Cato (Act Four)
ACT THE FOURTH.
Now tell me, Marcia, tell me from thy soul,
If thou believ'st 'tis possible for woman
To suffer greater ills than Lucia suffers?
O Lucia! Lucia! might my big-swoln heart
Vent all its griefs, and give a loose to sorrow:
Marcia could answer thee in sighs, keep pace
With all thy woes, and count out tear for tear.
I know thou'rt doom'd, alike, to be belov'd
By juba and thy father's friend, Sempronius;
But which of these has power to charm like Portius!
Still must I beg thee not to name Sempronius?
Lucia, I like not that loud boisterous man;
Juba to all the bravery of a hero
Adds softest love, and more than female sweetness:
Juba might make the proudest of our sex,
Any of womankind, but Marcia, happy.
And why not Marcia? come, you strive in vain
To hide your thoughts from one who knows too well
The inward glowings of a heart in love.
While Cato lives, his daughter has no right
To love or hate, but as his choice directs.
But should this father give you to Sempronius?
I dare not think he will: but if he should —
Why wilt thou add to all the griefs I suffer
Imaginary ills, and fancied tortures?
I hear the sound of feet! they march this way!
Let us retire, and try if we can drown
Each softer thought in sense of present danger.
When love once pleas admission to our hearts
(In spite of all the virtue we can boast)
The woman that deliberates is lost.
Sempronius, dressed like Juba, with Numidian guards.
The deer is lodg'd. I've track'd her to her covert.
Be sure you mind the word, and when I give it,
Rush in at once, and seize upon your prey.
Let not her cries or tears have force to move you.
— How will the young Numidian rave, to see
His mistress lost! if aught could glad my soul,
Beyond th' enjoyment of so bright a prize,
'Twould be to torture that young gay barbarian.
— But, hark, what noise! death to my hoopes! 'tis he,
'Tis Juba's self! there is but one way left —
He must be murder'd, and a passage cut
Through those his guards. — Hah! dastards, do you tremble!
Or act like men, or by yon azure heaven —
What do I see? who's this that dare usurp
The guards and habit of Numidia's prince?
One that was born to scourge thy arrogance,
— What can this mean? Sempronius!
My sword shall answer thee. Have at thy heart.
Nay, then beware thy own, proud, barbarous man!
[Sempronius falls. His guards surrender.
Curse on my stars! am I then doom'd to fall
By a boy's hand? disfigur'd in a vile
Numidian dress, and for a worthless woman?
Gods, I'm distracted! this my close of life!
O for a peal of thunder that would make
Earth, sea, and air, and heaven, and Cato tremble!
With what a spring his furious soul broke loose,
And left the limbs still quivering on the ground!
Hence let us carry off those slaves to Cato,
That we may there at length unravel all
This dark design, this mystery of fate.
Sure 'twas the clash of swords; my troubled heart
Is so cast down, and sunk amidst its sorrows,
It throbs with fear, and aches at every sound.
O Marcia, should thy brothers for my sake! —
I die away with horror at the thought.
See, Lucia, see! here's blood! here's blood and murder!
Hah! a Numidian! heavens preserve the prince:
The face lies muffled up within the garment.
But hah! death to my sight! a diadem,
And purple robes! O gods! 'tis he, 'tis he!
Juba, the loveliest youth that ever warm'd
A virgin's heart, Juba lies dead before us!
Now, Marcia, now call up to thy assistance
Thy wonted strength and constancy of mind;
Thou canst not put it to a greater trial.
Lucia, look there, and wonder at my patience.
Have I not cause to rave, and beat my breast,
To rend my heart with grief, and run distracted?
What can I think or say to give thee comfort?
Talk not of comfort, 'tis for lighter ills:
Behold a sight that strikes all comfort dead.
[Enter Juba listening.
I will indulge my sorrows, and give way
To all the pangs and fury of despair;
That man, that best of men, deserv'd it from me.
What do I hear? and was the false Sempronius
That best of men? O had I fallen like him,
And could have thus been mourn'd, I had been happy!
Here will I stand, companion in thy woes,
And help thee with my tears; when I behold
A loss like thine, I half forget my own.
'Tis not in fate to ease my tortur'd breast.
This empty world, to me a joyless desert,
Has nothing left to make poor Marcia happy.
I'm on the rack! was he so near her heart?
Oh! he was all made up of love and charms,
Whatever maid could wish, or man admire:
Delight of every eye! when he appear'd,
A secret pleasure gladden'd all that saw him;
But when he talk'd, the proudest Roman blush'd
To hear his virtues, and old age grew wise.
I shall run mad —
— O Juba! Juba! Juba!
What means that voice! did she not call on Juba?
Why do I think on what he was! he's dead!
He's dead, and never know how much I loved him.
Lucia, who knows but his poor bleeding heart,
Amidst its agonies, remember'd Marcia,
And the last words he utter'd called me cruel?
Alas! he knew not, hapless youth, he knew not
Marcia's whole soul was full of love and Juba!
Where am I! do I live! or am indeed
What Marcia thinks! all is Elysium round me!
Ye dear remains of the most loved of men!
Nor modesty nor virtue here forbid
A last embrace, while thus —
— See, Marcia, see,
[Throwing himself before her.
The happy Juba lives! he lives to catch
That dear embrace, and to return it too
With mutual warmth and eagerness of love.
With pleasure and amaze, I stand transported!
Sure 'tis a dream! dead and alive at once!
If thou art Juba, who lies there?
— A wretch,
Disguised like Juba on a curs'd design.
The tale is long, nor have I heard it out.
Thy father knows it all. I could not bear
To leave thee in the neighbourhood of death,
But flew, in all the haste of love, to find thee:
I found thee weeping, and confess this once,
Am rapt with joy to see my Marcia's tears.
I've been surprised in an unguarded hour,
But must not now go back: the love, that lay
Half smother'd in my breast, has broke through all
Its weak restraints, and burns in its full lustre,
I cannot, if I would, conceal it from thee.
I'm lost in ecstacy! and dost thou love,
Thou charming maid?
— And dost thou live to ask it?
This, this is life indeed! life worth preserving,
Such life as Juba never felt till now!
Believe me, prince, before I thought thee dead,
I did not know myself how much I loved thee.
O fortunate mistake!
— O happy Marcia!
My joy! my best beloved! my only wish!
How shall I speak the transport of my soul!
Lucia, thy arm! O let me rest upon it! —
The vital blood, that had forsook my heart,
Returns again in such tumultuous tides,
It quite o'ercomes me. Lead to my apartment. —
O prince! I blush to think what I have said,
But fate has wrested the confession from me;
Go on, and prosper in the paths of honour,
Thy virtue will excuse my passion for thee,
And make the gods propitious to our love.
I am so blest, I fear 'tis all a dream
Fortune, thou now hast made amends for all
Thy past unkindness. I absolve my stars.
What though Numidia add her conquer'd towns
And provinces to swell the victor's triumph;
Juba will never at his fate repine:
Let Caesar have the world, if Marcia's mine.
A march at a distance.
I stand astonish'd! what, the bold Sempronius!
That still broke foremost through the crowd of patriots,
As with a hurricane of zeal transported,
And virtuous even to madness —
— Trust me, Lucius,
Our civil discords have produced such crimes,
Such monstrous crimes, I am surprised at nothing.
— O Lucius, I am sick of this bad worldd!
The daylight and the sun grow painful to me.
But see where Portius comes! what means this haste?
Why are thy looks thus changed?
— My heart is grieved.
I bring such news as will afflict my father.
Has Caesar shed more Roman blood?
— Not so.
The traitor Syphax, as within the square
He exercised his troops, the signal given,
Flew off at once with his Numidian horse
To the south gate, where Marcus holds the watch;
I saw, and called to stop him, but in vain,
He tost his arm aloft, and proudly told me,
He would not stay and perish like Sempronius.
Perfidious men! but haste, my son, and see
Thy brother Marcus acts a Roman's part.
— Lucius, the torrent bears too hard uppon me:
Justice gives way to force: the conquered world
Is Caesar's: Cato has no business in it.
While pride, oppression, and injustice reign,
The world will still demand her Cato's presence.
In pity to mankind, submit to Caesar,
And reconcile thy mighty soul to life.
Would Lucius have me live to swell the number
Of Caesar's slaves, or by a base submission
Give up the cause of Rome, and own a tyrant?
The victor never will impose on Cato
Ungen'rous terms. His enemies confess
The virtues of humanity are Caesar's.
Curse on his virtues! they've undone his country.
Such popular humanity is treason —
But see young Juba! the good youth appears
Full of the guilt of his perfidious subjects.
Alas! poor prince! his fate deserves compassion.
I blush, and am confounded to appear
Before thy presence, Cato.
— What's thy crime?
I'm a Numidian.
— And a brave one too.
Thou hast a Roman soul.
— Hast thou not heard
Of my false countrymen?
— Alas! young prince,
Falsehood and fraud shoot up in every soil,
The product of all climes — Rome has its Caesar.
'Tis gen'rous thus to comfort the distrest.
'Tis just to give applause where 'tis deserv'd;
Thy virtue, prince, has stood the test of fortune,
Like purest gold, that, tortured in the furnace,
Comes out more bright, and brings forth all its weight.
What shall I answer thee? My ravish'd heart
O'erflows with secret joy: I'd rather gain
Thy praise, O Cato! than Numidia's empire.
Misfortune on misfortune! grief on grief!
My brother Marcus —
— Hah! what has he done?
Has he forsook his post? has he given way?
Did he look tamely on, and let them pass?
Scarce had I left my father, but I met him
Borne on the shields of his surviving soldiers,
Breathless and pale, and cover'd o'er with wounds.
Long at the head of his few faithful friends,
He stood the shock of a whole host of foes;
Till obstinately brave, and bent on death,
Opprest with multitudes, he greatly fell.
— Nor did he fall before
His sword had pierc'd through the false heart of Syphax.
Yonder he lies. I saw the hoary traitor
Grin in the pangs of death, and bite the ground.
Thanks to the gods! my boy has done his duty.
— Portius, when I am dead, be sure thouu place
His urn near mine.
— Long may they keep asunder!
O Cato! arm thy soul with all its patience;
See where the corpse of thy dead son approaches!
The citizens and senators, alarmed,
Have gathered round it, and attend it weeping.
Cato, meeting the corpse.
Welcome, my son! here lay him down, my friends,
Full in my sight, that I may view at leisure
The bloody corpse, and count those glorious wounds.
— How beautiful is death, when earn'd bby virtue!
Who would not be that youth? what pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country!
— Why sits this sadness on your brows, my friends?
I should have blushed if Cato's house had stood
Secure, and flourished in a civil war.
— Portius, behold thy brother, and remeember
Thy life is not thy own, when Rome demands it.
Was ever man like this! [Aside.
— Alas! my friends!
Why morn you thus? let not a private loss
Afflict your hearts. 'Tis Rome requires our tears.
The mistress of the world, the seat of empire,
The nurse of heroes, the delight of gods,
That humbled the proud tyrants of the earth,
And set the nations free, Rome is no more.
O liberty! O virtue! O my country!
Behold that upright man! Rome fills his eyes
With tears, that flowed not o'er his own dead son.
Whate'er the Roman virtue has subdued,
The sun's whole course, the day and year, are Caesar's.
For him the self-devoted Decii died,
The Fabii fell, and the great Scipios conquered:
Even Pompey fought for Caesar. Oh! my friends!
How is the toil of fate, the work of ages,
The Roman empire fallen! O curst ambition!
Fallen into Caesar's hands! our great forefathers
Had left him nought to conquer but his country.
While Cato lives, Caesar will blush to see
Mankind enslaved, and be ashamed of empire.
Caesar ashamed! has not he seen Pharsalia?
Cato, 'tis time thou save thyself and us.
Lose not a thought on me, I'm out of danger.
Heaven will not leave me in the victor's hand.
Caesar shall never say I conquer'd Cato.
But oh! my friends, your safety fills my heart
With anxious thoughts: a thousand secret terrors
Rise in my soul: how shall I save my friends!
'Tis now, O Caesar, I begin to fear thee!
Caesar has mercy, if we ask it of him.
Then ask it, I conjure you! let him know
Whate'er was done against him, Cato did it.
Add, if you please, that I request it of him.
The virtue of my friends may pass unpunish'd.
— Juba, my heart is troubled for thy saake.
Should I advise thee to regain Numidia,
Or seek the conqueror? —
— If I forsake thee
Whilst I have life, may heaven abandon Juba!
Thy virtues, prince, if I foresee aright,
Will one day make thee great: at Rome, hereafter,
'Twill be no crime to have been Cato's friend.
Portius, draw near! My son, thou oft has seen
Thy sire engaged in a corrupted state,
Wresting with vice and faction, now thou seest me
Spent, overpower'd, despairing of success:
Let me advise thee to retreat betimes
To thy paternal seat, the Sabine field,
Where the great Censor toiled with his own hands,
And all our frugal ancestors were blest
In humble virtues and a rural life.
There live retired; pray for the peace of Rome;
Content thyself to be obscurely good.
When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
The post of honour is a private station.
I hope my father does not recommend
A life to Portius that he scorns himself.
Farewell, my friends! if there be any of you
Who dare not trust the victor's clemency,
Know, there are ships prepared by my command
(Their sails already opening to the winds)
That shall convey you to the wish'd-for port.
Is there aught else, my friends, I can do for you?
The conqueror draws near. Once more farewell!
If e'er we meet hereafter, we shall meet
In happier climes, and on a safer shore,
Where Caesar never shall approach us more.
[Pointing to his dead son.
There the brave youth, with love of virtue fired,
Who greatly in his country's cause expired,
Shall know he conquered. The firm patriot there
(Who made the welfare of mankind his care)
Though still, by faction, vice, and fortune, crost,
Shall find the generous labour was not lost.
Act Five | Act Three | Contents