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You have agreed to sell your soldiers' blood,
And we have shed our dearest blood for you.
Unto no easy service:-hardships, toils,
The hottest dangers of most dreadful fight
Will be your portion; and when all is o'er,
Bas. Hear me, my soldiers
2d Sol. No, hear him not, he means to cozen you. Each, like his general, must contented be Frederick will do you rightHome to return again, a poor brave soldier. (Endeavouring to stir up a noise and confusion How say ye now? I spread no tempting lureamongst them.) A better fate than this, I promise none. Soldiers. We'll follow Basil.
Bas. What cursed fiend art thou, cast out from
Bas. What token of obedience will ye give?
(A deep pause.)
To spirit up rebellion? damned villain
(Seizes upon 2d Soldier, drags him out from the Soldiers, lay down your arms!
ranks, and wrests his arms from him; then
takes a pistol from his side, and holds it to his
(They all lay down their arms.) If any here are weary of the service, Now let them quit the ranks, and they shall have
Stand there, damn'd meddling villain, and be silent; A free discharge, and passport to their homes;
For if thou utterest but a single word,
And from my scanty fortune I'll make good
The well-earn'd pay their royal master owes them.
Let those who follow me their arms resume.
A cough or hem, to cross me in my speech,
I'll send thy cursed spirit from the earth,
To bellow with the damn'd!
(The Soldiers keep a dead silence—after a pause,
Basil resumes his speech.)
Listen to me, my soldiers.-
You say that I am to the emperor pledged
To lead you foremost in all desperate service,
For now you call it not the path of glory;
And if in this I have offended you,
I do indeed repent me of the crime.
But new from battles, where my native troops
So bravely fought, I felt me proud at heart,
And boasted of you, boasted foolishly.
I said, fair glory's palm ye would not yield
To e'er the bravest legion train'd to arms.
I swore the meanest man of all my troops
Would never shrink before an armed host,
If honour bade him stand. My royal master
Smiled at the ardour of my heedless words,
And promised, when occasion claim'd our arms,
To put them to the proof.
and booty love,
Safe and ignoble service-be it so-
Forgive me that I did mistake you thus,
But do not earn with savage mutiny,
Your own destruction. We'll for Pavia march,
To join the royal army near its walls;
And there with blushing forehead will I plead,
That ye are men with warlike service worn,
Requiring ease and rest. Some other chief,
Whose cold blood boils not at the trumpet's sound,
Will in your rearward station head you then,
And so, my friends, we'll part. As for myself,
A volunteer, unheeded in the ranks,
I'll rather flight, with brave men for my fellows,
Than be the leader of a sordid band.
(They all resume their arms.) Bas. (holding up his hands.) High heaven be praised!
I had been grieved to part with you, my soldiers.
Here is a letter from my gracious master,
With offers of preferment in the north,
Most high preferment, which I did refuse,
For that I would not leave my gallant troops.
(Takes out a letter, and throws it amongst them.)
(A great commotion amongst the Soldiers; many
of them quit their ranks, and crowd about him,
Our gallant general!
(Others call out)
We'll spend our hearts' blood for thee, noble
Bas. And so you thought me false? this bites to the quick!
My soldiers thought me false !
(They all quit their ranks, and crowd eagerly around him. Basil, waving them off with his hands.)
Away, away, you have disgusted me!
(Soldiers retire to their ranks.) 'Tis well-retire, and hold yourselves prepared To march upon command, nor meet again Till you are summon'd by the beat of drum. Some secret enemy has tamper'd with you, For yet I will not think that in these ranks There moves a man who wears a traitor's heart. (The Soldiers begin to march off, and music strikes up.)
Bas. (holding up his hand.)
Which our brave fathers, men without reproach,
Raised in the hour of triumph! but this hour
(A great murmur rises amongst the ranks, Sol- To us no glory brings
diers call out)
We will not part! no, no, we will not part!
(All call out together)
We will not part! be thou our general still.
Bas. How can I be your general? ye obey
As caprice moves you; I must be obey'd
As honest men against themselves perform
A sacred oath.-
Then silent be your march-ere that again
Our steps to glorious strains like these shall move,
A day of battle o'er our heads must pass,
And blood be shed to wash out this day's stain.
[EXEUNT Soldiers, silent and dejected.
Enter FREDERICK, who starts back on seeing BASIL
Bas. Advance, lieutenant; wherefore shrink ye
Some other chief will more indulgent prove-
You're weary grown-I've been too hard a master-I've even seen you bear your head erect,
And front your man though arm'd with frowning
Soldiers. Thyself, and only thee, will we obey.
Bas. But if you follow me, yourselves ye pledge
Have you done aught the valiant should not do?
I fear you have.
(Fred. looks confused.)
With secret art, and false insinuation,
The simple untaught soldiers to seduce
From their sworn duty, might become the base,
Become the coward well; but O! what villain
Had the dark power to engage thy valiant worth
In such a work as this!
Fred. Is Basil, then, so lavish of his praise On a neglected pitiful subaltern?
It were a libel on his royal master;
A foul reproach upon fair fortune cast,
To call me valiant:
And surely he has been too much their debtor
To mean them this rebuke.
Bas. Is nature then so sparing of her gifts, That it is wonderful when they are found Where fortune smiles not?
Thou art by nature brave and so am I ;
But in those distant ranks moves there not one
(pointing off the stage.)
Of high ennobled soul, by nature form'd
A hero and commander, who will yet
In his untrophied grave forgotten lie
With meaner men? I dare be sworn there does.
Fred. What need of words? I crave of thee no
On scaffold in field with dauntless breast
Thou wilt engage him: and if thy proud soul,
In sullen obstinacy, scorns all grace,
E'en be it so. But if with manly gratitude
Thou truly canst receive a brave man's pardon,
Thou hast it freely.
I have offended 'gainst arm'd law, offended,
And shrink not from my doom.
Bas. I know thee well, I know thou fear'st not Why should the Duke be false?
I cannot live and be the wretch I am.
Fred. It must not be. I've been thine enemy- Noble Albini, with most friendly art, I've been unjust to thee
Bas. But thou canst live and be an honest man
From error turn'd,-canst live and be my friend.
(Raising Fred. from the ground.)
Forbear, forbear! see where our friends advance :
They must not think thee suing for a pardon;
That would disgrace us both. Yet, ere they come,
Tell me, if that thou mayst with honour tell,
What did seduce thee from thy loyal faith?
Fred. No cunning traitor did my faith attempt,
For then I had withstood him: but of late
And cursed thine ill-timed absence.-
There's treason in this most deceitful court,
Against thee plotting, and this morning's tumult,
Hath been its damn'd effect.
Nay, nay, my friend!
The nature of man's mind too well thou knowest,
To judge as vulgar hoodwink'd statesmen do;
Who, ever with their own poor wiles misled,
Believe each popular tumult or commotion
Must be the work of deep-laid policy.
Poor, mean, mechanic souls, who little know
A few short words of energetic force,
Some powerful passion on the sudden roused,
The animating sight of something noble,
Some fond trait of the memory finely waked,
A sound, a simple song without design,
In revolutions, tumults, wars, rebellions,
All grand events, have oft effected more
Than deepest cunning of their paltry art.
Some drunken soldier, eloquent with wine,
Who loves not fighting, hath harangued his mates,
For they in truth some hardships have endured:
Wherefore in this should we suspect the court?
Ros. Ah! there is something, friend, in Mantua's
Will make the blackest trait of barefaced treason,
Seem fair and guiltless to thy partial eye.
Bas. Nay, 'tis a weakness in thee, Rosinberg,
Which makes thy mind so jealous and distrustful.
I know thou hast ;
But thou art brave, and I forgive thee all.
Fred. My lord! my general! OI cannot To tell him hidden danger waits him here,
From the gay clamorous throng my steps beguiled,
Unmask'd before me, and with earnest grace
Entreated me, if I were Basil's friend,
And warn him earnestly this court to leave.
She said she loved thee much; and hadst thou seen
How anxiously she urged-
I've lent mine ear to foolish idle tales,
Of very zealous, though but recent friends.
Bas. Softly, our friends approach-of this again.
SCENE III-AN APARTMENT IN BASIL'S LODGINGS.
Enter BASIL and ROSINBERG.
Ros. Thank heaven I am now alone with thee. Last night I sought thee with an anxious mind,
Ros. Because he is a double, crafty prince-
Because I've heard it rumour'd secretly,
That he in some dark treaty is engaged,
E'en with our master's enemy, the Frank.
Bas. And so thou thinkest-
Nay, hear me to the end.
Last night that good and honourable dame,
Bas. (interrupting him.) By heaven and earth
There is a ray of light breaks through thy tale,
And I could leap like madmen in their freaks,
So blessed is the gleam! Ah! no, no, no!
It cannot be ! alas, it cannot be !
Yet didst thou say, she urged it earnestly?
She is a woman, who avoids all share
I know not how-a bad and restless spirit
Has work'd within my breast, and made me O! would it were! how saidst thou, gentle Rosin-
In secret politics; one only charge
Her interest claims, Victoria's guardian friend-
And she would have me hence-it must be so.
She urged it earnestly-how did she urge it!
Nay, prithee do not stare upon me thus,
But tell me all her words! What said she?
Ros. O Basil! I could laugh to see thy folly,
But that thy weakness doth provoke me so.
Most admirable, brave, determined man!
So well, so lately tried, what art thou now?
A vain deceitful thought transports thee thus.
I will not tell thee what I think.
Ros. But I can guess it well, and it deceives thee.
Leave this detested place, this fatal court,
Where dark deceitful cunning plots thy ruin.
A soldier's duty calls thee loudly hence.
The time is critical. How wilt thou feel
When they shall tell these tidings in thine ear,
That brave Piscaro, and his royal troops,
Our valiant fellows, have the enemy fought,
Whilst we, so near at hand, lay loitering here?
Bas. Thou dost disturb thy brain with fancied
Our fortunes rest not on a point so nice,
That one short day should be of all this moment;
And yet this one short day will be to me
Worth years of other time.
Nay, rather say,
A day to darken all thy days beside.
Confound the fatal beauty of that woman,
Which hath bewitch'd thee so !
Ros. But with such hope, my friend, how stand
Are they so well refined? how wilt thou bear
Ere long to hear, that some high-favour'd prince
Has won her heart, her hand, has married her?
Though now unshackled, will it always be?
Bas. By heaven thou dost contrive but to tor-
'Tis most ungenerous
To push me thus with rough unsparing hand,
Where but the slightest touch is felt so dearly.
It is unfriendly.
And hast a pleasure in the pain thou givest!
There is malignity in what thou sayest.
Ros. No, not malignity, but kindness, Basil,
Ros. God knows my heart! I would not give That fain would save thee from the yawning gulf,
To which blind passion guides thy heedless steps.
Bas. Go, rather save thyself
But it disturbs me, Basil, vexes me
To see thee so inthralled by a woman.
If she is fair, others are fair as she.
Some other face will like emotions raise,
When thou canst better play a lover's part:
But for the present,-fy upon it, Basil!
From the weak passion which has seized thy breast,
T'assume authority with sage-like brow,
And shape my actions by thine own caprice.
I can direct myself.
Bas. What, is it possible thou hast beheld,
Hast tarried by her too, her converse shared,
Yet talk'st as though she were a common fair one,
Such as a man may fancy and forget?
Thou art not, sure, so dull and brutish grown:
It is not so; thou dost belie thy thoughts,
And vainly try'st to gain me with the cheat.
Ros. So thinks each lover of the maid he loves,
Yet, in their lives, some many maidens love.
Fy on it! leave this town, and be a soldier !
Bas. Have done, have done! why dost thou bate
me thus ?
Thy words become disgusting to me, Rosinberg.
What claim hast thou my actions to control?
I'll Mantua leave when it is fit I should.
And I might yet from some high towering cliff
Perceive her distant mansion from afar,
Or mark its blue smoke rising eve and morn;
Nay, though within the circle of the moon
Some spell did fix her, never to return,
And I might wander in the hours of night,
And upward turn my ever-gazing eye,
Fondly to mark upon its varied disk
Ay, on the instant. Is't not desperation
To stay, and hazard ruin on thy fame,
Though yet uncheer'd e'en by that tempting lure,
No lover breathes without? thou hast no hope.
Bas. What, dost thou mean-curse on the paltry
Some little spot that might her dwelling be;
My fond, my fixed heart would still adore,
And own no other love. Away, away!
How canst thou say to one who loves like me,
Thou hast no hope?
That I should count and bargain with my heart,
Upon the chances of unstinted favour,
As little souls their base-bred fancies feed?
O were I conscious that within her breast
I held some portion of her dear regard,
Though pent for life within a prison's walls,
Where through my grate I yet might sometimes see
E'en but her shadow sporting in the sun;
Though placed by fate where some obstructing
Some deep impassable between us roll'd,
Yes, do thyself,
And let no artful woman do it for thee.
But now of this no more; it moves thee greatly.
Yet once again, as a most loving friend,
Let me conjure thee, if thou prizest honour,
A soldier's fair repute, a hero's fame,
What noble spirits love, and well I know
Ros. Then, 'faith! 'tis fitting thou shouldst leave Full dearly dost thou prize them, leave this place, it now;
And give thy soldiers orders for the march.
Bas. Nay, since thou must assume it o'er me
Bas. I scorn thy thought: it is beneath my scorn:
It is of meanness sprung-an artful woman!
O she has all the loveliness of heaven
And all its goodness too!
Ros. I mean not to impute dishonest arts,
I mean not to impute-
No, 'faith thou canst not.
Ros. What, can I not? their arts all women
Be general, and command my soldiers too.
Ros. What, hath this passion in so short a space,
O! curses on it! so far changed thee, Basil,
That thou dost take with such ungentle warmth,
The kindly freedom of thine ancient friend?
Methinks the beauty of a thousand maids
Would not have moved me thus to treat my friend,
My best, mine earliest friend!
Bas. Say kinsman rather; chance has link'd us
Our blood is near, our hearts are sever'd far;
No act of choice did e'er unite our souls.
Men most unlike we are; our thoughts unlike;
My breast disowns thee-thou'rt no friend of
Ros. Ah! have I then so long, so dearly loved thee;
So often, with an elder brother's care,
Thy childish rambles tended, shared thy sports;
Fill'd up by stealth thy weary school-boy's task;
Taught thy young arms thine earliest feats of
With boastful pride thine early rise beheld
In glory's paths, contented then to fill
A second place, so I might serve with thee;
And say'st thou now, I am no friend of thine?
Well, be it so; I am thy kinsman then,
And by that title will I save thy name,
From danger of disgrace. Indulge thy will.
I'll lay me down and feign that I am sick :
And yet I shall not feign-I shall not feign;
For thy unkindness makes me so indeed.
It will be said that Basil tarried here
To save his friend, for so they'll call me still;
Nor will dishonour fall upon thy name
For such a kindly deed.-
(Basil walks up and down in great agitation, then stops, covers his face with his hands, and seems to be overcome. Rosinberg looks at him earnestly.)
O blessed heaven, he weeps! (Runs up to him, and catches him in his arms.) O Basil! I have been too hard upon thee. And is it possible I've moved thee thus ? Bas. (in a convulsed, broken voice.) I will renounce-I'll leave
What says my Basil? Bas. I'll Mantua leave-I'll leave this seat of bliss
This lovely woman-tear my heart in twain-
Cast off at once my little span of joy-
Be wretched-miserable-whate'er thou wilt-
Dost thou forgive me?
Ros. O my friend! my friend! I love thee now more than I ever loved thee. I must be cruel to thee to be kind: Each pang I see thee feel strikes through my heart;
Then spare us both, call up thy nob spirit, And meet the blow at once. Thy troops are ready
Let us depart, nor lose another hour.
(Basil shrinks from his arms, and looks at him with somewhat of an upbraiding, at the same time a sorrowful look.)
Bas. Nay, put me not to death upon the instant; I'll see her once again, and then depart.
Ros. See her but once again, and thou art ruin'd! It must not be-if thou regardest me
Bas. Well then, it shall not be. Thou hast no mercy!
Ros. Ah! thou wilt bless me all thine after-life For what now seems to thee so merciless.
Bas. (sitting down very dejectedly.) Mine afterlife! what is mine after-life?
My day is closed! the gloom of night is come!
A hopeless darkness settles o'er my fate.
I've seen the last look of her heavenly eyes;
I've heard the last sounds of her blessed voice;
I've seen her fair form from my sight depart:
My doom is closed!
Ros. (hanging over him with pity and affection.) Alas! my friend!
Bas. In all her lovely grace she disappear'd, Ah! little thought I never to return!
Ros. Why so desponding? think of warlike glory. The fields of fair renown are still before thee; Who would not burn such noble fame to earn?
Bas. What now are arms, or fair renown to me? Strive for it those who will-and yet, a while, Welcome rough war; with all thy scenes of blood; (starting from his seat.) Thy roaring thunders, and thy clashing steel! Welcome once more! what have I now to do But play the brave man o'er again, and die? Enter ISABELLA.
Isab. (to Bas.) My princess bids me greet you
Bas. (starting.) What dost thou say?
Damn this untimely message!
Isab. The princess bids me greet you, noble
In the cool grove, hard by the southern gate She with her train
What, she indeed, herself?
Isab. Herself, my lord, and she requests to see
you. Bas. Thank heaven for this! I will be there anon. Ros. (taking hold of him.) Stay, stay, and do not be a madman still. Bas. Let go thy hold: what, must I be a brute, A very brute to please thee? no, by heaven! (Breaks from him, and EXIT.) Ros. (striking his forehead.) All lost again! ill fortune light upon her!
(Turning eagerly to Isab.) And so thy virtuous mistress sends thee here To make appointments, honourable dame?
Isab. Not so, my lord, you must not call it so: The court will hunt to-morrow, and Victoria Would have your noble general of her train.
Ros. Confound these women, and their artful
snares, Since men will be such fools!
Isab. Yes, grumble at our empire as you willRos. What, boast ye of it? empire do ye call it? It is your shame! a short-lived tyranny, That ends at last in hatred and contempt.
Isab. Nay, but some women do so wisely rule, Their subjects never from the yoke escape.
Ros. Some women do, but they are rarely found. There is not one in all your paltry court Hath wit enough for the ungenerous task. "Faith! of you all, not one, but brave Albini, And she disdains it-Good be with you, lady!
(Going.) Isab. O would I could but touch that stubborn heart!
How dearly should he pay for this hour's scorn! [EXEUNT Severally.
SCENE IV.-A SUMMER APARTMENT IN THE COUNTRY, THE WINDOWS OF WHICH LOOK TO A FOREST. Enter VICTORIA in a hunting dress, followed by ALBINI and ISABELLA, speaking as they enter. Vict. (to Alb.) And so you will not share our sport to-day?
Alb. My days of frolic should ere this be o'er,
But thou, my charge, hast kept me youthful still.
I should most gladly go; but since the dawn,
A heavy sickness hangs upon my heart;
Vain, fanciful, and fond of worthless praise;
Courteous and gentle, proud and magnificent:
And yet these adverse qualities in thee,
No dissonance, nor striking contrast make;
For still thy good and amiable gifts
I cannot hunt to-day.
Vict. I'll stay at home and nurse thee, dear Al- The sober dignity of virtue wear not,
And such a 'witching mien thy follies show,
They make a very idiot of reproof,
Alb. No, no, thou shalt not stay.
I cannot follow to the cheerful horn
Whilst thou art sick at home.
Nay, but I will. And smile it to disgrace.
What shall I do with thee?-It grieves me much,
To hear Count Basil is not yet departed.
When from the chase he comes, I'll watch his steps,
And speak to him myself.-
Not very sick.
Rather than thou shouldst stay, my gentle child,
I'll mount my horse, and go e'en as I am.
Vict. Nay, then I'll go, and soon return again.
Meanwhile, do thou be careful of thyself.
O! I could hate her for that poor ambition
Which silly adoration only claims,
But that I well remember, in my youth
Isab. Hark, hark! the shrill horns call us to the I felt the like-I did not feel it long:
I tore it soon, indignant from my breast,
As that which did degrade a noble mind.
Your highness hears it?
Yes, my Isabella;
I hear it, and methinks e'en at the sound
I vault already on my leathern seat,
And feel the fiery steed beneath me shake
His mantled sides, and paw the fretted earth
Whilst I aloft, with gay equestrian grace,
The low salute of gallant lords return,
Who waiting round with eager watchful eye,
And reined steeds, the happy moments seize.
O! didst thou never hear, my Isabel,
How nobly Basil in the field becomes
His fiery courser's back?
Which vainly covets all men's admiration,
And is to others cause of cruel pain?
O! would thou couldst subdue it!
SCENE V.-A VERY BEAUTIFUL GROVE IN
They say most gracefully. Alb. What, is the valiant count not yet departed? Vict. You would not have our gallant Basil go When I have bid him stay? not so, Albini.
Alb. Fy reigns that spirit still so strongly in For such delightful footing!
(Music heard without.) Hark, hark! again! All good be with you! I'll return ere long. [EXEUNT Victoria and Isabella. Alb. (sola.) Ay, go, and every blessing with thee go,
My most tormenting, and most pleasing charge!
from the mountain stream art thou,
Which lightly rises on the morning air,
And shifts its fleeting form with every breeze,
For ever varying, and for ever graceful.
Endearing, generous, bountiful and kind;
Music and horns heard afar off, whilst huntsmen and dogs appear passing over the stage, at a great distanceEnter VICTORIA and BASIL, as if just alighted from their horses.
Vict. (speaking to attendants without.) Lead on our horses to the further grove,
And wait us there.
I love this spot.
Bas. It is a spot where one would live and die
Vict. See, through the twisted boughs of those
Vict. My gentle friend, thou shouldst not be The sunbeams on the bright'ning foliage play,
And tinge the scaled bark with ruddy brown.
Is it not beautiful?
For now in truth I love not admiration
As I was wont to do; in truth I do not.
But yet, this once my woman's heart excuse,
For there is something strange in this man's love,
I never met before, and I must prove it.
Alb. Well, prove it then, be stricken too thyself,
And bid sweet peace of mind a sad farewell.
Vict. O no! that will not be! 'twill peace re- But thou regard'st them not.
For after this, all folly of the kind
Will quite insipid and disgusting seem;
And so I shall become a prudent maid,
And passing wise at last.
(To Bas.) This spot so pleasing, and so fragrant is,
"Twere sacrilege with horses' hoofs to wear
Its velvet turf, where little elfins dance,
And fairies sport beneath the summer's moon;
I love to tread upon it.
Bas. O! I would quit the chariot of a god
Bas. As though an angel, in his upward flight, Had left his mantle floating in mid air.
Vict. Still most unlike a garment; small and sever'd:
(Turning round, and perceiving that he is gazing at her.)
Bas. Ah! what should I regard, where should I
For in that far shot glance, so keenly waked,
That sweetly rising smile of admiration,
Far better do I learn how fair heaven is,
Than if I gazed upon the blue serene.
Vict. Remember you have promised, gentle
No more to vex me with such foolish words.
Bas. Ah! wherefore should my tongue alone be
When every look and every motion tell,
So plainly tell, and will not be forbid,
That I adore thee, love thee, worship thee!
(Victoria looks haughty and displeased.) Ah! pardon me, I know not what I say.