Antony and Octavius. Scenes for the Study - Scene the Fifth


Octavius . Is Dolabella to be trusted?
Mecaenas . Youth
There is on Dolabella's side; with youth
Comes always eloquence where women are.
Octavius . Gallus is honester and prudenter.
Mecaenas . But Gallus is the older by some years.
Octavius . A poet says, Love at odd hours hath smiled
And covered with his pinions sportively,
Where he espied some hairs that seem'd like Time's
Rather than his.
Mecaenas . There must have been but few,
Or else the poet dreamt it.
Octavius . Who comes hither?
Mecaenas . Not Dolabella, but the better man.
Octavius . Welcome, brave Gallus, opportunely met.
We were debating how to lure that dove
Of Antony's, now in her cote, a tower,
From which we would not frighten her away,
But tempt her down.
Gallus . It might be difficult.
Octavius . Unless thou aidest us, indeed it might.
Mecaenas . What sport 'twould be to see her mate descend
And catch him too!
Gallus . Nor this more easily.
Octavius . To Gallus all is easy.
Mecaenas . Pleasant too
Would such task be.
Gallus . No better judge of pleasures
Than Cilnius here; but ours are not alike.
Octavius . Gallus! one word apart. We need thee much.
Gallus . What! after Egypt won?
Octavius . Antony lives!
Gallus . Beaten, disgraced, imprisoned, his own jailer.
Mecaenas . Defying us, however, by the power
The queen his mistress gives him with her name . .
Gallus . Worthless as his.
Mecaenas . Were she within our reach
We soon might bright him down.
Gallus . What! lower?
Octavius . Even yet?
Gallus . She might succumb, and must, by promising
That Caesar's son, after her death, shall reign.
Mecaenas . A prudent thought. But will she give up Antony
Unless she hear it from the giver's mouth?
There is one anxious to deserve the grace
Of princes. Dolabella could persuade
The queen to trust herself to him for Caesar.
Gallus . I doubt it.
Mecaenas . Doubt his honor, not his skill.
He could not keep the secret that he loves
And that he often in times past hath seen her.
Gallus . He loves her? then, by all the Gods! he never
Will win her for another than himself.
Beside, he was the friend of Antony
And shared with him the toils at Mutina.
Altho' no eagle, he would soar aloft
Rather than bow for others, like an owl,
The smallest of the species, hooded for it.
Who knows not Dolabella?
Mecaenas . Thou hast sense,
Comeliness, courage, frankness. Antony
Tore from thy couch the fairest girl in Rome.
Gallus . And let him have her, let him have her, man.
What then?
Mecaenas . There are who would retaliate.
Gallus . The girl hath left no mark upon my memory . .
Mecaenas . Or mine, beside a few soft lines; but mine
Retains them, mindful of a friend who sang,
Unless my singing mars the harmony,
I thought it once an idle tale
That lovely woman's faith could fail;
At last I said, It may be true,
Lycoris, of them all but you.
And now you leave me! and you go
O'er pinnacles of Alpine snow.
Another leads you (woe is me!)
Across that grim and ghastly sea!
Let him protect those eyes from sleet,
And guide and chafe those tender feet,
And fear for every step you tread,
Then hardly will I wish him dead.
If ice-barb'd shafts that ring around
By his neglect my false one wound,
O may the avenging Gods for this
Freeze him to death in the abyss!
Gallus . They have reserved him for a sadder fate.
Sleep, without painful dreams that crush the breast,
Sleep, without any joyous ones that come
Only to mock the awaken'd, comes unfelt
And unsolicited among those cliffs
Of ice perennial.
Antony hath dreamt
His broken dream, and wakened to despair:
I never wisht him that; the harm I wisht him
Was when my youth was madder than his age.
He stood a prouder and a better man
At Mutina, when Famine walkt the camp,
When I beheld him climb up painfully
A low and crumbling crag, where servises
Hung out above his head their unripe fruit:
That was my day. Some grains of sodden maize
I brought and offered him: he struck them down.
Octavius . Rejoice at pride so humbled.
Gallus . I rejoice
At humbled pride, at humbled valor no.
Octavius . But those avenging Gods whom thou invokedst
Stand now before thee and demand why call'd.
Gallus . They know: they pardon such irresolution
As pity, and not cowardice, persuades.
One woman has betraid me; not one woman
Will I betray.
Mecaenas . O that poetic mind!
Gallus . Where others sneer, Mecaenas only smiles.
Mecaenas . Such is my nature, and I widely err,
Gallus, if such be not thy nature too.
Octavius . Did then Lycoris, that wild girl, prefer
The unworthy to the worthy, the most rude
To the most gentle, scampering beyond reach?
Let her repair her fault: no danger here
That angry skies turn coral lips to slate
Or icicles make limp the runaway.
Gallus . Those days are over. He who won the prize
May say as much and add a little more.
Octavius . Laughest thou not to see the tables turn'd?
The little queen who fascinates her fool
Is now as lovely as Lycoris was,
And never ran away from any man:
Fain would I see that roysterer's spirit broken,
And she alone can do it: help her on.
Gallus . In any such attempt, in such a place
Fortune would baffle me.
Octavius . Then baffle her ;
She baffles only those who hesitate.
Gallus . The queen, we hear, takes refuge in the depths
Below the palace, where but reptiles lie.
Octavius . Indeed! what! scorpions, serpents?
Gallus . Haply these.
Octavius . Poor woman! they may bite her! let my fears
Prove not prophetic!
Now, my friend, adieu!
Reflect upon our project; turn it over. [Gallus goes .
These poets look into futurity
And bring us glimpses from it more than dreams.
Asps! But the triumph then without the queen!
Alas! was ever mortal so perplext!
I doubt if your friend Gallus can be won.
Mecaenas . All may be won, well handled; but the ear
Is not the thing to hold by. Show men gold,
Entangle them in Gallic torquises,
Tie stubborn necks with ropes of blushing pearls,
Seat them on ivory from the realms of Ind,
Augur them consulates, proconsulates,
Make their eyes widen into provinces,
And, gleaming further onward, tetrarchies.
Octavius . It strikes me now that we may offer Gallus
The prefecture of Egypt.
Mecaenas . Some time hence:
Better consult Agrippa.
Octavius . None more trusty.
Yet our Agrippa hath strange whims; he dotes
Upon old Rome, the Rome of matted beards
And of curt tunics; of old Rome's old laws,
Worm-eaten long, now broken and swept off.
He stands forth high in station and esteem. [ Pausing .
Mecaenas . So should the man who won the world for thee.
Octavius . I must not play with him who won so much
From others; he might win as much from me:
I fear his fortunes.
Mecaenas . Bind them with your own.
Becoming are thy frowns, my dear Octavius,
Thy smiles alone become thee better: trust
Thy earliest friend and fondest: take not ill
My praises of Agrippa, tried in war
And friendship.
Octavius . And for this wouldst thou, my Cilnius,
Send him away from me?
Mecaenas . Thyself did fear
His popularity: all Rome applauds
His valor, justice, moderation, mercy.
Octavius . Not one word more.
Mecaenas . One word I have to speak,
And speak it I will now. He must away.
Octavius . Can Cilnius then be jealous of Agrippa?
Mecaenas . No; crown him king and give him provinces,
But give him not to clench the heart of Rome.
Octavius . I could make kings and unmake kings by scores,
But could not make nor unmake one Agrippa.
Mecaenas . Well spoken! wisely! worthily! No praise
Can equipoise his virtues, kings may lay
Their tributes on the carpet of his throne
And cities hope to honor whom they serve,
The royal mantle would obscure Agrippa.
Octavius . I would be generous, but be cautious too.
Mecaenas . Then grant him all beyond the sight of Rome;
Men's eyes would draw him thither tho' his will
Hung back: thus urged the steddiest might give way.
Octavius . I hate suspicion and suspicious men.
Gallus I fancied was the bitterest foe
Of Antony, his rival, and successful,
Then he should hate him worse than I.
Mecaenas . But empire
Is more worth hatred than a silly girl,
Every day to be won and lost again.
Octavius . Our Gallus is weak-minded to forgive
So easily.
Mecaenas . I find that on the hearth
Where lie love's embers there lie hatred's too,
Equally cold and not to be stir'd up.
Octavius . I do not think, my Cilnius, thou hast felt
Love but for me; I never knew thee hate.
Mecaenas . It is too troublesome; it rumples sleep,
It settles on the dishes of the feast,
It bites the fruit, it dips into the wine;
Then rather let my enemy hate me
Than I hate him.
Octavius . We must look round. What think you?
Is Dolabella to be trusted?
Mecaenas . Try.
Octavius . I wish this country settled, us return'd.
Resolved am I to do what none hath done,
And only Julius ever purposed doing;
Resolved to render Rome, beneath my rule,
A second Alexandria. Corinth, Carthage,
One autumn saw in stubble; not a wreath
Enough to crown a capital was left,
Nor capital to crown its pillar, none;
But here behold what glorious edifices!
What palaces! what temples! what august
Kings! how unmoved is every countenance
Above the crowd! And so it was in life.
No other city in the world, from west
To east, seems built for rich and poor alike.
In Athens, Antioch, Miletus, Rhodes,
The richest Roman could not shelter him
Against the dogstar; here the poorest slave
Finds refuge under granite, here he sleeps
Noiseless, and, when he wakens, dips his hand
Into the treasured waters of the Nile.
Mecaenas . I wish, Octavius, thou wouldst carry hence
For thy own worship one of those mild Gods,
Both arms upon the knees: 'tis time that all
Should imitate this posture.
Octavius . We will close
The gates of Janus.
Mecaenas . Janus looks both ways;
He may like best the breezy air abroad
And knock too hard against the bolted brass.
Octavius ( to a Guard). Call Gallus hither.
Gallus . Caesar! what commands?
Octavius . I would entrust a legion, more than one,
To our friend Gallus: I would fix him here
In Egypt: none is abler to coerce
The turbulent.
Gallus . Let others flap their limbs
With lotus-leaves when Sirius flames above,
Give me the banks of Anio, where young Spring,
Who knows not half the names of her own flowers,
Looks into Summer's eyes and wakes him up
Alert, and laughs at him until he lifts
His rod of roses and she runs away.
Octavius . And has that lovely queen no charms for thee?
Gallus . If truth be spoken of her, and it may,
Since she is powerless and deserted now,
Tho' more than thrice seven years have come and stolen
Day after day a leaf or two of bloom,
She has but changed her beauty; the soft tears
Fall, one would think, to make it spring afresh.
Octavius . And not for Gallus? Let one brave man more
Ascend the footstool of the regal bed.
Gallus . As the Gods will! but may they not will me !
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