Hic furor, hic rabies, hic sunt tua criinina, Caesar, — cladis tamen hujus habemus Vindictam.
Lucan: Lib: vii.
PERSONS OF THE DRAMA.
King Edward the First.
Clyfford, Nephew to the King.
Llandorvin, the Bard.
Gwendylen, the Daughter of Llandorvin.
A Castle at the foot of Snowdon, and different spots on the Mountain.
SCENE I.—A HALL IN AN ANCIENT CASTLE. KING EDWARD, and ATTENDANTS.
Tell me no more our conquest is complete!
All we have gained is but a trembling trophy,
Which oft as Snowdon, from its secret caves,
Pours forth these vagrants of rebellious song,
Shakes at the echo of a minstrel's voice.
Our victories yet want the bloody seal,
That gives stability to power. I wait
In anxious indignation, till I hear,
That these prime sources of seditious fury,
These scoffers at our sway,—the captive bards,
Are silenced all by death.
KING EDWARD, CLYFFQRD, and ATTENDANTS.
Well! my young soldier,
Hast thou, as I enjoined thee, seen these miscreants,
Who to their harps breathed anarchy and carnage,
Resign their forfeit lives?
Yes! my dread liege,
I have indeed beheld ----shield, shield me, Heaven,
From such another spectacle!
What, choaked with tears! art thou the martial youth,
Whom, for thy father’s sake, tho’ marriage failed
To give the stamp of honor to thy birth,
I fondly fostered as a future hero?
If I offend, whom I would die to serve,
Pray you, my liege, assign me any torture.
Rather than your reproach!
Then be corrected!
Thy too indulgent sire, the gentle Edmund
Would lead thee, by his homilies on peace,
To be an anchorite:—thy king, my Clyfford,
Must steel thy sinews to the sterner duties
Of discord-quelling power.— But to thy story
What! did these fierce offenders die so bravely,
Thou couldst have wished their pardon?
From my soul—
O royal Edward! think me not ungrateful
For all thy lavish bounty to my youth,
If when I saw these victims of thy wrath
Perish, amid the groans of suffering thousands,
I wished thy mercy -----
Poor, deluded stripling!
These wild enthusiasts have ensnared thy fancy;
And foolish pity for the expiring traitors has made thee half a rebel.
No, I my liege, I pitied not the dying: their demeanour
Might waken envy, but not weak compassion:
They died as freedom’s martyrs—and they said
The benedictions of their bleeding country
Would waft to Heaven their unrepining spirits.
It was the anguish of their mourning kindred
That pierced my soul it seemed, that in their death
The vital spirit of their nation perished.
There, Clyfford, thy unconscious lips applaud
The wisdom of severity. The arm,
That strikes against us in the field of war,
Is not so much an object of our fear,
As that more potent voice, which, in the scene
Of festive tumult, arrogantly spreads
Contagious enmity against our rule,
And mutinous defiance. These wild tribes
Of hardy mountaineers will soon become
The docile vassals of our sovereign pleasure,
When their presumptuous rhapsodists no more
Exist, to fire the fascinated people
To frantic insurrection. Quiet now
May guard and fertilize our new domain,
Since these rebellious, these strife-kindling bards
Are all extirpated.
Not all my liege.
What! are we disobeyed? is not our sentence
Justly fulfilled on all the trait’rous tribe?
Of the devoted band, one hoary chief,
Pre-eminent in genius and renown,
The famed Llandorvin, by a pious fraud,
That nature framed to save him, has eluded
His watchful guard, and "scaped the general doom,
Which sunk to day in everlasting silence
All the lost brothers of his art.
He shall not foil my power -- by Salem’s cross
Not all the deep recesses of their mountains
Shall screen this fugitive, and whosoe’er
Has stolen the victim from insulted justice,
Shall in atonement share his future death.
Recall that oath —O noble minded
Edward For it involves a cruelty, thy nature
Could never execute. Our glorious sovereign,
The pride of Christendom! bears not a sword
To strike at female youth, and filial duty.
What canst thou mean?
The culprit is a daughter
Of radiant beauty; and, as fame reports,
Endowed with all the mental energy,
That made her sire the darling of his nation.
Bribed she our guard?—Perdition on the traitors!
No! on my life my liege the men are faithful.
This damsel with prevailing supplication
(A savage must have granted her request)
Begged but to pass within her father’s prison
The night preceding his appointed death.
How she effected his escape, we know not;
But when the morning came, and all the victims
Were summoned to their fate, the fearless maiden
Boasted, her sire was free; and nobly added
To seal his freedom, if her blood might seal it,
She would exult to meet th’ impending doom,
From which she had redeemed him.
KING EDWARD. .
Mark! thou novice
In the high task to govern wayward rebels,
Mark! how these fierce enthusiasts of the harp
Subvert all power! How with outrageous fury
They spurn authority, and smile at death.
This artful traitress may have severed from us
The hearts of half our soldiery. Inform me
How they received this daring subterfuge!
As men, my liege, who tho’ inured to scenes,
Where lawless war oft leads to wildest outrage,
Yet feel the force of beauty, and of nature.
They praised the noble girl, exclaimed “ God bless her,”
And would have sent her crowned with garlands home,
But that stern Mortimer, whose rigid spirit
Can ne’er forgive her countrymen the havoc,
They spread so frequent o’er his neighbouring lands,
Seized on the maid, and resolutely vowed
He would conduct her to your royal presence,
As hostage for her father’s peaceful conduct.
He judges better than thy simple youth;
And knows the caution, that our state requires.
KING EDWARD, CLYFFORD, MORTIMER, GWENDYLEN.
Behold, my liege—but from your gallant kinsman
You are apprized of all I would relate,
Touching this fair delinquent, whom my duty
Brings to attend the order of your highness.
My faithful Mortimer I we ever find thee
Intelligent and active in our service.
Fair stranger! thy offence has nature’s plea:
We shall not therefore, as our state might warrant,
Weigh it, as treason to our sovereignty.
Think us thy friend! and know we mean to place thee
In the protection of our gentle queen,
Whose fair retinue, and well ordered court,
Form an asylum for thy youth and beauty.
There wilt thou learn, what thy distracted country
Ought to have learnt, a grateful just obedience ,
Nor rashly mingling in rebellious broils
Partake thy father’s crimes.
My father’s crimes!
O royal Edward, do not let the pride
Of recent conquest make thee arrogate
What God denies himself; the power to alter
Th’ eternal sacred bounds of good and evil.
My father’s life may be, as once it seemed,
Thy victim: but his virtue, and his fame
Are far beyond the reach of thy attaint;
And, like his firm unspotted soul, immortal.
So young and so presumptuous! thy apt childhood
Has caught the ravings of licentious freedom:
But softer studies, and submissive manners
More suit thy sex and age.
Your pardon, sir!
My brief, and artless life has only been
One plain continued lesson in the school,
The heart-improving school of true submission,
Where quick obedience is the happy offspring
Of love, and veneration.
Has thy father,
Plunged in the storm of dark hostility,
That drowns domestic joy, has he found leisure
To tutor thy fond infancy; and grow
By the alluring powers of mild instruction
The idol of his child?
If I, my lord,
As partial friends have said, if I appear
Of spirit riper, than my youth might promise,
I owe it to his rare paternal bounty;
Who from my cradle, with incessant fondness
Watched o’er the dawn of reason in my soul,
And to my young enchanted mind displayed
The lustre of his own.—O mighty Edward!
Couldst thou but feel a moment, what my heart
Has felt for years------ the pure benignant splendor
Of that rich mind, where fancy’s fervid powers
Blaze, but as solar fire, to guide the world,
Thou wouldst not wonder, that I thus exult
To draw my being from so bright a source,
And vindicate the glory of my father.
My young, and fair enthusiast, 1 esteem
Thy filial pride, good children make good subjects.
Thy spirit pleases, and perchance may lead me
To be thy father’s friend: but we must teach him
To court our mercy, not insult our power.
Wait till the queen, youth’s patroness! appears
To take thee to her charge. Come, Mortimer,
Receive our private orders!
[Exit with Mortimer.]
Lovely, sequestered fair! whose native graces
Surpass, what I have seen, of finished beauty!
I gaze upon thee with delight, and anguish:
The admiration, that thy charms inspire,
Is turned to torture by the fears I feel
Of ills, that threaten thee, which yet thou know’st not
Have they surprised my father? Noble youth!
If thou indeed hast pity for our wrongs,
Rack not my soul with ignorance and terror!
No lovely Gwendylen! thy father yet
Retains the liberty thy virtue gave him.
Blest be the voice, which gives me that assurance.
It has disolved the icy bonds, that seemed
To rob my heart of motion. In his safety
I live again; and feeling but for him,
Smile at adversity, whose baffled force
Falls on myself alone.
Thou sweet perfection!
That Heaven should form thee for a fate so cruel!
E’en now thou seem’st to my afflicted sense
Like a lost infant, seeing not its peril,
Wandering with sightless eyes in active slumber
Upon a turret’s roof:—another step
Is sure destruction. How! how shall I save thee?
What means thy kind inquietude? Is Edward
So ruthless, as to thirst for blood like mine?
Nay, if he is, lament not, generous Clyfford!
I have not passed my days with such a father.
Untaught in life’s great lesson, how to die!
No! not thy blood! O thou enchanting fair one!
Thy beauty, and thy perils will distract
My troubled brain, and turn me to a traitor
Against th’ imperial patron of my youth.
My heart recoils, when I attempt to speak
Against the bounteous Edward, but his rage
To crush all opposition to his sway
In this devoted country, may induce him—
No! no! I am to blame—his noble nature—-
I will not shew thee that detested image,
Which my o’er-anxious fancy had created,
My young ingenuous friend! I see, and honor
The struggle in thy soul between just pity
To the sunk victims of abhorred oppression,
And fond attachment to an artful tyrant,
Allied to thee in blood, but not in virtue.
If thus thou think’st of Edward, I may banish
My groundless dread, lest his imperial offers
Of splendid favour might induce thy candor
To call thy wand’ring father to our court;
And then behold him in some fatal season,
When stern necessity of state might prompt
To faithless rigor ----but the King returns:
Treasure my caution in thy tender bosom!
And know me for thy friend in fate’s worst hour.
GWENDYLEN, CLY FFORD, KING EDWARD, MORTIMER.
Come, my fair ward; to shew you, that we honor
A daughter’s courage, we return in person
To lead you to our Queen. To all your race
Our purposes are kind: we freely grant
Your father’s forfeit life. Make him our friend.
We mean to place you in our realm of England,
Where both shall flourish in our royal favor.
My lord, in childhood, I was taught a fable,
Touching the lion’s court.
Now, on my soul,
This girl is passing shrewd; but hear me, damsel!
Wake not the lion’s wrath! yon know my power
Can sweep this hoary fugitive from earth:
Would you provoke my rigor? be advised!
Embrace my proffered bounty, and confide
His safety to your King!
I will confide it
But to the King, whose word was never broken
The King of Kings! If it is Heaven’s decree,
That he must perish, never shall his daughter
Be lured by false ambition to betray him.
Betray him! say’st thou? is it to betray
An outcast, lurking in wild woods and caverns,
To call him from despair? perhaps from death,
To the bright refuge of a monarch’s favor?
Insidious tyrant! talk not of thy favor!
’Twas this ensnared the princes of our land,
And made the fair face of our bleeding country
A scene of ruin, horrible to think of,
And to behold, distracting. While my thoughts
Exulted in the rescue of my father,
My nation’s woes seemed banished from my mind:
But now, that I survey thy angry visage,
My country’s evil genius glares upon me:
Thy cruelty, thy crimes, in all their horror,
Remorseless Edward I rush upon my brain,
And all my father’s virtues fire my soul
With just and brave contempt of barb’rous power.
Art thou so frantic in thy enmity,
That grace and clemency are lost upon thee? .
Thou female abstract of thy nation’s fury!
Then salutary rigor must instruct thee
Not to insult our bounty. Mortimer!
Take thou the charge of this intractable!
Tame the young zealot with the due correction
Of strict imprisonment, and solitude,
To teach her better thoughts; while we, my Clyfford,
Inform the Queen, that her intended charge
Is found unworthy of her kind acceptance.
[Exit with Clyflord.]
Come 1 my fair captive, tho’ you were to blame
To irritate the King, who meant you kindness,
While I confine, I yet must pity you.
J'f thou, our most inveterate foe! hast pity, Bestow it on th’ oppressor I not th’ opprest 1 The one, has men, and demons for his vassals; The other, angels for her friends. Just Heaven! If, as 1 now most fondly would surmise, By noble sufferance I may avert
Evil impending o’er my father’s head,
I will not shrink, howe’er stern fate may try me: But with that filial love, which still has been The ruling passion of my ardent soul, Exult to suffer for so dear a purpose.
A ruined Abbey by Moonlight with a subterraneous Passage to a sepulchral vault.
LLANDORVIN, [rising from the sepulchre.]
The bloodhounds, that have tracked me to this ruin,
Are foiled, and have rushed forward: Blest be you,
Ye sainted tenants of these sepulchres!
Who grant my injured age that kind protection,
The living dare not give; since mv oppressors
Proclaim it death to screen their flying victim.
O my lost friends I dear brothers of my art!
You dying have ennobled basest death:
Arm me with courage for my harder task,
To bear the wretchedness of outcast life
In scenes, that wake regret at every step!
O Gwendylen ’ my clear angelic daughter!
Low painful is the proof of love I give thee
To live at thy entreaty! yet sweet angel
Thy dictates are divine. I feel, as thou dost.
It is Llandorvin’s duty still to cherish
Existence, tho’ debased, while he can hope
His lips may breathe into the fainting frame
Of our racked country, that suspended spirit
Of manly freedom, which the ruthless Edward
Dreams, in his pride, to have suppressed forever.
But hark! the friendly stillness of the night,
Enabling me to hear a foot approaching,
Bids me again within my sacred covert
Elude my keen pursuers.
[He descends into the sepulchre.]
I have misled the saguinary troop,
That with a sportive rancour, hunt as prey
An injured, brave old man; and if this ruin,
As I surmise, conceals him-—Ha! what form
Glides, like a shadowy phantom of the night
Beneath yon open grove, seeming, with steps
Quick and irregular to fear, and shun me?
But that I know her obstinately held
In such severe captivity, that love
And pity could not force her prison door,
I should believe, sweet Gwendylen herself
Had braved the perils of the night, to aid
Her wand’ring sire. Perhaps some kindred fair one
Assumes that angel’s office. Hallowed shades!
Make me invisible! and let me learn
Why, at a time to freeze the female heart,
A woman wanders round these mould’ring tombs
[Clyfford conceals himself.]
After a short pause, GWENDYLEN enters with circumspection.
’Twas but the dark illusion of my fears:
O guilt! what terror and dismay must haunt
Each step of thine, if I, sustained and guided
By filial piety, yet start at shadows,
And halt in my good purpose! but at last
I’ve reached the sacred sepulchre, that if
My bold and kind informer may be trusted,
Shall at my voice unfold its doors of darkness,
And give my living father to my arms.
Here is the subterraneous pass, by which
I am directed to descend: its gloom,
And icy dampness chill my trembling bosom:
Base terrors hence! I will descend! not all
The powers of darkness should by terror tempt me
To leave a father, so revered and loved,
To die unsuccoured in these dreary charnels.
Dear duty, be my guide!
Stay ’ Gwendylen,
A moment stay thou noblest, loveliest being,
That Heaven e’er formed, in the benignant purpose
To shew how pow’rful are the blended charms
Of peerless beauty, and consummate virtue.
Courage my soul! that surely is the voice
Of gentle Clyfford. He will not betray
The wretched, whom his virtue wished to save.
Betray thee! rather to a thousand perils
Would I expose my baser life, than bring
The least increase of danger upon thee,
Or the dear object of thy duteous care;
Whom at this secret hour, as I believed thee
Kept from him by vile bonds, I sought to comfort
With aid unlooked for from an English hand.
My heart would say, how much it is thy debtor,
But feels its obligations far outweigh
My little store of words. Let me then lead thee.
To where with nobler voice, just gratitude
May duly thank thee in my father’s form.
Yet stay, dear Gwendylen! O pray thee tell me
What power celestial burst thy prison doors,
Where I in vain have sued to gain admittance,
Enabling thee in this heart-trying service
To prove thy matchless fortitude and love.
I will not shun thy converse, when I know
My father is secure. But till I gain
Assurance of his safety, every pause
That keeps me from him, puts my soul to torture.
If he yet lives, this passage will conduct us
Within his earthy refuge. Follow me!
Dear heroine of tenderness! ’tis mine
To be thy leader here. In these damp caverns,
These mould’ring passes to forgotten dust;
Some ravenous beast, that preys upon the dead,
Or poisonous reptile in its dark recess,
May lurk to wound thy foot; by whose pure touch
The consecrated earth would feel more hallowed,
Had it my awful sense of thy perfections.
I’ll first explore the darkness, and return
To be thy guide.
No! I have no such fears,
Thy King’s barbarity has made us suffer
To such excess, that to a Cambrian mind
All other pests of earth have lost their terror,
Forgive me generous Clyfford! that I cannot
Forget the cruel spirit of thy sovereign!
Come, English as thou art! my father’s soul
Has oft exulted with magnanimous praise
To celebrate the virtues of a foe,
And turn base enmity to noble friendship.
I am no son of England, if to be so
Must make me hateful in his sight, or yours:
But leading such a daughter to his bosom
My proud heart tells me, I may share his blessing.
The vault is utter darkness: I conjure you
Lean on my arm.
'O! if this hallowed shelter
Gives my safe father to my longing arms;
This will indeed be passing thro’ the grave,
To reach the blessed light of heavenly joy.
THE INSIDE OF AN ANCIENT SEPULCHRE.
[reclining against a broken Monument with a lamp.]
When the soul sickens at the bloody scenes
Of barbarous outrage, that deform the world,
How sweetly peaceful is the silent tomb ’
Yet such is the base fury of our foes,
That senseless havoc even here has raged
Against the honoured dead. Ye shattered forms
Of warriors, who of old for freedom fought,
How gladly would my injured age become
Insensible as you to savage wrongs,
But that my darling child—again my fancy
Would mock me with the sound of her approach.
It is the hour! but she perchance -- Again
The crumbling earth tells me some foot is near.
How fondly eager are my lips to hail
The expected daughter; and yet dare not call her
Till I can catch her voice. O righteous Heaven!
Delude not my fond senses, that persuade me
I may distinguish in some distant sounds
The utterance of my child.
GWENDYLEN, [behind the scene/]
Have I a father?
'Tis Gwendylen who calls
My child! my child!
LLANDORVIN, GWENDYLEN, CLYFFORD.
He lives! he lives to bless me for his life!
The exulting angel, who shall call to glory
The spirits of the just, can never prove
A visitant more clear to raptured saints,
Awakened from the slumber of the grave,
Than thou art to thy father.
Thou blest sire,
Allow a stranger, whose unhardened heart
Bled for thy wrongs, to share at this dear moment
Thy tears of hallowed extacy!
Ingenuous youth, informs me thou art English:
A name to wake hostility, and hate
In every Cambrian heart! but gracious nature
On thy fair brow has written characters,
That lead to confidence, if not to friendship.
If, as my mind conjectures, generous pity
Has prompted thee to guard this damsel, passing
Thro’ nightly perils to relieve her father,
Thou wilt not deem that father’s benediction,
(All his base foes have left him to bestow)
A worthless recompense of care so noble.
My heart will prize it as a richer treasure,
Than royalty can give. But, my kind father,
O let me ever hail by that dear name,
The man I venerate with filial ardour!
Tho’ I confess I covet thy esteem
Beyond the praise of princes, let me not
Meanly attempt to win it by a semblance
Of merit, not my own! I came not hither
Guarding your lovely daughter: to herself,
To the firm virtues of her tender heart
Solely you owe this interview of transport.
Tell me, my child! --
O graceful modesty!
How sweet thou shewest in a princely patron,
Who, giving all, believes he nothing gives!
But for the caution of this noble youth,
Thy Gwendylen, my father, might again
Have put thy rescued life within the power
Of the remorseless Edward.
Hate me not,
Thou injured veteran of purest glory!
In hearing, I am bound by strongest ties
To thy detested foe, the mighty Edward!
Trained by his bounty, partial to his virtues,
Yet by the radiance of his power unblinded,
I wish that high imperial spirit tempered
With all the mildness of my gentle sire,
His more pacific brother.
Art thou, engaging youth, art thou the son
Of that loved prince, that real king uncrowned,
Who, scorning the vile vassalage of fear,
Reigns by beneficence o’er grateful hearts.
Had not the proffer of Sicilia’s sceptre
Detained him far from this devoted land,
In his humanity we should have found
The strongest earthly advocate against
The hasty rigor of th’ offended King.
But the invisible angelic host
Are surely your protectors; could I else
Behold this fair one, whom I left a captive
In hopeless bondage, freely here fulfilling
This arduous duty of undaunted love?
A simple incident I have to tell
Will clear that mystery: it was my chance,
(So Heaven ordained to bless an anxious daughter)
To see the humble guard, who watched my prison,
Nursing his sickly infant: by the pity
I shewed his child, I led the honest soldier
To sympathize in all my filial sufferings,
Till, at the peril of his life, he gave me
The power to pay my nightly visit here:
But on my plighted word, that by the dawn
I will return his voluntary prisoner.
Blest be his generous pity! if I live,
Such brave compassion shall be well rewarded,
Excellent youth! thou almost mak’st my heart
Enamoured of adversity: for that,
That only gives, what I this moment feel,
Exquisite joy in such consummate friendship,
As wanting not progressive aid from time,
Springs, like creation, perfect from the breath
Of pure beneficence.
To prove thy friend,
And change the colour of thy destiny,
Shall be the darling study of my soul.
I know it will: but O beware, dear youth,
Lest on thyself thou draw the perilous wrath
Of thy inexorable sovereign! fate
Could curse me with no misery more bitter,
Than to behold thy blooming life become
The victim of thy zeal to snatch from death
An old man weary of embittered age.
My honored father! Nature has exempted
Thy generous bosom from all selfish terror;
But thy kind heart is quick, as woman’s fancy,
To catch an anxious fond inquietude
For every object of thy just affection.
Be not alarmed for this our noble friend!
Should he incense the King, by now promoting
Thy absolute escape, he will not suffer:
A lovely pow’rful angel of protection,
The gentle Eleanor! will be his guard, ,
And save the princely youth, whom she has fostered.
From her offended lord.
O! she has virtues,
More than the warm impassioned eloquence
Of gratitude could speak: and she, I doubt not,
She will, in time, win, from the softened Edward,
All the atonement to your injured age,
That power can make for past indignities:
But, in this season of his recent anger,
You must not trust his mercy.
Haste, my father!
O haste to profit of the friendly night!
And speed in darkness to some distant refuge,
Less desolate than this!
Forgive me, that I thwart your eager prayer!
But at this time of peril, when our soldiers,
Lured by that watchful demon, avarice,
Are prowling for their prey, I wish your father
To rest, some days, in this dark sanctuary,
That death appears to consecrate, forbidding
The superstitious vulgar to approach.
Myself, as constant as the night returns,
Will visit him with sustenance and comfort.
Brave youth! I like thy counsel: this calm mansion
Tempers my troubled spirit: here my mind
Catches an hallowed energy, superior
To what the glittering scenes of life can give
To proud prosperity. Friend of distress!
My confidence in thee is my support;
For I confide to thee a charge, dear Clyfford!
More precious to my heart, than life or freedom,
The honor of my child! whate’er my fate,
Be thou her guardian! yes! 1 know thou wilt;
For in thy features I distinctly read
Truth incorruptible, and virtuous friendship.
But come, my children, honor bids us part:
The night’s half wasted: come! I'll lead you forth
By paths more intricate: I have discovered
A winding cavity, that leads to light:
Take each of you my arm! — This way affords
A better chance of passing unobserved.
Dear father, ever vigilant for others!
Be careful of thy safety ’ and remember,
The life of Gwendylen depends on thine!
A ruined Abbey with the front of the sepulchral vault.
A PARTY OF SOLDIERS.
Would we could light upon this lurking rebel!
Courage, my friends! he’ll prove a golden prize,
And pay the toil of our pursuit. You, Neville,
You, and your comrade pass yon mould’ring wall,
Search thro’ each ruined cell of this old abbey,
While we remain in front, prepared to seize
The traitor, started from his secret haunt.
[Exeunt two Soldiers.]
Heard you no noise?
No, nothing but their steps.
Hark! they have just descried some nightly rover.
SOLDIER, [behind the scene.]
Come forth! base runnagate! nay, if thou dost not,
We shall pursue, and drag thee from thy den.
FIRST SOLDIER. ,
My life on’t he is found: stand firm, brave comrades
If he is armed, fear not to strike him down!
Dead, or alive, our prize will be the same.
[The door of the Sepulchre opens, and Llandorvin rushes forth with a Sword.]
Yield, rebel, or thou diest.
No! ye poor slaves!
Enfeebled as I am, with age and wo,
Yet my good sword can make for me a passage
Thro' twice your opposition; I have seen
Your tyrant, in my day, glad to retreat
From the keen lightning of this radiant blade.
I pray ye, force me not to stain its lustre
With your ignoble blood!
Proud Cambrian, die!
Nay! then thou draw’st perdition on thyself:
[Llandorvin strikes, but after his first blow, the two Soldiers who pursued him, issue from the Sepulchre and seize him.]
Fate is against me! but exult in silence,
Ye prosperous servants of oppressive power!
And, while ye haste to claim the gold, ye covet,
Still reverence your captive! still my soul
Gives me to exercise the nobler courage,
To triumph over wrongs by brave endurance.
SCENE I.—A PRISON
GWENDYLEN, and a SOLDIER.
Fair prisoner, thou art free.
Our princely advocate has then prevailed;
And Gwendylen, restored to all the sweets
Of dear domestic duty, shall in peace
Cherish the parent, whom her love preserved.
My honest friend, for these thy blissful tidings
And all thy pity past, may every saint,
Who smiles upon the merciful, protect
Thee, and thy children! Why dost thou receive
My benediction with an air of sadness?
To think thy virtuous joy must turn to anguish,
When thou art told, as soon, alas! thou must be,
Thou only art released, because thy father
Is fallen again into captivity.
O! do not say so I rather let me hear
Eternal bondage is ordained my portion,
So he may ’scape with freedom! art thou sure?
My foolish heart, that vainly would attempt
To disbelieve thy tidings, now receives
The fatal full conviction.
GWENDYLEN, LLANDORVIN, brought in by GUARDS.
My dear father!
To meet thee, never was a grief till now:
What cruel chance, or what base treachery -----
’Tis rigid destiny, my child, that thwarts
Thy pious aim. Thus far 1 have indulged
Thy fond entreaty, by an abject care
To lengthen worthless life: now, since the Heavens
Frown on thy filial wish, I charge thee try
To reconcile thy mind to my dark fate!
It must be now my only thought to die,
As the dear brothers of my art have died,
Smiling contempt on proud iniquity.
We are not yet so lost, nor shall thy daughter
E’er quit a virtuous purpose of her heart,
For that the sudden bolt of accident
Shakes her imperfect work. No! to the last
My soul shall labour with increasing ardour,
To prove its fondness, and preserve my father.
Dear child! no more delude thyself with hopes,
That are but raised to fall; and in their ruin
O’erwhelm thy tender heart with tenfold anguish.
Heaven yet inspires, and gives me blest occasion
To act in thy dear service: our oppressor,
Mixing some mildness with barbarity,
Now terminates my bondage: and my freedom,
That I should hate, if not employed for thee,
May work thy preservation, I will now
With Clyfford supplicate the Queen to make
Thy life, once rescued by thy daughter’s love,
Th’ immediate care of her angelic mind.
'T were better my sweet child, renouncing hope,
To strengthen thy fond spirit, by embracing
The tranquil resolution of despair.
No, best of fathers.! our disastrous lot
Has changed the cast, and colour of our duties.
Mild sufF rance now, that woman’s part is thine,
And to thy daughter, Heaven itself enjoins
Every exertion anxious love can prompt.
Should I still fail, thou yet shalt see, my father,
Thy undegenerate child possesses courage
To suffer, and to share thy darkest fate.
LLANDORVIN, and the SOLDIER.
Great giver, and supporter of our being!
Howe’er thy deep, inscrutable decree
Dispose of my poor residue of life,
Be bounteous to my child! when she has lost me,
As soon she must, by violence, or nature,
Let not her youth in desolation want
Objects of care, that may endear existence!
Still may she.find in life friendship and love,
Sweet as her charms, and perfect as her virtue.
Forgive me, brave old man! but ’tis my order
To bear thee hence to more secure confinement,
Within the castle, where the King resides.
Good friend! 'tis I should pardon ask of thee,
That I am slow to thank thee, as I ought,
For a most signal act of generous pity
And kindness to my child: Give up thy hand!
Humanity, that shines in rigor’s office,
Has double grace, and wins redoubled love.
Come! teach me how to shew thee I am grateful
If fate allows me nothing more to give,
My dying benediction rest upon thee!
SCENE IV—THE CASTLE.
My royal patroness, in whose indulgence
My youth has found, what destiny denied me,
A mother, and a sister’s soothing kindness I
By all the purer glory thou hast won
In deeds of love, and mercy to thy people,
Who bless thy gentle sway, and worship thee
As sent to them by Heaven; ordained to temper
Thy lord’s austerity! assist a daughter,
Who merits not to lose the bliss of saving
An honored sire from ignominious death.
Clyfford! thou knowst, how gladly I would soften
The anger of the King: but here I doubt
My influence can profit thee but little;
For never have I seen his indignation
So vehement against this land! I pray thee,
Be cautious not to wake his dread displeasure,
By seeming partial to his enemies!
Perhaps thy young, and artless mind is blinded
By perilous passion, to thyself unknown;
A daughter’s charms may varnish to thy sight
Th’ offences of her sire, do not mistake
Ill-omened love for honorable pity.
Kindest of beings my ingenuous spirit
Has not a trouble, it would hide from thee.
The charms of Gwendylen, I own, have sunk
So deeply in my bosom, death alone,
Or frenzy could efface them from my heart.
But shame on him, who could allow his mind
To rove at love’s suggestion, while the cries
Of suffering humanity demand
His better thoughts! altho’ the damsel’s beauty
Enchants me, and is dearer to my sight
Than wealth to avarice, or fame to valor,
I would pass life in exile from her charms,
If that alone could end her filial fears,
And ratify the safety of her father.
Fond youth! I know, and love the generous ardor
Of all thy strong attachments: yet I tremble
Sometimes in thinking to what keen excess
Thy sensibility is apt to feel.
Thy nature, Clyfford! has in it the seeds
Of loftiest virtue, or most daring guilt.
Heaven keep thy spirit in blest ignorance
Of warring passions, and discordant duties!
If I can serve the object of thy pity,
By intercession with the King, I will:
And if, from dire necessities of state,
This death-devoted sire must die, I yet
Will take this hapless orphan to my care.
Blest be the voice, that to my lightened heart
Utters so dear a promise! but conducted
By innocence and gratitude, she comes
To pay her instant homage to your goodness.
QUEEN, CLYFFORD, GWENDYLEN.
Rejoice, sweet paragon of anxious duty!
That Heaven has raised thee an angelic friend,
Worthy to be its delegate, in shielding
Virtue like thine from undeserved distress!
Our bounteous Queen anticipates thy prayer,
And with the fond alacrity of pity,
Alarmed for innocence, will lend her aid
To save thy honored father.
My full heart
"Would thank thee, gracious lady! as it ought;
But finds that gratitude, in souls made tender
By wrongs, is far more powerful than fear,
And drowns that voice, which terror could not stifle.
Fair stranger! there’s attraction in thy youth,
Thy artless charms, and filial piety,
That binds thee to my bosom: and I feel
An anxious impulse, with maternal care,
To guard thy opening life from all that’s evil.
Allow me then a parent’s privilege
To be thy monitor!
Thou gentle sovereign!
Our foes, no doubt, who long have injured us
Beyond endurance, tell thee we are savage;
It is not so: the children of wild nature
Have hearts like a rich soil, where kind affections
Rise to the noblest height, and lavishly
Reward the liberal care, that bids them flourish.
Unguarded warmth, pure virtue’s quick companion,
Is oft her secret foe: I would inform you
How you incensed, and how you best may soften
The offended King. But he approaches: go!
Leave me my friends, that I without restraint
May plead your cause, and win him to forgiveness!
[Exeunt Clyfford and Gwendylen.]
KING EDWARD, QUEEN, OFFICERS, etc.
KING EDWARD, [speaking to an Officer as he enters.]
Tell our unwary guards, that if their prisoner
Now ordered to this castle’s safer keep,
Escape a second time, ’twill be their doom
To perish in his place.
My weary soul, sick of its fruitless toil,
To tranquillise this stubborn, stormy nation,
Turns with delight to thee, in whom well pleased
I ever find the tenderness of duty,
And ready, sweet, intelligent obedience.
Reflect, my generous lord, in praising me,
To whom thy praise is transport; O! reflect,
Why I possess the qualities, that please thee!
'Tis thy kind favor makes me, what I am:
Submissive gratitude’s the smiling child
Of bountiful protection. Gracious Edward!
Be but as mild a guardian to this land,
As thou hast been to me, and its glad people
Will bless, as I do, thy indulgent sway.
No! my good Eleanor, thou little knowst
What iron rule this savage realm requires.
Your pardon! I have recently been speaking
To a young Cambrian. Dear, considerate Edward!
So kindly sensible of weakest merit
In thy obedient wife! wilt thou not feel
The higher claims of an heroic daughter!
And grant to Gwendylen her father’s life?
I know thou wilt: I ask it on my knees.
Arise, thou dearest of petitioners!
I mean to have a speedy conference
With this retaken fugitive, and if
His conduct merits mercy, he shall find it --
[To one of the Guard.]
Haste to the captive minstrel, and conduct him
Strait to our presence!—Haste!
[Exit one of the Guard.]
Believe me, Edward!
I have a woman’s heart, fondly ambitious,
proud to triumph in a husband’s glory
But sated with thy military fame,
I long to see the enterprising warrior
Nobly eclipsed by the pacific king.
Effulgent valour well becomes thy crown;
But gems of milder radiance, peace and mercy,
Will give thy diadem its dearest charm.
Pure minds, untutored by calamity,
Can rightly judge of peace; not so the savage:
They with harsh lessons from instructive rigor
Must toil, thro’ pain and blood, to know her value.
There is a hot intemperance of spirit
In these wild mountaineers, that almost foils
The soundest discipline. -- Authority,
And benefits, alike have failed to bend
The stubbornness of these tumultuous tribes,
Rude as their mountains, where rebellion sits,
Like a maimed vulture, waiting only time
To heal her wings, that ache with eagerness
To spurn confinement, and renew her ravage.
No! happy Victor, thy resistless arms
Have made this country thine: and soon, I hope
To hear thee in the best of triumphs own,
The bliss to humanise, surpasses far
The joy of conquering: but thy captive comes.;
I will not with solicitude too curious
Intrude upon your converse: yet remember,
Thy Eleanor commends him to thy mercy!
KING EDWARD, LLANDORVIN, GUARDS.
Stranger! the fondness of thy daughter saved
Thy forfeit life; and still inspires our Queen,
Whose mildness is affliction's sanctuary,
With wishes for thy freedom: this we grant thee,
If thy discretion merits her regard.
That the rare virtues of my child endear her
To minds so qualified to judge of virtue
As far-famed Eleanor, still to my heart,
Chilled as it is with age, and patriot anguish,
Gives the quick ardour of parental pride:
For had I not, in all their fond excess,
The feelings of a father, trust me, Edward!
I could not now endure the life, thou offer’st:
To languish, as I must, in dark existence:
My spirit troubled with distressful visions
Of noblest friends, calamitously lost!
Or worse, the slavery of my native land!
Thou shalt forget this land, in wisely passing
To happier scenes, my bounty shall provide thee
An English settlement.
I know thou’rt mighty:
The fav’rite of prosperity, and power!
But trust me, Edward! ’tis beyond thy empire
To mould anew the habits of the heart;
And thro’ the breast of injured age diffuse
The native energy of young attachment.
If ’tis thy purpose to befriend two beings,
Who in domestic tenderness alone
May find a balm, to soothe their public sorrow,
Leave us in peace upon the rocks, that reared us!
But wilt thou rest in peace? should I assign thee
A portion of this land, thy darling seat!
Wouldst thou engage, never to sound again
Notes of sedition, on thy daring harp?
But in a wiser strain, instruct the people
To look up to our salutary sway
With tranquil reverence?
No! not for half
Thy richer kingdom, added to this realm,
Would I debase a voice, that long has uttered
The purest dictates of impassioned freedom.
Imagination, under virtue’s guidance,
I deem the rarest, richest gift of heaven,
And shall I stain the little I possess
By teaching injured slaves to bless their bondage,
And worship their oppressor?
Dost thou brave me,.
Audacious Rhapsodist?—now, in beholding
Rebellious fire illuminate thy visage,
My memory claims acquaintance with thy features.
Where have I seen thee?
Spare, insulting tyrant!
Spare to thyself a bitter recollection!
Yes! thou hast seen me, in my happier life,
Ere age and sorrow made it weak, and worthless;
When by Llewellyn’s side, our patriot prince!
I fought for liberty: when thou, then young,
And tho’ thy father’s delegate, a novice
In the curst art to weaken and oppress,
Wert glad to make percipitate retreat
Before us, and the lightning of our swords
Flashed on the flying
I knew the scene, thou bad’st me recollect,
Would gall thee, Edward! ’twas the early source
Of all thy ruthless rancor to my country.
Thou never couldst forgive the brave Llewellyn
For that bright triumph: hence thy enmity,
Disgracing manhood, kept his lovely bride
For years thy captive; lured by abject arts
A brother to desert him; and at last,
By the mean vantage of unequal power,
Spoiled him of life.
He was a faithless vassal;
And justly suffered for repeated failures
Of his allegiance.
O belie him not!
Tho’ thou hast stript him of his crown and life!
Fate cannot blast his fame: he was a prince
Munificent as nature, just as Heaven!
Fall’n as he is, his unsuspected praise
Shall live for ever in our grateful songs.
It shall not live in thine, presumptuous minstrel!
Away with him to death!
Thou fierce destroyer!
Death is the only gift from thee, that I
Would willingly embrace; and for that gift,
Take thou this lesson from my parting spirit!
Thou saw’st, in Palestine, a curious Arab
Imprison water, in an orb of gold,
Till, by compression urged, the forceful fluid
Amazed thine eye in starting thro’ the metal.
So genius, prest by tyranny, exerts
An energy, beyond the common laws
Of quiet nature. Here thou wouldst extinguish
Freedom and poetry: they mock thy wishes;
For they are woven in our frame of being;
And cannot perish but with human life.
My frail existence is thy easy victim;
But dying I shall triumph—e’en in thy kingdom,
Where thou art worshipped now by fear and int’rest,
A day shall rise, when the enlightened people
Shall hail the art, which thou wouldst crush for ever,
As the bright guardian of immortal virtue:
When kindred genius, in a lyric strain
Of rapturous excellence, shall teach the world
To mourn my fall, and execrate thy crimes.
Away! vain prophet, to thy speedy death!
No! it shall be suspended: but till time
Allows us to bestow on thy presumption
Pre-eminence of punishment. Thy fate
Shall be no common spectacle; but, high
On Snowdon's rocks, in death thou shalt exhibit
An awful lesson to rebellious pride.
I am prepared to die —o'er ruling Heaven
Is righteous still; since it assigns us now
The different lot, our different souls deserve;
For know, proud monarch! by your own award
You haste to infamy, and I to glory.
A PRIVATE APARTMENT IN THE CASTLE.
Remorseless homicide! is this his mercy?
Insulting whom he murders! strike him, Heaven!
Strike and remove from earth this curse of nature,
This base deformer of her dearest scenes,
Who calls his outrage justice!
Hear me, dear Gwendylen!
I had a brother!
That he were living now! or that I could
Unsex me, and become the man he was.
Thou hast a brother still! O thou hast more,
Dear Gwendylen in me; for all my soul,
lts hopes, its fears, its faculties are thine.
No! no! thy arm is fettered by thy station:
Else, generous youth! I could indeed believe
That thou hast pity to feel all our wrongs,
And courage to avenge them.
My sense of what thou sufferest is so keen,
Thy honored father seems to me my own.
Inflamed by Edward's cruelty towards him,
My alienated heart at times forgets
The love and duty, that 1 owe my king.
Thou matchless friend of misery! how my heart
Reveres thee for thy sympathy!
Never did man more feel another’s wrongs,
(To noble minds more piercing than their own)
Than my indignant spirit feels thy father’s.
If nought remained to save his injured virtue,
Perchance my hand—but hence! detested image!
Still, lovely Gwendylen, with better thoughts
I can revive thy hope.
Inform me, now the charm of thy compassion
Has given my troubled soul a transient calm,
To hear thee as I ought.
The sudden order,
To fix conspicuous on the mountain’s brow
Thy father’s barbarous doom, is known abroad;
And as blind cruelty exasperates
Those, it intends to awe, a gallant band
Of new insurgents, at this very moment,
Form a brave ambuscade, in hopes to rescue
The victim, idolised by dauntless friendship.
Our Cambrian valour is not yet extinguished:
Ye powers of liberty, and justice prosper
These generous men! O spirit of my brother,
Thou wilt forsake thy Heaven for this dear purpose,
And hover with a shield angelical
O’er the heroic band, who aim to rescue
Our virtuous parent from imperial murder.
These are blest tidings: yet I wish to learn,
My kind consoler, how they flew to thee.
A countryman of thine, to whom my power
Had rendered service, and who knows how keenly
My soul is anxious for thy father’s safety,
Gave me quick notice, with an added prayer
That I—but see, the Queen!—-Thou best of daughters
Console thy father in his gloomy prison,
While I, with ceaseless importunity,
Solicit her pure mind again to aid me.
What loitering here! O shame to soldiership!
Never till now was ardent Clyfford seen
Reckless of arms, when his heroic king
Had issued for the field.
Can it be so?
Has new commotion called his vigilant spirit
Forth on the sudden?
Yes! with eyes that flashed
Indignant fire, prepared for fierce assault,
With that dread weapon, which his powerful arm
Alone can wield, he sallied to chastise
Such opposition, as I trust will fly,
E’en at the distant gleam of his high crest.
His anger kindled at the fresh report,
That a wild troop is lurking in the mountain
To intercept Llandorvin.
Then Heaven forsakes thee.
What! is thy young heart.
Once the warm seat of gratitude and duty,
Now touched with pity only for the foes
Of thy kind sovereign? at the very time,
When he, who fondly trained thy youth to arms,
Ought to behold thee anxious at his side,
To ward off peril from his sacred person?
Noblest, and justly most adored of women!
Adored by me in every character,
That can excite the fondest veneration!
A charge of base ingratitude from thee
Strikes me, as would a seraph’s keen rebuke.
Freely to thee, as to the power who made it,
I shew my tortured heart, and all its feelings.
That I have loved the king, as much as child
E’er loved a parent, my past life has proved;
But while he thus oppresses virtuous age.
With unrelenting, useless -- .
Beware of this blind passion, which deludes thee!
It is not ours to judge the king’s decree.
Fair excellence forgive me, if I say
The blindness is your own: but it becomes you.
In your soft sex ’tis virtue, ’tis perfection
Not to behold the failings of a lord,
In wedded love so peerless as your Edward.
I am of rougher mold: unyielding man:
Man, the proud owner of imperial reason!
Were I the king’s true son, as I have been
The child of his protection; I should then,
Feel that his cruelty, on my just heart
Implanted hate, eradicating nature.
Yet hating his barbarity,—believe inc,
I love his virtues with such gratitude,
Nothing in life could so delight my soul
As to die nobly on some bright occasion,
Where my brave service might promote his glory,
And to each royal heart endear my name.
Clyfford, thou feelst too keenly; but thy truth,
And thy frank nature have endeared thee to us;
Haste, I entreat thee, with unclouded duty
Arm, and attend thy sovereign!
As I trust He will return triumphant without conflict;
In that best season for my mild entreaties,
I yet may gently lead his generous nature
Freely to grant, what force could not extort.
Yet may I save our venerable prisoner,
Whom in thy absence I will kindly visit.
Angel of life! thou giv’st me new existence
In that blest promise. Monarchs of the world!
Learn from this model of imperial goodness,
That pure beneficence alone possesses
Perfect dominion! Learn of Eleanor
To rule enlightened minds, nor fear to lose
An empire founded upon fond esteem.
SCENE III.—A DUNGEON
The sound of a Harp is heard from a concealed recess in the prison.
What sounds of melancholy charm arrest me?
It is my father: let me not intrude
On this most hallowed harmony! for thus
Enraptured he prepares his soul for Heaven,
By this most solemn spirit-soothing air,
Which, in his dying hour, an ancient bard
Gave to his wondering audience, death-inspired!
Again it sounds.—Here let me fondly pause
In reverential silence, till his hand
Relinquish the loved harp, that may so soon
Lose, and confirm his loss in mute dejection!
[Here a celebrated Air is played on the Harp behind the Scenes, from Jones’s relicks of the Welsh Bards]
What! my sweet child! art thou within my prison.
And couldst thou suffer me to rest unconscious
Of thy dear presence?
Pardon me! I felt
My step suspended, and my soul absorbed
In those pathetic tones, that spoke of death.
Yet, mv dear father, I am now elated
With the blest hope of your approaching freedom:
Freedom, not clouded with a base alloy,
As the precarious gift of lawless power,
But the bright present of endearing courage,
To fate superior in the cause of friendship!
What visionary hope has fond affection
Raised in thy sanguine fancy?
'Tis no vision:
But a momentous mystery; and now
Just whispered to me; yet by such a voice,
As gives a sanction to credulity.
O justly honored by thy grateful country!
There are brave Cambrians busy now, my father,
In nobly planning for that signal spot,
Which cruelty has fixt to close thy life,
A glorious scene of rescue, and of triumph.
Generous, but fruitless, and intemperate valour!
Haste! I conjure thee, my dear child, prevent
Their fatal purpose! fatal it must be,
If but suspected: haste! give them to know
It is my fervent wish, they would preserve
Their valued lives for hours of happier prospect;
And not embitter death to me, by making
My settled fate a prelude to their own.
Yes! I will haste, where haply I may learn
Yet more of this bold project: not prevent it;
Then only be thou disobeyed, my father,
When thou enjoinest, what our hearts abjure,
A fearful shrinking from thy dearest service!
Know, should our firm compatriots fail, thy wrongs
Would yet inspire a generous English hand
To pierce the tyrant’s heart, ere his false breath
Could terminate thy being! O I pray thee,
Banish thy cruel thoughts of calm despair,
And in the friendship of the brave confide.
This sudden spring-tide of returning hope
Amazes me: and more her dark suggestion:
A generous English hand,” she points to Clyfford:
The horrible surmise, with dread conviction,
Wakes my worst fears: such horrors must not be.
But how may I, in bondage, yet restrain
The fervent spirit of precipitate youth,
Hurried to guilt by virtuous indignation?
Could 1 converse a moment with the Queen?
She is intelligent, and has-a soul
That may be trusted for so pure a purpose
With dire imaginings.—What ho! attend me
Kind guardian of my prison!
LLANDORVIN, and the SOLDIER.
Canst thou, friend,
Convey a prayer to thy angelic Queen?
Haste and inform her, that an aged captive,
Not basely anxious for his worthless life,
But wishing to impart to her alone
Things of high moment to her heart, implores
A minute’s audience.
Her attentive goodness
Anticipates your wish—behold the Queen!
Brave, aged stranger, thy engaging daughter
Has taught my heart to take deep interest
In what concerns thee; and I come, with hopes
To lead thy manly mind to such mild conduct,
As may appease the king.
O sovereign lady!
To whose acknowledged virtue my proud spirit
Pays willing homage, 'twas my ardent wish
To hold with thee important conference;
Not from a mean solicitude to save
The slighted remnant of my days; a care
Of keener influence absorbs my thoughts,
And tortures me with unexampled terror,
That I could utter to no ear but thine.
Speak all thy fears, for I am much thy friend!
Did I not think thee, gracious Queen, endowed
With all the rarest qualities, that render
Friendship of high, and sacred estimation,
I could not to thy gentle bosom trust
What I would say: it will require from thee
Steady exertion of what purest friendship
Inspires, indulgence, courage, secrecy.
Thy words amaze me, and this preparation
Fills me with all the dread of blind conjecture/
I trespass on thy gentleness; perchance
My apprehension is a vague surmise:
A gloomy vision of distempered age!
Should it have more foundation, still thou mayst
By the mild influence of guardian virtue
Annihilate the apprehended evil.
Trust me, thy daughter-------
No! my present fear
Points to an object that demands from thee
Much higher care.
O Heaven! thou art apprised
Of some dark peril menacing the King;
Yet if—I am bewildered; for alas!
His life endangered might to thee suggest
Matter of hope, and joy, but not of terror.
I scorn hypocrisy; and thou fair Queen,
Thou knowst, I must deem the death of Edward
A blessing to my country, yet believe me
I from his cruelty would undergo
An age of torture, rather than permit
A virtuous youth, long fostered by his bounty,
In a dark moment of distracted love,
With murderous frenzy-------
Ah! my boding heart!
Thou speak’st of Clyfford: tell me, I conjure thee,
How far the passions of this fiery youth.
Have lead him to forget------
His quick, and ardent mind, though strongly troubled
Is not as yet estranged from filial duty,
That binds him to you both: thou gentle sovereign,
Watch I conjure thee all his starts of passion!
And with thy speedy salutary counsel,
With the fond privacy, which mothers use,
To screen the errors of a darling son,
Fix his bright soul within the sphere of truth,
Lest wand’ring now, like an eccentric star,
Its bursting fury scatter hideous death!
Noblest of foes! I read thy heart aright;
And gratefully revere thee for thy caution:
This generous effort --
O! it merits not
Your heart-affecting praise: I but obey
The native impulse of humanity.
When genuine nature guides the feeling soul,
’Tis the prime pleasure of experienced age
To watch o’er ardent youth, and fondly snatch it
From those attractive gulfs of splendid guilt,
Where a bright syren, under virtue’s mask,
Lures the brave mind to unperceived dishonor.
Farewell! kind stranger! thy exalted conduct
Endears thee to my soul: Heaven grant me powers,
Soon with glad steps revisiting thy dungeon,
To bring thee life, and liberty, and honor!
A view of Snowdon with tents at a distance.
QUEEN, and MORTIMER, meeting.
I joy to meet thee, Mortimer! Thy spirit
Will not, in weak compassion to a woman,
Lull me with false reports: Say! I conjure thee,
Is the King wounded?
No! on my life, not wounded!
Why then, forgetting his accustomed care
To quiet my quick fears, why came he not
Back to my anxious arms, when victory
Restored him from this hot tumultuous conflict?
Where, as his hasty messenger avowed,
Danger, in many a new and hideous shape,
Made e’en the sternest soldiers stand aghast,
And deem their sovereign lost.
My royal mistress!
Who reignest o’er the hearts of youth and age,
Trust a rough veteran’s word! my voice, unpractised
In uttering falsehood, should I wish to speak it,
Still to thy piercing spirit must betray
The evil it would hide.
Dost thou assure me
Not one of all those vengeful mountaineers,
Whose rage was pointed at my Edward’s life,
Had power to wound the too impetuous hero?
No! for he bears an amulet, whose power
Turns peril to security: that courage,
Which on the pressure of occasion, springs
To such exertion, as to common souls
Appeared impossible. Excess of toil
Has tempted him to rest on Snowdon’s brow:
As he retired, exhausted to his tent,
He issued orders, that the captive bard
Should to the mountain’s open front be led,
And by our archers suffer speedy death.
Good Heaven! the mandate is not yet fulfilled?
Not yet! but guards are passing, to conduct
The hoary traitor to the lofty spot,
Chosen to give his doom conspicuous terror.
O Mortimer! this order was the dictate
Of an o'er-heated mind: When cooled by slumber,
The generous temper of the King will surely
Incline to pardon; canst thou not suspend——
Forgive me, gentle sovereign, if I own
I have no power, nor will, I must avow,
To stop the rebel’s death: and I must haste,
According to the King’s most anxious bidding,
To watch impassioned Clyfford, lest that youth,
Entangled in the snares of Cambrian beauty,
Should madden at the sufferings of the fair one,
And in his frenzy strive to snatch once more,
Her guilty father, from the stroke of justice.
I, on my knees, will creep to Edward’s couch,
And in the name of that protecting Heaven,
Who has delivered him from signal hazard,
Wake, and inspire his spirit to exert
Its best prerogative, the power to save!
SCENE II.—A ROYAL TENT.
KING EDWARD, [Sleeping on a Couch with his armour by the side of it.]
Why shakes my frame, in this tempestuous conflict
Of warring thoughts? The minute past I seemed
Led hither by an angel’s hand, to rescue
Virtue from wrongs, and nature from oppression.
Now, clouds of horror blot my heavenly vision ,
And I feel dragged by demons to this spot,
To execute the task of hell.— Avaunt!
Ye tempters of my soul! ye shall not force me
To stab the royal patron of my youth:
No! I will kneel, beside his quiet pillow,
Invoking Heaven to quicken, in his mind,
The only virtue, his high spirit wants,
Heart-winning clemency! sleep on, secure!
Majestic, glorious Edward I only wake
To mercy, and munificence!
KING EDWARD, (in troubled sleep starting.)
And lead him to his death!
Implacable oppressor! Cruelty
Infects thy dreams: thy sanguinary soul
Glares thro’ the trembling veil of milled sleep,
Betraying thy resolves!—Barbarity
So absolute must cancel every bond:
Humanity inspires me: injured nature
Bids me destroy the merciless destroyer.
KING EDWARD, CLYFFORD, QUEEN.
[While Clyfford raises his dagger, the Queen enters and seizes his arm.]
Hold! frantic Clyfford! hold! can mad affection
Urge thy young heart to worse than parricide?
Has not the bounteous King cherished thy youth,
With care surpassing e’en a father’s fondness?
He has, angelic Eleanor! and I
Prepared to stab him sleeping: but these tears,
That burst perforce from my o’er-burthened heart,
Tell thee, I feel how curst a wretch I am.
Be comforted! for timely penitence
Makes solid virtue of ideal guilt.
Guide of my life! and guardian of my soul!
Thou art too good: I have not merited,
Thus on thy pure and heavenly form to rest
A brain, that burns with complicated anguish.
KING EDWARD, (starting up.)
Give me my battle-axe! I will pursue
Those trait’rous fugitives: ’twas but a dream.
Ha! my sweet love! art thou within my tent?
Say! what mischance has given our youthful Clyfford
That pallid air of anguish, and dismay?
O my too fearless Edward! who that live,
As we do in thy life, could be informed
Of thy undaunted eagerness to court
Extremes of danger, with thy dread escape
From toils so full of terror, and retain
The native quiet of untroubled features?
No! thou benignant angel, think not thus
With tenderness unmerited, to hide
The wild atrocity of one, whose heart
Was never formed for guilt, or for disguise.
Ingratitude, hypocrisy are fiends,
That, frantic as I am, I still abjure.
Thy looks, and language equally exceed
The reach of my conjecture.
Relentless as thou art, thy soul is noble;
Thou never wilt surmise, thy fostered Clyfford
Could lift against thee an assassin’s dagger;
But to a heart like mine the worst of tortures
Would be concealment of intended crimes.
Had not this lovely seraph been thy guard,
I had destroyed my King, my friend, my father!
My guilt is manifest: my misery
Beyond endurance: I conjure thee, now
Let both thy justice, and thy pity grant me
The death I have deserved!
Thy hasty passion for the Cambrian fair,
Whose stubborn father scorned our terms of pardon,
Has harrassed thee to madness.
Let his sufferings.
His duty, his remorse, and my fond prayers
Now plead for each offender!
[A Dead March is heard.]
What mean these notes of death?
Those sounds announce,
What even thy entreaty, best beloved!
Must not avert; the bard’s approaching fate!
See! the guards lead him from the vale below.
Inhuman ministers of death I suspend
Your fatal march, for ye mistake your victim.
Glory and life should be Llandorvin’s portion;
Disgrace and death belong to me alone;
I fly to save him by the just exchange.
[Rushes madly out.]
Stay! thou rash youth!—His madness will not hear me.
Lord of my heart!—If, by a life of duty,
I yet may plead against thy settled purpose—
No! Eleanor, ’tis fixt: I must not cancel
The firm decree of policy and justice,
To soothe the amorous frenzy of a boy,
Tho’ dear to me, as if he were my child.
But let me lead thee to yon neighbouring tent,
To save thee better from this mournful scene,
And seek an active guardian, who may watch
O’er the wild steps of this distracted stripling!
[Snother part of the Mountain with a distant prospect of a more elevated spot, on which may be discovered an attendant crowd, and preparations for execution:]
Unhappy agents of injurious power!
I pardon your base taunts: alas! ye know not
To what depravity you sink your nature,
When you insult a guiltless, wronged old man,
Who unreluctant hastes to join the spirits
Of dear companions lost, bards! warriors! princes!
Whose fortitude and genius could not save
This dear devoted land from desolation,
Or shield their bright existence from the stroke
Of tyrannous extinction.
Loquacious traitor! we have yet to mount
The steepest of these craggs.
I am not now to learn, that your stern King,
I thank his unmeant kindness, has appointed
My death on yonder heights: I could not wish
A nobler scene, to shew how willingly
I seal, with blood, the bond of my attachment
To wounded freedom, and my ruined country.
Martyrs of liberty, like those of faith,
By public sufferings, with a soul unshaken,
Become the source of blessings infinite
To unborn ages, and my soaring spirit
Pierces thro’ distant time to hail those blessings.
A father’s feelings still, to this dread instant,
Recall my heart, and on this spot I pause,—
But to bestow, what tyranny itself
Must grant a parent, leave to give his child,
A dying benediction
Then in vain
You halt; for see! where wiser friends are busy
To draw the damsel hence.
Wound me not there! O glorious Gwendylen!
Lo’ her indignant spirit has eluded
Their vile constraint: like an impassive seraph,
That mortal limitation cannot stop,
She flies, I leaven-warranted! to give her father
All he demands on earth.
GWENDYLEN, [rushes Into the arms of her Father.]
Child of my heart!
One only wish disturbed my parting soul;
And thou, most perfect in all filial virtues!
The loveliest daughter, that e’er blest a parent!
With tenderness unwearied, thou art come
To hear my latest counsel: thou wilt make it
The treasure of thy fond, thy faithful bosom,
And I shall die, exulting to have saved thee
From perils, worse than ignominous death.
Here, thou dear source and glory of my life!
Here would I grow: and be but as a leaf
Upon its parent tree, that severed thence,
Must quickly perish: for since Heaven denies me
The bliss I hoped, to have preserved thy being,
My sole ambition is to share thy doom.
No! my brave child! I have a task to give thee
Much harder than to die.
O haste to name it!
And be the task more arduous, than ever
Mortal received, that I may shew the world
With what impassioned truth I love my father.
Exquisite girl! see! our good angels send
The only friend now left me upon earth,
To whom, as to thyself, my dying counsel
LLANDORVIN, GWENDYLEN, CLYFFORD, GUARDS.
CLYFFORD, [entering wildly.]
Thou honoured sire! whom genius, virtue, age
Have sanctified: I come, a guilty youth,
To die, as I have merited, for thee.
What means my generous friend?
Full of thy wrongs,
And madd’ning at thy lovely daughter’s anguish,
My soul forgot how much I owed my King;
And as a murderer --
Ah! my prophetic fears!
Thou hast not killed the patron of thy youth?
No! his angelic Eleanor defeated
My frantic aim.
Then hear me, noble Clyfford,
And since her beauties, and my injured age
Inflame thy heart to such a fond excess,
Hear and obey a dying friend’s injunction!
Dear youth! to thy most perilous age, and temper
Crimes, and enormities of deepest die,
From the false light of passion, catch the semblance
Of splendid enterprise. Thou lov’st my daughter,
And she is worthy of a prince’s heart:
But never shall the wrongs, I suffer, tempt me
To make the illusive ardor of thy love
My instrument of vengeance, as I might,
Against my deadliest foe.
Thou godlike sufferer!
Canst thou, thus dying by a stern oppressor,
Spare, and forgive the tyrant, who destroys thee?
There was a time, brave Clyfford when my blood
hot like thine, at thoughts of tyranny;
When my impassioned harp was ever ready
To vibrate, at the sound of Edward’s name,
With notes of execration, and defiance:
The hallowed quiet of approaching death
Gives me serener force, and purer courage;
The oppressor I abhorred I now can pity;
And with a mind unheated own the good,
Mixed with his dire defects: from this wronged country
He merits detestation; but from thee,
Trained as thou art by his domestic kindness,
He justly claims the obedience of a child:
Atone then for one start of guilty passion
By future duty! and, I charge thee, never
Wake his paternal wrath by a rash union
With this poor orphan, lovely as she is!
I am a wretch not meriting such bliss:
And only would redeem my darkened spirit
From self-abhorrence by most freely giving
My life for yours.
No! dear ingenuous youth,
Live! and protect, I charge thee, from all outrage
This dear, and friendless darling of my heart!
I have but thee, to whom I can bequeath her,
But that your pure attachment may be free
From guilt and misery ('tis my dying counsel:)
Unless my death should soften your stern king,
Protect her only with fraternal love!
I pause too long: my children! one embrace!
And we must part: may all the wrongs, I suffer,
Be recompensed in blessings upon you!
That fond idea gilds the gloom of death,
Endearing all its pangs! farewell for ever!
[Exit with Guards.]
I lose him, and the world’s a stony desert,
That seems to petrify my heart within me.
O that kind Heaven would, in the very moment,
When his freed spirit flies from this base earth,
Release me from a life, that now affords me
No hope to form, no duty to fulfill.
Dear victim of barbarity, my soul
Still in fond unison with thine, partakes
Thy filial wish, regarding life with scorn.
O generous Clyfford, grant me one request;
While yet my father breathes, O grant me still
To gaze upon him; and forbid, I pray thee,
Forbid officious care to force my weakness
From the attractive scene of death! I hear,
Surely I hear a pitying angel’s voice,
That kindly tells my sympathetic heart
That, in beholding, I may share his fate.
An heavenly impulse seems against my reason
To force me to obey thee.
Haste, my friend!
I will conceal me in a peasant’s garb;
And thou shalt choose the spot, where we will stand
In mutual awe and agony to catch
The latest accents of thy sacred sire!
SCENE VIII.-TIIE KING’S TENT.
KING EDWARD, QUEEN.
Yet, my dear lord, by all your perils past,
By all your ardent hopes of future honor,
Yet, while the pressing minutes urge my voice
To most important prayer, while time allows
My fearless conqueror to make sweet mercy
The blest confirmer of his perfect glory,
Yet, yet recall from death this brave old man!
O save like Heaven, in the distressful moment,
When safety’s vanished from the eyes of hope.
Dearest of supplicants it pains me ever
To thwart the wishes of thy gentle spirit;
But it is royalty’s severest duty,
To keep the sword of punishment unbiassed
By the quick outcries of too tender pity.
No! my mistaken lord! it is not pity
For those, who suffer by thy fatal wrath,
Tho’ I acknowledge my heart bleeds for them;
'Tis love for thee: ’tis passion for thy glory,
That gives thy Eleanor the strength to plead
Against this stern decree: O gracious Edward!
I wish thy noble nature prized and loved
By every subject, as it is by me:
I know, in seeming cruel to this land,
It is thy aim, by sage austerity,
To fill the savage mind with useful terror:
But has not gentleness the blessed power
To rule the willing heart, while overstrained rigor
Gains but the fearful semblance of dominion
O’er the forced acts of alienated souls?
Sweet advocate of mercy! were all hearts
Pure as thy own, thy pleading should prevail,
But for the government of baser beings,
Obedience must be founded upon fear.
Fear leads to hate: and hate to strife, and frenzy:
Think of young Clyfford! O! if he, who felt
Thy fostering care, and idolized thy virtues,
If he was driven to momentary madness
By one harsh mandate of the King he loved,
What may thy people, who ne’er view like him,
Thy private scene, that blissful sanctuary
Of true domestic tenderness! O Edward!
Pride of my soul! I plead for thy renown:
Dearer to me than empire! while thou canst,
Save I conjure thee, save this aged bard!
To let him perish would obscure thy glory
With the base sin of black ingratitude;
For he with pure disinterested spirit,
Professing enmity to thy dominion,
Yet wished to shield thy life from hideous peril.
He with a father’s gentleness to me
Spoke all his just surmises, and suggested
Means to restore to reason and to duty
The fascinated mind of frantic Clyfford.
I can no more withstand, dear Eleanor,
Thy tender eloquence: thy prayer is granted:
One of the guard shall bring the rescued victim
To bless thee for that life, for which thy sweetness
Let me, let me,
My gracious lord, the happiest of thy servants!
O let me fly the herald of thy grace!
Mercy will lend me her auspicious wings;
And joy inspire me with his piercing voice,
To spread from rock to rock my welcome tidings
"THE PARDON OF LLANDORVIN.”
KING EDWARD, QUEEN, GWENDYLEN.
GWENDYLEN. [entering, and almost expiring.[
His in vain,
Too lovely consort of a crowned assassin!
In vain thy active tenderness attempts
To cancel his barbarity: My father,
With firm triumphant fortitude, has past
To those blest realms, whence not the voice of Kings,
Nor the more sacred breath of spotless virtue,
Can now recal his earth-contemning spirit.
Unhappy daughter! hast thou seen him perish!
Where then was Clyfford, whose impetuous pity
Flew hence unwarranted to save thy sire.
Relentless Edward! hear his fate, and feel
How cruelty, in its blind rage, recoils,
And like a madd’ning serpent, stings itself!
That generous youth, whom I shall soon rejoin,
Suffers no longer in a world, which thou,
Inhuman monster! by thy savage sway,
Hast made a residence, unfit for beings,
Who with a heart like his embrace the injured.
Hark! I am called: their free, ascending spirits
Wait yet for me: I come: The generous Clyfford
At my request conducted me to view
The horrid scene, that my prophetic soul
Felt by anticipation a release
From all thy tyranny------ yes, I beheld
Thy murderous archers pierce my father’s breast—
That shaft to me was like the friendly lightning,
That makes convulsive anguish sink to peace.
Lifeless I fell, and, as I since have learnt,
Kind Clyfford deemed me dead, and nobly flew
To bless my dying father, and to tell him
That death’s kind angel had conveyed his daughter
To wait for him in Heaven!
What fatal chance
Destroyed my Clyfford?
[In a peasant’s garb]
He rushed upon the weapons of the soldiers
That sought to bar him from my sire’s embrace--------
They did not know their prince, till his life-blood
Stained their accursed steel ----He spurned their aid
Embraced my sire then dying, and retired
To die near her, whom he had left as dead.
His honored voice recalled my parting soul
Only to bless him in his death, and bring
His benediction to his heart’s pure queen
His guardian Eleanor -- this duty done
To my loved Clyfford, to that glorious youth,
Who gave me proof how pleasing 'tis to die,
Kind nature now is rapidly dissolving
The mortal ties, that yet withhold my spirit
From him, and from my sire: now earth receive
This poor incumbrance, that my willing soul
Exults to quit --
O yet abjure not life,
Dear Gwendylen! thou shalt be as my child,
And join with me to grace thy Clyfford’s grave.
No! thou mild angel, wedded to a fiend!
Rather would I, to recompense thy goodness,
Share with thee a blest death, that terminates
Unmerited affliction: but thy doom
Is to live long, and live a wounded witness
Of mad ambition, which thou canst not temper.
My parting soul, rapt in prophetic vision,
Sees all the future reign of thy fierce Edward;
Another realm, like injured Cambria, waits
To crouch beneath his desolating sway,
And curse the proud invader: His stern soul,
Unsoftened by thy tenderness, shall lose thee;
But thou, sweet Eleanor! Thou shalt be mourned.
With honors, such as never Queen before thee
Won from imperial sorrow.
Pray! be silent,
Thou poor distracted girl, and let us try
If salutary care may still!
Stand off, rash tyrant! yet respect the dying!
And hear thy destiny. Thy joy is conquest,
And conquest shall be thine: iniquity
Draws, as its curse from fortune, all it wishes.
Power shall not sate thee, nor affliction soften:
E’en death itself, whose visible approach
Can bend ambition to new thoughts of peace,
Shall fail from thy infuriate soul to banish
Thy savage thirst of empire and of carnage.
Thy dying voice shall bid thy very bones
Be borne to battle in thy army’s front,
Tho’ dead still proving the accurst oppressor!
But mark the fruit of all thy victories!
Thy child, so basely made the lord of Cambria,
Shall die the vilest death: hurled from a throne
Stained by thy guilt, and his ignobler vices!
Ages shall rise, when thy enlightened country,
No longer dazzled by thy martial triumph,
Shall see thy crimes, as my just father saw them,
And English bards shall execrate thy name.
I faint: ye friendly spirits hovering round me,
Receive me to your fellowship!—My father!
O Eleanor! the ravings of this damsel
Have struck an icy tremor thro’ my breast,
Ne’er felt before! See thou her corse be honored,
And laid with our lost Clyfford as his bride!
Had I, thou mild remebrancer of mercy!
Had I but listened to the first entreaty,
Of thy benignant heart, we had escaped
This hour of vain regret, and deep remorse.