Antony and Octavius. Scenes for the Study - Scene The First

[Near Actium, 31 B.C.]

Soothsayer AND A NTONY

Soothsayer . Speak it I must. Ill are the auguries.
Antony . Ill ever are the auguries, O priest,
To those who fear them: at one hearty stroke
The blackest of them scud and disappear.
Now, not a word of any less than good
To Cleopatra.
Soothsayer . 'Twas at her command
I hasten'd to consult them.
Antony . Rightly done
To follow her commands; not rightly comes
Whate'er would grieve her; this thou must withhold.
Soothsayer . Not this, not this: her very life may hang
Upon the event foretold her.
Antony . What is that?
Announced then is the accursed augury
So soon?
Soothsayer . She waited at the temple-door
With only one attendant, meanly drest,
That none might know her; or perhaps the cause
Was holier; to appease the offended Gods.
Antony . Which of them can she ever have offended?
She who hath lavisht upon all of them
Such gifts, and burnt more incense in one hour
Before her Isis, than would wrap in smoke
A city at mid-day! The keenest eye
Of earth or heaven could find in her no guile,
No cruelty, no lack of duty.
Soothsayer . True;
Yet fears she one of them, nor knows she which,
But Isis is the one she most suspects.
Antony . Isis! her patroness, her favourite?
Soothsayer . Even so! but they who patronize may frown
At times, and draw some precious boon away.
Antony . I deem not thus unworthily of Gods;
Indeed I know but Jupiter and Mars;
Each hath been ever on my side, and each
Alike will prosper me, I trust, to-morrow.
Soothsayer . But there are others, guardian Gods of Egypt;
Prayers may propitiate them, with offerings due.
Antony . I have forgotten all my prayers.
Soothsayer . No need,
When holier lips pronounce them.
Antony . As for offerings,
There shall be plenty on the day's success.
Soothsayer . Merit it.
Antony . Do your Gods or ours mind that?
Merit! and where lies merit?
Soothsayer . In true faith
On auguries.
Antony . Birds hither thither fly,
And heard there have been from behind the veil
Voices not varying much from yours and mine.
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