페이지 이미지
PDF

Semicho. Heav'n forbid! Elfridu's brain Would madden at the sight.

Org. Mistake not, virgins;
1 did not mean at this distressful hour
The king should see my daughter.

Semicho. No, for pity,
Do not profane this sabbath of her grief.
O be her sorrow sacred!

Org. Fear not, virgins,
Her peace is my best care, and, to ensure it,
I'll haste this instant, by young Edwin's guidance,
To find the monarch. Some four miles from

Harewood
Stands old Egbert's cnstle, my fast friend.
With him will I persuade the king to sojourn,
'Till my child's grief abate; that too to speed
Be it your business, virgins. Watching ever
Each nappy interval, when your sort tongues
May hint his praises, 'till, by practice won,
She bear their fuller blazon. Elfrida's welfare
Requires this friendly office at your hands;
And Edgar's virtues bear such genuine lustre,
That truth itself directs. [Exit Orgar.

Semicho. As truth directs,
So only shall we act. This day has shewn
What dire effects await its violation.
Straight is the road of truth, and plain;
And, though across the sacred way
Ten thousand erring footsteps stray,
'Tis ours to walk direct,
And, with sage caution circumspect,
Pace slowly through the solemn scene.

[The principal virgin returns.

Semicho. Has Orgar left the grove?

Semicho. He has, my sister.

Semicho. Then hear, and aid Elfrida's last re-
solve,
Who takes the only way stern fate has left,
To save her plighted faith for ever pure
To her dead Athelwold.

Semicho. Forbid it, patience;
Forbid it, that submissive calm of soul,
Which teaches mcek-ey'd piety to smile
Bentath the scourge of Heav'n.

Semicho. Ye need not fc-ar it,
She means not self-destruction. Thanks to heav'n,
Huge and o'erbearing as her mis'ry is,
It cannot so oblit'rate from her breast
The written rule of duty. Her pure soul
Means, on the instant, to devote itself
To heav'n and holiness. Assist her straight,
Lest Edgar's presence, and her father's rage,
Prevent the blest intention. See, she comes.
Kneel on each side, devoutly kneel around her;
And breathe some pniy'r in high and solemn
•rains,

That angels from their thrones of light may hear, And ratify her vow.

Elfrida, Chorus. Elfrida kneels, and the virgins divide in tulo troops.

Semicho. Hear, angels, hear,
Hear from these nether thrones of light;
And O! in golden characters record
Each firm, immutable, immortal word.
Then wing your solemn flight
Up to the heav'n of heav'ns, and there
Hang the conspicuous tablet high,
'Mid the dread records of eternity.

Elf. Hear first, that Athelwold's sad widow ..
swears
To rear a hallow'd convent o'er the place,
Where stream'd his blood: there will she weep

through life,
Immur'd with this chaste throng of virgins; there
Each day shall six times hear her full-voic'd choir
Chaunt the slow requiem o'er her lnaityr'd lord;
There too, when midnight lours with awful gloom.
She'll rise observant of the stated call
Of waking grief, bear the dim livid taper
A long the winding isles, and at the altar
Kiss ev'ry pale shrine with her trembling lips,
Press the cold stone with her bent knee, and call
On sainted Athelwold.

Semicho. Hear, angels, hear,
Hear from these nether thrones of light;
And O! in golden characters record
Each firm, immutable, immortal word.
Then wing your solemn flight
Up to the heav'n of heav'ns, and there
Hang the conspicuous tablet high,
'Mid the dread records of eternity.

Elf. Hear next, that Athelwold's sad widow
swears
Never to violate the holy vow
She to his truth first plighted; swears to bear
The sober singleness of widowhood
To her cold grave. If from this chaste resolve
Sheeven in thought should swerve; if gaudy pomp,
Or flatt'ring greatness e'er shoidd tempt one wish
To stray beyond tin's purpose; may that heav'n,
Which hears this vow, punish its violation,
As heav'nly justice ought.

Clio. Hear, angels, hear,
Hear from these nether thrones of light;
And O! in golden characters record
Each firm, immutable, immortal word.
Then wing your solemn flight
Up to the heav'n of heav'ns, and there
Hang the conspicuous tablet high,
'Mid the dread records of eternity.

[Exeunt omnrs.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Aulus Didius, with Romans.

Tills is the secret centre of the isle:
Here, Romans, pause, and let the eye of wonder
Gaze on the solemn scene; behold yon oak,
How stern he frowns, and with his broad brown

arms
Chills the pale plain beneath him: mark yon altar,
The dark stream brawling round its rugged base,
These cliffs, these yawning caverns, this wide cir-
cus,
Skirted with unhewn stone: they awe my soul,
As if the very genius of the place
Himself appear'(I, and with terrific tread
Stalk'd through his drear domain. And yet, my

friends, (If shapes like his be but the fancy's coinage) Surely there is a hidden power, that reigns 'Mid the lone majesty of untam'd nature, Controuling sober reason; tell me else, Why do these haunts of barb'rous superstition O'ercome me thus? I scorn them, yet they awe me.

Call forth the British princes: in this gloom
I mean to school them to our enterprise.

Enttr VELLINUS and ELIDURUS.

Ye pledges dear of Cartismandua's faith,
Approach! and to mine uninstructed ear
Explain this scene of horror.

Eli. Daring Roman,
Know that thou stand'st on consecrated ground:
These mighty piles of magic-planted rock,
Thus ranged in mystic order, mark the place
Where but at times of holiest festival
The Druid leads his train.

Aulus. Where dwells the seer?

Vel. In yonder shaggy cave; on which the
moon
Now sheds a side-long gleam. His brotherhood
Possess the neighb'ring cliffs.

Aulas. Yet up the hill
Mine eye descries a distant range of caves,
Delv'd in the ridges of the craggy steep:
And this way still another.

EU. On the left,

part

• The dramatic part of the Chorus is supposed to be chiefly spoken by the principal Druid;.the lyrical rt sang by the Bards.

Reside the sages skill'd in nature's lore:
The changeful universe, its numbers, powers,
Studious they measure, save when meditation
Gives place to holy rites: then in the grove
Each hath his rank and function. Yonder grots
Are tenanted by Bards, who nightly thence,
Rob'd in their flowing vests of innocent white,
Descend, with harps that glitter to the moon,
Hymning immortal strains. The spirits of air,
Of earth, of water, nay of heav'n itself,
Do listen to their lay: and oft, 'tis said,
In visible shapes dance they a magic round
To the high minstrelsy. Now, if thine eye
Be sated with the view, haste to thy ships;
And ply thine oars; for, if the Druids leam
This bold intrusion, thou wilt find it hard
To foil their fury.

An/us. Prince, I did not moor
My light-arm'd shallops on this dangerous strand
To sooth a fruitless curiosity:
I come in quest of proud Caractacus;
Who, when our veterans put his troops to flight,
Found refuge here.

Eli. If here the monarch rests, Presumptuous chief! thou might'st as well essay To pluck him from yon stars: Earth's ample

range Contains no surer refuge: underneath The soil we tread, a hundred secret paths, Scoop'd through the living rock in winding maze, Leiul to as many caverns, dark, and deep: In which the hoary sages act their rites Mysterious, rites of such strange potency, As, done in open day, would dim the sun, Though throned in noontide brightness. In such

dens
He may for life lie hid.

Aulus. We know the task
Most difficult: yet has thy royal mother
Furnish'd the means.

Eli. Mr mother say'st thou, Roman?

Aldus. In proof of that firm faith she lends to Rome, She gave you up her honour's hostages.

Eli. She did: and we submit.

Anhu. To Rome we bear you; From your dear country bear yon; from your

j°y9.

Your loves, your friendships, all your souls hold precious. Eli. And dost thou taunt us, Roman, with our

fate? Aulus. No, youth, by heav'n, I would avert that fate. Wish ye for liberty?

Vel. Eli. More" than for life.
Aulus. And would do much to gain it?
Vel. Name the task.

Aulus. The task is easy. Haste ye to these
Druids:
Tell them ye come, commission'd by your queen,
To seek the great Caractacus; and call
His valour to her aid, against the legions,
Which, led by our Ostorius, now assail

Her frontiers. The late treaty she has seal'd
Is yet unknown: and this her royal signet,
Which, more to mask our purpose, was obtain'd,
Shall be your pledge of faith. The eager king
Will gladly take the charge; and, he consenting,
What else remains, but to the Meinai's shore
Ye lead his credulous step? there will we seize

him,
Bear him to Rome, the substitute for you,
And give von back to freedom.
Vel. If the Druids—

Aulus. If they, or he, prevent this artifice, Then force must take its way: then flaming

brands, And biting axes, wielded by our soldiers, Must level these thick shades, and so unlodge The lurking savage.

EH. Gods, shall Mona perish? Aulus. Princes, her cv'ry trunk shall on the ground Stretch its gigantic length; unless, ere dawn, Ye lure this untam'd lion to our toils. Go then, and prosper; I shall to the ships, And there expect his coming. Youths, remember. He must to Rome to grace great Caesar's triumph: Caesar and fate demand him at your hand.

[Exeunt Aulus Didi'us and Romans.

Elidcrus, Vellinus.

Eli. And will heav'n suffer it? Will the just gods, That tread yon spangled pavement o'er our heads, Look from their sky and yield him? Will these

Druids, Their sage vicegerents, not call down the thunder j And will not instant its hot bolts be darted In such a righteous cause? Yes, good old king, Yes, last of Britons, thou art heav'n's own pledge; And shalt be such till death.

Vel. What means ray brother? Dost thou refuse the charge?

Eli. Dost thou accept it i

Vet. It gives us liberty.

Eli. It makes us traitors.
Gods, would Vellinus do a deed of baseness?

Vet. Will Elidurus scorn the proffer'd boon
Of freedom?

Eli. Yet, when such its guilty price, Brother, I spurn it.

Vel. Go then, foolish boy!
I'll do the deed myself.

Eli. It shall not be:
I will proclaim the fraud.

Vel. Wilt thou ? 'tis well.
Hie to yon cave; call loudly on the Druid;
And bid him drag to ignominious death
The partner of thy blood. Yet hope not thou
To 'scape; for thou didst join my impious steps;
Therefore his wrath shall curse thee: thou shalt

live; Yet shalt thou live an interdicted wretch, All rights of nature cancelTd.

Eli. O Vellinus! Rend not my soul: by heav'n thou know'st I

love thee, As fervently as brother e'er lov'd brother: And, loving thee, I thought I lov'd mine honour. Ah! do not wake, dear youth, in tliis true breast So fierce a conflict.

Vel. Honour's voice commands
Thou should'st obey thy mother, and thy queen.
Honour and holiness alike conspire
To bid thee save these consecrated groves
From Roman devastation.

Eli. Horrid thought!
Hence let us haste, ev'n to the furthest nook
Of this wide isle; nor view the sacrilege.

Vel. No, let us stay, and by our prosperous art Prevent the sacrilege. Mark me, my brother, More years and more experience have matur'd My sober thought; I will convince thy youth, That this our deed has ev'ry honest sanction Cool reason may demand.

Eli. To Rome with reason:
Try if 'twill bring her deluging ambition
Into the level course of right and justice:
Try if 'twill tame these insolent invaders;
Who thus, in savageness of conquest, claim
Whom chance of war has spar'd. Do this and

prosper.
But, pray thee, do not reason from my soul
Its inbred honesty: that holy flame,
Howe'er eclips'd by Rome's black influence
In vulgar minds, ought still to brighten ours.

Vel. Vain talker, leave me.

Eli. Xo, I will not leave thee:
I must not, dare not, in these perilous shades.
Think, if thy fraud should fail, these holy men,
How will their justice rend thy trait'rous limbs .'
If thou succeed st, the fiercer pangs of conscience,
How will they ever goad thy guilty soul?
Mercy, defend us! sec, the awful dniids
Are issuing from their caves: hear'st thou yon

signal?
Lo, on the instant all the mountain whitens
With slow-descending bards. Retire, retire;
This is the hour of sacrifice: to stey
Is death.

Vel. I'll wait the closing of their rites
In yonder vale: do thou, as likes thee best,
Betray, or aid me.

Eli. To betray thee, youth,
That love forbids; honour, alas! to aid thee.

[Exeunt.

Enter CHORUS. Semicho. Sleep and silence reign around; Not a night-breeze wakes to blow; Circle, sons, this holy ground; Circle close, in triple row. And, if mask'd in vapours drear, Any earth-born spirit dare To hover round this sacred space, Haste with light spells the murky foe to chace. Lift your boughs of vervain blue, Dipt in cold September dew;

VOL. II,

And dash the moisture, chaste and clear.
O'er the ground, and through the air.
Now the place is purg'd and pure.
Brethren! say, for this high hour
Are the milk-white steers prepar'd,
Whose necks the rude yoke never scai'd,
To the furrow yet unbroke?
For such must bleed beneath yon oak.

Semicho. Druid, these, in order meet,
Are all prepar'd.

Semicho. But tell me yet,
Cadwall! did thy step profound
Dive into the cavern deep,
Twice twelve fathom under ground,
Where our sage forefathers sleep?
Thence with reverence hast thou borne,
From the consecrated chest,
The golden sickle, scrip, and vest,
Whilom by old Belinus worn?

Semicho. Druid, these, in order meet,
Are all prepared.

Semicho. But tell me yet,
From the grot of charms and spells,
W here our matron sister dwells,
Brcnnus! has thy holy hand
Safely brought the druid wand;
And the potent adder-stone,
Gender'd 'fore th' autumnal moon?
When, in undulating twine,
The foaming snakes prolific join;
When they hiss, and when they bear
Their wond'rous egg aloof in air;
Thence, before to earth it fall,
The druid, in his hallow'd pall,
Receives the prize;
And instant flies,
FollowM by th' envenom'd brood,
'Till he cross the crystal flood.

Semicho. Druid, these, in order meet,
Are all prepar'd.

Semicho. Then all's complete. And now let nine of the selected band, Whose greener years befit such station best, With wary circuit pace around the grove: And guard each inlet; watchful, lest the eye Of busy curiosity profane Pry on our rites: which now must be as close As done i'th' very central womb of earth. Occasion claims it; for Caractacus This night demands admission to our train. He, once our king, while aught his power avail'd To save his country from the rod of tyrants, That duty past, does wisely now retire To end his days in secrecy and peace; Druid with dniids, in this chief of groves,

Ev'n in the heart of M i. See, lie conies!

How awful is his port! mark hiiu, my friends!
He looks, as doth the tower, whose nodding walls,
After the conflict of heav'n's angry bolts,
Frown with a dignity uiunark'd before,
Ev'n in its prime of strength. Health to the king.

Caractacus, Evelina, Chorus.

Car. This holy place, metbinks, cloth t lijs night wear

More than its wonted ploora: Druid, these groves
Have caught the dismal colouring of my soul,
•Chan2a]_' their dark dun garbs to very sable,
In pity to their guest. Hail, hallow'd oaks!
Hail, British bora! who, last of British race,
Hold your primaeval rights by nature's charter;
Not at the nod of Ca?sar. Happy foresters,
Ye wave your bold heads in the liberal air;
Nor ask, for privilege, a pnetor's edict.
Ye, with your tough and intertwisted roots,
(J rasp the firm rocks ye sprung from; and, erect
In knotty hardihood, still proudly spread
Your leafy banners 'gainst the tyrannous north,
Who, Roman-like, assails you. Tell me, druid,
Is it not better to be such as these,
Than be the thing I am?
Cho. To be the thing,
Eternal wisdom wills, is ever best.

Car. But I am lost to that predestin'd use
Eternal wisdom will'd, and fitly therefore
May wish a change of being. I was bom
A king; and heaven, who bade these warrior

oaks Lift their green shields against the fiery sun, To fence their subject plain, did mean, that I Should, with as firm an arm, protect my people Against the pestilent glare of Rome's ambition. 1 lail'd; and how I fail'd, thou know'st too well; So does the babbling world: and therefore,

druid, 1 would be any thing, save what I am.

Cho. See, to thy wish, the holy rites prepar'tl, Which, if heav'n frown not, consecrate thee

druid: Sec to the altar's base the victims led. From whose free-gushing blood ourself shall read Its high behests; which, if a senting found, These hands around thy chosen limbs shall wrap The vest of sanctity: while at the act Yon white-rob'd bards, sweeping their solemn

harps, Sliall lift their choral warblings to the skies, And call the gods to witness. Meanwhile, prince, Bethink thee well, if aught on this vain earth Still holds too firm an union with thy soul, Estranging it from peace.

Car. I had a queen: Bear with my weakness, druid! this tough breast Must heave n sigh, for she is unreveng d. And can I taste true peace, she unreveng'd? So chaste, so lov'd a queen ? ah, Evelina! Hang not thus weeping on the feeble arm Tliat could not save thy mother.

Erel. To hang thus Softens the pang of grief; and the sweet thought, That a fond father still supports his child, Sheds, on my pensive mind, such soothing balm, As doth the blessing of these pious seers, When most they wish our welfare. Would to

heav'n A daughter's presence could as much avail, To ease her father's woes, as his doth mine!

Car. Ever most gentle! come unto my bosom: Dear pattern of the precious prize I lost, Lost, so inglorious lost; my friends, these eyes

Did see her torn from my defenceless camp;
Whilst I, hemm'd round by squadrons, could not

save her:
My boy, still nearer to the darling pledge,
Beheld her shrieking in the ruffian's arm;
Beheld, and fled.

Erct. Ah! sir, forbear to wound
My brother's fame; he fled, but to recall
His scattcr'd forces, to pursue and save her.

Car. Daughter, he fled. Now, by yon gracious-
moon,
That rising saw the deed, and instant hid
Her blushing face in. twilight's dusky veil,
The flight was parricide.

Eiet. Indeed, indeed, I know him valiant; and not doubt he fell 'Mid slaughterM thousands of the liaughty foe, Victim to filial love. Arviragus, Thou hadst no sister near the bloody field, Whose sorrowing search, led by yon orb of night, Might find thy body; wash with tears thy wounds; And wipe them with her liair.

Clio. Peace, virgin, peace: Nor thou, sad prince, reply; whate'er he is, Be he a captive, fugitive, or corse, He is what heav'n ordain'd: these holy groves, Permit no exclamation against heaven's will To violate their echoes: Patience, here, Her meek hands folded on her modest breast. In mute submission lifts th' adoring eye, Ev'n to the storm that wrecks her.

Eve/. Holy druid, If aught my erring tongue lias said pollutes This sacred place, I from my soul abjure it. And will these lips bar with eternal silence, Rather than speak a word, or act a deed Unmeet for thy sage daughters; blessing first This hallow'd hour, that takes me from the world. And joins me to their sober sisterhood.

Cho. 'Tis wisely said. See, prince, this prudent maid, Now, while the ruddy flame of sparkling youth Glows on her beauteous cheek, can quit the

world Without a sigh, whilst thou

Car. Would save my queen
From a base ravisher; would wish to plunge
This falchion in his breast, and so avenge
Insulted royalty. O holy men!
Ye are the sons of piety and peace;
Ye never felt the sharp vindictive spur,
That goads the injur'd warrior; the hot tide^
That flushes crimson on the conscious cheek
Of him, who burns for glory; else indeed
Ye much would pity me: would curse the fate
That coops me here inactive in your groves,
Robs me of hope, tells me this trusty steel"

Must never cleave one Roman helm again;
Never avenge my queen, nor free my country.

Cho. 'Tis heaven's high will

Car. I know it, reverend fathers! 'Tis heaven's high will, that these poor aged eyes Shall never more behold that virtuous woman, To whom my vouth was constant; 'twas heaven's will"

« 이전계속 »