Captives, The. A Tragedy - Act 1, Scene 5


Orba. Keep off a while, and leave us to ourselves.
I own, I think this rash suspicion wrongs you;
For murder is the mean revenge of cowards,
And you are brave.
Soph. By whom am I accus'd?
Let him stand forth. Of murder, murder say you?
Bear I the marks of an abandon'd wretch?
How little man can search the heart of man!
Orba. Our Priests are train'd up spies by education;
They pry into the secrets of the state,
And then by way of prophecy reveal them;
'Tis by such artifice they govern Kings.
The last night's rumour of conspiracy
Form'd the King's dream, and from that very rumour
They venture to speak out, what we but whisper'd.
'Twas they that call'd us to this early watch.
'Twas they inform'd us that assassination
Lies hid, ev'n now, within the palace walls.
And we but execute the King's command
In seizing all we find.
Soph. It is your duty,
And I submit. You cannot be too watchful
To guard the life of such a worthy prince.
I saw his prowess in the rage of battel,
I found his mercy in the flush of conquest.
Do not I share his palace, though a captive?
What can set limits to his gen'rous soul,
Or close his lib'ral hand? Am I a viper
To sting the man that warms me in his bosom?
Orba. Why is power given into the hands of Kings,
But to distinguish virtue and protect it?
If then Phraortes loves and honours you,
Why seek you thus to nourish your misfortunes
With midnight walks and pensive solitude?
Soph. To lose the pomp and glories of a crown,
Is not a circumstance so soon forgot!
But I have humbled me to this affliction.
To lead the flower of Persia forth to battel,
And meet with overthrow and foul defeat,
Is no such trifle in a soldier's breast!
But I submit; for 'tis the will of Heaven.
To see a father bleed amidst the carnage,
Must touch the heart of filial piety.
Why was his lot not mine? His fall was glorious.
To see my brave, but now unhappy people
Bow down their necks in shameful servitude.
Is not a spectacle of slight compassion.
All these calamities I have subdu'd.
But — — my dear wife! Cylene !
Orba. Still there's hope.
Can you support the load of real ills,
And sink beneath imaginary sorrows?
Perhaps she still may live,
Soph. Had I that hope,
'Twou'd banish from my heart all other cares.
Perhaps she still may live! no: 'tis impossible.
When storms of arrows clatter'd on our shields,
Love arm'd her breast, and where I led she follow'd;
Then Victory broke our ranks, and like a torrent
Bore my Cylene from my sight for ever.
But say, she did survive that fatal day;
Was she not then the spoil of some rude soldier,
Whose blood was riotous and hot with conquest?
— Who can gaze on her beauty and resist it!
Methinks I see her now, ev'n now before me,
The hand of Lust is tangled in her hair
And drags her to his arms: — —
I see her snatch the dagger from his grasp
And resolutely plunge it in her bosom.
Orba. Yet think she may have found a milder fate.
All soldiers are not of that savage temper;
May she not chance to be some brave man's captive?
And Valour ever lov'd to shield Distress.
Soph. Can I think thus? I cannot be so happy.
Orba. Is still the King a stranger to this sorrow
That day and night lies rankling in your breast?
Soph. A grateful heart is all I've left to pay him.
Phraortes is as liberal as Heaven,
And daily pours new benefits upon me.
Last night he led me to the royal garden,
(His talk all bent to soften my misfortunes)
Like a fond friend he grew inquisitive,
And drew the story from me.
Orba. All his heart
Is turn'd to your relief. What further happen'd?
Soph. The King was mov'd, and strait sent forth commands
That all the female captives of his triumph
Should stand before his presence. Thus (says he)
Unhappy Prince, I may retrieve your peace,
And give Cylene to your arms again.
O source of light! O Sun, whose piercing eye
Views all below on earth, in sea or air;
Who at one glance can comprehend the globe,
Who ev'ry where art present, point me out
Where my Cylene mourns her bitter bondage. — —
If she yet live!
Orba. Why will you fear the worst?
Why seek you to anticipate misfortune?
The King commands. Obedience on swift wing
Flies through his whole dominions to redress you;
From hence you soon will learn what chance befell her.
'Tis soon enough to feel our adverse fortune
When there 's no room for hope. This last distrese
I know must move the King to tend'rest pity.
Soph. He dwelt on ev'ry little circumstance,
And as I talk'd, he sigh'd.
Orba. It reach'd his heart.
A tale of love is fuel to a lover.
Phraortes dotes with such excess of fondness,
All his pursuits are lost in that of love.
Astarbe suffers him to hold the sceptre,
But she directs his hand which way to point.
The King's decrees were firm and absolute,
Not the whole earth's confederate powers could shake 'em;
But now a frown, a smile from fair Astarbe
Renders them light as air.
Soph. If you have lov'd,
You cannot think this strange.
Orba. Yet this same woman,
To whom the King has given up all himself,
Can scarce prevail upon her haughty temper
To show dissembled love. She loves his power,
She loves his treasures; but she loaths his person:
Thus ev'ry day he buys dissimulation.
Whene'er a woman knows you in her power,
She never fails to use it.
Soph. That 's a sure proof
Of cold indifference and fixt dislike.
In love both parties have the power to govern,
But neither claims it. Love is all compliance.
Astarbe seem'd to me of gentlest manners,
A tender softness languish'd in her eyes,
Her voice, her words, bespoke an easy temper.
I thought I scarce had ever seen till then
Such beauty and humility together.
Orba. How beauty can mis-lead and cheat our reason!
The Queen knows all the ways to use her charms
In their full force, and Media feels their power.
Whoever dares dispute her hourly will,
Wakens a busy fury in her bosom.
Sure, never love exerted greater sway;
For her he breaks through all the regal customs,
For she is not confin'd like former Queens,
But with controuling power enjoys full freedom.
I am to blame, to talk upon this subject.
Soph. My innocence had made me quite forget
That I'm your prisoner. Load me with distresses,
They better suit my state. I've lost my kingdom,
A palace ill befits me. I'm a captive,
And captives should wear chains. My fellow soldiers
Now pine in dungeons, and are gall'd with irons,
And I the cause of all! Why live I thus
Amidst the pomp and honours of a court?
Why breathe I morn and ev'n in fragrant bowers?
Why am I suffer'd to behold the day?
For I am lost to ev'ry sense of pleasure.
Give me a dungeon, give me chains and darkness:
Nor courts, nor fragrant bowers, nor air, nor day-light
Give me one glimpse of joy — — O lost Cylene!
Orba. Misfortunes are the common lot of man,
And each man has his share of diff'rent kinds:
He who has learnt to bear them best is happiest.
But see Araxes comes with guards and prisoners.
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