Obrázky stránek

Within our walls are troops inured to toil
In Afric's heats, and seasoned to the sun;
Numidia's spacious kingdom lies behind us,
Ready to rise at its young prince's call.
While there is hope, do not mistrust the gods ;
But wait at least till Cæsar's near approach
Force us to yield. 'Twill never be too late
To sue for chains, and own a conqueror.
Why should Rome fall a moment ere her time!
No, let us draw her term of freedom out
In its full length, and spin it to the last.
So shall we gain still one day's liberty;
And let me perish, but in Cato's judgment,
A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.

[Enter Marcus.]
Marcus. Fathers, this moment, as I watched the gate,
Lodged on my post, a herald is arrived
From Cæsar's camp, and with him comes old Decius,
The Roman knight; he carries in his looks
Impatience, and demands to speak with Cato.

Cato. By your permission, fathers, bid him enter.
Decius was once my friend, but other prospects
Have loosed those ties, and bound him fast to Cæsar.
His message may determine our resolves.

[Enter Decius.] Decius. Cæsar sends health to Cato

Cato. Could he send it
To Cato's slaughter'd friends, it would be welcome.
Are not your orders to address the senate ?

Dec. My business is with Cato ; Cæsar sees
The straits to which you ’re driven ; and as he knows
Cato’s high worth, is anxious for your

Cato. My life is grafted on the fate of Rome.
Would he save Cato ? Bid him spare his country.


Tell your dictator this; and tell him, Cato
Disdains a life which he has power to offer.

Dec. Rome and her senators submit to Cæsar ;
Her generals and her consuls are no more,
Who check’d his conquests and denied his triumphs.
Why will not Cato be this Cæsar's friend ?

Cato. Those very reasons thou hast urged forbid it.

Dec. Cato, I've orders to expostulate,
And reason with you, as from friend to friend;
Think on the storm that gathers o'er your head,
And threatens every hour to burst upon
Still may you stand high in your country's honors,
Do but comply, and make your peace with Cæsar.
Rome will rejoice, and cast its eyes on Cato,
As on the second of mankind.

Cato. No more ;
I must not think of life on such conditions.

Dec. Cæsar is well acquainted with your virtues,
And therefore sets this value on your life :
Let him but know the price of Cato’s friendship,
And name your terms.

Cato. Bid him disband his legions,
Restore the commonwealth to liberty,
Submit his actions to the public censure,
And stand the judgment of a Roman senate.
Bid him do this, and Cato is his friend.

Dec. Cato, the world talks loudly of your wisdom

Cato. Nay more, though Cato's voice was ne'er employed
To clear the guilty, and to varnish crimes,
Myself will mount the rostrum in his favor,
And strive to gain his pardon from the people.

Dec. A style like this becomes a conqueror.
Cato. Decius, a style like this becomes a Roman.
Dec. What is a Roman, that is Cæsar's foe?
Cato. Greater than Cæsar: he's a friend to virtue.
Dec. Consider, Cato, you're in Utica,

And at the head of your own little senate ;
You don't now thunder in the Capitol,
With all the mouths of Rome to second you.

Cato. Let him consider that, who drives us hither.
'Tis Cæsar's sword has made Rome's senate little,
And thinn'd its ranks. Alas ! thy dazzled eye
Beholds this man in a false glaring light,
Which conquest and success have thrown upon him ;
Didst thou but view him right, thou’dst see him black
With murder, treason, sacrilege, and crimes
That strike my soul with horror but to name them.
I know thou look'st on me as on a wretch
Beset with ills, and covered with misfortunes;
But, as I love my country, millions of worlds
Should never buy me to be like that Cæsar !

Dec. Does Cato send this answer back to Cæsar,
For all his generous cares, and proffered friendship?

Cato. His cares for me are insolent and vain :
Presumptuous man ! the gods take care of Cato.
Would Cæsar show the greatness of his soul ?
Bid him employ his care for these my friends,
And make good use of his ill-gotten power,
By sheltering men much better than himself.

Dec. Your high unconquered heart makes you forget
You are a man.
You rush on your

destruction :
But I have done. When I relate hereafter
The tale of this unhappy embassy,
All Rome will be in tears.



Virginius. And is this all you have observed ? I think There's nothing strange in that. An L and I

Twined with a V. T'hree very innocent letters
To have bred such mischief in thy brain, good Servia !
Come read this riddle to me.

Servia. You may laugh,
Virginius, but I'll read the riddle right.
The L doth stand for Lucius; and the I,
Icilius; which, I take it, will compose
Lucius Icilius.

Vir. So it will, good Servia.
Ser. Then, for the V, why, that is plain Virginia.
Vir. And now,
what conjuration find you

Ser. What should I find but love? The maid's in love,
And it is with Icilius. Look, the wreath
Is made of roses, that entwines the letters.

Vir. And is this all ?

Ser. And is it not enough?
You'll find this figuring where'er you look.
There's not a piece of dainty work she does —
Embroidery or painting - not a task
She finishes, but on the skirt, or border,
In needle work, or pencil, this, her secret,
The silly wench betrays.

Vir. Go, send her to me
Stay ! have you spoken to her of it?

Ser. I ! not I, indeed; I left that task to you —
Though once I ask'd her what the letters meant,
She laugh’d, and drew a scratch across them ; but
Had scarce done so, ere her fair visage fell,
For grief that she had spoiled the ciphers — and
A sigh came out, and then almost a tear;
And she did look as piteous on the harm
That she had done, as she had done it to
A thing, had sense to feel it. Never after,
She let me note her at work again.
She had good reason !

Vir. Send her to me, Servia. (Exit Servia.)

There's something here, that looks as it would bring me
Anticipation of my wish. I think
Icilius loves my daughter — nay, I know it ;
And such a man I'd challenge for her husband ; - .
And only waited, till her forward spring
Put on, a little more, the genial likeness
Of coloring into summer, ere I sought
To nurse a flower, which blossoming too early,
Too early often dies; but if it springs
Spontaneous, and, unlooked for, woos our hand
To tend and cherish it, the growth is healthful :
And 'twere untimely, as unkind to check it.
I'll ascertain it shortly — soft, she comes.

[Enter Virginia.] Virginia. Well, father, what's


will ? Vir. I wish'd to see you, To ask


of your tasks how they go on-
And what your masters say of you — what last
You did. I hope you never play
The truant ?

Virginia. The truant! No indeed, Virginius.
Vir. I am sure you do not.

Virginia. O! my father,
I am so happy, when you're kind to me!

Vir. You are so happy when I'm kind to you !
Am I not always kind ? I never spoke
word to

you in all my life. Virginia ! you are happy when I'm kind ! That’s strange; and makes me think you have some reason To fear I may be otherwise than kind Is’t so my girl ?

Virginia. Indeed I did not know What I was saying to you !

Vir. Why, that's worse And worse! What! when you said your father's kindness

« PředchozíPokračovat »