A Series of Plays in which it is attempted to delineate The Stronger Passions of the Mind, Volume One/Count Basil Act 4
ACT IV.— SCENE I.
The Street before Basil's Lodging.
Enter Rosinberg and two Officers.
Ros. speaking as he enters. Unless we find him quickly, all is lost.
1st. Off. His very guards, methinks, have left their post
To join the mutiny.
Ros. (knocking very loud.) Holla! who's there within? confound this door!
It will not ope. O! for a Giant's strength.
Holla, holla, within! will no one hear?
Enter a Porter from the house.
Ros, eagerly to the Porter. Is he return'd, is he return'd? not yet!
Thy face doth tell me so.
Port.Not yet, my lord.
Ros. Then let him ne'er return——
Tumult, disgrace, and ruin have their way!
I'll search for him no more.
Port. He hath been absent all the night, my lord.
Ros. I know he hath.
2d Off.And yet 'tis possible
He may have enter'd by the secret door;
And now, perhaps, in deepest sleep entranc'd,
Is dead to ev'ry sound.
(Ros. without speakings rushes into the house, and the rest follow him.)
Bas. The blue air of the morning pinches keenly.
Beneath her window all the chilly night
I felt it not. Ah! night has been my day,
And the pale lamp which from her chamber gleam'd,
Has to the breeze a warmer temper lent
Than the red burning east.
Re-enter Rosinberg, &c. from the home.
Ros. Himself! himself! He's here, he's here! O! Basil,
What fiend at such a time could lead thee forth?
Bas. What is the matter which disturbs you thus?
Ros. Matter that would a wiser man disturb.
Treason's abroad, thy men have mutinied.
Bas. It is not so; thy wits have mutinied,
And left their sober station in thy brain.
1st. Off. Indeed, my Lord, he speaks in sober earnest.
Some secret enemies have been employ'd
To fill your troops with strange imaginations;
As tho' their gen'ral would, for selfish gain,
Their gen'rous valour urge to desp'rate deeds.
All to a man, assembled on the ramparts,
Now threaten vengeance, and refuse to march.
Bas. What! think they vilely of me? threaten, too!
O! most ungen'rous, most unmanly thought!
Didst thou attempt (to Ros.) to reason with their folly?
Folly it is; baseness it cannot be!
Ros. Yes, truly, did I reason's pow'r essay,
But as well might I reason with the storm,
And bid it cease to rage——
Their eyes look fire on him who questions them;
The hollow murmurs of their mutter'd wrath
Sound dreadful thro' the dark extended ranks,
Like subterraneous grumblings of an earthquake.
——————————The vengeful hurricane
Does not with such fantastick writhings toss
The woods green boughs, as does convulsive rage
Their forms with frantick gesture agitate.
Around the chief of hell such legions throng'd,
To bring back curse and discord on creation.
Bas. Nay, they are men, altho' impassion'd ones.
I'll go to them—
Ros.And we will stand by thee.
This sword is thine against ten thousand strong,
If it should come to this.
Bas.No, never, never!
There is no mean. I with my soldiers must
Or their commander or their victim prove.
But are my officers all staunch and faithful?
Ros. All but that devil, Frederick——
He, disappointed, left his former corps,
Where he, in truth, had been too long neglected,
Thinking he should all on the sudden rise,
From Basil's well-known love of valiant men;
And now, because it still must be deferr'd,
He thinks you seek from envy to depress him,
And burns to be reveng'd,
Bas. Well, well——This grieves me too——
But let us go.[Exeunt.
1st Sol. No, comrade, no, hell gape and swallow me!
If I do budge for such most dev'lish orders.
2d Sol. Huzza, brave comrades! Who says otherwise?
3d Sol. No one, huzza! confound all treach'rous leaders!
(The Soldiers huzza and clash their arms.)
5th Sol. Heav'n dart its fiery light'ning on his head!
We're men, we're not cattle to be slaughter'd!
2d Sol. They who do long to caper high in air,
Into a thousand bloody fragments blown,
May follow our brave gen'ral.
1st Sol.Curse his name!
I've fought for him till my strain'd nerves have crack'd!
2d Sol. We will command ourselves; for Milan comrades.
5th Sol. Ay, ay, for Milan, valiant hearts, huzza!
(All the Soldiers cast up their caps in the air, and huzza.)
2d Sol. Yes, comrades, tempting booty waits us there,
And easy service: keep good hearts, my soldiers!
The gen'ral comes, good hearts! no flinching, boys!
Look bold and fiercely; we're the masters now.
(They all clash their arms, and put on a fierce threatening aspect to receive their General, who now enters, followed by Rosinberg and Officers. Basil walks close along the front ranks of the Soldiers, looking at them very steadfastly; then retires a few paces lack, and raising his arm, speaks with a very full loud voice.)
Bas. How is it, soldiers, that I see you thus,
Assembled here, unsummon'd by command?
(A confused murmur is heard amongst the Soldiers; some of them call out)
(A confused noise of voices is heard, and one louder than the rest calls out)
(A loud clamour and clashing of arms, then several voices call out)
Fred'rick shall lead us now——————
(Other voices call out)
We'll march where'er we list, for Milan march.
(Basil, waving his hand, and beckoning them to be silent, speaks with a very loud voice)
Yes, march where'er ye list, for Milan march.
Sol. Hear him, hear him!
(The murmur ceases—a short pause.)
Bas. Yes, march where'er ye list, for Milan march.
But as banditti, not as soldiers go;
For on this spot of earth I will disband,
And take from you the rank and name of soldiers.
(A great clamour amongst the ranks—— some call out)
(Others call out)
No, he dares not do it.
(One voice very loud)
Bas. Put up your swords, my friends, it must not be.
I thank your zeal, I'll deal with them alone.
Ros. What, shall we calmly stand and see thee butcher'd?
Bas. (very earnestly.) Put up, my friends.
(Officers still persist.) What are you rebels too?
Will no one here his gen'ral's voice obey?
I do command you to put up your swords.
Retire, and at a distance wait th' event.
Obey, or henceforth be no friends of mine.
(Officers retire, very unwillingly. Basil waves them off with his hand till they are all gone, then walks up to the front of his Soldiers, who still hold themselves in a threatening posture.)
Soldiers! we've fought together in the field,
And bravely fought: i' the face of horrid death
At honour's call I've led you dauntless on;
Nor do I know the man of all your bands,
That ever poorly from the trial shrunk,
Or yielded to the foe contended space.
Am I the meanest then of all my troops,
That thus ye think, with base unmanly threats,
To move me now? Put up those paltry weapons;
They edgeless are to him who fears them not:
Rocks have been shaken from the solid base;
But what shall move a firm and dauntless mind?
Put up your swords, or dare the threaten'd deed—
Obey, or murder me.———
(A confused murmur—some of the soldiers call out)
(Others call out)
Ay, march us there, and be our leader still.
Bas. Nay, if I am your leader, I'll command ye
And where I do command, there shall you go,
But not to Milan. No, nor shall you deviate
E'en half a furlong from your destin'd way,
To seize the golden booty of the east.
Think not to gain, or temporize with me,
For should I this day's mutiny survive,
Much as I've lov'd you, soldiers, ye shall find me
Still more relentless in pursuit of vengeance;
Tremendous, cruel, military vengeance.
There is no mean—a desp'rate game ye play,
Therefore I say, obey, or murder me.
Do as ye will, but do it manfully.
He is a coward who doth threaten me,
The man who slays me, but an angry soldier,
Acting in passion, like the frantick son,
Who struck his sire, and wept.
(Soldier's call out.) It was thyself who sought to murder us.
1st. Sol. You have unto the Emp'ror pledg'd your faith,
To lead us foremost in all desp'rate service;
You have agreed to sell your soldiers' blood,
And we have shed our dearest blood for you.
Bas. Hear me, my soldiers——
2nd Sol. No, hear him not, he means to cozen you.
Fred'rick will do you right———
(Endeavouring to stir up a noise and confusion amongst them.)
Bas. What cursed fiend art thou, cast out from hell
To spirit up rebellion? damned villain!
(Seizes upon 2d soldier, drags him out from the ranks, and wrests his arms from him; then takes a pistol from his side, and holds it to his head.)
For if thou utt'rest but a single word,
A cough, or hem, to cross me in my speech,
I'll send thy cursed spirit from the earth,
To bellow with the damn'd!
(The soldiers keep a dead silence—after a pause, Basil resumes his speech.)
You say that I am to the Emp'ror pledg'd
To lead you foremost in all desp'rate service,
For now you call it not the path of glory;
And if in this I have offended you,
I do indeed repent me of the crime.
But new from battles, where my native troops
So bravely fought; I felt me proud at heart,
And boasted of you, boasted foolishly.
I said fair glory's palm ye would not yield
To e'er the bravest legion train'd to arms.
I swore the meanest man of all my troops
Would never shrink before an armed host,
If honour bade him stand. My royal master,
Smil'd at the ardour of my heedless words,
And promis'd, when occasion claim'd our arms,
To put them to the proof.
But ye do peace, and ease, and booty love,
Safe and ignoble service—be it so—
Forgive me that I did mistake you thus,
But do not earn with savage mutiny,
Your own destruction. We'll for Pavia march,
To join the royal army near its walls;
And there with blushing forehead will I plead,
That ye are men with warlike service worn,
Requiring ease and rest. Some other chief,
Whose cold blood boils not at the trumpet's sound,
Will in your rearward station head you then,
And so, my friends, we'll part. As for myself,
A volunteer, unheeded in the ranks,
I'll rather fight, with brave men for my fellows,
Than be the leader of a sordid band.
(A great murmur rises amongst the ranks, soldiers call out)
(All call out together)
We will not part, be thou our gen'ral still.
Bas. How can I be your gen'ral? ye obey
As caprice moves you; I must be obey'd
As honest men against themselves perform
A sacred oath.—
Some other chief will more indulgent prove—
You're weary grown—I've been too hard a master.
Soldiers. Thyself, and only thee, will we obey.
Bas. But if you follow me, yourselves ye pledge
Unto no easy service:—hardships, toils,
The hotest dangers of most dreadful fight
Will be your portion; and when all is o'er,
Each, like his gen'ral, must contented be
Home to to return, a poor brave soldier.
How say ye now? I spread no tempting lure——
A better fate than this, I promise none.
Soldiers. We'll follow Basil.
Bas. What token of obedience will ye give?
(A deep pause.)
Soldiers, lay down your arms!
(They all lay down their arms.)
If any here are weary of the service,
Now let them quit the ranks, and they shall have
A free discharge, and passport to their homes;
And from my scanty fortune I'll make good
The well-earn'd pay their royal master owes them.
Let those who follow me their arms resume,
(they all resume their arms.)
(Basil, holding up his hands.) High heaven be prais'd!
I had been griev'd to part with you, my soldiers.
Here is a letter from my gracious master,
With offer of preferment in the north,
Most high preferment, which I did refuse,
For that I would not leave my gallant troops.
(Takes out a letter, and throws it amongst them.)
(A great commotion amongst the soldiers; many of them quit their ranks, and croud about him, calling out,)
Our gallant gen'ral!
(Others call out)
We'll spend our heart's blood for thee, noble Basil!
Bas. And so you thought me false? this bites to th' quick!
My soldiers thought me false!
(They all quit their ranks, and croud eagerly around him. Basil waving them off with his hands.)
(Soldiers retire to their ranks.)
'Tis well—retire, and hold yourselves prepar'd
To march upon command; nor meet again
Till you are summon'd by the beat of drum.
Some secret enemy has tamper'd with you,
For yet I will not think that in these ranks,
There moves a man who wears a traitor's heart.
(The soldiers begin to march off, and musick strikes up.)
Basil holding up his hand.) Cease, cease triumphant sounds,
Which our brave fathers, men without reproach,
Rais'd in the hour of triumph; but this hour
To us no glory brings—
Then silent be your march—ere that again
Our steps to glorious strains like these shall move
A day of battle o'er our heads must pass,
And blood be shed to wash out this day's stain.
[Exeunt soldiers, silent and dejected.
Enter Frederick, who starts back on seeing Basil alone.
Bas. Advance, lieutenant; wherefore shrink ye back?
I've ever seen you bear your head erect,
And front your man, tho' arm'd with frowning death.
Have you done ought the valiant should not do?
I fear you have.(Fred. looks confused.)
With secret art, and false insinuation,
The simple untaught soldiers to seduce
From their sworn duty, might become the base,
Become the coward well; but O! what villain
Had the dark pow'r t'engage thy valiant worth
In such a work as this!
Fred. Is Basil, then, so lavish of his praise
On a neglected pitiful subaltern?
It were a libel on his royal master;
A foul reproach upon fair fortune cast,
To call me valiant:
And surely he has been too much their debtor
To mean them this rebuke.
Bas. Is nature then so sparing of her gifts,
That it is wonderful when they are found
Where fortune smiles not?
Thou art by nature brave, and so am I,
But in those distant ranks moves there not one
(Pointing off the stage.)
Of high ennobled soul, by nature form'd
A hero and commander, who will, yet,
In his untrophied grave forgotten lie
With meaner men? I dare be sworn there does.
Fred. What need of words? I crave of thee no favour.
I have offended against armed law,
And shrink not from my doom.
Bas. I know thee well, I know thou fear'st not death;
On scaffold or in field with dauntless breast
Thou wilt engage him: and if thy proud soul,
In sullen obstinacy scorns all grace
E'en be it so. But if with manly gratitude
Thou truly canst receive a brave man's pardon,
Thou hast it freely.
Fred. It must not be. I've been thine enemy—
I've been unjust to thee—
Bas.I know thou hast;
But thou art brave, and I forgive thee all.
Fred. My lord! my gen'ral! Oh! I cannot speak!
I cannot live and be the wretch I am!
Bas. But thou canst live, and be an honest man
From errour turn'd,—canst live and be my friend.
(Raising Fred. from the ground.)
Forbear, forbear! see where our friends advance,
They must not think thee suing tor a pardon;
That would disgrace us both. Yet, ere they come,
Tell me, if that thou may'st with honour tell,
What did seduce thee from thy loyal faith?
Fred. No cunning traitor did my faith attempt,
For then I had withstood him: but of late,
I know not how—a bad and restless spirit
Has work'd within my breast, and made me wretched.
I've lent mine ear to foolish idle tales,
Of very zealous, tho' but new-made friends.
Bas. Softly, our friends approach—of this again,
An apartment in Basil's lodgings. Enter Basil and Rosinberg.
Ros. Thank heaven I am now alone with thee.
Last night I sought thee with an anxious mind,
And curs'd thine ill-tim'd absence—
There's treason in this most deceitful court,
Against thee plotting, and this morning's tumult
Hath been its damn'd effect.
Bas.Poo, poo, my friend;
The nature of man's mind too well thou know'st,
To judge as vulgar hood-wink'd statesmen do;
Who ever with their own poor wiles misled,
Believe each popular tumult or commotion,
Must be the work of deep-laid policy.
Poor, mean, mechanick souls, who little know
A few short words of energetick force,
Some pow'rful passion on the sudden rous'd,
The animating sight of something noble,
Some fond trait of the mem'ry finely wak'd,
A sound, a simple song without design,
In revolutions, tumults, wars, rebellions,
All grand events, have oft effected more
Than deepest cunning of their paltry art.
Some drunken soldier, eloquent with wine,
Who loves not fighting, hath harangu'd his mates,
For they in, truth some hardships have endur'd.
Wherefore in this should we suspect the court?
Ros. Ah! there is something, friend, in Mantua's court,
Will make the blackest trait of bare-fac'd treason
Seem fair and guiltless to thy partial eye.
Bas. Nay, 'tis a weakness in thee, Rosinberg,
Which makes thy mind so jealous and distrustful,
Why should the duke be false?
Ros. Because he is a double, crafty prince—
Because I've heard it rumour'd secretly,
That he in some dark treaty is engag'd,
E'en with our master's enemy the Frank.
Bas. And so thou think'st—
Ros.Nay, hear me to the end,
Last night that good and honourable dame,
Noble Albini, with most friendly art,
From the gay clam'rous throng my steps beguil'd,
Unmask'd before me, and with earnest grace,
Entreated me, if I were Basil's friend,
To tell him hidden danger waits him here,
And warn him well fair Mantua's court to leave.
She said she lov'd thee much, and hadst thou seen
How anxiously she urg'd—
Bas. (Interruping him) By heav'n and earth,
There is a ray of light breaks thro' thy tale,
And I could leap like madmen in their freaks,
So blessed is the gleam! Ah! no, no, no!
It cannot be, alas! it cannot be!
Yet didst thou say she urg'd it earnestly?
She is a woman, who avoids all share
In secret politicks; one only charge
Her int'rest claims, Victoria's guardian friend—
And she would have me hence—it must be so.
O! would it were! how saidst thou, gentle Rosinberg?
She urged it earnestly—how did she urge it?
Nay, pri'thee, do not stare upon me thus,
But tell me all her words. What said she else?
Ros. O Basil! I could laugh to see thy folly,
But that thy weakness doth provoke me so.
Most admirable, brave, determin'd man!
So well, so lately try'd, what art thou now?
A vain deceitful thought transports thee thus.
Bas.I will not tell thee what I think.
Ros. But I can guess it well, and it deceives thee.
Leave this detested place, this fatal court,
Where damn'd deceitful cunning plots thy ruin.
A soldier's duty calls thee loudly hence.
The time is critical. How wilt thou feel
When they shall tell these tidings in thine ear.
That brave Piscaro, and his royal troops,
Our valiant fellows, have the en'my fought,
Whilst we, so near at hand, lay loit'ring here?
Bas. Thou dost disturb thy brain with fancied fears.
Our fortunes rest not on a point so nice
That one short day should be of all this moment;
And yet this one short day will be to me
Worth years of other time.
Ros.Nay, rather say,
A day to darken all thy days beside.
Confound the fatal beauty of that woman,
Which has bewitch'd thee so!
Bas.'Tis most ungen'rous
To push me thus with rough unsparing hand,
Where but the slightest touch is felt so dearly,
It is unfriendly,
Ros. God knows my heart! I would not give thee pain;
But it disturbs me, Basil, vexes me,
To see thee so enthralled by a woman.
If she is fair, others are fair as she.
Some other face will like emotions raise,
When thou canst better play a lover's part:
But for the present, fye upon it, Basil!
Bas. What, is it possible thou hast beheld,
Hast tarried by her too, her converse shar'd,
Yet talkst as tho' she were a common fair-one,
Such as a man may fancy and forget?
Thou art not, sure, so dull and brutish grown;
It is not so, thou dost belie thy thoughts,
And vainly try'st to gain me with the cheat.
Ros. So thinks each lover of the maid he loves,
Yet in their lives some many maidens love.
Curse on it! leave this town, and be a soldier!
Bas. Have done, have done! why dost thou bait me thus?
Thy words become disgusting to me, Rosinberg.
What claim hast thou mine actions to controul?
I'll Mantua leave, when it is fit I should.
Ros. Then, 'faith! 'tis fitting thou shouldst leave it now;
Ay, on the instant. Is't not desperation
To stay, and hazard ruin on thy fame,
Tho' yet uncheer'd e'en by that tempting lure,
No lover breathes without? thou hast no hope.
Bas. What dost thou mean? curse on the paltry thought
That I should count and bargain with my heart,
Upon the chances of unstinted favour,
As little souls their base-bred fancies feed?
O! were I conscious that within her breast
I held some portion of her dear regard,
Tho' pent for life within a prison's walls,
Where thro' my grate I yet might sometimes see
E'en but her shadow sporting in the sun;
Tho' plac'd by fate where some obstructing bound,
Some deep impassable, between us roll'd,
And I might yet from some high tow'ring cliff,
Perceive her distant mansion from afar,
Or mark its blue smoke rising eve and morn;
Nay, tho' within the circle of the moon
Some spell did fix her, never to return,
And I might wander in the hours of night,
And upward turn mine ever-gazing eye,
Fondly to mark upon its varied disk,
Some little spot that might her dwelling be;
My fond, my fixed heart would still adore
And own no other Love. Away, away!
How canst thou say to one who loves like me,
Thou hast no hope?
Ros. But with such hope, my friend, how stand thy fears?
Are they so well refin'd? How wilt thou bear
Ere long to hear that some high, favour'd prince
Has won her heart, her hand, has married her?
Tho' now unshackled, will it always be?
Bas. By heav'n thou dost contrive but to torment!
And hast a pleasure in the pain thou giv'st.
There is malignity in what thou say'st.
Ros. No, not malignity, but kindness, Basil,
That fain would save thee from the yawning gulph,
To which blind passion guides thy heedless steps.
Bas. Go, rather save thyself
From the weak passion which has seiz'd thy breast,
T' assume authority with sage-like brow,
And shape my actions by thine own caprice.
I can direct myself—
Ros.Yes, do thyself,
And let no artful woman do it for thee.
Bas. I scorn thy thought: it is beneath my scorn;
It is of meanness sprung—an artful woman!
O! she has all the loveliness of heav'n,
And all its goodness too!
Ros. I mean not to impute dishonest arts,
I mean not to impute—
Bas.No, 'faith, thou canst not.
Ros. What, can I not? their arts all women have.
But now of this no more; it moves thee greatly.
Yet once again, as a most loving friend,
Let me conjure thee, if thou prizest honour,
A soldier's fair repute, a hero's fame,
What noble spirits love; and well I know
Full dearly dost thou prize them, leave this place,
And give thy soldiers orders for the march.
Bas. Nay, since thou must assume it o'er me thus,
Be gen'ral, and command my soldiers too.
Ros. What hath this passion in so short a space,
O! curses on it! so far chang'd thee, Basil,
That thou dost take with such ungentle warmth,
The kindly freedom of thine ancient friend?
Methinks the beauty of a thousand maids
Would not have mov'd me thus to treat my friend,
My best, mine earliest friend!
Bas. Say kinsman rather; chance has link'd us so.
Our blood is near, our hearts are sever'd far;
No act of choice did e'er unite our souls.
Men most unlike we are; our thoughts unlike;
My breast disowns thee—thou'rt no friend of mine.
Ros. Ah! have I then so long, so dearly lov'd thee;
So often, with an elder brother's care,
Thy childish rambles tended, shared thy sports;
Fill'd up by stealth thy weary school-boy's task;
Taught thy young arms thine earliest feats of strength;
With boastful pride thine early rise beheld
In glory's paths, contented then to fill
A second place, so I might serve with thee;
And say'st thou now, I am no friend of thine?
Well be it so; I am thy kinsman still,
And by that title will I save thy name
From danger of disgrace. Indulge thy will;
I'll lay me down and feign that I am sick,
And yet I shall not feign—I shall not feign,
For thy unkindness makes me sick indeed;
It will be said that Basil tarried here
To save his friend, for so they'll call me still;
Nor will dishonour fall upon thy name
For such a kindly deed.—
(Basil walks up and down in great agitation, then stops, covers his face with his hands, and seems to be overcome. Rosinberg looks at him earnestly.)
Ros.O! blessed heav'n, he weeps!
(Runs up to him, and catches him in his arms.)
O Basil! I have been too hard upon thee.
And is it possible I've mov'd thee thus?
Bas. (in a convulsed broken voice.) I will renounce—I'll leave—
Ros.What says my Basil?
Bas. I'll Mantua leave—I'll leave this seat of bliss—
This lovely woman—tear my heart in twain—
Cast off at once my little span of joy—
Be wretched—miserable—whate'er thou wilt—
Dost thou forgive me?
Ros.O my friend; my friend!
I love thee now more than I ever lov'd thee.
I must be cruel to thee to be kind:
Each pang I see thee feel strikes thro' my heart;
Then spare us both, call up thy noble spirit,
And meet the blow at once—thy troops are ready—
Let us depart, nor lose another hour.
(Basil shrinks from his arms, and looks at him with somewhat of an upbraiding, at the same time a sorrowful look.)
Bas. Nay, put me not to death upon the instant;
I'll see her once again, and then depart.
Ros. See her but once again, and thou art ruin'd!
It must not be—if thou regardest me—
Bas. Well then, it shall not be. Thou hast no mercy!
Ros. Ah! thou wilt bless me all thine after-life
For what now seems now so merciless.
Bas. (sitting down very dejectedly.) Mine after life! what is mine after life?
My day is clos'd! the gloom of night is come!
A hopeless darkness settles o'er my fate.
I've seen the last look of her heav'nly eyes;
I've heard the last sounds of her blessed voice;
I've seen her fair form from my sight depart:
My doom is closed!
Ros. (Hanging over him with pity and affection.)
Alas! my friend!
Bas. In all her lovely grace she disappear'd,
Ah! little thought I never to return.
Ros. Why so desponding? think of warlike glory.
The fields of fair renown are still before thee;
Who would not burn such noble fame to earn?
Bas. What now are arms, or fair renown to me?
Strive for it those who will—and yet a while
Welcome rough war, with all thy scenes of blood,
(Starting from his seat,)
Thy roaring thunders, and thy clashing steel,
Welcome once more! what have I now to do
But play the brave man o'er again, and die?
Isab. to Bas. My princess bids me greet you, noble count.
Bas. (starting.) What dost thou say?
Ros.D—n this untimely message!
Isab. The princess bids me greet you, noble count;
In the cool grove, hard by the southern gate,
She with her train—
Bas.What, she indeed herself?
Isab. Herself, my lord, and she requests to see you.
Bas. Thank heav'n for this; I will be there
Ros. (taking hold of him.) Stay, stay, and do not be a madman still.
Bas. Let go thy hold; what, must I be a brute,
A very brute to please thee? no, by heav'n!
(Breaks from him, and Exit.)
Ros. (striking his forehead.)All lost again! black curses light upon her!
(Turning eagerly to Isab.)
And so thy virtuous mistress sends thee here
To make appointments, hon'rable dame?
Isab. Not so, my lord, you must not call it so;
The court will hunt to-morrow, and Victoria
Would have your noble gen'ral of her train.
Ros. Confound these women, and their artful snares,
Since men will be such fools!
Isab. Yes, grumble at our empire as you will—
Ros. What, boast ye of it? empire do ye call it?
It is your shame! a short liv'd tyranny
That ends at last in hatred and contempt.
Isab. Nay, but some women do so wisely rule,
Their subjects never from the yoke escape.
Ros. Some women do, but they are rarely found.
There is not one in all your paltry court
Hath wit enough for the ungen'rous task.
'Faith! of you all, not one, but brave Albini,
And she disdains it.—Good be with you, lady!
Isab. O! would I could but touch that stubborn heart,
How dearly should he pay for this hour's storm!
A Summer Apartment in the Country, the windows of which look to a forest. Enter Victoria in a hunting dress, followed by Albini and Isabella, speaking as they enter.
Vict. to Alb. And so you will not share our sport to-day?
Alb. My days of frolick should ere this be o'er,
But thou, my charge, hast kept me youthful still.
I should most gladly go, but since the dawn
A heavy sickness hangs upon my heart,
I cannot hunt to-day.
Vict. I'll stay at home and nurse thee, dear Albini.
Alb. No, no, thou shalt not stay.
Vict.Nay, but I will.
I cannot follow to the cheerful horn
Whilst thou art sick at home.
Alb.Not very sick.
Rather than thou shouldst stay, my gentle child,
I'll mount my horse, and go e'en as I am.
Vict. Nay, then I'll go, and soon return again.
Meanwhile, do thou be careful of thyself.
Isab. Hark, hark! the shrill horn calls us to the field,
Your highness hears it?(musick without.)
Vict.Yes, my Isabella,
I hear it, and methinks e'en at the sound
I vault already on my leathern seat,
And feel the fiery steed beneath me shake
His mantled sides, and paw the fretted earth;
Whilst I aloft, with gay equestrian grace,
The low salute of gallant lords return;
Who waiting round with eager watchful eye,
And reined steeds, the happy moment seize.
O! didst thou never hear, my Isabell,
How nobly Basil in the field becomes
His fiery courser's back?
Isab.They say most gracefully.
Alb. What, is the valiant count not yet departed?
Vict. You would not have our gallant Basil go
When I have bade him stay? not so, Albini.
Alb. Fye! reigns that spirit still so strong within thee,
Which vainly covets all men's admiration,
And is to others cause of cruel pain?
O! would thou couldst subdue it!
Vict. My gentle friend, thou shouldst not be severe;
For now in truth I love not admiration
As I was wont to do; in truth I do not!
But yet, this once my woman's heart excuse,
For there is something strange in this man's love,
I never met before, and I must prove it.
Alb. Well, prove it then, be stricter to thyself,
And bid sweet peace of mind a sad farewell.
Vict. O no! that will not be! 'twill peace restore;
For after this, all folly of the kind
Will quite insipid and disgusting be;
And so I shall become a prudent maid,
And passing wise at last. (musick heard without.)
Hark, hark! again!
All good be with you! I'll return ere long.
[Exeunt Victoria and Isabella.
Alb. (solus.) Ay, go, and ev'ry blessing with thee go,
My most tormenting, and most pleasing charge!
Like vapour, from the mountain stream art thou,
Which highly rises on the morning air,
And shifts its fleeting form with ev'ry breeze,
For ever varying, and for ever graceful.
Endearing, gen'rous, bountiful and kind;
Vain, fanciful, and fond of worthless praise;
Courteous and gentle, proud and magnificent;
And yet these adverse qualities in thee,
No striking contrast, nor dissonance make;
For still thy good and amiable gifts
The sober dignity of virtue wear not,
And such a 'witching mien thy follies shew,
They make a very idiot of reproof,
And smile it to disgrace—
What shall I do with thee?—it grieves me much
To hear count Basil is not yet departed.
When from the chace he comes, I'll watch his steps,
And speak to him myself—
O! I could hate her for that poor ambition
Which silly adoration only claims,
But that I well remember, in my youth
I felt the like—I did not feel it long;
I tore it soon, indignant from my breast,
As that which did degrade a noble mind. [Exit.
A very beautiful Grove in the forest. Musick and horns heard afar off, whilst huntsmen and dogs appear passing over the stage, at a great distance. Enter Victoria and Basil, as if just alighted from their horses.
Vict. (speaking to attendants without.) Lead on our horses to the further grove.
And wait us there—
(to Bas.) This spot so pleasing, and so fragrant is,
'Twere sacrilege with horses hoofs to wear
Its velvet turf, where little elfins dance,
And fairies sport beneath the summer's moon:
I love to tread upon it.
Bas. O! I would quit the chariot of a god
For such delightful footing!
Vict.I love this spot.
Bas. It is a spot where one would live and die.
Vict. See, thro' the twisted boughs of those high elms,
The sun-beams on the bright'ning foliage play,
And tinge the scaled bark with ruddy brown.
Is it not beautiful?
Bas.'Tis passing beautiful
To see the sun-beams on the foliage play,
(In a soft voice.)
And tinge the scaled bark with ruddy brown.
Vict. And here I've stood full often, and admir'd
The graceful bending, o'er that shady pool,
Of yon green willow, whose fair sweepy boughs
So kiss their image on the glassy plain,
And bathe their leafy tresses in the stream.
Bas. And I too love to see its drooping boughs
So kiss their image on the glassy plain,
And bathe their leafy tresses in the stream.
Vict. My lord, it is uncivil in you thus
My very words with mock'ry to repeat.
Bas. Nay, pardon me, did I indeed repeat?
I meant it not; but when I hear thee speak,
So sweetly dwells thy voice upon mine ear,
My tongue e'en unawares assumes the tone;
As mothers on their lisping infants gaze,
And catch their broken words. I pri'thee pardon!
Vict. But we must leave this grove, the birds fly low,
This should forbode a storm, and yet o'erhead
The sky, bespread with little downy clouds
Of purest white, would seem to promise peace.
How beautiful those pretty snowy clouds!
Bas. Of a most dazzling brightness!
Vict. Nay, nay, a veil that tempers heaven's brightness,
Of softest, purest white.
Bas. As tho' an angel, in his upward flight,
Had left his mantle floating in mid-air.
Vict. Still most unlike a garment, small and sever'd,
(Turning rounds and perceiving that he is gazing at her.)
Bas. Ah! what should I regard, where should I gaze?
For in that far-shot glance, so keenly wak'd
That sweetly rising smile of admiration,
Far better do I learn how fair heav'n is,
Than if I gaz'd upon the blue serene.
Vict. Remember you have promis'd, gentle count,
No more to vex me with such foolish words.
Bas. Ah! wherefore should my tongue alone be mute?
When every look and every motion tell,
So plainly tell, and will not be forbid,
That I adore thee, love thee, worship thee!
(Victoria looks haughty and displeased.)
Ah! pardon me, I know not what I say.
Ah! frown not thus! I cannot see thee frown.
I'll do whate'er thou wilt, I will be silent;
But O! a reined tongue, and bursting heart,
Are hard at once to bear! will thou forgive me?
Vict. We'll think no more of it; we'll quit this spot;
I do repent me that I led thee here,
But 'twas the fav'rite path of a dear friend.
Here, many a time we wander'd, arm in arm;
We lov'd this grove, and now that he is absent,
I love to haunt it still.(Basil starts.)
Bas. His fav'rite path—a friend—here arm in arm—
(Clasping his hands, and raising them to his head.)
(Drooping his head, and looking distractedly upon the ground.)
Vict. (pretending not to see him.) That little lane, with woodbine all o'ergrown,
He lov'd so well!—it is a fragrant path,
Is it not, count?
Bas.It is a gloomy one!
Vict. I have, my lord, been, wont to think it cheerful.
Bas. I thought your highness meant to leave this spot.
Vict. I do, and by this lane we'll take our way;
For here he often walk'd with saunt'ring pace,
And listen'd to the wood-lark's ev'ning song;
Bas. What, must I on his very footsteps go?
Accursed be the ground on which he's trod!
Vict. And is Count Basil so uncourtly grown,
That he would curse my brother to my face?
Bas. Your brother! gracious god! is it your brother?
That dear, that loving friend of whom you spoke,
Is he indeed your brother?
Vict.He is indeed, my lord.
Bas. Then heav'n bless him! all good angels bless him!
I could weep o'er him now, shed blood for him!
I could—O! What a foolish heart have I!
(Walks up and down with a hurried step, tossing about his arms in transport; then stops short, and runs up to Victoria.)
Vict. It is indeed: what thoughts disturb'd thee so?
Bas. I will not tell thee; foolish thoughts they were.
Heav'n bless your brother!
Vict.Ay, heav'n bless him too!
I have but he; would I had two brave brothers,
And thou wert one of them.
Bas. I would fly from thee to earth's utmost bounds,
Were I thy brother—
And yet, methinks, I would I had a sister.
Vict. And wherefore would ye?
Bas.To place her near thee,
The soft companion of thy hours to prove,
And, when far distant, sometimes talk of me.
Thou couldst not chide a gentle sister's cares.
Perhaps, when rumour from the distant war,
Uncertain tales of dreadful slaughter bore,
Thou'dst see the tear hang on her pale wan cheek.
And kindly say, how does it fare with Basil?
Vict. No more of this—indeed there must no more.
A friend's remembrance I will ever bear thee.
But see where Isabella this way comes,
I had a wish to speak with her alone.
Attend us here, for soon will we return,
And then take horse again.[Exit.
Bas. (looking after her for some time.) See with what graceful steps she moves along,
Her lovely form in ev'ry action lovely.
If but the wind her ruffl'd garment raise,
It twists it into some light pretty fold,
Which adds new grace. Or should some small mishap,
Some tangling branch, her fair attire derange,
What would in others strange, or aukward seem.
But lends to her some wild bewitching charm.
See, yonder does she raise her lovely arm
To pluck the dangling hedge-flow'r as she goes;
And now she turns her head, as tho' she view'd
The distant landscape; now methinks she walks
With doubtful ling'ring steps—will she look back?
Ah no! yon thicket hides her from my sight.
Bless'd are the eyes that may behold her still,
Nor dread that ev'ry look shall be the last!
And yet she said she would remember me.
I will believe it; Ah! I must believe it,
Or be the saddest soul that sees the light!
But lo! a messenger, and from the army;
He brings me tidings; grant they may be good!
Till now I never fear'd what man might utter;
I dread his tale, God grant it may be good!
Mess.Yes, my lord.
Bas.What tidings brings't thou?
Mess. Th' imperial army, under brave Piscaro,
Have beat the enemy near Pavia's walls.
Bas. Ha! have they fought? and is the battle o'er?
Mess. Yes, conquer'd; ta'en the French king prisoner.
Who, like a noble, gallant gentleman,
Fought to the last, nor yielded up his sword
Till, being one amidst surrounding foes,
His arm could do no more.
Bas. What dost thou say? who is made prisoner?
What king did fight so well?
Mess.The king of France;
Bas. Thou saidst—thy words do ring so in mine ears,
I cannot catch their sense—the battle's o'er?
Mess. It is, my lord. Piscaro staid your coming,
But could no longer stay. His troops were bold.
Occasion press'd him, and they bravely fought—
They bravely fought, my lord.
Bas.I hear, I hear thee,
Accurs'd am I, that it should wring my heart
To hear they bravely fought.—
They bravely fought, whilst we lay ling'ring here;
O! what a fated blow to strike me thus!
Perdition! shame! disgrace! a damned blow!
Mess. Ten thousand of the enemy are slain;
We too have lost full many a gallant soul.
I view'd the closing armies from afar;
Their close pick'd ranks in goodly order spread,
Which seem'd alas! when that the fight was o'er,
Like the wild marshes' crop of stately reeds,
Laid with the passing storm. But woe is me!
When to the field I came, what dismal sights!
What waste of life! what heaps of bleeding slain!
Bas. Would I were laid a red, disfigur'd corse,
Amid those heaps! they fought, and we were absent!
(Walks about distractedly, then stops short.)
Who sent thee here?
Mess. Piscaro sent me to inform Count Basil
He needs not now his aid, and gives him leave
To march his tardy troops to distant quarters.
Bas. He says so, does he? well it shall be so.
(Tossing his arms distractedly)
I will to quarters, narrow quarters go,
Where voice of war shall rouse me forth no more,
Mess. I'll follow after him, he is distracted;
And yet he looks so wild I dare not do it.
Enter Victoria as if frightened, followed by Isabella.
Vict. to Isab. Didst thou not mark him as he pass'd thee too?
Isab. I saw him pass, but with such hasty steps, I had no time.
Vict. I met him with a wild disorder'd air,
In furious haste; he stopp'd distractedly,
And gaz'd upon me with a mournful look,
But pass'd away, and spoke not. Who art thou?
(To the Messenger.)
I fear thou art a bearer of bad tidings.
Mess. No, rather good as I should deem it, madam,
Altho' unwelcome tidings to Count Basil.
Our army hath a glorious battle won;
Ten thousand French are slain, their monarch captive.
Vict. to Mess. Ah there it is! he was not in the fight.
Run after him I pray—nay, do not so—
Run to his kinsman, good Count Rosinberg,
And bid him follow him—I pray thee run!
Mess. Nay, lady, by your leave, you seem not well,
I will conduct you hence, and then I'll go.
Vict. No, no, I'm well enough, I'm very well,
Go, hie thee hence, and do thine errand swiftly.
O! what a wretch am I! I am to blame!
I only am to blame!
Isab. Nay, wherefore say so?
What have you done that others would not do?
Vict. What have I done? I've fool'd a noble heart—
I've wreck'd a brave man's honour!
[Exit, leaning upon Isabella.