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

A NTONY AND D OLABELLA

Antony . Welcome, my Dolabella! There is none
From yonder camp I would embrace beside.
My little queen hath given at last an audience
To thy persuasive tongue?
Dolabella . Most graciously.
Antony . I never thought she would permit Caesarion
To leave her side; hardly can I myself
Bear separation from that brave young boy;
I love him as my own.
Dolabella . Your own thus stand
Safe from all peril.
Antony . Is not it disgrace?
A boy save me ? for to save them is me .
Dolabella . Create a generosity of soul
In one whom conquest now hath made secure;
Bid him put forth his power, it now is greater
Than any man's: consider what a friend
Caesarion hath in Julius, all whose wounds
Will bleed afresh before the assembled tribes
On the imperial robe thy hands outsprad
With its wide rents, for every God above
And every Roman upon earth to number.
Antony . Ah! those were days worth living o'er again.
Dolabella . Live them again then.
Antony . Never, stript of power,
Of dignity, of Rome's respect, of theirs
Who compass me, who fix before these eyes
The very eagles which adorn'd my tent.
Dolabella . Brave thoughts! but are none weaker intermixt?
Antony . Smile, Dolabella! Oh, could but that smile
Kill as it pierces me! But tread the ground
Softly and lightly where her feet have moved.
My Cleopatra! never will we part,
Thy son shall reign in Egypt.
Dolabella . Much I fear'd,
O Antony, thy rancour might prevail
Against thy prudence. Caesar bears no rancour.
Antony . Too little is that heart for honest hatred.
The serpent the most venomous hath just
Enough of venom for one deadly wound,
He strikes but once, and then he glides away.
Dolabella . Octavius strikes not Antony.
Antony . One man
Alone dares strike the man whom thou hast named.
But let me hear the phrase of fraudulence.
Dolabella . Caesar's, I trust, will not deserve that name,
He says his reign shall be the reign of peace.
Antony . Peace! what is that? a pleasant room to sit
Or walk about in, nor could heart desire
A cooler place wherein to spread the cates:
First, bring these cates; bring liberty, the salt
That seasons with true relish all things else.
Dolabella . We sometimes leave but little, when we rise
From its enjoyment, for those servitors
Who toil'd for us throughout the heat of day:
Reckless we riot: never can spilt wine
Enter the golden cup it sparkled in:
Harpies above defile the half-eaten fruit.
Rome now would rest awhile.
Antony . Yea, long will be
Her rest; the scourge of Earth will be the scorn.
Dolabella . We must submit.
Antony . Thou must; thou hast submitted;
But never I; what I have been I am.
Dolabella . Less prosperous than once, thy fortunes may
Be yet restored.
Antony . I would not take them back,
By any man, least by that man, bestow'd;
I would not have my portion of the world,
No, nor the whole of it, if that glib tongue
Call'd every God to ratify the gift.
Show me the foe he ever fairly met,
The friend he hath embraced, and not betray'd,
And tell me, Dolabella, for thou canst,
Who murder'd Hirtius; by whose agency
Poison was dropt into the wound of Pansa.
Dolabella . Of this ask Glyco, ask Aquilius Niger
Of that.
Antony . Both know the secret, both have told it:
And now will I tell thee one.
At the noon
Of yesterday, when fruit is most refreshing,
A countryman who brings the yellow figs
His queen is fond of, brought a basketful,
Saying to Iras:
" These my little daughter,
Whom once you used to play with in the garden,
Bids me to give into your hands; she thinks
The queen requires some frolic; you alone
Can venture so far with her. Place within
The smooth cool linen of her bed this basket
Of cane-leaves and of rushes intertwined,
With all the fruit below, the leaves a-top;
You see it is but shallow, scarce a palm,
Mind it lie flat; yet she will find it out
Tho' it be always dusky in that room."
What is there in the tale that thou shouldst stare?
Dolabella . Enough. An idle rumor reacht the camp
That Cleopatra stung herself to death,
Vexing two asps held close against her bosom.
Antony . Are Romans all so ignorant of the asp
That two are wanted? that he must be vext?
That, like domestic animals, he bites?
He bites not, but he strikes with upper jaw
As other vipers do, and the black lid
Drops, and he crawls away; one pang, one shriek,
Death hears it, nor delays: the hind knows that.
An earlier story now. So exquisite
In luxury, my queen dissolved a pearl
Above all price, and drank it in her wine.
Bid thou the tatler of the tale expound
How that same acid which dissolved the pearl
Darken'd no tooth, abbreviated no smile,
But gave her spirits for the festive song.
Ah! had she done so, Medicine had run up
In vain to help her; Death had interposed.
Dolabella . Another tale, alike incredible.
'Tis said she shook from off her coronal
Poison into your cup, dashing it down
Just at the lip, and proving its effect
On household beast before you, thus to show
How easy were the deed to one who will'd.
Antony . Is such a fiction workt by homespun yarn?
I doubt it: surely some Greek needle wrought
The quaint device, for poet to adorn
By metaphor, and sage by apologue.
Thou hast among thy friends one capable,
In man's attire, fresh-blooming from Hymettus,
Handmaid of Cilnius the rich Aretine.
O Romans! are your ears to falsities
Wide open, and your mouths agape for them
As are the callow sparrows for their food,
Hour after hour? Ye little know that asps
Are not mere worms of one span-length, one cubit,
But longer than the vipers in your fields,
So hideous that no woman, young or old,
Or rustic, or well train'd to monkey-gods,
But must abhor them. Your credulity
Will urge the whisper in each other's ear
That she, the daintiest of all womankind,
Would handle them, now plague them, now caress
And hug them as she might a tender babe . .
Yet even the serious may believe the tale,
For what in Rome is not believed . . but truth?
Dolabella . To me the queen said nothing of this snare.
Antony . Nothing she knows of it.
I heard a scream
From Iras, and rusht in. She threw herself
Before my feet, prayed me to strike her dead,
And ran toward the corner, where I saw
The beasts coil'd up, and cut them thro' and thro'.
Then told she all; but not until her prayer
For death was fruitless, not until I warn'd her
Her life and death, while yet we live, are ours.
Dolabella . Might I advise . .
Antony . Not me: I never took
Any advice, in battle or debate:
Dolabella . Caesar hath urged thee sorely, and may worse;
What wouldst thou do with him were he the vanquisht?
Antony . Do with him? throw him to the fishermen
To bait their hooks with and catch crocodiles,
If crocodile feeds upon crocodile.
Take him these words: we keep no secrets here.
Dolabella . Caesar is lenient.
Antony . Never let that word
Glide o'er thy lips, no word is it for me.
Tell him no friend of mine shall ask my life,
No enemy shall give it. I am lord
Of my own honor; he has none to lose:
The money-changer's granson calculates
But badly here. He waits for thee: depart.
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