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Osm. [Snatching her hand from the king.] Madam, this hand, by the most solemn rites,
A little hour ago, was given to me;
And did not sovereign honour now command me,
Never but with my life to quit my claim,
I would renounce it—thus ! .
Tan. Ha, who art thou?
Sig. [Aside.] Where is my father? Heavens !
- [Goes out. Osm. One thou should'st better know.—Yes-—view me, one
Who can and will maintain his rights and honour Against a faithless prince, an upstart king ! Whose first base deed is what a harden'd tyrant Would blush to act.
Tan. Insolent Osmond know, This upstart king will hurl confusion on thee, And all who shall invade his sacred rights, Prior to thine!—thine, founded on compulsion, On infamous deceit. I will annul, By the high power with which the laws invest me, Those guilty forms, in which you have entrapp'd My queen betroth'd, who has my heart, my hand, And shall partake my throne.—If, haughty lord, If this thou didst not know, then know it now ; And know, besides, as I have told thee this, Should'st thou but think to urge thy treason further, Thy life shall answer for it.
Osm. Ha! my life! It moves my scorn to hear thy empty threats. When was it that a Norman baron’s life Became so vile, as on the frown of kings To hang?—Of that, my lord, the law must judge: Or, if the law be weak, my guardian sword—
Tan. Dare not to touch it, traitor, lest my rage Break loose, and do a deed that misbecomes me.
Sis. My gracious lord, what is it I behold !
My sovereign in contention with his subjects
Heavens ! can your highness
From your exalted character descend,
Unkindly thus disturb the sweet repose,
The sacred peace of families, for which
Alone the free-born race of man to laws
And government submitted
Tan. My Lord Siffredi,
Spare thy rebuke. The duties of my station
Are not to me unknown. But thou, old man,
Dost thou not blush to talk of rights invaded,
And of our best, our dearest, bliss disturb’d 2
Thou, who with more than barbarous perfidy,
Hast trampled all allegiance, justice, truth,
Humanity itself, beneath thy feet?
Thou know'st thou hast.—l could to thy confusion
Return thy hard reproaches; but I spare thee
Before this lord, for whose ill-sorted friendship
Thou hast most basely sacrificed thy daughter.
Farewell, my lord.—For thee, Lord Constable,
Who dost presume to lift thy surly eye
To my soft love, my gentle Sigismunda,
I once again command thee, on thy life
Yes—chew thy rage—but mark me—on thy life,
No further urge thy arrogant pretensions !
Osm. Ha! arrogant pretensions! Heaven and earth! What! arrogant pretensions to my wife? My wedded wife!—Where are we? in a land Of civil rule, of liberty, and laws?— Not, on my life, pursue them —Giddy prince My life disdains thy nod. It is the gift
Of parent Heaven, who gave me too an arm,
A spirit to defend it against tyrants.
Mine is a common cause. My arm shall guard,
Mix'd with my own, the rights of each Sicilian.
Ere to thy tyrant rage they fall a prey,
I shall find means to shake thy tottering throne,
And crush thee in the ruins !—
Constantia is my queen'
Sif. Lord Constable,
Let us bestedfast in the right; but let us
Act with cool prudence, and with manly temper,
As well as manly firmness.
I know the king; at first, his passions burst
Quick as the lightning's flash, but in his breast
Honour and justice dwell.—Trust me, to reason
He will return.
Osm. He will !—By Heavens, he shall!— You know the king—I wish, my Lord Siffredi, That you had deign'd to tell me all you knew.— And would you have me wait, with duteous patience, Till he return to reason: Ye just powers! When he has planted on our necks his foot, And trod us into slaves; when his vain pride Is cloy'd with our submission. No, no, my lord! there is a nobler way To teach the blind oppressive Fury reason: Oft has the lustre of avenging steel Unseal’d her stupid eyes.—The sword is reason —
Enter Rodolpho, with GUARDs.
Rod. My Lord High Constable of Sicily, In the King's name, and by his special order, I here arrest you prisoner of state.
Osm. What king I know no King of Sicily, Unless he be the husband of Constantia.
Rod. Then know him now behold his royal
To bear you to the castle of Palermo.
Sif. Let the big torrent foam its madness off.
Submit, my lord—No castle long can hold
Our wrongs.-This, more than friendship or alliance,
Confirms me thine; this binds me to thy fortunes, e
By the strong tie of common injury,
Which nothing can dissolve.—I grieve, Rodolpho,
To see the reign in such unhappy sort
Osm. The reign —The usurpation, call it!
This meteor king may blaze a while, but soon
Must spend his idle terrors.-Sir, lead on
Farewell, my lord—more than my life and fortune,
Remember well, is in your hands—my honour !
Sif. Our honouris the same. Myson, farewell—
We shall not long be parted.—On these eyes
Sleep shall not shed his balm, till I behold thee
Restored to freedom, or partake thy bonds. [Ea.eunt.
Sif. The prospect lowers around. I found the king
Inexorably fix’d, whate'er the risk,
To claim my daughter, and dissolve the marriage.—
I have embark'd, upon a perilous Sea,
A mighty treasure; and I only faster rush
Upon the desperate evils I would shun.
Whate’er the motive be, deceit, I fear,
And harsh unnatural force, are not the means
Of public welfare, or of private bliss.-
Bear witness, Heaven, thou mind-inspecting eye
My breast is pure. I have preferr'd my duty,
The good and safety of my fellow-subjects,
To all those views that fire the selfish race
Of mortal men, and mix them in eternal broils.
Enter an Officer belonging to SIFFREDI.
Off. My lord, a man of noble port, his face Wrapp'd in disguise, is earnest for admission.
Sis. Go, bid him enter [Erit Officer. Ha! wrapp'd in disguise! And at this unseasonable hour !
Enter Osmond, discovering himself.
What ha!—Earl Osmond, you?—Welcome, once
To this glad roof'
Would I could hope the king exceeds his promise!
I have his faith, soon as to-morrow's sun
Shall gild Sicilia's cliffs, you shall be free.
Has some good angel turn'd his heart to justice 2
Osm. It is not by the favour of Count Tancred
That I am here. As much I scorn his favour,
As I defy his tyranny and threats—
Our friend Goffredo, who commands the castle,
On my parole, ere dawn to render back
My person, has permitted me this freedom.
Know, then, the faithless outrage of to-day,
By him committed whom you call the king,
Hasroused Constantia's court. Our friends, the friends
Of virtue, justice, and of public faith,