« AnteriorContinuar »
The noblest lessons of our infant days,
Our trust above? Does there not still remain
The wretch's last retreat, the gods, Horatia?
'Tis from their awful wills our evils spring,
And at their altars may we find relief.
Say, shall we thither :-- Look not thus dejected,
But'answer me. A confidence in them,
Ev’n in this crisis of our fate, will calm
Thy troubled soul, and fill thy breast with hope.
Horatia. Talk not of hope; “the wretch on yonder
plain, " Who hears the victor's threats, and sees his sword “ Impending o'er him, feels no surer fate, 66 Tho' less delay'd than mine." What should I
hope? That Alba conqueri-Curs'd be every thought Which looks that way! “ The shrieks of captive
at matrons 66 Sound in my ears!”
Valeria. Forbear, forbear, Horatia; Nor fright me wiil the thought. Rome cannot fall. Think on the glorious battles she has fought; Has she once fail'd, though oft expos’d to danger; And has not her immortal founder promis'd That she should rise the mistress of the world?
Horatia. And if Rome conquers, then Horatia dies.
Valeria. Why wilt thou form vain images of horror. Industrious to be wretched? Is it then Become impossible that Rome should triumph, And Curiatius live: He must, he shall; ·
Protecting gods shall spread their shields around him,
And love shall combat in Horatia's cause.
Horatia. Think'st thou so meanly of him :-No,
His soul's too great to give me such a trial;
Or could it ever come, I think, myself,
Thus lost in love, thus abject as I am,
I should despise the slave who dar'd survive
His country's ruin. Ye immortal powers !
I love his fame too well, his spotless honour,
At least I hope I do, to wish him mine
On any terms which he must blush to own.
Horatius. [Without.] What hol Vindicus.
Horatia. What means that shout -“ Might we
“ not ask, Valeria
Didst thou not wish me to the temple ? -Come,
I will attend thee thither; the kind gods
Perhaps may ease this throbbing heart, and spread
At least a temporary calm within.
Valeria. Alas, Horatia, 'tis not to the temple
That thou wouldst fly; the shout alone alarmıs thee.
But do not thus anticipate thy fate;
Why shouldst thou learn each chance of varying
" Which takes a thousand turns, and shifts the scene
“ From bad to good, as fortune smiles or frowns ;."
Stay but an hour perhaps, and thou shalt know
The whole at once.-I'll send--I'll fy myself
To case thy doubts, and bring thee news of joy.
Horație. Again, and nearer too-I must attend thee.
Valeria. Hark! 'tis thy father's voice, he comes to
Enter Horatius, and Valerius. Horatius. [Entering.] News from the camp, my
child! Save you, sweet maid !
Your brother brings the tidings, for, alas!
I am no warrior now; my useless age,
Far from the paths of honour loiters here
In sluggish inactivity at home.
Yet I remember-
Horatia. You'll forgive us, sir,
If with impatience we expect the tidings.
Horatius. I had forgot; the thoughts of what I was
Engross'd my whole attention.--Pray, young soldier,
Relate it for me; you beheld the scene,
And can report it justly.
Valerius. Gentle lady, The scene was piteous, though its end be peace. Horatia. Peace? O, my fluttering heart! by what
kind means? Valerius. 'Twere tedious, lady, and unnecessary To paint the disposition of the field ; Suffice it, we were arm'd, and front to front The adverse legions heard the trumpet's sound : But vain was the alarm, for motionless, And wrapt in thought they stood; the kindred ranks Had caught each other's eyes, nor dar'd to lift The fault'ring spear against the breast they lov'd.
Again th' alarm was given, and now they seem'd
Preparing to engage, when once again
They hung their drooping heads, and inward mourn'd;
Then nearer drew, and at the third alarm,
Casting their swords and useless shields aside,
Rush'd to each other's arms.
Horatius. 'Twas so, just so,
(Tho' I was then a child, yet I have heard
My mother weeping oft relate the story)
Soft pity touch'd the breasts of mighty chiefs,
Romans and Sabines, when the matrons rush'd
Between their meeting armies, and oppos'd
Their helpless infants, and their heaving breasts
To their advancing swords, and bade them there
Sheath all their vengeance. But I interrupt you
Proceed, Valerius, they would hear th’event.
-And yet, methinks, the Albans-pray go on.
Valerius. Our King Hostilius from a rising mound
Beheld the tender interview, and join'd
His friendly tears with theirs; then swift advanc'd,
Ev'n to the thickest press, and cried, My friends,
If thus we love, why are we enemies ?
Shall stern ambition, rivalship of power,
Subdue the soft humanity within us?
Are we not join'd by every tie of kindred ?
And can we find no method to compose
These jars of honour, these nice principles
Of virtue, which infest the noblest mind ?
Horatius. There spoke his country's father! this
The flight of earth-born kings, whose low ambition
But tends to lay the face of nature waste,
And blast creation!-How was it receiv'd ?
Valerius. As he himself 'could wish, with eager
In short, the Roman and the Alban chiefs
In council have determin’d, that since glory
Must have her victims, and each rival state,
Aspiring to dominion, scorns to yield,
From either army shall be chose three champions
To fight the cause alone, and whate'er state
Shall prove superior, there acknowledg'd power
Shall fix th' imperial seat, and both unite
Beneath one common head.
Horatia. Kind Heaven, I thank theel Bless'd be the friendly grief that touch'd their souls ? “ Bless'd be Hostilius for the generous counsell “Bless'd be the meeting chiefsi"and bless'd the tongue, Which brings the gentle tidings !
Valeria. Now, Horatia,
Your idle fears are o'er.
Horaiia. Yet one remains.
Who are the champions? Are they yet elected ?
Valerius. The Roman chiefs now meet in council,
And ask the presence of the sage Horatius.
Horatius. [rifter having seemed some time in thought.]
But still, methinks, I like not this, to trust The Roman cause to such a slender hazard Three combatants !-'tis dangerous