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Ripe for revolt, are in high ferment all.
I thence of you, as guardian of the laws,
As guardian of this will, to you entrusted,
Desire, nay more, demand your instant aid,
To see it put in vigorous execution.
Sif. You cannot doubt, my lord, of my concur-
But let us not precipitate the matter.
Constantia's friends are numerous and strong;
Yet Tancred's, trust me, are of equal force:
Oh, let us join,
My generous Osmond, to avert these woes,
And yet sustain our tottering Norman kingdom |
Osm. But how, Siffredi, how If by soft means
We can maintain our rights, and save our country,
May his unnatural blood first stain the sword,
Who with unpitying fury first shall draw it!
Sif. I have a thought—The glorious work be thine.
Suppose my daughter, to her God devoted,
Were placed within some convent's sacred verge, |
Beneath the dread protection of the altar o
Osm. Ere then, by Heavens ! I would
Turn whining monk myself,
And pray incessant for the tyrant’s safety.
What!—How ! because an insolent invader,
A sacrilegious tyrant, demands my wife—
What! shall I tamely yield her up,
Even in the manner you propose? Oh, then
I were supremely vile! degraded ! shamed !
The scorn of manhood and abhorr'd of honour!
Sis. There is, my lord, an honour, the calm child
Of reason, of humanity, and mercy.
Osm. My lord, my lord, I cannot brook your pru-
It holds a pulse unequal to my blood
Unblemish'd honour is the flower of virtue !
The vivifying soul! and he who slights it,
Will leave the other dull and lifeless dross.
Sis. No more You are too warm.
Osm. You are too cool.
Sif. I wish Earl Osmond were as cool as I
To his own selfish bliss—ay, and as warm
To that of others—But of this no more—
My daughter is thy wife I gave her to thee,
And will, against all force, maintain her thine.
But think not I will catch thy headlong passions,
Whirl’d in a blaze of madness o'er the land;
Or, till the last extremity compel me,
IRisk the dire means of war The king, to-morrow,
Will set you free; and, if by gentle means
He does not yield my daughter to your arms,
And wed Constantia, as the will requires,
Why then expect me on the side of justice
Let that suffice.
Osm. It does—Forgive my heat 1
My rankled mind, my injuries inflamed,
May be too prompt to take and give offence.
Sis. "Tis past—Your wrongs, I own, may well
The wisest mind But henceforth, noble Osmond,
Do me more justice, honour more my truth,
Nor mark me with an eye of squint suspicion.
These jars apart—You may repose your soul
On my firm faith, and unremitting friendship.
Return, my son, and from your friend Goffredo
Release your word. There try, by soft repose,
To calm your breast.
Soon as to-morrow's dawn shall streak the skies,
I, with my friends, in solemn state assembled,
Will to the palace, and demand your freedom:
Then by calm reason, or by higher means,
The king shall quit his claim, and in the face
Of Sicily, my daughter shall be yours.
Osm. My lord, good night. [Exit SIFF REDI. [After a long pause..] I like him not——
Yes—I have mighty matter of suspicion. My honour is not safe, while here my wife o Remains—Who knows but he this very night May bear her to some convent, as he mentionedThe king too—though I smother'd up my rage, I mark'd it well—will set me free to-morrow. Why not to-night? He has some dark design By Heavens, he has s—I am abused most grossly; Made the vile tool of this old statesman's schemes l I will not wait his crawling timid motions; I will convince him, that Earl Osmond never Was form'd to be his dupe I will bear her off This night, and lodge her in a place of safety: I have a trusty band that waits not far. Hence 1 let me lose no time—One rapid moment Should ardent form, at once, and execute A bold design—'Tis fix’d—"Tis done! The mine is laid, And only wants my kindling touch to spring.
SIGISMUNDA's Apartment. [Thunder.
Enter SIGIs MUNDA and LAURA.
Jaura. Heavens! 'tis a fearful night!
Sig. Ah! the black rage
Of midnight tempest, or th' assuring smiles
Of radiant morn, are equal all to me.
Leave me, my Laura.
Laura. Madam, indeed I know not how to go.
Indulge my fondness—Let me watch a while
By your sad bed, till these dread hours shall pass.
- - UThunder.
Sig. Oh, that the fires
Of pitying Heaven would point their fury here!
Good night, my dearest Laura.
Laura. Oh, I know not -
What this oppression means—But ’tis with pain,
With tears, I can persuade myself to leave you
Well then—Good night, my dearest Sigismunda.
Sig. I said I did not fear—Ah me, I feel A shivering horror run through all my powers : What shall I do How pass this dreadful night, so big with terror?— Here with the midnight shades, here will I sit, [Sitting down. A prey to dire despair, and ceaseless weep The hours away—Bless me!—I heard a noise— [Starting up. No—I mistook—nothing but silence reigns, And awful midnight round—Again —Oh, Heavens! My lord, the king !
Tan. Be not alarm’d, my love!
Sin. My royal lord, why at this midnight hour, How came you hither?
Tan. By that secret way
My love contrived, when we, in happier days,
Used to devote these hours so much in vain,
To vows of love, and everlasting friendship.
Sig. Why will you thus persist to add new stings
To her distress, who never can be thine 2
Oh, fly me! fly! you know—
Tan. I know too much. Oh, how I could reproach thee, Sigismunda! Pour out my injured soul in just complaints' But now the time permits not, these swift moments— I told thee how thy father's artifice Forced me to seem perfidious in thy eyes.
E'er since—a dreadful interval of care!—
My thoughts have been employ'd, not without hope,
How to defeat Siffredi's barbarous purpose.
But thy credulity has ruin’d all;
Thy rash, thy wild—I know notwhat to name it—
Oh, it has proved the giddy hopes of man
To be delusion all, and sick'ning folly!
Sig. Ah, generous Tancred l ah, thy truth destroy
Yes, yes, ’tis I, 'tis I alone am false!
Now is thy turn of vengeance—hate, renounce me!
At least, try to forget the worthless Sigismunda!
Tan. Forget thee! No! Thou art my soul itself!
I have no thought, no hope, no wish but thee!
Ah, how forget thee!—Much must be forgot,
Ere Tancred can forget his Sigismunda! -
Sig. But you, my lord, must make that great ef-
Tan. Can Sigismunda make it?
Sig. Ah, I know not
With what success—But all that feeble woman
And love-entangled reason can perform,
I to the utmost will exert to do it.
Tan. Oh, barbarous Sigismunda!
And canst thou talk thus steadily! thus treat me
With such unpitying, unrelenting rigour?
Poor is the love that, rather than give up
A little pride, a little formal pride,
The breath of vanity, can bear to see .
The man, whose heart was once so dear to thine,
By many a tender vow so mix’d together,
A prey to anguish, fury, and distraction 1
Thou canst not surely make me such a wretch;
Thou camst not, Sigismunda!—Yet relent.
Oh, save us yet!—Rodolpho, with my guards,
Waits in the garden—Let us seize the moments
We ne'er may have again—With more than power,
I will assert thee mine with fairest honour. * -