The Indian Emperor/Act IV/Scene I

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The Indian Emperor by John Dryden
Act IV: Scene I



ACT IV.



SCENE I.A prison.



Enter Almeria and an Indian; they speak entering.



Ind. A dangerous proof of my respect I show.

Alm. Fear not, Prince Guyomar shall never know:
While he is absent let us not delay;
Remember 'tis the king thou dost obey.
 
Ind. See where he sleeps.

[Cortez appears chained and laid asleep.



Alm. Without, my coming wait;
And, on thy life, secure the prison gate.

[Exit Indian.


[She plucks out a dagger, and approaches him.


Spaniard, awake: thy fatal hour is come:
Thou shalt not at such ease receive thy doom.
Revenge is sure, though sometimes slowly paced;
Awake, awake, or, sleeping, sleep thy last.
 
Cort. Who names revenge?

Alm. Look up, and thou shalt see.

Cort. I cannot fear so fair an enemy.

Alm. No aid is nigh, nor canst thou make defence:
Whence can thy courage come?

Cort. From innocence.

Alm. From innocence? let that then take thy part
Still are thy looks assured have at thy heart !

[Holds up the dagger.


I cannot kill thee; sure thou bear'st some charm,

[Goes back.


Or some divinity holds back my arm.
Why do I thus delay to make him bleed?

[Aside.


Can I want courage for so brave a deed?
I Ve shook it off; my soul is free from fear.

[Comes again.


And I can now strike anywhere—but here:
His scorn of death, how strangely does it move!
A mind so haughty who could choose but love!

[Goes off.


Plead not a charm, or any god's command,
Alas, it is thy heart that holds thy hand:
In spite of me I love, and see, too late,
My mother's pride must find my mother's fate.
——Thy country's foe, thy brother's murderer,—
For shame, Almeria, such mad thoughts forbear:
It won'not be,—if I once more come on,

[Coming on again.


I shall mistake the breast, and pierce my own.

[Comes with her dagger down.



Cort. Does your revenge maliciously forbear
To give me death, 'till 'tis prepared by fear?
If you delay for that, forbear or strike,
Foreseen and sudden death are both alike.

Alm. To show my love would but increase his pride:
They have most power, who most their passions hide.

[Aside.


Spaniard, I must confess, I did expect
You could not meet your death with such neglect;
I will defer it now, and give you time:
You may repent, and I forget your crime.

Cort. Those who repent acknowledge they do ill:
I did not unprovoked your brother kill.

Alm. Petition me, perhaps I may forgive.

Cort. Who begs his life does not deserve to live.

Alm. But if 'tis given, you'll not refuse to take?

Cort. I can live gladly for Cydaria's sake.

Alm. Does she so wholly then possess your mind?
What if you should another lady find,
Equal to her in birth, and far above
In all that can attract, or keep your love,
Would you so doat upon your first desire,
As not to entertain a nobler fire ?

Cort. I think that person hardly will be found,
With gracious form and equal virtue crowned:
Yet if another could precedence claim,
My fixed desires could find no fairer aim.

Alm. Dull ignorance: he cannot yet conceive:
To speak more plain, shame will not give me leave.

[Aside.


Suppose one loved you, whom even kings adore:

[To him.


Who, with your life, your freedom would restore,
And add to that the crown of Mexico:
Would you, for her, Cydaria's love forego?

Cort. Though she could offer all you can invent,
I could not of my faith, once vowed, repent.

Alm. A burning blush has covered all my face;
Why am I forced to publish my disgrace?
What if I love? you know it cannot be,
And yet I blush to put the case—'twere me.
If I could love you with a flame so true,
I could forget what hand my brother slew—
—Make out the rest—I am disordered so,
I know not further what to say or do:
But answer me to what you think I meant.

Cort. Reason or wit no answer can invent:
Of words confused who can the meaning find?

Alm. Disordered words show a distempered mind.

Cort. She has obliged me so, that could I choose,
I would not answer what I must refuse.

[Aside.



Alm. His mind is shook——suppose I loved you, speak,
Would you for me Cydaria's fetters break?

Cort. Things, meant in jest, no serious answer need.

Alm. But, put the case that it were so indeed.

Cort. If it were so,—which but to think were pride,—
My constant love would dangerously be tried:
For since you could a brother's death forgive,
He whom you save, for you alone should live:
But I, the most unhappy of mankind,
Ere I knew yours, have all my love resigned:
'Tis my own loss I grieve, who have no more:
You go a-begging to a bankrupt's door.
Yet could I change, as sure I never can,
How could you love so infamous a man?
For love, once given from her, and placed in you,
Would leave no ground I ever could be true.

Alm. You construed me aright—I was in jest:
And, by that offer, meant to sound your breast;
Which since I find so constant to your love,
Will much my value of your worth improve.
Spaniard, assure yourself you shall not be
Obliged to quit Cydaria for me:
'Tis dangerous though to treat me in thi.s sort,
And to refuse my offers, though in sport

[Exit.



Cort. In what a strange condition am I left?
More than I wish I have, of all I wish bereft!
In wishing nothing, we enjoy still most;
For even our wish is, in possession, lost:
Restless, we wander to a new desire,
And burn ourselves, by blowing up the fire:
We toss and turn about our feverish will,
When all our ease must come by lying still:
For all the happiness mankind can gain
Is not in pleasure, but in rest from pain.

[Goes in, and the scene closes upon him.