A Series of Plays in which it is attempted to delineate The Stronger Passions of the Mind, Volume One/Count Basil Act 1
ACT I—SCENE I.
An Open Street, crouded with People, who seem to be waiting in expectation of some Show.
Enter a Citizen.
First Man. Well friend, what tidings of the grand procession?
Cit. I left it passing by the northern gate.
Second Man. I've waited long, I'm glad it comes at last.
Young Man. And does the Princess look so wondrous fair
As fame reports?
Cit. She is the fairest lady of the train,
And all the fairest beauties of the court
Are in her train.
Old Man. Bears she such off'rings to Saint Francis' shrine,
So rich, so marvellous rich as rumour says?
'Twill drain the treasury.
Cit. Since she in all this splendid pomp, returns
Her publick thanks to the good patron Saint,
Who from his sick bed hath restor'd her father,
Thou wouldst not have her go with empty hands?
She loves magnificence.—
(Discovering among the croud Old Geoffry.)
Ha! art thou here, old remnant of the wars?
Thou art not come to see this courtly show,
Which sets the young agape?
Geof. I came not for the show; and yet, methinks,
It were a better jest upon me still,
If thou didst truly know mine errand here.
Cit. I pri'thee say.
Geof.What, must I tell it thee?
As o'er my ev'ning fire I musing sat
Some few days since, my mind's eye backward turn'd
Upon the various changes I have pass'd—
How in my youth with gay attire allur'd,
And all the grand accoutrements of war,
I left my peaceful home: Then my first battles,
When clashing arms, and sights of blood were new:
Then all the after chances of the war;
Ay, and that field, a well-fought field it was,
When with this arm (I speak not of it oft)
(Pointing to his empty sleeve.)
Which now thou seest is no arm of mine,
In a straight pass I stopp'd a thousand foes,
And turn'd my flying comrades to the charge;
For which good service, in his tented court,
My prince bestow'd a mark of favour on me:
Whilst his fair consort, seated by his side,
The fairest lady e'er mine eyes beheld,
Gave me what more than all besides I priz'd,
Methinks I see her still! a gracious smile;
'Twas a heart-kindling smile,—a smile of praise—
Well, musing thus on all my fortunes past,
A Neighbour drew the latchet of my door,
And full of news from town, in many words
Big with rich names, told of this grand procession.
E'en as he spoke a fancy seiz'd my soul
To see the princess pass, if in her face
I yet might trace some semblance of her mother.
This is the simple truth; laugh as thou wilt,
I came not for the show.
Enter an Officer.
Officer to Geof. Make way, that the procession may have room;
Stand you aside, and let this man have place.
(Pushing Geof. and endeavouring to put another in his place.)
Geof. But that thou art the prince's officer,
I'd give thee back thy push with better blows.
Officer. What wilt thou not give place? the prince is near,
I will complain to him, and have thee caged.
Geof. Yes do complain, I pray; and when thou dost,
Say that the private of the tenth brigade,
Who sav'd his army on the Danube's bank,
And since that time a private hath remain'd,
Dares, as a citizen, his right maintain
Against thy insolence. Go tell him this,
And ask him then what dungeon of his tower
He'll have me thrust into?
Cit. to Officer. This is old Geoffry of the tenth brigade.
Offi. I knew him not: you should have told me sooner.
[Exit, looking much ashamed.
Martial Musick heard at a distance.
Cit. Hark, this is musick of a warlike kind.
Enter Second Citizen.
What sounds are these, good friend, which this way bear?
Sec. Cit. The Count of Basil is upon his march,
To join the Emp'rour with some chosen troops,
And doth through Mantua pass in right of Allies.
Geof. I have heard a good report of this young soldier.
Sec. Cit. 'Tis said he disciplines his men severely,
And acts with them too much the old commander,
Which is ungracious in so young a man.
Geof. I know he loves not ease and revelry;
He makes them soldiers at no dearer rate
Than he himself hath paid. What, dost thou think
That e'en the very meanest simple craft
May not, but with due diligence, be learn'd,
And yet the noble art of soldiership
May be attain'd by loit'ring in the sun?
Some men are born to feast, and not to fight;
Whose sluggish minds, e'en in fair honour's field,
Still on their dinner turn—
Let such pot-boiling varlets stay at home,
And wield a flesh-hook rather than a sword.
In times of easy service, true it is.
An easy, careless chief, all soldiers love;
But O! how gladly in the day of battle
Would they their jolly bottle-chief desert,
And follow such a leader as Count Basil.
So gath'ring herds, at pressing dangers' call,
Confess the master Deer.
(Musick is heard again, and nearer. Geoffry walks up and down with a military triumphant step.
Cit. What moves thee thus?
Geof. I've march'd to this same tune in glorious days.
My very limbs catch motion from the sound,
As they were young again.
Sec. Cit.But here they come.
Enter Count Basil, Officers and Soldiers in Procession, with Colours flying, and martial musick. When they have marched half way over the Stage, an Officer of the Dukes enters from the opposite side, and speaks to Count Basil, upon which he gives a sign with his hand, and the martial musick ceases; soft musick is heard at a little distance, and Victoria, with a long procession of Ladies, enters from the opposite side. The General, &c. pay obeisance to her, as she passes; she stops to return it, and then goes off with her train. After which the military procession moves on, and Exeunt.
Cit. to Geof. What thinkst thou of the princess?
Geof. She is fair,
But not so fair as her good mother was. [Exeunt.
A Publick Walk on the Ramparts of the Town.
Enter Count Rosinberg, Valtomer, and Frederick.—Valtomer enters by the opposite side of the Stage, and meets them.
Valt. O! what a jolly town for way-worn soldiers!
Rich steaming pots, and smell of dainty fare,
From every house salute you as you pass:
Light feats and jugglers' tricks attract the eye;
Frolick, and mirth, musick in ev'ry street;
Whilst pretty damsels, in their best attire,
Trip on in wanton groups, then look behind,
To spy the fools a-gazing after them.
Fred. But short will be the season of our ease,
For Basil is of flinty matter made,
And cannot be allur'd—
'Faith Rosenberg, I would thou didst command us;
Thou art his kinsman, of a rank as noble,
Some years his elder too; how has it been
That he should be preferr'd? I see not why.
Ros. Ah! but I see it, and allow it well;
He is too much my pride to wake my envy.
Fred. Nay, Count, it is thy foolish admiration
Which raises him to such superiour height;
And truly thou hast so infected us,
That I have felt at times an awe before him,
I know not why. 'Tis cursed folly;
Thou art as brave, of as good parts as he.
Ros. Our talents of a diff'rent nature are;
Mine for the daily intercourse of life,
And his for higher things.
Fred. Well, praise him as thou wilt; I see it not;
I'm sure I am as brave a man as he.
Ros. Yes, brave thou art, but 'tis subaltern brav'ry,
And doth respect thyself. Thou'lt bleed as well,
Give and receive as deep a wound as he.
When Basil fights he wields a thousand swords;
For 'tis their trust in his unshaken mind,
O'erwatching all the changes of the field,
Calm and inventive 'midst the battle's storm,
Which makes his soldiers bold.—
There have been those, in early manhood slain,
Whose great heroick souls have yet inspire
With such a noble zeal their gen'rous troops,
That to their latest day of bearing arms,
Their grey-hair'd soldiers would all dangers brave
Of desp'rate service, claim'd with boastful pride,
As those who fought beneath them in their youth.
Such men have been; of whom it may be said,
Their spirits conquer'd when their clay was cold.
Valt. Yes, I have seen in the eventful field,
When new occasion mock'd all formed art,
E'en old commanders hold experience cheap,
And look to Basil ere his chin was dark.
Ros. One fault he has; I know but only one;
His too great love of military fame
Destroys his thoughts, and makes him oft appear
Unsocial and severe.
Fred. Well, feel I not undaunted in the field?
As much enthusiastick love of glory?
Why am I not as good a man as he?
Ros. He's form'd for great occasions, thou for small.
Valt. But small occasions in the path of life
Lie thickly sown, while great are rarely scatter'd.
Ros. By which you would infer that men like Fred'rick
Should on the whole a better figure make,
Than men of higher parts; but 'tis not so,
For some shew well, and fair applauses gain,
Where want of skill in other men is graceful.
Pray do not frown, good Fred'rick, no offence:
Thou canst not make a great man of thyself,
Yet wisely deign to use thy native pow'rs,
And prove an honour'd courtly gentleman.
But hush! no more of this, here Basil comes.
Enter Basil, who returns their salute without speaking.
Ros. What think'st thou, Valtomer, of Mantua's princess?
Valt. Fame prais'd her much, but hath not prais'd her more
Than on a better proof the eye consents to.
With all that grace and nobleness of mien,
She might do honour to an Emp'rour's throne;
She is too noble for a petty court.
Is it not so, my Lord?—(To Basil, who only bows assent.)
Nay, she demeans herself with so much grace,
Such easy state, such gay magnificence,
She should be queen of revelry and show.
Fred. She's charming as the goddess of delight.
Valt. But after her, she most attracted me
Who wore the yellow scarf and walk'd the last,
For tho' Victoria is a lovely woman—
Fred. Nay, it is treason but to call her woman;
She's a divinity, and should be worshipp’d.
But on my life, since now we talk of worship,
She worshipp'd Francis with right noble gifts!
They sparkled so with gold and precious gems
Their value must be great; some thousand crowns?
Ros. I would not rate them at a price so mean;
The cup alone, with precious stones beset,
Would fetch a sum as great. That olive branch
The princess bore herself, of fretted gold,
Was exquisitely wrought. I mark'd it more,
Because she held it in so white a hand.
Bas, in a quick voice. Marked you her hand?
I did not see her hand.
And yet she wav'd it twice.
Ros. It is a fair one, tho' you mark'd it not.
Valt. I wish some painter's eye had view'd the group,
As she and all her lovely damsels pass'd;
He would have found wherewith t'enrich his art.
Ros. I wish so too; for oft their fancied beauties
Have so much cold perfection in their parts,
'Tis plain they ne'er belong’d to flesh and blood.
This is not truth, and doth not please so well
As the varieties of lib'ral nature,
Where ev'ry kind of beauty charms the eye;
Large and small featur'd, flat, and prominent.
Ay, by the mass! and snub-nos'd beauties too.
'Faith ev'ry woman hath some 'witching charm,
If that she be not proud, or captious.
Valt. Demure, or over-wise, or giv'n to freaks.
Ros. Or giv'n to freaks! hold, hold, good Valtomer!
Thou'lt leave no woman handsome under heav'n.
Valt. But I must leave you for an hour or so,
I mean to view the town if aught worth notice.
Fred. I'll go with thee, my friend.
Ros.And so will I.
[Exeunt Valt. Fred. and Ros.
They will be too long absent.—(Pauses, and looks at Basil, who remains still musing without seeing him.)
Bas. O! it is admirable.
Ros. How runs thy fancy? what is admirable?
Bas. Her form, her face, her motion, ev'ry thing!
Ros. The princess? yes, have we not prais'd her much?
Bas. I know you prais'd her, and her off'rings too!
She might have giv'n the treasures of the east
E'er I had known it.
She came again upon my wond'ring sight—
O! didst thou mark her when she first appear'd?
Still distant, slowly moving with her train;
Her robe, and tresses floating on the wind,
Like some light figure in a morning cloud?
Then as she onward to the eye became
The more distinct, the lovelier still she grew.
That graceful bearing of her slender form;
Her roundly-spreading breast, her tow'ring neck.
Her face ting'd sweetly with the bloom of youth—
But when on near approach she tow'rds us turn'd,
Kind mercy! what a countenance was there!
And when to our salute she gently bow'd.
Didst mark that smile rise from her parting lips?
Soft swell'd her glowing eheek, her eyes smil'd too;
O! how they smil'd! 'twas like the beams of heav’n!
I felt my roused soul within me start,
Like something wak’d from sleep.
Ros. Ah! many a slumb'rer heav’n’s beams do wake
To care and misery!
Bas. There's something grave and solemn in your voice
As you pronounce these words. What dost thou mean?
Thou wouldst not sound my knell?
Ros. No, not for all beneath the vaulted sky!
But to be plain, thus earnest from your lips
Her praise displeases me. To men like you
If love should come, he proves no easy guest.
Bas. What dost thou think I am beside myself,
And cannot view the fairness of perfection
With that delight which lovely beauty gives,
Without tormenting me with fruitless wishes;
Like the poor child who sees its brighten'd face.
And whimpers for the moon? Thou art not serious?
From early youth, war has my mistress been,
And tho' a rugged one. I'll constant prove,
And not forsake her now. There may be joys
Which to the strange o'erwhelming of the soul,
Visit the lover's breast beyond all others;
E'en now, how dearly do I feel there may!
But what of them? they are not made for me—
The hasty flashes of contending steel
Must serve instead of glances from my love,
And for soft breathing sighs the cannon's roar.
Ros. taking his hand.
Now am I satisfied. Forgive me Basil.
Bas. I'm glad thou art, we'll talk of her no more.
Why should I vex my friend?
Ros. Thou hast not giv'n orders for the march.
Bas. I'll do it soon; thou need'st not be afraid.
To-morrow's sun shall bear us far from hence.
Never perhaps to pass these gates again.
Ros. With last night's close did you not curse this town
That would one single day your troops retard?
And now, methinks, you talk of leaving it,
As though it were the place that gave you birth;
As tho' you had around these strangers' walls
Your infant gambols play'd.
Bas. The sight of what may be but little priz'd,
Doth cause a solemn sadness in the mind,
When view'd as that we ne'er shall see again.
Ros. No, not a whit to wand'ring men like us,
No, not a whit! what custom hath endear'd
We part with sadly, tho' we prize it not;
But what is new some pow'rful charm must own,
Thus to affect the mind.
Bas. hastily. Yes, what is new, but—No, thou art impatient;
We'll let it pass—It hath no consequence.
Ros. I'm not impatient. 'Faith, I only wish
Some other route our destin'd march had been,
That still thou mightst thy glorious course pursue
With an untroubled mind.
Bas. O! wish it, wish it not! bless'd be that route!
What we have seen to-day I must remember—
I should be brutish if I could forget it.
Oft in the watchful post, or weary march,
Oft in the nightly silence of my tent,
My fixed mind shall gaze upon it still;
But it will pass before my fancy's eye,
Like some delightful vision of the soul,
To soothe, not trouble it.
Ros. What, midst the dangers of eventful war,
Still let thy mind be haunted by a woman?
Who would, perhaps, hear of thy fall in battle,
As Dutchmen read of earthquakes in Calabria,
And never stop to cry alack-a-day!
For me there is but one of all the sex,
Who still shall hold her station in my breast,
Midst all the changes of inconstant fortune;
Because I'm passing sure she loves me well,
And for my sake a sleepless pillow finds
When rumour tells bad tidings of the war;
Because I know her love will never change,
Nor make me prove uneasy jealousy.
Bas. Happy art thou! who is this wond'rous woman?
Ros. It is mine own good mother, faith and truth!
Bas. smiling. Give me thy hand; I love her dearly too.
Rivals we are not, though our love is one.
Ros. And yet I might be jealous of her love,
For she bestows too much of it on thee,
Who hast no claim but to a nephew's share.
Bas. going. I'll meet thee some time hence. I must to Court.
Ros. A private conf'rence will not stay thee long.
I'll wait thy coming near the palace gate.
Bas. 'Tis to the publick Court I mean to go.
Ros. I thought you had determin'd otherwise.
Bas. Yes, but on farther thought it did appear
As though it would be failing in respect
At such a time—That look doth wrong me, Rosinberg!
For on my life, I had determin'd thus
Ere I beheld—Before we enter'd Mantua.
But wilt thou change that soldier's dusty garb,
And go with me thyself?
Ros.Yes, I will go.
(As they are going Ros. stops, and looks at Basil.)
Bas. Why dost thou stop?
Ros.'Tis for my wonted caution,
Which first thou gav'st me, I shall ne'er forget it.
'Twas at Vienna, on a publick day,
Thou but a youth, I then a man full form'd;
Thy stripling's brow grac'd with its first cockade,
Thy mighty bosom swell'd with mighty thoughts;
Thou'rt for the court, dear Rosinberg, quoth thou
Now pray thee be not caught with some gay dame,
To laugh and ogle, and befool thyself;
It is offensive in the publick eye,
And suits not with a man of thy endowments.
So said your serious lordship to me then,
And have on like occasions often since,
In other terms repeated—
But I must go to-day without my caution.
Bas. Nay Rosinberg, I am impatient now.
Did I not say we'd talk of her no more.
Ros. Well, my good friend, God grant we keep our word!
End of the First Act.