About this text
As it is ACTED at the
Written by Mr. DRYDEN.
To which is prefixt
The LIFE of Cleomenes.
His Armis, illâ quoque tutus in aulâ. Juv. Sat. IV.
Printed for Jacob Tonson, at the Judge's-Head in Chancery-Lane near Fleet-Street. 1692.
Where Compleat SETS of Mr. Dryden's Works, in Four Volumes, are to be Sold. The PLAYS being put in the order they were Written.
PUBLISHED FOR Jacob Tonson
For you, brave Sir, as you have given my hopes
But Air to feed on; Air shall be your Food:
No Bread shall enter these forbidden Doors.
Thin, hungry Diet, I confess; but still
The liker Spartan Fare: Keen Appetites,
And quick Digestion wait on you and yours.
O mix not Innocence and Guilt together:
What Love have they refus'd, or how offended?
Be Just, tho' you are Cruel, or be Kind,
And punish me alone.
Shreeks of Women within.
There Nature works,
Then there I'll stab thee in thy tender part.
What dismal Cries are those?
Nothing, a trifling sum of Misery ,
New added to the foot of thy Account:
Thy Wife is seiz'd by Force and born away;
Farewel, I dare not trust thy Vengeance further.
Running to the Door, he is stopt by Guards with drawn Swords.
Cleora-There stands Death, but no Cleora;
I would find both together.
Enter Cratisiclea, Cleonidas, and Pantheus bloody on his hand.
Oh King of Sparta!
Peace, Mother, Peace.
I have had news from Hell before you.
Cleora's gone to Death. Is there a Door,
A Casement, or a Rift within these Walls?
That can let loose my Body to her rescue?
All clos'd, nothing but Heaven above is open.
Nay, that's clos'd too: The Gods are deaf to Pray'rs!
Hush then; th' irrevocable Doom's gone forth,
And Pray'rs lagg after, but can ne'r o'er-take,
Let us talk forward of our woes to come.
Cleanthes! (Oh could you suspect his Faith?)
'Twas he, that headed those, who forc'd her hence.
A scratch, a feeble Dart,
At distance thrown by an Aegyptian hand.
You heard me not, Cleanthes is-
He was-no more good Mother,
He tore a piece of me away, and still
The void place akes within me: O my Boy,
I have bad news to tell thee.
None so bad,
As that I am a Boy: Cleanthes scorn'd me,
And when I drove a Thrust, home as I could,
To reach his Traytor Heart, He put it by,
And cryed as in derision, Spare the Stripling;
Oh that insulting word: I wou'd have swopp'd
Youth for old Age, and all my Life behind,
To have been then a momentary Man.
Alas! Thy Manhood, like a forward Spring,
Before it comes to bear the promis'd Fruit
Is blighted in the Bud: Never, my Boy,
Canst thou fetch Manhood up, with thy short steps,
While with long strides the Giant stalks before thee.
Am I to dye before I am a Man?
Yes, thou must dye with me, and I with her
Who gave me life: and our poor Infant too within,
Must dye before it knows what dying means.
Three different Dates of Nature one would think;
But Fate has cramm'd us all into one Lease;
And that even now expiring.
Yet we live.
No, even now we dye; Death is within us,
And keeps out Life, for nourishent is Life,
And we have fed our last; Hunger feeds Death.
A lingring Doom, but four days hence the same;
And we can shorten those, turn Days to Hours,
And Hours to Moments: Death is in our Call.
The sooner then the better.
So say I.
While we have spirits left to meet him boldly.
I'le hold my Breath,
And keep my Soul a pris'ner in my Body;
There let it creep and wander in the dark,
Till tir'd to find no outlet, it Retreats
Into my Spartan Heart, and there lies pleas'd:
So, we two are provided. Sir, your choice?
Not this dispatch, for we may dye at leisure.
This Famine has a sharp and meager Face:
'Tis Death in an undress of Skin and Bone:
Where Age and Youth, their Landmark tane away,
Look all one common furrow.
Yet you chuse it,
To please our Foes, that when they view our Skeletons,
And find 'em all alike, they may cry out,
Look how these dull obedient Spartans dy'd,
Just as we wish'd, as we prescrib'd their Death;
And durst not take a nobler, nearer way.
Not so, but that we durst not tempt the Gods,
To break their Images without their leave.
The moment e'r Cassandra came, I had
A Note without a Name, the Hand unknown,
That bad me not despair, but still hope well.
Then dye not yet;
For Heaven has means to free us; if not me,
Yet these and you: I am the hunted Stag,
Whose Life may may ransom yours.
No more of that:
I find your distant drift to die alone:
An unkind Accusation of us all,
As if we durst not die: I'll not survive you!
But hear my Reasons!
Enter Cleora in a black Veil.
Ha! What Shadow's this! This that can glide through Walls!
Or pass its subtle Limbs through Bolts and Bars!
Black too! like what it represents, our Fate.
Too true a Shadow I, and you the Substance.
Lifts up her Veil.
Thus let me grow again to thee,
Too close for Fate to sever.!
Or let Death find me in these dear, dear Arms,
And looking on thee, spare my better part,
And take me willing hence.
What! are you dreaming, Son! with Eyes cast upwards
Like a mad Prophet in an Ecstasie?
Musing on what we saw.
Just such is Death,
With a black Veil, covering a beauteous Face!
Fear'd afar off
By erring Nature: a mistaken Phantom:
A harmless, lambent Fire. She kisses Cold;
But kind, and soft, and sweet, as my Cleora.
Oh could we know,
What Joys she brings; at least, what rest from Grief!
How should we press into her Friendly Arms,
And be pleas'd not to be, or to be happy?
Look! What we have forgot! The Joy to see
Cleora here, has kept us from enquiring,
By what strange means she enter'd.
Small Joy, Heaven knows, to be adopted here,
Into the meager Family of Famine!
The House of Hunger: therefore ask'd I not;
So am I pleased to have her Company,
And so displeas'd to have it but in Death-
I know not how or why, my surly Gaoler,
Hard as his Irons, and insolent as Pow'r,
When put in vulgar Hands, Cleanthes gone,
Put off the Brute; and with a gloomy Smile,
(That show'd a sullen loathness to be kind,)
Skreen'd me within this Veil, then led me forth;
And using to the Guards Cassandra's Name:
Made that my Passport: Every Door slew ope,
T' admit my Entrance; and then clapt behind me,
To barr my going back.
Some new Resolve!
Cassandra plots, and then refines on Malice:
Plays with Revenge: with Rage she snatch'd you hence,
And renders you with Scorn: I thought to show you
How easie 'twas to die, by my Example,
And hansel Fate before you: But thy presence
Has chang'd my Mind, to drag this lingring life,
To share thy Sorrows, and assist thy Weakness.
Come in, my Friends, and let us practise Death,
Stroke the grim Lyon, till he grow familiar.
Cleora! Thou and I, as Lovers should,
Will hand in hand to the dark Mansions go,
Where Life no more can cheat us into Woe;
That sucking in each others latest Breath,
We may transfuse our Souls, and put the change on Death.
The End of the Fourth ACT.
1.2. ACT V.
Enter Cassandra and Sosybius.
ANd what Have you determin'd?
He shall die.
A wholsome Resolution: Have you fix'd
He daily dies, by Hours and Moments:
All vital Nourishment but Air is wanting!
Three rising Days and two descending Nights
Have chang'd the Face of Heav'n and Earth by turns;
But brought no kind Vicissitude to him:
His State is still the same: With hunger pinch'd:
Waiting the slow approaches of his Death;
Which halting onwards, as his life goes back,
Still gains upon his Ground!
But e'er Fate reach him,
The Mercy of the King may interpose:
You have the Signet?
Yes! In your Despite!
Be not displeas'd suppose he shou'd escape?
Suppose he shou'd have Wings? Impossible.
Yet, Keepers have been brib'd: To whom can Ptolomy
Impute that Crime, but you?
He may: But let him if he dares:
Come, Statesman! Do not shuffle in your pace;
You wou'd expose me to the People's Hatred,
By hurrying on this Act of Violence:
You know a little thing provokes the Crowd
Against a Mistress: She's the Publick Mark:
Therefore content your self I will be safe:
Nor shall the Prisoner die a speedier Death,
Than what my Doom decreed: Unless the King
Reverse his Orders, by my Messenger.
May I presume to ask you, whom you sent?
Thy Son, unknown to thee; for so I charg'd him:
And this the promis'd hour of his Return.-Nay wonder not,
I chose him with design: That whatsoe'er
The King ordains, you both shou'd share th' Event:
And stand or fall with me. Ponder on that, and leave me!
What can she mean? She neither kills nor saves
Now tell me, Heart: Now answer for thy self:
What wilt thou do! and what dost thou desire!
His Life? No, he's ungrateful: Or, his Death?
I tremble at that Word. What then? His Love!
His Love! my Heart! What! by Restraint, and Famine?
Are these the means to compass thy Design?
Revenge! My Hands so soft, his Heart so hard,
The blow recoils, and hurts me while I strike!
Like the mad Viper, scourg'd into a Rage, I shoot into my self my fatal Sting.
The Ship is ready, when you please to sail,
And waits but your Command: The Wind stands fair.
Be secret, and attend my farther pleasure-
Gives him a Purse, and exit Mariner.
So; this was time well manag'd: In three Days
To hire a Vessel-Put my Wealth on board:
Send off th' observing Son, and Fool the Father:
See him I will, to sound his last Resolves,
If Love can soften him, or Fear can bow.
If both shou'd fail, th' ungrateful Wretch shall find,
Rage has no Bounds in slighted Woman-kind.
SCENE, A Prison.
NO Food: And this the third arising Sun:
But what have I to do with telling Suns,
And measuring Time? That runs no more for me!
Yet sure the Gods are good: I wou'd think so,
If they wou'd give me leave;
But Virtue in Distress, and Vice in Triumph Make Atheists of Mankind.
What Comfort, Mother?
A Soul, not conscious to it self of Ill,
Undaunted Courage, and a Mastermind:
No Comfort else but Death,
Who like a lazie Master stands aloof,
And leaves his Work to the slow hands of Famine.
All I wou'd ask of Heav'n,
Is, but to die alone; a single Ruine;
But to die o'er and o'er, in each of you,
With my own hunger pinch'd, but pierc'd with yours!
Grieve not for me!
What! not for you, my Mother!
I am strangely tempted to blaspheme the Gods;
For giving me so good, so kind a Parent:
And this is my return, to cause her Death-
Crat. Peace! Your Misfortunes cause it, not your Fault.
What! my Cleora?
I stretch'd my bounds as far as I could go,
To shun the sight of what I cannot help;
A Flow'r withering on the Stalk for want
Of nourishment from Earth and showers from Heaven:
All I can give thee is but Rain of Eyes-
Wiping his Eyes.
Alas! I have not wherewithal to weep:
My eyes grow dim, and stiffen'd up with drought,
Can hardly rowl and walk their feeble round:
Indeed-I am faint.
And so am I.Heaven knows! However
In pity of 'em both, I keep it secret:
Nor shall he see me fall
How does our helpless Infant?
It wants the Breast, its kindly nourishment:
And I have none to give, From these dry Cesterns
Which unsupply'd themselves, can yield no more:
It pull'd and pull'd but now, but nothing came.
At last it drew so hard, that the blood follow'd:
And that Red Milk I found upon its Lips,
Which made me swoon with fear.
Go in and rest thee,
And hush the Child asleep.
Look down ye Gods-
Look, Hercules, thou Author of my Race,
And Jog thy Father Jove, that he may look
On his neglected Work of Humanekind:
Tell him- I do not Curse him: But Devotion
Will cool in after times, if none but good Men suffer.-
What! another increase of Grief?
Why dost thou call me by so kind a name?
[...]! That implies presiding Care,
t [...]o give.Willing himself to want!
[...] thy needs require!
A little Food!
Have you none, Father? One poor Hungry Morsel:
Or give me leave to dieas I desir'd;
For without your consent, Heaven knows, I dare not.
I prithee stay a little: I am loath
To say hard things of Heaven!
But what if Heaven
Will do hard things, must not hard things be said?
Y'have often told me, That the Souls of Kings
Are made above the rest of Humane Race;
Have they not Fortunes fitted for those Souls?
Did ever King die Starv'd?
I know not that:
Yet still be firm in this: The Gods are good,
Tho' thou and I may perish.
Indeed I know not,
That ever I offended Heaven in thought:
I always said my Prayers.
Thou didst thy Duty.
And yet you lost the Battel when I Pray'd.
'Twas in the Fates I should: But hold thee there!
The rest is all unfathomable depth:
This we well know, That if there be a Bliss
Beyond this present Life, 'tis purchas'd here,
And Virtue is its price.
But are you sure
Our Souls shall be Immortal?
Why that Question?
Because I find, that now my Body starves,
My Soul decays: I think not as I did:
My Head goes round: And now you swim before me:
Methinks my Soul is like a Flame, unfed
With Oyl, that dances up and down the Lamp,
But must expire ere long.
I prithee try to hold it while thou canst.
I would obey you,
As I have always done, but I am faint;
And when you please to let me die, I'll thank you.
Thou shalt have Food: I promise thee, thou shalt.
Then you shall promise to have Food for your self too;
For if you have it not, I would refuse to eat:
Nay I would chuse to die, that you might seed on me.
Mark, Heaven, his Filial Love,
And if a Family of such as these
Must perish thus,
your Model is destroy'd
By which you made good Men.
Be chearful, Sir, The Gods have sent us Food.
They try'd me of the longest: But by whom?
Go in and see.
Good Father, do not stay to ask, but go.
Go thouthy Youth calls fiercer than my Age.
But then make haste: and come to take your part:
Hunger may make me impious to eat all,
And leave you last to starve
Sir, will you go?
I know not: I am half seas o'er to Death!
And since I must die once, I wou'd be loth
To make a double work of what's half finish'd;
Unless I could be sure the Gods wou'd still
Renew these Miracles: Who brought this Food?
He's here that can resolve you!
Enter Cleantheswith a Sword in his hand.
How dar'st thou come again within my sight?
Thou artbut 'tis no matter what thou art,
I'll not consider thee so far to think
Thee worth Reproach.- Away, away Egyptian!
That's all the Name that's left Thee.
Such I appear indeed:
Why then for once, that which thou seem'st thou art:
Oh I have been too long away!
Too soon thou art return'd,
To Triumph o'er my Fate.
Forgive me, that I seem'd your Foe.
Forgive me, Heaven, for thinking thee my Friend:
No more; 'tis loss of Time to talk.
Indeed it is,
When hunger calls so loud for Sustenance.
But whether Friend or Foe, 'tis Food I bring.
'Tis Poison; and my Mother, and my Wife,
And my poor famish'd Boy are eating Death:
Thou would'st not have me think that thou repent'st?
Heav'n knows, I do not!
Well said, Man! Go on and be not bashful
To own the Merits of thy Wickedness.
What need has Innocence of a Repentance?
Shuffling again! Prithee be of a piece.
A little steddiness becomes a Villain.
Oh! Friend-for yet I dare to call you so;
Which if I were a Villain; sure I durst not.
Hear meor kill me!
So, by Heav'n, I would,
For thy profaning Friendship's holy Name:
But for thou see'st no Justice hanging here
On this bare side, thou talk'st secure of Vengeance.
Then if you had a Sword, my Death's resolv'd!
Thy Conscience answers thee.
Without more Evidence than bare Surmise;
At most appearance of a Crime unprov'd;
And while unprov'd, uncertain?
Traitor, no more; 'tis fulsome!
Take the Sword
Throws it to him.
I thank thee Draw thy own.
Takes it up.
No-Take that too.
Draws his, and offers it.
Fool-Would'st thou die without Defence?
I would not:
But you forbad me to defend my self,
Then, when you would not hear me!
Can Falshood have a better Argument
Than Force for its Defence? Trust to that Topick,
And bear thee like a Man.
I think, I do.
What kind o' Man is that, who dares not fight?
The Man, who dares not when his Honour calls,
Is what you mean; but what I never was:
For Honour never summons without Reason.
Force is the Law of Brutes. The dumb Creation,
Where Words and Reason want, appeal to Might.
I thought a King, and what you boast, a Spartan,
Might have known this without th' Aegyptian's telling.
Come, Come; Thou dar'st not fight.
By Heav'n, I dare.
But first my Honour must be justify'd,
If you dare be my Judge:
For in this crude and indigested Quarrel,
If I should fall unheard, you kill your Friend,
The Man who lov'd you best, and holds you dearest.
And should you perish in th' unjust Attempt,
The Sword that slew you, shou'd revenge your Death:
For I should soon o'ertake you in the way,
To quit my self before you reach'd the Shades,
And told your Tale to Minos.
Then I must hear: But swear, swear first I charge thee,
That when I have pronounc'd, thou wilt no more
Prolong thy prattle with some new Excuse:
And prithee cut it short because I faint,
And long to kill thee first: Oh, I am going,
A rising Vapour rumbles in my Brains.
I hear my Words far off stand, stand, thou Traytor,
And swim not thus before me' tis too late,
Puts the point upon the ground once or twice, leans on't, and staggers.
And I fall unreveng'd
Offers to run at him, and is falling.
What, ho, Pantheus!
Runs to him, and takes him in his Arms.
The best of Men is dying in my Arms.
And I want pow'r to save him.
Oh Heav'ns! what means this direful Object?
Ask not with unassisting pity; bow him forward;
Rub his numb'd Temples, while I wipe the Sweat
From his cold clammy Face.
His mounting Heart
Bounces against my hands, as if it would
Thrust off his manly Soul.
Wrench ope his mouth,
While I infuse these Sovereign Drops, whose Pow'r
Will soon recal his wander'd sense
He instills somewhat out of a Vial into his Mouth.
And stretches now, and seems t' essay his Limbs.
Where am I?
Standing a while, they support him.
In his Arms, who dy'd with you;
And now you live, revives.
Art thou, Panthaeus?
Believe your Eyes, I am.
Speak then, and truly, (for I trust not him,)
Who brought me back to Life?
Who, but he, who was left single with you,
Who caught you falling in his faithful Arms;
And not alone sufficient to restore you,
Call'd loud for my Assistance:
I found him propping you with trembling Hands;
His Eyes so haggard, I could scarce distinguish
Who was the living Friend, and who the dead.
All this Cleanthes! This, What this Cleanthes?
Yes, your Cleanthes.
Your suspected Friend,
Much wrong'd, but ever faithful!
Art thou sure
I live? Or am I in the Regions of the dead?
And hear the Fables there; my self a Fable?
Go in, and see your chearful Family
Eating his Bread, brought in their last Distress;
And with a good mistaking Piety,
First blessing him, then Heaven!
When I hear this, I have no need of Food:
I am restor'd without it.
Then, now hear me,
How I was forc'd into this seeming Falshood,
To save my self, the only means remaining
To save the Man I lov'd beyond my self;
And gain a needful Credit with Cassandra:
And yet even then deceiv'd, and sent far off
For three long Days, unknowing of your wants,
Not thinking she, who lov'd, could use you thus. By Famishment to-
O no more! no more!
For now I understand e'er thou can'st speak it half:
To thee I ow'd the seizing of my Sword,
Lest I should fall by odds-My Wife's return,
All, all to theeAnd thou art more than all:
Can'st thou forgive me? Can'st thou, my Cleanthes?
Can I deserve thus to grow here once more?
Let me embrace my self quite into thee.
Come, come as fiercely as thou wilt---I meet thee---
I close within thee, and am thou again.
Why, this is as it should be.
I could not thus have taken to the Death
Anothers Falshood, but thine, only thine:
For infinitely, infinitely loving,
'Twas a wide gap thou mad'st within my Bosom,
And as my Soul rent from me.
But thy Hunger!
This violent Transport of my Reconcilement,
Makes me forget thy Wants When I embrac'd thee
Thy spungy Body dwindled in my Arms,
And like a Ghost fled from me.
I could eat
Now my first Appetite of Love is serv'd;
And that was much the keenest: Let us in;
For Life looks lovely now, and worth preserving.
Not that way, Friend
It leads you to the Women, and the Boy.
And why must I avoid those tender Blessings?
Even such, because they are, you must avoid them.
For I must tell you, Friend, you have but time
To snatch a hasty Morsel, and away:
Nothing of Manhood must be clogg'd or soften'd
With Womanish Sighs and Tears, and kind Adieu's!
And those ill-tim'd Remorses of good Nature,
When your whole Soul is needful.
You tell us Wonders!
At the King's Return,
Which daily we expect, your Death's resolv'd:
This hour's your own! Take it, and tempt your Fortune;
Some few brave Friends I hope to add;
If not, all Aegypt's number'd in my self.
I am all on Fire; now for a lucky pull
At Fate's last Lottery:
I long to see the Colour, white or black;
That's the God's Work: And if I fall their shame,
Let 'em ne'er think of making Heroes more,
If Cowards must prevail.
The fewer Hands,
The fewer Partners in the share of Honour.
Come, my Pantheus: Lead, my best Cleanthes!
We three to all the World.
Magas,and Liberty, let be the Word:
Magas is lov'd, and Liberty desir'd.
A short Refection waits at the Lieutenant's,
That honest Friend, who sent you back your Wife;
We'll drink a Bowl of Wine, and pour the rest,
Not to the Dog Anubis; but to Jove,
The Freer and Avenger.
Enter Cratisiclaea, Cleora, Cleonidas.
Gone-and without taking leave!
He bated me the Forms, and you the Fondness.
Pantheus too, and he who brought the Food,
The brave Aegyptian, vanish'd all together.
Oh, my fore-boding Soul! he's gone to Death!
And that Cleanthes, whom thou call'st the Brave,
Has basely train'd him out to his Destruction!
Suspect him not: When Fate was in his power,
And by a Method so secure as Famine;
To save us then, shows he had little need
To trick my Son to Death:
I have a better prospect of th' Event.
Dear Mother! Comfort me and tell your Thoughts;
For I see nothing but a gathering Tempest,
Horror on Horror to the end of Heaven!
No, no; you are not of a Soul to bear
The mighty Good and Ill that meet mid-way,
As from two Goals; and which comes first upon us,
Fate only knows.
Then speak to me; for I can stand the Shock,
Like a young Plant that fastens in a Storm,
And deeper drives the Root.
Thy Soul's too strong; thy Body yet too weak
To bear the Crush: Be still, and wait thy Doom.
A Cry within: Liberty, Liberty; Magas, Magas; To Arms for Magas, and for Liberty.
What noble sound was that? So smart and vigorous?
A Soul in every Word.
Why that was it,
I thought, was doing; but I durst not tell,
Till now it shows it self.
The Works begun, my Boy; the Works begun:
There was thy Father in that Warlike Shout,
Stemming the Tide of Aegypt.
O comfort me, my Husband's Mother; say,
My Lord may live and conquer.
But still make sure of Death: Trust we to that,
As to our last Reserve.
Alas, I dare not die.
Come, come, you dare:
Do not belie your Courage.
Heaven help me, I have none.
Then dare you be a Slave to base Aegyptians?
For that must be, if you outlive your Husband.
I think, I durst, to save my self from Death.
Then, as a Slave, you durst be ravish'd too?
The Gods forbid.
The Gods cannot forbid it
By any way but Death.
Then I dare die.
I told you so: You did not know your Vertue.
Poor trembling thing; I'll warm thee in my Bosom,
And make thee take Death kindly.
Another Shout within: Liberty and Magas.