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_At._ Grief, that dissolves in tears, relieves the heart.
When congregated vapours melt in rain, The sky is calm'd, and all's serene again. [_Exit._
_Barce._ Why, what a strange, fantastic land is this!
This love of glory's the disease of Rome; It makes her mad, it is a wild delirium, An universal and contagious frenzy; It preys on all, it spares nor s.e.x nor age: The Consul envies Regulus his chains-- He, not less mad, contemns his life and freedom-- The daughter glories in the father's ruin-- And Publius, more distracted than the rest, Resigns the object that his soul adores, For this vain phantom, for this empty glory.
This may be virtue; but I thank the G.o.ds, The soul of Barce's not a Roman soul. [_Exit._
_Scene within sight of the Tiber--s.h.i.+ps ready for the embarkation of Regulus and the Amba.s.sador--Tribune and People stopping up the pa.s.sage--Consul and Lictors endeavouring to clear it._
MANLIUS _and_ LICINIUS _advance_.
_Lic._ Rome will not suffer Regulus to go.
_Man._ I thought the Consul and the Senators Had been a part of Rome.
_Lic._ I grant they are-- But still the people are the greater part.
_Man._ The greater, not the wiser.
_Lic._ The less cruel.---- Full of esteem and grat.i.tude to Regulus, We would preserve his life.
_Man._ And we his honour.
_Lic._ His honour!----
_Man._ Yes. Time presses. Words are vain.
Make way there--clear the pa.s.sage.
_Lic._ On your lives, Stir not a man.
_Man._ I do command you, go.
_Lic._ And I forbid it.
_Man._ Clear the way, my friends.
How dares Licinius thus oppose the Consul?
_Lic._ How dar'st thou, Manlius, thus oppose the Tribune?
_Man._ I'll show thee what I dare, imprudent boy!-- Lictors, force through the pa.s.sage.
_Lic._ Romans, guard it.
_Man._ G.o.ds! is my power resisted then with arms?
Thou dost affront the Majesty of Rome.
_Lic._ The Majesty of Rome is in the people; Thou dost insult it by opposing them.
_People._ Let n.o.ble Regulus remain in Rome.
_Man._ My friends, let me explain this treacherous scheme.
_People._ We will not hear thee----Regulus shall stay.
_Man._ What! none obey me?
_People._ Regulus shall stay.
_Man._ Romans, attend.----
_People._ Let Regulus remain.
_Enter_ REGULUS, _followed by_ PUBLIUS, ATTILIA, HAMILCAR, BARCE, _&c._
_Reg._ Let Regulus remain! What do I hear?
Is't possible the wish should come from you?
Can Romans give, or Regulus accept, A life of infamy? Is't possible?
Where is the ancient virtue of my country?
Rise, rise, ye mighty spirits of old Rome!
I do invoke you from your silent tombs; Fabricius, Cocles, and Camillus, rise, And show your sons what their great fathers were.
My countrymen, what crime have I committed?
Alas! how has the wretched Regulus Deserv'd your hatred?
_Lic._ Hatred? ah! my friend, It is our love would break these cruel chains.
_Reg._ If you deprive me of my chains, I'm nothing; They are my honours, riches, t.i.tles,--all!
They'll shame my enemies, and grace my country; They'll waft her glory to remotest climes, Beyond her provinces and conquer'd realms, Where yet her conq'ring eagles never flew; Nor shall she blush hereafter if she find Recorded with her faithful citizens The name of Regulus, the captive Regulus.
My countrymen! what, think you, kept in awe The Volsci, Sabines, aequi, and Hernici?
The arms of Rome alone? no, 'twas her virtue; That sole surviving good, which brave men keep Though fate and warring worlds combine against them: This still is mine--and I'll preserve it, Romans!
The wealth of Plutus shall not bribe it from me!
If you, alas! require this sacrifice, Carthage herself was less my foe than Rome; She took my freedom--she could take no more; But Rome, to crown her work, would take my honour.
My friends! if you deprive me of my chains, I am no more than any other slave: Yes, Regulus becomes a common captive, A wretched, lying, perjur'd fugitive!
But if, to grace my bonds, you leave my honour, I shall be still a Roman, though a slave.
_Lic._ What faith should be observ'd with savages?
What promise should be kept which bonds extort?
_Reg._ Unworthy subterfuge! ah! let us leave To the wild Arab and the faithless Moor These wretched maxims of deceit and fraud: Examples ne'er can justify the coward: The brave man never seeks a vindication, Save from his own just bosom and the G.o.ds; From principle, not precedent, he acts: As that arraigns him, or as that acquits, He stands or falls; condemn'd or justified.
_Lic._ Rome is no more if Regulus departs.
_Reg._ Let Rome remember Regulus must die!
Nor would the moment of my death be distant, If nature's work had been reserv'd for nature: What Carthage means to do, _she_ would have done As speedily, perhaps, at least as surely.
My wearied life has almost reach'd its goal; The once-warm current stagnates in these veins, Or through its icy channels slowly creeps---- View the weak arm; mark the pale furrow'd cheek, The slacken'd sinew, and the dim sunk eye, And tell me then I must not think of dying!
How can I serve you else? My feeble limbs Would totter now beneath the armour's weight, The burden of that body it once s.h.i.+elded.
You see, my friends, you see, my countrymen, I can no longer show myself a Roman, Except by dying like one.----Gracious Heaven Points out a way to crown my days with glory; Oh, do not frustrate, then, the will of Jove, And close a life of virtue with disgrace!
Come, come, I know my n.o.ble Romans better; I see your souls, I read repentance in them; You all applaud me--nay, you wish my chains: 'Twas nothing but excess of love misled you, And as you're Romans you will conquer that.
Yes!--I perceive your weakness is subdu'd-- Seize, seize the moment of returning virtue; Throw to the ground, my sons, those hostile arms; r.e.t.a.r.d no longer Regulus's triumph; I do request it of you, as a friend, I call you to your duty, as a patriot, And--were I still your gen'ral, I'd command you.