Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

SPARTACUS. AND JOVIUS.

211

Where you and Douglas, and our powers at once
(As I will fashion it), shall happily meet,
To bear our fortunes in our own strong arms.

Hot. Uncle, adieu. O let the hours be short,
Till fields, and blows, and groans, applaud our sport!

SHAKSPEARE (altered).

Tis pity

IX. - SPARTACUS AND JOVIUS.

Enter SPARTACUS, 'L., JOVIUS, R. Spartacus. Speak, Roman! wherefore does thy master send Thy gray hairs to the “cut-throat's," camp?

Jocius. Brave rebel

Spart. Why, that's a better name than rogue or bondman ; But in this camp I am called General.

Jor. Brave General, - for, though a rogue and bondman, As you

have said, I'll still allow you General, As he that beats a consul surely is.

Spart. Say two two consuls; and to that e'en add A proconsul, three prætors, and some generals.

Jor. Why, this is no more than true. Are you a Thracian ?
Spart. Ay.

Joo. There is something in the air of Thrace
Breeds valor up as rank as grass.
You are a barbarian.

Spart. Wherefore ?

Joo. Had you been born
A Roman, you had won by this a triumph.

Spart. I thank the gods I am barbarian;
For I can better teach the grace-begot
And heaven-supported masters of the earth
How a mere dweller of a desert rock
Can bow their crowned heads to his chariot-wheels,
Their regal necks to be his stepping-blocks.
But come, what is thy message ?

Jov. Julia, niece
of the prætor, is thy captive.

Spart. Ay.

Joo. For whom
Is offered in exchange thy wife, Senona,
And thy young boy.

Spart. Tell thou the prætor, Roman,
The Thracian's wife is ransomed.

Jov. How is that?

Spart. Ransomed, and by the steel, from out the camp Of slaughtered Gellius! (Pointing off.) Behold them, Roman!

Jov. (Looking as Spart. points.) This is sorcery !
But name a ransom for the general's niece.

Spart. Have I not now the prætor on the hip?
He would, in his extremity, have made
My wife his buckler of defence; perhaps
Have doomed her to the scourge! But this is Roman.
Now the barbarian is instructed. Look !
I hold the prætor by the heart; and he
Shall feel how tightly grip barbarian fingers.
Jov. Men do not war on women.

Name her ransom.
Spart. Men do not war on women! Look you :
One day I climbed up to the ridgy top
of the cloud-piercing Hæmus, where, among
The eagles and the thunders, from that height,
I looked upon the world, as far as where,
Wrestling with storms, the gloomy Euxine chafed
On his recoiling shores; and where dim Adria
In her blue bosom quenched the fiery sphere.
Between those surges lay a land, might once
Have matched Elysium; but Rome had made it
A Tar'tarus. In my green youth I looked
From the same frosty peak where now I stood,
And then beheld the glory of those lands,
Where Peace was tinkling on the shepherd's bell
And singing with the reapers.
Since that glad day, Rome's conquerors had passed
With withering armies there, and all was changed.
Peace had departed ; howling War was there,
Cheered on by Roman hunters. Then, methought,
E'en as I looked upon the altered scene,
Groans echoed through the valleys, through which ran
Rivers of blood, like smoking Phleg'ethons ;
Fires flashed from burning villages, and Famine
Shrieked in the empty corn-fields ! Women and children,
Robbed of their sires and husbands, left to starve
These were the dwellers of the land! Say'st thou
Rome wars not, then, on women ?

Jov. This is not to the matter.

Spart. Now, by Jove,
It is! These things do Romans. But the earth
Is sick of conquerors. There is not a man,
Not Roman, but is Rome's extremest foe :

THE SIEGE OF GHENT.

213

And such am I; sworn from that hour I saw
Those sights of horror, while the gods support me,
To wreak on Rome such havoc as Rome wreaks,
Carnage and devastation, woe and ruin.
Why should I ransom, when I swear to slay ?
Begone! This is my answer !

BIRD.S eje

eye vien ,

[ocr errors]

X. - THE SIEGE OF GHENT.

Enter first VAN DEN BOSCH, R.; then VAN ARTEVELDE, L.
Van den Bosch. What ho! Van Artevelde.
Arterelde. Who calls ?

Bosch. Tis I.
Thou art an early riser, like myself;
Or is it that thou hast not been to bed ?

Art. What are thy tidings?

Bosch. Nay, what can they be?
A page from pestilence and famine's day-book.
So many to the pest-house carried in,
So many to the dead-house carried out,
The same dull, dismal, horrible old story.

Art. Be quiet ; listen to the westerly wind,
And tell me if it brings thee nothing new.

Bosch. (Listening.) Naught to my ear, save howl of hungry dog
That hears the house is stirring : nothing else.

Art. No— now I hear it not myself; no nothing.
The city's hum is up; but ere you came
T was audible enough.

Bosch. In Heaven's name, what ?
Art. A horseman's tramp upon the road from Bruges.

Bosch. Why, then, be certain 't is a flag of truce !
If once he reach the city, we are lost.
Nay, if he be but seen, our danger 's great.
What terms so bad they would not swallow now?
Let's send some trusty varlets forth at once
To cross his way.

Art. And send him back to Bruges ?
Bosch. Send him to — heaven — and that's a better place.

Art. Nay, softly, Van Den Bosch ; let war be war,
But let us keep its ordinances.

Bosch. Tush!
I say, but let them see him from afar,

And in an hour shall we, bound hand and foot,
Be on our way to Bruges.

Art. Not so, not so.
My rule of governance has not been such
As e'er to issue in so foul a close.

Bosch. What matter by what rule thou mayst have governed ? .
Think'st thou a hundred thousand citizens
Shall stay the fury of their empty maws
Because thou 'st ruled them justly?

Art. It may be
That such a hope is mine.

Bosch. Then thou art mad,
And I must take this matter on myself. (Crosses L.)

Art. (R.) Hold, Van den Bosch ! I say this shall not be.
I must be madder than I think I am
Ere I shall yield up my authority,
Which I abuse not, to be used by thee.

Bosch. This comes of lifting dreamers into power !
I tell thee, in this strait and stress of famine,
The people, but to pave

the
way
for

peace,
Would instantly dispatch our heads to Bruges.
Once and again I warn thee that thy life
Hangs by a thread.

Art. Why, know I not it does ?
What hath it hung by else since Utas' eve ?
Did I not, by mine own advised choice,
Place it in jeopardy for certain ends?
And what were these ? — To prop thy tottering state ?
To float thee o'er a reef, and, that performed,
To cater for our joint security ?
No, verily; not such my high ambition !
I bent my thoughts on yonder city's weal;
I looked to give it victory and freedom;
And, working to that end, by consequence,
From one great peril did deliver thee,
Not for the love of thee or of thy life,
Which I regard not, but the city's service;
And if, for that same service, it seem good,
I will expose thy life to equal hazard.

Bosch. Thou wilt ?
Art. I will.

Bosch. Truly ! to hear him speak!
What a most mighty emperor of puppets

* Pronounoo Broozh. Pronounce Bosch, Bask.

THE SIEGE OF GHENT.

215

Is this that I have brought upon the board!
But how if he that made it should unmake?

Art. Unto His sovereignty who truly made me
With infinite humility I bow!
Both, both of us are puppets, Van den Bosch ;
Part of the curious clock-work of this world;
We scold, and squeak, and crack each other's crowns ;
And if, from twitches moved by wires we see not,
I were to toss thee from this steeple's top,
I should be but the instrument - no more
The tool of that chastising Providence
Which doth exalt the lowly, and abase
The violent and proud. But let me hope
Such is not mine appointed task to-day.
Thou passest in the world for worldly-wise.
Then, seeing we must sink or swim together,
What can it profit thee, in this extreme
Of our distress, to wrangle with me thus
For my supremacy and rule? Thy fate,
As of necessity bound up with mine,
Must needs partake my cares. Let that suffice
To put thy pride to rest till better times.

Bosch. Tush, tush ! Van Artevelde ; thou talk'st and talk’st,
And honest burghers think it wondrous fine ;
But thou mightst easi’lier, with that tongue of thine,
Persuade yon smoke to fly i' the face o' the wind,
Than talk away my wit and understanding.
I say yon herald shall not enter here.
Art. I know, sir, no man better, - where

my

talk
Is serviceable singly, where it needs
To be by acts enforced. I say, beware,
And brave not mine authority too far.
Bosch. Hast thou authority to take my

life?
What is it else to let yon herald in
To bargain for our blood ?

Art. Thy life again!
Why, what a very slave of life art thou !
Look round about on this once populous town ;
Not one of these innumerous house-tops
But hides some spectral form of misery,
Some peevish, pining child, and moaning mother,
Some agëd man that in his dõtage scolds,
Not knowing why he hungers; some cold corse
That lies unstraightened where the spirit left it.

« ForrigeFortsett »