Captives, The. A Tragedy - Act 2, Scene 8


Be not surpriz'd that I have call'd you hither,
Most noble Prince, in this your hour of trouble;
For I ev'n bear a part in your misfortunes.
Who 's your accuser? — whence those shameful chains?
Soph. I'm charg'd with crimes of the most heinous nature,
If 'tis Heav'n's will to try me with afflictions,
I will not, like a dastard, sink beneath them,
But resolutely strive to stem the torrent.
Not the dark dungeon, nor the sharpest torture
Can ruffle the sweet calm of innocence.
My chains are grievous, but my conscience free.
Ast. I long have mark'd your virtues, and admir'd them.
Against a resolute and steady mind
The tempest of affliction beats in vain.
When we behold the hero's manly patience,
We feel his suff'rings, and my tears have own'd
That what you bore with courage touch'd my heart.
And when compassion once has reach'd the mind,
It spurs us on to charity and kindness.
Instruct me then which way to cure your sorrows.
Soph. The Queen is gracious and delights in mercy.
Ast. I speak with the sincerity of friendship.
Friendship is free and open, and requires not
Such distant homage and respectful duty.
Forget that I'm a Queen: I have forgot it;
And all my thoughts are fixt on thy relief.
Draw near me then, and as from friend to friend,
Let us discharge our hearts of all their cares.
Soph. How beautiful a virtue is compassion!
It gives new grace to every charm of woman!
When lovely features hide a tender soul,
She looks, she speaks, all harmony divine.
Ast. Tell me, Sophernes , does not slav'ry's yoke
Gall more and more through ev'ry pace of life?
I am a slave, like you. And though a Queen
Possest of all the richest gems of Media ,
I know no pleasure; this distasteful thought
Imbitters all my hours; the royal bed
Is loathsome, and a stranger to delight.
I'm made the drudge to serve another's pleasure.
O when shall I be free! take, take your empire,
And give me peace and liberty again.
Soph. The strokes of fortune must be born with patience.
Ast. But I have lost all patience. — Give me counsel,
Give me thy friendship, and assist a wretch
Who thirsts and pants for freedom.
Soph. Who seeks succour
From one whose hands are bound in double irons?
I am a slave, and captive of the war,
Accus'd of treason and ingratitude,
And must from hence go back to chains and darkness.
But had I power, such beauty might command it.
Ast. But I have power, and all my power is thine.
If I had arm'd my self with resolution
To quit the pompous load of majesty,
To fly far off from this detested empire,
To seek repose within my native land,
Wouldst thou then be companion of my flight,
And share in my distresses and my fortune?
Soph. The Queen intends to try a wretched man,
Whether he'd break all hospitable laws,
The strictest oaths and tyes of gratitude,
To sacrifice his honour to such beauty
That can command all hearts.
Ast. Tell me directly,
Wouldst thou accept of freedom on these terms?
Soph. How shall I answer?
Ast. Is thy heart of ice?
Or are my features so contemptible
That thou disdain'st to fix thy eyes upon me?
Can you receive this offer with such coldness?
I make it from my heart; my warm heart speaks:
Distrust me not. What, not a word! no answer!
Soph. O may the Queen excuse her prostrate servant,
And urge no more a tryal too severe.
Ast. What means Sophernes? Why this abject posture?
'Tis I should kneel; 'tis I that want compassion.
Thou art unpractis'd in the ways of women,
To judge that I could trifle on this subject.
Think how severe a conflict I have conquer'd,
To over-rule ev'n nature and my sex,
Think what confusion rises in my face
To ask what (to be ask'd) would kindle blushes
In ev'ry modest cheek! — where 's shame? where 's pride?
Sophernes has subdu'd them. Women, I own,
Are vers'd in little frauds, and sly dissemblings:
But can we rule the motions of the blood?
These eyes, — this pulse — these tremblings — this confusion
Make truth conspicuous, and disclose the soul.
Think not I fly with man for his protection;
For only you I could renounce a kingdom,
For you, ev'n in the wild and barren desart
Forget I was a Queen; ev'n then more happy
Than seated on a throne. Say, wilt thou chuse
Or liberty, and life, and poor Astarbe ,
Or dungeons, chains, and ignominious death!
Soph. O how I struggle in the snares of beauty!
Those eyes could warm pale elders to desire,
I feel them at my heart; the feaver rages,
And if I gaze again — — how shall I answer!
Ast. How is my pride brought low! how vilely treated!
The worst of scorn is cold deliberation.
Soph. Cylene may be found. What, take me from her!
How can I go and leave my hopes for ever?
Can I renounce my love, my faith, my all?
Who can resist those eyes? — I go — I'm lost!
Cylene holds me back, and curbs desire.
Ast. Resolve and answer me. For soon as night
Favours our flight I'll gather up my treasures.
Prepare thee then, lest death should intercept thee,
And murder all my quiet.
Soph. If in her sight
I've favour found, the Queen will hear me speak.
How can my heart refuse her? how obey her?
Can I deny such generous clemency?
Join'd with all beauties ever found in woman?
Yet think on my unhappy circumstance.
I've giv'n my word, the strictest tye of honour,
Never to pass beyond my bounds prescrib'd;
And shall I break my faith? Who holds society
With one who's branded with that infamy?
Did not Phraortes in the heat of battle
Stay the keen sword that o'er me menac'd death?
Do not I share his palace, and his friendship?
Does he not strive by daily curtesies
To banish all the bitter cares of bondage?
And shall I seise and tear his tend'rest heart-string?
Shall I conspire to rob him of all peace?
For on the Queen hangs ev'ry earthly joy,
His ev'ry pleasure is compriz'd in you!
What virtue can resist such strong temptation?
O raise not thus a tempest in my bosom!
What shall I do? — my soul abhors ingratitude.
Should I consent, you must detest and loath me,
And I should well deserve those chains and death.
Ast. Is this thy best return for proffer'd love?
Such coldness, such indifference, such contempt!
Rise, all ye Furies, from th' infernal regions,
And prompt me to some great, some glorious vengeance
Vengeance is in my power, and I'll enjoy it.
But majesty perhaps might awe his passion,
And fear forbid him to reveal his wishes.
That could not be. I heard, I saw him scorn me;
All his disdainful words his eyes confirm'd.
Ungrateful man! Hence, traytor, from my sight.
Revenge be ready. Slighted love invokes thee.
Of all the injuries that rack the soul,
Mine is most exquisite! Hence, to thy dungeon.
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