none to the public, becauſe they have applauded ſome ſtrokes for which I am indebted to you; and none certainly to you, becauſe you are well aware I have but followed the example of many admired writers; BOILEAU, CORNEILLE, and RACINE, with you; and in England, MILTON, Mr. ADDISON, and Mr. POPE. It was finely ſaid by you, (I have read the ſtory, and take it upon truſt) when it was objected to the celebrated abbè METASTASIO; as a reproach, that he had frequent transfuſions of thought from your writings, ‘Ah! le cher volcur! il m'a bien embelli.’ This talent of embelliſhing I do not pretend to; to avail myſelf of my reading, and to improve my own productions, is all I can pretend to; and that I flatter myſelf I have done, not only from you, but many of the writers of antiquity. If the authorities I have abovementioned were not ſufficient, I could add another very bright example, the
example of M. De VOLTAIRE, whom I have often tracked, to uſe the ſame expreſſion again, in the ſnow of Shakeſpear. The ſnow of SHAKESPEAR is but a cold expreſſion; but perhaps it will be more agreeable to you, than a word of greater energy, that ſhould convey a full idea of the aſtoniſhing powers of that great man; for we iſlanders have remarked of late, that M. DeVoltaire has a particular ſatisfaction in deſcanting on the faults of the moſt wonderful genius that ever exiſted ſince HOMER; inſomuch that a very ingenious gentleman of my acquaintance tells me, that whenever you treat the Engliſh bard as a drunken ſavage in your avant propos, he always deems it a ſure prognoſtic that your play is the better for him.
If the great ſcenes of SHAKESPEAR, ſir; if his boundleſs view of all nature, the lawn, the wilderneſs, the blaſted heath, mountains, and craggy rocks, with thunder and lightening on their brows; if theſe cannot ſtrike the imagination of M. De VOLTAIRE, how can I expect that the ſtudied regularity of my little ſhrubbery ſhould afford him any kind of pleaſure? To drop the metaphor, if the following tragedy does not appear to you a MONSTROUS FARCE, it is all I can reaſonably expect. But whatever may be your opinion of it, I muſt beg that you will not make it the criterion by which you would decide concerning the taſte of the Engliſh nation, or the preſent ſtate of literature among us. What you have humbly ſaid of yourſelf, in order to do honour to your nation, I can aſſert with truth of the author of the Engliſh ORPHAN, that he is one of the worſt poets now in this country. It is true, indeed, that the play has been received with uncommon applauſe; that ſo elegant a writer as the author of CREUSA and THE ROMAN FATHER was my critic and my friend; and that a great deal of very particular honour has been done me by many perſons of the
firſt diſtinction. But, give me leave to ſay, they all know the faults of the piece, as well as if it had been diſcuſſed by the academy of Belles Lettres.—We are a generous nation, ſir; and the fainteſt approaches to merit, always meet here the warmeſt encouragement. One thing further I will aſſure you, in caſe you ſhould diſcover any traces of barbariſm in the ſtyle or fable, That if you had been preſent at the repreſentation, you would have ſeen a theatrical ſplendor conducted with a bienſcance unknown to the ſcene Francoiſe; the performance of the two Young Men would have made you regret that they were not in your piece; and, though a weak ſtate of health deprived the play of ſo fine an actreſs as Mrs. CIBBER, you would have beheld in MANDANE a figure that would be an ornament to any ſtage in Europe, and you would have acknowleged that her Acting promiſes alſo to be the ſame: moreover, you would have ſeen a ZAMTI, whoſe exquiſite powers are capable of adding Pathos and Harmony even to our great SHAKESPEAR, and have already been the chief ſupport of ſome of your ſcenes upon the Engliſh ſtage.
Upon the whole, ſir, I beg you will not imagine that I have wrote this Tragedy in the fond hope of eclipſing ſo celebrated a writer as you are: I had an humbler motive, propter amorem quod to imitari aveo. Could I do that in any diſtant degree, it would very amply gratify the ambition of,
your real admirer, and moſt humble ſervant, The AUTHOR of The ORPHANS of CHINA.
London, April 30, 1759.