Page images

The blessings of the cheerful morn be on you, And greet your beauty with its opening sweets! J. Sh. My gentle neighbour, your good wishes


Pursue my hapless fortunes! Ah, good Belmour!
How few, like thee, inquire the wretched out,
And court the offices of soft humanity!
Like thee reserve their raiment for the naked,
Reach out their bread to feed the crying orphan,
Or mix their pitying tears with those that weep!
Thy praise deserves a better tongue than mine,
To speak and bless thy name. Is this the gentle-


Whose friendly service you commended to me? Bel. Madam, it is.


J. Sh. A venerable aspect.
Age sits with decent grace upon his visage,
And worthily becomes his silver locks;
He wears the marks of many years well spent,
Of virtue, truth well tried, and wise experience;
A friend like this would suit my sorrows well.
Fortune, I fear me, sir, has meant you ill, [To Dum.
Who pays your merit with that scanty pittance,
Which my poor hand and humble roof can give.
But to supply these golden vantages,
Which elsewhere you might find, expect to meet
A just regard and value for your worth,
The welcome of a friend, and the free partner

Of all that little good the world allows me.
Dum. You over-rate me much; and all my


Must be my future truth; let them speak for me, And make up my deserving.

J. Sh. Are you of England?

Dum. No, gracious lady, Flanders claims my birth;

At Antwerp has my constant biding been, Where sometimes I have known more plenteous days

Than these which now my failing age affords.
J. Sh. Alas! at Antwerp!-Oh, forgive my

They fall for my offences and must fall
Long, long ere they shall wash my stains away.
You knew perhaps Oh grief! oh shame! my

Dum. I knew him well-but stay this flood of
anguish !

The senseless grave feels not your pious sorrows:
Three years and more are past, since I was bid,
With many of our common friends, to wait him
To his last peaceful mansion. I attended,
Sprinkled his clay-cold corse with holy drops,
According to our church's rev'rend rite,
And saw him laid in hallow'd ground, to rest.
J. Sh. Oh, that my soul had known no joy but

That I had lived within his guiltless arms,
And, dying, slept in innocence beside him!
But now his dust abhors the fellowship,
And scorns to mix with mine.

[blocks in formation]

Our reasons to rebel, and power to reign,
What could we more than to behold a monarch,
Lovely, renowned, a conqueror, and young,
Bound in our chains, and sighing at our feet?

J. Sh. 'Tis true, the royal Edward was a wonder,

The goodly pride of all our English youth;
He was the very joy of all that saw him;
Formed to delight, to love, and to persuade.
Impassive spirits and angelic natures
Might have been charmed, like yielding human

Stooped from their heaven, and listened to his talking.

But what had I to do with kings and courts?
My humble lot had cast me far beneath him;
And that he was the first of all mankind,
The bravest, and most lovely, was my curse.

Alic. Sure, something more than fortune joined your loves:

Nor could his greatness, and his gracious form, Be elsewhere matched so well, as to the sweet

[blocks in formation]

The hand of power has seized almost the whole Of what was left for needy life's support; Shortly thou wilt behold me poor, and kneeling Before thy charitable door for bread.

Alic. Joy of my life, my dearest Shore, forbear
To wound my heart with thy foreboding sorrows;
Raise thy sad soul to better hopes than these;
Lift up thy eyes, and let them shine once more,
Bright as the morning sun above the mist.
Exert thy charms, seek out the stern protector,
And soothe his savage temper with thy beauty:
Spite of his deadly, unrelenting nature,
He shall be moved to pity, and redress thee.
J. Sh. My form, alas! has long forgot to please;
The scene of beauty and delight is changed;
No roses bloom upon my fading cheek,
Nor laughing graces wanton in my eyes;
But haggard grief, lean-looking sallow care,
And pining discontent, a rueful train,
Dwell on my brow, all hideous and forlorn,
One only shadow of a hope is left me;
The noble-minded Hastings, of his goodness,
Has kindly undertaken to be my advocate,
And move my humble suit to angry Gloster.
Alic. Does Hastings undertake to plead your

But wherefore should he not? Hastings has eyes;
The gentle lord has a right tender heart,
Melting and easy, yielding to impression,
And catching the soft flame from each new

But yours shall charm him long.

J. Sh. Away, you Nor charge his generous meaning with a weak


Which his great soul and virtue must disdain.
Too much of love thy hapless friend has proved,
Too many giddy foolish hours are gone,
And in fantastic measures danced away:
May the remaining few know only friendship!
So thou, my dearest, truest, best Alicia,
Vouchsafe to lodge me in thy gentle heart,
A partner there; I will give up mankind,
Forget the transports of increasing passion,
And all the pangs we feel for its decay.
Alic. Live! live and reign for ever in my bo-
Safe and unrivalled there possess thy own;
And you, the brightest of the stars above,
Ye saints, that once were women here below,
Be witness of the truth, the holy friendship,
Which here to this my other self I vow!

If I not hold her nearer to my soul,
Than every other joy the world can give;
Let poverty, deformity, and shame,
Distraction and despair seize me on earth!
Let not my faithless ghost have peace hereafter,
Nor taste the bliss of your celestial fellowship!
J. Sh. Yes, thou art true, and only thou art

Therefore these jewels, once the lavish bounty
Of royal Edward's love, I trust to thee;

[Giving a casket. Receive this, all that I can call my own, And let it rest unknown, and safe with thee: That if the state's injustice should oppress me, Strip me of all, and turn me out a wanderer, My wretchedness may find relief from thee, And shelter from the storm.

Alic. My all is thine;

One common hazard shall attend us both,
And both be fortunate, or both be wretched.
But let thy fearful doubting heart be still;
The saints and angels have thee in their charge,
And all things shall be well. Think not, the


The gentle deeds of mercy thou hast done,
Shall die forgotten all; the poor, the prisoner,
The fatherless, the friendless, and the widow,
Who daily own the bounty of thy hand,
Shall cry to Heaven, and pull a blessing on

Even man, the merciless insulter man,
Man, who rejoices in our sex's weakness,
Shall pity thee, and with unwonted goodness
Forget thy failings, and record thy praise.

J. Sh. Why should I think that man will do

for me,

What yet he never did for wretches like me?
Mark by what partial justice we are judged:
Such is the fate unhappy women find,
And such the curse entailed upon our kind,
That man, the lawless libertine, may rove,
Free and unquestioned through the wilds of love;
While woman, sense and nature's easy fool,

poor weak woman swerve from virtue's rule,
If, strongly charmed, she leave the thorny way,
And in the softer paths of pleasure stray,
Ruin ensues, reproach and endless shame,
And one false step entirely damns her fame :
In vain with tears her loss she may deplore,
In vain look back on what she was before;
She sets, like stars that fall, to rise no more.


[blocks in formation]

Alicia here! Unfortunate encounter!
But be it as it may.

Alic. When humbly, thus,

The great descend to visit the afflicted,
When thus, unmindful of their rest, they come
To soothe the sorrows of the midnight mourner,
Comfort comes with them; like the golden sun,
Dispels the sullen shades with her sweet influ-

And cheers the melancholy house of care.

Hast. 'Tis true, I would not over-rate a cour-

Nor let the coldness of delay hang on it,
To nip and blast its favour, like a frost;
But rather chose, at this late hour to come,
That your fair friend may know I have prevail-

The lord protector has received her suit,
And means to shew her grace.

Alic. My friend! my lord.

Hast. Yes, lady, yours: none has a right more ample

To task my power than you.

Alic. I want the words,

To pay you back a compliment so courtly;

But my heart guesses at the friendly meaning, And will not die your debtor.

Hast. 'Tis well, madam. But I would see your friend.

Alic. Oh, thou false lord!

I would be mistress of my heaving heart,
Stifle this rising rage, and learn from thee
To dress my face in easy dull indifference :
But it will not be; my wrongs will tear their way,
And rush at once upon thee.

Hast. Are you wise?

Have you the use of reason? Do you wake? What means this raving, this transporting passion?

Alic. Oh, thou cool traitor! thou insulting tyrant!

Dost thou behold my poor distracted heart,
Thus rent with agonizing love and rage,

And ask me what it means? Art thou not false?
Am I not scorned, forsaken, and abandoned,
Left, like a common wretch, to shame and in-


Given up to be the sport of villains' tongues,
Of laughing parasites, and lewd buffoons?
And all because my soul has doated on thee
With love, with truth, and tenderness unutterable!

Hast. Are these the proofs of tenderness and


These endless quarrels, discontents, and jealousies, These never-ceasing wailings and complainings, These furious starts, these whirlwinds of the soul, Which every other moment rise to madness?

Alic. What proof, alas! have I not given of


[blocks in formation]

Kept in the view, and crossed at every turn?
In vain I fly, and, like a hunted deer,
Scud o'er the lawns, and hasten to the covert;
E'er I can reach my safety, you o'ertake me
With the swift malice of some keen reproach,
And drive the winged shaft deep in my heart,

Alic. Hither you fly, and here you seek repose; Spite of the poor deceit, your arts are known, Your pious, charitable, midnight visits!

Hast. If you are wise, and prize your peace of mind,

Yet take the friendly counsel of my love;
Believe me true, nor listen to your jealousy.
Let not that devil, which undoes your sex,
That cursed curiosity seduce you,

To hunt for needless secrets, which, neglected,

Shall never hurt your quiet; but, once known, Shall sit upon your heart, pinch it with pain, And banish the sweet sleep for ever from you. Go to-be yet advised—

Alic. Dost thou, in scorn,

Preach patience to my rage, and bid me tamely Sit like a poor contented idiot down,

Nor dare to think thou'st wronged me? Ruin seize thee,

And swift perdition overtake thy treachery!
Have I the least remaining cause to doubt?
Hast thou endeavoured once to hide thy false-

To hide it might have spoke some little tender

[blocks in formation]

Shall visit the presuming sons of men,
But perjury, like thine, shall dwell in safety.

Hast. Whate'er my fate decrees for me here-

Be present to me now, my better angel!
Preserve me from the storm that threatens now,
And if I have beyond atonement sinned,
Let any other kind of plague o'ertake me,
So I escape the fury of that tongue.

Alic. Thy prayer is heard-I go—but know, proud lord,

Howe'er thou scorn'st the weakness of my sex, This feeble hand may find the means to reach thee,

Howe'er sublime in power and greatness placed,
With royal favour guarded round and graced;
On eagle's wings my rage shall urge her flight,
And hurl thee headlong from thy topmost height;
Then, like thy fate, superior will I sit,
And view thee fallen, and grovelling at my feet;
See thy last breath with indignation go,
And tread thee sinking to the shades below.


Hast. How fierce a fiend is passion! with what wildness,

What tyranny untamed it reigns in woman!
Unhappy sex! whose easy yielding temper

Gives way to every appetite alike:
Each gust of inclination, uncontrouled,
Sweeps through their souls, and sets them in an
uproar ;

Each motion of the heart rises to fury,
And love, in their weak bosoms, is a rage
As terrible as hate, and as destructive.
So the wind roars o'er the wide fenceless ocean,
And heaves the billows of the boiling deep,
Alike from north, from south, from east, from

With equal force the tempest blows, by turns,
From every corner of the seaman's compass.
But soft ye now-for here comes one, disclaims
Strife and her wrangling train; of equal elements,
Without one jarring atom, was she formed,
And gentleness and joy make up her being,


Forgive me, fair one, if officious friendship
Intrudes on your repose, and comes thus late
To greet you with the tidings of success.
The princely Gloster has vouchsafed you hear

To-morrow he expects you at the court;
There plead your cause, with never-failing beauty,
Speak all your griefs, and find a full redress.

J. Sh. Thus humbly let your lowly servant bend, [Kneeling.

Thus let me bow my grateful knee to earth,
And bless your noble nature for this goodness.
Hast. Rise, gentle dame; you wrong my mcan-

ing much;

Think me not guilty of a thought so vain,
To sell my courtesy for thanks like these!
J. Sh. 'Tis true, your bounty is beyond my

But though my mouth be dumb, my heart shall thank you;

And when it melts before the throne of mercy,
Mourning and bleeding for my past offences,
My fervent soul shall breathe one prayer for you,
If prayers of such a wretch are heard on high,
That Heaven will pay you back, when most you

The grace and goodness you have shewn to me.
Hast. If there be ought of merit in my service,
Impute it there, where most 'tis due, to love;
Be kind, my gentle mistress, to my wishes,
And satisfy my panting heart with beauty.
J. Sh. Alas! my lord-

Hust. Why bend thy eyes to earth? Wherefore these looks of heaviness and sorrow? Why breathes that sigh, my love? And wherefore

[blocks in formation]

Thus desolate, dejected, and forlorn,
Thy softness steals upon my yielding senses,
Till my soul faints, and sickens with desire;
How canst thou give this motion to my heart,
And bid my tongue be still?

J. Sh. Cast round your eyes

Upon the high-born beauties of the court; Behold, like opening roses, where they bloom, Sweet to the sense, unsullied all, and spotless; There chuse some worthy partner of your heart, To fill your arms, and bless your virtuous bed; Nor turn your eyes this way, where sin and misery,

Like loathsome weeds, have over-run the soil, And the destroyer, Shame, has laid all waste.

Hast. What means this peevish, this fantastic change?

Where is thy wonted pleasantness of face,
Thy wonted graces, and thy dimpled smiles?
Where hast thou lost thy wit, and sportive mirth?
That chearful heart, which used to dance for

[blocks in formation]


Still to repeat my guilt, to urge my infamy,
And treat me like that abject thing I have been.
Yet let the saints be witness to this truth,
That now, though late, I look with horror back,
That I detest my wretched self, and curse
My past polluted life. All-judging Heaven,
Who knows my crimes, has seen my sorrow for

Hast. No more of this dull stuff. 'Tis time

To whine and mortify thyself with penance,
When the decaying sense is palled with pleasure,
And weary nature tires in her last stage;
Then weep and tell thy beads, when altering

Haye stained the lustre of thy starry eyes,
And failing palsies shake thy withered hand.
The present moment claims more generous use;
Thy beauty, night, and solitude, reproach me,
For having talked thus long-come let me press
[Laying hold of her.
Pant on thy bosom, sink into thy arms,
And lose myself in the luxurious flood!

[blocks in formation]

J. Sh. Help, oh, gracious Heaven! Help! Save me! Help!

Enter DUMONT, he interposes.
Dum. My lord! for honour's sake-
Hast. Ha! What art thou?-Begone!
Dum. My duty calls me

To my attendance on my mistress here.
J. Sh. For pity, let me go-

Hast. Avaunt! base groom

At distance wait, and know thy office better. Dum. Forego your hold, my lord! 'tis most unmanly

This violence

Hast. Avoid the room this moment, Or I will tread thy soul out.

Dum. No, my lord—

The common ties of mankind call me now,
And bid me thus stand up in the defence
Of an oppressed, unhappy, helpless woman.
Hast. And dost thou know me, slave?
Dum. Yes, thou proud lord!

I know thee well; know thee with each advantage Which wealth, or power, or noble birth can give thee.

I know thee, too, for one who stains those honours,

And blots a long illustrious line of ancestry,
By poorly daring thus to wrong a woman.

Hast. Tis wonderous well! I see, my saint-like

You stand provided of your braves and ruffians, To man your cause, and bluster in your brothel. Dum. Take back the foul reproach, unmanner

ed railer!

Nor urge my rage too far, lest thou should'st find

I have as daring spirits in my blood
As thou or any of thy race e'er boasted;
And though no gaudy titles graced my birth,

J. Sh. Never! by those chaste lights above, I Titles, the servile courtier's lean reward,

[blocks in formation]

Sometimes the pay of virtue, but more oft
The hire which greatness gives to slaves and


[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »