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_At._ I cannot speak--my father!
Joy chokes my utterance--Rome, dear grateful Rome, (Oh, may her cup with blessings overflow!) Gives up our common destiny to thee; Faithful and constant to th' advice thou gav'st her, She will not hear of peace, or change of slaves, But she insists--reward and bless her, G.o.ds!-- That thou shalt here remain.
_Reg._ What! with the shame----
_At._ Oh! no--the sacred senate hath consider'd That when to Carthage thou did'st pledge thy faith, Thou wast a captive, and that being such, Thou could'st not bind thyself in covenant.
_Reg._ He who can die, is always free, my child!
Learn farther, he who owns another's strength Confesses his own weakness.--Let them know, I swore I would return because I chose it, And will return, because I swore to do it.
_Pub._ Vain is that hope, my father.
_Reg._ Who shall stop me?
_Pub._ All Rome.----The citizens are up in arms: In vain would reason stop the growing torrent; In vain wouldst thou attempt to reach the port, The way is barr'd by thronging mult.i.tudes: The other streets of Rome are all deserted.
_Reg._ Where, where is Manlius?
_Pub._ He is still thy friend: His single voice opposes a whole people; He threats this moment and the next entreats, But all in vain; none hear him, none obey.
The general fury rises e'en to madness.
The axes tremble in the lictors' hands, Who, pale and spiritless, want power to use them-- And one wild scene of anarchy prevails.
_Reg._ Farewell! my daughter. Publius, follow me.
_At._ Ah! where? I tremble---- [_Detaining_ REGULUS.
_Reg._ To a.s.sist my friend-- T' upbraid my hapless country with her crime-- To keep unstain'd the glory of these chains-- To go, or perish.
_At._ Oh! have mercy!
_Reg._ Hold; I have been patient with thee; have indulg'd Too much the fond affections of thy soul; It is enough; thy grief would now offend Thy father's honour; do not let thy tears Conspire with Rome to rob me of my triumph.
_At._ Alas! it wounds my soul.
_Reg._ I know it does.
I know 'twill grieve thy gentle heart to lose me; But think, thou mak'st the sacrifice to Rome, And all is well again.
_At._ Alas! my father, In aught beside----
_Reg._ What wouldst thou do, my child?
Canst thou direct the destiny of Rome, And boldly plead amid the a.s.sembled senate?
Canst thou, forgetting all thy s.e.x's softness, Fiercely engage in hardy deeds of arms?
Canst thou encounter labour, toil and famine, Fatigue and hards.h.i.+ps, watchings, cold and heat?
Canst thou attempt to serve thy country thus?
Thou canst not:--but thou may'st sustain my loss Without these agonising pains of grief, And set a bright example of submission, Worthy a Roman's daughter.
_At._ Yet such fort.i.tude--
_Reg._ Is a most painful virtue;--but Attilia Is Regulus's daughter, and must have it.
_At._ I will entreat the G.o.ds to give it me.
Ah! thou art offended! I have lost thy love.
_Reg._ Is this concern a mark that thou hast lost it?
I cannot, cannot spurn my weeping child.
Receive this proof of my paternal fondness;-- Thou lov'st Licinius--he too loves my daughter.
I give thee to his wishes; I do more-- I give thee to his virtues.--Yes, Attilia, The n.o.ble youth deserves this dearest pledge Thy father's friends.h.i.+p ever can bestow.
_At._ My lord! my father! wilt thou, canst thou leave me?
The tender father will not quit his child!
_Reg._ I am, I am thy father! as a proof, I leave thee my example how to suffer.
My child! I have a heart within this bosom; That heart has pa.s.sions--see in what we differ; Pa.s.sion--which is thy tyrant--is my slave.
_At._ Ah! stay my father. Ah!--
_Reg._ Farewell! farewell!
_At._ Yes, Regulus! I feel thy spirit here, Thy mighty spirit struggling in this breast, And it shall conquer all these coward feelings, It shall subdue the woman in my soul; A Roman virgin should be something more-- Should dare above her s.e.x's narrow limits-- And I will dare--and mis'ry shall a.s.sist me-- My father! I will be indeed thy daughter!
The hero shall no more disdain his child; Attilia shall not be the only branch That yields dishonour to the parent tree.
_Barce._ Attilia! is it true that Regulus, In spite of senate, people, augurs, friends, And children, will depart?
_At._ Yes, it is true.
_Barce._ Oh! what romantic madness!
_At._ You forget-- Barce! the deeds of heroes claim respect.
_Barce._ Dost thou approve a virtue which must lead To chains, to tortures, and to certain death?
_At._ Barce! those chains, those tortures, and that death, Will be his triumph.
_Barce._ Thou art pleas'd, Attilia: By heav'n thou dost exult in his destruction!
_At._ Ah! pitying powers. [_Weeps._
_Barce._ I do not comprehend thee.
_At._ No, Barce, I believe it.--Why, how shouldst thou?
If I mistake not, thou wast born in Carthage, In a barbarian land, where never child Was taught to triumph in a father's chains.
_Barce._ Yet thou dost weep--thy tears at least are honest, For they refuse to share thy tongue's deceit; They speak the genuine language of affliction, And tell the sorrows that oppress thy soul.