Sebastian of Portugal/Sebastian of Portugal
SEBASTIAN OF PORTUGAL.
(From an unpublished Dramatic Poem.)
Sebastian, King of Portugal, after his fatal defeat at the battle of Alcazar, in Africa, where he was generally supposed to have perished with his army, returns to Lisbon, with Gonzalez, one of his few surviving followers, and Zamor, a young Arab, who had become attached to him during his wanderings, on the night when his subjects are celebrating the triumphal entry of Philip II. of Spain, who had obtained possession of Portugal, in consequence of the exhausted state to which that country had been reduced.
Scene.—A Street in Lisbon illuminated.
1st Cit.—In sooth, our city wears a goodly mien
With her far-blazing fanes, and festive lamps
Shining from all her marble palaces,
Countless as heaven's fair stars. The humblest lattice
Sends forth its radiance. How the sparkling waves
Fling back the light!
2d Cit.—Aye, 'tis a gallant shew,
And one which serves, like others, to conceal
Things which must not be told.
1st Cit.—What wouldst thou say?
2d Cit.—That which may scarce, in perilous times like these,
Be said in safety. Hast thou look'd within
Those stately palaces? Were they but peopled
With the high race of warlike nobles, once
Their princely lords, think'st thou, good friend, that now
They would be glittering with this hollow pomp,
To greet a conqueror's entrance?
3d Cit.—Thou say'st well.
None but a land, forsaken of its chiefs,
Had so been lost and won.
4th Cit.—The lot is cast;
We have but to yield. Hush! for some stranger comes.
Now, friends, beware!
1st Cit.—Did the king pass this way
At morning, with his train?
2d Cit.—Aye; saw you not
The long and rich procession?
(Sebastian enters, with Gonzalez and Zamor.)
Seb. (to Gon.)—This should be
The night of some high festival. E’en thus
My beautiful city to the skies sent up,
From her illumin'd fanes and towers, a voice
Of gladness, welcoming our first return
From Afric's coast. Speak thou, Gonzalez; ask
The cause of this rejoicing. To my heart
Deep feelings rush, so mingled and so fast,
My voice perchance might tremble.
What festal night is this, that all your streets
Are throng'd, and glittering thus?
1st Cit.—Hast thou not heard
Of the king's entry, in triumphal pomp,
This very morn?
Gon.—The king!—triumphal pomp! Thy words are dark.
Seb.—Speak yet again! mine ears
Ring with strange sounds!–Again!
1st Cit.—I said the king,
Philip of Spain, and now of Portugal,
This morning enter'd, with a conqueror's train,
Our city's royal palace, and for this
We hold our festival.
Seb.—Thou said'st—the king!
His name?—I heard it not.
Cits. Philip of Spain.
Seb.—Philip of Spain!—We slumber, till arous'd
By th' earthquake's bursting shock!—Hath there not fall'n
A sudden darkness?—All things seem to float
Obscurely round me!—Now 'tis past. The streets
Are blazing with strange fire. Go, quench those lamps;
They glare upon me, till my very brain
Grows dizzy, and doth whirl. How dar'd ye thus
Light up your shrines for him?
This is no time, no scene.
Seb.—Philip of Spain!
How name ye this fair land?–Why, is it not
The free, the chivalrous Portugal?—The land,
By the proud ransom of heroic blood,
Won from the Moor of old?–Did that red stream
Sink to the earth, and leave no fiery current
I' the veins of noble men, that so its tide,
Full swelling at the sound of hostile steps,
Might be a kingdom's barrier?
2d Cit.—That high blood
Which should have been our strength, profusely shed
By the rash King Sebastian, bath'd the plain
Of fatal Alcazar. Our monarch's guilt
Hath brought this ruin down.
Seb. Must this be heard,
And borne, and unchastis'd?—Man! dar'st thou stand
Before me face to face, and thus arraign
Zam. (to Sebastian.)—Shall I liſt the sword, my prince,
Against thy foes?
Gon.—Be still, or all is lost.
2d Cit.—I dare speak that which all men think and know.
'Tis to Sebastian, and his waste of life,
And power, and treasure, that we owe these bonds.
3d Cit.—Talk not of bonds!—May our new monarch rule
The weary land in peace!—But who art thou?
Whence cam'st thou, haughty stranger, that these things,
Known to all nations, should be new to thee?
Seb, (wildly.)—I come from regions where the cities lie
In ruins, not in chains!
[Exit Sebastian with Zamor and Gonzalez.
2d Cit.—He wears the mien
Of one that hath commanded, yet his looks
And words were strangely wild.
1st Cit.—Mark'd you his fierce
And haughty gesture, and the flash that broke
From his dark eye, when King Sebastian's name
Became our theme?
2d Cit.—Trust me, there's more in this
Than may be lightly said. These are no times
To breathe men's thoughts i' th' open face of Heaven
And ear of multitudes. They that would speak
Of monarchs and their deeds, should keep within
Their quiet homes. Come, let us hence, and then
We'll commune of this stranger.
Scene.—The Portico of a Palace.
Seb.—Withstand me not. I tell thee that my soul,
With all its passionate energies, is rous'd
Unto that fearful strength which must have way,
E'en like the elements, in their stormy hour
Of mastery o'er creation.
Gon.—But they wait
That hour in silence. Oh! be calm a while;
Thine is not come. My king—
Seb.—I am no king,
While, in the very palace of my sires,
Aye, where mine eyes first drank the glorious light,
Where my soul's thrilling echoes first awoke
To the high sound of earth's immortal names,
The usurper lives and reigns. I am no king,
Until I cast him thence.
Zam.—Shall not thy voice
Be as a trumpet to th' awakening land?
Will not the bright swords flash like sun-bursts forth,
When the brave hear their chief?
Gon.—Peace, Zamor, peace!
Child of the desart, what hast thou to do
With the calm hour of counsel?
A kingdom's destiny should not be the sport
Of passion's reckless winds. There is a time
When men, in very weariness of heart,
And careless desolation, tam'd to yield
By misery, strong as death, will lay their souls
E’en at the conqueror's feet, as nature sinks,
After long torture, into cold, and dull,
And heavy sleep. But comes there not an hour
Of stern atonement?—Aye, the slumberer wakes
In gather'd strength and vengeance!—And the sense
And the remembrance of his agonies
Are in themselves as power, whose fearful path
Is like the path of ocean, when the heavens
Take off its interdict!—Wait thou the hour
Of that high impulse!
Seb.—Is it not the sun,
Whose radiant bursting through th' em battled clouds
Doth make it morn?—The hour of which thou speak'st,
Itself, with all its glory, is the work
Of some commanding nature, which doth bid
The sullen shades disperse!—Away! e'en now
The land's high hearts, the fearless and the true,
Shall know they have a leader!—Is not this
The mansion of mine own, mine earliest friend, Sylveira?
Gon.—Aye, its glittering lamps too well
Illume the stately vestibule, to leave
Our sight a moment's doubt. He ever lov'd
Seb.—His dwelling thus adorn'd
On such a night!—yet will I seek him here.
He must be faithful, and to him the first
My tale shall be reveal'd.—A sudden chill
Falls on my heart—and yet I will not wrong
My friend with vile suspicion!—He hath been
Link'd all too closely with mine inmost soul!
—And what have I to lose?
Gon.—Is their blood nought,
Who, without hope, will follow where thou lead'st,
Ev'n unto death?
Seb.—Was that a brave man's voice?
Warrior and friend! how long, then, hast thou learn'd
To hold thy blood thus dear?
Gon.—Of mine, mine own,
Think'st thou I spoke?—When all is shed for thee,
Thou'lt know me better!
Seb.—(entering the Palace)—For awhile, farewell.[Exit.
Gon.—Thus princes read men's hearts!—Come, follow me,
And if a home is left me still, brave Zamor,
There will I bid thee welcome.
Scene.—A Hall in the Palace.
Syl.—Whence art thou, stranger, and what wouldst thou with me?
There is a fiery wildness in thine eye,
Startling, and almost fearful!
Seb.—From the stern,
And vast, and desolate wilderness, whose lord
Is the fierce lion, and whose gentlest wind
Breathes of the tomb, and whose dark children make
The bow and spear their law; men bear not back
That smilingness of aspect, wont to mask
The secrets of their spirit, 'midst the stir
Of courts and cities!—I have look'd on scenes
Boundless, and strange, and terrible; I have known
Sufferings, which are not in the shadowy scope
Of wild imagination; and those things
Have stamp'd me with their impress. Man of Peace!
Thou look'st on one familiar with th' extremes
Of grandeur and of misery.
Thy name and purpose briefly, for the time
Ill suits these mysteries. I must hence; to-night
I feast the Lords of Spain.
Seb.—Is that a task
For King Sebastian's friend?
That name hath lost its meaning. Will the dead
Rise from their silent dwellings, to upbraid
The living for their mirth?—The grave sets bounds
Unto all human friendship.
Seb.—On the plain
Of Alcazar, full many a stately flower,
The pride and crown of some high house, was laid
Low in the dust of Afric; but of these
Sebastian was not one.
Syl.—I am not skill'd
To deal with men of mystery. Take thou off
The strange dark scrutiny of thine eyes from mine.
What mean'st thou? Speak!
Seb.—Sebastian died not there.
—I read no joy in that cold doubting mien.
Is not thy name—Sylveira?
Be glad!—I tell thee that Sebastian lives!
Think thou on this, he lives!—Should he return,
—For he may yet return—and find the friend
In whom he trusted with such perfect trust
As should be Heaven's alone—mark'st thou my words?
Should he then find this man, not girt and arm'd,
And watching o'er the heritage of his lord,
But, reckless of high fame and loyal faith,
Holding luxurious revels with his foes;
—How would'st thou meet his glance?
Syl.—As I do thine,
Keen though it be, and proud.
Seb.—Why, thou dost quail
Before it, e'en as if the burning eye
Of the broad sun pursued thy shrinking soul
Through all its depths.
Syl.—Away!—He died not there?
He should have died, then, with the chivalry,
And strength, and honour of his kingdom, lost
By his impetuous rashness.
Seb.—This from thee!
—Who hath giv'n power to falsehood, that one gaze,
At its unmask'd and withering mien, should blight
High souls at once?—I wake.—And this from thee!
—There are, whose eyes discern the secret springs
Which lie i' th' desart's bosom, and the gold
And gems of earth's dim caverns, far below
The everlasting hills:—but who hath dar'd
To dream that Heaven's most awful attribute
Invested his mortality, and to boast
That through its inmost folds his glance could read
One heart, one human heart?—Why, then, to love
And trust is but to lend a traitor arms
Of keenest temper, and unerring aim.
Wherewith to pierce our souls!—But thou, beware!
Syl.—If it be so, and thou
Art of his followers still, then bid him seek
Far in the wilds, which gave one sepulchre
To his proud hosts, a kingdom and a home,
For none is left him here.
Seb.—This is to live
An age of wisdom in one hour!—The man
Whose empire, as in scorn, o'erpass'd the bounds
E'en of the infinite deep, whose orient realms
Lay bright beneath the morning, while the clouds
Were brooding in their sunset glory still,
O'er his majestic regions of the west;
This heir of far dominion shall return,
And, in the very city of his birth,
Shall find no home!—Aye, I will tell him this,
And he will answer that the tale is false,
False as a traitor's hollow words of love—
And that the stately dwelling, in whose halls
We commune now, a friend's, a monarch's gift,
Unto the chosen of his heart, Sylveira
Should yield him still a welcome!
Syl.— Fare thee well!
I may not pause to hear thee, for thy words
Are full of danger and of snares, perchance
Laid by some treach'rous foe. But all in vain.
I mock thy wiles.
Seb.—Ha! ha!—The grovelling snake
Doth pride himself in his distorted cunning,
Deeming it wisdom!—Nay, thou goest not thus!
What!—Know’st thou not my spirit was born to hold
Dominion over thine? thou shalt not cast
Those bonds thus lightly from thee. Stand thou there,
And tremble in the presence of thy lord!
Syl.—This is all madness.
'Tis Reason starting from her sleep, to feel,
And see, and know, in all their cold distinctness,
Things which come o'er her, as a sense of pain
O' th' sudden wakes the dreamer. Stay thee yet!
Be still! thou’rt us'd to smile and to obey,
Aye, and to weep. I have seen thy tears flow fast,
As from the fulness of a heart o'ercharg'd
With loyal love. Oh! never, never more
Let smiles or tears be trusted!—When thy king
Went forth on his disastrous enterprize,
Upon thy bed of sickness thou wert laid,
And he stood o'er thee with the look of one
Who leaves a dying brother, and his eyes
Were fill'd with tears like thine—no! not like thine!
His bosom knew no falsehood, and he deem'd
Thine clear and stainless as a warrior's shield,
Wherein high deeds and noble forms alone,
Are brightly imag'd forth.
Syl.—What now avail
Seb.—What!—I have seen thee shrink
As a murderer from the eye of light before me!
I have earn'd, (how dearly and how bitterly
It matters not, but I have earn'd at last.)
Deep knowledge, fearful wisdom!—Now, begone!
Hence to thy guests, and fear not, though arraign'd
E'en of Sebastian's friendship!—Make his scorn,
(For he will scorn thee, as a crouching slave
By all high hearts is scorn'd,) thy right, thy charter,
Unto vile safety! –Let the secret voice,
Whose low upbraidings will not sleep within thee,
Be as a sign, a token of thy claim
To all such guerdons as are shower'd on traitors,
When noble men are crush'd!—And fear thou not!
'Tis but the kingly cedar which the storm
Rends from his mountain-throne; the ignoble shrub,
Grovelling beneath, may live.
Syl.–It is thy part
To tremble for thy life.
Seb.—They that have look'd
Upon a heart like thine, should know too well
The worth of life to tremble!—Such things make
Brave men, and reckless. Aye, and they whom fate
Would trample, should be thus. It is enough.
Thou mayst depart.
Syl.—And thou, if thou dost prize
Thy safety, speed thee hence.
Seb.—(alone.)—And this is he
Who was as mine own soul!—Whose image rose
Shadowing my dreams of glory with the thought,
That on the sick man's weary couch he lay,
Pining to share my battles!
(Chorus of voices heard within, & music.)
Ye winds that sweep
The conquer'd billows of the western deep,
Or wander where the morn,
Midst the deep glow of Indian heavens is born,
Waft o'er bright Isle and glorious worlds the fame
Of the crowned Spaniard's name!
Till in each radiant zone,
Its might the nations own,
And bow to him the vassal-knee,
Whose sceptre shadows realms from sea to sea!
Seb.—Away, away!—this is no place for him
Whose name hath thus resounded, but is now
A spell of desolation![Exit.
SCENE.—The Gardens of a Royal Villa.
FRANCESCO, AN OLD PRIEST.
Fran.—Why should I linger thus? how strange the ties
Whereby familiar things, to which our eye
Hath grown, until the deep sad thoughts of years
Have quench'd its early fire, do link themselves
Around man's heart and brain!—As if they held
A secret and mysterious sympathy
With that invisible world!—Aye, thus we dream;
But Nature is all joy!—She spurns decay
And desolation from her, and doth make
All changes but the ministers of her cup,
Crown'd high with youth and glory. I shall sleep
Beneath the green sward of the stranger's land;
And these fair trees, which I have tended long,
In the vain hope that he might yet return
Who grew beneath their shade, to each soft wind,
As in immortal gladness, will be waving
All their luxuriant foliage!—Idle thoughts!
Yet must our souls put on another being,
Ere we can rise above them!
Seb.—How my steps
Turn to their well-known haunts—and yet I seek
A home no longer, but a solitude,
Where a proud heart, in its dark hour of conflict,
May find free scope to breathe!—Who comes?—'tis he
Who lov'd me once—No! seem'd to love me once,
E'en as a son. I will not trust him now;
He must have chang'd; for are not all men chang'd?
He should be like the rest!—Good Father, say
May one, a stranger in his native land,
Explore these scenes of beauty?
Fran.—Ask not him,
Who, in the fulness of his years, goes forth
An outcast from their shades.
Seb.—What! art thou not
The friend, th' instructor of Sebastian's youth,
Who first didst pour upon his soul the light
Of lofty thought, and unto whom he bade
These groves and bowers a calm asylum yield
Till his return?
Fran.—Alas! how few the hearts
Still true to him who never will return!
No voice of power ariseth from the dust,
Where monarchs sleep forgotten. It is e'en
As thou hast said, and therefore I depart
With my white hairs, to exile, and to seek
A grave on other shores.
Seb.—This shall not be!
Fran. Stranger, it must be. 'Tis their will, who rule
A weary and a wasted land, which asks
But rest, if e'en in death. A land, whose heart,
Once brave and free, is broken!
Seb.—Think'st thou then
A nation's spirit, nurtur'd into power
By the majestic, deep remembrances
Of elder time, can die?—Oh, feeble thought!
Sebastian yet may come, and thou shalt see
The wakening of a people!
Fran.—I have watch'd
For his return, until, with hope deferred,
My heart hath sicken'd. It is past. And now—
Oh! better far that with his kingly sires
He slumber'd, or that on his lonely grave
The desart-serpent bask'd in Afric's noon,
Than that he came to look on faithless friends,
And kingdoms lost for ever!—No! my trust,
Now that the days of evil are upon us,
Is, that he perish'd in the battle-hour,
Bearing his nature's tameless royalty
About him, to the last!
Seb.–So bright a fate
Was not for him.
Fran.—What know'st thou of his lot?
There is a cadence in thy voice, which thrills
My spirit as some well-remember'd strain
Which speaks of other days!—Yet to mine eye
Thine aspect is unknown. Say, wert thou one
Of his devoted host?
Seb.—Oh! ask no more.
I saw the ancient banners of the land
Borne down at Alcazar!
Fran.—But didst thou see
Our monarch fall?
Seb.—Francesco, he hath liv'd
Through years of suffering since that fatal day.
Fran.—Oh God! my noble prince!—how might he bear
Scorn, and disgrace, and long captivity?
And, if he live, with what upbraiding thoughts
Must his high soul be wrung!
Seb.—No more—no more!
Farewell!—Yet say, where goest thou?
Fran.—I am one
To whom all earth is but a solitude,
And whose communion is with rocks and waves,
And the free mountains, and th' eternal stars.
I stand alone, and 'twas my thought to bear
The cross in patient and devoted faith,
Through the dark forests and primeval wilds
Of the great western world.
Seb.—If thou canst find,
In all thy father's land, a shelter still,
Oh! leave it not! for brighter days e'en yet
May dawn upon our mountains.
The stranger, gazing on our sunny heavens,
How man's desponding heart may sink and die,
Beneath the glorious light wherein our vines
Are purpling to luxuriance!—'Tis not now
The time for hope, but patience. Yet if still
Sebastian lives, I will not bid farewell
Unto his ruin'd land.
(Voice heard singing.)
They rais'd no trophy o'er his grave,
They sung no dirge of woe,
And what is left to tell the brave,
That a warrior sleeps below?
A shatter'd lance, a broken shield,
A helm with its white crest torn,
And a blood-stain'd turf on the battle field,
Where the chief to his rest was borne!
He lies not where his fathers sleep,
But who hath a tomb more proud?
For the boundless wilds his record keep,
And a banner is his shroud!
Seb.—What strains are these, so mournful, yet so sweet,
And wild as music of the winds?
That monarchs might but look upon the hearts,
Trampled beneath Ambition's chariot-wheels,
When rushing to renown!—Full well I know
That voice, once joyous as the gladdening sounds
Borne upon spring's young breezes!—But its tones
Now tell a common history. 'Tis the tale
Of a bright spirit, shadow'd with despair,
And wandering in its darkness. She that sings,
Once, with the sunshine of her brow and eye,
Made all things laugh around her, and call'd up
Light to all hearts. But this was transient. Joy,
And Hope, and Beauty, every flower wherewith
Nature has gifted youth, with him she lov'd,
As by one death-blight, perish'd; and her soul
Is now a world of dreams.
Seb.—And who was he
She lov’d so fatally?
Fran.—A noble youth,
To whose high spirit life seem'd but the price
Requir'd for glory. But his generous blood
Won him no fame. He died at Alcazar.
Seb.—(covering his face.) Leave me, old man! for I can bear no more.
Fran.—What have I said, that thus
Thine aspect should be darken'd?
Seb.—Ask me not.
Fran.—Peace to thy spirit, stranger, and farewell![Exit.
Seb.—(alone.) All men upbraid me; E’en the few, that still
Cling to the old allegiance of their hearts,
Do breathe my name in sad half-mingled tones
Of pity and reproach.—What! shall I bow
My spirit unto fate, and own my woes
The just and heaven-sent chastening of my guilt?
What is my guilt?—Why, kings, with tenfold waste
Of life, have march'd to conquest, and no voice
Hath rais'd its cry against them!—Aye, but this
Might be, perchance, because the trumpet notes
Of victory, swelling like the tempest, drown'd
The moan of breaking hearts!—I never paus'd
On such a thought till now!—And hath it been
My crime, my ruin, that I would not pause
In mine uncheck'd career?—I will not think
Nature is round me, and is lovely still,
And will not mock my woes!—Oh, native groves!
Along whose grassy path and light arcades
My childhood bounded!—Founts, which, bright as then,
Are sparkling in the sun, and sending forth
Unchang'd your voices—whose wild cadence blends
With the deep whisper of the laurel-boughs,
And the glad bird-notes, and the wind's low sigh,
Through mine own bowers of citron!—Take ye back
The heart-sick wanderer to your solitudes,
And charm his spirit, if but for one still hour,
With all your mingling summer-melodies,
To brief forgetfulness![Exit Sebastian.