"Aristomenes, Act II." by Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)
A Room in the Palace. Aristor alone.Arist. I've torn with Cries the Roof of this vile Mansion.
Enter Amalintha, the Door by one without immediately lock'd after her.Amal. Where is this wretched Mourner?
With the sad Sound of my repeated Groans.
Ha! on the Ground! then be it too my Seat!
[Sits on the Ground by him.
For I will share in this Excess of Grief,
As well as in the Days of milder Fortune,
I bore a part in Love, that knew no Measure.
O Aristomenes! oh! my Aristor!
[She puts her Handkerchief before her Eyes weeping.
Aristor. Whoe'er thou art, repeat again that Sound:
Such groans shall hourly issue from his Dungeon,
And fright the bloody Spartans into Madness.
[He looks up.
Ha! sure I shou'd know that Form, that Shape, those Limbs,
That lab'ring Bosom, and those Locks dishevel'd:
But take not from thy Face that friendly Cloud;
Do not expose it, lest thro' all its Charms
My deep Revenge find out whose Stamp it bears,
And urge me on to something Dark and Fatal.
Amal. This from Aristor! this to Amalintha!
[She rises and shews her face.
Aristor. Why wou'd'st thou tempt me thus advent'rous Maid,
And bring the blood of Anaxander near me?
[Coming up fiercely to her.
Canst thou too fondly think, that Love's soft Bands,
His gentle Cords of Hyacinths and Roses,
Wove in the dewy Spring, when Storms are silent,
Can tye these Hands, provok'd by horrid Murther!
Oh! do not trust it–
But fly this Ground, while I have Power to bid thee.
Amal. Aristor, no; my Flight shall not preserve me:
The Life, I've kept but to indulge your Love,
Now to this loud, mistaken Rage I offer.
Take it, Oh! take it; Means cannot be wanting,
Altho' no Instrument of Death be near you:
This Hair, these flatter'd Locks, these once-lov'd Tresses
Round my sad Neck thus knit will soon perform it;
Or, on these trembling Lips your Hand but prest
Will send the rising Breath down to my Heart,
And break it, telling who deny'd it Passage.
Aristor. Tryal beyond the Strength of Man and Lover!
Amal. Or, if you wou'd be quicker in Dispatch,
Speak but a few such Words, as now you utter'd,
And my poor hov'ring Soul will fly before 'em.
Farewel Aristor, see! the Work is done:
I did but think I heard their killing Sound,
And the bare Fancy saves you farther Study.
[She faints, he catches her in his Arms.
Aristor. Oh! stop the glorious Fugitive a moment;
And I will whisper to it such Repentance,
Such Love, such Fondness, such unheard-of Passion,
As shall confine it to it's beauteous Mansion.
Thus let me hug, and press thee into Life,
And lend thee Motion from my beating Heart,
To set again the Springs of thine in working.
Amal. I hear your Summons, and my Life returns:
But tell me, ere again so firm 'tis fixt
That it must cost an Agony like this,
To let it out to Liberty and Ease,
Will you not hate me for my Father's Guilt?
Aristor. By the soft Fires of Love, that fill my Breast,
And dart through all the Horrors of my Soul,
Like Heaven's bright Flashes in a Night of Shadows,
I will not hate, or e'er reproach thee more:
Yet let me breathe so gently one Complaint,
So gently, that it may not break thy Peace,
Tho' it for ever has discarded mine,
And ask, why you thus cruelly wou'd use me,
Why, have me seiz'd, and bound with frantick Fetters,
Snatch'd from my Duty by a Woman's wile,
And here confin'd, whilst my great Father perish'd?
Amal. 'Twas none of mine, by your dear self I swear;
It was the Fates design and Phila's action;
She saw you thus disguis'd amongst the Croud,
And, ere she would acquaint me with your Danger,
Follow'd to watch the means how to prevent it.
Aristor. I will belief you to my Heart's relief,
Which must have broke, had your Consent been with her.
But, Amalintha, now my Rage is gone,
And Love thro' this mistake has forc'd his way,
It spreads before my Thoughts the gaudy Scene
Of those Delights, which have been once allow'd it;
Brings to my Phancy in their softest Dress
The gentle Hours, that told our private Meetings;
Shews me the Grove, where, by the Moon's pale Light
We've breath'd out tender Sighs, 'till coming Day
Has drawn them deeper, warning us to part,
Which ne'er we did, 'till some new Time was set
For the return of those transporting Pleasures.
Amal. And so again, Aristor, we'll contrive,
And so again, we'll meet, and sigh, and love.
Aristor. Oh! O', O', –Amalintha!
Amal. Oh! why that Groan, that deep, that deathlike Groan!
Aristor. When Soul and Body part, it can't be softer;
And I must leave thee, Soul to sad Aristor.
With all those Pleasures which I but repeated,
As dying Friends will catch one last Embrace
Of what they know, they must forego forever.
Amal. Indeed, you've call'd my wand'ring Fancy back
From those Delights, where 'twou'd have endless stray'd:
But, my Aristor! (for I'll call you mine,
Though all the Stars combine against my Title,
And bar fulfilling of the Vows they've witness'd)
Tell me, tho' we must ne'er in Nuptials join,
May we not meet, and at this distance sigh?
And when I've hoarded up a Stock of Tears,
Which in the Spartan's sight I dare not lavish,
Oh! tell me, if I may not seek you out,
And in large Showers thus pour them down before you?
Aristor. Cease to oppress me more; thou weeping Beauty,
And think with what vast Storms my Soul is toss'd!
[Comes up to hear earnestly.
Think too, that but to gaze upon thee thus,
To stand in reach of thy Ambrosial Breath,
And hear thy Voice, sweet as the Ev'ning Notes,
When in still Shades the Shepherds sooth their Loves,
I wou'd not mind an Army in my way,
Or stop at raging Seas, or brazen Towers.
Yet, Amalintha, tho' I Dye to speak it,
Yet we must part, we must, my Amalintha!
Amal. Never to meet agen? Tell me but that.
Aristor. Alas! not I, the Fates can only tell it:
Let them make even one Account betwixt us,
And give this Hand the Liberty to seal it.
And we'll in spight of vengeful Thunder join,
If then, thy Heart be as resolv'd as mine.
Amal. No: on those Terms you mean, we must not meet:
But since those Fates deny it to your Power,
The Will I to your mighty Wrongs forgive,
[From without the door.
Phila. Madam, you'll be surpriz'd; haste to return:
Your Father's now just going to your Lodgings.
Aristor. All Plagues and Curses meet him!
Amal. Oh! then I must be gone.
A little time will call the State to Council;
And when the Croud by that is thither drawn,
One I will send to wait on your Escape:
And if you tempt new Dangers, know Aristor
That Amalintha too will perish in them.
Aristor. Fear not, my Love.
Phila. Haste, Madam, haste, or we are all Undone.
Amal. So from his few short Moments calls away
A gasping Wretch, the cruel BIrd of Prey;
Bids him make haste th' Eternal Shades to find,
And leave like me, all that is Dear behind.
Aristor. Whilst, like the Friend that's sadly weeping by,
I see the much lov'd Spirit from me fly;
And with vain Cries pursue it to that Coast,
Where it must land, and my weak Hopes be lost.
[He leads her to the Door, and returns speaking as he's going out at the Other.Now, let Revenge awhile sustain my Heart,
The Stage darken'd represents the Inside of a Dungeon, Aristomenes lying down in it, and struggling as coming out of a Swoon.Aristom. At last 'tis vanquish'd; and my soaring Spirits
Wou'd ye thus cruelly restore my Senses,
To make me count my Woes by tedious Moments,
Dye o'er again, choak'd by unwholsome Damps,
Parch'd up with Thirst, or clung with pining Hunger,
Borne piecemeal to the Holes of lurking Adders,
Or mould'ring to this Earth, where thus I cast me?
[Throws himself on the Ground.
Musick is heard without the SCENE, after it has play'd awhile and ceases, He speaks.How, Harmony! nay then the Fiends deride me:
Aristom. Thou counsell'st rightly; show me but the way,
And with the Speed thou urgest I'll obey thee. [He rises.
The Voice Sings again.1st Voice. A pointed Rock with little pains
Aristom. I come, thou kind Provoker of Despair,
Which still is nearest Cure, when at the Highest.
I come, I come–
Going towards the Voice, another Sings at the other side, upon which He stops and listens.2nd Voice. Stay, oh! stay; 'tis all Delusion,
Mortal, on their Pleasures wait,
Nor rush into the arms of Fate. [The Voice ceases.
Aristom. To hope, is still the Temper of the Brave:
And tho' a just Despair had dispossess'd it,
Yet, thus encourag'd, will I trust the Gods
With those few Moments, Nature has to spare me;
Nor follow thee, thou bad persuading Spirit.
Yet tell me, who thou art, and why thou tempt'st me?
I thy evil Genius am,
To Phærea with thee came;
Hung o'er thee in the murd'ring Croud,
And clapp'd my dusky Wings aloud;
Now endeavour'd to deceive thee,
And will never, never, leave thee.
I'll protect him from thy Pow'r.
1st Voice. I shall find a careless Hour.
2d Voice. Laurels He again shall wear,
War and Honour's Trumpet hear.
1st Voice. For one fatal, famous Day,
He his dearest Blood shall pay.
Hear it ye repeating Stones,
And confirm it by your Groans!
[A dismal Groan is heard round the Dungeon.Aristom. What all this Bellowing for a Conqueror's Death!
The Field of Honour is his Bed of Ease;
He toils for't all the Day of his hard Life,
And lays him there at Night, renown'd and happy:
Therefore his Threat was vain malicious Fury.
Now away, away I fly;
For hated Good is rushing by.
[Here the Voice ceases quite.
A Machine, like a Fox, runs about the Dungeon smelling, and rushes against Aristomenes, who taking it for his evil Genius, catches at it, and speaks.Aristom. What! hast thou Substance too, and dar'st assault me!
The SCENE changes to the Plains by the Woodside.
Enter from the Wood Herminia alone and faint.
That my faint Limbs no longer can support me.
Oh! let me rest; and if 'tis Death I feel,
A Guest more welcome none yet entertain'd.
[She sits down, leaning against a Tree.
Enter Climander looking towards the Camp, as expecting the returns of Arcasius.Clim.He has exceeded much the time prefixt;
Enter again Climander with Water in a Pomegranate-Shell.Clim. Pan! if thou e'er did'st hear a Shepherd's Prayer,
She'd all Perfections, which make Others Proud,
Yet wore them, as she knew not they adorn'd her.
And be, in this, my Father's Praise exprest:
That by an Oracle He was confest
Of all the Græcian Race to be the Best.
Clim. The Best of Men! and you the Fairest Woman!
And in a Moment I the greatest Lover!
[He speaks this transportedly and seizes her Hand, which he kisses.
Whilst to complete my Bliss, by Heav'ns decree
These Beauties all are mine, and thus I claim them.
Herm. Protect me all ye Powers, that wait on Virtue,
From the dark Ends of such unruly Transports!
[She takes her Hand away hastily and rises.
Nor dare, presumptuous Swain, once to renew them,
Or tempt more Dangers than a Crook can answer!
Clim. A Man there lives not, shou'd have urg'd that to me,
Built round with Steel, or plung'd all o'er in Styx.
Then, let your Beauty's Triumphs be complete,
Which, after such a Threat, can bend my Knee,
And make me sue for Pardon, as for Life.
Herm. I can forgive, whilst I forbid such Language;
Since She, who yields to have her Beauty worshipp'd,
Must pay too much to him, that brings the Incense.
Clim. To Me, you cannot, 'tis a Debt to Fate.
Your Heart is mine; the amorous Stars ordain it,
Which smiling, hung o'er my auspicious Birth,
And not an angry Planet cross'd their Influence:
They bid me Love, and the Harmonious God
When askt, what Path shou'd lead me on to Glory,
Sent forth a Sound, that charm'd the hoary Priest,
And said, a Passion, soft as that, must bless me.
Then, do not strive to disappoint their Purpose,
Or quench Celestial Flames with Scorn or Coldness.
Oh! that a Smile might tell me, that you wou'd not,
A gentle Word, a Look, a Sigh confirm it,
Or any sign, that bears the stamp of Love!
But 'tis in vain, and some more happy Youth
Has drawn my Lot, and mock'd foretelling Phoebus.
Herm. I must not leave you with a Thought that wrongs me:
For know, no Passion e'er possess'd this Breast,
Nor will the mighty Griefs, that now have seiz'd it,
E'er yield to give a softer Guest admittance.
But my Companion comes; Shepherd farewell!
When next we meet, if Heav'n that Moment sends,
For your Assistance lent, we may be Friends.
Clim. Heav'n can't be true, if it no more affords,
Nor Oracles explain themselves by Words.
Let talking Age the Joys of Friendship prove,
Beauty for Youth was made, and Youth alone for Love.