A Celebration of Women Writers

"Aristomenes, Act IV." by Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)
From Winchilsea, Anne (Kingsmill) Finch, Countess of. Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions, London: printed for J[ohn] B[arber] and sold by Benj. Tooke at the Middle-Temple-Gate, William Taylor in Pater-Noster-Row, and James Round, in Exchange-Alley, Cornhil, 1713. p. 351-369.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


The General's Pavilion.
Enter Drest in the Habit of an Officer Demagetus with Arcasius.

  Dema. SH' has left the Plains, and is not to be found.
How cou'd'st thou bring this cruel Story to me,
Ere thou had'st search'd Messenia's utmost Bound,
And travell'd o'er the spacious World of Shepherds?
She must be yet amongst their Shades conceal'd;
And thro' them will I pierce, like prying Phoebus,
To find my Love, or lose myself for ever.
  Arca. You will not hear (so much your Passion sways)
The Reasons, why I chose to see you first,
Ere I proceeded to pursue her Paths.
  Dema. There spoke the sixty Winters, that have froze thee,
And turn'd swift eager Love to Icy Reasons.
I must be Cold as thou art, if I hear thee,
Or lose one moment more in doating Questions.
      [He's going.

[Page 352]

  Arca. Behold these Tokens, and let them retard you.
  Dema. Tokens of Love, sent to the fond Climander.
Oh! thou hast found a way indeed to stay me.
  Arca. Take that, to you directed;       [A Letter.
And 'twas my Hopes from thence of some Discovery,
That kept me here 'till you had broke and read it.
  Dema. Then thou shalt hear it.
      [Reads the Direction.
This to Climander from the Nymph that leaves him
To everlasting Grief,
shou'd have been added,
For so 'twill prove, if no more Comfort's here.
          [He reads it.
    To love, yet from the Object fly,
    Harder is, than 'tis to Dye:
    Yet, for ever I remove,
    Yet, for ever will I love.
    Shepherd, seek no more to find;
    Fate, not I, has been Unkind.

We pluck on Fate, by striving to avoid it.
To shun the low Addresses of a Swain,
For ever has she left a Prince despairing.
Why didst thou not, as I at parting bid thee,
Find out, and let her know my fair Intentions,
And that my Birth was Noble as her Wishes?
  Arca. I was not negligent, nor wou'd be thought so:
But full of Transports when I heard your Story,
Thinking the Fates wou'd now fulfill their Promise
Thro' her the Daughter to the best of Men,

[Page 353]

Fled to discover what you gave in Charge,
Travers'd the Plains in a long fruitless Search,
But cou'd not find that Beauty born to Bless us.
  Dema. I shew'd thee, as we pass'd, her new rais'd Hamlet.
  Arca. Thither at last I went, but Oh! too late:
For ere I reach'd it, the fair Guest was vanish'd;
Upon the Floor lay her neglected Hook,
And o'er the Door hung Boughs of fading Willow,
To shew, as Shepherds use, the Place forsaken.
That Paper there I found, and near it lay,
This precious Gemm, that bears a well-cut Signet.
      [Shews him a Ring.
By chance sure dropt, yet may assist your Purpose.
  Dema. Give me that Emblem of my fatal Passion:
For without End is that, as is this Circle.
Oh! that my way to Bliss shou'd seem so plain,
Yet in a moment thus be lost and wilder'd!
Now in the midst of Crouds and loud Applauses,
That greet me for restoring them Aristor,
Must wretched Demagetus sigh for Love,
And hang his drooping Head tho' wreathed with Laurels.
      [A sound of Drums and Trumpets.
But hark! the Gen'ral comes
To him the Oracle I have reveal'd,
And all the Story of my rural Life.
I'll tell him too the Cause of my new Grief,
Which to relieve, I instantly must leave him.

[Page 354]

Enter Aristomenes, Aristor, Alcander, and other Attendants.

  Aristom. Why, Demagetus, art thou from my Sight,
From these fond Arms, that ever thus wou'd hold thee!
      [Embracing him.
Thou kind Restorer of my lov'd Aristor.
Come to the Camp, and hear them shout thy Name,
Whilst I declare thee equal in Command
With him, who owes his Life to thy young Valour.
  Dema. Alas! my Lord
  Aristom. A Soldier sigh, when courting Fame attends him!
I know you Love, by your own kind Confession:
But that too must succeed, since now your Birth
Is known to answer all the great Desires,
Which, to my Wonder, did possess the Breast
Of that fair rural Maid, whose Beauty charm'd you.
We'll send, and with the Pomp that suits a Princess,
Since such your gen'rous Passion means to make her)
Have her conducted to a rich Pavilion,
And join your Hands, as Heav'n has join'd your Hearts.
This, my Aristor, be your pleasing Task.

[Page 355]

Enter an Attendant to Aristomenes.

  Attend. The Princess is without, and waits your Pleasure.
  Aristom. Conduct her in
I sent for her, to see the generous Stranger.
      [To Alcander.

Enter behind the Company Herminia and Barina.

  Aristor. My Lord, what you command I take in charge.
      [To Aristomenes.
Tell me, my best of Friends, the way to serve you.
      [To Demagetus.
  Dema. I know it not my self, and that's the Torture.
Hear me, my Lord, nor think my Sorrows light:
      [To Aristomenes.
For Love, the only Comfort of fond Youth,
Is lost for ever to the poor Climander.
  Herm. Climander
That Name and Voice bears down my fainting Spirits.
I shall be known, yet have not Strength to fly:
Where shall this end, and where's Herminia's Honour!
      [To herself.
  Aristom. So sad a Pause still keeps us in Suspence:
Proceed, and if there's help on Earth, we'll find it.
  Dema. At my return, made joyful by Success,
With hasty Steps, and in my Heart soft Wishes,
Love, and a thousand flatt'ring Expectations,
I fled the clam'rous Praise prepar'd to meet me,
And sought the Path that led to my Desires:

[Page 356]

But ere I was advanc'd beyond the Camp,
The Voice of this Old Man
Cross'd my sad way, and cry'd, She's gone for ever.
  Aristom. Perhaps 'tis some Mistake,
If other Proofs are wanting to confirm it.
  Dema. Oh! far too many for Climander's Peace.
She own'd her Love, and with this Signet bound it,
And in the Folds of this dear Paper left
At once the tokens of my Joy and Ruin.
      [Gives the Letter and Ring to Aristomenes.
  Herm. The Character and Signet will betray me;
And now Necessity must make me Bold.       [Aside.
Oh! yet, ere you proceed to view that Paper,
      [She throws herself at Aristomenes Feet.
(Wrapt in Confusion) hear your Daughter speak,
      [As he is opening the Letter.
And pity in her Fate all Women's Frailty.
  Aristom. Ha! Thou dost much surprize me; but go on,
And, 'till she has finish'd, let no Word be utter'd.
  Dema. By all my fleeting Sorrows 'tis my Love:
Nor cou'd I, but to hear her speak, be Silent.
  Aristom. Proceed, and 'bate those Tears, that stay thy Speech.
  Herm. That I have stoop'd below the Blood you gave me,
And cast my doating Love upon that Shepherd,
(For such he is, altho' a Plume adorns him)

[Page 357]

My wretched Hand, and now my Tongue confesses:
For by that Paper, indiscreetly penn'd,
The Secret wou'd be told, shou'd I conceal it.
But Oh! my Lord, since you can ne'er forgive me;
A sad Recluse for ever let me live,
Or Dye for Love, to do my Birth more Justice.
  Aristom. Be comforted, and farther yet unfold
How first you came acquainted with this Shepherd.
  Herm. To 'scape the Fury of prevailing Foes,
Disguised, I in your absence sought the Plains,
And in that Habit heard the pow'rful Sighs
Of one that knew not then his own Presumption.
  Aristom. Were he a Prince, and still wou'd urge his Suit
Wou'd'st thou receive 't, and bless the Pow'rs that sent him?
  Herm. I shou'd not hide my Thoughts, or blush to own them.
Yes, I cou'd bless those Pow'rs which now undo me.
      [Demagetus comes forward.
  Dema. I cannot wait these Forms; Love plead my Pardon,
When, Sir, I disobey your order'd Silence,
And haste to tell her 'tis a Prince adores her,
That wou'd have sought her on the lowly Plains,
And for her Favour quitted all Dominion.
  Aristom. Then take her, thou most worthy Prince of Rhodes!
      [Giving her to him.
And know, Herminia, to encrease thy Passion,
Thou hold'st that noble Hand, that sav'd thy Brother,

[Page 358]

And gives thy Father, in this new Alliance,
More Joy than when he first receiv'd and bless'd thee.
  Dema. Let all the Joys of Earth give place to mine,
Whilst in deep, silent Raptures I possess them:
      [Taking her from Aristomenes.
For Demagetus is above Discourse,
And will not wrong his Love with faint Expressions.
  Herm. So let mine flow, and O Barina, see
I smiling give my Hand now to a Shepherd,
Yet fear not to offend my Mother's Ghost.
  Bar. No; that smiles too, and all that love and serve you.
  Arca. The Fate of Rhodes is clear and chearful now;
And old Arcasius has outliv'd his Cares.
  Aristor. Now as a Brother, take this new Embrace;
      [To Demagetus.
Tho' all the Love, it shews, you had before.
  Aristom. Conduct her, Demagetus, to her Tent:
I'll soon be there, and see those Rites perform'd,
That shall confirm her Yours; be Kind and Happy.

[Exeunt Herminiaand Demagetus leading her follow'd by Arcasius, Barina and others. Aristor is going too but is call'd back by his Father.

Come back Aristor, and the rest withdraw:
For something I wou'd say to you in private.
      [The Attendants go off.
Free from the Croud, and unobserv'd my Transports,
I wou'd embrace, and welcome thee to Life,

[Page 359]

And with a loud repeated Blessing pay
The pious Care, that brought it to such Dangers.
Oh! that the Love of Women shou'd be thought
To pass the Fondness which a Father feels,
When thus he grasps a Son of thy Perfections,
      [Embracing him.
My Dear, my Lov'd Aristor!
  Aristor. My Prince, my Gen'ral, and the Best of Fathers!
  Aristom. Thy Heart speaks loud, and knocking at my Breast
Seems as 'twou'd close in conference with mine.
  Aristor. It wou'd, my Lord, and strives to force its Passage.
      [Aristomenes looses his Arms from embracing him.
  Aristom. Oh, no my Son! for now I must be plain,
And tell thee, thou dost lock some Secret there
Which all my depth of Kindness ne'er cou'd fathom:
I see it in the Cloud, that shades thy Brow.
And still thy pensive Eyes are downwards cast,
As thou wou'd'st seek the Grave, or something lower:
Long have I this observed
And thought whole Nights away to find the Cause,
Which now, my Son, I urge thee to reveal:
And think that He who best can love thee asks it.
  Aristor. Oh! that you did not love, or wou'd not ask it!
I cannot speak, for speaking must offend:
Yet shou'd my Silence grieve such mighty Goodness,

[Page 360]

'Twou'd break that Heart, which thus you seek to succour.
Upon my Knees a strange Request I make,
      [Offering to Kneel but his Father takes him up.
That you wou'd quite forget and think me Dead;
Which the approaching Battle shou'd confirm,
And leave you to possess your other Comforts.
  Aristom. My other Comforts! All are light to Thee:
And when I wou'd have shar'd amongst my Race
Impartial Kindess, as their Birthrights claim'd,
Still to my Heart Aristor wou'd be nearest,
Still, with a Merit not to be withstood,
Wou'd press beyond my cool and equal Purpose,
And seize a double Portion of my Love:
And wilt thou lose it now, to keep thy Silence?
  Aristor. My Life I rather wou'd; but Oh! my Lord!
  Aristom. Another Sigh, another yet, my Son!
And then, let Words relieve this mighty Passion:
They will, they will; the Sweetness of thy Temper
Will melt before a just and warm Persuasion.
Now, let me know it
  Aristor. Believe that it 'twere fit, it shou'd be told:
But Oh! my Lord, 'tis what you must not know.
  Aristom. Not I, Aristor! if thy Soul were bare
As is thy faded Cheek now to thy Father,
It were most fit
Oh! think, my Son, who 'twas that made it Noble,
And train'd it in the Paths of Truth and Honour:
Else, what had hinder'd, but thou might'st have been

[Page 361]

(In spite of all the Virtues with thee born,
For Education is the stronger Nature)
A bragging Coward, or a base Detractor,
A Slave to Wealth, or false to Faith or Friendship
Lull'd in the common Arms of some Seducer,
And lost to all the Joys of Virtuous Love.
  Aristor. Ha! Virtuous Love!
  Aristom. What, dost thou start? why, so I meant thou shou'dst.
When hastily I press'd that Word upon thee,
To catch that flushing Witness in thy Face,
Was all this Bait contriv'd; no more, my Son,
No more dissembling of a Truth so plain:
I see 'tis Love, the best of all our Passions.
And fram'd like Thee; sure none cou'd e'er Despair,
Nor can I fear thou'd'st make a vulgar Choice.
  Aristor. On Ida's Top not Paris made a nobler,
When of three Goddesses he chose the Fairest.
  Aristom. Will she not hear thy Love?
  Aristor. Oh yes! with all the softness of her Sex,
And answers it with Vows, more strong than Ours.
  Aristom. If thus it be, what hast thou then to fear?
  Aristor. A Father's Wrath, more dreadful to Aristor
Than is the frown of Jove, that shakes the Poles,
And makes the Gods forget they are Immortal.
  Aristom. Thou wrong'st my Love in that mistaken Terror.
By all those Powers I swear, I will not cross thee;
Be she a Spartan Dame, 'bate me but One,

[Page 362]

And tho' a Foe, I yield thou shou'd'st possess her.
  Aristor. I dare not ask; my trembling Love forbids it.
Who is that One, so fatally excepted?
  Aristom. Then, I'll by telling thee prevent that Trouble.
It is the Tyrant Anaxander's Daughter,
Whom, tho' I ne'er beheld, I must abhor,
As borrowing her Blood from such a Fountain.
  Aristor. Take mine, my Lord, then to wash out that Stain
      [Offers his Breast.
You'll think it has contracted by her Love:
For 'tis that Tyrant's Daughter I adore,
And ne'er, while Life is here, will change my Purpose.
  Aristom. Confusion seize those Words, and Her that caus'd 'em!
Not Groans of Earthquakes, or the Burst of Thunder,
The Voice of Storms urging the dang'rous Billows,
E'er struck the Sense with sounds of so much Horror.
It must not, Oh! it must not, shall not be:
Sooner this Dagger, tho' my Soul lives in thee,
      [Drawing Amalintha's Dagger.
Shou'd let out thine with this prepost'rous Passion.
Than I wou'd yield, it e'er shou'd meet Success.
  Aristor. Of all the Instruments by Vulcan form'd,
That Poinard best is fitted to my Heart,
Since Her's it was, whose Eyes have deeper pierc'd it:
Quickly, my Lord, let me receive it here,

[Page 363]

And see me proud in Death to wear that Favour.
      [Aristomenes amaz'd looks on the Dagger, and speaks to himself.
  Aristom. This Dagger Her's, this Anaxander's Daughter's!
Fate then is practicing upon my Soul
What sudden Turns and Tryals Man can bear.
  Aristor. Oh! do not pause
Lest fainting with the Weight of what I feel,
I poorly fall, unlike your Son or Soldier.
  Aristom. If this were Her's, Her's were the grateful Vows,
With which I rashly charg'd the Life she gave me.
      [Still to himself.
  Aristor. Ha! not a Look, not one sad parting Word!
Then my own Hand thus sets me free for ever.
      [Offers to Stab himself, but is stay'd by Aristomenes.
  Aristom.Hold! by Love and Duty yet a moment hold!
  Aristor. My Life they've sway'd, and must command a Moment
But let it not exceed, lest both I cancel,
And only listen to my wild Despair.
  Aristom. Shall I perform them? shall I hear her plead?
And to a Woman's Claim resign my Vengeance?
No; let my Ear still fly the fatal Suit,
And from her Tears be turn'd my harden'd Face.
What did I say! a hasty Blush has seized it,
For but imagining a Thing so vile.

[Page 364]

Turn back my Face from Her that shunn'd not mine,
When it was Death to know, and to preserve me!
No; let the Fiends be obstinate in Ill,
Revenge be their's, while Godlike Man is grateful.

Enter an Attendant.

  Attend. Pardon, my gracious Lord, this bold Intrusion.
Two Ladies veil'd, escaping from Phærea,
Ask with such earnestness for Prince Aristor,
That, sure, their Bus'ness is of mighty Moment.
From one this Ring at her entreaty, Sir, I must deliver.
      [ Gives it to Aristor and Exit.
  Aristom. Retire, and if not call'd, return no more.
  Aristor. 'Tis Amalintha's Ring, my Amalintha's:
She's come in time, to see me fall her Victim.
  Aristom. No; to receive her from from my Hand, my Son;
Since 'twas from her's, I took this healing Weapon,
That has cut off the Hate in which I held her.
'Twas she that met me rising from my Grave,
And fearless freed the Foe to her and Sparta:
Then in a grateful Promise was I bound
Not to deny whate'er she shou'd request;
And sure thy Love, before the Pomp of Crowns,
Is what a Maid must ask, that knows its Value.
  Aristor. The Transports of my Soul be thus exprest;
Then let me Dye, for having griev'd such Goodness.
      [ Embracing his Father's Knees.

[Page 365]

  Aristom. No; rise my Son, go meet and chear thy Love,
And to this Tent conduct the Royal Maid,
Whilst in that inner Part I stand conceal'd,
And hear her tell why thus she comes to seek us:
Thence will I issue, as occasion calls,
And giving thee, give all I hold most precious.

[ He goes into the inner Tent. Aristor goes out at the other Door and re-enters immediately leading Amalintha veil'd follow'd by Phila.

  Aristor.Dismiss that Cloud, and with it all your Fears,
Safe in this Camp, and in Aristor's Love,
Which ne'er was truly bless'd, 'till this glad Moment.
Now Amalintha, let my Joys o'erflow;
And ere I ask what brought thee to my sight,
Let it be filled with thy amazing Beauties,
And with this Hand my longing Lips be clos'd.
      [ Kisses her Hand.
  Amal. Thus, after each short absence, may we meet,
Thus pleas'd, thus wrapt in Love, thus dying fond.
But Oh Aristor! since I last beheld you,
So has this Life been threaten'd by the Fates,
That to your Arms 'tis forc'd for Peace and Safety.
  Aristor. Still may they prove a Haven for my Love,
Too strong for all the Shocks of rig'rous Fortune.
But what beneath thy Father's Roof cou'd fright thee?

[Page 366]

Or what bold Danger break thro' his Protection?
  Amal. 'Twas from Himself, and all the Lords of Sparta.
When Aristomenes they found escap'd,
High was their Rage as Billows in a Tempest;
And all the Arts of State were put in use
To find who had assisted in his Flight:
But still in vain, 'till subtle, vile Clarinthus
  Aristor. That Villain will be first in Blood and Mischief.
But cou'd he pry into thy generous Heart,
And find it there, that you had nobly done it?
And are not secret Thoughts secure against him?
  Amal. I did believe them so, 'till he disprov'd it:
For 'twas his Counsel, when all others fail'd,
To know by speaking Gods the deep Contrivance;
And from the Oracle, in some few Moments,
The full Discov'ry will have reach'd Phærea.
Which ere it does, I was advis'd to leave,
By one that heard the horrid Voice accuse me,
And with a Speed unmark'd outflew the rest.
  Aristor. As swiftly may the bounteous Gods reward him.
  Amal. This, my Aristor, brings me to your Tents,
But not to save my Life, or 'scape their Fury:
For shou'd your Heart, which boldly I will claim,
Be yet deny'd me by your injur'd Father,
Not all his Army shou'd retard my Steps
From leading to the Town, and certain Ruin;
For they have sworn it (with this Imprecation,
That 'till 'tis done, no Victory may bless them)
To sacrifice the Soul that sav'd the Gen'ral.

[Page 367]

Enter Aristomenes from the inward Tent.

  Aristom. That Army you have nam'd, shall first in Flames
Consume the utmost Town of Lacedemon.
Take your Security, and softest Wishes,
Your dear Aristor take, and if ought more
The fair Preserver of his Father claims,
Be it but nam'd, and at that instant granted.
  Amal. Beyond Aristor's Heart there's no Request,
No longing Thought, no Hope for Amalintha:
For still his Love prescrib'd their tender Limits.
  Aristor. Oh! let it not be thought irrev'rent Passion,
If in the awful Presence of a Father
I run upon my Joys, and grasp 'em thus.       [ Embraces her.
  Aristom. Thou well dost intimate I shou'd retire;
For Privacy is only fit for Lovers.
  Aristor. Pardon my Transport, Sir, nor thus mistake it.
  Aristom. No more, my Son! but when the Trumpet calls,
Which must be soon, remember thou'rt a Soldier,
And that the Battle, we shall lead to morrow,
Will ask our best of Care and Preparation.
  Aristor. Never was I yet wanting to my Charge.
But give me leave here to attend that Summons.
      [ Exit Aristomenes.
For Oh! my Amalintha, since thou'rt mine,
Since I can tell my Heart that darling Truth;
The Moments that must take me from thy sight,
Will pass for lost, and useless to Aristor.

[Page 368]

And this War done, which we now soon shall finish
(For You not there, what God will fight for Sparta?)
I'll swear the Sun and radiant Light shall part,
Ere I will once be found from this lov'd Presence.
  Amal. Confirm it, all ye soft and gentle Pow'rs!
And let the pattern of a Love so perfect
Reform Mankind, and bless believing Women.
But can I think it is Aristor speaks?
That I behold, and hear you safe from Danger,
Whom late I saw assaulted so with Death,
When from the Guard a Weapon you had snatched,
And but that brave Swords length cou'd keep him from you?
Hope and fond Expectation all had left me:
Arm'd with this Dagger full I stood in vain,
And from my Window watch'd the fatal Stroke,
Which soon was to be copy'd on my Heart;
Then, had I meant to own your noble Love,
And told mine Dying, whilst the Croud had trembl'd.
  Aristor. I saw your dire Intent, and that preserv'd me:
For 'twas to stop your Arm, that mine perform'd
What else had been above the Force of Nature;
And when the Drums of Demagetus thunder'd,
As thro' the shiver'd Gates he rush'd to save me,
You may remember, that I wou'd not meet him,
Till I had told my Love what meant the Tumult,
Which since has given me Fears, cold as pale Death,
Lest some Observer might have charg'd it on you.
      [ Trumpets sound.

[Page 369]

  Amal. No; for too much their own Concern engag'd them.
But Oh! already hark! the Trumpet calls,
And jealous Fame no longer lets me keep you.
Must you be gone, must you obey this Summons?
  Aristor. Oh! yes, I must; it is the Voice of Honour.
Yet, do not weep
Be this Embrace the Earnest of a Thousand.
Now let me lead you to Herminia's Tent
Then think, I go more to secure your Charms,
And fight to rest with Peace in these fair Arms.
      [ He leads her off.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom