"Aristomenes, Act V." by Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)
The SCENE is the Camp. A Noise of Drums and Trumpets. Enter Aristomenes, Aristor, Demagetus, Alcander, several Officers and Soldiers.
Enter an Officer from the other Door, and speaks to the General.
Now, my brave Followers, be your selves to Day,
And more I need not ask, that know your Valour;
Who've seen you at the backs of Spartans ride,
Till their long Flight, and not your Conquest, tir'd you.
[The Soldiers shout.
And Oh! my Sons, since they who bravely seek it,
May meet with Death, when all his Darts are flying,
Let me Embrace, and breathe my Blessings on ye.
Yet, Demagetus, if I 'scape him now,
And Victory attends my great Endeavour,
Thou shalt Triumphant lead me into Rhodes,
Where we'll obey the Gods, and save thy Country.
Dem. Still you're the Best of Men, as they declar'd you.
Aristom. Now let me fold thee thus, my Life's best Treasure!
[He embraces Aristor, but seems disorder'd, and not to feel him in his Arms, which he often clasps about him.Thou dost not fill my Arms, 'tis Air I grasp:
[His Voice seems to Aristomenes (still under his disorder) to be low and different to what it was usually.Aristom. From what far distant Valley comes thy Voice?
It seems so hollow, scarce my Ear receives it.
Aristor. What means my noble Father!
Aristom. Till now, my faithful Senses never fail'd me.
They talk of Omens, ha! I must not think on't;
Such chilling Damps wou'd blast a Day of Battle:
Yet let my evil Genius but be true,
And a fam'd End is all it can portend me.
Aristor. You reason with your self, and turn from us.
May we not know what thus disturbs your Thoughts?
Aristom. Nothinga Vapour crossed me, but 'tis gone:
And now the Field, the dusty Field, my Sons,
Must be the Scene, where we shall nobly act
What our great Spirits, and our Country urges.
The Trumpet calls, with the impatient Drum;
And He that loves his Honour, let him come.
[ He draws his Sword and goes off follow'd by the rest with their Swords drawn, Drums and Shouts of Battle immediately succeed.
The Noise continues, the SCENE changes to a fine Tent.
Enter Amalintha follow'd by Phila.
Where the false Trumpet flatters not to Death,
Nor the more noisy Drum outcries the Dying?
Oh! Phila, why shou'd Men with Hearts unmov'd
Seek the bold War, and leave ours trembling for them?
Now whilst I speak, a chilling Fear surrounds me;
And ev'ry Tread I hear, is hast'ning on,
Methinks, to tell me, all my Hopes are perish'd.
Phila. Why shou'd you, Madam, who have pass'd already,
Unhurt by Fortune, thro' more threat'ning Dangers,
Now faint, when Reason bids you think the best?
The Sound goes from us, and the lucky War
(Since you've the Promise of your Father's Life)
Proceeds, as we cou'd wish, for the Messenians.
Amal. So do's it seem; but yet my failing Spirits
Sink to my Heart, and bid it think of Ruin.
Last Night my Dreams shew'd me Aristor bleeding;
And o'er my Head a screaming Voice proclaim'd
That Amalintha's hasty Fate had kill'd him:
I clos'd my Eyes to catch another Vision,
That might interpret, or prevent the first;
But all in vain, no Help or Comfort found me,
And wrapt in Fears, I wak'd and still continue
For what's foretold so fatal to my Love.
Phila. Your Fate work his? it rather will protect him.
But here come Tydings, and the Bearer smiles;
Good let them be, and these vain Fears will vanish.
Enter an Officer.Amal. From Prince Aristor? Do's he live, and send you?
Enter Clarinthus with others disguis'd like Messenian Soldiers.Clar. You heard the King, and the chief Lords of Sparta
They follow him into the inner Tent and the conceal'd Officer comes out.Officer. Curst Conspiration, not to be prevented
That may o'ertake, and cross the bloody Purpose.
The Women shriek in the inner Tent, and Re-enter Clarintha &c. leading in Amalintha and Phila.Amal. Messenians are ye, and yet treat me thus!
[Just as Clarinthus is offering to take her Hand, she snatches Phila's Dagger, and then answers Clarinthus.Amal. No, stay Clarinthus; that I did not Promise.
And whilst my Hand holds this, I will not follow.
Clar. So swift and subtle? yet disarm and take her.
Amal. Hear me but speak, Clarinthus:
My Father's Life already I've secur'd;
And if you yet will quit this dang'rous Purpose,
Yours with Rewards, as great as your Desires,
Shall too be given you, and all Wrongs lie bury'd.
Clar. More than I love Rewards, I hate Messenia;
Therefore alive or dead will bear you from 'em.
[He offers to seize her, she keeping him off with her Dagger kneels.
Amal. Oh! Pity yet my Youth, and wretched Fortunes;
A Princess at your Feet behold in Tears,
And Spare the Blood, the Royal Blood of Sparta.
Clar. Yes, and be lost our selves to save a Trayt'ress?
For, such you've been to that high Blood you've boasted.
I will not spare nor pity, but thus seize you.
[ He wrests the Dagger from her, she rises hastily and follow'd by Phila escapes into the Tent, Clarinthus pursues her, and immediately the Cries of Women are heard.
Enter at the other Door Aristor and Soldiers.Aristor. Oh! we are come in time. Detested Villains,
Re-enter Clarinthus.Clar. The Victim's struck which could not be borne off.
Enter Amalintha wounded and supported by Phila.Amal. Phila thy Hand; help me to reach that Couch,
Dead in Aristor's Arms, who'll soon return,
Come forth, and tell him 'twas my last Request
(By all our Love, by all our Sighs and Sorrows,
By our new Vows, and swiftly faded Joys)
That He wou'd yet survive his Amalintha;
Nor let my fatal Vision prove a Truth,
That 'twas my Fate, my hasty Fate that kill'd him.
Phila. Let me but stay, at least 'till he's arriv'd.
Amal. 'Twou'd cross my Purpose, hark! I hear him coming.
Quickly retire and let me hide this Stream,
Lest he shou'd swell it with a Flood of Tears,
And waste in Grief my small remaining Life,
Which I design to lavish out in Love.
[Phila goes off. Amalintha pulls her Garment over her Wound.
About him let my dying Arms be thrown,
Whilst I deny my parting Life one Groan.
My failing Breath shall in soft Sighs expire,
And tender Words spend my last vital Fire;
That of my Death Men this account may give,
She ceas'd to Love, as others cease to Live.
Enter Aristor hastily, and sits down by her.Aristor. How fares my Love? sink not beneath your Fears,
Amal. Its dying Transports, did you say Aristor?
I wou'd be glad to know, that Death has Transports.
But are there none, none that do Live and Love?
That early meet, and in the Spring of Youth,
Uncross'd, nor troubl'd in the soft Design,
Set sweetly out, and travel on to Age
In mutual Joys, that with themselves expire?
Aristor. Indeed, there are but few, that are thus Happy.
But since our Lot it is, t'encrease the number;
Let us not lose a Thought on other's Fortunes,
But keep them still employ'd upon our own;
For in no Hearts, sure, Love e'er wrought more Wonders.
Amal. Oh! not, to mine I gladly did admit it
Thro' the stern hazards of a Father's Wrath,
And all the Hate of Sparta and Messenia.
If e'er I wept, 'twas Love that forc'd the Dew,
And not my Country, or my colder Friendships;
And on my Face (when Lacedemon mourn'd)
Suspected Smiles were seen to mock her Losses;
Because that Love was on the adverse Party.
Thus fond, thus doating have I pass'd my Hours,
And with their dear remembrance will I close
My Life's last Scene, and grasp you thus in Dying.
[ She embraces him.
Aristor. Far be that Hour; but Oh! my Amalintha,
Proceed thus to describe thy tender Soul,
And charm me with thy might Sense of Passion;
For know, 'twas that which fix'd me ever thine,
When with a Pleasure, not to be express'd,
I found no Language of my Love escap'd thee,
Tho' wrapped in Myst'ry to delude the Croud;
When ev'ry longing Look cou'd raise a Blush,
And every Sigh I breath'd heave this lov'd Bosom,
Which held such soft Intelligence with mine,
And now o'erflows with a like Tide of Pleasure.
Aristor. Oh! yes it do's; it meets the vast Delight,
And takes the Thoughts ev'n of Elysium from me.
Nor will I, as some peevish Beauty might,
Take light offence, that mine you did not mention;
Since 'tis my equalling Aristor's Love
Is all the Charm, I wou'd be proud to boast of.
Aristor. Believe not, that I slighted such Perfections.
I saw you Fair, beyond the Fame of Helen;
But Beauty's vain, and fond of new Applause,
Leaving the last Adorer in Despair
At his approach, who can but praise it better:
Whilst Love, Narcissus-like, courts his Reflection,
And seeks itself, gazing on other's Eyes.
When this I found in yours, it bred that Passion,
Which Time, nor Age, nor Death, shall e'er diminish.
Amal. For Time, or Age, I think not of their Power.
But, after Death, Aristor, cou'd you love me,
Still call to me your Thoughts, when so far absent,
And mourn me sleeping in that Rival's Arms?
Aristor. Yes; if I cou'd outlive my Amalintha,
Still shou'd I turn my Eyes to that cold Grave,
Still love thee there, and wish to lie as low.
But why do's ev'ry Period of thy Speech
Thus sadly close with that too mournful Subject?
Why, now I press this Question, dost thou weep,
Yet in my Bosom strive to hide thy Tears?
Paleness is on thy Cheek, and thy damp Brow
Strikes to my Heart such sympathizing Cold,
As quenches all its Fire, but that of Love.
Oh! speak my Life, my Soul, my Amalintha;
Speak, and prevent the boding Fears that tell me
Eternal Separation is at hand,
And after this, I ne'er shall clasp thee more.
[ Embraces her, and she starts and groans.
Amal. Oh! O', O', O'.
Aristor. Nay, if the gentle foldings of my Love,
The tender circling of these Arms can wound,
'Tis sure some inward Anguish do's oppress thee,
Which too unkindly thou wilt still keep secret.
Amal. Secret it shou'd have been, 'till Death had seal'd it;
Had not that Groan, and my weak Tears betray'd me:
[ Speaks faintly.
For Death, which from Clarinthus I receiv'd,
Is come to snatch my Soul from these Embraces.
Aristor. Oh fatal sound! but let me not suppose it,
Till Art is weary'd for thy Preservation.
Haste to procure it Phila: all that hear me
Fly to her Aid; or you more speedy Gods
The Cure be yours, and Hecatombs attend you.
But none approach; then let me haste to bring it,
Tho' thus to leave her is an equal Danger.
[ Endeavours to go.
Amal. Aristor stay; nor let my closing Eyes
One Moment lose the Sight that ever charm'd them.
No Art can bring relief; and melting Life
But lingers till my Soul receives th' Impression
Of that lov'd Form, which ever shall be lasting,
Tho' in new Worlds, new Objects wou'd efface it.
Aristor. No, Amalintha; if it must be so,
Together we'll expire, and trace those Worlds,
As fond, and as united as before:
For know, my Love the Sword of War has reach'd me;
And none wou'd I permit to bind the Wound,
Till to thy gentle Hand I cou'd reveal it.
The Blood uncheck'd shall now profusely flow,
And Art be scorn'd, that cou'd but half restore me.
Amal. Oh! let me plead in Death against that Purpose,
Employ my Hand, yet warm, to close the Wound,
And with my suppling Tears disperse the Anguish.
Your Country asks your stay, and more your Father:
This Blood is his, ally'd to all his Virtues,
By him more priz'd, than what supports his Frame,
Nor shou'd be lavish'd thus without his Licence.
Oh! Aristomenes haste to preserve it,
Since Life from me departs, and Love is useless
[ She dies.
Aristor. Her fleeting Breath has borne far hence my Name:
But soon my following Spirit shall o'ertake her.
My Godlike Father gave her to my Arms,
And then resign'd to her more powerful Claim
This purple Stream, which wafts me to possess her.
May every Power, that shields paternal Goodness,
Enfold his Person, and support his Sway:
His dear remembrance take these parting drops,
[ He weeps.
And then be free, my Soul, for ties more lasting,
Eternal Love, the faithful Lovers due,
In those blest Fields, which stand display'd before me.
[ He takes her in his Arms and dies.
Enter Phila.Phila. I shou'd have come, and urg'd his Preservation,
Shouts of Victory. Enter Demagetus, Arcasius, Alcander, and several officers, their Swords drawn as coming from Battle.Demag. A glorious Day, and warmly was it fought:
Stoop to the General's Valour –
Some Troops are order'd to secure Phærea;
And with to-morrow's Sun he enters there
To take the Homage of the conquer'd Spartans.
Alcand. They say, that Anaxander he has freed
As generously, as he'd ne'er known the Dungeon.
Demag. He did, at Prince Aristor's kind Request;
And now, with the high Marks of Conquest crown'd
Is coming to declare to Amalintha
That all her Wishes, and her Fears are ended.
[ Turning to go into the Tent, he sees the Bodies.
They are, indeed; for ever, ever ended.
Oh! turn and see where that pale Beauty lies,
And faithful, dead Aristor, bleeding by her!
Alcand. O sudden Horror! where's our Conquest now,
Our lofty Boasts, and brave expected Triumphs?
Lie there, my Sword, beneath my Leader's Feet;
[ Lays his sword at Aristor's Feet.
For under him I fought, and now weep for him.
Demag. We'll all join to encrease the mournful Shower.
A Soldier for a Soldier's Fall may weep,
And shed these Drops without unmanly Weakness.
[ A Sound of Trumpets.
But hark! the Gen'ral, how shall we receive him?
Awhile we'll with our Bodies shade this Prospect,
And tell him by our Looks, some Grief attends him;
Lest all his Fortitude shou'd not support
A Change so sudden in his wretched Fortune.
Nor can we learn from whence this Loss proceeds.
Phila. Yes, that you may from me: Life yet remains,
And will admit of the too dire Relation.
Demag. Then gently bear her hence, and hear it from her.
[ They lead off Phila.
That when the Sorrow, which at first must bar
All cold Enquiries, shall awhile be past,
The Gen'ral may be told to what he owes it.
But see! he enters; be we Sad and Silent:
For Oh! too soon this fading Joy must vanish.
[ They stand all together before the Bodies.
A FLOURISH of Drums and Trumpets, with Shouts of Joy.
Enter several Officers and Soldiers, the Shepherds and Shepherdesses strewing flowers, follow'd by Aristomenes, his Sword drawn in his Hand, and a Wreath of Victory on his Head.
Others. Live long and happy, Father of Messenia!
Aristom. Now to fair Amalintha wou'd I speak
The joyful Tydings of this Day's Atchievements:
Therefore let her be told, we wish her Presence.
[ Seeing none move.
Ha! what none stir! perhaps Aristor's with her:
Why let him tell it; from a Lover's mouth,
'Twill bear a Sound more welcome and harmonious.
And sure in Love and Battle none exceeds him,
The last you all can witness; you saw him Fight,
Saw the young Warrior with his Beaver up
Dart like the Bolt of Jove amongst their Ranks,
And scatter 'em like an Oak's far-shooting Splinters.
Will none confirm it? this is envious Silence.
[ Walks up and down.
Thou Demagetus, ha! thou'rt all in Tears,
And so are these that make a Wall about thee:
The Cause deliver, Oh! declare it quickly.
Demag. Enquire it not, my Lord; too soon 'twill find you.
Aristom. I must prevent it by my hasty Search.
Reveal it you, or you, since all partake it:
[ To Alcander, &c.
What silent still! –
If yet ye do not speak, ye do not love me;
I find you do not, since ye all are Speechless.
Aristor wou'd have spoke, had he been here.
Demag. Aristor's here, but Oh! he cannot speak.
You have it now, my Lord, and must weep with us.
Aristom. Thy Tongue has warn'd my Eyes to seek the Centre:
[ Looks down.
For round this Place I dare not let them stray,
Lest they explain too soon, thy fatal meaning.
Oh! Anaxander, had such Trembling seiz'd me,
When at the Army's Head I met thy Fury;
The poorest of thy Troops had cry'd me Coward.
Why so we're all, there's not a Man that is not;
We all dread something, and can shrink with Terror:
Yet he that comes a Conqu'ror from the Field,
Shall find a vain Applause to crown his Valour,
Tho' fainting thus, and sweating cold with Fear.
[ Pauses and leans on an Officer.
But didst thou say, Aristor cou'd not speak?
Oh! that I live to ask it! not answer to his Father!
Demag. Oh! never more!
Aristom. The Sun will keep his Pace, and Time revolve,
Rough Winters pass, and Springs come smiling on;
But Thou dost talk of Never, Demagetus:
Yet ere Despair prevails, retract that Word
Whose cloudy distance bars the reach of Thought,
Nor let one Ray of Hope e'er dawn beyond it.
Never, Oh never!
Demag. This Passion must rise higher, ere it falls.
Divide, and let him know the worst.
[ To the Officers.
Aristom. Where is my Son? my Grief has pass'd all Bounds,
All dallying Circumstance, and vain Delusion,
And will be told directly where to find him.
Demag. Oh! then behold him there!
[ They divide. He seeing the Bodies stands awhile amaz'd and speechless, drops his Sword, then speaks.Aristom. So look'd the World to Pyrrha, and her Mate;
[ He takes the Sword that lay at Aristor's Feet, and goes to fall upon it, Demagetus takes hold of it.
Demag. Oh! hold, my Lord; nor stab at once your Army.
[ All the Officers and Soldiers kneel, Alcander speaks.
Alcand. We're all your Sons; and if you strike, my Lord,
The Spartans may come back, and take our Bodies;
For when yours goes, our Spirits shall attend it.
[ They all prepare to fall on their Swords.
Aristom. Wou'd you then have me live, when thus unbowell'd,
Without the Charms of my Aristor's presence,
Without his Arm to second me in Fight,
And in still Peace his Voice to make it perfect?
[ He rises in a Passion and comes forward on the Stage.
Yea, I will live, ye Sov'reign Pow'rs, I will:
You've put my Virtue to its utmost Proof;
Yet thus chastis'd, I own superior Natures,
And all your fixt Decrees this Sword shall further,
'TIll Rhodes is rescu'd, and my Task completed.
Who knows, but that the Way to your Elysium
Is Fortitude in Ills, and brave Submission;
Since Heroes whom your Oracles distinguish,
Are often here amidst their Greatness wretched?
But yet my Heart! my lov'd, my lost Aristor!
Demag. Let me succeed him in his active Duty,
And join with all the Earth to bring you Comfort.
Aristom. Comfort on Earth! Oh! 'tis not to be found.
My Demagetus, thou hast far to travel;
The Bloom of Youth sits graceful on thy Brow,
And bids thee look for Days of might Pleasures,
For prosp'rous Wars, and the soft Smiles of Beauty,
For generous Sons, that may reflect thy Form,
And give thee Hopes, as I had, of their succour.
Demag. With these indeed my Thoughts have still been flatter'd.
Aristom. Then let me draw this flatt'ring Veil aside,
And bid thee here, here in this Face behold,
How biting Cares have done the work of Age,
And in my best of Strength mark'd me a Dotard.
Defeated Armies, slaughter'd Friends are here;
Disgraceful Bonds, and Cities laid in Ashes:
And if thou find'st, that Life will yet endure it,
Since what I here have lost–
So bow'd, so waining shalt thou see this Carcass,
That scarce thou wilt recall what once it was.
Then be instructed Thou, and All that hear me,
Not to expect the compass of soft Wishes,
Or constant Joys, which fly the fond Possessor.
Since Man, by swift returns of Good and Ill,
In all the Course of Life's uncertain still;
By Fortune favour'd now, and now opprest,
And not, 'till Death, secure of Fame, or Rest.