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_Barce._ He cannot mean it!
_Ham._ Oh, exalted virtue!
Which challenges esteem though from a foe.
[_Looking after_ PUBLIUS.
_At._ Ah! cruel Publius, wilt thou leave me thus?
Thus leave thy sister?
_Barce._ Didst thou hear, Hamilcar?
Oh, didst thou hear the G.o.d-like youth resign me?
[HAMILCAR _and_ LICINIUS _seem lost in thought_.
_Ham._ Farewell, I will return.
_Lic._ Farewell, my love! [_To_ ATTILIA.
_Barce._ Hamilcar, where----
_At._ Alas! where art thou going?
_Lic._ If possible, to save the life of Regulus.
_At._ But by what means?--Ah! how canst thou effect it?
_Lic._ Since the disease so desperate is become, We must apply a desperate remedy.
_Ham._ (_after a long pause._) Yes--I will mortify this generous foe; I'll be reveng'd upon this stubborn Roman; Not by defiance bold, or feats of arms, But by a means more sure to work its end; By emulating his exalted worth, And showing him a virtue like his own; Such a refin'd revenge as n.o.ble minds Alone can practise, and alone can feel.
_At._ If thou wilt go, Licinius, let Attilia At least go with thee.
_Lic._ No, my gentle love, Too much I prize thy safety and thy peace.
Let me entreat thee, stay with Barce here Till our return.
_At._ Then, ere ye go, in pity Explain the latent purpose of your souls.
_Lic._ Soon shalt thou know it all--Farewell! farewell!
Let us keep Regulus in _Rome_, or _die_.
[_To_ HAMILCAR _as he goes out_.
_Ham._ Yes.--These smooth, polish'd Romans shall confess The soil of _Afric_, too, produces heroes.
What, though our pride, perhaps, be less than theirs, Our virtue may be equal: they shall own The path of honour's not unknown to Carthage, Nor, as they arrogantly think, confin'd To their proud Capitol:----Yes--they shall learn The G.o.ds look down on other climes than theirs.
_At._ What gone, _both_ gone? What can I think or do?
Licinius leaves me, led by love and virtue, To rouse the citizens to war and tumult, Which may be fatal to himself and Rome, And yet, alas! not serve my dearest father.
Protecting deities! preserve them both!
_Barce._ Nor is thy Barce more at ease, my friend; I dread the fierceness of Hamilcar's courage: Rous'd by the grandeur of thy brother's deed, And stung by his reproaches, his great soul Will scorn to be outdone by him in glory.
Yet, let us rise to courage and to life, Forget the weakness of our helpless s.e.x, And mount above these coward woman's fears.
Hope dawns upon my mind--my prospect clears, And every cloud now brightens into day.
_At._ How different are our souls! Thy sanguine temper, Flush'd with the native vigour of thy soil, Supports thy spirits; while the sad Attilia, Sinking with more than all her s.e.x's fears, Sees not a beam of hope; or, if she sees it, 'Tis not the bright, warm splendour of the sun; It is a sickly and uncertain glimmer Of instantaneous lightning pa.s.sing by.
It shows, but not diminishes, the danger, And leaves my poor benighted soul as dark As it had never shone.
_Barce._ Come, let us go.
Yes, joys unlook'd-for now shall gild thy days, And brighter suns reflect propitious rays. [_Exeunt._
SCENE--_A Hall looking towards the Garden._
_Enter_ REGULUS, _speaking to one of_ HAMILCAR'S _Attendants_.
Where's your Amba.s.sador? where is Hamilcar?
Ere this he doubtless knows the Senate's will.
Go, seek him out--Tell him we must depart---- Rome has no hope for him, or wish for me.
Longer delay were criminal in _both_.
_Reg._ He comes. The Consul comes! my n.o.ble friend!
O let me strain thee to this grateful heart, And thank thee for the vast, vast debt I owe thee!
But for _thy_ friends.h.i.+p I had been a wretch---- Had been compell'd to shameful _liberty_.
To thee I owe the glory of these chains, My faith inviolate, my fame preserv'd, My honour, virtue, glory, bondage,--all!
_Man._ But we shall lose thee, so it is decreed---- Thou must depart?
_Reg._ Because I must depart You will not lose me; I were lost, indeed, Did I remain in Rome.
_Man._ Ah! Regulus, Why, why so late do I begin to love thee?
Alas! why have the adverse fates decreed I ne'er must give thee other proofs of friends.h.i.+p, Than those so fatal and so full of woe?
_Reg._ Thou hast perform'd the duties of a friend; Of a just, faithful, Roman, n.o.ble friend: Yet, generous as thou art, if thou constrain me To sink beneath a weight of obligation, I could--yes, Manlius--I could ask still more.
_Man._ Explain thyself.
_Reg._ I think I have fulfill'd The various duties of a citizen; Nor have I aught beside to do for Rome.
Now, nothing for the public good remains!
Manlius, I recollect I am a father!
My Publius! my Attilia! ah! my friend, They are--(forgive the weakness of a parent) To my fond heart dear as the drops that warm it.
Next to my country they're my all of life; And, if a weak old man be not deceiv'd, They will not shame that country. Yes, my friend, The love of virtue blazes in their souls.
As yet these tender plants are immature, And ask the fostering hand of cultivation: Heav'n, in its wisdom, would not let their _father_ Accomplish this great work.--To thee, my friend, The tender parent delegates the trust: Do not refuse a poor man's legacy; I do bequeath my orphans to thy love-- If thou wilt kindly take them to thy bosom, Their loss will be repaid with usury.
Oh, let the father owe his glory to thee, The children their protection!
_Man._ Regulus, With grateful joy my heart accepts the trust: Oh, I will s.h.i.+eld, with jealous tenderness, The precious blossoms from a blasting world.
In me thy children shall possess a father, Though not as worthy, yet as fond as thee.