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For I can now believe whate'er thou sayest,
That we may part more kindly.
CLEO. I will come:
Doubt not, my life, I'll come, and quickly too:
Cæsar shall triumph o'er no part of thee.
Ant. But grieve not, while thou stayest,
My last disastrous times:
Think we have had a clear and glorious day
And Heaven did kindly to delay the storm,
Just till our close of evening. Ten years' love,
And not a moment lost, but all improved
To the utmost joys,—what ages have we lived ?
And now to die each other's; and, so dying,
While hand in hand we walk in groves below,
Whole troops of lovers' ghosts shall flock about us,
And all the train be ours.
CLEO. Your words are like the notes of dying swans,
Too sweet to last. Were there so many hours
For your unkindness, and not one for love?
Ant. No, not a minute.—This one kiss—more worth Than all I leave to Cæsar.
[Dies. CLEO. O tell me so again, And take ten thousand kisses for that word. My lord, my lord ! speak, if you yet have being; Sign to me, if you cannot speak; or cast One look! Do anything that shows you live. .
IRAS. He's gone too far to hear you; And this you see, a lump of senseless clay, The leavings of a soul.
CHAR. Remember, madam, He charged you not to grieve.
CLEO. And I'll obey him. I have not loved a Roman, not to know What should become his wife; his wife, my Charmion! For 'tis to that high title I aspire; And now I'll not die less. Let dull Octavia Survive, to mourn him dead: My nobler fate Shall knit our spousals with a tie, too strong For Roman laws to break.
IRAS. Will you then die ?
CLEO. Why shouldst thou make that question?
IRAS. Cæsar is merciful.
CLEO. Let him be so
To those that want his mercy: My poor lord
Made no such covenant with him, to spare me
When he was dead. Yield me to Cæsar's pride?
What! to be led in triumph through the streets,
A spectacle to base plebeian eyes;
While some dejected friend of Antony's,
Close in a corner, shakes his head, and mutters
A secret curse on her who ruined him!
I'll none of that.
CHAR. Whatever you resolve,
I'll follow, even to death.
IRAS. I only feared
For you; but more should fear to live without you.
CLEO. Why, now, 'tis as it should be. Quick, my
Despatch; ere this, the town's in Cæsar's hands:
My lord looks down concerned, and fears my stay,
Lest I should be surprised;
Keep him not waiting for his love too long.
You, Charmion, bring my crown and richest jewels;
With them, the wreath of victory I made
(Vain augury!) for him, who now lies dead:
You, Iras, bring the cure of all our ills.
IRAS. The aspics, madam?
CLEO. Must I bid you twice?
[Exit CHARMION and IRAS.
'Tis sweet to die, when they would force life on me,
To rush into the dark abode of death,
And seize him first; if he be like my love,
He is not frightful, sure.
We're now alone, in secrecy and silence;
And is not this like lovers? I may kiss
These pale, cold lips; Octavia does not see me:
And, oh! 'tis better far to have him thus,
Than see him in her arms.-Oh, welcome, welcome!
Enter CHARMION and IRAS
CHAR. What must be done?
Cleo. Short ceremony, friends;
But yet it must be decent. First, this laurel
Shall crown my hero's head: he fell not basely,
Nor left his shield behind him.-Only thou
Couldst triumph o'er thyself; and thou alone
Wert worthy so to triumph.
CHAR. To what end
These ensigns of your pomp and royalty?
Cleo. Dull, that thou art! why 'tis to meet my love:
As when I saw him first, on Cydnus' bank,
All sparkling, like a goddess: so adorned,
I'll find him once again; my second spousals
Shall match my first in glory. Haste, haste, both,
And dress the bride of Antony.
CHAR. 'Tis done.
Cleo. Now seat me by my lord. I claim this place,
For I must conquer Cæsar too, like him,
And win my share of the world.-Hail, you dear relics
Of my immortal love!
O let no impious hand remove you hence:
But rest for ever here! Let Egypt give
His death that peace, which it denied his life.-
Reach me the casket.
IRAS. Underneath the fruit
The aspic lies.
CLEO. Welcome, thou kind deceiver !
[Putting aside the leaves.
Thou best of thieves: who, with an easy key,
Dost open life, and, unperceived by us,
Even steal us from ourselves; discharging so
Death's dreadful office, better than himself;
Touching our limbs so gently into slumber,
That Death stands by, deceived by his own image,
And thinks himself but sleep.
SERAP. The queen, where is she?
[Within. The town is yielded, Cæsar's at the gates.
Cleo. He comes too late to invade the rights of death!
Haste, bare my arm, and rouse the serpent's fury.
[Holds out her arm, and draws it back. Coward Alesh, Wouldst thou conspire with Cæsar to betray me, As thou wert none of mine? I'll force thee to it, And not be sent by him, But bring, myself, my soul to Antony.
[Turns aside, and then shows her arm bloody. Take hence; the work is done. SERAP. Break ope the door,
[Within. And guard the traitor well.
CHAR. The next is ours.
IRAS. Now, Charmion, to be worthy Of our great queen and mistress.
[They apply the aspics. Cleo. Already, death, I feel thee in my veins: I go with such a will to find my lord, That we shall quickly meet. A heavy numbness creeps through every limb, And now 'tis at my head: My eyelids fall, And my dear love is vanquished in a mist. Where shall I find him, where? O turn me to him, And lay me on his breast !-Cæsar, thy worst; Now part us, if thou canst.
[Dies. [IRAS sinks down at her feet, and dies; CHARMION
stands behind her chair, as dressing her head.
Enter SERAPION, two Priests, ALEXAs bound, Egyptians
PRIEST. Behold, Serapion, What havoc death has made!
SERAP. 'Twas what I feared. Charmion, is this well done?
CHAR. Yes, 'tis well done, and like a queen, the last Of her great race: I follow her. [Sinks down: dies.
ALEX. 'Tis true,
She has done well: Much better thus to die,
Than live to make a holiday in Rome.
SERAP. See how the lovers sit in state together,
As they were giving laws to half mankind !
The impression of a smile, left in her face,
Shows she died pleased with him for whom she lived,
And went to charm him in another world.
Cæsar's just entering: grief has now no leisure.
Secure that villain, as our pledge of safety,
To grace the imperial triumph.-Sleep, blest pair,
Secure from human chance, long ages out,
While all the storms of fate fly o'er your tomb;
And fame to late posterity shall tell,
No lovers lived so great, or died so well. [Exeunt.