Слике страница
PDF
ePub

Lie thus, even to a few dry ashes changed,

Cor. Come, lead me, father, to the holy fount, Are now exalted spirits, holding life

If I in humble penitence may be With blessed powers, and agencies, and all From worldly vileness clear'd. Who have on earth a virtuous part fulfill'd ?

Fath. I gladly will, my son. The spirit of grace The dear redeem'd of Godlike love, again

Is dealing with thy spirit: be received, To their primeval destiny restored ?

A ransom'd penitent, to the high fellowship It is a generous, powerful, noble faith.

Of all the good and bless'd in earth and heaven! Syl. Did I not tell thee, as we pass'd a.ong,

Enter a CONVERT. It well became a Roman and a soldier ? Fath. Nay, worthy Sylvius, somewhat more of Whence comest thou, Fearon? Why wert thou meekness

prevented And less of martial ardour were becoming

From joining in our last respectful homage In those, whose humble Lord stretch'd forth his To those, who have so nobly for the truth hand,

Laid down their lives? His saving hand, to e'en the meanest slave

Con. I have been watching near the grated dunWho bends beneath an earthly master's rod,

geon This faith is meet for all of human kind.

Where Ethocles, the Grecian, is immured. Cor. Forgive him, father : see, he stands re

Fath. Thou say'st not so! A heavier loss than proved ;

this, His heart is meek, though ardent;

If they have seized on him, the righteous cause It is, indeed, a faith for all mankind.

Could not have suffer'd. Art thou sure of it? Fath. We feel it such, my son, press'd as we are ;

We had not heard of his return from Syria. On every side beset with threatening terrors.

Con. It is too true: he landed ten days since Look on these ghastly walls, these shapeless pillars, On the Brundusian coast, and as he enter'd These heaps of human bones,—this court of death; The gates of Rome, was seized and dragg'd to E’en here, as in a temple, we adore

prison. The Lord of life, and sing our song of hope,

Fath. And we in utter ignorance of this ! That death has lost his sting, the grave his triumph.

Con. He travell’d late and unaccompanied, Cor. O make me then the partner of your hopes ! So this was done at nightfall and conceal’d. (Taking the hand of Sylvius, and then of several But see his writing, given me by a guard, other Christians.)

Who has for pity's sake betray'd his trust : Brave men! high destined souls ! immortal beings ! It is address'd to thee. (Giving him a paper.) The blessed faith and sense of what we are

Fath. (after reading it.) Alas, alas : it is a brief Comes on my heart, like streams of beamy light

account Pour'd from some opening cloud. O to conceive

Of his successful labours in the East; What lies beyond the dim, dividing veil,

For with his excellent gifts of eloquence, Of regions bright, of blest and glorious being ! Learning, and prudence, he has made more converts

Fath. Ay, when it is withdrawn, we shall behold Than all our zealous brotherhood besides, What heart hath ne'er conceiver, nor tongue could What can we do? He will be sacrificed : utter.

The church in him must bleed, if God so wills. Cor. When but a boy, I've gazed upon the sky, It is a dreadful blow. With all its sparks of light, as a grand cope

Cor. (to the Convert.) I pray thee, in what prison For the benighted world. But now my fancy

is he kept? Will greet each twinkling star, as the bright lamp Con. In Sylla's tower, that dwelling of despair. Of some fair angel on his guardian watch.

Cor, Guarded by Romans ? And think ye not, that from their lofty stations,

Con.

Yes; and strongly guarded. Our future glorious home, our Father's house, Cor. Yet, he shall be released, May lie within the vast and boundless ken

Fath. (to Cordenius.) Beware, my son, of rash, Of such seraphic powers ?

imprudent zeal : Fath. Thy fancy soars on wide and buoyant | The truth hath suffer'd much from this ; beware ; wings;

Risk not thyself: thy life is also precious. Speak on, my son, I would not check thy ardour. Cor. My whole of life is precious; but this sbred,

Cor. This solid earth is press'd beneath our feet, This earthly portion of it, what is that, But as a step from which to take our flight; But as it is employ'd in holy acts ? What boots it then, if rough or smooth it be, Am I Christ's soldier at a poorer rate Serving its end ?-Come, noble Sylvius !

Than I have served an earthly master? No; We've been companions in the broil of battle, I feel within my glowing breast a power Now be we fellow soldiers in that warfare Which says I am commission'd for this service. Which best becomes the brave.

Give me thy blessing—thy baptismal blessing, Syl. Cordenius Maro, we shall be companions And then God's spirit guide me! Serving God, When this wide earth with all its fields of blood, I will not count the cost but to discharge it. Where war bath raged, and all its towers of Fath. His will direct thee then, my generous

strength Which have begirded been with iron hosts, His blessing be upon thee !-- Lead him, Sylvius, Are shrunk to nothing, and the flaming sun To the blest fount, where from his former sins Is in his course extinguish'd.

He shall by heavenly grace be purified. [EXEUNT.

son!

An ardent, strange desire, though mix'd with fear. SCENE II.-THE GARDEN OF SULPICIUS. Nay, do not smile, my father : such fair sights Enter SULPICIUS, and Portia, with flowers in her hand.

Were seen-were often seen in ancient days;

The poets tell us so.
Por. Was it not well to rise with early morn But look, the Indian roses I have foster'a
And pay my homage to sweet Flora? Never Are in full bloom; and I must gather them!
Were flowers by midday cull'd so fair, so fragrant,

[Exrr eagerly. With blending streaky tints, so fresh and bright. Sul. (alone.) Go, gentle creature, thou art careSee ; twinkling dew-drops lurk in every bell,

less yet: And on the fibred leaves stray far apart,

Ah ! could'st thou so remain, and still with me Like little rounded gems of silver sheen,

Be as in years gone by !It may not be; Whilst curling tendrils grasp with vigorous hold Nor should I wish it : all things have their season : The stem that bears them ! All looks young and She may not now remain an old man's treasure. fresh.

With all her woman's beauty grown to blossom. The very spider through his circled cage

Enter ORCERES.
Of wiry woof, amongst the buds suspended,
Scarce seems a loathly thing, but like the small The Parthian prince at such an early hour ?
Imprison'd bird of some capricious nymph.

Orc. And who considers hours, whose heart is Is it not so, my father?

bent Sul. Yes, mom and youth and freshness sweetly On what concerns a lover and a friend ? join,

Where is thy daughter? And are the emblems of dear changeful days. Sul. Within yon flowery thicket, blithe and By night those beauteous things

careless ; Por.

And what of night? For though she loves, 'tis with sweet, maiden fancy, Why do you check your words ? You are not sad? Which, not impatient, looks in cheering hope Sul. No; Portia, only angry with myself

To future years. For crossing thy gay stream of youthful thoughts Orc.

Ay, 'tis a shelter'd passion, With those of sullen age. Away with them! A cradled love, by admiration foster'd : What if those bright-leaved flowers, 80 soft and A showy, toward nurse for babe so bashful. silken,

Thus in the shell athwart whose snowy lining Are gathered into dank and wrinkled folds Each changeful tint of the bright rainbow plays, When evening chills them, or upon the earth A little pearl is found, in secret value With broken stems and buds torn and dispersed, Surpassing all the rest. Lie prostrate, of fair form and fragrance rest

Sul.

But say'st thou nothing When midnight winds pass o'er them; be it so! Of what I wish to hear? What of Cordenius? All things but have their term.

Orc. By my good war-bow and its barbed shafts, In truth, my child, I'm glad that I indulged thee By the best war-horse archer e'er bestrode ! By coming forth at such an early hour

I'm still in ignorance: I have not seen him. To pay thy worship to so sweet a goddess,

Sul. Thou hast not seen him! this is very Upon her yearly feast.

strange. Por. I thank you, father ! On her feast, 'tis said, Orc. So it indeed appears.—My wayward friend That she, from mortal eye conceald, vouchsafes Has from his home been absent. Yesterday Her presence in such sweet and flowery spots : There and elsewhere I sought, but found him not. And where due offerings on her shrine are laid, This morning by the dawn again I sought him, Blesses all seeds and shoots, and things of promise. Thinking to find him surely, and alone ;

Su. How many places in one little day But his domestics, much amazed, have told me She needs must visit then!

He is not yet return'd. Por. But she moves swift as thought. The hasty

Sul. Hush! through yon thicket I perceive a zephyr That stirr'd each slender leaf, now as we enterid,

Orc. Some thief or spy. And made a sudden sound, by stillness follow'd,

Sul.

Let us withdraw a while, Might be the rustling of her passing robe.

And mark his motions ; he observes us not.
Sul. A pleasing fancy, Portia, for the moment,
Yet wild as pleasing.

Enter CORDENIUS from a thicket in the back ground. Por.

Wherefore call it wild? Cor. (after looking round him with delight.) Full many a time I've listen'd when alone

Sweet light of day, fair sky, and verdant In such fair spots as this, and thought I heard

earth, Sweet mingled voices uttering varied tones Enrich'd with every beauteous herb and flower, Of question and reply, pass on the wind,

And stately trees, that spread their boughs like And heard soft steps upon the ground; and then

tents The notion of bright Venus or Diana,

For shade and shelter, how I hail ye now! Or goddess nymphs, would come so vividly Ye are his works, who made such fair abodes Into my mind, that I am almost certain

For happy innocence, yet, in the wreck Their radiant forms were near me, though conceal'a of foul perversion, has not cast us off. By subtle drapery of the ambient air.

(Stooping to look at the flowers.) And 0, how I have long'd to look upon them; Ye little painted things, whose varied hues

man.

song!

Charm, even to wonderment; that mighty hand That thou wilt give me Portia—thy dear Portia ?
Which dies the mountain's peak with rosy tints My fancy catches wildly at thy words.
Sent from the rising sun, and to the barb’d, Sul. And truly too, Cordenius. She is thine,
Destructive lightning gives its ruddy gleam, If thou wilt promise me to love her truly.
Grand and terrific, thus adorns even you !

Cor. (Eagerly clasping the knees, and then There is a father's full, unstinted love

kissing the hands of Sulpicius.) Thanks, Display'd o’er all, and thus on all I gaze

thanks !—thanks from my swoll'n, o'erWith the keen thrill of new-waked ecstasy.

flowing heart, What voice is that so near me and so sweet? Which has no words.-Friend, father, Portia's (Portia without, singing some notes of prelude,

father! and then a Song.)

The thought creates in me such sudden joy

I am bewilder'd with it.
SONG.

Sul.

Calm thy spirits.The lady in her early bower

Thou shouldst in meeter form have known it
Is blest as bee in morning flower;

sooner,
The lady's eye is flashing bright,
Like water in the morning light;

Had not the execution of those Christians-
The lady's song is sweet and loud,

(Pests of the earth, whom on one burning pile, Like skylark o'er the morning cloud;

With all their kind, I would most gladly punish) The lady's smiles are smiles that pass

Till now prevented me. Thy friend, OrceresLike morning's breath o'er wavy grass.

Thou owest him thanks—plead for thee powerfully, She thinks of one, whose harness'd car

And had my leave. But dost thou listen to me?
In triumph comes from distant war;

Thy face wears many colours, and big drops
She thinks of one, whose martial state

Burst from thy brow, whilst thy contracted lips
Will darken Rome's imperial gate ;
She thinks of one, with laurel crown'd,

Quiver, like one in pain.
Who shall with sweeter wreaths be bound.

Orc. What sudden illness racks thee?
Voice, eye, and smiles, in mingled play,

Cor. I may not tell you now: let me depart.
The lady's happy thoughts betray.

Sul. (holding him.) Thou art my promised son; Cor. Her voice indeed, and this my favourite To know whate'er concerns thee,-pain or pleasure.

I have a right

Cor. And so thou hast, and I may not deceive It is that gentle creature, my sweet Portia.

thee. I call her mine, because she is the image Which hath possess'd my fancy. Such vain

Take, take, Sulpicius.-0 such withering words !

The sinking, sickening heart and parched mouth! thoughts

I cannot utter them.
Must now give place. I will not linger here.
This is the garden of Sulpicius ;

Sul. Why in this agony of perturbation?
How have I miss'd my path? She sings again.

Nay, strive not now to speak.
Cor.

I must, I must
(Sings without, as before.) Take back thy proffer'd gift; all earth could
She wanders fitfully from lay to lay,
But all of them some air that I have praised

give ;

That which it cannot give I must retain. In happy hours gone by.

Sul. What words are these? If it were possible, SONG.

I could believe thee touch'd with sorcery, The kind heart speaks with words so kindly sweet,

The cursed art of those vile Nazarenes. That kindred hearts the catching tones repeat; Where hast thou past the night? their haunts are And love, therewith his soft sigh gently blending, Makes pleasing harmony. Thus softly sending Its passing cheer across the stilly main,

Orc. Nay, nay; repress thine anger; noble Maro Whilst in the sounding water dips the oar,

May not be question'd thus. And glad response bursts from the nearing shore,

Sul. He may, and shall. And yet I will not Comes to our ears the home-bound seamen's strain,

urge him, Who from the lofty deck, hail their own land again. If he, with hand press'd on his breast, will say,

Cor. O gentle, sweet, and cheerful! form'd to be That he detests those hateful Nazarenes. Whate'er my heart could prize of treasured love! Cor. No ; though my life, and what is dearer far Dear as thou art, I will not linger here.

My Portia's love, depended on the words,

I would not, and I durst not utter them. Re-enter SULPICIUS and ORCERES, breaking out upon Sul. I see it well : thou art insnared and blinded

him, and Orceres catching hold of his robe as he By their enchantments. Demoniac power
is going off.

Will drag thee to thy ruin. Cast it off ;
Orc. Ha ! noble Maro, to a coward turn'd, Defy it. Say thou wilt forbear all intercourse
Shunning a spot of danger!

With this detested sect. Art thou a madman?
Sul. Stay, Cordenius.

Cor. If I am mad, that which possesses me
The fellest foe thou shalt contend with here, Outvalues all philosophers e’er taught,
Is her thou call'st so gentle. As for me,

Or poets e'er imagined.-Listen to me.
I do not offer thee this hand more freely

Call ye these Christians vile, because they suffer Than I will grant all that may make thee happy, All nature shrinks from, rather than deny If Portia has that power.

What seems to them the truth? Call ye them sorCor. And dost thou mean, in very earnest mean,

cerers,

near

Because their words impart such high conceptions Sul. I will not betray him.
Of power creative and parental love,

Por. Then all may yet be well ; for our great In one great Being join'd, as makes the heart

gods, Bound with ennobling thoughts ? Call ye them Whom Cæsar and his subject nations worship, curst

Will not abandon Rome's best, bravest soldier Who daily live in steady strong assurance To power demoniac. That can never be Of endless blessedness ? O, listen to me! If they indeed regard us.

Orc. Were he in Parthia, our great god, the sun, Re-enter Portia, bursting from a thicket close to them.

Or rather he who in that st resides, Por. O, listen to him, father!

Would not permit his power to be so thwarted, Sul. Let go my robe, fond creature ! Listen to For all the demonry that e’er exerted him!

Its baleful influence on wretched men. The song of syrens were less fatal. Charms Beshrew me! for a thought gleams through my Of dire delusion, luring on to ruin,

brain, Are mingled with the words that speak their faith ; It is this God, perhaps, with some new name, They, who once hear them, futter round destruction which these bewilder'd Nazarenes adore. With giddy fascination, like the moth,

Sul. With impious rites, most strange and horriWhich, shorn of half its form, all scorch'd and

ble. shrivella,

Orc. If he, my friend, in impious rites hath join'd, Still to the torch returns. I will not listen ; Demons, indeed, have o'er the soul of man No, Portia, nor shalt thou.

A power to change its nature. Ay, Sulpicius ; Por. 0, say not so !

And thou and I may, ere a day shall pass, For if you listen to him, you may save him, Be very Nazarenes. We are in ignorance ; And win him from his errors.

We shoot our arrow in the dark, and cry, Sul. Vain hope ! vain hope ! What is man’s | It is to wound a foe.' Come, gentle Portia ; natural reason

Be not so sad; the man thou lovest is virtuous, Opposed to demon subtlety ? Cordenius! And brave, and loves thee well; why then despair ? Cordenius Maro! I adjure thee, go !

Por. Alas! I know he is brave and virtuous, Leave me ; why wouldst thou pull destruction on Therefore, I do despair. me ?

Orc.

In Nero's court, indeed, On one who loved thee so, that though possess'd Such men are ever on the brink of danger, Of but one precious pearl, most dearly prized, But wouldst thou have him other than he is ? Prized more than life, yet would have given it to Por. O no! I would not; that were base and thee.

sordid; I needs must weep: e’en for thyself I weep. Yet shed I tears, e'en like a wayward child Cor. Weep not, my kind Sulpicius ! I will leave Who weeps for that which cannot be attain'd,-thee,

Virtue, and constancy, and safety join'd. Albeit the pearl thou wouldst bestow upon me I pray thee pardon me, for I am wretched, Is, in my estimation, dearer far

And that doth make me foolish and perverse. Than life, or power, or fame, or earthly thing.

[EXEUNT. When these fierce times are past, thou wilt, per

haps, Think of me with regard, but not with pity,

ACT III. How fell soe'er my earthly end hath been,

SCENE I.-BEFORE THE GATE OF NERO'S PALACE : For I shall then be blest. And thou, dear Portia,

GUARDS WITH THEIR OFFICERS, DISCOVERED ON Wilt thou remember me? That thought, alas ! Dissolves my soul in weakness.

Enter to them another OFFICER, speaking as he enters to 0, to be spared, if it were possible,

the SOLDIERS. This stroke of agony. Is it not possible, That I might yet Almighty God forgive me !

First Offi. Strike up some sacred strain of Roman

triumph; Weak thoughts will lurk in the devoted heart,

The Pontiff comes to meet the summond counci). But not be cherish'd there. I may not offer

Omit not this respect, else he will deem Aught short of all to thee.

We are of those who love the Nazarenes. Farewell, farewell ! sweet Portia, fare thee well!

Sing loud and clearly. (Orceres catches hold of him to prevent his going.) Retain me not: I am a Parthian now,

Enter PONTIFF attended. My strength is in retreat.

[Exit.

SACRED HYMN BY THE SOLDIERS. Por. That noble mind! and must it then be

That chief, who bends to Jove the suppliant knee, ruin'd?

Shall firm in power and high in honour be ; O save him, save him, father ! Brave Orceres,

And who to Mars a soldier's homage yields, Wilt thou not save thy friend, the noble Maro? Shall la:ırell’d glory reap in bloody fields; Orc. We will, sweet maid, if it be possible.

Who vine-crown'd Bacchus, bounteous lord, adores, We'll keep his faith a secret in our breasts ;

Shall gather still, unscath’d, his vintage stores;

Who to fair Venus liberal offering gives, And he may yet, if not by circumstances

Enrich'd with love, and sweet affection lives. Provoked to speak, conceal it from the world. Then, be your praises still our sacred theme, Por. And you, my father ?

O Venus, Bacchus, Mars, and Jove supreme !

DUTY.

Pon. I thank ye, soldiers ! Rome, indeed, hath

Enter ORCERES, followed by SULPICIUS. triurnphia, Bless'd in the high protection of her gods,

The Parthian prince, who will inform us truly. The sovereign warrior nation of the world ; Orceres, is thy friend Cordenius coming ? And, favour'd by great Jove and mighty Mars, I have commanded him, and at this hour, So may she triumph still, nor meanly stoop

To bring his guarded prisoner to the palace, To worship strange and meaner deities,

Here to remain till the appointed time. Adverse to warlike glory. [Exit, with his train. Orc. I know not; nor have I beheld Cordenius First Offi. The Pontiff seems disturb’d, his brow Since yesterday ; when, at an early hour, is lowering.

Sulpicius and myself met him by chance : Second Off. Reproof and caution, mingled with But for the prisoner, he is at hand, his thanks,

E'en at the palace gate ; for as we enter'd Though utter'd graciously.

We saw him there, well circled round with guards, First Offi.

He is offended, Though in the martial throng we saw not Maro. Because of late so many valiant soldiers

Nero. (To the Pontiff.) Said I not so? Have proselytes become to this new worship; (To an Officer.) Command them instantly A worship too, as he insinuates,

To bring this wordy Grecian to our presence. Unsuited to the brave.

(Exit Officer. Third Offi. Ay, ay! the sacred chickens are in Sulpicius, thou hast known this Ethocles, danger.

Is he a madman or ambitious knave, Second Offi. Sylvius is suspected, as I hear. Who sought on human foll to erect

First Offi. Hush ! let us to our duty ; it is time A kind of fancied greatness for himself? To change the inner guard.

Sul. I know not which, great Nero. [Exeunt with music, into the gate of the palace.

Nero. And didst thou not advise me earnestly

To rid the state of such a pestilence ? SCENE II.-A COUNCIL CHAMBER IN THE PALACE, Sul. And still advise thee, Nero; for this Greek

NERO WITH HIS COUNSELLORS DISCOVERED; NERO Is dangerous above all, who, with their lives, IN THE ACT OF SPEAKING.

Have yet paid forfeit for their strange belief. Nero. Yes, Servius ; formerly we have admitted, They come : the prisoner in foreign garb As minor powers, amongst the ancient gods So closely wrapp'd, I scarcely see his face. Of high imperial Rome, the foreign deities Of friendly nations; but these Nazarenes

Enter PRISONER, atlended. Scorn such association, proudly claiming

Pon. If it in truth be he. For that which is the object of their faith,

Nero. (To the Pontiff.) Dost thou still doubt ? Sole, undivided homage: and our altars,

(To the Prisoner.) Stand forth, audacious rebel, to Our stately temples, the majestic forms Of Mars, Apollo, thundering Jove himself, Dost thou still brave it, false and subtle spirit ? By sculptor's art divine, so nobly wrought,

Cor. (throwing off his Grecian cloak, and Are held by these mad zealots in contempt.

advancing to Nero.) I am not false, AuExamine, sayest thou shall imperial Cæsar

gustus, but if subtle,
Deign to examine what withstands his power? Add to my punishment what shall be deem'd
I marvel at thy folly, Servius Sillus.

Meet retribution. I have truly sworn,
Enter an OFFICER.

Or to produce thy thrall, or, therein failing,
Ofi. The Pontiff, mighty Cæsar, waits without,

To give my life for his ; and here I stand. And craves admittance.

Ethocles, by a higher power than thine, Nero, Let him be admitted.

Is yet reserved for great and blessed ends,

Take thou the forfeit; I have kept my oath.
Enter PONTIFF.

Nero. I am amazed beyond the power of utterPontiff, thy visage, if I read it well,

ance ! Says, that some weighty matter brings thee here: Grows it to such a pitch that Rome's brave captains Thou hast our leave to speak.

Are by this wizard sorcery so charm'd ? Pon. Imperial Nero, didst thou not condemn Then it is time, good sooth ! that sweeping venThat eloquent, but pestilential Nazarene,

geance The Grecian Ethocles, whose specious words Should rid the earth of every tainted thing Wrap in delusion all who listen to him,

Which that curst sect hath touch'd. Cordenius Spreading his baleful errors o'er the world ?

Maro, Nero. Did I condemn him! E'en this very day, Thou who hast fought our battles, graced our state, He in the amphitheatre meets his doom ;

And borne a noble Roman's honour'd name, Having, I trust, no power of words to charm What, О what power could tempt thee to this The enchafed lion, or the famish'd wolf.

shame? Pon. I am inform'd, and I believe it true

Cor. I have been tempted by that mighty Power, That this bold malefactor is enlarged.

Who gave to Rome her greatness, to the earth Nero. It is impossible ! Cordenius Maro Form and existence ; yea, and to the soul Is sworn to guard the prisoner; or, failing, Of living, active man, sense and perception : (How could he fail ?) to pay with his own life But not to shame, O Cæsar! not to shame! The forfeit. But behold his favourite friend, Nero. What, hast thou not become a Nazarene,

my will!

« ПретходнаНастави »