Amyntas, A Tale of the Woods/Act IV

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May the wind bear away with the bad news
That was so spread of thee, all, all thy ills,
Both present and to come. Thou art alive
And well, thank Heaven; and I had thought thee dead;
Fully believed it; with such circumstance
Nerina had described thy misadventure.
Ah, would she had been mute, or others deaf!
Doubtless it was great chance; and she had reason
To think me dead.

But not to tell us so.
Now tell us all thyself of thy escape.

Following a wolf, I found myself immersed
In such a depth of trees, I lost the track.
While I was seeking how I should return,
I saw him again; I knew him by an arrow
Which I had fixed upon him by the ear.
He was with many others, occupied
With some dead animal, I know not what,
Which had been freshly slain. The wounded beast
Knew me, I think; for with his bloody mouth
He issued forth upon me. I expected him,
And shook my lance. Thou knowest I have skill
At games like those, and seldom strike in vain.
This time however, though I seemed to mark
My distance well, I launched the steel for nothing.
Whether 'twas fortune or my fault, I know not,
But in the enemy's stead, it pierced a tree.
More greedy then came he; and I who found him
So close to me, and thought my weapon useless,
Having no other arms, took swift to flight.
I fled: he followed. Hear now the result.
A net which held my hair, got partly loose,
And fluttering to the wind, was caught by a bough.
I felt a something pull me, and retard,
And frightened for my life, would have redoubled
The swiftness of my running; but the bough
Resisted in its turn, and held me fast.
At last I tore away, leaving the veil
And some of my hair with it; and such wings
Fear lent my feet, that he o'ertook me not,
And forth I issued safe. Returning home,
I met with thee, looking all agitation;
And was not less astonished at the sight
Than thou at mine.

Thou art alive indeed.
Alas, that all are not so!

What? Dost grieve?

No: I am pleased to see thee safe: I grieve
Because another's dead.

Dead? Who?


Amyntas? How?
I cannot tell thee how;
Nor yet indeed whether he lives, or not,
But I, myself, firmly believe him dead.

What do I hear? But what dost thou suppose
The reason of his death?

Thine own.

My death?
I do not understand thee.

The report then
Of thy sad end he heard and he believed;
And it has certainly, by this time, driven him
To some most desperate end on his own part.

Nay, thy suspicion will turn out as groundless,
As it has done just now. Every one takes
All possible care of his own life, believe me.

Oh Sylvia, Sylvia, thou hast no conception
Of what love's fierceness in a heart can do;
A heart, at least, of flesh and blood, not stone
As thine is. If thou hadst but known it half,
Thou would'st have loved the being who loved thee
More than the very apples of his eyes,
More than the breath he lived by. I believe it,
For I have seen it. When thou didst betake thee
To flight from him, (oh, fiercer creature thou
Than tygers) when thou shouldst have been
Embracing him for love and gratitude,
I saw him turn his lance upon himself.
It pierced his clothes and skin, and with his blood
Was coloured; nor did he, for all that, slacken,
But would have thrust it desperately in
And pierced the heart which had been treated worse
And wounded more by thee, had I not seized
His arm and hindered him. Alas! Alas!
That shallow wound perhaps was but the exercise
Of his determined and despairing constancy,
And did but shew the way for the fierce steel
To run more freely in.

What dost thou tell me?

Afterwards, when he heard that bitter news,
I saw him swoon with agony; and on coming
To life again, he flung away in fury,
To kill himself; and doubtless, it is done.

Ah me! And thou not follow him! Let us go;
Oh, let us find him! If he would have died
To follow me, he must live now to save me.

I followed him with all the speed I had;
But in his swiftness he soon disappeared;
And I went seeking him through all his haunts,
In vain. Where wouldst thou go, having no trace?

But he will die, unless we find him; die
Alas! by his own hand.

Cruel! and wouldst thou
Snatch from him then the glory of that deed,
To finish it thyself? Wouldst thou dispatch him?
And does it seem an injury done to thee,
That he should die by any hand but thine?
Now, be appeased; for howsoe'er he dies,
He dies for thee: the blow is thine at last.

Alas! thou piercest me to my heart's core.
The grief he gives me now, doubles my bitterness
In thinking upon all that cruelty
Which I called honesty: and I called it right,
But 'twas indeed too hard and rigorous.
I see it now, and suffer for it.

What do I hear? Dost thou take pity,—thou?
Thou feel at heart one touch of tenderness!
And see-what weep! Thou weeping! thou the proud one!
Oh wonder! What then are these tears of thine?
Real! And tears of love!

Not love, but pity.

Pity as surely is love's harbinger,
As lightning is the thunder's.

Thus it is,
When love would steal into a virgin heart,
Where sour-faced honesty would have barred him out,
He takes the habit and the countenance
Of his true servant and sweet usher, Pity,
And so beguiles the simple mistress there,
And gets within.

Nay, what are all these tears,
That flow away so fast? Sylvia, thou'rt silent.
Thou lovest? 'Tis so. Lovest; and in vain.
Oh mighty power of Love! just chastisement
Dost thou send down on this thy unbeliever.
Wretched Amyntas! like the bee art thou
Who pierces as he dies, and leaves his life
Within another's wound. Thy death at last
Has smitten the hard heart, which thou couldst never
Touch when alive. If thou art now a shade,
(As I believe) wandering about thy naked
And poor unburied limbs, behold her tears,
Behold them and rejoice; loving in life,
Beloved in death. If 'twas thy destiny
To be beloved then only, and this cruel one
Would sell her pity at no meaner price,
'Tis paid; and thou hast bought her love with dying.

Dear price to give; useless and shameless one
To take!

Oh! that I were but able with my love
To purchase back his life, or with my life
Itself; if he indeed is dead.

Oh wise
Too late! Oh pity, come at last in vain!



I am so overcome with pity and horror,
That wheresoe'er I turn, I cannot see
Or hear a thing that does not start and shake me.

Who is he
That brings such trouble in his looks and voice?

I bring terrible news.
Amyntas Is dead.

Alas! what says he?

The noblest shepherds of the woods is dead,
He that was such a gentle spirit, so graceful,
And so beloved by all the nymphs and muses;
He in his prime is dead; and what a death!

Tell us, I pray thee, all; that we may weep
His loss with thee,—his loss, and our own loss.

Ah me! why shake I thus, and stand aloof!
I dare not hear! I dare not hear; and must.
Oh my hard heart, my hard and impious heart,
Why dost thou shrink! Come, meet the terrible darts
Which this man carries in his tongue;
And shew them now thy fierceness.—
Shepherd, I come for part of that sad pain
Thou promisest to us assembled here;
It fits me more than thou perhaps mayst think;
And I shall take it from thee as a thing
Most due to me. Now keep thou nothing back.

Nymph, I can well believe thee; for that hapless one
Finished his life in calling on thy name.

Now opens this dread history.

I was standing
In middle of a hill, where I had spread
Some nets of mine; when close to me I saw
Amyntas pass me; looking, not as usual,
But strangely altered and disturbed. I rose,
And making speed came up with him. He stopped,
And said, "Ergastus, there is a great pleasure
Which thou mayst do me: 'tis to come with me
And witness something I am going to do:
But I must have thee first swear solemnly
That thou wilt stand aloof, and by no means
Obstruct me in my work." I, as he wished,
(For who could have foreseen so wild an accident?)
Made fearful adjurations, and invoked
Pallas, Priapus, and Pomona, and Pan,
And midnight Hecate. Then did he resume
His way, and took me to the edge of the hill,
From which in dizzy juttings and rude crags,
Without a path, for never foot could make one,
There drops into the valley a precipice.
We stopped,—I looking down below, and feeling
Such headlong fear in me, that suddenly
I drew me back,—he seeming that small space
To smile and be serene of countenance;
A look, which doubled my security.
He then addressed me thus; "See that thou tell
The nymphs and shepherds what thou shalt behold."
Then looking up, "If I had thus," said he,
"At my command the ravening and the teeth
Of greedy wolves, as I have now the crags,
My death should be like her's who was my life.
My wretched limbs should all be torn and scattered,
As they did tear, alas! that delicate body:
But since they cannot, since the heavens deny
Even this welcome death to my desire,
I must betake me from the world
Another way, which if not what it should be,
Will join my fate to her's, at least more soon.
Sylvia, I follow thee; I come
To bear thee company, if thou wilt not scorn it:
And I should die content,
Could I at heart be certain that my coming
Would trouble thee no longer as 'twas wont,
And that thy scorn was ended with my life.
Sylvia, I follow thee! I come!" So saying,
Down from the height he went
Sheer overhead; and I remained, all ice.

Wretched Amyntas!

Oh my heart!

But why
Did'st thou not stop him? did thy oath restrain thee?

Oh no:—as soon as I discerned his mad
And impious project, I disdained all oaths,
Vain at such times as these, and ran to hold him;
When, as his luckless destiny would have it,
I caught by the scarf of silk, which girt him round,
And which, unable to resist the weight
And force of his wild body, snapped in my hand.

And what became of the unhappy corse?

I know not. I was struck so full of horror,
That I had not the heart to look again,
For fear of seeing him all dashed in pieces.

Now I am stone indeed,
Since this news kills me not.
Ah! if the fancied death
Of her who scorned him so,
Bereft him of his life,
Just reason is it now
That this most certain death
Of him who loved me so,
Should take my life from me.
And if it cannot take me
With sorrow or with steel,
This scarf, this scarf of his,
Which not without a cause
Did follow not the ruin
Of it's lamented lord,
Shall wreak it's destined vengeance
On my most impious cruelty
For his most bitter end.
Unhappy scarf which girdled,
That kind, departed heart,
Be patient for a little
Within this hateful bosom,
Whence thou shalt soon re-issue
To be my pain and punisher.
I should, I should have been
Amyntas's companion
In life; but since I would not,
'Tis thou shalt join me with him
Among the shades infernal.

Unhappy me, take comfort.
'Tis fortune's doing this, and not thy fault.

Oh shepherds, do ye weep?
And are your tears for me?
I do deserve no pity,
For I was used to none.
If ye lament the loss
Of that most perfect heart,
Then is your grief too small
For such a height of sorrow.
And thou, O Daphne, lock
Thy tears up in thy heart, love,
If they are spent for me.
And yet for pity too,
Not of myself, but one
That did deserve it all.
I pray thee let us go, oh! let us go,
And gather up his limbs and bury them.
'Tis this alone restrains me
From dying instant death,
This office will I pay him,
The only one I can
For all the love he bore me.
And though this impious hand
Will stain the sweet religion of the work,
Yet any work it did
Would still be dear to him
Who loved me past all doubt,
And shewed it with his dying.

I will assist thee in the work; but do not
Speak thus of dying afterwards.

'Twas for myself till now
I lived, and for my fierceness.
What now remains of life,
I wish to live for him;
And oh! if not for him,
At least for his unhappy,
And cold, and mangled corse.
So long then, and no more,
Shall I remain on earth,
But finish at one moment
His obsequies, and my own life. Now, Shepherd,
Which is the path that leads into the valley
Where that hill terminates.

The one before thee.
The place itself is but a little way.

I will conduct and guide thee: I know it well.

Shepherds; farewell! Farewell, ye plains; Farewell,
Ye rivers, and ye woods!

She speaks as though
She took a last departure.

That which Death loosens, thou, O Love, dost bind,
Friend thou of peace, as he is friend of war,
Over his triumphs act thou triumpher;
And leading forth two lovely souls well joined,
Openest a face of heaven upon mankind.
So dost thou fit thee for our earthly star.
They wrangle not above. Thou, coming down
Mak'st mild the human spirit, and dost ease
From the only inward hatred, all that own
Thy reign: dost ease a thousand madnesses:
And with thy heavenly touching sendest round
Our smooth and quickened sphere with an eternal sound.