Page images
[blocks in formation]

Por. THE dawn is overcast, the morning lowers, And heavily in clouds brings on the day; The great, the important day, big with the fate Of Cato and of Rome. Our father's death Would fill up all the guilt of civil war, And close the scene of blood. Already Cæsar Has ravaged more than half the globe, and sees Mankind grown thin by his destructive sword: Should he go farther, numbers would be wanting To form new battles, and support his crimes. Ye gods, what havock does ambition make Among your works!

Marc. Thy steady temper, Portius, Can look on guilt, rebellion, fraud, and Cæsar, In the calm lights of mild philosophy; I'm tortured, even to madness, when I think On the proud victor: every time he's named, Pharsalia rises to my view!-I see

The insulting tyrant prancing o'er the field,

His horse's hoofs wet with patrician blood! Oh, Portius! is there not some chosen curse, Some hidden thunder in the stores of Heaven, Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man, Who owes his greatness to his country's ruin?

Por. Believe me, Marcus, 'tis an impious great


And mixed with too much horror to be envied; How does the lustre of our father's actions, Through the dark cloud of ills that cover him, Break out, and burn with more triumphant brightness !

His sufferings shine, and spread a glory round

him; Greatly unfortunate, he fights the cause Of honour, virtue, liberty, and Rome. His sword ne'er fell, but on the guilty head; Oppression, tyranny, and power usurped, Draw all the vengeance of his arm upon them. Marc. Who knows not this! But what can Cato do

Against a world, a base, degenerate world, Strewed with Rome's citizens, and drenched in That courts the yoke, and bows the neck to Ca



[ocr errors]

Pent up in Utica, he vainly forms
A poor epitome of Roman greatness,
And, covered with Numidian guards, directs
A feeble army, and an empty senate,
Remnants of mighty battles fought in vain.
By Heaven, such virtue, joined with such suc-


Distracts my very soul! our father's fortune Would almost tempt us to renounce his precepts. Por. Remember what our father oft has told


The ways of Heaven are dark and intricate,
Puzzled in mazes, and perplexed with errors;
Our understanding traces them in vain,
Lost and bewildered in the fruitless search;
Nor sees with how much art the windings run,
Nor where the regular confusion ends.

Marc. These are suggestions of a mind at ease: Oh, Portius, didst thou taste but half the griefs That wring my soul, thou couldst not talk thus coldly.

Passion unpitied, and successless love,
Plant daggers in my heart, and aggravate
My other griefs. Were but my Lucia kind-
Por. Thou seest not that thy brother is thy ri-

But I must hide it, for I know thy temper.


Now, Marcus, now thy virtue's on the proof:
Put forth thy utmost strength, work every nerve,
And call up all thy father in thy soul:
To quell the tyrant, Love, and guard thy heart
On this weak side, where most our nature fails,
Would be a conquest worthy Cato's son.

Marc. Portius, the counsel which I cannot take,

Instead of healing, but upbraids my weakness.
Bid me for honour plunge into a war
Of thickest foes, and rush on certain death,
Then shalt thou see that Marcus is not slow
To follow glory, and confess his father.
Love is not to be reasoned down, or lost
In high ambition or a thirst of greatness;
'Tis second life, it grows into the soul,
Warms every vein, and beats in every pulse;
I feel it here: my resolution melts-

Por. Behold young Juba, the Numidian prince,
With how much care he forms himself to glory,
And breaks the fierceness of his native temper,
To copy out our father's bright example.
He loves our sister Marcia, greatly loves her;
His eyes, his looks, his actions, all betray it;
But still the smothered fondness burns within

When most it swells, and labours for a vent,
The sense of honour, and desire of fame,
Drive the big passion back into his heart.
What! shall an African, shall Juba's heir
Reproach great Cato's son, and shew the world
A virtue, wanting in a Roman soul!

Marc. Portius, no more! your words leave
stings behind them,

Whene'er did Juba, or did Portius, shew
A virtue that has cast me at a distance,
And thrown me out in the pursuits of honour?
Por. Marcus, I know thy generous temper

Fling but the appearance of dishonour on it,
It straight takes fire, and mounts into a blaze.
Marc. A brother's sufferings claim a brother's

Por. Heaven knows I pity thee! Behold my


Even whilst I speak-do they not swim in tears? Were but my heart as naked to thy view, Marcus would see it bleed in his behalf.

Marc. Why then dost treat me with rebukes, instead

Of kind condoling cares, and friendly sorrow? Por. Oh, Marcus! did I know the way to ease Thy troubled heart, and mitigate thy pains, Marcus, believe me, I could die to do it.

Marc. Thou best of brothers, and thou best of friends!

Pardon a weak distempered soul, that swells
With sudden gusts, and sinks as soon in calms,
The sport of passions. But Sempronius comes:
He must not find this softness hanging on me.
[Exit Marc.


Sem. Conspiracies no sooner should be formed Than executed. What means Portius here? I like not that cold youth. I must dissemble, And speak a language foreign to my heart. [Aside. Good-morrow, Portius; let us once embrace, Once more embrace, while yet we both are free. To-morrow, should we thus express a friendship, Each might receive a slave into his arms. This sun, perhaps, this morning's sun's the last, That e'er shall rise on Roman liberty.

Por. My father has this morning called toge


To this poor hall, his little Roman senate,
(The leavings of Pharsalia) to consult
If he can yet oppose the mighty torrent
That bears down Rome, and all her gods before it,
Or must at length give up the world to Cæsar.

Sem. Not all the pomp and majesty of Rome Can raise her senate more than Cato's presence. His virtues render our assembly awful;

They strike with something like religious fear,
And make even Cæsar tremble at the head
Of armies flushed with conquest. Oh, my Por-

Could I but call that wondrous man my father,
Would but thy sister Marcia be propitious
To thy friend's vows, I might be blessed indeed!
Por. Alas, Sempronius! wouldst thou talk of


To Marcia, whilst her father's life's in danger? Thou mightst as well court the pale, trembling


When she beholds the holy flame expiring,

Sem. The more I see the wonders of thy race, | The more I'm charmed. Thou must take heed, my Portius;

The world has all its eyes on Cato's son;
Thy father's merit sets thee up to view,
And shews in the fairest point of light,
To make thy virtues or thy faults conspicuous.
Por. Well dost thou seem to check my
ing here

Of Cato's virtues-But I'll try once more
(For every instant I expect him here),
If yet I can subdue those stubborn principles
Of faith and honour, and I know not what,
That have corrupted his Numidian temper,
And struck the infection into all his soul.

Sem. Be sure to press upon him every motive.
linger-Juba's surrender, since his father's death,
Would give up Afric into Cæsar's hands,
And make him lord of half the burning zone.
Syph. But is it true, Sempronius, that your se-

On this important hour-I'll straight away,
And while the fathers of the senate meet
In close debate, to weigh the event of war,
I'll animate the soldiers' drooping courage
With love of freedom, and contempt of life;
I'll thunder in their ears their country's cause,
And try to rouse up all that's Roman in them.
Tis not in mortals to cominand success,
But we'll do more, Sempronius; we'll deserve it.
Sem. Curse on the stripling! how he apes his

Ambitiously sententious-But I wonder
Old Syphax comes not; his Numidian genius
Is well disposed to mischief, were he prompt
And eager on it; but he must be spurred,
And every moment quickened to the course.
Cato has used me ill: he has refused
His daughter Marcia to my ardent vows.
Besides, his baffled arms, and ruined cause,
Are bars to my ambition. Cæsar's favour,
That showers down blessings on his friends, will
raise me

To Rome's first honours. If'I give up Cato,
I claim, as my reward, his captive daughter.
But Syphax comes-


Syph. Sempronius, all is ready;
I've sounded my Numidians, man by man,
And find them ripe for a revolt: they all
Complain aloud of Cato's discipline,

And wait but the command to change their mas


Sem. Believe me, Syphax, there's no time to waste;

Even while we speak our conqueror comes on,
And gathers ground upon us every moment.
Alas! though know'st not Cæsar's active soul,
With what a dreadful course he rushes on
From war to war. In vain has nature formed
Mountains and oceans to oppose his passage;
He bounds o'er all; victorious in his march,
The Alps and Pyreneans sink before him:
Through winds, and waves, and storms, he works

his way,
Impatient for the battle; one day more
Will see the victor thundering at our gates.
But, tell me, hast thou yet drawn o'er young Juba?
That still would recommend thee more to Cæsar,
And challenge better terms.

Syph. Alas, he's lost!

He's lost, Sempronius; all his thoughts are full


[blocks in formation]

Meanwhile I'll hasten to my Roman soldiers,
Inflame the mutiny, and underhand

Blow up their discontent, till they break out
Unlooked for, and discharge themselves on Cato.
Remember, Syphax, we must work in haste :
Oh! think what anxious moments pass between
The birth of plots, and their last fatal periods!
Oh! 'tis a dreadful interval of time,
Filled up with horror all, and big with death!
Destruction hangs on every word we speak,
On every thought, till the concluding stroke
Determines all, and closes our design. [Exit.

Syph. I'll try if yet I can reduce to reason This headstrong youth, and make him spurn at Cato.

The time is short; Cæsar comes rushing on usBut hold! young Juba sees me, and approaches.

Enter JUBA.

Juba. Syphax, I joy to meet thee thus alone. I have observed of late thy looks are fallen, O'ercast with gloomy cares and discontent : Then tell me, Syphax, I conjure thee, tell me, What are the thoughts that knit thy brow in frowns,

And turn thine eye thus coldly on thy prince?

Syph. 'Tis not my talent to conceal my thoughts, Or carry smiles and sunshine in my face, When discontent sits heavy at my heart; I have not yet so much the Roman in me. Juba. Why dost thou cast out such ungenerous


Against the lords and sovereigns of the world?

Dost thou not see mankind fall down before | And if the following day he chance to find


And own the force of their superior virtue?
Is there a nation in the wilds of Afric,
Amidst our barren rocks, and burning sands,
That does not tremble at the Roman name?
Syph. Gods! where's the worth that sets these
people up

Above our own Numidia's tawny sons?
Do they, with tougher sinews, bend the bow?
Or flies the javelin swifter to its mark,
Launched from the vigour of a Roman arm?
Who, like our active African, instructs
The fiery steed, and trains him to his hand?
Or guides, in troops, the embattled elephant,
Laden with war? These, these, are arts, my

In which your Zama does not stoop to Rome.

Juba. These all are virtues of a meaner rank; Perfections that are placed in bones and nerves. A Roman soul is bent on higher views: To civilize the rude, unpolished world, And lay it under the restraint of laws; To make man mild, and sociable to man; To cultivate the wild, licentious savage, With wisdom, discipline, and liberal arts; The embellishments of life: virtues like these Make human nature shine, reform the soul, And break our fierce barbarians into men.

Syph. Patience, kind Heaven!-excuse an old man's warmth:

What are those wondrous civilizing arts,
This Roman polish, and this smooth behaviour,
That renders man thus tractable and tame ?
Are they not only to disguise our passions,
To set our looks at variance with our thoughts,
To check the starts and sallies of the soul,
And break off all its commerce with the tongue?
In short, to change us into other creatures,
Than what our nature and the gods designed us?
Juba. To strike thee dumb-turn up thy eyes
to Cato!

There may'st thou see to what a god-like height
The Roman virtues lift up mortal man.
While good, and just, and anxious for his friends,
He's still severely bent against himself;
Renouncing sleep, and rest, and food, and ease,
He strives with thirst and hunger, toil and heat;
And, when his fortune sets before him all
The pomps and pleasures that his soul can wish,
His rigid virtue will accept of none.
Syph. Believe me, prince, there's not an Afri-


That traverses our vast Numidian desarts
In quest of prey, and lives upon his bow,
But better practises those boasted virtues.
Coarse are his meals, the fortune of the chace;
Amidst the running stream he slakes his thirst;
Toils all the day, and, at the approach of night,
On the first friendly bank he throws him down,
Or rests his head upon a rock till morn;
Then rises fresh, pursues his wonted game,

A new repast, or an untasted spring, Blesses his stars, and thinks it luxury.

Juba. Thy prejudices, Syphax, wont discern What virtues grow from ignorance and choice, Nor how the hero differs from the brute. But grant that others could, with equal glory, Look down on pleasures, and the baits of sense, Where shall we find the man that bears affliction,

Great and majestic in his griefs, like Cato? Heavens! with what strength, what steadiness of mind,

He triumphs in the midst of all his sufferings!
How does he rise against a load of woes,
And thank the gods that throw the weight upon

Syph. 'Tis pride, rank pride, and haughtiness of soul;

I think the Romans call it stoicism.

Had not your royal father thought so highly
Of Roman virtue, and of Cato's cause,

He had not fallen by a slave's hand inglorious :
Nor would his slaughtered army now have lain
On Afric's sands disfigured with their wounds,
To gorge the wolves and vultures of Numidia.

Juba. Why dost thou call my sorrows up afresh? My father's name brings tears into my eyes. Syph. Oh, that you would profit by your fa ther's ills!

Juba. What wouldst thou have me do?
Syph. Abandon Cato.

Juba. Syphax, I should be more than twice an orphan

[blocks in formation]

Alas, he is dead! but can you e'er forget
The tender sorrows, and the pangs of nature,
The fond embraces, and repeated blessings,
Which you drew from him in your last farewell?
Still must I cherish the dear, sad remembrance,
At once to torture and to please my soul.
The good old king at parting wrung my hand,
(His eyes brim-full of tears) then sighing, cried,
Pr'ythee be careful of my son! His grief
Swelled up so high, he could not utter more.

Juba. Alas! thy story me'ts away my soul; That best of fathers! how shall I discharge The gratitude and duty which I owe him!

Syph. By laying up his counsels in your heart. Juba. His counsels bade ne yield to thy di


Then, Syphax, chide me in severest terms;
Vent all thy passion, and I will stand its shock,
Calm and unruffled as a summer sea,
When not a breath of wind flies o'er its surface.
Syph. Alas! my prince, I would guide thee to
your safety.

Juba. I do believe thou wouldst; but tell me


Syph. Fly from the fate that follows Cæsar's foes!

Juba. My father scorned to do it.

Syph. And therefore died.

The face of war, and make even horror smile!
At sight of thee my heart shakes off its sorrows;
I feel a dawn of joy break in upon me,
And for a while forget the approach of Cæsar.
Mar. I should be grieved, young prince, to
think my presence

Unbent your thoughts, and slackened them to


While, warm with slaughter, our victorious foe
Threatens aloud, and calls you to the field.
Juba. Oh, Marcia, let me hope thy kind con-


Juba. Better to die ten thousand thousand And gentle wishes follow me to battle!


Than wound my honour.

Syph. Rather say your love.

The thought will give new vigour to my arm, Add strength and weight to my descending sword,

Juba. Syphax, I have promised to preserve my And drive it in a tempest on the foe.


Why wilt thou urge me to confess a flame,
I long have stifled, and would fain conceal?
Syph. Believe me, prince, though hard to con-
quer love,

'Tis easy to divert and break its force.
Absence might cure it, or a second mistress
Light up another flame and put out this.
The glowing dames of Zama's royal court
Have faces flushed with more exalted charms;
The sun that rolls his chariot o'er their heads,
Works up more fire and colour in their cheeks;
Were you with these, my prince, you would soon

The pale, unripened beauties of the north.

Juba. 'Tis not a set of features, or complexion, The tincture of a skin, that I admire : Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover, Fades in his eye, and palls upon the sense. The virtuous Marcia towers above her sex: True, she is fair, (Oh, how divinely fair!) But still the lovely maid improves her charms With inward greatness, unaffected wisdom, And sanctity of manners; Cato's soul Shines out in every thing she acts or speaks, While winning mildness and attractive smiles, Dwell in her looks, and, with becoming grace, Soften the rigour of her father's virtue.

Syph. How does your tongue grow wanton in her praise!

But on my knees I beg you would considerJuba. Ha! Syphax, is it not she? She moves

this way:

And with her Lucia, Lucius's fair daughter.
My heart beats thick-I prithee, Syphax, leave


Syph. Ten thousand curses fasten on them both!

Now will the woman, with a single glance, Undo what I have been labouring all this while. [Exit Syphax.


Mar. My prayers and wishes always shall attend

The friends of Rome, the glorious cause of vir

[blocks in formation]


In pleasing dreams, and lose myself in love,
When every moment Cato's life's at stake?
Cæsar comes armed with terror and revenge,
And aims his thunder at my father's head.

Juba. Hail, charming maid! How does thy Should not the sad occasion swallow up

beauty smooth

My other cares, and draw them all into it?

« PreviousContinue »