Page images
[blocks in formation]

Barn. No misfortune, I hope, has reached that maid! Preserve her, Heaven, from every ill, to shew mankind that goodness is your care re!

True. Thy, thy misfo tunes, my unhappy friend, have reached her. Whatever you and I have felt, and more, if more be possible, she feels for you.

Barn. I know he doth abhor a lie, and would not trifle with his dying friend. This is indeed the bitterness of death. [Aside. True. You must remember (for we all observed it), for some time past, a heavy melancholy weighed her down. Disconsolate she seemed, and pined and languished from a cause unknown; till, hearing of your dreadful fate, the long-stifled flame blazed out; she wept, and wrung her hands, and tore her hair, and, in the transport of her grief, discovered her own lost state, while she lamented yours.

Barn. Will all the pain I feel restore thy ease, lovely unhappy maid! [Weeping.] Why did you not let me die, and never know it?

True. It was impossible. She makes no secret of her passion for you; she is determined to see you ere you die, and waits for me to introduce her. [Exit Trueman. Barn. Vain, busy thoughts, be still! What avails it to think on what I might have been! I now am―what I have made myself.


True. Madam, reluctant I lead you to this dismal scene. This is the seat of misery and guilt. Here awful justice reserves her public victims. This is the entrance to a shameful death.

Mar. To this sad place then, no improper guest, the abandoned lost Maria brings despair, and sees the subject and the cause of all this world of woe. Silent and motionless he stands, as if his soul had quitted her abode, and the lifeless form alone was left behind; yet that so per

fect, that beauty and death, ever at enmity, now seem united there.

Barn. I groan, but murmur not. Just Hea ven! I am your own; do with me what you please.

Mar. Why are your streaming eyes still fixed below, as though thou wouldst give the greedy earth thy sorrows, and rob me of my due! Were happiness within your power, you should bestow it where you pleased; but in your misery I must and will partake.

Barn. Oh, say not so, but fly, abhor, and leave me to my fate! Consider what you are, how vast your fortune, and how bright your fame. Have pity on your youth, your beauty, and unequalled virtue; for which so many noble peers have sighed in vain. Bless with your charms some honourable lord. Adorn with your beauty, and by your example improve, the English court, that justly claims such merit: so shall I quickly be to youas though I had never been.

Mar. When I forget you, I must be so indeed. Reason, choice, virtue, all forbid it. Let women, like Millwood, if there are more such women, smile in prosperity, and in adversity forsake. Be it the pride of virtue to repair, or to partake, the

ruin such have made.

True. Lovely, ill-fated maid! Was there ever such generous distress before? How must this pierce his grateful heart, and aggravate his woes!

Barn. Ere I knew guilt or shame, when fortune smiled, and when my youthful hopes were at the highest; if then to have raised my thoughts to you, had been presumption in me never to have been pardoned, think how much beneath yourself you condescend to regard me now!

Mar. Let her blush, who, proffering love, in vades the freedom of your sex's choice, and meanly sues in hopes of a return. Your inevitable fate hath rendered hope impossible as vain. Then why should I fear to avow a passion so just and so disinterested?

True. If any should take occasion from Millwood's crimes to libel the best and fairest part of the creation, here let them see their error.The most distant hopes of such a tender passion from so bright a maid, might add to the happiness of the most happy, and make the greatest proud: yet here 'tis lavished in vain. Though by the rich present the generous donor is undone, he on whom it is bestowed receives no benefit.

Barn. So the aromatic spices of the east, which all the living covet and esteem, are with unavailing kindness wasted on the dead.

Mar. Yes, fruitless is my love, and unavailing all my sighs and tears. Can they save thee from approaching death? From such a death? Oh sorrow insupportable! Oh, terrible idea! What is her misery and distress, who sees the first, last object of her love, for whom alone she would live, for whom she would die a thousand thousand deaths, if it were possible, expiring in her

arms? Yet she is happy when compared to me. Were millions of worlds mine, I would gladly give them in exchange for her condition. The most consummate woe is light to mine. The last of curses to other miserable maids, is all I ask for my relief, and that's denied me.

True. Time and reflection cure all ills.

Mar. All but this. His dreadful catastrophe virtue herself abhors. To give a holiday to suburb slaves, and passing entertain the savage herd, who elbowing each other for a sight, pursue and press upon him like his fate! A mind, with piety and resolution armed, may smile on death: But public ignominy, everlasting shame, shame, the death of souls! to die a thousand times, and yet survive even death itself in never-dying infamyIs this to be endured! Can I, who live in him, and must each hour of my devoted life feel all these woes renewed-Can I endure this?

True. Grief has so impaired her spirits, she pants as in the agonies of death.

Barn. Preserve her, Heaven, and restore her peace, nor let her death be added to my crimes. [Bell tolls.] I am summoned to my fate.


Keep. Sir, the officers attend you. Millwood is already summoned.

Then must you own, you ought not to complain,
Since you nor weep, nor shall I die in vain.
[Exeunt Barnwell and Officers.

SCENE III.-The place of execution.
The Gallows and Ladder at the farther end of
the Stage. A crowd of spectators, BLUNT and

Lucy. Heavens! what a throng!

Blunt. How terrible is death, when thus prepared!

Lucy. Support them, Heaven! Thou only canst support them; all other help is vain. Officer. [Within ] Make way there; make way, and give the prisoners room.

Lucy. They are here: observe them wellHow humble and composed young Barnwell seems! but Millwood looks wild, ruffled with passion, confounded, and amazed.

Enter BARNWELL, MILLWOOD, Officers and Executioner.

Barn. See, Millwood, see, our journey is at an end! Life, like a tale that's told, is passed away. That short, but dark and unknown passage, death, is all the space between us and endless joys, or woes eternal.

Mill. Is this the end of all my flattering hopes? Were youth and beauty given me for a curse, and wisdom only to ensure my ruin? They were, they were. Heaven, thou hast done thy worst. Or, if thou hast in store some untried plague, somewhat that is worse than shame, despair, and death, unpitied death, confirmed despair, and soul-confounding shame; something that men and angels cannot describe, and only fiends, who bear it, can conceive; now, pour it now on this devoted head, that I may feel the worst thou canst inflict, and bid defiance to thy utmost power.

Barn. Tell them, I am ready. And now, my
friend, farewell. [Embracing.] Support, and
comfort, the best you can, this mourning fair.-
No more-Forget not to pray for me. [Turn-
ing to Maria.] Would you, bright excellence,
permit me the honour of a chaste embrace, the
last happiness this world could give were mine.
[She inclines towards him, they embrace.] Exal-
ted goodness! Oh, turn your eyes from earth and
me to Heaven, where virtue, like yours, is ever
heard! Pray for the peace of my departing soul.
Early my race of wickedness began, and soon I
reached the summit. Ere nature has finished her
work, and stamped me man, just at the time
when others begin to stray, my course is finished.
Though short my span of life, and few my days,
yet count my crimes for years, and I have lived
whole ages.
Thus justice, in compassion to
mankind, cuts off a wretch like me; by one such
example to secure thousands from future ruin.-pised!
Justice and mercy are in Heaven the same: its
utmost severity is mercy to the whole; thereby
to cure man's folly and presumption, which else
would render even infinite mercy vain and inef-

If any youth, like you, in future times,
Shall mourn my fate, though he abhors my

Or tender maid, like you, my tale shall hear,
And to my sorrows give a pitying tear;
To each such melting eye and throbbing heart,
Would gracious Heaven this benefit impart,
Never to know my guilt, nor feel my pain,

Barn. Yet ere we pass the dreadful gulf of death, yet ere you are plunged in everlasting woe, Oh, bend your stubborn knees, and harder heart, humbly to deprecate the wrath divine! Who knows, but Heaven, in your dying moments, may bestow that grace and mercy which your life des

Mill. Why name you mercy to a wretch like me? Mercy is beyond my hope, almost beyond my wish. I cannot repent, nor ask to be forgiven.

Barn. Oh, think what 'tis to be for ever, ever miserable, nor with vain pride oppose a power, that is able to destroy you!

Mill. That will destroy me; I feel it will. A deluge of wrath is pouring on my soul. Chains, darkness, wheels, racks, sharp-stinged scorpions, molten lead, and whole seas of sulphur, are light to what I feel.

Barn. Oh, add not to your vast account de

spair! a sin more injurious to Heaven, than all you have yet committed.

Mill. Oh, I have sinned beyond the reach of mercy!

Mill. Encompassed with horror, whither must I go? I would not live-nor die—That I could cease to be- -or ne'er had been!

Barn. Since peace and comfort are denied her here, may she find mercy where she least expects it, and this be all her hell! From our example all be taught to fly the first approach of vice: but if o'ertaken,

Barn. Oh, say not so: it is blasphemy to think it. As yon bright roof is higher than the earth, so, and much more, does Heaven's good-may ness pass our apprehension. Oh, what created being shall presume to circumscribe mercy, that knows no bounds!

Mill. This yields no hope. Though pity may be boundless, yet it is free. I was doomed, before the world began, to endless pains, and thou to joys eternal.

Barn. Oh, gracious heaven! extend thy pity to her; let thy rich mercy flow in plenteous streams, to chase her fears, and heal her wounded soul!

Mill. It will not be your prayers are lost in air, or else returned, perhaps, with double blessings, to your bosom: they help not me.

Barn. Yet hear me, Millwood!

Mill. Away, I will not hear thee: I tell thee, youth, I am by Heaven devoted a dreadful instance of its power to punish, [Barnwell seems to pray.] If thou wilt pray, pray for thyself, not me. How doth his fervent soul mount with his words, and both ascend to Heaven! that Heaven, whose gates are shut with adamantine bars against my prayers, had I the will to pray. I cannot bear it. Sure 'tis the worst of torments to behold others enjoy that bliss which we must never taste.

Officer. The utmost limit of your time is expired,

By strong temptation, weakness, or surprise,
Lament their guilt, and by repentance rise;
The impenitent alone die unforgiven:
To sin's like men, and to forgive like Heaven.


Lucy. Heart-breaking sight!-Oh, wretched, wretched Millwood!

True. How is she disposed to meet her fate? Blunt. Who can describe unutterable woe? Lucy. She goes to death encompassed with horror, loathing life, and yet afraid to die. No tongue can tell her anguish and despair.

True. Heaven be better to her than her fears! May she prove a warning to others, a monument of mercy in herself.

Lucy. Oh, sorrow insupportable! Break, break, my heart!

True. In vain,

With bleeding hearts, and weeping eyes, we

A humane, generous sense of other's woe;
Unless we mark what drew to ruin on,
And, by avoiding that-

-prevent our own. [Exeunt omnes,





« PreviousContinue »