The Indian Emperor/Act IV/Scene IV
SCENE IV.—A Prison.
Cortez discovered bound: Almeria talking with him.
Alm. I come not now your constancy to prove;
You may believe me when I say I love.
Cort. You have too well instructed me before
In your intentions, to believe you more.
Alm. I'm justly plagued by this your unbelief,
And am myself the cause of my own grief:
But to beg love, I cannot stoop so low;
It is enough that you my passion know:
Tis in your choice; love me, or love me not;
I have not yet my brother's death forgot.
[Lays hold on the dagger.
Cort. You menace me and court me in a breath:
Your Cupid looks as dreadfully as death.
Alm. Your hopes, without, are vanished into smoke:
Your captains taken, and your armies broke.
Cort. In vain you urge me with my miseries:
When fortune falls, high courages can rise;
Now should I change my love, it would appear
Not the effect of gratitude, but fear.
Alm. I'll to the king, and make it my request,
Or my command, that you may be releast;
And make you judge, when I have set you free,
Who best deserves your passion, I, or she.
Cort. You tempt my faith so generous a way,
As without guilt might constancy betray:
But I 'm so far from meriting esteem,
That, if I judge, I must myself condemn;
Yet having given my worthless heart before,
What I must ne'er possess, I will adore:
Take my devotion then this humbler way;
Devotion is the love which heaven we pay.
[Kisses her hand.
Cyd. May I believe my eyes! what do I see!
Is this her hate to him, his love to me!
'Tis in my breast she sheathes her dagger now.
False man, is this thy faith? is this thy vow?
Cort. What words, dear saint, are these I hear you use?
What faith, what vows, are those which you accuse?
Cyd. More cruel than the tiger o'er his spoil;
And falser than the weeping crocodile:
Can you add vanity to guilt, and take
A pride to hear the conquests, which you make?
Go, publish your renown; let it be said,
You have a woman, and that loved, betrayed.
Cort. With what injustice is my faith accused!
Life, freedom, empire, I at once refused;
And would again ten thousand times for you.
Alm. She'll have too great content to find him true;
And therefore, since his love is not for me,
I'll help to make my rival's misery.
Spaniard, I never thought you false before:
Can you at once two mistresses adore?
Keep the poor soul no longer in suspense,
Your change is such as does not need defence.
Cort. Riddles like these I cannot understand.
Alm. Why should you blush? she saw you kiss my hand.
Cyd. Fear not; I will, while your first love's denied,
Favour your shame, and turn my eyes aside;
My feeble hopes in her deserts are lost:
I neither can such power nor beauty boast:
I have no tie upon you to be true,
But that, which loosened yours, my love to you.
Cort. Could you have heard my words!
Cyd. ——Alas, what needs
To hear your words, when I beheld your deeds ?
Cort. What shall I say ? the fate of love is such,
That still it sees too little or too much.
That act of mine, which does your passion move,
Was but a mark of my respect, not love.
Alm. Vex not yourself excuses to prepare:
For one, you love not, is not worth your care.
Cort. Cruel Almeria, take that life you gave;
Since you but worse destroy me, while you save.
Cyd. No, let me die, and I'll my claim resign;
For while I live, methinks, you should be mine.
Cort. The bloodiest vengeance, which she could pursue,
Would be a trifle to my loss of you.
Cyd. Your change was wise: for, had she been denied,
A swift revenge had followed from her pride:
You from my gentle nature had no fears,
All my revenge is only in my tears.
Cort. Can you imagine I so mean could prove,
To save my life by changing of my love?
Cyd. Since death is that which naturally we shun,
You did no more than I, perhaps, had done.
Cort. Make me not doubt, fair soul, your constancy;
You would have died for love, and so would I.
Alm. You may believe him; you have seen it proved.
Cort. Can I not gain belief how I have loved?
What can thy ends, malicious beauty, be:
Can he, who kill'd thy brother, live for thee?
[A noise of clashing of swords.
[Vasquez within, Indians against him.
Vasq. Yield, slaves, or die; our swords shall force our way.
Ind. We cannot, though o'er-powered, our trust betray.
Cort. 'Tis Vasquez' voice, he brings me liberty.
Vasq. In spite of fate I'll set my general free;
Now victory for us, the town's our own.
Alm. All hopes of safety and of love are gone:
As when some dreadful thunder-clap is nigh,
The winged fire shoots swiftly through the sky,
Strikes and consumes, ere scarce it does appear,
And by the sudden ill prevents the fear:
Such is my state in this amazing woe,
It leaves no power to think, much less to do.
——But shall my rival live, shall she enjoy
That love in peace, I laboured to destroy?
Cort. Her looks grow black as a tempestuous wind;
Some raging thoughts are rolling in her mind.
Alm. Rival, I must your jealous thoughts remove,
You shall, hereafter, be at rest for love.
Cyd. Now you are kind.
Alm. ——He whom you love is true:
But he shall never be possest by you.
[Draws her dagger, and runs towards her.
Cort. Hold, hold, ah barbarous woman! fly, oh fly!
Cyd. Ah pity, pity, is no succour nigh!
Cort. Run, run behind me, there you may be sure,
While I have life, I will your life secure.
[Cydaria gets behind him.
Alm. On him, or thee,—light vengeance anywhere
[She stabs and hurts him.
——What have I done? I see his blood appear!
Cyd. It streams, it streams from every vital part:
Was there no way but this to find his heart?
Alm. Ah! cursed woman, what was my design!
This weapon's point shall mix that blood with mine!
[Goes to stab herself, and being within his reach he snatches the dagger.
Cort. Now neither life nor death are in your power.
Alm. Then sullenly I'll wait my fatal hour.
Enter Vasquez and Pizarro, with drawn swords.
Vasq. He lives, he lives.
Cort. ——Unfetter me with speed;
Vasquez, I see you troubled that I bleed:
But 'tis not deep, our army I can head.
Vasq. You to a certain victory are led;
Your men, all armed, stand silently within :
I with your freedom did the work begin.
Piz. What friends we have, and how we came so strong,
We'll softly tell you as we march along.
Cort. In this safe place let me secure your fear:
No clashing swords, no noise can enter here.
Amidst our arms as quiet you shall be,
As Halcyons brooding on a winter sea.
Cyd. Leave me not here alone, and full of fright,
Amidst the terrors of a dreadful night:
You judge, alas, my courage by your own;
I never durst in darkness be alone:
I beg, I throw me humbly at your feet.——
Cort. You must not go where you may dangers meet
The unruly sword will no distinction make;
And beauty will not there give wounds, but take.
Alm. Then stay and take me with you; tho' to be
A slave to wait upon your victory.
My heart unmoved can noise and horror bear:
Parting from you is all the death I fear.
Cort. Almeria, 'tis enough I leave you free:
You neither must stay here, nor go with me.
Alm. Then take my life, that will my rest restore:
Tis all I ask, for saving yours before.
Cort. That were a barbarous return of love.
Alm. Yet, leaving it, you more inhuman prove.
In both extremes I some relief should find;
Oh! either hate me more, or be more kind.
Cort. Life of my soul, do not my absence mourn:
But cheer your heart in hopes of my return.
Your noble father's life shall be my care;
And both your brothers I'm obliged to spare.
Cyd. Fate makes you deaf, while I in vain implore;—
My heart forebodes, I ne'er shall see you more:
I have but one request,—when I am dead,
Let not my rival to your love succeed.
Cort. Fate will be kinder than your fears foretell;
Farewell, my dear.
Cyd. ——A long and last farewell:
—So eager to employ the cruel sword?
Can you not one, not one last look afford!
Cort. I melt to womanish tears, and if I stay,
I find my love, my courage will betray,
Yon tower will keep you safe, but be so kind
To your own life, that none may entrance find.
Cyd. Then lead me there.——
[He leads her.
For this one minute of your company,
I go, methinks, with some content to die.
[Exeunt Cortez, Vasquez, Pizarro, and Cydaria
Alm. Farewell, O too much loved, since loved in vain!
What dismal fortune does for me remain!
Night and despair my fatal footsteps guide;
That chance may give the death which he denied.
Cortez, Vasquez, Pizarro, and Spaniards return again.
Cort. All I hold dear I trust to your defence;
Guard her, and on your life, remove not hence.
[Exeunt Cortez and Vasquez.
Piz. I'll venture that——
The gods are good; I'll leave her to their care,
Steal from my post, and in the plunder share.