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Title: Poetical Works of Robert Bridges (Volume 3)
Author: Bridges, Robert
Language: English
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                            POETICAL WORKS

                                  of

                            ROBERT BRIDGES

                              Volume III

                              [Colophon]

            London Smith, Elder & Co 15 Waterloo Place 1898



             OXFORD: HORACE HART PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY



                  _POETICAL WORKS OF ROBERT BRIDGES_


                     _VOLUME THE THIRD CONTAINING_


_THE FIRST PART OF NERO_              _p._ 1

_ACHILLES IN SCYROS_                     179

_NOTES_                                  261



LIST OF PREVIOUS EDITIONS


_THE FIRST PART OF NERO._

1. _NERO. An historical Tragedy of the first part of the reign of the
emperor Nero. Published by Ewd. Bumpus. London, 1885. 4to._


_ACHILLES IN SCYROS._

1. _ACHILLES IN SCYROS. A drama in a mixed manner. Published by Ewd.
Bumpus. London, 1890. 4to._

2. _ACHILLES IN SCYROS._ _Uniform with_ Shorter Poems (I). _George Bell
& Sons, 1892._



THE FIRST PART OF THE HISTORY OF NERO


A HISTORICAL TRAGEDY



DRAMATIS PERSONÆ


  _NERO_.

  _BRITANNICUS_                  _stepson to Agrippina_.

  _BURRUS_                         _praetorian prefect_.

  _SENECA_                              _tutor to Nero_.

  _LUCAN, the poet, nephew to Seneca_ }
  _OTHO_     }                        } _friends of Nero_.
  _PETRONIUS_} _gentlemen of Rome_    }

  _PALLAS_             _master of the imperial household_.

  _TIGELLINUS_                      _successor to Pallas_.

  _THRASEA, a Stoic_                }  _honest senators_.
  _PRISCUS_                         }

  _ANICETUS_                                _an admiral_.

  _PARIS_                  _a player, favourite of Nero_.

  _SELEUCUS_                             _an astrologer_.

    _Messengers, Servants, &c._

  _AGRIPPINA AUGUSTA_                   _mother to Nero_.

  _OCTAVIA_        _wife to Nero, sister to Britannicus_.

  _POPPÆA_                 _wife to Otho, loved of Nero_.

  _DOMITIA_                 _sister-in-law to Agrippina_.

  _FULVIA_                      _attendant on Agrippina_.

    _Maids, &c._


_Scene. The first four acts are laid in ROME; the fifth is at BAIÆ._



                                 NERO



                                ACT · I


                               SCENE · 1

_On the Palatine. THRASEA & PRISCUS._


_THRASEA._

IF you ask my advice then, it is silence. You are
yet new to the senate, and must learn to give
your opinion with least offence.

_PRISCUS._

Can you mean this?

  _Thr._ Yes—it is my serious advice.

  _Pr._ Now, unless it were the silence of Brutus ...

  _Thr._ Hush, hush! Were this repeated, there is no
greater peril than that word of yours.

  _Pr._ But to you I know I may speak freely.

  _Thr._ What know you of me?                                         10

  _Pr._ I know Thrasea is brave, and resents his country’s
wrongs; that he has insight to see that liberty
was never more outraged than now.

  _Thr._ Believe me, sir, this tale of things being at their
worst is common to all times. Your judgment has gone
astray upon a contempt for Cæsar’s follies, or a hatred
of his mother’s crimes. Measure Nero but by what he
has already done, and you may even find cause for
congratulation.                                                       19

  _Pr._ We shall be ruled like the Britons by a Queen.

  _Thr._ O nay. It is not possible that Nero will suffer
Agrippina’s ambition to take such a place. ’Tis already
a quarrel between them, and Seneca declares for him.

  _Pr._ Then, I ask you, may there not be found in this
quarrel an opportunity to bring in Britannicus? Now
he is of age, he can no longer be held disqualified.

  _Thr._ There is no question of qualification or of
claim.                                                                28

  _Pr._ How so? The late emperor Claudius in his will
mentioned Britannicus for his successor, as being his
own son....

  _Thr._ May be. But then, sir, his empress made away
with both him and his will; and the Roman people chose
for Cæsar the son of the murderess, rather than the heir
of the idiot they were glad to be rid of. Since which
day Nero is as truly our Cæsar as Britannicus could
ever have been. Those who swore to Nero will remain
by him; as ’tis well they should, else were no stability.

  _Pr._ Shall we then do nothing?                                     39

  _Thr._ You take things by the wrong handle. Let us
make the best of what we have. Our Cæsar is the pupil
of a philosopher and guided in everything by his
master’s counsels.

  _Pr._ You are very tolerant and hopeful.

  _Thr._ Try and be so too, and I shall wish to see
more of you. If you will visit my house, you will indeed
be most welcome and may find congenial company.
Only no more of Brutus.

  _Pr._ Thank you for your kindness, if it is an earnest
of your confidence—On another occasion...                            50

  _Thr._ O we will find many. (_Shouts heard._) What is
that? (_More shouts._) It must be Cæsar: he is coming
this way. Be not seen talking with me: go you that
way: I will remain. Farewell.

  _Pr._ Farewell, Thrasea. [_Exit._

      _Thr._ Young blood, hot blood and true:
    Yet is his energetic patriotism
    Useless,—nay, like a weapon out of date,
    Looks not to be a warlike weapon more.
    I think in me it had been truer wisdom,                           60
    Knowing the forces of this drowning time,
    To have said outright—Good, honest Priscus,
    Be good no longer, let thine honesty
    Rot, it can stead thee nothing; there’s no man
    Will be the better for it; there’s no field
    Where thou canst exercise it, not a place
    In all the world where in secure possession
    Thou mayst retire with it: cast it away;
    For ’tis a burden far beyond thy freight.
    If thou wilt swim at all, swim with the times,                    70
    An empty bottom on a shallow tide:
    Be that thy seamanship—No; I am bold to say
    Our virtue hath the topmost vaunt of honour;
    Seeing we are true to it in spite of shame,
    When its incompetence before the world
    Gives it the lie; nor can the fawning curs,
    That bask in Cæsar’s sunshine, when they mock us,
    Dream that we wish them other than they are.
    I give them joy. See here is folly’s king,
    The hare-brained boy to whom injurious fortune                    80
    Has given the throne and grandeur of the world:
    Now if I bow my head ’tis in thy game,
    Ridiculous fate; and my soul laughs at thee.

    [_Retires aside._

      _Enter Nero, Otho, Lucan, Tigellinus, and Paris._

      _NERO._

    This is the place: enlarge it on this side
    To take in all the hill. That house of Rufus
    That blocks the way must down, and all the piles
    On the south slope. Now say, is’t fine or no?

      _LUCAN._

    Magnificent.

      _OTHO._

                 It shows the mind of Cæsar.

      _TIGELLINUS._

    Splendid.

      _Ner._    At least the best: we still regret
    A better than the best; and I can see                             90
    These possibilities. Think if the hill
    Were raised some hundred feet, till it o’ertopped
    The Capitol—eh! lords. And so ’twere best;
    But still ’twill pass for good.

      _Luc._                        ’Twill be a palace
    For site and size the first in all the world.

      _Ner._ To kill the Jews’ brag of Jerusalem?

      _Oth._ I think it.

      _Ner._             You, my friends, who know my scheme,
    May mete and judge my general scope in this,
    A sample of my temper coined and uttered                          99
    For the world’s model, that all men’s endeavours
    May rise with mine to have all things at best,
    Not only for myself but for the world;
    Riches and joy and heart’s content for all.
    It may be done, and who should do it but I?
    See now my years at best, my youth and strength
    With form and gifts agreeing, and my power,....
    Know’st thou my power?—Oh! Otho, I tell thee
    The Cæsars which have been have never known
    What ’tis to be full Cæsar. Dost thou think?
    There’s nothing good on earth but may be won                     110
    With power and money; and I have them both;
    Ay, and the will.

      _Oth._            Much may be done, no doubt.

      _Ner._ Much! Why there’s nothing, man, may not be done.
    The curse of life is of our own devising,
    Born of man’s ignorance and selfishness.
    He wounds his happiness against a cage
    Of his own make, and only waits the word
    For one to set his door open,—and look,
    Having his liberty is he not glad
    As heaven’s birds are?—Now when fate’s ordinance
    Sends him a liberator, ay, and one                               121
    Not to cajole or preach, but, will or nill,
    Who’ll force him forth and crush up his old cage,
    With all who would hang back and skulk therein,
    How shall he not be happy?

      _Luc._                     This shall be
    The world’s last crown, by man with utmost power
    Endowed to drive him to the good he shuns.

      _Ner._ Ay. Be all human hopes summed up in mine
    And reach their goal. I say there shall be peace,
    There shall be plenty, pleasure, and content:                    130
    The god on earth shall work the good whereof
    The folly of man hath baulked the gods in heaven:
    And good that men desire shall be as common
    As ills they now repine at. When I say
    There shall be justice, see, even at my word
    Injustice is no more.

      _PARIS._

                          The house of Rufus,
    Standing on justice there, will mar thy palace.

      _Ner._ Fool. Why, I say to Rufus—I am Cæsar,
    And need thy house.—Says he—It cost my sire
    Ten million sesterces.—A trifle that,                            140
    Say I, and give him twenty: and down it goes.
    Is not this more than justice?

      _Par._                       Ay, ’tis power.

      _Ner._ Thou quibbling meddler, learn this point of wit,
    To keep thy sphere; answer in that: last night
    Sang I divinely? Wert thou envious
    When I put on the lion’s skin, and did
    The choice of Hercules?

      _Par._                Most mighty Cæsar,
    I wished that I had asses ears to hear;
    Mine are not long enough.

      _Ner._                 Plague on thy jesting.
    See static virtue stalks with folded arm                         150
    To set thee down.      [_Thrasea comes forward._

      _Thr._            Hail, Cæsar!

      _Ner._                        Thy opinion,
    Thrasea, come, thy opinion. What dost thou think
    If I extend my palace to take in
    The hill whereon we stand?

      _Thr._                    The plan no doubt
    Is worthy of the site, and for the site,
    Why, ’tis the darling spot of Rome.

      _Ner._                            Well said.
    Stay. I would ask my fellow senator
    Wherefore he left the house three days ago
    Without his voice or vote.

      _Thr._                   I judged the time                     159
    Unmeet to speak; and, for my vote, the senate
    Was of one mind: a vote was of no count.

      _Ner._ Thou show’dst a sense against us in not voting.

      _Thr._ That must thou look for, Cæsar, in the senate.

      _Ner._ Well, I would have thee speak. We are not full
    Without thy voice: nay more, such conduct makes
    The senate but a name; for times have been
    When silence was well justified by fear.
    Now we court criticism, ay, and look ill
    On those that grudge their approbation.                          169

      _Thr._ Cæsar commands my service and my praise;
    I shall not lack.

      _Ner._          We look for much from thee.

      _Thr._ Long live your majesty.      [_Exit._

      _Ner._                       There’s something good
    In that man, Otho; spite of his dry mien
    And Stoic fashion.

      _Oth._           Nay, I like him not.
    He’s hardly flesh and blood. Old Seneca
    Is stiff and prosy enough; but if you pinch him,
    You find he yields, shows softness here and there.
    This man is merely stone, foursquare by rule.

      _Ner._ Do you despise divine philosophy?

      _Oth._ Well, as I take it, all philosophy                      180
    Is questionable guessing, but the sense
    A man grows up with bears the stamp of nature.

      _Ner._ How mean you that?

      _Oth._                    At best this fine-spun system
    Is but a part of man’s experience
    Drawn out to contradiction of the rest.
    ’Tis a fool’s wisdom.

      _Luc._              ’Tis a form of pleasure.

      _Oth._ True. Though there be no theory of life
    That’s worth a button, yet the search for one
    Seems to content some men better than life.

      _Ner._ Call him not fool, Otho!

      _Oth._                          Unless I wrong him,
    I speak as well of him as he of me.                              191
    Or if he say nothing, his guarded manner
    Covers, be sure, a more unkind contempt.

      _Par._ (_apeing Thr._). That must thou look for, Cæsar, in the
            senate.

      _Tig._ Ha! ha! Excellent!

      _Ner._                    Paris would make a senator.

      _Oth._ Well, give me life.

      _Ner._                    Ay, that is wisdom. Live.
    Enjoy the hour; which minds me, for to-night
    I have time well disposed: we sup with Actè;
    She will inaugurate the new pavilion,
    And after, there are masks and clubs provided.                   200
    Thou’lt join us, eh!

      _Oth._              With all my heart.

      _Ner._ (_to Tig. and Luc._).              And you.
    And you. And, Paris, see Petronius comes,
    And Anicetus. Hence, and bid them now.

    [_Exit Paris._

    Good news for them I think; pleasure in store.
    We’ll make a merry night. Now tell me, Otho,
    You’re a good judge, have you ever seen a woman
    Fit to compare with Actè?

      _Oth._                    I say no.

      _Ner._ I mean not, man, for what our grandsires praised,
    Who knew no better; I mean the perfect art                       209
    Which makes each moment feverous.

      _Oth._                            I know none.

      _Ner._ ’Tis spoke as if thy judgment or thy envy
    Grudged me the word.

      _Oth._             Nay, Cæsar.

      _Ner._                        O, I know
    Thou’rt a good husband, thy good wife commands thee.

      _Oth._ Say, my good fortune, Cæsar.

      _Ner._                            Now if thy boast
    Be true as it is rare, thy lady’s presence
    Would add much spirit to our gaieties.
    I have never seen Poppæa, say that to-night
    Thou bring her.

      _Oth._          In this thing, for friendship’s sake,
    Hold me excused.

      _Ner._           Nay, no constraint; thy wish
    Is all in all. Wrong me not; I would not have,                   220
    And least to thee, my pleasures a command;
    But my commands are pleasures. Let us go.

    [_Exeunt._


SCENE · 2

_A room in the palace. Enter OCTAVIA and BRITANNICUS._

      _BRITANNICUS._

    Why art thou weeping, dearest? Has Nero been
    Again unkind?

      _OCTAVIA._

                  Most unkind.

      _Br._                 Weep not so.
    Octavia, weep not so.
    Count but my tears as thine, so shall my pity
    Comfort thy wrongs. Nay, wert thou not my sister,
    How must I feel to see so base a rival
    Honoured before thyself in Cæsar’s palace!
    Why even his mother could not grant him that                     230
    Unmoved, but wept with rage: while he himself,
    I saw, was touched with shame.

      _Oct._                         Hush, hush! nay, ’tis not that;
    I mind not that: at least they tell me now
    I must not mind; and since he never loved me
    It matters little. ’Tis not that at all.

      _Br._ Then something fresh; what more?

      _Oct._                                 I scarce dare tell.
    What hast thou said or done, Britannicus,
    That so could anger him?

      _Br._                    Ah! is’t with me then
    He is angry? Dost thou weep for me?

      _Oct._                              For both.

      _Br._ Now tell me all, sister.

      _Oct._                         O, ’tis the worst.              240
    Here as I sat this morning strode he in,
    More fired with rage than ever I have seen him,
    More like his wicked mother, when her fury
    Has made me tremble. All he said I heard not,
    But this, that I, his wife, had turned against him
    To plot with thee, and led thee on to boast
    That being of age thou wert the rightful heir,
    And more: what is his meaning?

      _Br._                          ’Tis his spite
    To seek my fault in thee.

      _Oct._                    Nay, that were nothing.
    Brother, I fear thou wilt be sent from Rome.                     250
    He dare not face the truth. He cannot brook
    Thy title: thou must go, ay, thou wilt go
    And leave me in my prison.

      _Br._                      ’Twas last night
    I vexed him suddenly in his cups, but thought
    ’Twould be as soon forgotten.

      _Oct._                        Say, how was it?

      _Br_. It was the feast of Saturn,—and as it chanced
    (Or rather, I should say, ’twas so arranged
    To please him, at his own desire) he drew
    The lot of king of the feast, and when the company
    Were drunk he used his silly privilege                           260
    To have me be their fool.

      _Oct._                    Didst thou rebuke him?

      _Br._ It happened thus. When all the guests in turn
    Had answered to their forfeit, as his humour
    Prescribed to each, he turned on me, and bade me
    Show them a tragic scene, foreseeing how
    The incongruence of time and place, the audience
    Of drunken sots would turn my best to worst,
    And smother passion in a sea of laughter.
    But, for the wine I had been constrained to taste
    Had mounted to my head, I felt at heart                          270
    A force to wither up their sottish jeers,
    And ere I knew my purpose I was sitting
    Upright upon the couch, and with full passion
    Singing the old Greek song thou saidst so well
    Suited our fortunes.

      _Oct._               O, would I had been there!
    They could not laugh at thee.

      _Br._                         They did not laugh.
    The sadness and the sweetness of the music,
    After their low hoarse songs, startled to sense
    Their sodden, maudlin brains: they listened all
    To the end, and then with daunted appetite                       280
    Sat in constraint and silence.

      _Oct._                         Oh! well done!
    And what said Nero?

      _Br._               He but smiled until
    The tale tells how the poor child disinherited
    Was put to death by his usurping brother;
    Then his eye sank; and last, when Paris rose
    At the end and praised my acting, he grew wild,
    And said the feast was o’er, and bade us go.

      _Oct._ Alas! ’twas done too well.

      _Br._                             I mind it not:
    I wear no mask: and manifold occasion
    Will oft surprise our closest guard, provoking                   290
    Unbidden motions that betray the heart:
    ’Twere vain to seek to quell them: they are like our shadows,
    Which, if the sun shine forth, appear and show
    Our form and figure. Such haps cannot be helped.

      _Enter Agrippina and attendants._

      _ATTENDANT._

    The Augusta, your royal mother.

      _AGRIPPINA._

    Good day, my son.

      _Br._             Good morrow, mother.

      _Agr._ Octavia still here! Child, why, know you not
    ’Tis long past noon, and Dionysius
    Waits in the library? Begone, begone!
    What! crying? Here’s a picture to recover                        300
    A husband’s favour!—Fulvia, attend my daughter
    Into my tiring-room, and treat her eyes
    To hide these scalded rings: and then, Octavia,
    Go to the library, talk thy full hour;
    Thy Greek is shameful. The rest go.

    [_Exeunt Octavia and attendants._

                                        My son,
    I’d speak with thee.

      _Br._ My mother’s pleasure?

      _Agr._                      Thou art my pleasure, child.
    Fear me no more. I can be kinder to thee
    Than ever I have been to my own true son.                        309

      _Br._ I thank your majesty.

      _Agr._                      Nay, now ’tis spoilt.
    Best call me mother. Thou hast need of me.
    I have heard all; what happed last night at supper.
    Thou hast offended Cæsar.

      _Br._                     He does wrong
    To use the freedom of the feast to insult me,
    And then resent my freedom in repelling
    His right-aimed insult.

      _Agr._                  True; the liberty
    Should cover it: but in thy veins there runs
    That which outcries thy speech; which, wert thou dumb,
    Would speak thee guilty, and being tongued proclaims
    Thy needful sentence. ’Twas done bitterly.                       320
    I know thy song. Dost thou believe, Britannicus,
    That I could give the tale another ending?—
    —Suppose, I say, I read it in some book
    Writ differently: how that the proud usurper,
    Owing all to his mother—dost thou follow me?—
    How, when he came to power, instead of sharing
    With her who had toiled for him, and in her love
    Had parted from all praise, looking to reap
    In him the fuller recompense of glory,
    How he, when time came he should make return,
    Denied her even the common duty owed                             331
    By son to mother, set her will aside,
    Laughed at her, added to her shames, reproached her,
    Mocked her with presents taken openly
    Out of her treasures,—as to say outright,
    All now is mine, thou hast no claim at all;
    See what I choose to give, thank me for these—
    Held her as nothing, hated her, brought in
    His strumpet to her chamber,—that was the sum—
    And she then, when she saw her love derided,                     340
    I say, repented, came to the boy she had wronged....

      _Br._ I know, I know.

      _Agr._                Then, if thou knowest, say;
    What said he, when she told him she would turn
    Her love on him, would set him in the place
    Whence she had thrust him out? What said he?

      _Br._                                        Nothing.

      _Agr._ Nothing!

      _Br._           Nay, I remember he said thus:
    Wronged have I been by all, and none can right me;
    All hath been false to me save sorrow only;
    Justice and truth forsworn: There is no word                     349
    That I dare speak; yet if thou stoop to insult me
    My tongue will show my wrongs are not forgotten.

      _Agr._ My dearest boy, believe me.

      _Br._                              The last time
    Thou call’dst me thus ’twas when my father died.
    I thought then ’twas in kindness, afterwards
    I found the meaning.

      _Agr._               Yea, I confess I wronged thee;
    That is my meaning now: had I not wronged thee,
    My speech would have no sense at all: ’tis this
    I come to urge: in this thou must believe me.
    Canst thou not see, had I no pity in me,
    No true remorseful pangs, yet still my wrongs                    360
    Would move me thus? Though thou trust not my love,
    Read in these tears of anger and despair
    The depth of my set purpose, my revenge.

      _Br._ I partly do believe thee.

      _Agr._                          Believe me wholly,
    And my revenge is thine.

      _Br._                    Nay, think not so.
    There’s blood in thy revenge; I’ll none of it.
    What are my private wrongs to Rome? If Cæsar
    Stablish the empire, where’s the citizen
    Will take exception that he hath wronged his brother?
    Since were I Cæsar I would vail my rights                        370
    To theirs, I still will act as I were Cæsar.

      _Agr._ O could’st thou see this offer as thy last
    And only safety thou would’st not refuse me.

      _Br._ I rather hope to be forgiven the thing
    I never thought, than win by doing it.

      _Agr._                                 Thou wilt not join with me?

      _Br._                          There’s nought to join,
    Save to thy will to right me I might join
    A hope of justice, to vain will vain hope.

      _Agr._ Think for thy sister, boy. She cannot long
    Be Cæsar’s wife. Then, were her brother Cæsar,
    She might be matched with any excellence.                        381
    Octavia’s happiness lies on thy word.

      _Br._ Octavia, dear Octavia—Now if thou’rt true
    There is a way. This matter’s full presentment
    Hath not been strange to me, though I have barred the thought
    And held no purpose in it; there’s one way:
    Those that have wronged can right. If thou would’st speak
    With Burrus, he is plain and honourable,
    And if he think there’s gain in the exchange,
    And his heart goes with it, he has the guards,—my name,          390
    The sense of right, the promise of a largess,
    Will win them to a man. The senate follows:
    In a day, an hour, without a drop of blood
    My wrongs are righted. Wilt thou speak with Burrus?

      _Agr._ I dare not.

      _Br._              Then do nothing. Or if thou canst,
    Assure thy son that from my helpless state
    And suffering spirit he has nought to fear.

      _Agr._ Nay, thou wert right: and though ’tis difficult,
    I’ll speak with Burrus. ’Tis a most bold stroke,
    But I can dare it. Good Burrus owes me much.      [_Exit._

      _Br._ Strange, strange indeed. I have heard it said that murder   401
    Falls on itself: that in the guilty breast
    The implacable crime ploughs up with rooting tusk
    The bleeding strings of nature: and in this woman
    Of no remorse hath fated vengeance stirred
    Her heart to hate her son. O, I did wrong
    Yielding a little. Yet, since Burrus loves me,
    That he should rule my fate is my best safety.
    For her, if she’s my foe, he may work on her.—
    These days have brought much change and food for fear.           410



                               ACT · II


                               SCENE · I

_A room in Seneca’s house, SENECA and BURRUS._

      _SENECA._

    The Armenian papers came through me last evening;
    I sent them on at once.

      _BURRUS (refusing a seat)._

                            Nay, thank ye, Seneca:
    I have been two hours in the saddle.

      _Sen._                               ’Tis a matter
    Of heavy import.

      _Bur._           I demanded audience.

      _Sen._ Well?

      _Bur._       All is settled.

      _Sen._                       And who has the commission
    To undertake the Parthian?

      _Bur._                     Corbulo.

      _Sen._ ’Tis good. I like the choice. And what said Nero?

      _Bur._ He told me well and wisely what to do,
    When I had shown him all that must be done.

      _Sen._ I wish his judgment were as tractable                   420
    With me. Took he your word?

      _Bur._                      The affair went pat.
    What luck for Corbulo!

      _Sen._                 Pray sit, good Burrus,
    And let us talk: my thought is most at ease
    When I am sitting.

      _Bur._             I pray you then be seated.

      _Sen._ (_sitting_). Burrus, my difficulties day by day
    Increase. The cares of empire are as nothing
    To managing an emperor.

      _Bur._                  Why, what’s the matter?

      _Sen._ Give but attention to me.

      _Bur._                           I attend.

      _Sen._ Do so most carefully: ’tis not a business
    That may be brushed aside.

      _Bur._                     I am all attention.                 430

      _Sen._ Nero has broken with Britannicus:
    Heard you of that?

      _Bur._             Heard of it? I was there.

      _Sen._ Well, that has brought to head the jealous difference
    ’Twixt Cæsar and his mother. Since he first,
    At our advice, as was most fit, denied her
    A place in power, she has striven to force a title
    Out of her power for mischief: this you have seen:
    But now to hear how she hath edged her practice;
    She overskins her old accustomed hate
    Of young Britannicus, speaks kindly of him,                      440
    Hints of his right; nay, even hath dared upbraid
    Cæsar with usurpation. This was matched
    With words from him, which she no sooner heard
    Than in her rage disordered flew she hither
    To win me to her part; when seeing that I
    Stood firm, she fled in furious passion, saying
    That I should learn what temper she was of.

      _Bur._ I would that all the gods and goddesses
    Might burn them up to cinders.

      _Sen._                         Peace, I say.
    Cannot you sit? I need your best advice.                         450

      _Bur._ Except the lad.—Advice concerning what?

      _Sen_. Why this new phase of court affairs. See you,

    [_Takes a paper._

    ’Twas my just counterpoise of warring forces
    Ensured stability. Here Agrippina,
    Saved from her own ambition in the splendour
    Of her son’s estate, serves in his interest
    To guard Britannicus, whom else he had feared.
    The boy, in favour of his sister’s title,
    Sinks his own right. Then Nero’s youthful passions,
    Growing to hatred of Octavia’s bed,                              460
    Are stayed at equilibrium, as my judgment
    And knowledge of the world enables me;
    And all goes well, when an important factor,
    The empress, rounds, and plays me false to her motive,
    As here assumed, and vitiates with that flaw
    The nice adjustment of each several item.—
    I go to expound you this; you scarce attend,
    Or answer with an oath.

      _Bur._                  A pious prayer
    To extricate you from a world of trouble.

      _Sen._ O, I can do it, Burrus, trust to me.                    470
    I place them all as chessmen, and I find
    Delight in difficulty: but ’tis hard,
    When one has chosen, strengthened a position,
    To change the value of a piece. I think
    Much of your judgment, and I ask you now
    What you would do. I must decide to-day.

      _Bur._ Why must?

      _Sen._           As if you knew not.

      _Bur._                               If your art
    Be to adapt yourself to every change....

      _Sen._ You know ’tis not. I say, should Nero now
    Banish his mother?

      _Bur._             Hark ye, Seneca,                            480
    If you remember, I foresaw this trouble.
    I know no remedy, nor is’t my office
    To arrange the affairs of the palace, gods be praised.
    But this is clear to me, that our three friends
    Will never live together: what I urge
    Is, separate them: if you cannot that,
    We must not stick in balance when they break.
    Whene’er that happens, our pre-eminent duty
    Lies in our oath to Cæsar, and our second                        489
    May be his mother’s pleasure, to whose schemes
    We owe our place.      [_Knocking heard._

      _Sen._            Who’s there? come in.

      _Enter Servant._

      _SERVANT._

                                            The Augusta
    Has come in private, and desires an audience.

      _Sen._ Again, you see, the Augusta.

      _Bur._                              Eh! I’ll be off.

      _Sen._ One moment, pray. (_To Servt._) Beg her be
         pleased to enter.      [_Exit Servt._

    Burrus, I adjure you not to go, your presence
    May moderate her passion: or, if not,
    ’Twere best you saw it.

      _Bur._                  Well, all’s one to me.

      _Enter Agrippina._

      _AGRIPPINA._

    Be not surprised that I so soon return:
    I have repented. Ha! the general here!
    Thou seest me, Burrus, on a woman’s errand.                      500
    Nay, no apology; thou hast o’erheard
    My merit, not my fault.

      _Bur._                  I thank your majesty.
    I will withdraw.

      _Agr._           Nay, I desire thee stay.
    I came not here to find thee; but thy presence
    Mends my intention. Let us hold a council.
    ’Tis not the first time our triumvirate,
    Secretly gathered in the nick of time,
    Hath preordained the changes which should fall
    Upon the earth like fate. To-day’s decree,
    If we combine, will be as big with action                        510
    As any we have uttered.

      _Bur._                  I fear I stand
    In ignorance of the question.

      _Sen._                        I will explain.

      _Agr._ Listen to me. We three who here are met
    Stand in such place, that, if we but unite,
    There’s none can say us nay. I do not ask
    Who raised thee, Burrus, or thee, Seneca,
    To where ye are: nay, if I asked you that
    I’d look for no more answer than if asking
    What two and two make; ’tis self-evident,
    Unquestioned; it was I; and if you owe                           520
    Allegiance to another, ’tis to one
    Whom I made more than I made you; ay, one
    Who has nothing but what was mine, and is mine:
    His body mine, his life and being mine,
    His power, his place, his honour mine, my son,
    My Nero, who, when my husband late deceased,
    The honest Claudius, passed to join the gods,
    Was raised and set by me under your guidance,
    To share with me the empire of the world.
    Now what it may be that hath warped his heart                    530
    Is from the matter: enough that so it is.
    I might blame one of you, sure not myself,
    Who have ever held in love and kindness towards him
    The same intention; nay, and from my kindness
    I swerve not now, though for a wholesome end
    I mask that kindness in severity.
    There’s but this choice, I must withdraw my favour,
    Or suffer my disgrace: ay, and for you,
    Burrus and Seneca, be sure, the same.
    If I fall, ye will fall. Therefore being one                     540
    In interest with me, I look to find you ready
    To stand by me in any scheme of action
    Which may preserve our station, while we may.

      _Sen._ Your majesty says well. We have hitherto
    All held one purpose, and if now we are foiled
    Or thwarted, none is thwarted more than I.
    And since it is my pride, in the high place
    Whereto your judgment called me, to exceed
    The measure which might justify your choice,
    I shall not fail. In these new difficulties                      550
    I would make no display of fresh resource;
    Full means there will be, yet what means it is
    I am not ripe to say.

      _Agr._                What say’st thou, Burrus?
    The matter Seneca avoids is this:
    Shall I be driven to exile, or will ye
    Join with me to forbid it?

      _Bur._                     Hath your majesty,
    In urging opposition, any scheme
    That might give life to policy?

      _Agr._                          Ay, something.
    I would protect Britannicus: his claim
    And popularity being pressed, must drive                         560
    Nero upon my side.

      _Bur._             Such act were merely
    The boy’s destruction, were’t not done in earnest
    And backed by force.

      _Agr._               Then, since the case demands
    All earnestness, and since we lack not force.....

      _Bur._ Between your son’s rule and your stepson’s claim
    There lies no middle way.

      _Agr._                    I never held
    That a stout purpose chose a middle way.

      _Sen._ What, what! Consider, madam, what you urge
    Is to dethrone your son.

      _Agr._                   I am desperate.

      _Sen._ Indeed, indeed!                                         570

      _Agr._ What say’st thou, Burrus? Hast thou not a hope
    The rightful heir might prove the better Cæsar?

      _Bur._ Were this in earnest, yet my oath to Cæsar
    Forbids me even to think the thing you say.

      _Agr._ Thy oath to him! Rather to me ’twas sworn;
    Who raised thee up to swear, and made the Cæsar
    For thee to swear to? I can dispense your oaths:
    Or rather, since they were unjustly sworn,
    Justice dispenses them. ’Twould be a deed
    Truer than oaths to break the oaths ye swore.                    580

      _Bur._ Justice is still against you. ’Twas unjust
    To burn the will of Claudius; ’twas unjust
    To hide Britannicus, and to bring forth
    Your own son in his place: these things were wrongs,
    And these old wrongs would you redub with new.
    For when upon your wrongs Rome set her seal,
    Her choice made right of wrong, and we that swore,
    Swore not to Nero or Britannicus,
    But unto Rome and to her chosen Cæsar.                           589

      _Agr._ Nay, Seneca, I think, will scarce say thus.

      _Sen._ Burrus is right; and were he wrong, your scheme
    But complicates the mischief.

      _Agr._                        Then ye desert me?

      _Sen._ Nay, nay, in other ways I may do much.
    I may win Nero back.

      _Agr._               The thought is folly;
    We fight against him.

      _Sen._                Oh! ’tis open treason.

      _Agr._ Eh! Why, I think my son’s ingratitude
    Is nought to this; he had the right to expect
    My favours: but for you, whom I chose out
    And set above the rest because I chose,
    Made you my friends because I chose, for you                     600
    There is no excuse. Had ye no motive, yet
    To see a woman in distress like mine,
    Wronged by her son, and injured as no woman
    Has ever been, should rouse a manly spirit,
    Ay, make a coward burn to do me right.
    But ye stand there aloof, and not a word.
    O good Seneca,
    Rememberest thou thy days in Corsica?
    The stoic letters of thine exile, writ
    With Naso’s pang, and that exuberant page                        610
    To me, at the first tidings of recall.
    I have it still, the letter, superscribed
    _Your most devoted slave._ Was not that felt?
    Had’st thou not cause? Now is the opportunity
    Of my distress, now I stand to lose all,
    All that those hard times strove for, all they won.
    The faith thou owest me, still may make all mine;
    Wilt thou deny it me?

      _Sen._                Alas, good lady!

      _Agr._                                 Alas!
    Is this the vein? Think you I come to hear
    Your lamentations? Ah! ye dare, I see,                           620
    Pity me while ye wrong me: but the truth
    Ye dare not say. Ye dare not say, Lo, we,
    Raised by your clemency, sworn to your service,
    Seeing your fair wind is changed, and there’s no hope
    Left to your following, do as all knaves do,
    Leave you to perish. Ah, all’s lost, all’s lost!      [_Weeps._

      _Bur._ (_to Sen._). Business attending me at home, I go.  [_Going._

      _Agr._ Thou goest! Then go, thou wooden counterfeit.
    Nay, I’ll be with thee yet. (_Exit Bur._) Pooh! let him go,
    An ugly, one-armed, upstart, sneaking knave:                     630
    A title seeker, a subservient villain.
    And thou,
    Philosopher! come, teach me thy philosophy.
    Tell me how I may be a dauntless Stoic
    And a most pitiful ass. Show me thy method
    Of magnanimity and self-denial,
    Which makes of slaves the richest men in Rome.
    Philosopher! Ay, thou that teachest youth
    Dishonesty, and coinest honied speeches
    To gloss iniquity, sand without lime.                            640
    Out, out upon thee!
    Thou miserable, painful, hackney-themed
    Botcher of tragedies, that deem’st thyself
    A new Euripides, a second Cato:
    A pedant rather, pander and murderer.
    I’ll let Rome know how pumpkin Claudius died;
    I’ll not be ashamed to say, ’twas I that spiced
    His fatal mushroom. Honest Seneca
    Stood by and smiled. True, true! I’ll be true yet;
    I’ll right Britannicus. I’ll tell the soldiers                   650
    What they should look for. Hear’st thou not their shouts?
    Seneca to the Tiber! the philosopher,
    The murderer to the Tiber! Fulvia, Fulvia!—
    Fulvia, I go. Come, I will leave; lead on.      [_Exit._

      _Sen._ And I to train the cub of such a dam!      [_Exit._


                               SCENE · 2

      _Room in Domitia’s house. Enter DOMITIA
    and SELEUCUS._

      _DOMITIA._

      ’Tis a most shrewd surmise, but nothing more;
    I cannot listen to it. Though I hate
    My sister, and would take some risk to crush her,
    Yet must I set my foot on surer ground.
    My better engine is Poppæa’s dream,                              660
    Of which thou’st told me: I can build on that.
    Thou should’st be there, I think, to-night.

      _SELEUCUS._

                                                Ay, madam.
    I go at once.

      _Dom._        Speak nothing waveringly.

      _Sel._ Nay, madam.

      _Dom._             ’Tis her fate to marry Cæsar.

      _Sel._ My art needs no instruction.

      _Dom._                              It must be so.

      _Sel._ It is so, madam.

      _Dom._                  See, thy prophecy
    Is that which should determine it. Go now. [_To door._
    Her purse will satisfy thee well.

      _Sel._                            Yet once
    Ere I be gone, madam, I’ll make a stand
    To win thy credit.                                               670

      _Dom._             Thou must show me cause.
    Thou say’st the Augusta plots against her son,
    Supports Britannicus, tampers with Burrus.
    How know’st thou this?

      _Sel._                 Why should I lie?

      _Dom._                                   I think
    There may be some who make it worth thy while.

      _Sel._ I would not meddle in this thing for money.

      _Dom._ Why tell me then at all?

      _Sel._                          To win thy help.

      _Dom._ To what?

      _Sel._          To save the prince.

      _Dom._                              If thou’rt in earnest,
    Where is thy confidence? Assure me first,
    At least, of what thou say’st. Whence know’st thou this?         680

      _Sel._ Fulvia, thy sister’s maid, rewards my love
    With many trifles: what she overhears
    I piece together.

      _Dom._            What of this was heard,
    And how much pieced?

      _Sel._               The Augusta sent all out,
    And spake long time in private with the prince.
    What passed I guess from this; that ere she left,
    Being risen to go, as Fulvia at the door
    Stood just without, she heard her voice most plainly
    Angrily entreating, saying, that though he doubted,
    Yet she would still with him regain her power:                   690
    If he held off yet he so far was right,
    As that ’twas best to speak with Burrus first.

      _Dom._ And has she since seen Burrus?

      _Sel._                                I think she hath.
    He lately came from Seneca’s, and there
    The Augusta must have met with him.

      _Dom._                              What passed?

      _Sel._ I know not yet. Fulvia will know and tell me.

      _Dom._ But can’st thou trust her?

      _Sel._                            Ay, she hath no purpose.
    Whate’er she hears is mine.

      _Dom._                      Then make this thine.
    Her tampering with Britannicus is nought:
    But if she speak with Burrus, there is matter                    700
    That I can work on. Ay, if that should be—
    Make sure of that, and bring me word at once.
    To-night thou hast thy business; go and do it.
    Poppæa marries Cæsar.

      _Sel._                Madam, I go.      [_Exit._

      _Dom._ Now, my good sister, if this tale is true,
    Thy fortune turns: I trample on thee now.
    Ay, if she have spoke with Burrus, then one word
    To Nero, and she is doomed. Patience and time
    Bring us all opportunities: we need
    But watch and wait. The way I least expected                     710
    She runs within the reach of my revenge.      [_Exit._


                               SCENE · 3

      _Room in Otho’s house. Enter POPPÆA._

      _POPPÆA._

    My dream was strange: but why of all strange dreams
    Stands forth this dream, to say it hath a meaning?
    There lies the mystery: the dream were nothing.
    ’Tis such a dream as I have prayed to dream.
    ’Tis such a dream as an astrologer
    Must love to interpret. Nay, there’s but one way
    Seleucus can explain it.

      _Enter Seleucus._

                             I looked for thee
    An hour ago: thou’rt late.

      _SELEUCUS._

                               The seasons, lady,                    720
    Of divination are determinate
    By stars and special omens: ’tis our skill
    To observe their presage. The hour is favourable.
    Thy dream ...

      _Pop._        Is’t good?

      _Sel._                   Beyond thy hope.

      _Pop._                                    Then tell it.

      _Sel._ Two thousand sesterces....

      _Pop._                           I have it here.
    See! I was ready for thee.      [_Gives him a purse._

      _Sel._                     I thank thee, lady.

      _Pop._ Now for thy message.

      _Sel._                      I have sought out thy dream
    By every means our art....

      _Pop._                    Mind not the means.

      _Sel._ There is one interpretation clear throughout....

      _Pop._ And that?                                               730

      _Sel._           Thou shalt be wife unto two Cæsars.

      _Pop._ Two! Now be Isis praised. Two! O, Seleucus,
    Thou’rt an astrologer. Two! this is life,
    Seleucus; this is life as well as fortune.
    What are the names?

      _Sel._              There ends my message, lady.

      _Pop._ ’Tis good so far, but stays unkindly. Search,
    I must know more. Above all things, the affair
    Is secret. (_Knocking heard._) I will send my servant to thee.
    Thou must be gone: our business will not suffer
    My husband stumbling on thee here. This way.

    [_Exit Seleucus, being put out._

    My dream was true: my hopes and schemes inspired
    Of heaven; yet this is far beyond them all.                      741
    Wife to two Cæsars; maybe, mother of Cæsars.

    [_Noise at door._

    To sit upon their rare, successive thrones,
    A manifold Augusta! Here’s my husband.
    What would he say? Two Cæsars, ay, two Cæsars!

    [_Laughing heard without._

      _Enter Otho._

      _OTHO._

    Good evening, love.

      _Pop._              Who laughed with thee without?

      _Oth._ Lucan. He walked with me from Cæsar’s supper.

      _Pop._ Was Cæsar riotous?

      _Oth._                    Beyond all bounds.

      _Pop._ See what you husbands are. You go abroad
    For pleasure, and when met among yourselves                      750
    Push all to excess, and never think how patiently
    Your wives must mope at home, and wait your coming.
    And when you do return, up to the door
    You bring your merriment; but at the door
    ’Tis left, and in you come, in solemn glumness,
    To vent the sour reaction of your revels
    Upon your housekeeper.

      _Oth._                 Enough, Poppæa;
    I would be cheered.

      _Pop._              Then I will cheer thee, love.
    But what’s the matter?

      _Oth._                 Listen. Thou hast reproached me
    With going forth alone. What else could be?                      760
    Would’st thou consent to sit there at my side,
    Where I, a man, am oft ashamed to sit?
    Would’st thou, could’st thou be one among the women
    Of Cæsar’s fancy?

      _Pop._            I spake not seriously.

      _Oth._ See, but I do. I tell thee, love, this night
    Thou wert invited.

      _Pop._             I!

      _Oth._                He would have pressed it.

      _Pop._ Who would have pressed it?

      _Oth._                            Cæsar.

      _Pop._                                   What dost thou say?

    (_Aside._) He treads on prophecy.

      _Oth._                            Knowing thy mind,
    And mine, I begged him for our friendship’s sake
    Urge me no further.

      _Pop._              Thou did’st well, and he?                  770

      _Oth._ Again to-night he asked for thee. ’Twas this
    Which made me sad and thoughtful.

      _Pop._                            Why be sad?

      _Oth._ The meaning, love, the meaning: thou must guess it.

      _Pop._ The very reason, Otho, which thou urgest
    Against my going, is in truth the reason
    Why such as I should go. As Cæsar’s friend,
    Thou would’st do well to save him from the slough
    He daily sinks in.

      _Oth._             Nay, but such a stake
    For such a flimsy hope.

      _Pop._                  I see a hope
    In the invitation. Otho, let us see                              780
    What may be done among his friends.

      _Oth._                              Poppæa,
    ’Tis generously thought, but ’tis a thing
    Must not be thought. Trust to my judgment, love.
    ’Tis Cæsar’s love of power that threats us here;
    He would have nought held from him. Thee I hold,
    And most because I know thou would’st be mine.

      _Pop._ Then thou must trust me, Otho.

      _Oth._                                And so I do.

      _Pop._ Why, I were well his match. Let us go in.

    [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 4

      _Room in the Palace. Enter AGRIPPINA and
    PALLAS._

      _AGRIPPINA._

      Pallas, thy date is out: thou art dismissed;
    Thou goest from the court: yet what thou takest                  790
    May soften thy regrets. Thy shiny days
    Were not misspent, and thou may’st live like Cæsar.
    Farewell, we still are friends: the debt I owe
    I shall remember: ’twas thy power that first
    Gave root to mine: for thee, I think my favours
    Were once thy pleasure. If those days are gone,
    We can look time in the face; we have not wasted
    The days that flew: ’tis now with what remain
    Still to be careful. Friends and firm allies.

      _Pal._ Ay, firm as ever.

      _Agr._                   Nay, though thou goest first,
    That is not much: even that I cannot save thee                   801
    Is sign that I am fallen ere thou could’st fall:
    A deeper, deadlier fall, unless indeed
    My wit can save me still.

      _Pal._                    Alas, dear queen,
    Fear makes this parting sad. But if there’s hope,
    ’Tis this, to gain thy son.

      _Agr._                      Ay, till our schemes be ripe;
    And even though Seneca betray me,—and that
    Is sure,—I fear not him. I know my son
    Better than he, and I shall win him yet.
    My plan is now to seem resigned to all:                          810
    I will pretend my purpose is to leave him,
    And fly from Rome to voluntary exile.
    ’Twill work upon his fear and duty both,
    To cut himself quite off from me, and all
    That goes with me. He will entreat me stay;
    And if I stay—

      _Pal._          Ay, if this storm go by,
    The turns of time may offer us reprisals.
    At present use all means to gain thy son.

      _Agr._ I shall. Farewell.

      _Pal._                    Be bold. The gods protect you.
    Farewell.                                                        820

      _Agr._    Farewell.       [_Exeunt severally._

      _Enter Tigellinus and Paris._

      _TIGELLINUS._

    Look from the window: thou wilt see ’tis true;
    He takes all with him.

      _PARIS._

                           Nay, if this is all.

      _Tig._ This much were all: and yet this caravan
    Is but the least of six; His monstrous Grace
    Brings up the rear.

      _Par._              ’Tis nobly done of Cæsar.

      _Tig._ ’Tis noble, say you, that the thief go quit
    With all his plunder from the house he plundered?

      _Par._ Hark how the weasel can upbraid the fox!
    Good Tigellinus, there’s no need to grudge
    Pallas his scrapings; the sea is full of fish:                   830
    Rather thou should’st rejoice because thou seest
    Thy probable hap. Pray that as many mules,
    Litters and bags and bales, women and slaves
    May comfort thee.

      _Enter Nero with Domitia._

      _NERO._

                      Paris, what do you here?

      _Par._ I comfort Tigellinus on the fate
    Of his predecessor.

    Ner._ (_at window_). Gods! see what a train
    _Drags out the very bowels of the palace.
    No wonder my good mother’s man resigns
    With resignation.

      _Tig._            Ha! ha!

      _Ner._                    I seek the Augusta.
    She late was here; go find her; say I wait her.                  840

    [_Exeunt Tigellinus and Paris._

      _DOMITIA._

    Through my discovery, Nero, thy good fortune
    Lifts thee a corner of the veil whereunder
    Thy mother plots. Be not thou now deceived
    To further trust. She is bent upon thy ruin.

      _Ner._ Though it be true she urged Britannicus
    Even in those words, we lack the surety yet
    She spoke them in good faith.

      _Dom._                        O, there’s no doubt.

      _Ner._ My mother is very deep, and often looks
    Far from her meaning. She will use this way
    To worm a confidence.                                            850

      _Dom._                She did not then.

    Ner. Yet must the boy have thought so, for you said
    That what she urged he took not all in kindness.

      _Dom._ He bade her speak with Burrus.

      _Ner._                                The villainous brat!

      _Dom._ Drive not the fault on him. Did Burrus waver,
    Nothing could save thee. And it seems thy mother
    Had hope to win him. She comes; now be thou firm.
    I will be gone.      _[Exit._

      _Ner._ (_solus_). Now she cannot deceive me.

      _Enter Agrippina._

      _Agr._ My son, thy mother comes at thy command.

      _Ner._ O excellent mother!

      _Agr._                     What would’st thou with me, son?
    I come to hear, and yet I scarce am fit                          860
    For banter or abuse. I am ill to-day.

      _Ner._ No wonder; ’tis you do too much. ’Twere better
    You spared yourself. Go rest; my business
    Will not cure headaches.

      _Agr._              Speak whate’er it be.

      _Ner._ Nay, if you’re ill—

      _Agr._                      My sickness will not pass.
    To-morrow I shall leave thee; that last grief
    Will soon engulph the rest: speak while thou may’st.

      _Ner._ What’s this! leave me to-morrow?

      _Agr._                                  I would spare thee
    That worst disgrace of sending me away.
    I go of myself.                                                  870

      _Ner._          What now?

      _Agr._                    ’Tis well resolved.
    I have been foolish; ’twas a mother’s fault,
    A tender fault: forget it, and hereafter
    Know my love better. If my presence bred
    Dislike, thy kinder mind may yet return
    When I am gone.

      _Ner._          Why, what has happed, I pray?

      _Agr._ Nothing. I have only come to see my error.
    I thought, ’twas I that gave him all....

      _Ner._                                   Tut! tut!
    ’Tis the old story told a thousand times.

      _Agr._ Ay, and forgot as oft. Thy constant wrongs,
    I think, have dug my grave. Dost thou remember
    What answer once I made the sorcerer                             881
    Who prophesied thy fortune? Thy son, he said,
    Shall reign, and kill his mother. Let him kill me,
    So that he reign, I cried. He spake the truth,
    But ’tis by grief thou slay’st me.

      _Ner._                             That old rubbish
    Were best forgotten.

      _Agr._               Indeed, I had forgot it:
    But yesternight I dreamed it all again;
    A frightful dream: plain as I see thee now
    Stood’st thou before me thus, with angry words

    [_She acts._

    Mocking, until I wept for shame; but thou                        890
    Did’st only laugh the more. Then ran I to thee,
    And bared my breast, and cried, Kill me, O son!
    And thou fastened’st thy snaky eyes upon me,
    So that I could not see what thy hand did.
    But, oh! I knew. I heard thy weapon grate
    Leaving the scabbard, and a fiery pang
    Pierced through my heart. Ah!

      _Ner._ (_aside_). Heavens, is she mad?—
    Mother, good mother, mother!                                     899

      _Agr._ ’Twas nothing. Nay, where am I? I was come
    To hear thy speech. What is’t thou hast to say?

      _Ner._ (_aside_). If this were trickery? Let the fact try.—
    ’Twas this: what speech you held the other morning
    With young Britannicus.

      _Agr._ (_aside_).       Ah! knows he that?—
    Thy spies are most alert. This time, at least,
    I praise their zeal: though thou art slow to thank me
    For my kind service done to thee and him.

      _Ner._ Whether is it kinder, say you, to him to urge him
    To embrace the desperate plot, of which already
    He stood suspected, or more kind to me                           910
    To water this rebellion with the tears
    Of your insidious passion?

      _Agr._                     Your man’s a fool: I heard
    Your quarrel, and took pains to sound the boy.

      _Ner._ Next you saw Burrus.

      _Agr._                      Well, and what said he?

      _Ner._ Nay, that’s for you to tell.

      _Agr._                              ’Twas this: Britannicus
    Most truly said that nought could help his claim,
    Except the guards and Burrus: at which word
    I flew to Burrus, offered him the bait;
    And when he showed the scruple of his oath,
    Three words from me confirmed him.                               920

      _Ner._                             If this were true!

      _Agr._ How much you need me, Nero, will be plain
    When I am gone. Who has deceived you now?
    Who works this madness in you, to conceive
    That your disaster could be gain to me?
    Have you believed what angry words I spoke
    Were born of purpose, that my threats against you
    Were aught but passion? You count not the tears,
    The bitter, secret tears, for every pang
    Your wrongs have wrought in me; and bitterer far,
    The sharp remorse for each retaliation                           930
    Of speech provoked in anger. Let it end;
    ’Tis best I go.

      _Ner._          See! if you had gone before
    We had never quarrelled; now there’s nought to lose
    By going, ’tis a quarrel that you go.

      _Agr._ No quarrel, nay. ’Tis only this: I thought
    That in your love I held perpetual office.
    ’Tis not so. Now my time is out: I go
    As Pallas goes.

      _Ner._          The sleek, extortionate Pallas,
    Dost thou defend the despicable Pallas?

      _Agr._ I would be kind to friends; none will stand by you, 940
    If you cast off those to whom most you owe.
    ’Twas first through him I came to seize the power
    That made you Cæsar. Look! you have lost a friend.
    Be wiser when I am gone.

      _Ner._                   I have good friends,
    Burrus and Seneca: I trust them both.

      _Agr._ Cannot you read the cause why still they urge you
    To cast me off?

      _Ner._          ’Tis the disgrace they feel
    To see the empire managed by a woman.

      _Agr._ ’Tis the constraint they feel in all their actions
    Being overruled by me. Do you not see                            950
    They are my ministers, and you are ruled
    By them in all they counsel? Rid of me,
    They rule the world. Think you, when they have cast
    What was above them underneath their feet,
    They will have care to exalt what was below?

      _Ner._ They both are honest men; you chose them well.

      _Agr._ You are too trustful, Nero. As you love
    Your life, I say, be jealous of these men;
    These men that now would rule thee but to take
    The empire from thy hands. They may speak ill                    960
    Of me,—believe that if thou list,—but oh!
    If once they seem to encroach, delay not then;
    Hear no excuse nor explanation; strike,
    Kill them, I say, before they murder thee.

      _Ner._ But, mother, Seneca loves me.

      _Agr._                               As a master
    Will love a pupil while he takes instruction.
    He’ll love you while you let him reign. Alas!
    I scarce dare leave you to him. You are too kind;
    Will shrink to use the sword as it is needful
    For one who rules to wield.

      _Ner._                      You cannot think                   970
    These men would serve me so.

      _Agr._                       What is my purpose?
    My life’s one object, my supreme ambition?
    Was’t not to raise thee where thou art, and now
    Is’t not to keep thee there?

      _Ner._                       So once I thought.

      _Agr._ O think it yet. Look! there is none can love you,
    Nero, as I must love you; there’s not one
    Can guard you as I can. Have I not proved
    My power? While I am by you, it is yours.

      _Ner._ Stay then.

      _Agr._            O that it might be!

      _Ner._                                Thou shalt not go.
    Resign thy outward power; be in all else                         980
    As heretofore. Forget what I suspected.
    Be still my mother.

      _Agr._              Alas!

      _Ner._                    Yea, I will have it.

      _Agr._ It cannot be.

      _Ner._               Why not?

      _Agr._                        Seneca, my son,
    Will not permit it.

      _Ner._              Who is Seneca
    To say me nay?

      _Agr._         Unless you join with me
    He will o’errule you.

      _Ner._                He shall not o’errule me.

      _Agr._ For that I’d stay. I would give up all else
    To stand by you: ay, and be happy so.

      _Ner._ And so it shall be. Have thy private fortune,
    Remain in Rome.

      _Agr._          But can you trust me, Nero?                    990

      _Ner._ Nay, I will never more suspect thee. Kiss me.

      _Agr._ O, now you are good and kind. Tell me, who was it
    Did me this wrong?

      _Ner._             It was Domitia told me.
    She spied on thee.

      _Agr._             My sister! ha! you know not
    The grudge between us?

      _Ner._                 Yes, I know of that.

      _Agr._ And not suspect her slander? Did she also
    Commit Britannicus?

      _Ner._              She cast all blame
    On thee.

      _Agr._   I feared she might have wronged the boy.

      _Ner._ Is he, then, innocent?

      _Agr._                        I went so far
    In sounding him as even to risk my credit.                      1000
    Let not unjust suspicion add a weight
    To the just blame we bear. You must protect him.
    Promise me that.

      _Ner._           I will ask Seneca.

      _Agr._ Forgive, at least, his foolish indiscretion.
    He begged me make his peace. Now have I made it?

      _Ner._ I’ll think no more of that.

      _Agr._                             My dearest son,
    The joy of a good action will be yours
    As well as mine. O, I am happy now—
    Indeed, most happy now.

      _Ner._                  Come then, dear mother.

    [_Exeunt._



                               ACT · III


                               SCENE · 1

_The same. SENECA._

      _SENECA._

    Burrus was right. The more I think of it,
    The time has come that one or both must go;
    So the more dangerous first, then are we quit
    At once of all our mischief and disgrace.                       1013
    ’Tis past belief that she who plunged in crime
    To enthrone her son should now plot to dethrone him.
    There is no bridle for a wicked woman.
    Men may despise the venerable path
    Of virtue, and refuse the wholesome laws
    Of plain philosophy, but still they lean
    Towards reason, even in their wickedness.                       1020
    There’s an accountable consistency
    Found in their actions; but if once a woman
    Throw off, as men soon do, the first restraints
    Of credulous childhood; if her nature lack
    Tenderness, modesty, and that respect
    To self which sees in self a thing to guard
    From passion and caprice, and in the pleasure
    Of fitness finds a law,—if she lack that
    Or overpass it,—there’s no further bound:
    All things are mixed together; virtue, crime,                   1030
    Wisdom and folly. For they have a spirit
    Of infinite wrong genius. Rule, I say,
    Such women if you can; rule them with iron.

      _Enter Nero._

      _NERO._

    Good-morrow, Seneca. Thou comest in time;
    I need thy counsel.

      _Sen._              I am here to give it.

      _Ner._ Then tell me: Where I have been lately threatened,
    Am I in danger? I will use thy judgment.
    Is’t needful for my safety to remove
    Britannicus?

      _Sen._       I have well considered all.
    You must dismiss your mother.                                   1040

      _Ner._                        Not so, Seneca.
    She now resigns all power and sign of empire,
    And is content to live in quiet, retired
    With few attendants and contracted state.

      _Sen._ She offered terms?

      _Ner._                    See, since she now concedes
    All reasonable claims, my duty towards her
    Patches our quarrel.

      _Sen._               Whence this newborn trust?

      _Ner._ She must remain. What of Britannicus?

      _Sen._ He need not trouble you.

      _Ner._                          So said my mother.
    I had thought differently, and even had made
    Full preparation for his going hence.                           1050
    Would’st thou too bid me think there is no danger?

      _Sen._ None, if your mother goes.

      _Ner._                            But nay, she stays.

      _Sen._ That makes him dangerous.

      _Ner._                           Thy reason, Seneca?

      _Sen._ I well can guess, Nero, your mother’s vein
    With you in private: but ’twould much divert
    Your inclination from it, could you know
    Her latest way with me.

      _Ner._                  What hath she said?

      _Sen._ Will you now think she hath urged Burrus and me
    To set our honoured oaths and firm allegiance
    To you aside, as being unjustly sworn;                          1060
    To undo all she has done, and bring Britannicus
    Back to the people as Rome’s rightful heir?

      _Ner._ I knew this, Seneca; and if ’twere meant,
    Where lies the danger?

      _Sen._                 True; but then she vows
    Plainly that, rather than resign her power,
    She will make known her crimes, nor spare herself,
    If in the implication of her ruin
    She may involve us too. Know you of that?

      _Ner._ She could not mean it.

      _Sen._                        Certainly ’twas in passion
    Spoken, and fury: but ’tis such a thing                         1070
    As might be done in passion.

      _Ner._                       And what says Burrus?

      _Sen._ He too would urge, as I, the Augusta’s exile.

      _Ner._ Yet must she stay.

      _Sen._                    Nay, Nero, she must go.

      _Ner._ I bade thee, Seneca, to counsel me:
    Call’st thou this counsel? ’Tis in the exigence
    Of such affairs that their necessity
    Precludes the true decision: this thou’st taught me:
    And that the man of counsel is but he
    Who handles best the circumstance, most gently
    Resolves the knot, not cuts it. In this difficulty
    Is there no course?                                             1081

      _Sen._              I go not back from this;
    If both remain there’s none.

      _Ner._                       Is my life threatened?

      _Sen._ Ay.

      _Ner._     Then Britannicus must go, and shall go,
    As first I purposed.

      _Sen._               Whither will you send him?

      _Ner._ Far out of hearing of his claim. ’Tis not
    A trifling matter.

      _Sen._             See now to the other extreme
    How you o’erleap the mean from wrong to wrong!

      _Ner._ Such wrongs the title of my power condones.
    Shall I at the outset of a world-wide policy
    Stick at a household scruple, and for fear                      1090
    To do a private wrong forfeit the power
    Which makes me Cæsar? See my glory trip
    At a little ill because I will not level
    My safety with the welfare of the world?

      _Sen._ But what you must not, that you cannot do.

      _Ner._ Rather what Cæsar must do, that he may.
    Rome understands not empire yet: we learned
    Something of Herod.

      _Sen._              O the injustice, Nero!
    The wrong! How! Will you sooner spill a life
    So innocent, your creditor in kindness,                         1100
    Than do disgrace to another, one so guilty
    As to deserve, sinking all exigency,
    The fearful penalty you now misplace?
    Think twice.

      _Ner._       Why, if I think of it again,
    Is not thy error fourfold more than mine?
    This need is granted to all tyrannies,
    To slay pretenders, ay, and most of all
    Those of the family: but for a mother,
    The very Persian or the unrivalled Jew
    Would shrink from her dishonour.                                1110

      _Sen._ (_aside_).       What to say?
    Being out of kinship ’twere the lesser blot—
    Yet there’s his innocence. Necessity
    Cannot suborn morality so far
    As such confusion,—nor the alternative
    May yet be shunned,—and when the best is wrong...

      _Ner._ What thinkest thou?

      _Sen._                     Wait: it shall be my office
    To find some better means.

      _Ner._                     ’Twill be thine office
    To show in such a speech as I may make
    After his death, that, howsoe’er he died,—
    Which you shall know no more than shall my hearers,—
    ’Twas for the general good.                                     1121

      _Sen._                      Be counselled, Nero.
    This is not my advice.

      _Ner._                 Thou offerest none
    Which can be taken.

      _Sen._              See, I have brought your speech
    Touching the Parthian war.

      _Ner._                     ’Tis long.

      _Sen._                                The matter
    Being very weighty, ’twill be looked for from you
    To say thus much: but if it seem too long,
    ’Tis so composed that with these brackets here,
    Skipped as you list, the speech is any length.

      _Ner._ I thank thee. I shall need that other speech.

      _Sen._ I pray you may not need it. My advice                  1130
    Is wait.

      _Ner._  Is it? Stay—Seneca, dost thou think
    My mother was in earnest when she urged
    Treason on thee and Burrus? And dost thou think
    She fooled me in saying that she made proposal
    To Burrus but to sound his honesty?

      _Sen._ Eh! with that tale she took you?

      _Ner._                                  Is’t not true?

      _Sen._ That true!

      _Ner._            She was in earnest though in passion?
    Answer me.

      _Sen._      Ay, she was.

      _Ner._                   I pray thee leave me.
    I shall not wait.       [_Exit Seneca._
    I stand alone. Such officers as share                           1140
    The functions of tyrannic government
    Cannot be looked to for a policy
    Of personal security; they lack
    The motive that abates the fear of crime.
    Britannicus must go, and ’tis my hand
    Must aim his death. I have a medicine
    Which he must drink for me, to save my life.
    To-night shall do it. But for my other enemy,
    My mother, who with such dissimulation
    Won me, spite of foreknowledge of her deeds,                    1150
    And judgment of her purpose—Ha! indeed;
    Seneca’s laughing-stock! Now, what I do
    Will much surprise her. If it kill her hope
    And prove my temper towards her, ’twill be well.

    [_Exit._


                               SCENE · 2

      _Room in Domitia’s house. Enter DOMITIA
    and PARIS._

      _DOMITIA._

    Come hither, Paris!
    Thou art my freedman.

      _PARIS._

                          Ay, madam.

      _Dom._                      Hitherto
    Thou hast served me well.

      _Par._                    Ay, madam.

      _Dom._                               Would’st thou now
    Retrieve thy purchase money?

      _Par._                       Dost thou say
    Thou wilt restore me that for any service
    I can perform?

      _Dom._         I do.

      _Par._               But name the deed.                       1160

      _Dom._ Dost thou remember Crispus Passienus?

      _Par._ Could I forget thy honoured husband, madam,
    That was my master?

      _Dom._              Paris, thou hast a wife,
    And thy wife hath a sister..

      _Par._                         Ay.

      _Dom._                             How think’st thou
    Thy wife would love her sister, if that sister
    Supplanted her with thee, sowed seeds of hate,
    Contrived divorce, and when thou wert divorced
    Should marry thee herself?

      _Par._                     Madam, I know
    Thy wrong, and share thy hate.

      _Dom._                         That was not all.

      _Par._ Not all?

      _Dom._          Nay, listen, Paris: if I forget               1170
    My kinship in my hatred, I have cause.
    I loved him, and have now no thought in life
    But to avenge his murder.

      _Par._                    Why! can’st thou think?...

      _Dom._ Think! do I think? I cannot speak of it.
    If ’tis suspicion, be it so—and yet...
    Well, thou hast seen my heart—even were my sister
    Kind I should not forgive: but seeing she works
    Against me still to drive me from the court,
    I put my strength with Cæsar, to disbarrass
    The palace of this plague. Say wilt thou aid me?                1180

      _Par._ The favour Cæsar shows me binds me, lady,
    To have no thought but his; and if his mother
    Misses his love, ’tis not made up by mine.

      _Dom._ I’d have thee on my side whate’er I do.
    I have now contrived a scheme which hangs on thee
    To bring it home.

      _Par._            I will do anything
    That will not touch my life.

      _Dom._                       She is hard to catch.
    Late, when she plotted with Britannicus,
    Though ’twas as clear as day, when brought to question
    She quite out-faced us all.

      _Enter Servant._

      _SERVANT._

                                Madam, Seleucus                     1190
    The astrologer would speak with you.

      _Dom._                               Admit him.      [_Exit Servt._
    Paris, I’ll tell thee later of my plans.
    Meanwhile keep close with Nero: let me hear
    Aught he lets fall that might advance our matter:
    Seleucus’ visit is a part of it;
    I’ll speak with him alone.

      _Par._                     Madam, I go.      [_Exit._

      _Enter Seleucus._

      _Dom._ How now, Seleucus? Foiled!

      _SELEUCUS._

                                      I warned you, lady,
    How impotent and vain an arm hath truth
    Unhelped by art.

      _Dom._           Thou did’st but well, and now
    I shall lean more on thee. Hast thou persuaded                  1200
    Poppæa of her fortune?

      _Sel._                 Ay, my lady,
    I promised her two Cæsars.

      _Dom._                     Two! how two?

      _Sel._ A secret that of art; our divination
    Hath many such. The gods are favourable.

      _Dom._ Talk not to me of gods. One was enough;
    Yet the other matters not. Two Cæsars indeed!
    Most favourable gods!—See, here I give you
    Two hundred sesterces: but for that sum
    Require another service.

      _Sel._                   I thank you, madam.

      _Dom._ Locusta hath been seen with Nero.

      _Sel._                                   Ah,                  1210
    How knew you that?

      _Dom._             Attend to what I say.
    I fear ’tis for Britannicus: the Empress,
    Ridding herself, cannot have quitted him.
    If ’tis his death is aimed at—and ’tis for thee
    To probe and reach the truth—then if ’tis possible
    Thou must prevent it. Go, give him a message,
    He must not sup with Cæsar if he is bid.
    Find you the probabilities, and lay
    The warning where is need.

      _Sel._                     ’Twere a good office, lady.

      _Dom._ Go quickly then. If thou do well in this,
    I will reward thee well.                                        1221

      _Sel._                   I will deserve it.      [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 3

      _The room in Otho’s house. Enter POPPÆA
    and MAID._

      _MAID._

    Madam, the litter waits.

      _POPPÆA._

    Give me my mirror, miss.
    Why, see how slovenly thou’st done my hair;
    ’Tis out already.

      _Maid._           With your pardon, madam,
    ’Tis very well. Nay, ’tis as firm as a rock.
    You look your best to-night.

      _Pop._                       Where is the flower
    I gave thee?

      _Maid._      Here, my lady.

      _Pop._                      Put it in.
    There, there. Ay, that will do. Now where’s my cloak?  [_Exit Maid._

      _Enter Otho._

      _OTHO._

    So then you are going?

      _Pop._                 Yes, I go alone,                       1230
    Since you will not come with me.

      _Oth._                           You are always free
    To have your way; but when your wish is mine,
    It is twice yours. This time you know ’tis not:
    And were I used to set constraint upon you,
    Could it be said Otho e’er crossed his wife
    With a command, it should be now: I’d say
    This I forbid.

      _Pop._         And why?

      _Oth._                  I entreat you, dearest.

      _Pop._ I am pledged to go.

      _Oth._                     Go not.

      _Pop._                             There’s now no choice.

      _Oth._ A light excuse would serve: a sudden sickness,
    A cold, a headache. Do not go.

      _Pop._                         Why, look!                     1240
    If you are not jealous, Otho! jealous, jealous.
    You see not straight.

      _Oth._                I see you smile on Cæsar.

      _Pop._ And think you, then, I must have turned my love
    Where I have smiled? that I would play you false
    For the pleasure of it?

      _Oth._                  Why then sup with Cæsar?

      _Pop._ A trifle hangs upon him I would wear,—
    The world.

      _Oth._     So dazzled by the imperial splendour!
    Think: to be Cæsar’s mistress for a year
    Is not to rule the world.

      _Pop._                    I will be Cæsar’s wife.

      _Oth._ Ah! look you then so high?                             1250

      _Pop._ Who shall be called my rival?

      _Oth._                               Cæsar’s wife.

      _Pop._ She hinders not.

      _Oth._                  Oh, thou would’st never dare it,
    Did’st thou not love him.

      _Pop._                    What should I not dare?

      _Oth._ Hast thou considered well the ambiguous style
    Thou goest to take, and yet determined?

      _Pop._                                  Ay.

      _Oth._ ’Tis death, ’tis death. I speak now but for thee:
    Not for myself. The cup Octavia drinks
    To quit thy place thou too wilt come to taste.

      _Pop._ That is my risk. The sport were tame without it:
    The game can boast a sting.                                     1260

      _Oth._                      Weigh well the danger:
    Think of it thus; to live on a caprice
    Whose jealousy is death; where for the reason
    One seems to love thee will be ten to hate thee;
    Where not to be beforehand with a treachery
    Is to be victim.

      _Pop._           I can steer my way.

      _Oth._ And for this desperate venture wilt cast off
    My love, our love?

      _Pop._             What is love?

      _Oth._                           Art thou Poppæa?
    Wer’t any else but thou that questioned thus,
    My answer then were ready: I should say
    Ask of Poppæa, ’tis the thing she knows;                        1270
    Ask Otho’s wife what love is, she can tell.
    And thou to ask! as if ’twere some strange matter
    Wide of experience, and to ask of me
    Who won thee for my teacher!

      _Pop._                       ’Tis true the impeachment
    I make of love is that he hath exhausted
    His treasure rather than denied us aught.

      _Oth._ Exhausted love! how mean you?

      _Pop._                               See! I am made
    Of other stuff and passions besides love.
    You cannot wish that all my life should move
    Pent in this narrow circle, day by day                          1280
    Keeping the pretty game up which I learned
    When I was green: that I should ne’er do else
    Than this one thing, and that so constantly
    That even the habit and the practice of it
    Are scarce employment; that I should grow grey,
    And see the wide and seasonable field
    Of life’s exertion and excitement fallow
    With this one weed of love?

      _Oth._                      A weed, you say!

      _Pop._ I have other motions in me. I’ve an itch
    Men call ambition, and I see a prize                            1290
    Looks worth the having.

      _Oth._                  ’Tis not worth the having.

      _Pop._ Why, what were I to thee, could’st thou be Cæsar?

      _Oth._ Even all thou art; I have no itch to rule
    Merely to see that game played out, and cry
    At the end—what is ambition?

      _Pop._                        It hath no end.

      _Oth._ ’Tis plain love hath an end.

      _Pop._                              Nay, as I love thee,
    I still shall love thee. Only, Otho....

      _Oth._                                  What?

      _Pop._ I thought your eye was open to perceive
    The grandeur of my scheme.

      _Oth._                     Thou wert mistaken.

      _Pop._ Upon what falls to-night, let us decide.               1300
    I have no secrets from you: if I prosper,
    Desert me if you will, but blame me not:
    For dared I combat Cæsar’s inclination
    There were as much to lose. The thing I do
    Will be your safety.

      _Oth._               Rather would I die,
    Ay, rather far that thou should’st die than do
    This baseness willingly.

      _Pop._                   Nay, speak not so.
    I shall do nothing base.

      _Oth._                   Thou must succeed.
    Only before thou goest I’ll kiss thee once.      [_Kisses Pop._
    Otho’s last kiss. Farewell.                                     1310

      _Pop._                      Good night. I go.
    Lesbia, my cloak! I shall have news ere morn.      [_Exit._

      _Oth._ Gone! With a grace
    As firm, as pleasant, gay and self-possessed
    As that with which she hath come a thousand times
    To meet me, kiss me, and call me hers, she goes
    To change her husband .. gone! and not a sign
    To show that leaving me was losing aught!
    Fool that I was! To the soul I knew her vain,
    Self-seeking, light, petulant at the breath
    Of contradiction, and yet I trusted. What,                      1320
    Asks she, is love. Ay, what? I love my dog;
    He is devoted beyond reason, pitiful
    In his dependence; he will scarce reproach me
    With some short wondering sorrow, if I strike him—
    I love my horse; he bears me willingly,
    Answering spiritedly; with all his strength
    Generous and gentle. But woman, if man love her,—
    Seeing she is less devoted than the hound,
    Less noble than the horse,—’tis that we deem,
    That being human she can gauge the worth                        1330
    Of our intensity, and in kind somewhat
    Repay it: ’tis a delusion; spite of shew,
    She hath not in her heart that which her eyes
    Fondly declare. There is no passion possible
    Which beauty can interpret or soft speech
    Express, which was not mine; ay, by that title
    O’er and o’er; yet I think no dog in Rome
    Would leave the meanest slave that fed him once,
    As hath this woman left the man that loved her.

    [_Knocking._

      _Enter Lucan and Petronius._

      _LUCAN._

    Ha! here he is. We have come to fetch you, Otho.

      _Oth._ I do not go to-night.                                  1341

      _PETRONIUS._

    Not go! What is’t, man?—ill?

      _Oth._ My wife has gone, therefore I do not go:—
    You see the matter, maybe have foreseen it;
    I was too blind. Spare me your condolence;
    I do not wish even sympathy. You know
    I loved her, but ’tis over. Let me give you
    Such knowledge as I wish my friends to have,
    Else might they mistake somewhat. See! she is gone
    To-night against my wish: ’tis nothing more:                    1350
    But this will lead to much. I let my house;
    Sell you my wine, Petronius, if you wish it,
    And take—I shall not want for interest—
    The Lusitanian proconsulate.

      _Luc._ You go from Rome?

      _Oth._                   I do.

      _Petr._                        Break not with Cæsar.

      _Oth._ I’ll take employment.

      _Petr._                      Jove! I think you’re wise,
    Otho; you’re wise. I’ve half a mind myself
    To give my friends the slip. But as it is,
    Well .. come, I’ll take the wine; what is your price?

      _Oth._ The price I gave.                                      1360

      _Petr._                  A bargain. I shall send for it.

      _Luc._ (_to Otho_). Otho, I will not go. Although thy wrong
    Cannot be stayed, yet would I rather die
    Than sit and smile on it.

      _Oth._                    I thank thee, Lucan.
    I’d ask thee rather look upon the matter
    As on a thing of course: I think it is.
    Go, take no note of it.

      _Luc._                  If ’tis thy wish.

      _Oth._ It is. Good night.

      _Luc. and Petr._          Good night.      [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 4

      _A room in the Palace. Enter AGRIPPINA._

      _AGRIPPINA._

    Thus must it be then. I must be cast out,
    Turned from the palace, lodged in a private house,
    Retired, reduced, forgotten, like any relic                     1370
    Of barbarous royalty, caged out of reach
    Of good or ill; my state just so much show
    As has no meaning. Now may some god of mischief
    Dare set me in the roll of puny spirits.
    Ah!—Hath this my seal, seemeth it? O may my foes
    Be fooled so far to think that guile will stay
    First in catastrophe. Nay, if I crouch,
    ’Tis but to plant a foot whence I may bound
    With braver spring.—I am clear; the right’s my hope.
    Right against blood hath still been honourable.                 1380
    Men love the name of Brutus. The first Brutus
    Slew his own son; the last his Cæsar. Ha!
    ’Tis madness; nay, that’s not my thought, not that.
    ’Twould fright the world that there should be a woman
    Who could slay Cæsar and son in one. Nay, nay,
    That lies beyond all fate. Yet, short of that,—
    O blood, thou sacrament and bond of nature,
    Look to the strain: summon thy best allies,
    Thy yearnings and thy shudderings, thy terrors
    And dreams of dread; marshal the myriad fingers
    Of scorn and hate: else, O thy rottenness                       1391
    Will out. Indeed I think thou’rt a weak thing,
    Bred of opinion; when I would have trusted thee,
    Hath not that other rivet of thy chain
    Snapped at the mutual end? Thy boasted anchor
    Drags on the bottom, and my ship drifts on
    To the rocks, to the rocks: missing that hold, the sense
    Is dizzy with madness; ay, and whither I go
    Is hidden; nor aught I know, save that the future,
    Whate’er it be, I shall do much to make.                        1400

      _Enter Britannicus._

    Ah! ah! ’tis thee.
    Speak softly, for these walls have ears.

      _BRITANNICUS._

                                             Thou thinkest
    That Cæsar watches me.

      _Agr._                 To-day thy spies
    Are mine, but must not hear.

      _Br._                        Hast thou seen Burrus?

      _Agr._ He is thine enemy: no hope from him.

      _Br._ I would not have this spoken of as my hope.

      _Agr._ True, boy. I mentioned not thy name, and Nero,
    Being now persuaded thou art innocent,
    Forgives thee. Let the risk I ran for thee
    Be earnest of more good.                                        1410

      _Br._                    I thank thee for it.

      _Agr._ ’Tis nothing, this. Thou yet shalt reign.

      _Br._                                            I pray thee
    Draw me not into thy deep-plotted schemes
    That rush on guilt. If I have hope or wish,
    ’Tis but to live till the divorce be writ
    ’Twixt Cæsar and my sister: that is not long
    To wait; and then her exile, which must follow,
    If I may share, I think some days of peace
    May be in store for both. That is my hope,
    Not Rome, nor empire, but some tranquil spot
    Where innocence may dwell, and be allowed                       1420
    To be its own protection.

      _Agr._                    Are you that fool?

      _Br._ I would none doubted it.

      _Agr._                         Can it be possible
    That thou, who in thy veins hast the best blood
    Of Rome, should’st own so beggarly a spirit,
    And being the heir of all the world should’st wish
    Only to hide thy claim, so thou may’st live
    The life which broken-hearted slaves, and men
    Diseased and aged scarce prize?

      _Br._                           I hear, I hear,
    And am not shamed.

      _Agr._             Nay, then I have more to say.

      _Br._ I too might say somewhat. Is it not strange,
    Thou being a lady, should’st possess a heart                    1431
    So fond of wrong, and blood, and wrathful deeds?

      _Agr._ Ah, ah! Thou thinkest that thou know’st me rightly,
    And yet would’st dare to taunt me, and to thwart
    My stablished purpose? Child, I say, remember
    The deeds thou castest in my teeth, and think
    Whether it were not much better now at last
    To side with me, and take the help I proffer.
    I have sworn to set thee on the throne; think twice
    Ere thou oppose my will.

      _Br._                    Did’st thou not say                  1440
    Thou had’st persuaded Nero of my innocence?

      _Agr._ Say I was wrong.

      _Br._                   Nay, thou wert right in that,
    Wrong now returning on disclaimed ambition.

      _Agr._ Art thou content to see thyself deposed,
    Thy sister thus dishonoured....

      _Br._                           Say no more.

      _Agr._ Consider!

      _Br._            Nay, I’ll not consider.

      _Agr._                                   Now
    This once again I bid thee, child, consider.
    Doubt not my power.

      _Br._               No more. I will not join thee.

      _Agr._ Then hear me, child. Whether thou join or not,
    Whether thou wilt be Cæsar, or refusest,                        1450
    Thou shalt be Cæsar. If thou wilt not plot,
    It shall be plotted for thee: in my hands
    I hold thy life, and guard it but for this,
    To make thee Cæsar. Ay, and if thou shrinkest
    When the day comes, I’ll have a doll made like thee;
    My men shall carry it about, and style it
    Britannicus, and shout to it as to Cæsar.
    I say thou shalt be Cæsar, think it o’er.
    Dare not refuse me: ’tis not yet too late;
    To-morrow I will speak with thee again.                         1460
    Now to thy better thought.      [_Exit._

      _Br._                      O murderess!
    And for this last turn must I thank my folly,
    That partly trusted her. Now would to heaven,
    If live I must, that I might change my lot
    With any man soe’er, though he be chosen
    And picked for misery. Surely there’s none
    In all the empire can show cause to stand
    And weigh his woe with mine. Find me the man,
    If such there be, that hath an only sister
    ’Spoused to a murderer and adulterer,                           1470
    Who hates her virtue, since it shames pretext
    To cast her off: or, if such man be found,
    Hath he for mother one that slew his father,
    And threats him with like death? or if all this
    Be matched in one, hath he no remedy?
    Is his speech treason? Is his silence treason?
    Is he quite friendless, helpless?
    Forbidden to budge a foot from the dread focus
    Of crime and anguish? ’Mongst his lesser wrongs
    Hath he this brag, that he hath been robbed, as I,
    Of the empire of the world? O happy hinds,                      1481
    Who toil under clear skies, and for complaint
    Discuss long hours, low wages, meagre food,
    Hard beds and scanty covering: ye who trail
    A pike in German swamps, or shield your heads
    On Asian sands, I’d welcome all your griefs
    So I might taste the common nameless joys
    Which ye light-heartedly so lightly prize,
    And know not what a text for happiness
    Lies in a thoughtless laugh: what long, impassable,
    Unmeasured gulfs of joy sunder it off                           1491
    From my heart-stifling woe.

      _Enter Octavia._

                                Thou art welcome, sister.

      _OCTAVIA._

    Brother, a request you must grant.

      _Br._                              Anything,
    Dearest, to thee.

      _Oct._            Sup not to-night with Cæsar.

      _Br._ I must. Yet what’s thy reason? Thou art moved
    Strangely beyond the matter.

      _Oct._                       Read this paper.

      _Br._ (_reads_). _Britannicus, sup not to-day with Cæsar._
    How came you by it?

      _Oct._              ’Tis from Fulvia,
    The maid that loves Seleucus; whence ’tis his.

      _Br._ Most like; I know the turbaned mountebank
    Keeps an old kindness for me. Yet nay, nay—                     1500
    If this should now be found—nay, he’s too shrewd
    To put himself in writing.

      _Oct._                     He might dare
    With Fulvia.

      _Br._        Nay. I cannot think ’tis his.
    And were it, what’s his credit? I do not trust
    These fellows far. They trade in mystery,
    And love to thicken water,—and if there be
    A plot to poison me, to-day’s occasion
    Offers no easier vantage than to-morrow’s.
    My safety lies elsewhere.

      _Oct._                    O do not go.

      _Br._ Fear not, Octavia, I am very careful,                   1510
    And eat but sparingly of any dish,
    Nor aught but what goes round. To stay away
    Might show suspicion, and could serve no end.

      _Oct._ Brother, be warned, go not to-night; to-morrow
    We may learn more. I beg...

      _Br._                        Nay, urge me not,
    Since with this warning I am doubly safe.

      _Oct._ Oh, I dread Nero’s anger; ’tis most certain
    That ill will come of it.

      _Br._                     Nay, fear him not.
    Let us go sup. I will use all precaution,                       1519
    Thou may’st be sure, since for thy sake I do it:
    And while thou livest I shall have both reason
    And wish to live. Have care, too, for thyself;
    I think thy peril is no less than mine.      [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 5

      _Supper-room in the Palace. All are reclined at two
    tables, thus_:

      _Agrippina_, _Nero_, _Poppæa_.|  _A gentm._, _Octavia_, _A lady_.
      _Tigellinus_,     _A gentm._  |  _Britannicus_,        _Paris_.
      _A lady_,         _Domitia._  |
      _Petronius_,      _Lucan._    |

      _Waiters, tasters, etc. Some are talking._


      _NERO._

    I will propose a question to the table:
    Which of the arts is greatest? Lucan, these sausages
    Are something new: try them.

      _POPPÆA._

                                 You question, Cæsar,
    Which of the arts is greatest? I would answer
    The one which Cæsar honours.

      _TIGELLINUS._

                                 But if Cæsar
    Should honour more than one?

      _PETRONIUS._

                                 The sausages                       1529
    Are good enough. As for the arts, here’s Lucan
    Can speak for poetry.

      _Ner._                If any man
    Could prove one art beyond contention first,
    I would reward him excellently. With me
    To know the best and follow it are one:
    Success being easy in all, my difficulty
    Lies in distraction: show me then the best,
    I’ll perfect that.

      _Pop._             What! Cæsar give up singing?

      _Ner._ For better things.

      _Tig._                    Which be the arts?

      _Petr._ (_to servants_).                     Here, vermin,
    This wine’s half-way to vinegar.

      _Ner._                           Who will name
    The arts? There’s sculpture, painting, poetry,                  1540
    Singing..

      _PARIS._

                And acting.

      _Ner._                  Well, what more?

      _Tig._                                   Horse-racing.

      _Pop._ (_across_). Ruling I think’s an art.

      _AGRIPPINA_ (_across_).

                                                And making love.

      _Ner._ ’Tis of the fine arts we would speak.
                                 (_To servants_) Ho! fellows,
    Pour out the wine! Ah, here’s a lovely mullet.
    Has this been tasted?

      _TASTER._

                          Ay, Cæsar. ’Tis stuffed with truffles.

      _Ner_. A mullet stuffed with truffles. Now, Poppæa,
    Will not this please?

      _Pop._                I thank you.—(_aside_) Prithee, bid
    Lucan to speak for poetry.

      _BRITANNICUS_ (_to servant_).

                               Nay, the mullet.

      _Ner._ Lucan, what say you for your art?

      _LUCAN._

                                                  I claim
    The first place for it, and I say ’tis proved                   1550
    Nobler than any plastic art in this;
    It needs not tools nor gross material,
    And hath twin doors to the mind, both eye and ear.
    Nay, even of drama Aristotle held,
    Though a good play must act well, that ’tis perfect
    Without the stage: which shows that poetry
    Stains not her excellence by being kind
    To those encumbrances, which, in my judgment,
    Are pushed to fetter fancy.—Then hath our art
    Such strong and universal mastery                               1560
    O’er heart and mind, that here ’tis only music
    Competes, and she is second far in scope,
    Directness, and distinction.

      _Ner._                       You think that?

      _Luc._ Ay, Cæsar.

      _Ner._            Do you! you who have ever been
    More gracious to my voice than to my pen!
    Am I a better singer then than poet,
    Think you?

      _Luc._     Nay, Cæsar; but....

      _Ner._                         Ha! then you are envious.
    You would not have me write because, forsooth,
    You write yourself. Now, by the god, I swear
    Thou shalt not publish nor recite a verse                       1570
    Within my empire till I give thee leave.
    One man to keep the muses to himself!
    Monstrous!

      _Pop._  And serve him right.

      _Luc._ (_aside_).     Monstrous indeed!

      _Ner._ (_to servants_). Heat me some wine.
    Come, lords, ye drink not. Eh! what have we here?

      _Servant._ Cherubim, Cæsar.

      _Ner._                      What is Cherubim?

      _Petr._ The gods of the Jews.

      _Ner._                        Hoo! let us eat their gods.
    They are much like pheasants.

      _Servt._                      ’Tis a pheasant, Cæsar,
    And stuffed with woodcock.

      _Petr._                    Cæsar, there’s one art
    Has not been mentioned; though I think at table
    It should not be passed o’er.                                   1581

      _Ner._                        What art is that?

      _Petr._ I shall contend it is the first of all.

      _Ner._ Name it.

      _Petr._         It hath no name. It scarce exists.
    I think the goddess never walked the earth.

      _Par._ Ranks she with poetry?

      _Petr._                       I avouch above.

      _Par._ Cæsar, if this be proved, thou must rescind
    Thy poet’s sentence.

      _Ner._               Let him prove it first.

      _Petr._ I see in other arts some wit or fancy
    Extrinsical to nature. I can find
    No ground of need in any, save maybe                            1590
    In architecture,—which ranks not so well
    As to be mentioned by you.—Now, if I
    Show you an art whose matter every day
    Is life’s necessity, which gives more scope
    To skill than any other, which delights
    Among the senses one which the other arts
    Wholly neglect, would you not say this art
    Hath the first claim? See, I could live without
    The joys of harmony, colour, or form,
    But without this it were impossible                             1600
    To outlast the week.

      _Par._               Oh! Cookery.

      _Several._                        Cookery, cookery!

      _Petr._ There’s the mistake I gird at. None of you
    But thinks this art I speak of, which includes
    Pleasures of entertainment, ease and elegance,
    The mind’s best recreation, the satisfaction
    Of the body’s nearest needs, the preservation
    Of health, and with all this, the gratifying
    Of that one sense, which above all the senses
    Is subtle, difficult, discerning, ticklish,
    And most importunate,—that this great art                       1610
    Is a cook’s province.

      _Ner._                True, Petronius, true;
    There’s room for bettering these things.

      _Petr._                                  Why, wine—
    Just think of wine. A hundred vintages
    Lie in my cellar; by my taste I tell
    Each one; are eye or ear so delicate?

      _Par._ Here’s half a case already.

      _Petr._                            Then again,
    Look on this side. You bid your friends to supper:
    That is a promise; and hath all your life
    An hour more suitable for skilful kindness?                     1619
    They come perturbed, fatigued, hungry and thirsty;
    Nature exhausts them for you, drains them empty
    To take all kinds of pleasure; their grated nerves
    Ask music, their wearied limbs soft cushioned couches,
    Their harassed mind wise cheerful conversation,
    Their body’s appetites fawn at the word
    Of food and wine: and yet we see these things,
    Which should be studied, ordered, suited, measured,
    All jumbled in confusion, till a feast,
    Instead of relaxation and renewal,
    Becomes, I say, for body and for mind                           1630
    The worst discomfort and the stiffest trial
    That life can show.

      _Par._              Bravo! bravo!

      _Ner._                            For one,
    I am converted. Thou shalt be henceforth
    Arbiter of my table.

      _Br._ (_to servt._) ’Tis boiling hot;
    Taste it.

      _Ner._ (_to Petron._) Accept you the office?

      _Petr._                                 This would make me
    A Cæsar above Cæsar.

      _Ner._               In the province
    Of imperial æsthetics.

      _Servt. to Brit._      Pardon, your highness,
    I will add water to it: ’tis yet unmixed.

    [_They pour in the poison._

      _Petr._ ’Twill be a tyranny. For look, I hold
    Man’s stomach is not to be trifled with.                        1640
    Not only should your table give delight
    Even to the ravishment of every palate,
    But since the end and final cause of food
    Is not to breed diseases in the flesh,
    Nor heat the spirits more than they can bear,
    But rather to build up and comfort health,
    I’d order first that there be served at table
    Nothing but what is wholesome.

      _Br._ (_after drinking nubile Petr. speaks_). Ah!

    [_Falls back._

      _Oct._ The wine, the wine!

      _Br._                      Ah!      [_Dies._

      _Oct._ He is dead. O dead! O dead!                            1650

      _Lucan, Petronius and Paris go to Britannicus.
    Domitia follows.—All rising._

      _Agr._ What is this?

      _Ner._               He hath a fit.

      _Petr._                             He doth not breathe.

      _Oct._ (_has come round to front_). Alas, alas! my brother; he is
            dead.

      _Ner._ Nay, sit you down; look not aghast, I say.
    He hath the falling sickness, and will oft
    Faint on a sudden, as ye see. He lies
    An hour as dead, and then awakes again
    With nought amiss. Best take him out in quiet.
    (_To servants._) Carry him from the room.

      _Luc._                               Lift you his feet, Petronius.
    We two will take him.

      _Ner._                Let him be, I say.                      1660
    His servants will attend him. Return to table:
    We cannot spare you.

      _Par._ (_to Oct._)          Honoured lady, be hopeful:
    For hath your noble brother e’er been taken
    Like this, he may recover.

      _Oct._ (_to Par._)  Never—
    Never! O never! he is dead! I knew it!      [_Going._

      _Ner._ (_to Oct._) Heh, sit you down. What could you do, I pray?
    He will come round.

      _Oct._              Oh! I will follow him.

    [_Exit with servants who are carrying Brit._

      _Petr._ (_to Par._) How happened it?

      _Par._ (_to Petr._)                  He drank a draught of wine
    Fresh mixed, and then fell back just as you saw.
    What think you?

      _Petr._ (_to Par._) Think you ’twas aught?                    1670

      _Par._ (_to Luc._)                         What think you?

      _Luc._ Impossible.

      _Dom._ (_aside_). He is poisoned. Yet my sister
    Was nothing privy to it. She is pale.

      _Ner._ Come, sit you down, aunt: come, Petronius,
    Lucan, be seated. Let not the horrid sight
    Unwhet your appetites.

      _Petr._ (_to Luc._)    That was no fit.      [_To Par._
    He is dead. What if ’twere poison? Where’s the drink?

      _Par._ ’Twas hurried out.

      _Luc._                    O God!

      _Ner._ (_to servts._)     Serve out the wine.
    We all must need a bumper; ’tis most natural.
    I have known the mere revulsion to provoke
    In a strong man a seizure similar                               1680
    To that which frighted him.

      _Par._ (_aside_).    ’Twould not amaze me,
    Had he such drink to cheer him.      [_All refuse drink._

      _Pop._ (_to Nero_).      I will not drink.

      _Ner._ From my cup.

      _Pop._              Well, from thine.      [_Drinks._

      _Luc._ (_aside_).              He is self-betrayed.

      _Ner._ Where were we?

      _Petr._               At the point where Cæsar made me
    Arbiter of his table. I shall ask
    To inaugurate my office.

      _Ner._                   Do so, Petronius.

      _Petr._ Then know you are all dismissed. Let all go home,
    And for the prince’s safety offer up      [_All rise._
    What vows ye may unto the gods. Myself,
    I set the example, and go first. Come, Lucan.      [_Going._

      _Ner._ Eh! eh! yet thus ’tis best. Good night, Petronius, 1691
    Thou hast spoken well; may the gods hear thy prayers.
    I wish you all good night.

      _In disorder of going curtain falls._



                               ACT · IV


                               SCENE · 1

_The same. A public place. THRASEA and PRISCUS meeting._

      _PRISCUS._

    I was coming to your house.

      _THRASEA._

                                ’Tis well we meet.
    How went it in the senate?

      _Pr._                      As you said.
    A message read from Nero.

      _Thr._                    Seneca?

      _Pr._ No doubt.

      _Thr._ And in what terms touched he the murder?

      _Pr._ With double tongue, as being an ill which none,
    And Cæsar least, could have desired; and yet
    A good none should lament.

      _Thr._                     He is very prompt.                 1700
    What glozing for the hasty burial?

      _Pr._ The speech was thus; that ’twas the better custom
    Of simple times to shun all vain parade:
    That private grief was mocked by frigid pomp,
    And public business and quiet thereby
    Idly disturbed;—_Then for myself_, it ran,
      _To have lost the aid and comfort of a brother
    Demands your sympathy. Of your goodwill
    I make no doubt; the more that my misfortune
    Throws me upon it, seeing that all my hopes                     1710
    Now anchor wholly on the commonwealth.
    Wherefore to you, my lords, and to the people,
    I look so much the more for maintenance
    And favour, since I now am left alone
    Of all my family, to bear the cares
    Your empire throws upon me._

      _Thr._                       This was well.

      _Pr._ Then were there gifts decreed to all his friends.

      _Thr._ Hush-money. Did none murmur?

      _Pr._                               There were none
    So much as frowned.

      _Thr._              See, Lucan! let us speak with him.

      _Enter Lucan._

    If now he be not shaken, I mistake                              1720
    His temper.

      _LUCAN._

                Good day, Thrasea.

      _Thr._                         A dull morning.

      _Luc._ Comest thou from the house?

      _Thr._                             Nay, more’s the pity.
    There was a distribution, as I hear,
    To friends of order. Say, how didst thou fare?

      _Luc._ In many things, Thrasea, I hold not with thee,
    Nor will pretend that I can see in virtue
    A self-sufficiency invulnerable
    Against the crime of others. I believe
    The world is wronged, and burn to avenge the wrong.
    But, as an honest man, I take thy hand.                         1730

      _Thr._ I looked for this, Lucan, and take thy hand.
    Frivolity and crime are most unworthy
    Of thy companionship.

      _Luc._                My uncle’s hope
    Tainted my judgment. I have been blind, and wronged thee.

      _Thr._ Where I am misconceived I blame myself.

      _Luc._ Hear me abjure.

      _Thr._                 Spare words. There’s no more fear
    Thou wilt be duped. Cæsar, in slaying his brother,
    Has doffed the mask.

      _Luc._            The heart of Rome must swell
    To put the monster down.

      _Thr._                   We have our part:
    But in the sorry tragedy he makes                               1740
    We can be but spectators. On his stage
    There’s nought but folly. Come thou home with me:
    I’ll show thee how we may regard this play,
    Take note of all the actors, and watch the end.

        [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 2

      _The room in Domitia’s house, Enter DOMITIA and
    PARIS._

      _DOMITIA._

    ’Twas a most shameful deed; we take upon us
    A just revenge.

      _PARIS._

                    But ’tis the general thought
    That Nero killed his brother; that his mother
    Had no hand in it, rather would have saved him.

      _Dom._ ’Twas her intrigues determined him, and they
    Who egg on others are the real movers.                          1750
    Now will he hate her more a thousand-fold
    For driving him to crime. She will not ’scape:
    Our plot will stand.

      _Par._               Is it thy scheme to push
    Silana’s accusation?

      _Dom._               Ay, ’tis that.
    We shall accuse the Augusta of intent
    To marry Plautus, to assert his claim,
    And thus assail the throne.

      _Par._                      How wilt thou broach it?

      _Dom._ We have fixed to-night. Cæsar will dine at home,
    And with convenient company. ’Tis agreed
    When he’s well drunk, you enter, announce the plot
    As freshly hatched, and so unmask the affair                    1761
    That he shall be persuaded.

      _Par._                      How glibly, madam,
    Speech can glide o’er the hitch; I must feel flattered
    That just in the awkward place I am shovelled in
    To carry it through, who have no heart in the matter.

      _Dom._ No heart! had you no ear then to my promise?

      _Par._ ’Tis little for the risk. But what of Burrus?

      _Dom._ Seeing that without his name the plot were weak,
    And that to avouch his treason would discredit it,
    We say he is suspected.

      _Par._                  ’Twill not stand.                     1770
    We lack confederates.

      _Dom._                You forget Poppæa.
    I have sent for her to try her. If I mistake not,
    ’Tis she that knocks. Get you behind the door,
    And watch what passes. There!      [_Paris hides._

      _Enter Poppæa._

                                  Now this is kind.

      _POPPÆA._

    I am bounden, lady, to wait on Cæsar’s aunt.

      _Dom._ I count the days, Poppæa, when you yourself
    Will call me aunt: and in that happy hope
    I’ll stand thy friend.

      _Pop._            I shall have full need, madam,
    Of all good offices.

      _Dom._               Maybe: my sister
    Is an unscrupulous enemy. Beware!                               1780
    She stole from me a husband, and will now
    Keep you from winning one.

      _Pop._                     She doth not hide
    Her disapproval of my love to Cæsar,
    And thus appears my foe; but in truth, madam,
    Half of my heart sides with her, and the fear
    Lest the full passion which I bear your nephew
    May shame his rank, conquers my love so far
    That oft I doubt if I have a heart to bear
    The honour I have dreamed of, or a love
    Worthy of him, since it so much can fear.                       1790

      _Dom._ Tut, tut! if you’re the woman that I think
    You’re just what I would wish his wife to be.
    Wronged in his marriage, he since hath wronged himself:
    Octavia is a ninny, but his low
    And last intrigues have scandalized the court:
    Our family is hurt. You are his equal
    In wit and manners, and can hold your place;
    Nor in opposing you is it his good
    His mother weighs: rather it suits her schemes
    To have his wife a fool. ’Tis not unknown                       1800
    What lately she had dared to keep her place,
    But that Britannicus’ so sudden death
    Blasted her plots: now in her constant project
    Your marriage threatens her.

      _Pop._                       The more I see
    It blackens more. May I dare ask you, madam,
    To tell your sister that I willingly
    Retire, if she prevail upon her son
    Quite to forget his love and put me by?

      _Dom._ Which side to take? that must you first determine;
    ’Tis Cæsar or his mother. I supposed                            1810
    ’Twas him you loved, not her. Now should I tell you
    That she is deeply pledged to take his life,
    And seize the empire...

      _Pop._                   Oh! what wicked crimes!
    Impossible!

      _Dom._      But if I prove it to you?

      _Pop._ I could not hear it.

      _Dom._                      Nay, but if ’tis true,
    Side you with us who hinder it, or her
    Who pushes it?

      _Pop._         O madam, ’tis incredible.

      _Dom._ Ay, and to-night, as Nero sits at supper,
    When Paris brings the news he’ll not believe it.
    But then a word from you might turn the scale,                  1820
    And rouse his better judgment.

      _Pop._                         The very thought
    That her destruction were my safety, madam,
    Would hold my tongue. Indeed you have wronged me much,
    Telling me this.

      _Dom._           Why, such things you will hear.

      _Pop._ Nay, let me go.

      _Dom._                 Ay, go, but think upon it.

      _Pop._ Farewell.      [_Exit._

      _Dom._ (_sola_). Was I mistaken?

      _Par._ (_re-entering_).          My mind is changed.

      _Dom._ How now! what say you?

      _Par._ Madam, the plot will stand.

      _Dom._                             Did you hear all?

      _Par._ And saw.

      _Dom._          All that compunction...

      _Par._ Ay, be sure of it.
    Why she and I could carry anything.                             1830
    She’s a born actress: we must keep good friends
    With her.

      _Dom._    Then this is well; go learn your part.

        [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 3

      _At the tomb of Britannicus, Enter OCTAVIA and
    ATTENDANTS._

      _OCTAVIA._

    Hang there, sweet roses, while your blooms are wet,
    Hang there and weep unblamed; ay, weep one hour,
    While yet your tender, fleshly hues remember
    His fair young prime; then wither, droop, and die,
    And with your changèd tissues paint my grief.
    Nay, let those old wreaths lie, the shrivelled petals
    Speak feelingly of sorrow; strew them down
    About the steps: we mock death being trim.                      1840
    Now here another. Ah! see, set it you:
    I cannot reach. Have you not thought these roses
    Weave a fit emblem—how they wait for noon
    That comes to kill their promise, and the crown
    Is but a mock one?

      _ATTENDANT._

                       ’Tis a good custom, lady,
    To honour thus the tombs of those we love.

      _Oct._ Custom! Is this a custom? Then I think
    I wrong my sorrow in such common shows.

      _Att._ Nay, it doth ease affliction to be busy;
    And grief, that cannot reckon with a mystery,                   1850
    Is comforted by trifles.

      _Oct._                   Why, thou’rt wrong;
    It brings no comfort.

      _Att._                And ’tis kindly done
    To hide the fresh-cut stone. Death is hard featured
    In a new-built tomb.

      _Oct._               O, hold thy peace! I see
    Thou canst not be my comforter. Alas,
    I blame thee not. But yet, whate’er be said,
    Think not our gracious deed finds its account
    In the honour done: the wreaths I bring were woven
    More for myself; the tears I shed, I shed
    The more abundantly that they are crimes                        1860
    In the sight of him that slew him.

      _Att._                             Speak not so,
    Lady; thou’rt o’er-distraught.

      _Oct._                         What would’st thou have me?
    Knowing my sorrow thou should’st rather wonder,
    And think it well that I speak sense at all.

      _Att._ Let not such passion kill thy courage, lady;
    The greatest die. There stands the tomb of Julius,
    Whose mighty march was no less foully stayed
    At noon of power: there is Augustus’ tomb,
    Wherein so many lie...

      _Oct._                  Why, what are they
    To me? Is’t not my brother that is dead?                        1870
    Whose life was mine, as needful to my day
    As is the sun; as natural, old a want
    To very life as is the bathing air
    That my blood battens on. Take these away
    And give him back; it then were likelier
    I should not gasp, fret, pale, nor starve, nor pine.
    He is gone! O miserably, suddenly,
    For ever; alas! alas!—See, who comes hither?

      _Att._ ’Tis Agrippina, lady; and she carries
    Wreaths such as ours.                                           1880

      _Oct._                Let us begone in haste.

      _Att._ Alas! she hath seen us, lady: ’tis too late.

      _Oct._ I’ll but salute her. I pray you all keep back,
    Nor speak with her attendants.

      _Enter Agrippina, Fulvia, and Attendants._

      _AGRIPPINA._

                                   My dearest daughter,
    I have longed for this embrace. Where else but here
    Beside this sacred tomb should we have met?
    I should have been much with thee in thy sorrow,
    But am forbidden the palace.

      _Oct._                       I must thank thee
    Doing this grace to my unhappy brother.
    The gods grant thee kind messages. Farewell.

      _Agr._ Nay, go not thus. See how I hang these garlands.

      _Oct._ Not there, nay, not on mine; not there! thy grief      1891
    Must own a lower place; mix not its show
    With mine. He was my brother.

      _Agr._                        Thou art right.
    Set them here, Fulvia. If my heart is wronged,
    ’Tis done unwittingly; thou canst not know.

      _Oct._ I leave thee.

      _Agr._               Grant one word.

      _Oct._                               Would’st thou be kind
    ’Twill be but one.

      _Agr._             ’Tis this then: I am kind.
    In sum ’twas this I came to say.

      _Oct._                           If hither
    Thou didst but come to seek me, know I had chosen
    The hour to be alone.

      _Agr._                My dearest child,                       1900
    My injured child! See, I would have thee trust
    My friendship. ’Twas my constant, loving wish
    To right thy brother’s wrongs, and now my heart
    Is wholly turned on thee.

      _Oct._                    Think not of me.
    Am I not past all help? nor do I crave
    The help that leads to death.

      _Agr._                        O never dream
    That I had hand in that accursèd deed.
    The terror of it rather hath possessed
    My purpose with the justice of revenge.                         1909

      _Oct._ I cannot thank thee, and from thy messengers
    Have gathered all. There’s nought to say. Farewell.

      _Agr._ Thou dost not know Poppæa marries Cæsar.

      _Oct._ Ay.

      _Agr._ Thou consentest?

      _Oct._                  Say, would my refusal
    Or my consent be counted?

      _Agr._                    It shall not be.

      _Oct._ It matters not.

      _Agr._                 Thou lookest for divorce?

      _Oct._ Can I remain his wife who killed my brother?

      _Agr._ Thou art the last branch of the house of Claudius,
    And if thou wilt forget the hurt now done thee,
    May’st yet retrieve thy blood; but being too proud,
    Wilt more dishonour what thou seemest to honour.
    If now thou’rt brave, and wilt join hands with me...

      _Oct._ O never, never! was it not that hand
    That.... O my brother, with thy trait’rous foe
    Make peace, and at thy tomb! Ask clemency
    Of him that murdered thee! O never.—
    Thou most dear shade, who wast too mild and kind,
    If death seal not thy spiritual sense
    To my loud sorrow, hear me! O thou my joy,
    By whom the bitterness of life, my lot
    Of horror, was quite sweetened,—cruelly,                        1930
    Most cruelly slain. Ay, I will all forget
    When he who wrought this thing can bring again
    Out of thy cold unmotionable ashes
    The well-compacted body and grace of life.
    Ay, if he make one smile of thine, although
    It last no time, I will forget: but else,
    I say, the thing he hath done, since so ’tis done
    That he cannot undo it, he must o’er-do
    Ere I forget.

      _Agr._        I will be yet thy friend—

          [_Exit Oct. with Attendants._

    There comes no help from her. Maybe her grief
    Is yet too fresh. Come, Fulvia, let us go.                      1941
    She would not speak with me. Now on all hands
    Thou seest I am set aside, and count for nought.
    Yet not for this am I a whit discouraged;
    I shall rise yet. Am I not Agrippina?      [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 4

      _A room in the Palace. Enter through a door from the
    supper-room NERO and POPPÆA._

      _NERO._

    Now ere they follow, Poppæa, ease my heart,
    And tell me thy request.

      _POPPÆA._

                             Thou’lt grant it me?

      _Ner._ Whate’er it be, if thou wilt come to Baiæ.

      _Pop._ I’ll have it without bargain or not at all.

      _Ner._ I grant it: ask.                                       1950

      _Pop._                  ’Tis that you give my husband
    The post in Lusitania which he begs.

      _Ner._ ’Tis his. Would he were there.

      _Pop._                                My thanks.

      _Ner._                                           I prithee
    Call him not husband.

      _Pop._                Ah, now I pierce this veil
    Of generosity: why, when he goes
    I must go with him.

      _Ner._              Eh! if that’s the case
    I grant not his commission.

      _Pop._                      ’Tis a promise.

      _Ner._ I had a promise once.

      _Pop._                       That was conditioned.

      _Ner._ And what condition have I not fulfilled?

      _Pop._ Heavens! is’t forgotten?

      _Ner._                          Say, what have I lacked in?

      _Pop._ Or did I dream ’twas promised me? ’Twas this;          1960
    Marriage.

      _Ner._ By Juno, I will marry thee.
    But come to Baiæ.

      _Pop._            Nay; thine oath is vain
    Upon the point of honour. There are things
    Idle and ceremonial, and that count
    In love as nought, but which alone can make
    Divorce from Otho honourable, nay,
    To me, I say, possible. Till the day
    Octavia is divorced I am Otho’s wife,
    Ay, and am well content to be: he loves me,
    And lacks in nothing that a gentlema.                           1970
    And lover should observe. I sometimes think
    That you mistake...

      _Ner._               Ah!

      _Pop._                   But to mistake in that!
    Seem to forget! I fly.

      _Ner._                 O most impatient!
    I have yet no pretext.

      _Pop._                 Nay, nor ever will.
    Besides, your mother rules: she would not suffer it.
    I have no desire to taste her dishes.

      _Ner._                                Hush!
    They come.

      _Enter through the door Petronius, Tigellinus and
    Anicetus._

               Where be the others?

      _TIGELLINUS._

                                    They have taken
    Cæsar’s gracious permission, and gone home.
    ’Tis late.

      _Ner._     Why, who art thou to say ’tis late?
    Be seated, be seated. I’ll tell thee, Anicetus,                 1980
    More of my scheme anon; but for the present
    We keep Minerva’s feast at Baiæ; thither
    Must thou convey the court. Combine high pomp
    With masterly dispatch; our games shall reach
    The limit of invention, and ourselves
    Take part. To thee I say, come not behind.

      _ANICETUS._

    Grant me the means to be great Cæsar’s herald,
    I’ll make a wonder that shall fetch the nymphs
    From their blue depths in ravishment to see
    His ships upon the waters.                                      1990

      _Ner._                     I shall be liberal,
    And give thee full instruction. (_To Pop._) Think, my love,
    What could be pleasanter, now spring is come,
    Than to confide our vexed and careful spirits
    To nature’s flush; to leave our memories
    With the din and smoke of Rome, and force a pageant
    Upon the lazy mirror of the bay,—
    One to make Venus jealous, and confound
    The richness of the season. Thou dost not guess
    What I can do. Say, would’st thou miss the seeing
    Of my magnificence?                                             2000

      _Enter Paris._

      _Pop._              See, here is Paris.

      _Ner._ He comes to make us merry. The gods defend us!
    He has seen a ghost.

      _Pop._               He has something to deliver.

      _Ner._ Patience! I know his mood: he will be tragic;
    And you shall see the severe and tearful muse
    Outstride her dignity, and fall along.
    (_To Paris_) Begin!

      _PARIS._

                        Most mighty and most honoured Cæsar,
    I cannot speak for shame.

      _Petr._                   Why, man, thou’st spoken.

      _Ner._ He opens well.

      _Petr._ Like the nurse in Seneca’s tragedy.

      _Par._ The tale I bring, my lords, is little suited
    To make your sport.

      _Petr._             No?

      _Ner._                  This is excellent.                    2011

      _Pop._ I think he is in earnest.

      _Ner._                           ’Tis his art.

      _Par._ I am a messenger now, and no actor,
    Sent by your royal aunt Domitia
    To unmask a thing, which, though the gods be praised
    That in discovery have wrought prevention,
    Is yet a damnèd plot....

      _Ner._ (_rising_).       A plot, a plot!      [_All rise._
    Stand off; stand off! a plot, thou say’st? a plot?

      _Pop._ (_aside to Nero_). Pray heaven this prove not now
    some fresh contrivance
    Of the empress.                                                 2020

      _Ner._          Stand all aside. Art thou in earnest?

      _Par._ Pardon me, Cæsar. Did this plot concern
    Less than thy life...

      _Ner._                 My life! by all the gods,
    Speak but his name who dares.

      _Par._                        Will Cæsar’s ear
    Grant me indulgence?

      _Ner._               Speak, fool, or thou diest.

      _Par._ The matter is disclosed by certain freedmen
    Engaged by the empress.

      _Ner._                  Ah!

      _Pop._ (_to Nero_).         Said I not so?

      _Ner._ Be this proved, ’tis the last.

      _Pop._ (_to Nero_).            Ay, till the next.

      _Ner._ Paris, as thou would’st live another moment,
    Speak now but truth.

      _Par._ (_shows a paper_).   See here the evidence.
    If Cæsar read this, ’twill give certain colour                  2030
    To worst suspicion. Here are writ the names.

      _Ner._ Read me the names.

      _Par._                    Rubellius Plautus.

      _Ner._                                       Ha!
    Enough. I know ’tis true the villain’s blood
    Hath from Augustus equal claim with mine.
    Who else?

      _Par._    Balbillus and Arruntius Stella,
    With Fænius Rufus, and your royal mother,
    And some who ’scape the crime disclosing it.

      _Ner._ I’ll have their lives to-night.

      _Tig._                                 I pray now, Cæsar,
    Grant me this order.

      _Anic._              Or me.

      _Ner._                      Nay, who are ye?
    Go, Tigellinus, fetch me Burrus hither.                         2040

      _Par._ I have his name set down with the conspiracy.

      _Ner._ Burrus?

      _Par._         ’Tis question of him, nothing certain.

      _Ner._ Escort him here unarmed; I’ll speak with him.

      _Tig._ Cæsar, I go.      [_Exit._

      _Ner._              Give me thy paper, sirrah.

    What have we here?      [_Reads._

      _Petr._ (_to Servt._) Call me my servant there.

      _Anic._ Wilt thou go?

      _Petr._               Ay, ’tis sadly out of place,
    This business at this time. Look, Anicetus,
    Thou’rt new to Cæsar’s suppers; let me tell thee
    There’s ever something wrong. See how he takes it!
    Mad, mad!                                                       2050

      _Ner._ (_aside_). I see. Plautus. This hits my life:
    Britannicus being dead, that hope cut off,
    She looks to Plautus’ claim: and I to be
    Poisoned or what appears not: yet I doubt not
    Poisoned. ’Tis found in time. Now ’tis plain war;
    The strongest wins. Poison! ’Tis life for life.
    Nay, maybe already I have swallowed down
    Some death-steeped morsel; ay, this very night
    Have tasted of it, and the subtle drug
    Runs in my veins concocting: my spirit sickens,
    I faint and tremble. What is it?

      _Anic._ (_advancing_).           Cæsar, a word.               2060

      _Ner._ What would’st thou say?

      _Anic._ (_to Ner._)            ’Tis I can do this thing.
    None that be here lack will: I have the means.
    ’Twere easy, would you give me the command.

      _Ner._ What would be easy?

      _Anic._                    Why, this thing that hangs,
    Which you for Rome so wisely, and for you
    Rome and your friends have wished. If but your foe
    Step on a ship of mine, I’ll beg my death
    If it touch land again. We go to Baiæ,
    And there upon the hazard of the sea
    May this disorder sleep.

      _Enter Burrus with Tigellinus._

      _Ner._ (_to Anic._)      I thank thy zeal;                    2070

    There is no need; give way.—Burrus, thou’rt called
    Upon a stern occasion. Is’t not death
    To any man or woman whosoe’er
    That plots to murder Cæsar?

      _BURRUS._

                                Death deserved.

      _Ner._ Here be the names of some who thus offend.
    Thine is amongst them: of thine honesty
    I am too well persuaded to demand
    More proof than this, that thou do execute
    All these conspirators to-night.

      _Bur._                           —Cæsar
    Is not mistaken in me. Let me see                               2080
    The names.      [_Takes paper and reads._

      _Par._ (_aside_). Now may Jove blast the general’s wits,
    Else we be lost.

      _Petr._ (_to Anic._) Take my advice. (_going_).

      _Anic._ (_to Petr._)                 Nay, nay,
    I’ll see it out.      [_Exit Petronius._

      _Bur._ (_aside_). What’s this? Why, ’tis mere nonsense.—
    What evidence hath Cæsar of this plot?

      _Ner._ Confession of the traitors. Paris brings it
    Fresh from Domitia.

      _Bur._              Now, with your permission,
    I’ll question Paris.

      _Ner._               Question! why, is’t not plain?
    Question is treasonous; and thou to question,
    Whose name the black suspicion pricks! wilt thou
    Question?—who hast the deepest cause of all                     2090
    For sure conviction? Is’t not horrible
    That I, to whose security the empire
    Looks for stability, should most of all
    Live an uneasy and precarious life,
    And find no remedy because my ministers,
    Who should be over-zealous to protect me
    Even from imagined danger, shut their eyes
    And ears to plots and perils which I hear
    My slaves and women prate of?

      _Bur._                        Cæsar, the matter
    Demands inquiry. That you have been much wronged
    Is clear: by whom is doubtful. Let me pray                      2101
    You save your judgment from reproach of haste,
    And hear what I advise.

      _Ner._                  Speak; I will hear.
    Speak.

      _Bur._ First dismiss the company: ’tis ill
    To have had this audience.

      _Ner._                     Friends, you are all dismissed.
    Begone without a word: this business presses.

      _Pop._ (_to Nero_). Have some one with you, Nero; are you advised?
    Keep a guard while you can.

      _Ner._ (_to Pop._)          Nay, have no fear.

      _Pop._ I would not trust him. Did not Paris say
    His name was with the rest?

      _Ner._ (_to Pop._)   Be not afraid.—                          2110
    Good night, my lords. (_To Bur._) Shall Paris stay?

      _Bur._                                              No, none.

      _Ner._ Paris, await without; the rest go home.

          [_Anic. Tig. and Par. go out: Poppæa tarries._

      _Pop._ (_to Nero_). Oh, do not trust this man!

      _Ner._ (_to Pop._)                             He’s not my enemy.

      _Pop._ I fear to leave thee with him.

      _Ner._                                Have no fear.

      _Pop._ Could he not kill thee?

      _Ner._                         Nay, nay.

      _Pop._                                   Oh, he will.
    Alas! alas! Oh! oh!      [_Faints._

      _Ner._              Why, thou must go.

          [_Exit Nero carrying out Poppæa._

      _Bur._ (_solus_). Be hanged! the fool’s gone too.

      _Re-enter Nero._

      _Ner._                          Now, Burrus, now.
    Art thou my friend?

      _Bur._              —We are alone, and while
    There’s none to hear, you must excuse a soldier
    If he speak plainly, Cæsar.

      _Ner._                      Indeed, Burrus,                   2120
    Thou art my only friend; speak as a friend.

      _Bur._ I have heard it said the German warriors,
    Meet o’er their cups, and, hot with wine, resolve
    Matters of state; but ere they put in act
    Their midnight policy, they meet again
    In morning hours to see if sober sense
    Approve what frenzied zeal inspired. The custom
    Has been applauded. Chance has given to you
    The one half of the method: use the other.

      _Ner._ I am not drunk.                                        2130

      _Bur._                 Such wandering judgment, Cæsar,
    Asks such excuse.

      _Ner._            My judgment wanders not.
    I am cool. My face is flushed?...

      _Bur._                            How will this look
    If, sitting here at table, at a breath
    Of hearsay you commit to instant death
    Your mother and four noble citizens,
    With others of less note?

      _Ner._                    Choose I the time?
    Shall the conspirators be pardoned then
    ’Cause Cæsar sups? or say Cæsar must fast
    And touch no wine, lest when his blood be warm
    Some treasonous practice creep into his ears,                   2140
    And they who would befriend conspiracy
    May point suspicion on his judgment! Now
    Is a good hour for treason; Cæsar sups,
    And must not credit it.

      _Bur._                  I do not blame
    Your feast.

      _Ner._ No more then: let it be to-night.

      _Bur._ What! on a charge unproven?

      _Ner._                             Thou may’st prove it.

      _Bur._ See, you acquit me; why not then the rest?

      _Ner._ Acquit my mother! would’st thou persuade me, Burrus,
    She can be acquitted?

      _Bur._                Of the deeds she has done
    She is guilty; for this action charged against her,
    It is not hers.

      _Ner._          Oh, more, much more is hers                   2151
    Than thou dost dream. The crime men charge on me,
    My brother’s death, Burrus, indeed, I swear,
    Though thou believe me not, yet if my part
    In that were separate and weighed ’gainst hers ...
    I would not tell thee... Oh, I had been happy had I
    But heard thee then.

      _Bur._               Your peace even now as much
    Hangs on good counsel. You are hot: be guided, Cæsar.

      _Ner._ Nay, now thou’rt changed, thou’rt wrong: thou goest round
    To the other side. If thou would’st give the advice
    I need, I’d take it gladly. Listen, Burrus:                     2161
    I have another secret; if I tell thee
    Thou may’st befriend me. I will tell thee. Hark!
    ’Tis this: I fear my mother; I cannot sound
    Her heartlessness; my terror shames the shows
    And feeble efforts of my trust and love.
    I have read her eyes—
    Oh, there’s no tenderness, no pious scruple
    Writ in my favour there; nothing but hate.
    To think that I am her son but whets to fierceness
    Her fury, and her hellish plots are laid                        2171
    More recklessly and safely that she deems
    I am not knit of that obdurate nerve
    To sear the tender place of natural love.
    I would not do it, Burrus, though I fear her
    And hate her, as I must; but let it end
    Ere it be worse. I pray thee do it, Burrus.

      _Bur._ The cause of fear is magnified by terror:
    The present circumstance were amply met
    By Agrippina’s exile, which I urge,                             2180
    As ever, now. But let such sentence rest
    On proven crime.

      _Ner._           Oh, thus were ne’er an end.
    Done, we stand clear.

      _Bur._                Thus done, ’twere a foul crime:
    And if you have found remorse in what before
    Was schemed in fear and haste, consider, Cæsar,
    If you would thank me for subserviency
    Did I obey; for your sake I refuse.

      _Ner._ Eh!

      _Bur._     I refuse.

      _Ner._               I have other friends.

      _Bur._                                     So be it.
    Take my demission. But remember, Cæsar,
    That he who fills my place, handles the power                   2190
    That holds you up; he that hath strength to help
    May find the will to hurt you.

      _Ner._                         I meant not that.
    I trust thee, Burrus: I’ll be guided by thee.
    What wilt thou do?

      _Bur._             The wisest course is thus:
    To-morrow Seneca and I will go
    With chosen witnesses to Agrippina,
    And lay the charge. If she draw quit of it,
    Well; but if not, I promise that her place
    Shall not win favour of me.

      _Ner._                      Dost thou promise?

      _Bur._ I promise that.

      _Ner._                 And if there be a doubt,               2200
    Thou’lt wrest it to my side?

      _Bur._                       I promise that.

      _Ner._ ’Tis death.

      _Bur._             Ay, death.

      _Ner._                        If that be thy last word
    I am free. I would I had more such friends as thou.
    But bring it not back; take all my power. Thou saidst
    I had no cause for fear?

      _Bur._                   What should you fear?

      _Ner._ I think thou’rt right.

      _Bur._                        Now, Cæsar, I will leave you.
    Your spirits are much moved.

      _Ner._                       Indeed I swear
    I am not moved. There was no need to blame
    My supper, Burrus.

      _Bur._             Nay, I blamed it not.

      _Ner._ I am not sensible to wine as others.                   2210
    Of all I meet there’s none, no, not the best,
    Can eat and drink as I. There’s something, Burrus,
    In that. I think if I, who rule the world,
    Could not enjoy my wine, that were a blemish
    Which scorn might hit.

      _Bur._                 I never blamed your supper.

      _Ner._ Hadst thou been there, thou would’st have praised it well.
    I have learned much lately in these things. Petronius,
    Ay, he’s the man—I’m blessed in this Petronius.
    Thou know’st him?

      _Bur._            Ay, and would not keep his hours.
    ’Tis late, to bed.

      _Ner._             Well, Burrus, I’ll to bed.                 2220
    But thou must sup with me. I’d gladly have thee
    One of our party. I shall tell Petronius.

      _Bur._ Cæsar, good night.

      _Ner._                    By heaven, I had forgot;
    Where did I leave Poppæa? I remember.
    Good night, Burrus, good night.      [_Exit._

      _Bur._                          Now may brave Bacchus
    Reclaim the field; for me, I’ll gather up
    This quenched brand, and be off. What must men think
    Of Cæsar, who would fetch him with such trash?
    The Augusta marry Plautus! Master Paris
    For this will need his wit to save his skin.      [_Exit._


                               SCENE · 5

      _A small room in Agrippina’s house. Enter AGRIPPINA
    and FULVIA._

      _AGRIPPINA._

    My days are weary, Fulvia. Know you not                         2231
    Some art to make time fly? another month
    Of prison and neglect would kill me quite.

      _FULVIA._

    Is’t not the change more than the solitude
    Vexes your majesty?

      _Agr._              Nay, I was never made
    For isolation, and even by my friends
    I am utterly forsaken.

      _Ful._                 Junia Silana
    Was very constant, tho’ we have not seen her
    Now for four days.

      _Agr._             Bah! she’s my foe. I wronged her
    That way a woman ne’er forgives. ’Twas I                        2240
    Broke off her match with Sextius, you remember.

      _Ful._ Your true friends dare not come: they stand aloof,
    Watching the time to do you service, madam.

      _Agr._ You speak of Pallas: there’s none else.

      _Ful._                                         The lot
    Of late befallen your majesty is such
    As all our sex have borne, who have not raised
    Nor much demeaned themselves beyond the rest.

      _Agr._ True; but ’twas never mine; I made escape.
    They that would lock us up in idleness,
    Shut us from all affairs, treat us as dolls                     2250
    Appointed for their pleasure; these but make it
    The easier for a woman with a will
    To have her way. Life lacks machinery
    To thwart us. Had I been a man, methinks
    I had done as well, but never with the means
    I have used. Nay, nay, ’tis easy for a woman,
    Be she but quick and brave, to have her will.

      _Enter Servant, who speaks to Fulvia, and she to
    Agrippina._

    Burrus and Seneca you say! Admit them.
    Fulvia, here’s one apiece: make your own choice;
    I’ve none, and can be generous. Pray come in.                   2260

      _Enter Burrus and Seneca with two others._

    Come in, my lords, come in. You are very welcome.
    Look, Fulvia, now if Mercury have not heard
    Our prayers and sent us noble visitors!
    Pray you be seated. Alas, in this poor house
    I fear I cannot show you the reception
    You and your gallant followers deserve.
    ’Tis not what thou’rt accustomed to at home,
    Seneca, I know: pardon it. Thou lookest cold.
    Come near the fire: pray heaven this bitter weather
    May not have touched thy chest. A Gallic winter!
    I can remember no such fall of snow                             2271
    In March these twenty years; but looking back,
    I find one noted in my journal then.
    How goes your health, my lords?

      _SENECA._

                                    Well, thank you, madam.

      _Agr._ I am very glad: your visit is well meant;
    It cheers me much.

      _BURRUS._

                       The truth is, madam, we come
    At Nero’s order.

      _Agr._           Ha! then I strike you off      [_Rising._
    My list of friends again. I thought as much;
    I wondered how you dared me this affront
    In my last poor retreat, here where I sit                       2280
    Alone and friendless, in the worst disgrace
    Woman can suffer;—ay, and caused by you.
    But learn that, if nought else, this house is mine;
    If ’tis so small that it can welcome little,
    It can exclude the more. At Cæsar’s order
    Ye have forgot your manners, now at mine
    Resume them. Ye have done his hest, begone!
    Begone!

      _Sen._  I pray you, madam, hear the message;
    We may not leave without delivering it.
    Burrus will speak it.

      _Agr._                Oh—Burrus speak it.                     2290
    If Burrus speak, the affair is mighty black.
    There’s none like him to break an ugly business.

        [_Sitting._

    Hey! Well, we have nought to do, so let us hear
    The last of the court. Octavia’s divorce?

      _Sen._ Believe me, lady, I feel much aggrieved
    In all that hurts you here.

      _Agr._                 Stranger than fiction.
    Now what’s the matter?

      _Bur._                 There has been information
    To Cæsar of plots against his life, the which
    The informers charge on you. This the chief item,
    That you have entered with Rubellius Plautus                    2300
    Into conspiracy to set him up
    In Nero’s place, and to dethrone your son.
    I come with Seneca and these witnesses
    To hear the answer, which your majesty
    No doubt hath very ready, and accordingly
    To acquit you of the charge.

      _Agr._                       —Excellent!
    Now, Seneca, ’s thy turn; or will these gentlemen?
    Fulvia, we have depositions to be made:
    Fetch pens and paper; all shall be in order.

      _Sen._ Madam, remember on what past occasions
    Cæsar hath shown suspicion, and believe,                        2311
    Whate’er your innocency, there is cause
    To make it clear.

      _Agr._            Thy prudence, Seneca,
    Is vanity, not kindness; spare it, pray.
    Here is your paper, gentlemen: I’ll give you
    Matter for Cæsar’s reading. Tell me first
    Who’s my accuser?

      _Bur._            There are two—the first
    Junia Silana, the other is your sister
    Domitia: they bring forth as evidence
    The informers, certain freedmen, Atimetus,                      2320
    Iturius, and Calvisius, who affirm
    That you have lately been on terms with Plautus,
    Stirring him up to make an enterprise
    Against the state; that you, by marrying him
    (Who by the mother’s side may claim a line
    As rightly from Augustus as doth Nero),
    Might reinstate yourself, dethrone your son,
    And bring disaster to the commonwealth.
    That is the charge, of which we are come to hear
    The refutation, not to press the count.                         2330

      _Agr._ Pah! You’re a brace of idiots, if ye think
    This needs refuting. Who’s Silana, pray,
    That if she speak, the very bonds of nature
    And heaven must be repealed to give her credit,
    Saying a mother plots to kill her son?
    I marvel not that she, being childless, dares
    Avouch such madness, never having known
    How near the affections of all mothers are,
    Nor that a mother cannot shift her love
    Like an adulteress;—nay, nor do I wonder                        2340
    That she should find among her freedmen those,
    Who, having in luxury spent all their substance,
    Will for the promise of the old lady’s purse
    Sustain the accusation: but that for this
    I should be seriously held suspect
    Of the infamy of parricide, or Cæsar
    Of giving ear to it, this I marvel at.
      As for Domitia, I would thank my sister
    Even for her jealousy, were but the strife                      2349
    One of good will and kindness towards my Nero.
    But now she wastes her time with her man Paris,
    Composing as ’twere fables for the stage.
    Let her go back to Baiæ and her fishpools;
    They kept her trifling spirit well employed,
    When by my efforts Nero’s first adoption,
    Proconsular authority, consulate,
    And other steps to empire were procured.
    Are ye now answered?—
    Or is there any can be brought to show
    That I have practised with the city cohorts,                    2360
    Corrupted the loyalty of the provinces,
    Solicited the freedmen to rebellion?
    Or to what purpose think ye? Had Britannicus
    Been Cæsar, then I grant I might have lived;
    But if ’tis Plautus, or whoever else
    Should get the power, how should I lack accusers
    To charge me, not with words escaped in passion,
    But deeds and crimes—crimes—ay, Seneca, crimes,
    Of which I could not hope to be acquitted
    Save as a mother by her son? And ye                             2370
    Think I shall here defend myself to you!
    Send Cæsar to me. By the gods I swear
    I’ll be revenged on all who have had a hand
    In this most cowardly and senseless plot.
    I wait him here: tell him that to none other
    Will I resolve this matter.

      _Bur._                      Be content
    To say so much in form, that our report
    Suffice for your acquittal.

      _Agr._                      I bid you go.

      _Bur._ Cæsar shall hear your message.

      _Sen._                                Madam, we go.

      _Agr._ Ay, go, good fellows; though ye have roused my passion, 2380
    Your coming here hath cheered me wondrously.
    Nay, if ye have ever such another matter,
    Bring it again; be not abashed, but come;
    Or send your wives, and those two gentlemen,
    Whose names I know not. My lords, your humble servant.

    [_Exeunt Burrus and Seneca and two Gentlemen._

    Plautus! now is it possible I was wrong
    Not to have thought of Plautus? No, I laugh,
    ’Tis merely laughable. At forty-five
    To marry a pretender; and Plautus too!
    He would not have me. Fulvia, do you think                      2390
    That Plautus wants to marry me? Ha! ha!
    Is it my beauty, think you, or my virtue,
    Or my good fortune tempts the stoic? Oh,
    Domitia, oh, you are dull. I cannot fear
    This plot. We shall retire with more than honour.
    ’Twas strange, I think, that Pallas was not struck;
    His name escaped.

      _Ful._            There is ample reason, madam.
    They say that in his house he holds such caution
    As not to speak before his slaves. His orders
    Are given by nod and sign, or if there’s need                   2400
    He writes: there’s none can say they have heard him speak.

      _Agr._ May good come of it. ’Twould be hard indeed
    If they should exile Plautus for a fear
    Lest I should marry him. That were a fate
    Of irony. Why, give the man his choice
    Of marrying me and exile, would he not
    Fly to the pole? Poor Plautus! marry Plautus!

      _Both._ Ha! ha! ha! he! he!

      _Enter Nero. Agrippina is seated._

      _NERO._

    I find you merry, mother; the gods be praised
    That you deny the impeachment.

      _Agr._                         Really, Nero,
    Burrus’ memory is getting very short
    If he said I denied it. I did not.

      _Ner._ You did not?

      _Agr._              Nay, I’d not be at the pains.

      _Ner._ Called you me hither?

      _Agr._                       Ay, you seem misled.
    I guess who ’tis. But let that pass. I hoped
    I might advise you privately; I knew
    You would not wish it known. Now, was I wrong?

      _Ner._ Do you deny what is affirmed against you?

      _Agr._ No, son: for if you wished to take my life,
    Why should I rob you of this grand pretence?                    2420
    Yet since you cannot, and the charge itself
    But moves my laughter, as you overheard,
    My only wish is you should now retire
    With dignity, and act as Cæsar ought.

      _Ner._ (_aside_). This then is added to my shames.

      _Agr._                                            What say you?
    Fulvia, await without. [_Exit Fulvia._] Who brought this to thee?

      _Ner._ Paris.

      _Agr._        The player! when?

      _Ner._                          Last night at supper.

      _Agr._ Tell me, didst thou believe it? is it possible?
    Thou didst! Whence gottest thou thy wits I wonder;
    Certain they are not mine, no, nor thy father’s:
    I think they came of Claudius by adoption.                      2431
    Dost thou believe it still?

      _Ner._                      Whate’er I have done
    Was on advice.

      _Agr._         A pious caution truly.
    Is this thy trust? Yet, yet I must forgive thee.
    See, I was angered. Nay, ’twas not thy judgment:
    I know who leads. But for these foolish women
    I sentence exile.

      _Ner._            Sentence whom to exile?

      _Agr._ The two devisers. Yet I think my sister
    Is harmless; but the other, that Silana—

      _Ner._ Silana must be banished?                               2440

      _Agr._                          Judge her, Nero,
    When thou hast heard. She and thy aunt Domitia
    Have been the two who, in my sad retirement,
    Have visited me most. Day after day
    They have made a show of kindness, finding joy
    In my disgrace, to view it; and have but left me
    To try this trick.

      _Ner._ (_aside_).  ’Tis plain I have been fooled.

      _Agr._ For those that brought the tale, thou knowest that they
    Must taste the penalties they sought to inflict;
    That thou must know; but ’tis not all. The acquittal
    Of those accused will not be full without                       2450
    Some honour shown them. Best among the names
    Stand Fænius Rufus and Arruntius Stella,
    Who may have city posts: gentle Balbillus,
    Who has long deserved it, must be paid at last
    With a proconsulate. For myself, thou knowest
    I have taken all disgrace so patiently
    That I expect some boon, though yet I fear
    To ask; but when I have seen my slandered friends
    Honoured, I’ll write it thee.

      _Ner._                        I shall be quick
    To punish and to make amends. ’Tis just                         2460
    Towards Burrus, I should tell you from the first
    He took your part.

      _Agr._             What could he else? Now, Nero,
    I have done: go home, and there resolve the matter
    With common sense; take Burrus into counsel
    As to what penalties and what promotions
    Shall be distributed. Before the people
    Remember that some feeling must be shown,
    And anger for effronteries attempted
    Against your majesty. Now go, the affair
    Has somewhat tired me.—Nay, touch me not; farewell.             2470

      _Ner._ I see you are right; farewell.

      _Agr._                                I have more advice,
    Which I will write to thee.      [_Exit Nero._
    Excellent this—I have not had my way
    Thus for a long long while: ay, now is my time
    To strike. I’ll venture with a letter to him
    And claim my boon, that he dismiss Poppæa.
    There’s much to say on that which may seem aimed
    More at his good than mine; and if she have plunged
    In this false step, his vanity being touched                    2479
    May shake his liking. I will do it at once.      [_Exit._


                               SCENE · 6

      _A room in the Palace. Enter NERO and POPPÆA._

      _NERO._

    All for thy sake was planned, and now my pleasure
    In scheming thine is fled; for what is Baiæ,
    And what Minerva’s feast, blue skies and seas,
    Or games, or mirth, or wine, or the soft season,
    If thou deny me? Prithee say thou’lt come.

      _POPPÆA._

    Nay, I’ll not go.

      _Ner._            Thou wilt not?

      _Pop._                           Nay, I cannot.

      _Ner._ Cannot to Cæsar?

      _Pop._                  Prove me then thou’rt Cæsar,
    And not a ward.

      _Ner._          A ward!

      _Pop._                  I said a ward.
    May I not see thee vexed? ’Tis what men whisper,
    Who dare not vex thee. Well, thy mother’s child,
    So much that at her beck thou forfeitest                        2491
    Empire and liberty.

      _Ner._              Wouldst thou enrage me!
    What dost thou mean, Poppæa?

      _Pop._                       Deny not that:
    If ’tis not that hinders our marriage, then
    The case, I fear, blackens. I, who can smile
    At that, must weep another cause. I’ll think
    Thou’rt tired of me.

      _Ner._               Now by what sign?

      _Pop._                                 Maybe
    Thou hast seen a better beauty, and repented
    The promise given to me.

      _Ner._                   O treason, treason!

      _Pop._ Thinkest my blood unworthy of alliance                 2500
    With thine—tho’, truth, my ancestors have triumphed.

      _Ner._ Who dares that lie shall bleed.

      _Pop._                                 Or that our bed
    Is not like to be blest.

      _Ner._                   The fruitful gods
    With all their oracles avert the omen.

      _Pop._ Or that I urge my marriage for advancement;
    And thou, doubting my love, pressest denial
    To proof of faith.

      _Ner._             Ay, that is it; thou’st hit it.

      _Pop._ Or that I, once thy wife, would cross thy mother,
    Divulge her crimes, the hate the senate bear her,
    And last, though that’s well known, how she hates thee.

      _Ner._ Speak of this once for all, then let the jest
    Be dead.

      _Pop._   Nay, ’tis no jest, for Agrippina                     2512
    Will never love a daughter who loves thee.
    Restore me to my husband. I were happier
    In any place, howe’er remote from Rome,
    Where thy disgrace and wrongs can but be spoken,
    Not seen and felt as here. See why I go.

      _Ner._ Poppæa, since I have never hid from thee
    My quarrel with my mother, thou mayst know
    It draws to end.

      _Pop._           Oh, is’t the turn for kindness?              2520
    Hath she been kind again? Why, ’tis deception.
    When her plot failed she cast it off, and now
    Exults: ’tis her fresh confidence seems kind.

      _Ner._ ’Twas not her plot. Or else I’d rather think
    She put the snare to catch my foolish aunt,
    Who blindly took the bait.

      _Pop._                     Then she pretended
    Treason, that she might better hurt her sister:
    And yet can win thy trust!

      _Ner._                     Nay, heaven forbid;
    I trust her not.

      _Pop._           She hates me.

      _Ner._                         Nay, her kinship
    Is jealous for Octavia; but...

      _Pop._                          Ah, true!                     2530
    To kill one’s husband, plot against one’s son,
    Should leave unsatisfied some tender feelings
    To spend upon a step-child. Why, she knows
    Those arts which manage you would not gull me,
    A woman not her child. Her whole design
    Is bent to thwart our marriage; and she will.
    I know it.

      _Ner._     I swear that were this proved against her,
    Came it to a question ’twixt herself and thee,
    Which to take, which to lose, then not a moment
    Would I delay: the blow I have often sworn                      2540
    To strike should fall.

      _Enter Messenger._

      _MESSENGER._

                           A letter from the Augusta.      [_Exit._

      _Pop._ Now, as she loves me, this is mine.

      _Ner._                                     Not so.

      _Pop._ Then as thou lovest me.

      _Ner._                         Well.

      _Pop._ (_reading_).           Ho! ho! ho! ho!
    Now shines the sun at noon.

      _Ner._                      What is’t?

      _Pop._                                 I read?

      _Ner._ Read then.

      _Pop._ (_reads_). _To her dearest son. Ha! ha! ha!
    When last we met thou wilt remember to have confessed
    some shame for wrong done to me. The wrong I forgive,
    but eagerly seize on thy sorrow to ask of thee, in regard
    for thine own happiness, this only favour. ’Tis my earnest
    prayer and advice that thou dismiss Poppæa._                    2551

      _Ner._ Ha! writes she so?

      _Pop._                    Attend, the reasons follow.
    (_Reading._) _Beware of her: nor think that I grudge thee
    the happiness which thou now findest in her. Marriage
    with her can lead only to thy misery. I know her well._
    Now hear my character.

      _Ner._                 Give me the letter.

      _Pop._ _She is vain, deceitful, self-seeking, and, being by
    nature cold, hath the art to assume the mask of passion;
    and ’neath the show of virtue designedly conceals her
    wickedness and mischief. She loves thee no better than
    she loves Otho._                                                2561

      _Ner._ Give me the letter.

      _Pop._                     Nay, one sentence more.
      _Believe a woman sees further than a man, since to her eyes
    beauty is no veil._
    She grants me beauty then.      [_Gives letter to Nero._

      _Ner._ (_reading_). ’Tis so, ’tis so. Ye gods! and thou
             wert right.
    Poppæa, this is the end. Come not to Baiæ.
    Wait my return.

      _Pop._          What’s now to do, I pray?

      _Ner._ Ask not: when I return I shall be free.
    We will be married.

      _Pop._              Will you banish her?                      2570

      _Ner._ Ask nothing.

      _Pop._              From her exile still her plottings
    Will reach to Rome.

      _Ner._              Not so, for she shall go
    Whence nothing reaches Rome.

      _Pop._                       Oh, now I fear
    I have said too much; let not my love o’ercome thee.
    Maybe she meant not this.

      _Ner._                    Thou meddle not!

      _Pop._ Oh, but at least no crimes, Nero, no crimes!
    Promise me that; rather I’ll fly to-night.

      _Ner._ Poppæa, in earnest of the happy day
    When thou wilt be my wife, I bid thee now
    Depart.                                                         2580

      _Pop._ (_kissing him_). Husband, I go.      [_Exit._

      _Ner._                       What ho! what ho!

      _Enter a Servant._

    Is Anicetus in the palace?

      _SERVANT._

                             Ay, Cæsar.

      _Ner._ Go, bid him hither straight.      [_Exit Servant._
                                        It shall be done.
    Ay, now it shall be done. Let me consider;
    I must be cool, lest I be foiled once more.
    Where lies my hindrance? not in her; she has twice
    Deceived me and escaped: now in my turn
    I steal her weapon, and can use it better,
    Having been plain before. Then Seneca...
    He shall not know, so are his scruples quiet.
    For mine, they are hushed already; but ’twere best
    Recount the terms which reason can oppose                       2591
    To too rebellious nature: first there’s my motive,
    Huge as the earth; liberty, happiness,
    Empire: that cannot slide, I fear not that.
    Then there’s the ground of justice; Claudius’ death,
    O’er which the executive too long hath slept
    In Cæsar’s piety: the sentence now
    O’ertakes the murderess with a double score,
    Since she by her conspiracy contrived
    Britannicus should die ... ay, for his death                    2600
    The heavy penalty hangs o’er some head;
    Now let it fall on hers,—so I am quit.
    All this condemns her, long-expected justice
    Cries, and occasion hurries on the hand.
    Ay, ay, I am clear. Poppæa being my stake,
    I cannot shrink nor swerve. What was’t she wrote?
    Why here is more.      [_Reads._
                     _Be with me in this matter,
    But if thou should’st refuse, we are worse foes._
    She dares the threat.

      _Enter Anicetus._

      _ANICETUS._

                        Cæsar hath summoned me.

      _Ner._ Good Anicetus, tell me, is there none                  2610
    Greater than Cæsar?

      _Anic._             Nay, Cæsar, there is none.

      _Ner._ But were there one to whom it might be said
    Cæsar owed life and fortune—dost thou take me?

      _Anic._ Cæsar would say the Augusta.

      _Ner._                             Nay, thou’rt dull:
    ’Twas thee I meant.

      _Anic._           Me, Cæsar!

      _Ner._                     Dost remember
    Boasting to me that thou hadst sailor means
    To do a certain thing?

      _Anic._              Ay.

      _Ner._                  Do it now.
    I’ll owe thee life and fortune. Canst thou be trusted?

      _Anic._ My love for Cæsar follows hand in hand
    With his command in this.

      _Ner._                  Then do it, I say;                    2620
    No words, no explanation. Agrippina
    Will come to Baiæ: there have thou thy ship.

      _Anic._ I will have one at Bauli, one at Baiæ:
    If she take either it shall serve the turn.

      _Ner._ Go now contrive thy means; let nothing ’scape thee
    To me or any other: when ’tis done
    Hold thy head high.

      _Anic._           Cæsar, I go to do it.      [_Exit._

      _Ner._ Now comes my part: ay, though it vex my soul
    To stoop; tho’ this be Cæsar’s greatest wrong,
    That he must patch his faultless power with guile,
    And having all command, miss of his will                        2631
    But for a subterfuge .... yet for this once
    I’ll do it—’tis little; but to write a letter,
    Feign to discard Poppæa, as mistrusting
    Her love and character; and from that vantage
    I surely win my mother to come forth
    And join the court at Baiæ—she will come.



                                ACT · V


                               SCENE · 1

      _Baiæ. A room in Agrippina’s villa; the back gives out
    on the sea, where a galley is seen moored to quay of
    villa. AGRIPPINA and FULVIA._

      _AGRIPPINA._

    Is not this charming, Fulvia? what a day!
    I feel I have never breathed spring air before.
    And how the people cheered! it did me good.                     2640
    Here’s my old seat. The villa’s looking well.
    Could but Domitia see us now! How smoothly
    Her little plot went off! My first suspicions,
    Fulvia, I am sure were wrong: this invitation
    Was most well meant; and see the tenderness
    Has even called up my tears. You cannot know
    What fond associations make this house
    A home indeed. I wish I had not refused
    To take the yacht at Bauli: ’twas an error,
    Over-precaution.

      _FULVIA._

                   Madam, I but told you                            2650
    The very words Seleucus....   [_A noise without._

      _Agr._                    What is that noise?

      _Ful._ ’Tis Cæsar coming with a company.

      _Agr._ Oh, I will see. (_Looking forth._) And there is
       Seneca
    And Burrus. There’s much meaning in this visit.
    How grand he looks with all his lords about him!
    There never was a Cæsar like him: others
    Have been but Cæsars; he’s an emperor,
    And wears the full magnificence of state
    In beardless boyhood.—Fulvia, I do love splendour.
    To be so young and rule the world!                              2660

      _Enter Nero, Seneca, and Burrus._

                                       Now, welcome,
    Welcome, my son!

      _NERO._

                   Welcome to Baiæ, mother.
    We are come the first day of the feast to pay you
    The season’s compliments.

      _Agr._                  A prompt return.
    What pleasure ’tis, Nero, I cannot say.
    Welcome, my lords.

      _SENECA._

                     My loving service, lady.

      _Ner._ Crossed you the bay from Bauli?

      _Agr._                               Nay, you’ll laugh;
    ’Twas foolish; but I wished the folk to see
    My joy and reconcilement, and in the thought
    To please so many friends I kept my litter.

      _Ner._ You’ll all sup with us?                                2670

      _Agr._                       I look for nothing better.

      _Ner._ Whom will you bring?

      _Agr._                     I have no one with me here
    But Polla Acerronia.

      _Ner._             And where is she?

      _Agr._ She took the yacht, and so arrived before us,
    But has not left it: like the child she is,
    The new toy quite distracts her: she is there.

      _Ner._ Row you this afternoon upon the bay?

      _Agr._ I had thought of it; and now, if you would come
    That were a double pleasure.

      _Ner._                     I am sorry, I must go
    Order to-morrow’s games.

      _Agr._                 Your lords mayhap
    Will join me. I can take them to your villa.                    2680

      _Sen._ I’ll gladly come: the dust the crowd treads up
    Has filled my throat and set me coughing shrewdly.

      _Ner._ Nay, I shall want you both.

      _Agr._                           Some other time
    I hope, my lords.

      _BURRUS._

                      I thank your majesty.

      _Ner._ Farewell till supper.

      _Agr._                     Why! so short a visit!

      _Ner._ We shall meet soon.

      _Agr._                   Well, I will sail alone
    With Polla; ’tis her wish. Escort me, Nero?

      _Ner._ Ay.

      _Agr._   For the sake of that I’ll go at once.
    I love the sea.

    [_Exeunt Nero with Agr. and Fulv. down the quay,
    where they are still seen._

      _Sen._       Burrus, what say you now!
    Has not the thing I looked for come to pass?                    2690

      _Bur._ There’s as you say a most astounding change;
    Can you explain it?

      _Sen._            Well, you see it, Burrus.

      _Bur._ How came it all about?

      _Sen._                      See now how tenderly
    They both embrace.

      _Bur._           Who would have thought it?

      _Sen._                                        I;
    I should have thought it: and I point to this
    To justify my words those many times
    Our speech has come to difference.

      _Re-enter Nero. Fulvia goes into house._

      _Ner._                         Now, lords,
    I go.

      _Bur. and Sen._ We follow, Cæsar.

      _Ner._                   I have changed my mind;
    I want you not.      [_Going._

      _Bur._        Will Cæsar name the hour
    When we shall wait on him?                                      2700

      _Ner._                   Why, come at once.
    I cannot tell what hour I may not want you.
    Attend me at my villa.      [_Exit._

      _Bur._               Of a sudden
    He is changed again.

      _Sen._             You see how easily
    He is overcome with kindness. Would you know
    The noble sacrifice he has made?

      _Bur._                         What’s that?

      _Sen._ Why, he has renounced Poppæa.

      _Bur._                             Nay!

      _Sen._                                Ay.

      _Bur._                                  Who told you?

      _Sen._ I saw the letter.

      _Bur._                 How! Poppæa shows it?

      _Sen._ ’Twas writ his mother.

      _Bur._                      Then he has deceived her.

      _Sen._ Can you think that?

      _Bur._                   The letter makes all plain.
    Why did he write it?

      _Sen._             Why?

      _Bur._                Well, well.

      _Sen._                          Oh, Burrus,                   2710
    I have every cause for hope; and here to-day
    The meeting in this house more than assures me
    He must redeem the promise of his youth.
    ’Twas in this very room, ten years ago,
    I first saw Nero—Ay, ’tis now ten years—
    I was arrived from Corsica at Rome,
    And there found summons to attend the Augusta
    At Baiæ: hither in all haste I came.
    The yearnings and the miseries of exile
    Would make a mean deliverer seem a god,                         2720
    And my return drave me half mad with joy.
    I entered: in that chair sat Agrippina,
    My kind deliverer, my friend, the empress.
    Time had not marred her beauty, and as she spake
    Impatience flushed her cheek—she shared my joy.
    I knelt in tears there, nor ashamed of tears,
    Though at her side I was aware was standing
    A boy of some twelve years; whom, when I rose,
    She then presented as her son, and bade me
    Take him for pupil. As I saw him then                           2730
    In fullest grace of boyhood, apt in all
    Boys should be manly in, and gifted further
    Than boys are wont with insight, and the touch
    Of human sympathy and learned taste,
    Proficient in some arts and dull in none,
    But coy withal and generous, ’twas no wonder
    If ere that evening passed I had admitted
    The schemes his mother had laid, which in short time
    Were brought to pass.

      _Bur._              ’Twas a black day.

      _Sen._                               And yet,
    Burrus, if after you had seen how kindly                        2740
    He took instruction, how he came to love me,
    You would not wonder—nay, I can remember
    Claudius himself was shamed if his Britannicus,
    Being younger but by some two years, were by
    Where Nero was: and had I been the father
    I might have wished, I think, to have done as he,
    And called the best my son.

      _Bur._                     He killed Britannicus.

      _Sen._ Burrus, if as it seems you quite distrust him,
    Why hold you still the office which establishes
    His power?

      _Bur._   Because it is an office, Seneca,                     2750
    The top of my profession: yet, by the gods,
    Find you a better man, and I’ll be gone.
    But, as a soldier, I’ll not see the guards
    Commanded by some brute like Tigellinus.

      _Sen._ Nay, be not angry.

      _Bur._                  Would not you be angry
    Thus to be questioned?

      _Sen._               Nay, indeed, by habit
    I question oft myself.

      _Bur._               Then, for one question
    I’ll be appeased. I know you, Seneca,
    For a man of many parts, a scholar, poet,
    Lawyer, and politician, what you will;                          2760
    A courtier too besides, a man of business,
    A money-maker; in short, a man of the world,
    That like a ship lifting to every wave,
    Heeling to every blast, makes good her way
    And leaves no track. Now what I ask is this:
    How ride so lightly with the times, and yet
    Be the unbending stoic, the philosopher,
    The rock, I say, that planted in the deep
    Moves not a hair, but sees the buffeting breakers
    Boil and withdraw? Which is the matter, Seneca?
    Nay, ’tis a pertinent and friendly question—                    2771
    I’ll take your answer as we go along.

    [_Exeunt Burrus and Seneca._

      _Re-enter Fulvia._

      _Ful._ Of all delights I think that liberty
    Is the prime element: nothing is pleasant
    Joined with a must. Why, even this journey hither
    That has so cheered my mistress, all the talk
    Of sky and fields and trees, tired me to death.
    I’m sick of servitude, with ’time for this’
    And ’time for that’: I’d give my ears for freedom;

           [_She sits in Agrippina’s chair._

    To have my servants, and say—Prithee, Fulvia,
    What is o’clock?—Fetch me the little kerchief
    I left upon my bed—Come, Fulvia, quick;                         2782
    I want you—Fulvia, go, order my litter—
    Fulvia, be gone; we’ve business—Fulvia, stay,
    Amuse me for a while.—I would to heaven
    I were in Rome again! (_Shouts heard._) Hey, what a noise!
    Cheering my lady! here’s a change indeed.
    Well, I shan’t lose by that. Gods, how they cheer!
    She might have taken me with her. I know well
    I shan’t see the outside of these villa walls                   2790
    Till bound for home. And here no visitors,
    At least for me. Cheer on, my lads! and yet
    If I should get the chance I’d like to see
    These famous Neapolitans: I’m told
    They’re wondrous saucy, and ingenious singers.
    What’s that? a boat! my lady! gracious heavens!

           [_A boat rows up to quay._

    My lady, O my lady, what’s the matter?

      _Enter Agrippina up from the quay, clothes dripping; the
    boat remains._

      _Agr._ An accident, and I am escaped by swimming:
    Yet thou must know, Fulvia, ’twas a contrivance
    To take my life—the kindness was all hollow—
    A dastardly contrivance: ’twas the ship                         2801
    Seleucus spoke of. Look, I am hurt in the shoulder,
    Yet ’tis not much.

      _Ful._           Alack, alack, my lady!

      _Agr._ I am cold and faint. I must at once go shift
    These dripping habits. When I am rested somewhat
    Thou shalt hear all: meanwhile, call in the sailors
    Who rowed me hither: get from them whate’er
    They saw or know, and promise a reward
    Worthy of my deliverance.      [_Going._

      _Ful._                  Praised be the gods,
    My lady, that thou’rt safe.

      _ Agr._ (_turning_).         Polla is killed.      [_Exit._

      _Ful._ What, Polla! Killed! she said killed. Polla killed!2811
    Ho! fellows, come within, nay, come within.

      _Sailors enter._

      _SAILOR._

    We are not fit, my lady. By thy leave,
    We are poor fishermen.

      _Ful._               Come, fellows, come.
    Which is the captain?

      _Sail._             Me, so please thee, lady.

      _Ful._ Ye have brought the empress safe, and for that service
    Shall have a good reward. But, tell me now,
    How came she in your boat?

      _Sail._                   ’Twas thus, my lady.
    It being the feast, we smartened up the boat
    And pulled her close along the shore, to find                   2820
    A party of landsmen, such as love to visit
    Misenum, or be rowed across the bay
    To Pausilypum, lady, and Virgil’s villa.
    When, as we lay, the Augusta’s galley passed,
    Not half a cable’s length, and then we cheered,
    And after took no note of her, till Gripus,
    He cries, Look! see the galley. And there she was
    Laid on her beam-ends in the offing. Ho!
    We cried, and gave the alarm, and led the chase
    To reach her first: when presently she righted,                 2830
    Steadied, and trimmed her oars, and drew away.
    While we were wondering and talking of it
    I spied a something floating, and again
    Putting about, saw ’twas a swimmer’s head.
    Four other boats with ours made for it too;
    But we gave way with a will and held our own,
    And coming alongside, found ’twas the Augusta.
    I reached her out an oar, and I and my mate
    Lifted her in handsomely. Then she bad us
    Straight row her hither. She’s a most brave lady,
    Ay, and can swim.                                               2841

      _Ful._          Know you no more?

      _Sail._                         No, lady.
    We looked, but saw naught else, not even a spar.
    The Augusta told us there was none but she.

      _Ful._ What was the reason why the galley heeled?

      _Sail._ I cannot tell.

      _Ful._               What could it be?

      _Sail._                              D’ye see,
    My lady, ’tis the Admiral’s boat, this galley.
    It’s not for me....

      _Ful._            There’s not a breath of wind.

      _Sail._ The mischief was aboard.

      _Ful._                         You know no more?

      _Sail._ Nothing, my lady.

      _Ful._                  Then begone; to-morrow
    Come for your recompense. I know not yet                        2850
    The Augusta’s pleasure.

      _The Sailors._ Thank thee, thank thee, my lady.

           [_Exeunt Sailors._

      _Ful._ ’Tis plain the men know nothing.

      _Sailor_ (_returning_).    Please thee, lady,
    If not too bold, we’ll ask thee if the Augusta
    Has taken harm from being so long in the water.

      _Ful._ Thank you, my men. I pray she’s none the worse.

      _Sail._ ’Tis bitter cold, indeed. But I can tell
    She’s of good stuff; ay, and can swim.

      _Ful._                               Be sure
    You are fortunate to have done her this good service.

      _Sail._ I make my humble duties.      [_Exit._

      _Ful._                         Alas, alas!
    What can this mystery mean? I die to hear.                      2860
    I must now go attend her; ah! here she comes.

      _Enter Agrippina._

      _Agr._ Fetch me some wine and a warm coverlet;
    The fur one from my bed.

      _Ful._                 Ay, madam, quickly.      [_Exit._

      _Agr._ I have no friend here but her and the few servants
    Upon the place: ’tis plotted well indeed
    To catch me thus alone: Mistress Poppæa
    Is seen in this. Yet being escaped, I think
    I yet will prove her match.

      _Re-enter Fulvia._

                              Ah, thank you, so.

      _Ful._ Are you recovered, madam, from the shock?

      _Agr._ I am warm again. I think too that my hurt
    Is very little: but I am somewhat shaken.                       2871

      _Ful._ What is it that hath happed? The sailors knew
    Nothing but that they found you.

      _Agr._                         Did they see
    Nothing?

      _Ful._ They saw the galley lurch, and say
    The Admiral must know.

      _Agr._               ’Tis likely enough
    ’Twas his contrivance. Now I’ll tell thee all,
    Fulvia, and thou must help me all thou canst
    When thou hast heard: indeed I tell thee partly
    To clear my judgment.—We had rowed about a mile,
    Polla and I, and sat upon the poop,                             2880
    Taking our pleasure, when, all on a sudden,
    Darkness; the awning fell, with such a crash
    As took away my spirits, and Polla and I
    Were thrown down from our couches by the weight
    Of falling cloth and spars: one heavy beam
    Grazed my left shoulder, and we lay crushed down
    Upon the deck. Then I heard Polla laugh,
    Finding we were not hurt, and she crept forth
    Forward, beneath the curtains; the oars stopped:
    I heard a rush of feet, and presently                           2890
    Came Polla’s voice, ’Hold, slay me not, ye villains,
    I am Agrippina.’ Then, ’Ah me, I am slain!’
    And one long deathly groan. This, when I heard,
    Taught me my part, and towards the other side,
    Crawling, I came to the window o’er the stern,
    Where lay my only escape; and silently,
    Feet foremost, I crept out, and by the ladder
    Slipped down without a sound into the sea.
    The galley still held way, and in few strokes
    I saw that I was left and unperceived;                          2900
    And so swam on until the fishermen
    Hailed me by name, and took me in their boat.

      _Ful._ Who can have laid this plot to kill you, madam?

      _Agr._ ’Tis Nero, Fulvia, he who seemed but late
    So kind and dutiful: ’twas all hollowness,
    Part of the plot, to bring me here alone,
    Away from friends: ay, and perceive this too,
    To lay my death to charge of an accident,
    And hide, maybe, even my dead body, drowned
    And lost in the depths of the sea. Now, being alone,
    I shall need thee to aid me.

      _Ful._                     Dearest madam,                     2911
    What can I do?

      _Agr._       Thou must be faithful to me
    Whatever happens. Hearken, I said ’twas Nero
    Had done this: ’tis not so; my real enemy,
    The mover, is Poppæa. I blame not Nero:
    I bade him to discard her: he was driven
    To choose between us: she hath carried it.
    But being escaped, and she not here, I yet
    Can right myself with him. ’Tis not too late;
    Nay, I can amply trust those broad affections,                  2920
    Which ’twixt a mother and her son remain
    At bottom, spite of all. Ay, they remain.
    The common knowledge of this guilty attempt
    Will clear the way: and when I show the path,
    He will be glad to escape. I have writ a letter,
    Which, if he read, will work. ’Tis pure submission.
    Remember, we must ever speak of this
    But as an accident. Here is the letter;
    Send Agerinus with it straight to Cæsar;
    Of all my servants he’s the one must bear it:                   2930
    Nero has known him from a child, will trust him;
    Nay, he hath rid so oft upon his shoulders
    That he is half a brother, half a father.
    Send him at once: I have bidden him await:
    He should be here.

      _Ful._           Alas, this is a day
    Of sorrow indeed. I pray Minerva guard
    Her feast from ill.      [_Exit with letter._

      _Agr._            Indeed I have little fear,
    If he but read. Yet now, after this warning,
    I must beware. ’Tis plain the people love me;                   2939
    They cheered me so. My escape will add to favour.

      _Ful._ (_re-entering_). He waited at the gate, and with full speed
    Runs with the letter.

      _Agr._              Come; one business
    Must now be not neglected; there’s poor Polla.
    Bring pens and ink and wax: we will seal up
    All her effects, and make an inventory
    In proper form, and do whate’er we may
    While we have time. Let us go see to it.      [_Exeunt._


                               SCENE · 2

      _A room in Nero’s villa. A table with papers. Enter
    NERO, SENECA, BURRUS, and TIGELLINUS._


      _NERO._

    We have an hour: sit down, my lords, we’ll hold
    A privy council. I have in my mind a matter
    Touching the subsidies.

      _BURRUS._

                          The day is good                           2950
    For market matters, ’tis Minerva’s peace:
    The sword is sheathed.

      _Ner._ (_to Servants_). Set light upon the table.

      _SENECA._

    To talk of subsidies hurts no man’s conscience.
    What is the business, Cæsar?

      _Ner._                     I am vexed
    By the complaints against the imperial household
    In the gathering of tolls.—Here in these papers
    Are weighty charges ’gainst Pomponius
    Silvanus, and Sulpicius Camerinus:
    Read them at leisure. But I ask you first
    Whether there be not cause for discontent                       2960
    In present management?

      _Sen._               ’Tis a deep evil.
    But never was the empire better governed;
    Nor is there more extortion now, I think,
    Than ever was.

      _Ner._       And were there no extortion?

      _Sen._ Nay, while you farm the taxes there will be
    Extortion still.

      _Ner._         You all think that, my lords?

      _Sen._ Ay, ay.

      _Ner._       And so say I. You have my grounds.
    Now hear my scheme, by which for once and all
    I rid the empire of this blot. ’Tis this.
    I will have no more tolls or tallages,                          2970
    Customs or duties levied: nay, not one
    Through all the empire. I will make this present
    To the human race: I say, their old vexation
    And burden shall away.

      _TIGELLINUS._

                           Magnificent.

      _Sen._ ’Tis generously meant, most generously.
    But is it possible?

      _Ner._            Why not?

      _Sen._                   The treasury,
    Eased of this sum, must fill the deficit
    By other means. If you cut off the customs,
    You must increase the tributes, rates, and rents.
    If one shoe pinches, ’tis no remedy                             2980
    To stuff both feet in the other.

      _Ner._                         But my scheme
    Has precedent; there was no tallage taken
    Throughout all Italy for some six years
    Ere Julius.

      _Sen._    Ay, but he restored the customs
    As needful.

      _Ner._    Whence they seemed the price of empire.

      _Sen._ Unjustly. In the times of greatest liberty
    Consuls and tribunes have ordained new customs,
    Which yet remain.

      _Tig._          I praise the scheme.

      _Ner._ (_to Bur._)                 And you?

      _Bur._ Where look you then for revenue?

      _Ner._                               The rents,
    We’ll have the rents. The land....                              2990

      _Enter Messenger with Officer of the Guard._

                                     Why, who is this?
    Whence come you, man?

      _MESSENGER._

                        Cæsar, from Anicetus.
    He asks great Cæsar’s pardon ere I tell.

      _Ner._ Thou’rt free to speak.

      _Mess._                     There has an accident
    Befallen the Augusta’s yacht.

      _Ner._                      Hey! what was that?

      _Mess._ At a lurch of the ship the awning fell and dragged
    The Augusta overboard.

      _Ner._               Speak, man, speak on.

      _Mess._ We thought her drowned.

      _Ner._                        Ha!

      _Mess._                         But by the grace of the gods
    She is escaped.

      _Ner._        Escaped!

      _Mess._              She swam to shore unharmed.

      _Ner._                                         Thou wretch,
    And comest thou here in thy master’s place                      2999
    To bate mine anger? Forth and send him hither.
    Fly, or I kill thee.

      _Mess._            Pardon, great Cæsar, pardon.
    The Admiral follows and will straight be here.

           [_Runs out._

      _Ner._ (_aside_). Escaped! after such boast, escaped! I am lost.—
    To have done this thing had tried me; to have attempted it
    And failed is ruin.

      _Sen._ (_aside from Nero_). What is this?

      _Bur._ (_to Sen._)                      ’Tis clear
    Cæsar knows what: and her escape not being
    His pleasure tells us that ’twas not his purpose.

      _Sen._ (_aloud_). Alas, alas!

      _Ner._                           What friend there cries Alas?
    Who now stands by me? who will aid me now?

      _Tig._ If Cæsar make his will but known...

      _Ner._                                    Thou dullard!
    I need the brains of them that know my will.                    3011
    Now is no time for parley. Seneca,
    Speak what thou thinkest.

      _Sen._ Cæsar, I am so much grieved that...

      _Ner._                                    What’s thy pain
    To mine? Speak, man!

      _Sen._             Alas, what shall I say?

      _Ner._ How hast thou guessed this thing without a word,
    And yet hast not foreseen it?

      _Sen._                      Oh, is’t then true?
    The letter false; the Augusta hither brought
    But to be drowned!

      _Ner._           See if ye know it not.

      _Sen._ Let her escape belie thy guilty purpose.               3020

      _Ner._ Why, nay, the failure damns a thousand-fold
    More than her death—I am henceforth the man
    Who would have killed his mother, and could not.

      _Sen._ Alas, alas!

      _Ner._           Hast thou no word but that?
    Thou that hast ever warned me, ay, and gone
    So far upon this path that thou hast sought
    To dull the natural feeling which so long
    Held off my hand, hast argued ’gainst repugnance,
    Crying, ’tis she that is the guilty one,                        3029
    The dangerous one, there is no peace with her:
    And now the day the thing thou hast foreseen,
    Ay, and hast led me to, is done, thou’rt silent.
    Hast thou no word?—Thou that wast ever ready,
    Hast thou no word?—What strikes thee on a sudden
    Dumb? Be my counsellor now that I need thee.
    Speak now! Why, thou dost weep! surely thou weepest!
    Burrus, what sayest thou?

      _Bur._                  This mischief, Cæsar,
    Being thus arisen is the Augusta’s death.
    Though I bewail the occasion, yet I say
    ’Twere most untimely justice to endanger                        3040
    The public peace for her whose life hath been
    So long the shame of justice. Since the sentence
    We know is just, and that necessity
    O’errides the common forms, the less delay
    The better. Let her die.

      _Ner._                 I thank thee, Burrus.
    How were this best performed?

      _Tig._                      Now, if none speak,
    I’ll say that Burrus, being the advocate
    Of what is planned, and as pretorian prefect
    Possessed of means, is fittest for the work.

      _Bur._ Look not on me, Seneca, as if to say                   3050
    ’Tis well; as if ’twere thy thought that my office
    Covered this deed. I pardon Tigellinus,
    That, unacquainted with a soldier’s honour,
    He thinks it passable in time of peace,
    Entering in private houses there to slay
    Defenceless citizens. But that the guards
    Would thus lay hands on one that bears the name
    Of Agrippina, that they could forget
    Their loved Germanicus, who would think this?
    To such a deed they would not follow me,                        3060
    Far less another; and if Cæsar now
    Look for it from me, lo, I here throw down
    My prefecture to any man soe’er
    Who durst with this condition take it up.

      _Ner._ Nay, Burrus, I’ll not ask thee that. Thou’rt right.
    And yet, if thou could’st do it— See here the man.

      _Enter Anicetus in haste, Paris following._

    Thou hast been my ruin!

      _ANICETUS._

                          Pardon, Cæsar, pardon.
    I am strangely foiled. Give me one hour, and yet
    I’ll make amends.

      _Ner._          If thou canst make amends,
    Come hither, speak with me.      [_They go aside to front._

      _Bur._               Is the thing known?

      _PARIS._

    Ay ay.

      _Ner._ (_to Anic._) What canst thou do?

      _Ani._                              I have set a guard        3071
    Around her villa, fearing lest the people
    Should force their way within, or she escape.
    Give me the word and I will slay her there.

      _Ner._ Fool, I can give no word. Think when ’tis done,
    If I should punish thee less for that deed
    Than for thy late misdoing. What is this?

      _Enter Officer of the Guard. Petronius follows._

      _OFFICER._

    The Augusta, Cæsar, sends a freedman hither,
    One Agerinus, with a letter.

      _Ner._ (_to Anic._)          Now
    What to do?

      _Ani._  Bid him enter: when he comes                          3080
    I am prepared. Lend me thy dagger, friend (_to Tig._).

           [_Takes Tigellinus’ dagger._

      _Enter Agerinus, who runs to Cæsar._

      _AGERINUS._

    Lo, Cæsar, I am sent...

      _Ani._                 Ha! where’s thy hand?
    Ay, as I thought, a dagger well concealed
    Under his cloak.

      _Age._         Indeed, indeed, good sir,
    I have no dagger.

      _Ani._          How no dagger? See!
    Had I not caught thee! Ho! the guard, the guard!
    Take him to prison till he can be questioned.

      _Age._ You do force treason on me. Cæsar! Cæsar!

          [_He is borne off by Guards._

      _Ani._ This villain having come, as he confessed,
    From the empress armed, will Cæsar leave the enquiry
    Now in my hands?

      _Ner._         I do.

      _Ani._             With me who will!                          3091

      _Tig._ I follow, lead the way.

          [_Exeunt Anicetus and Tigellinus. Paris follows
               them. Exit Nero within doors._

      _PETRONIUS._

    What will they go to do?

      _Bur._                 ’Tis thus: the Admiral
    Has gone to kill the Augusta.

      _Petr._                     Gods forbid!
    His orders?

      _Bur._    Humph!

      _Petr._        Why, men, what thing ye do!
    He is shamed for ever.

      _Bur._               Ay, and were’t not done
    Were shamed no less.

      _Sen._             Alas! ’tis true, ’tis true.
    And thou wert right, Burrus; but dost thou well
    Permitting this?

      _Bur._         I see ’tis necessary,
    And am not shamed to say I think the thing                      3100
    Itself is good. As for the motives, Seneca,
    Ay, and the manner of it, to defend them
    I shall not meddle.

      _Petr._ (_to Sen._) And thou wilt take thy share?

      _Sen._ ’Tis not my counsel.

      _Petr._                   ’Twill be held as thine,
    And rightly, seeing that thou let it not.
    I could have stayed it.

      _Bur._                Nay, be not so sure.
    And if thou could’st have let it, could’st thou too
    Prevent the consequences?

      _Petr._                 But remember,
    She is his mother. Oh, I thought him better.
    Is it too late now think you, if I ran...                       3110

      _Bur._ They are there by now. Believe ’tis for the best.
    If she should live but till to-morrow morn,
    ’Tis civil war. Consider what a party
    Would stir upon the tale of Claudius’ death,
    Or to revenge Britannicus. I say
    There’s nought to gain.

      _Petr._               Why, ’tis his mother, Burrus,
    His mother. I’ll be sworn he had not dared
    Thus to commit himself had I been by.
    He that should be a model to the world,
    The mirror of good manners, to offend                           3120
    Thus against taste!

      _Bur._            If ’twere no worse...

      _Petr._                               Why, see,
    There are a hundred subtle ways by which,
    Had Cæsar done the thing, he had not been blamed.
    This vulgar butchery displays to all
    The motive, which so hurts your sense of right
    That ye neglect the manner. Why, I say,
    A just attention to the circumstance
    Would hide the doing; but thus done, the doing
    Proclaims the deed. And is’t not plain that ye
    Must share the guilt? Seneca, look for that.                    3130

      _Sen._ ’Tis very well for you, Petronius,
    To take upon yourself the criticism
    And ordering of appearances, and say
    ’If aught goes ill, blame me.’ You lay your hand
    On any object you mislike, remove it,
    Replace it as you will, can please yourself:
    Nay, you can blame their taste who are not pleased.
    But he who deals with men, and seeks to mould
    A character to that high rule of right
    Which so few can attain, he works, I say,                       3140
    With different matter, nor can he be blamed
    By any measure of his ill success.
    His best endeavours are like little dams
    Built ’gainst the ocean, on a sinking shore.
    Nature asserts her force—and the wise man
    Blames not himself for his defeat. For me,
    Much as my soul is grieved, ay, and my pride
    Wounded—tho’ yet, I thank philosophy,
    I can be glad for that,—my hopes—for this
    I mourn—my hopes blasted; yet, hear me say,
    I take unto myself no self-reproach,                            3151
    Nay, not a tittle of the part of mischief
    A vulgar mind might credit to my score.
    I have done my best, and that’s the utmost good
    A man can do; and if a better man
    Had in my place done more, ’tis perverse Fortune
    That placed me ill. Thus far I argue with you,
    Who look on me askance, and think my heart
    Is tainted; as if I would in such case
    Do such thing, as—poison my brother at table,
    Contrive to kill my mother: ’Tis so far                         3161
    From possible, that to my ears the words
    Carry no sense: nay, and I think such crimes
    May seem more horrible to other men,
    Whose passions make them fear them, than to me
    Who cannot think them mine. As for the rest,
    I stand with you, and never from this hour
    Shall mix with Cæsar more with any hope
    Of good. Indeed I have hoped too long, and yet
    The end has come too soon.                                      3170

      _Re-enter Anicetus, Tigellinus, and Paris._

      _Tig._ ’Tis done, ’tis done.

      _Ani._ Where is Cæsar?

      _Bur._               Within.

          [_Anicetus and Tigellinus hurry within._

      _Petr._ Paris, is it true?

      _Par._                   The Augusta lives no longer,
    Most brutally and miserably slain:
    Yet died she bravely.

      _Petr._             And why wentest thou
    To soil thy hand?

      _Par._          I went not to take part:
    But Fortune holding nature’s ruffians up,
    I took their pattern.

      _Sen._              Say, who did the deed?

      _Par._ I’ll tell thee what I saw. As forth we went,
    The coward Tigellinus, pale as death,
    In needless haste foremost where was no danger,
    Hurried us on so fast, that thro’ the street                    3181
    We scarce kept pace, but when he reached the wall
    Of the garden, and saw there the soldiers placed
    By Anicetus, knowing not their purpose,
    He shrank behind. These men being bidden seized
    The servants; then we entered, and with us
    Came the centurion. Within the room
    Sat Agrippina with a single maid,
    Who seeing the Admiral’s sword fled past us out:
    At which the Augusta called to her, ’Dost thou,
    Fulvia, desert me too?’ Then to the Admiral                     3191
    She spoke. ’If here thou comest to enquire
    From Cæsar of my health, know I am well,
    Recovered from my shock, and little hurt.
    But if, as your men’s looks would mean, ye are come
    Deeming that Cæsar wills that I should suffer
    The like I late escaped, know you mistake.
    ’Twas not of his contrivance, and my foe
    In this is his.’ None answered, and awhile
    Was such delay as makes the indivisible                         3200
    And smallest point of time various and broad;
    For Agrippina, when she saw her lie
    Fail of its aim, ventured no more, as knowing
    There was no wiser plea; but let her eyes
    Indifferently wander round her foes,
    Counting their strength. Then looked I to have seen
    Her spring, for her cheek swelled, and ’neath her robe
    Her foot moved; ay, and had she been but armed,
    One would have fallen. But if she had the thought
    She set it by, choosing to take her death                       3210
    With dignity. Then Anicetus raised
    His sword, and I fled out beyond the door
    To see no more. First Tigellinus’ voice,
    ’To death, thou wretch!’ then blows, but not a groan;
    Only she showed her spirit to the last,
    And made some choice of death, offering her body,
    ’That bare the monster,’ crying with that curse,
    ’Strike here, strike here!’

      _Sen._                    Alas, poor lady,
    Was that the end of thy unscrupulous,                           3219
    Towering ambition? Thou didst win indeed
    The best and worst of Fortune.

      _Bur._                       Give her her due,
    Such courage as deserved the best, such crimes
    As make her death seem gentler than deserved.

      _Enter Nero between Anicetus and Tigellinus._

      _Ner._ My lords, ’tis done. Nay, look not grieved. There’s none
    Suffers as much as I; all share the good.
    And think not that to keep the world at peace
    I grudge this sacrifice: the general care
    I set before my own, and therefore bid
    There be no public mourning, nay, to-morrow
    We shall attend the spectacles and games,                       3230
    Appear as usual before the people:
    Ay, and I partly look, my lords, to you
    That I be well received. Good night to all!



                          ACHILLES IN SCYROS



DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

  _THETIS_                  _Mother of Achilles_.
  _ACHILLES_               _disguised as PYRRHA_.
  _LYCOMEDES_                   _King of Scyros_.
  _ULYSSES_                   _Prince of Ithaca_.
  _DIOMEDE_              _compassion of Ulysses_.
  _ABAS_                    _servant to Ulysses_.
  _DEIDAMIA_             _daughter of Lycomedes_.
  _CHORUS of SCYRIAN MAIDENS._

_The scene is on the Island of Scyros, in the gardens of the palace._

_Thetis prologises._



                               ACHILLES


      _THETIS._

    The deep recesses of this rocky isle,
    That far from undersea riseth to crown
    Its flowery head above the circling waves,
    A home for men with groves and gardens green,
    I chose not ill to be the hiding-place
    Of my loved son. Alas, I could not take him
    To live in my blue caverns, where the nymphs
    Own me for queen: and hateful is the earth
    To me, and all remembrance, since that morn,
    When, in the train of May wandering too far,                      10
    I trafficked with my shells and pearls to buy
    Her fragrant roses and fresh lilies white.
    Accurst the day and thou, ah, wretched Peleus,
    Who forcedst me to learn the fears that women
    Have for their mortal offspring: who but I,
    Thetis, Poseidon’s daughter, who alone
    But I of all the immortals have known this,
    To bear and love a son in human kind?
    And yet not wholly ill is the constraint,
    Nor do I pity mortals to be born                                  20
    Heirs of desire and death, and the rich thought
    Denied to easy pleasure in the days
    That neither bring nor take; tho’ more to me
    Embittered with foreknowledge of a doom
    Threatened by fate, and labour how to avert.
      For to me, questioning the high decrees
    By which the sweetly tyrannous stars allot
    Their lives and deaths to men, answer was given
    That for my son Achilles there was ruled
    One of two things, and neither good; the better                   30
    A long and easy life, the worse a death
    Untimely-glorious, which should set his name
    First of the Greeks;—for so must seem to me
    Better and worse, so even an earthly mother
    Had for him chosen, tho’ for the right he died,
    And conquered all the gods that succour Troy.—
    But when I, thinking he must share my fear,
    Showed him the choice, he made a mortal plunge
    For glorious death, and would have straight gone forth
    To seek it; but in tenderness for me,—                            40
    Whom without shame he honours, and in this
    My love repays,—he to my tears consented
    To hide him from his fate; and here he dwells
    Disguised among the maidens like a maiden;—
    For so his beauty and youth permit,—to serve
    The daughter of the king of this fair isle,
    Who calls him Pyrrha for his golden hair,
    And knowing not prefers him o’er the rest.
    But I with frequent visitings assure me
    That he obeys; and,—for I have the power                          50
    To change my semblance,—I will sometimes run
    In likeness of a young and timorous fawn
    Before the maiden train, that give me chase
    Far in the woods, till he outstrip them all;
    Then turn I quick at bay with loved surprise,
    And bid him hail: or like a snake I glide
    Under the flowers, where they sit at play,
    And showing suddenly my gleaming eyes,
    All fly but he, and we may speak alone.
    Thus oft my love will lead me, but to-day                         60
    More special need hath brought: for on the seas
    I met at dawn a royal ship of Greece
    Slow stemming toward this isle. What that might bode,
    And who might sail thereon, I guessed; and taking
    A dolphin’s shape, that thro’ the heavy waters
    Tumbles in sport, around the labouring prow
    I gambolled, till her idle crew stood by
    To watch me from the wooden battlements.
    And surely among them there full soon I saw,
    Even as I feared, the man I feared, agaze                         70
    With hypocrite eyes, the prince of Ithaca,
    That searcheth for Achilles: of all the Greeks
    Whom most I dread, for his own endless wiles,
    And for Athena’s aid. Him when I saw,
    Lest I should be too late, I hither sped
    To warn my son, and here shall meet him soon,—
    Tho’ yet he hath not come,—for on these lawns
    The damsels of the court are wont to play,
    And he with them. Hark! see! even now. Nay, nay.
    Alas! who cometh thus? Ah, by that gait                           80
    Crouching along, it is my persecutor,
    Ulysses. Woe is me! I must fly hence.
    Tho’ he should know me not, I fear to face him,
    My hated foe, alert, invincible
    Of will, full of self-love and mortal guile.      [_Exit._

      _Enter Ulysses from the bushes, followed by Diomede, who
    wears a Lion’s skin._

      _DIOMEDE._

    We have made the circuit of the hill, and here
    Into the gardens are come round again.
    What now?

      _ULYSSES._

    Hush thou! Look there! Some one hath seen us.
    He flies.

      _Dio._  I see not.

      _Ul._            Where the myrtle tops
    Stir each in turn. He goeth toward the shore.                     90
    I must see him that seeth me. Bide thou.

           [_Exit among the bushes._

      _Dio._ Were I a dog, now, I might learn. Heigh ho!
    Two hours and more we have wandered on this mountain,
    Round and round, up and down, and round again,
    Gardens, and lawns, meadows, and groves, and walks,
    Thickets, and woods, the windings of the glades,
    I have them all by rote. Each petty rill
    We have tracked by rocky steps and paths about,
    And peeped into its dank and mossy caves.
    What sort of game should this Achilles be,                       100
    That we should seek him thus? Ah! back so soon?
    What sport?

      _Ul._ (_re-entering_). Well hit. ’Twas but a milk-white doe,
    Some petted plaything of the young princess,
    That fled our stranger steps.

      _Dio._                      And whither now
    Turn we to seek Achilles?

      _Ul._                     Hark, Diomede:
    My plot is laid and ready for thine ears.
    Thou madest offer of thine aid; be patient,
    And hear me.

      _Dio._     I will hearken.

      _Ul._                    First, thou knowest
    How since the day the Danaan kings took oath
    To avenge the wrong done by the Trojan Paris                     110
    Against his host, the Spartan Menelaus,
    One oracle hath thwarted us, which said
    Our purpose should not prosper with the gods
    Unless Achilles the young son of Thetis
    Should lead our armies.

      _Dio._                Certainly, so far
    I am with you.

      _Ul._        Next, when he was sought in vain,
    Men looked to me; ay, and to me it fell
    To learn that he was lurking in this isle
    Of Scyros, in the court of Lycomedes.                            119
    The king denied the charge, adding in challenge,
    That I might come and make what search I pleased;
    Now mark...

      _Dio_.     I listen, but thou tellest nothing.
    Why search we not the court if he be there,
    Instead of this old hill?

      _Ul._                   ’Tis that I come to.
    King Lycomedes hath been one of those
    Who have held their arms aloof from our alliance,
    On the main plea of this Achilles’ absence.
    What if he play the game here for his friends,
    And hide the lad lest they be forced to fight?

      _Dio._ That well might be. And if the king would hide him, 130
    Thy hope would hit upon him thus at hazard?

      _Ul._ Call me not fool. Attend and hear my plot:
    Nor marvel, Diomede, to learn that he,
    Whom the high gods name champion of the Greeks,
    Lurks in the habit of a girl disguised
    Amid the maidens of this island court.

      _Dio._ That were too strange. How guess you that?

      _Ul._                                             My spies,
    Who have searched the isle, say there’s no youth thereon,
    Having Achilles’ age of sixteen years,
    But is well known of native parentage.                           140
    Now Thetis’ son must be of wondrous beauty,
    That could not scape inquiry; we therefore look
    For what is hid, and not to be disguised
    Save as I guess.

      _Dio._         If this be so, thy purpose
    Is darker still.

      _Ul._          I lead thee by the steps
    I came myself to take, slowly and surely...
    And next this, that ’twere dull to ask the king
    To help to find the thing he goes to hide:
    Therefore the search must be without his knowledge.
    ’Twas thus I sent up Abas to the court,                          150
    Idly to engage him in preliminaries,
    The while I work; my only hope being this,
    To come myself to parley with the maidens;
    Which to procure I brought with me aboard
    A pedlar’s gear, and with such gawds and trinkets
    As tickle girlish fancies, I shall steal
    Upon them at their play; my hoary beard
    And rags will set them at their ease; and while
    They come about me, and turn o’er my pack,
    I spy. If then Achilles be among them,                           160
    The lad’s indifference soon will mark him out;
    When, watching my occasion, I’ll exhibit
    Something that should provoke his eye and tongue.
    If he betray himself, thou being at hand....

      _Dio._ Why, ’tis a dirty trick.

      _Ul._                         Not if it wins.

      _Dio._ Fie! fie!
    In rags and a white beard?

      _Ul._                    No better way.

      _Dio._ The better way were not to lose the hour
    Hearkening to oracles, while our good ships
    Rot, and our men grow stale. Why, you may see
    Imperial Agamemnon in the eyes                                   171
    Of all his armament walk daily forth
    To take fresh note of sparrows and of snakes:
    And if he spy an eagle, ’twill make talk
    For twenty days. Would you have oracles,
    Give me the whipping of the priests. Zeus help me!
    If half the chiefs knew but their minds as I,
    There’d be no parleying. I’ll to war alone
    And with my eighty ships do what I may
    ’Gainst gods and men. Ay, and the greater odds
    The better fighting.

      _Ul._              Now ’tis thou that talkest.                 181

      _Dio._ Tell me then why we are prowling on this hill.

      _Ul._ Excellent reasons. First that when I come
    I may know how to come, and where to hide
    From them I would not meet: and thereto this,
    That if Achilles fly, he should not take us
    At too great disadvantage: thou mayst head him,
    Knowing the ground about, while I pursue.
    He must not scape. But hark, ’tis time the plot
    Were put to proof; already it must be noon;                      190
    And I hear steps and voices. Let us return
    To the ship. If they that come be those we seek, ...
    Hark, and ’tis they,—we can look back upon them.
    I’ll be amongst them soon.

      _Dio._                   ’Tis a girl’s game.

           [_Exeunt into the bushes._

      _Enter Deidamia, Achilles as Pyrrha, with the chorus of
    maidens._

      _DEIDAMIA_ (_without_).

    Follow me, follow. I lead the race.      [_Enters._

      _CHORUS._

    Follow, we follow, we give thee chase.      [_Entering._

      _Deid._ Follow me, follow.

      _Ch._ We come, we come.

      _Deid._ Here is my home;
    I choose this tree: this is the ground                           200
    Where we will make our play. Stand all around,
    And let us beg the dwellers in this glade
    To bear us company. Be not afraid,
    (I will begin) sweet birds, whose flowery songs
    Sprinkle with joy the budding boughs above,
    The airy city where your light folk throngs,
    Each with his special exquisite of love,—
    Red-throat and white-throat, finch and golden-crest,
    Deep-murmuring pigeon, and soft-cooing dove,—
    Unto his mate addrest, that close in nest                        210
    Sits on the dun and dappled eggs all day.
    Come red-throat, white-throat, finch and golden-crest,
    Let not our merry play drive you away.

      _Ch._ And ye brown squirrels, up the rugged bark
    That fly, and leap from bending spray to spray,
    And bite the luscious shoots, if I should mark,
    Slip not behind the trunks, nor hide away.—
    Ye earthy moles, that burrowing in the dark
    Your glossy velvet coats so much abuse;—                         219
    Ye watchful dormice, and small skipping shrews,
    Stay not from foraging; dive not from sight.—
    Come moles and mice, squirrels and skipping shrews,
    Come all, come forth, and join in our delight.

      _Deid._ Enough. Now while the Dryads of the hill
    Interpret to the creatures our good will,
    Listen, and I will tell you a new game
    That we can play together.—As hither I came,
    I marked that in the hazel copse below,
    Where we so oft have hidden and loved to go
    To hear the night-bird, or to take unseen                        230
    Our noontide walks beneath the tangled screen,
    The woodcutter hath been with cruel blade,
    And of the tasselled plumes his strewage made:
    And by the mossy moots the covert shorn
    Now lieth low in swathe like autumn corn.
    These ere he lop and into bundles bind,
    Let us go choose the fairest we may find,
    And of their feathered orphan saplings weave
    A bowery dome, until the birds believe
    We build a nest, and are come here to dwell.                     240
    Hie forth, ye Scyrian maids; do as I tell:
    And having built our bower amid the green,
    We will choose one among us for a queen,
    And be the Amazons, whose maiden clan
    By broad Thermodon dwells, apart from man;
    Who rule themselves, from his dominion free,
    And do all things he doth, better than he.
    First, Amazons, your queen: to choose her now:
    Who shall she be?

      _Ch._           Thyself, thou. Who but thou?
    Deidamia.

      _Deid._   Where then were the play,                            250
    If I should still command, and ye obey?

      _Ch._ Choose thou for all.

      _Deid._                  Nor will I name her, lest
    Ye say my favour sets one o’er the rest.

      _Ch._ Thy choice is ours.

      _Deid._                 If then I gave my voice
    For Pyrrha?

      _Ch._     Pyrrha, Pyrrha is our choice.
    Hail, Pyrrha, hail! Queen of the Amazons!

      _Deid._ (_To Ach._). To thee I abdicate my place, and give
    My wreath for crown. Long, my queen, mayst thou live!
    Now, fellow-subjects, hie we off at once.

      _ACHILLES._

    Stay, stay! Is this the privilege of the throne?                 260
    Am I preferred but to be left alone?
    No guard, no counsellor, no company!
    Deidamia, stay!

      _Deid._        Thy word must be
    My law, O queen: I will abide. But ye
    Forth quickly, as I said; ye know the place.

      _Ch._  Follow me, follow: I lead the race.
           Follow, we follow, we give thee chase.
                 Follow me, follow.
                 We come, we come.      [_Exeunt Chor._

      _Ach._ I could not bear that thou shouldst strain thy hands270
    Dragging those branches up the sunny hill;
    Nor for a thousand honours thou shouldst do me,
    Making me here thy queen, would I consent
    To lose thy company, even for an hour.
    See, while the maids warm in their busy play,
    We may enjoy in quiet the sweet air,
    And thro’ the quivering golden green look up
    To the deep sky, and have high thoughts as idle
    And bright, as are the small white clouds becalmed
    In disappointed voyage to the noon:                              280
    There is no better pastime.

      _Deid._                   I will sit with thee
    In idleness, while idleness can please.

      _Ach._ It is not idleness to steep the soul
    In nature’s beauty: rather every day
    We are idle letting beauteous things go by
    Unheld, or scarce perceived. We cannot dream
    Too deeply, nor o’erprize the mood of love,
    When it comes on us strongly, and the hour
    Is ripe for thought.

      _Deid._            I have a thought, a dream;
    If thou canst keep it secret.

      _Ach._               I am thy slave.                           290

      _Deid._ Suppose—’tis more than that, yet I’ll but say
    Suppose—we played this game of Amazons
    In earnest. What an isle this Scyros were;
    Rich and wellplanted, and its rocky coast
    Easy of defence: the women now upon it
    Could hold it. Nay, I have often thought it out:
    The king my sire is threescore years and more,
    And hath no heir: suppose that when he dies,—
    The gods defer it long, but when he dies,
    If thou and I should plan to seize this isle,                    300
    Drive out the men, and rule it for our own ...
    Wouldst thou work with me, Pyrrha, the thing could be.
    Why shouldst thou smile? I do not say that I
    Would rate my strength with men; but on the farms
    Women are thicker sinewed; and in thee
    I see what all might be. I am sure for speed
    No man could match thee, and thou hast an arm
    To tug an oar or hurl the heaviest spear,
    Or wrestle with the best. Why dost thou smile?

      _Ach._ When thou art queen, I’ll be thy general.

      _Deid._ That was my thought. What dost thou think?

      _Ach._                                           I think
    That Fate hath marked me for a general.                          312

      _Deid._ Nay, but I jest not.

      _Ach._                     Then shall I forecast
    And weigh impediments against thee? as men
    Will in like case, who think no scheme mature
    Till counsel hath forestalled all obstacles.

      _Deid._ If thou canst think of any.

      _Ach._                            First is this,
    Whence shall we get our subjects when our isle
    Is peopled but by women?

      _Deid._                Fairly asked,
    Had I not thought of it. We shall import them                    320
    From other isles. Girl children everywhere
    Are held of small account: these we will buy,
    Bartering for them our fruits and tapestries,
    And chiefly from the country whence thou comest;
    For there I think the women must be taller
    And stronger than with us.

      _Ach._                   And who will act
    Persuader to the maidens of the isle
    To banish all their lovers?

      _Deid._                   O Pyrrha, shame!
    Man’s love is nothing; what knowst thou of it
    To magnify its folly? ’Tis a mischief                            330
    To thwart our good: therefore I banish it.
    A woman’s love may be as much to woman
    As a man’s love can be. ’Tis reasonable
    This, and no dream. ’Tis my experience.
    When I am with thee, Pyrrha, I want nothing.
    No woman sitting by her silly lover
    Could take such pleasure from his flatteries
    As I from thy speech. When thou lookest on me
    I am all joy; and if ’tis so with thee,
    Why need we argue? Tell me, when I am with thee
    Dost thou lack aught, or wish I were a man?                      341

      _Ach._ In truth nay, but...

      _Deid._                    A wretched but: I know
    What that would say; this thing cannot be done
    Because ’twas never done. But that’s with me
    The reason why it should be done.

      _Ach._                          I see.
    Yet novelty hath no wear. Remember too
    We must grow old. The spirit of such adventure
    Tires as the body ages.

      _Deid._               For that I think
    I make the best provision. Nay, I have seen
    Full many an old dame left in last neglect,                      350
    Whose keen gray eye, peaked face, and silver hair
    Were god-like set beneath a helm of brass.

      _Ach._ Here be the maids: ask them their mind at once.

      _Deid._ Nay, for the world no word.

      _Enter Chorus, with flowers._

    Why run they breathlessly in merry fear?
    What have ye seen? What now?

      _Ch._                      The king. Fly, fly!

      _Ach._ Why should we fly the king?

      _Ch._ A man is with him, and they come this way.

      _Deid._ Who is it?

      _Ch._            Nay, we know not.

      _Deid._                          What hath happed?

      _Ch._ We went forth as ye bade, and all together
    Ran down the hill, the straightest way we might,
    Into the copse, and lo! ’twas as thou saidst;                    362
    The hazels are all felled, but on the ground,
    That ’neath the straight trunks of the airy trees
    Lies in the spotted sunlight, are upsprung
    Countless anemones, white, red, and blue,
    In the bright glade. Forgetting why we came,
    We fell to gathering these. I chose the blue,
    As ye may see, loving blue blossoms best,
    That are content with heaven.

      _2nd Speaker._              And I the red,                     370
    Love’s passionate colour; and the love in these
    Is mixed with heavenly to a royal purple.

      _3rd._ And I the white: whose praise I will not tell,
    Lest it should blush.

      _4th._              And I have mixed together
    The red and white.

      _5th._           And I the red and blue.

      _6th._ And I the blue and white.

      _Deid._                        Well, but the matter.
    What happened next, tell me?

      _Ch._ (_1st._)             Still at this game,
    Like to a hungry herd that stops and feeds,
    Snatching what tempts it on, we made advance
    To the entrance of the combe; and then one cried,
    Look up! Look there! And from the open brow,
    Whence we looked down upon the sea, we saw                       382
    A great war-ship in the harbour: and one said,
    She comes from Athens; and another, nay,
    Her build is Rhodian: when as there we gazed,
    Counting her ports, and wondering of her name,—
    We heard men’s voices and beheld the king
    Mounting the hill-side, with a stranger clad
    In short Greek robes. Then ran we back to thee,
    Ere we were seen, in haste; that we may hide,                    390
    And not be called within to attend the guests.

      _Deid._ So did ye well, whoe’er it be, and best
    If ’tis the prince of Melos, as I fear:
    Who late my father said would come to woo me:
    But he must find me first.      [_Going._

      _Ach._                   I’ll be thine eyes
    And take his measure. Let me lurk behind,
    I’ll learn his height, the colour of his beard,
    And bring thee word.

      _Deid._            I pray, no beards for me.
    Those that love beards remain. The rest with me.
          Follow me, follow: I lead the race.      [_Exit._

      _Ch._ Follow, we follow. We give thee chase—
          Follow me, follow—                                         402
          —We come, we come.      [_Exeunt Chor._

      _Ach._ I wish I had had Apollo for my sire;
    Or that old Cheiron, when he taught me arms,
    Hunting the beasts on bushy Pelion,
    Had led and trained me rather, as well he knew,
    In that fair park of fancy and delight,
    Where but the Graces and the Muses come.
    For he could sing: and oft took down at eve                      410
    From the high pillar of his rocky cave
    The lyre or pipe, and whiled the darksome hours.
    Which would I had learned, to touch the stops and strings,
    Nor only harked thereto: for nought he sang,
    Whether of gods or men, of peace or war,
    Had any theme of sweetness to compare
    With my new world, here, where I am king, and rule
    The sweetest thing in nature. Had I skill
    To give translation to my joy, I think
    I could make music that should charm the world.
    O Deidamia, thou Queen of my heart,                              421
    I would enchant thee and thine isle. Alas!
    How wilt thou learn thou art mine? How can I tell
    And with the word not lose thee? Now this suitor
    Threats my betrayal... He comes. I’ll watch. Yet not
    With jealous eyes, but heedful of my fate.

        [_Hides in bushes._

      _Enter Lycomedes and Abas._

      _LYCOMEDES._

    ’Tis folly and impertinence. I say it
    With due respect unto the prince, thy master,
    Who am as much his elder as the king
    His father is. He ne’er would so have wronged me,—
    The mild and good Laertes.—In this isle                          431
    Think’st thou ’twere possible a man should hide,
    And I not know it?

      _ABAS._

                     My Lord Ulysses, sire,
    Bade me assure your majesty he came
    More with the purpose to acquit your honour,—
    Which suffers greatly in the common tongue,—
    Than with a hope to find what he pretends
    He comes to seek.

      _Lyc._          Why should he come at all?

      _Ab._ Taking your invitation in the sense
    That I have spoken...

      _Lyc._               Thinks he, if I chose                     440
    To hide the man in Scyros, that a stranger
    From Ithaca could find him?

      _Ab._              Nay...

      _Lyc._                  It follows
    Your search can never quit my honesty,
    Where I am held accomplice; but no less
    Must put a slight upon my wits, implying
    Me the deceived.

      _Ab._          Your invitation, sire,
    Covers that charge.

      _Lyc._            My invitation, sir,
    Was but my seal of full denial, a challenge
    For honour’s eye, not to be taken up.
    Your master hath slipped in manners: yet fear not
    But I will meet and treat him as his birth                       451
    And name require. Speak we no more of this.
    What think’st thou of our isle?

      _Ab._                         The famed Ægean
    Hath not a finer jewel on her breast.

      _Lyc._ Come, come! you overpraise us: there’s no need.
    We Scyrians are contented.—Now we are climbed
    Above the town to the east; and you may see
    The western seaboard, and our other port.
    The island narrows here to twenty stades,
    Cut like a wasp; the shoulder where we stand                     460
    Is its best natured spot: It falls to the sun,
    And at this time of the year takes not too much.

      _Ab._ ’Tis strange how in all points the lie of the land
    Is like our Ithaca, but better clothed.

      _Lyc._ And larger, is’t not?

      _Ab._                      Past comparison.—

      _Lyc._ What navy bring ye to the war?

      _Ab._                               Ah, sire!
    We have no ships to boast of—with our own
    Zakynthus, Cephallenia, and the rest,
    Joining their numbers, raise but ten or twelve.

      _Lyc._ And these your prince commands?                         470

      _Ab._                                Such as they be.

      _Lyc._ Tidings come slowly to us here. I pray you
    Tell me the latest of your preparations.
    The thing must drag: there was some talk awhile
    Of coldness ’twixt the chiefs: ’twould be no wonder.
    They that combine upon one private grudge
    May split upon another.

      _Ab._                 Still their zeal
    Increases: ’tis as fire spread from a spark.

      _Lyc._ A spark? well—Menelaus. At this time
    What numbers hath he drawn, and whence?

      _Ab._                          The ships
    Number above a thousand: a tenth of these                        480
    Are sent by Corinth, Sicyon and Mycenæ;
    Sixty are Spartan, and king Agamemnon
    Provides as many as these all told together.
    Then from Ægina, Epidaurus, Argos,
    And Tiryns Diomede brings eighty: Nestor
    Ninety from Pylos; from Bœotia
    Come eighty; Phocis and Phthiotis each
    Send forty; Athens fifty; and Eubœa
    Forty; from Salamis Ajax brings twelve;
    Oilean Ajax with the Locrians                                    490
    Forty more; from our neighbours in the west,
    Dulichium and Ætolia, eighty sail;
    Again as many from hundred-citied Crete
    Under the king Idomeneus, and nine
    From Rhodes: All these, with others that escape
    My hasty summing, lie drawn up at Aulis.
    ’Tis such a sight as, I am bold to say,
    If but your majesty could see it, would move you
    To make a part of the splendour.

      _Lyc._                         Nay, I have seen them.

      _Ab._ Your majesty hath been at Aulis?

      _Lyc._                               Nay,                      500
    Nor yet at Aulis: but the tale thou tellest
    Coming unto my ears a month ago,
    Some of my lords and I one idle morn
    Crossed to Eubœa,—’tis a pleasure trip,
    On a clear day scarce out of sight of home—
    We landed ’neath Œchalia by noon,
    And, crossing o’er the isle on mules, were lodged
    That night at Chalcis. The next day at dawn
    I played the spy. ’Twas such a breathless morning
    When all the sound and motion of the sea                         510
    Is short and sullen, like a dreaming beast:
    Or as ’twere mixed of heavier elements
    Than the bright water, that obeys the wind.
    Hiring a fishing-boat we bade the sailors
    Row us to Aulis; when midway the straits,
    The morning mist lifted, and lo, a sight
    Unpicturable.—High upon our left
    Where we supposed was nothing, suddenly
    A tall and shadowy figure loomed: then two,
    And three, and four, and more towering above us:
    But whether poised upon the leaden sea                           521
    They stood, or floated in the misty air,
    That baffling our best vision held entangled
    The silver of the half-awakened sun,
    Or whether near or far, we could not tell,
    Nor what: at first I thought them rocks, but ere
    That error could be told, they were upon us
    Bearing down swiftly athwart our course; and all
    Saw ’twas a fleet of ships, not three or four
    Now, but unnumber’d: like a floating city,                       530
    If such could be, with walls and battlements
    Spread on the wondering water: and now the sun
    Broke thro’ the haze, and from the shields outhung
    Blazed back his dazzling beams, and round their prows
    On the divided water played; as still
    They rode the tide in silence, all their oars
    Stretched out aloft, as are the balanced wings
    Of storm-fowl, which returned from battling flight
    Across the sea, steady their aching plumes
    And skim along the shuddering cliffs at ease:                    540
    So came they gliding on the sullen plain,
    Out of the dark, in silent state, by force
    Yet unexpended of their nightlong speed.
      Those were the Cretan ships, who when they saw us
    Hailed for a pilot, and of our native sailors
    Took one aboard, and dipping all their oars
    Passed on, and we with them, into the bay.
      Then from all round, where the dark hulls were moored
    Against the shore, and from the tents above
    A shout of joy went up, re-echoing                               550
    From point to point; and we too cheered and caught
    The zeal of that great gathering.—Where man is met
    The gods will come; or shall I say man’s spirit
    Hath operative faculties to mix
    And make his gods at will? Howe’er that be,
    Soon a swift galley shot out from the rest
    To meet the comers. That was Agamemnon’s,
    They told me; and I doubt not he was in it,
    And gave his welcome to Idomeneus,
    And took him to his tent. On such a day                          560
    Our little boat rowed where we would unmarked:
    We were but Chalcian pilots. So I saw
    Whate’er I wished to see, and came away
    Across the strait that night, and the next day
    Was home by sundown.

      _Ab._              All this could you see
    Without the wish to join?

      _Lyc._                  I say not that;
    For wish I did that I was young again.
    Then, sir, I would have left whate’er I had,
    My kingdom to another, for the pride,
    Of high place in such war; now I am old.                         570

      _Ab._ But older men than thou have joined us, sire.
    War needs experience.

      _Lyc._              Concerning war
    I am divided in opinion, Abas:
    But lean to think it hath a wholesome root
    Supportive to our earthly habit. I see
    The noblest beasts will love to fight, and man
    Is body as well as spirit: his mind that’s set
    In judgment o’er those twain must oft admit
    The grosser part hath a preponderant claim.
    But I regret this, and my discontent                             580
    Puts me this question, Shall man never come
    To a better state with his desire? What think you?
    What if our race yet young should with the time
    Throw off the baser passions, as I find
    Myself by age affected? I know not...
    I have a little statue in my house,
    Which, if you look on’t long, begets belief
    Of absolute perfectionment; the artist
    Should have been present when man’s clay was mixed.
    Prometheus, or whoever ’twas that made us,                       590
    Had his head turned with natural history:
    All excellent contrivance, but betraying
    Commonness and complexity. Well! well!
    No need of my philosophies in Scyros—
    War must have motive, and the men I rule
    Are simple and contented with their lot.
    None in my land would wish an atom changed:
    Were even Achilles here ’twould be no wonder
    If he had caught our temper.

      _Ab._                      All men witness
    To thy good rule, O king: but in the wars                        600
    Fame may be won.

      _Lyc._         Nor do I ask for fame.
    Come that to whom it will; to Agamemnon,
    To Ajax or Ulysses or Achilles.

      _Ab._ To Achilles no: ’tis not in the gods’ grace
    To succour pigritude. To him, a lad,
    The prize of honour above all the Greeks
    Was offered: by the poor effeminacy
    With which he hath rejected it, he is judged
    Meanest of all. But since we cannot win
    Without him, we must have him. Little glory                      610
    To him, except to be Fate’s dullest tool.

      _Lyc._ Maybe. Now come we on. I had thought to find
    My daughter and her train. I’ll take thee round
    Another way to the palace: thither no doubt
    She is now returned.      [_Exeunt._

      _Enter Achilles from the bushes._

      _Ach._ Villain, I thank the gods that sent thee hither.
    But thou wast near thy death. Walk off secure,
    Not knowing that I heard. _Effeminate!
    The meanest of the Greeks!_ were he the best,
    I’d slay him in this garment. Yet he is but                      620
    A tongue to troll opinion of me, a slave,
    Fetcher and carrier of others’ tales, and doth
    The drudgery honestly; for that I’ll thank him
    And profit by his slander. Ay, so I’ll do—
    Now in good time—I’ll get me a man’s dress
    And meet them here, ere they suspect me:—or, stay!
    I can outwit them better. I’ll take a boat,
    Cross o’er to Aulis, like good Lycomede,
    This very night, and there to Agamemnon
    Declare myself; and men shall never know                         630
    How I was hid, nor whence I came.

      _Enter Thetis._

      _Th._                           My son!

      _Ach._ My goddess mother, welcome! yet I am shamed
    That thou shouldst find me thus.

      _Th._                          How art thou shamed?

      _Ach._ This dress. O thou canst help me: thou art ready
    At every need. And here hath been a man
    Who, thinking not I heard, spake to the king
    Of thy Achilles with such scorn, that I
    Should have leaped forth upon him in my rage,
    And strangled him, but that he seemed to be
    Another’s servant.                                               640

      _Th._            Then thou hast seen them, son?

      _Ach._ Who are they?

      _Th._              Those I came to warn thee of;
    Ulysses and his friends. Knowst thou ’tis they
    Are come unto the isle to seek thee?

      _Ach._                             Ay.
    But thou art ready to outwit their wile.
    As thou didst bring me hither on that night
    When all thy nymphs, assembling ’neath the moon
    Upon the Achæan shore, bore me away
    Across the sea, even so to Aulis now
    Convey me secretly, and set me there,
    Ere men know whence I come.

      _Th._                     What hear I, son?                    650
    To Aulis? to thy foes?

      _Ach._               A thousand ships
    Moored idle in the bay wait but for me:
    And round the shore the captains of the Greeks
    Impatient in their tents but call for me.
    Be they my foes to speak or wish me ill,
    ’Tis only that I come not. I must go.

      _Th._ There let them tarry till the sea-worm bore
    Their ships to rottenness; or, sail they forth,
    Let them be butchered by the sword of Hector,
    Ere thou be snared to serve their empty pride.                   660

      _Ach._ But louder than their need my honour calls:
    Hast thou no thought of this in all thy love?

      _Th._ Who then is honoured more or more desired
    Than thou art now? but they, if once they had thee,
    Would slight thee, and pretend they were the men.

      _Ach._ But those are honoured best that hear their praise.

      _Th._ Is not high Zeus himself, holding aloof,
    Worshipped the more? Let the world say of thee,
    When these have perished, that they went their way
    Because the son of Thetis would not aid them.                    670

      _Ach._ But if ’twere said because he feared to die?

      _Th._ Fearst thou reproach of fear that fearst not death?

      _Ach._ I fear not, but by proof would shun reproach.

      _Th._ Men, son, are what they are; and thou art brave.
    ’Tis asked of poor and questionable spirits
    To prove their worth.

      _Ach._              I prove myself a coward.

      _Th._ How! when it needed heavenly prayers and tears,
    The force of duty and a goddess’ will
    To keep thee back from death! when all the joys
    That I have set about thee, and a love                           680
    More beautiful than Helen’s cannot hold thee!

      _Ach._ Fate, that from men hideth her pitiless face,
    Offered to me this kindness, that my will
    Should be of force in predetermined deeds:
    Allowing me to take which life I would
    Of two incomparable lots; I ever
    Leaned one way, the other thou; and still at heart
    I hold to my first choice.

      _Th._                    O child of man,
    Though child of mine, wouldst thou know wisdom’s way,
    Learn it of me. If I had said to thee                            690
    Thou being a mortal shouldst love death and darkness;
    For in the brief date of thy heedless term
    ’Tis vain to strive with evil: and since the end
    Cometh the same, and at the latest cometh
    So soon, that there’s no difference to be told
    ’Twixt early and late, ’tis wisdom to despair:
    Then would thy tongue have boldly answered me,
    And said, Man hath his life; that it must end
    Condemns it not for nought. Are rivers salt
    Because they travel to the bitter sea?                           700
    Is the day dark because the gorgeous west
    Must fade in gloom, when the ungazeable sun
    Is fallen beneath the waves? Or hath the spring
    No charm in her pavilions, are her floors
    Not starred, for that we see her birth is slow
    Of niggard winter, and her blossoms smirched
    By summer’s tyranny? Hadst thou said this,
    And that Earth’s changeful pride, the life of man,
    Is exquisite in such a quality
    To make the high gods envious could they guess:
    Then had I found no answer: but when I                           711
    Told thee of joy, and set thee in the midst,
    That thou shouldst argue with me that ’tis best
    To die at once, and for an empty name
    Pass to the trivial shades; then must I fear
    I have as thankless and unwise a son,
    As disobedient.—Yet when first I taught thee
    Thou gav’st me promise to be wise.

      _Ach._                           But never
    Wilt thou then free me from my promise given?

      _Th._ Not to thy hurt.                                         720

      _Ach._               See now what shame I bear!

      _Th._ Why make so much of shame? If thou despise
    The pleasure of the earth, why not the shame?

      _Ach._ I wrong, too, this old king.

      _Th._                             His daughter more,
    If thou desert her.

      _Ach._            But ’twould hurt her less
    To lose me now than know me when disgraced.

      _Th._ I plead not in her name, nor charge thee, son,
    With loving her in my contempt. A dream
    Of mortal fancy or honour may becloud
    Thy mind awhile, but ne’er canst thou forget
    Thy bond to me; the care that never left thee                    730
    Till thou wert out of hand; the love that dared
    To send thee from my sight when thou wast able,
    And to strange lands; my secret visitings
    There, and revisitings; the dreams I sent thee,
    Warnings of ill, and ecstasies of pride;
    The thousand miracles I wrought to save thee,
    And guard thee to thy prime;—and now men say
    Thou art the first of the Greeks: their homaged kings
    The gods condemn to death if thou withhold                       739
    Thy single arm. Why so? What hast thou done?
    Where have men seen thee? Hast thou ruled like Nestor?
    Conquered like Agamemnon, fought like Ajax?
    What is thy prowess, what thy skill but this,
    That thou art son of Thetis? Disobey not,
    Nor question now my bidding. Must I kneel,
    Embrace thy knees, or melt before thy face
    In supplicating tears? O if thy birth
    Did cost the tenderest tears that god e’er shed,
    Make not those bitter drops to have flowed in vain.
    Whate’er fate portion thee my joy is this—                       750
    That thou dost love me. Dost thou cease to love,
    I am most miserable.

      _Ach._             O fear not that,
    Mother and goddess! Pardon me, weep not.
    Let all men curse me, be my name abhorred,
    Rather than thou be grieved. ’Twas anger moved me:
    I will forget this, and obey thee. Say
    What I must do, how best avoid these men:
    And how refuse their call if I be found.

      _Th._ Kiss me, my son. By the gods’ life, I love thee:
    My grief is to deny thee. But there’s need                       760
    Of counsel, for the day is critical
    And glides apace. And first if they should find thee,
    Then ’tis thy fate to go: I cannot stay thee.
    And since to bear thee hence were sure betrayal,
    I urge thee to be true to thy disguise.
    And better to escape thy foes, learn now
    Whom most to dread. Of all the Argives shun
    Ulysses; come not near him in the halls;
    And should he speak to thee, answer no word.
    Him thou wilt know by his preëminence:                           770
    In person he is beardless yet, and smooth
    Of face and tongue, alluring, gentle in voice
    But sturdy of body, and ’neath his helm his locks
    O’er a wide brow and restless eye curl forth
    In ruddy brown; nor less for his attire
    Notable is he, wearing the best of all,
    His linen broidered, and broad jewels to hold
    A robe of gray and purple.

      _Ach._                   He shall not spy me.
    But if by any warning from the gods
    He know and call to me, how then to escape                       780
    The shame of this Ionian skirt?

      _Th._                           That chance
    I can provide for, and shall give thee now
    A magic garment fitting to thy body,
    Which worn beneath thy robe will seem as weft
    Of linen thread, but if it meet the light
    ’Twill be a gilded armour, and serve well
    In proof as show. Come, I will set it on thee.

           [_Exeunt._

      _Enter Deidamia and Chorus._

      _Deid._ The ground is clear, we have deceived them mightily,
    Running around.

      _Ch._         Where is our queen?

    (_2_)                             Not here.

      _Deid._ I’ll call her. Pyrrha!—Call all together.

      _Ch._                                           Pyrrha!

      _Deid._ She will come presently.—Did ye not mark
    How resonant this glade is? that our voices                      792
    Neither return nor fly, but stay about us?
    It is the trunks of the trees that cage the sound;
    As in an open temple, where the pillars
    Enrich the music. In my father’s hall
    The echo of each note burdens the next.
    ’Twould be well done to cut a theatre
    Deep in some wooded dale. Till Pyrrha come,
    Alexia, sing thou here.

      _Ch._                 What shall I sing?                       800

      _Deid._ There is a Lydian chant I call to mind
    In honour of music-makers: it beginneth
    With praise of the soft spring, and heavenly love—
    ’Twill suit our mood, if thou remember it.

      _Chorus._

        The earth loveth the spring,
        Nor of her coming despaireth,
        Withheld by nightly sting,
        Snow, and icy fling,
        The snarl of the North:
        But nevertheless she prepareth                               810
    And setteth in order her nurselings to bring them forth,
        The jewels of her delight,
        What shall be blue, what yellow or white;
        What softest above the rest,
        The primrose, that loveth best
        Woodland skirts and the copses shorn.


                                  2.

    And on the day of relenting she suddenly weareth
    Her budding crowns. O then, in the early morn,
        Is any song that compareth
    With the gaiety of birds, that thrill the gladdened air
        In inexhaustible chorus                                      821
        To awake the sons of the soil
    With music more than in brilliant halls sonorous
        (—It cannot compare—)
        Is fed to the ears of kings
        From the reeds and hirèd strings?
        For love maketh them glad;
        And if a soul be sad,
        Or a heart oracle dumb,
    Here may it taste the promise of joy to come.                    830


                                  3.

    For the Earth knoweth the love which made her,
        The omnipotent one desire,
        Which burns at her heart like fire,
        And hath in gladness arrayed her.
        And man with the Maker shareth,
        Him also to rival throughout the lands,
        To make a work with his hands
        And have his children adore it:
    The Creator smileth on him who is wise and dareth
        In understanding with pride:                                 840
    For God, where’er he hath builded, dwelleth wide,—
        And he careth,—
        To set a task to the smallest atom,
        The law-abiding grains,
        That hearken each and rejoice:
    For he guideth the world as a horse with reins;
        It obeyeth his voice,
    And lo! he hath set a beautiful end before it:


                                4.

        Whereto it leapeth and striveth continually,
        And pitieth nought, nor spareth:                             850
        The mother’s wail for her children slain,
        The stain of disease,
        The darts of pain,
        The waste of the fruits of trees,
        The slaughter of cattle,
        Unbrotherly lust, the war
        Of hunger, blood, and the yells of battle,
        It heedeth no more
    Than a carver regardeth the wood that he cutteth away:
        The grainèd shavings fall at his feet,                       860
        But that which his tool hath spared shall stand
        For men to praise the work of his hand;
        For he cutteth so far, and there it lay,
        And his work is complete.


                                  5.

    But I will praise ’mong men the masters of mind
        In music and song,
    Who follow the love of God to bless their kind:
        And I pray they find
        A marriage of mirth—
        And a life long                                              870
        With the gaiety of the Earth.

      _Ch._ There stands an old man down beneath the bank,
    Gazing, and beckoning to us.

      _Deid._                    He is a stranger,
    That burdened with some package to the palace
    Hath missed his way about, and fears to intrude.
    Go some and show him.      [_Some run out._
                          Meanwhile what do we?
    We have no sport when Pyrrha is away.
    Our game is broken. Come, a thought, a thought!
    Hath none a thought?

      _Ch._              We have never built the bower.

      _Deid._ Ye idled gathering flowers. Now ’tis too late.

      _Ch._ Let us play ball.

      _Deid._               The sun is still so high.                881
    I shall go feed my doves.

    (_Re-enter one of Chorus._)

      _Ch._              The old man saith
    That he is a pedlar, and hath wares to sell
    If he may show them. Shall he come?

      _Deid._                           Now Hermes,
    The father of device and jugglery,
    Be thanked for this; ’tis he hath sent him.—Call him.
    His tales may be good hearing, tho’ his pack
    Repay not search. But be advised: beware,
    Lest he bear off more than he bring: these fellows
    Have fingers to unclasp a brooch or pin                          890
    While the eye winks that watches. There was one
    Who as he ran a race would steal the shoes
    Of any that ran with him. The prince of all
    Was merry Autolycus.

      _Enter, with those who had gone out, Ulysses as a pedlar._

                       Good day, old man.
    Come, let us see thy wares.

      _Ul._                     I have no breath left,
    Wherewith to thank you, ladies; the little hill
    Has ta’en it from me.

      _Deid._             Rest awhile, and tell us
    Whence thou art come.

      _Ul._               In a Greek ship this morn.
    I pray you, that I lack not courtesy,
    Art thou the princess of this isle?

      _Deid._                           I am.                        900

      _Ul._ My true and humble service to your highness.

      _Deid._ In turn say who art thou, and whence thy ship.

      _Ul._ Fair, honoured daughter of a famous king,
    I have no story worthy of thine ear,
    Being but a poor artificer of Smyrna,
    Where many years I wrought, and ye shall see
    Not without skill, in silver and in gold.
    But happiness hath wrecked me, and I say
    ’Tis ill to marry young; for from that joy
    I gat a son, who as the time went on,                            910
    Grew to be old and gray and wise as I;
    And bettering much the art which I had taught him
    Longed to be master in my place, for which
    He grew unkind, and his sons hated me:
    And when one day he wished me dead, I feared
    Lest I should kill myself; and so that night
    I made me up a pack of little things
    He should not grieve for, and took ship for Greece.
    There have I trafficked, lady, a year and more,
    And kept myself alive hawking small ware                         920
    From place to place, and on occasion found
    A market for my jewels, and be come here
    Making the round of the isles in any ship
    That chances: and this last I came aboard
    At Andros, where I was: but whence she hailed
    I have even forgot. May it please thee see my wares?

      _Deid._ Thy tale is very sad. I am sorry for thee.
    Why would thy son, being as thou sayst so skilled,
    Not ply his trade apart?

      _Ul._                  My house in Smyrna
    Was head of all the goldsmiths: ’twas for that,                  930
    Lady, he envied me. See now my wares.

      _Deid._ What beauteous work! I’m glad thou’rt come. I’ll buy
    A trinket for myself, and let my maids
    Choose each what she may fancy. Hear ye, girls?
    I’ll make a gift to each.

      _Ch._                   O thanks.—To all?—
    And may we choose?

      _Deid._          Yes.

      _Ch._               Anything we please?

      _Deid._ Why, that is choosing.

      _Ch._                        O we thank thee.

      _Ul._                                       Now
    I see, princess, thou’rt of a bounteous blood,
    To make all round thee happy.

      _Deid._                     What is this brooch?

      _Ul._ If for thyself thou fancy a brooch, I’ll show thee
    The best jewel in my box, and not be shamed                      941
    To say I have no better.

      _Ch._                  See, oh, see!
    What lovely things!—A rare old man!

      _Ul._                              Here ’tis.
    What thinkest thou?

      _Deid._           Is’t not a ruby?

      _Ul._                            And fine!

      _Deid._ I think thy son will have missed this.

      _Ul._                                          Nay, lady:
    I had it of a sailor, who, poor fool,
    Knew not its worth; and thou mayst buy it of me
    For half its value.

      _Deid._           May I take these two
    To view them nearly?

      _Ul._              All take as ye will.
    Ye do me honour, ladies.

      _Deid._                Hear ye, girls,                         950
    Make each her choice. I will o’erlook your taste
    When all is done.

      _Ul._           Come, buy my wares: come buy.
    Come, come buy; I’ve wares for all,
    Were ye each and all princesses.
    Clasps and brooches, large and small,
    Handy for holding your flowing dresses.

      _Ch._ What is this little box for?

      _Ul._                            Open it.

      _Ch._ What is this vial?

      _Ul._                  Smell it. Buy, come buy!
        Charms for lovers, charms to break,
        Charms to bind them to you wholly.                           960
        Medicines fit for every ache,
        Fever and fanciful melancholy.

      _Ch._ O smell this scent.—Here be fine pins.—See this!

      _Ul._ (_aside_). I spy none here to match my notion yet.

      _Ch._ I have found amber beads.—What is it is tied
    In little packets?

      _Ul._            Toilet secrets those,
    Perfumes, and rare cosmetics ’gainst decay.

      _Deid._ (_to one apart_). Alexia, see. I will buy this for Pyrrha.
    ’Tis pity she is not here. What thinkest thou of it?
    He said it was his best. This other one                          970
    I’ll give to thee if thou find nothing better.
    Go see. I will seek Pyrrha.      [_Exit._

      _Ul._                     Buy, come buy!
        Tassels, fringes, silken strings,
        Girdles, ties, and Asian pockets,
        Armlets, necklaces and rings,
        Images, amulets, lovers’ lockets.

      _Ch._ Pray, what are these, good man?

      _Ul._                               Of soft doe-skin
    These gilded thongs are made for dancers’ wear,
    To tie their sandals.

      _Ch._               And is this a pin,
    This golden grasshopper?

      _Ul._                  Ay, for the hair.                       980
    The Athenian ladies use nought else. See here
    This little cup.

      _Ch._          Didst thou make that?

      _Ul._                              Nay, ladies.

      _Ch._ Show us some work of thine which thou didst make
    Thy very self.

      _Ul._        See then this silver snake.
    Fear not. Come near and mark him well: my trade is,
    Or was, I should say, in such nice devices.
    ’Twill coil and curl, uncoil, dart and recoil.      [_Showing._

      _The Chorus crowd about him, when enter unperceived
    by him Achilles and Deidamia._

      _Deid._ Come, come, there never hath been one like him here.
    Hark! see the girls: they crowd and chatter round
    As greedily as birds being fed. I bade them choose
    Each one a present, but I took the best,                         991
    This ruby brooch. Look at it: ’tis for thee.
    Let me now put it on thee. I’ll unclasp
    Thy robe and set it in the place of the other.

      _Ach._ Nay, Deidamia, unfasten not my robe!

      _Deid._ Why, ’twould not matter if he looked this way.

      _Ach._ Nay, prithee.—

      _Deid._              Well, thou must take my gift.

      _Ach._ Then must I give thee somewhat in return.

      _Deid._ But ’tis my will to-day to give to all.

      _Ach._ Then let me take my choice, some smaller thing.        1000

      _Deid._ Come then ere all is ransacked.

      _Ach._ (_aside_).                       I scarce escaped
    The uncovering of my magic coat.—[_They go to Ulysses._

      _Ul._                            Come buy,
        Needles for your broideries rare,
        Dainty bodkins silver-hafted.
        Pins to fix your plaited hair,
        Ivory-headed and golden-shafted.

      _Ach._ What hast thou in thy pack for me, old man?

      _Ul._ There’s nought but trifles left me, lady, now,
    As dice and dolls; the very dregs of the box.

      _Deid._ Athenian owls. And who’s this red-baked lady
    Clothed in a net?

      _Ul._           Princess, ’tis Britomartis,                   1011
    The Cretan goddess worshipped at Ægina.

      _Deid._ This little serpent too?

      _Ul._                          Nothing to thee:
    But the Erechtheidæ use to fasten such
    About their children’s necks. Nay, not a babe
    Is born but they must don him one of these,
    Or ever he be swaddled or have suck.

      _Deid._ This blinking pygmy here, with a man’s body
    And a dog’s head, squatting upon a button...
    What’s he?

      _Ul._    ’Tis an Egyptian charm, to ban                       1020
    The evil spirits bred of Nilus’ slime.

      _Deid._ And this?

      _Ul._           That. See, ’tis a Medusa, lady,
    Cut in an oyster-shell, with flaming snakes.

      _Deid._ These are all nothings. Thou must have the brooch.
    See, now ’tis thine; thou hast it. (_Pins it upon Achilles’ robe._)
                            (_To Ul._) What is its price?
    (_To Ach._) Nay, be content.

      _Ul._                    To thee I’ll sell it, lady,
    For a tenfold weight of gold.

      _Ach._                      Oh! ’tis too much.
    Spend not such store on me. And for the ruby,
    ’Tis dark and small.

      _Ul._              The purple is its merit:
    Were it three times the size and half the tint,                 1030
    ’Twere of slight cost.

      _Ach._               So might I like it better.
    And that—what’s that, which thou dost put aside?
    Is that a toy?

      _Ul._        Nay, lady; that is no toy.
    ’Tis a sharp sword. But I will show it thee
    For its strange quality: the which methinks
    Might pass for magic, were’t not that an Arian,
    Late come to Sardis, knows the art to make it.
    Tho’ wrought of iron, look ye, ’tis blue as flint,
    And if I bend it, it springs back like a bow:
    ’Tis sharper too than flint; but the edge is straight,
    And will not chip. Nay, touch it not; have care!

      _Ach._ Pray, let me see it, and take it in my hand.

           [_Takes it and comes to front._

      _Ul._ (_aside_). This should be he.

      _Ach._ (_aside_).                 My arm writhes at the touch.

      _Ul._ There is a hunter, with his game, a lion,
    Inlaid upon it: and on the other side                           1045
    Two men that fight to death.

      _Ach._                     ’Tis light in the hand.

      _Deid._ (_to Ach._). Canst thou imagine any use for this?

      _Ach._ (_to Deid._). Not when thy father dies?

      _Ul._                                             Ladies, have care.
    For if the sword should wound you, I were blamed.

      _Ach._ Why, thinkest thou ’tis only bearded men
    Can wield a sword? The queen of the Amazons
    Could teach thee something maugre thy white hair.

      _Ul._ (_aside_). The game hath run into the snare;
    He is mine.

      _Ach._ See, Deidamia, here’s my choice; buy this
    If thou wilt give me something; thou dost like                  1055
    The ruby; if thou wilt let me give thee that,
    Thou in return buy me this little sword.

      _Deid._ Such presents are ill-omened, and ’tis said
    Will shrewdly cut in twain the love they pledge.

      _Ach._ But we may make a bond of this divider.

      _Deid._ Wilt thou in earnest take it for thy choice?

      _Ach._ If thou wert late in earnest, thou couldst do
    No better than arm all thy girls with these.
    The weapon wins the battle, and I think
    With such advantage women might be feared.
    (_To Ul._) Old man, I like thy blade; and I will have it.
    I see ’twould thrust well: tell me if ’tis mettle
    To give a stroke. Suppose I were thy foe,
    And standing o’er thee thus to cut thee down
    Should choose to cleave thy pate. Would this sword do it?       1070

      _Ul._ (_aside_). He knows me!

           [_Pulling off his beard and head-dress and leaping up._

                          Achilles!

      _Deid. and Ch._             Help! help! treachery!

          [_They fly._

      _Diomede comes out of bushes where he stands unseen
    by Achilles._

      _Ach._ Beardless—and smooth of face as tongue:
    In voice
    Gentle, but sturdy of body: ruddy locks,
    And restless eye .. Ulysses!

      _Ul._                       Thou hast it.

      _Ach._ I knew that thou wert here, but looked to meet thee1075
    Without disguises, as an honest man.

      _Ul._ Thou needest a mirror, lady, for thyself.

      _Ach._ (_suddenly casts off his long robe and appears in
    shining armour, still holding the sword_).

    Behold!.... Be thou my mirror!

      _Ul._                       If I be not,
    ’Tis shame to thee, the cause of my disguise.

      _Ach._ I own thee not. I knew thee for a prince,
    But seeing thee so vilely disfigured...

      _Ul._                                  Stay!                  1081
    We both have used disguise: I call for judgment
    Upon the motive. Mine I donned for valour,
    And care for thy renown; thine was for fear.

      _Ach._ Fear! By the gods: take up thy beard again,
    And thy mock dotage shield thee.

      _Ul._                          Nay, Achilles;
    If I spake wrong I will recall the word.

      _Ach._ Thou didst unutterably lie. Recall it.

      _Ul._ Wilt thou then sail to Aulis in my ship?

      _Ach._ I can sail thither and not sail with thee.

      _Ul._ But wilt thou come?

      _Ach._                  I answer not to thee
    Because thou questionest me: but since I know
    What will be, and hear thee in ignorance
    Slander fair names, I tell thee that Achilles
    Will come to Aulis.

      _Ul._             Wherefore now so long                       1095
    Hast thou denied thyself to thy renown?

      _Ach._ Thou saidst for fear; nor hast recalled the word.

      _Ul._ ’Twas first thy taunt which drew my mind from me:
    But, if it wrong thee, I recall the word.

      _Ach._ I think thou hast judged me by thyself, Ulysses.
    When thou wast summoned to the war,—who wert
    Not free to choose as I, but bound by oath
    To Menelaus to help him,—what didst thou?
    Why thou didst feign; and looking for disguise
    Thy wit persuaded thee that they who knew thee
    Would never deem that thou wouldst willingly
    Make mock of that: so thou didst put on madness,
    Babbling and scrabbling even before thy friends:
    And hadst been slavering on thy native rocks
    Unto this day, had not one fellow there                         1110
    Lightly unravelled thee, and in the furrow,
    Which thou with dumb delusion, morn and eve,
    Didst plough in the sea sand (that was thy trick),
    He placed thy new-born babe. That thou brok’st down
    Then in thine acting, that thou drav’st not on
    The share thro’ thine own flesh, is the best praise
    I have to give thee.

      _Ul._              Distinguish! if I feigned,
    ’Twas that I had a child and wife, whose ties
    Of tenderness I am not ashamed to own.

      _Ach._ I say thou wentest not unto this war                   1120
    But by compulsion, thou, that chargest me
    With fear. ’Tis thou that art the stay-at-home,
    Not I; my heart was ever for the war,
    And ’gainst my will I have been withheld: that thou
    Mistakest in this my duty for my leaning,
    Is more impeachment of thy boasted wits,
    Than was thy empty husbandry. Are not
    The Argive chiefs more subject, one and all,
    To this reproach of fear? Why need they me
    A boy of sixteen years to lead them on?                         1130
    Did they lack ships or men, what are my people
    In number? who am I in strength? what rank
    Have I in Hellas? Where’s the burly Ajax?
    Where is the son of Herakles? and Nestor
    The aged? Teucer and Idomeneus?
    Menestheus, Menelaus? and not least
    Where’s Diomede?

      _Dio._ (_coming forward_). By chance he’s here.

      _Ach._                                       Ah! now
    I hear a soldier’s voice. Brave Diomede,
    I give thee welcome, tho’ thou comest behind.

      _Dio._ Hail, son of Thetis, champion of the Greeks!

      _Ach._ Anon, anon. What dost thou here? Wert thou             1141
    Sat in an ambush or arrived by chance,
    As thou didst say?

      _Dio._           By heaven I cannot tell.
    I serve Ulysses, and he serves the gods:
    If thou’rt displeased with them, gibe not at me.

      _Ach._ I see the plan—The pedlar here in front,
    The lion behind. And so ye thought to seize me.

      _Ul._ Have we not done it?

      _Ach._                   Nay.

      _Ul._                       Thou canst not scape.

      _Ach._ I give that back to thee.

      _Ul._                          What wilt thou now?

      _Ach._ Diomede and I have swords: thou mayst stand by         1150
    Until ’tis time thou show me how to escape.
    I’ll drive you to your ship.

      _Ul._ (_aside to Dio._).
    Answer him not. He cannot leave the isle:
    When the king learns of our discovery
    He must deliver him up. Let’s to the palace.

      _Dio._ (_to Ul._). Nay, I must speak—

      _Ul._                               Thou wilt but anger him.
    He will yield better if we cross him not.

      _Dio._ (_to Ach._). Brave son of Thetis, I’d not yield
         to thee
    In any trial of strength, tho’ thou be clad
    In heavenly armour; but I came not here                         1160
    To fight, and least with thee: put up thy sword.
    And since I heard thee say thou wilt to Aulis,
    Our mission is accomplished, nought remains
    But to renounce our acting, and atone
    For what we have ventured. First I speak thee free
    To follow thine own way. Unless the king
    Or other here be in thy secrecy,
    None know but we, nor shall know: be it thy will,
    My lips are sealed, and in whatever else
    Thou wilt command me, I shall be glad to obey.

      _Ach._ Thank thee, good Diomede. What saith Ulysses?          1171

      _Ul._ I’ll do whate’er will knit thee to our cause.
    (_Aside._) Yet shall men hear I found thee.

      _Ach._ Return then to your ship; and when Ulysses
    Is there restored proceed ye to the court.
    But what in the surprise and consequence
    Of my discovery to the king, as well
    As to some others may arise, I know not;
    Nor can instruct your good behaviours further.
    Time grants me but short counsel for myself.                    1180

      _Ul._ We too should study how to meet the king.

      _Ach._ Stay yet, Ulysses. Thou hast parted here
    With goods appraised to them that meant to buy.
    I have a full purse with me. Be content,
    Take it. I’d give as much for the little sword.
    Now let me do this favour to the ladies.

      _Ul._ (_taking_). ’Tis fit, and fairly done. I did not think
    To go off robbed. The sword is worth the gold.
    We part in honest dealing. Fare thee well.                      1189

      _Dio._ (_aside_). Thrashed like a witless cur!
    (_To Ach._)                                    Farewell, Achilles.
    An hour hence we will meet thee at the palace.

           [_Exeunt Ul. and Dio._

      _Ach._ In spite of warning taken in a silly trap,
    By the common plotter! Thus to be known Achilles—
    To have my wish forced on me against my will
    Hath rudely cleared my sight. Where lies the gain?
    The dancing ship on which I sailed is wrecked
    On an unlovely shore, and I must climb
    Out of the wreck upon a loveless shore,
    Saving what best I love. ’Tis so. I see
    I shall command these men, and in their service
    Find little solace. I have a harder task                        1201
    Than chieftainship, and how to wear my arms
    With as much nature as yon girlish robe:
    To pass from that to this without reproach
    Of honour, and beneath my breastplate keep
    With the high generalship of all the Greeks
    My tenderest love. ’Tis now to unmask that,
    And hold uninjured. I’ll make no excuse
    To the old king but my necessity,
    And boldly appease him. Here by chance he comes.

      _Enter hurriedly Lycomedes and Abas._

      _Lyc._ Was it not here, they said?                            1211
    An insolent ruffian: Let me come across him!
    By heav’n, still here! And armed from head to foot!
    (_To Ach._) Young man,—as now thou’lt not deny to be—
    Thou’st done—ay, tho’ thou seem of princely make—
    Dishonour and offence to me the king
    In venturing here to parley with the princess
    In mock disguise, for whatsoever cause,
    Strangely put on and suddenly cast off,
    I am amazed to think. I bid thee tell me                        1220
    What was thy purpose hither.

      _Ach._                     O honoured king,
    Tho’ I came here disguised I am not he
    Thou thinkest.

      _Lyc._       Nay I think not who thou art.
    All wonders that I have seen are lost in thee.

      _Ach._ Thou takest me for Ulysses.

      _Lyc._                           Nay, not I.

      _Ach._ I am Achilles, sire, the son of Thetis.

      _Lyc._ Achilles! Ah! Thou sayst at least a name
    That fits thy starlike presence, my rebuke
    Not knowing who thou wert. But now I see thee
    I need no witness, and forget my wonder                         1230
    Wherefore the Argives tarry on the shore
    And the gods speak thy praise. Welcome then hither,
    Achilles, son of Thetis; welcome hither!
    And be I first to honour thee, who was
    Most blamèd in thine absence.

      _Ach._                      Gracious sire,
    Thy welcome is all kingly, if it bear
    Forgiveness of offence.

      _Lyc._                To speak of that,
    Another might have wronged me, but not thou.
    Tho’ much I crave to learn both how and why                     1239
    Thou camest hither. Was’t in the Argive ship?

      _Ach._ Nay, king, I came not in the Argive ship:
    Nor am I that false trespasser thou seekest.

      _Lyc._ Whether then hast thou mounted from the deep,
    Where the sea nymphs till now have loved and held thee
    From men’s desire; or whether from the sky
    Hath some god wrapt thee in a morning cloud,
    And laid thee with the sunlight on this isle,
    Where they that seek should find thee?

      _Ach._                               A god it was
    Brought me, but not to-day: seven times the moon
    Hath lost her lamp with loitering, since the night
    She shone upon my passage; and so long                          1251
    I have served thee in disguise, and won thy love.

      _Lyc._ So long hast thou been here! And I unknowing
    Have pledged my kingly oath—The gods forbid—

      _Ach._ Yet was I here because a goddess bade.

      _Lyc._ Have I then ever seen thee?

      _Ach._                           Every hour
    Thou hast seen me, and sheltered me beneath thy roof.
    But since thou knewest me not, thy royal word
    Was hurt not by denial.

      _Lyc._                Who wert thou? Say.

      _Ach._ I was called Pyrrha.                                   1260

      _Lyc._                    O shame.

      _Ach._                           Yet hearken, sire!

      _Lyc._ Wast thou the close attendant of my daughter,
    Her favoured comrade, and she held it hid
    ’Neath a familiar countenance before me,
    So false unto her modesty and me?
    Alas! alas!

      _Ach._ O sire, she hath known me but as thou, and loved
    Not knowing whom.

      _Lyc._          Thou sayst she hath not known?

      _Ach._ For ’twas a goddess framed me this disguise.

      _Lyc._ And never guessed?

      _Ach._                  Nay, sire. Nor blame the goddess
    Whom I obeyed: nor where I have done no wrong,
    Make my necessity a crime against thee.                         1271

      _Lyc._ Can I believe?

      _Ach._              ’Tis true I have loved her, sire:
    And by strange wooing if I have won her love,
    And now in the discovery can but offer
    A soldier’s lot,—she is free to choose: but thee
    First I implore, be gracious to my suit,
    Nor scorn me for thy son.

      _Lyc._                  My son! Achilles!
    This day shall be the feast-day of my year,
    Tho’ I be made to all men a rebuke
    For being thy shelter, when I swore to all                      1280
    Thou wert not here. Now I rejoice thou wert.
    Come to my palace as thyself: be now
    My guest in earnest: we will seal at once
    This happy contract.

      _Ach._             Let me first be known
    Unto the princess and bespeak her will.

      _Lyc._ She is thine, I say she is thine. Stay yet; that pedlar,
    Was he Ulysses?

      _Ach._        So he stole upon us;
    And when I bought this sword he marked me out.

      _Lyc._ I cannot brook his mastery in deceit.
    Where is he now?

      _Ach._         I sent him to the ship,                        1290
    To find a fit apparel for thy sight.

      _Lyc._ Would I had caught him in his mean disguise!

      _Ach._ So mayst thou yet. Come with me the short way
    And we will intercept him.

      _Lyc._                   Abas, follow.
    Thou too hast played a part I cannot like.

      _Ab._ My liege, I have but unwittingly obeyed.
    I have no higher trust.

      _Lyc._                Now obey me.      [_Exeunt._

      _Enter Deidamia and Chorus._

      _Deid._ Pyrrha, where art thou, Pyrrha?

      _Ch._                                 She turned not back.—
    They are not here.—She would not fly.—

      _Deid._ Pyrrha, Pyrrha!                                       1300

      _Ch._ She hath driven the ugly pedlar and his pack
    Home to his ship—would we had all been by!
            Would we had joined the chase!

      _Deid._ He was no pedlar: I could see his face
            When he pulled off his beard.

      _Ch._   There as she stood,
            Waving the sword, I feared
            To see a mortal stroke—
            He hath fled into the wood—
            Had he no sword too, did none spy,                      1310
            Beneath his ragged cloke?

      _Deid._ Alas, alas!

      _Ch._  What hast thou found?

      _Deid._ Woe, woe! alas, alas!
    Pyrrha’s robe torn, and trampled on the ground.
             See! see! O misery!

      _Ch._    ’Tis hers—’tis true—we see.

      _Deid._ Misery, misery! help who can.

      _Ch._    I have no help to give.—
            I have no word to say.                                  1320

      _Deid._ Gods! do I live
            To see this woe? The man
    Like some wild beast hath dragged her body away,
    And left her robe. Ah, see the gift she spurned,
    My ruby jewel to my hand returned;
          When forcing my accord
          She chose the fatal sword.
        The fool hath quite mistook her play.

      _Ch._ He will have harmed her, if she be not slain.
          Ah, Pyrrha, Pyrrha!                                       1330
          Why ran we away?

      _Deid._ Why stand we here?
          To the rescue: follow me.

      _Ch._  Whither—our cries are vain.
          Maybe she lieth now close by
          And hears but cannot make reply.
          ’Tis told how men have bound
          The mouths of them they bore away,
          Lest by their cry
          They should be found.—                                    1340
    Spread our company into the woods around,
    And shouting as we go keep within hail.—
    Or banding in parties search the paths about:
          If many together shout
          The sound is of more avail.
    Once more, together call her name once more.
    (_Calling._) Pyrrha—Pyrrha!

      _Thetis_ (_within_).         Ha!

      _Deid._ An answer. Heard ye not?

      _Ch._ ’Twas but the nymph, that from her hidden grot
    Mocks men with the repeated syllables                           1350
          Of their own voice, and nothing tells.
          Such sound the answer bore.

      _Deid._                         Nay, nay.
    Hark, for if ’twere but echo as ye say
    ’Twill answer if I call again.
    (_Calls._) Pyrrha, come! Pyrrha, come!

      _Thetis_ (_within_). I come, I come.

      _Deid._ Heard ye not then?

      _Ch._ I heard the selfsame sound.

      _Deid._ ’Twas Pyrrha. Why she is found.
    I know her voice. I hear her footing stir.                      1360

      _Ch._ True, some one comes.

      _Deid._                   ’Tis she.

      _Enter Thetis._

    Pyrrha! O joy.

      _Th._        Why call ye her?

      _Deid._                     Pyrrha! Nay.
    And yet so like. Alas, beseech thee, lady
    Or goddess, for I think that such thou art,
    Who answering from the wood our sorrowing call
    Now to our sight appearest,—hast thou regard
    For her, whom thou so much resemblest, speak
    And tell us of thy pity if yet she lives                        1368
    Safe and unhurt, whom we have lost and mourn.

      _Th._ ’Tis vain to weep her, as ’twere vain to seek.
    Whom think ye that ye have lost?

      _Deid._                        Pyrrha, my Pyrrha.
    As late we all fled frighted by a man,
    Who stole on us disguised, she stayed behind:
    For when we were got safe, she was not with us.
    So we returned to seek her; but alas!
    Our fear is turned to terror. Lady, see!
    This is her garment trampled on the ground.

      _Th._ And so ye have found her. There was never more
    Of her ye have callèd Pyrrha than that robe.
    The golden-headed maiden, the enchantress,                      1380
    And laughter-loving idol of your hearts
    Had in your empty thought her only being.
    When ye have played with her, chosen her for queen,
    And leader of your games, or when ye have sat
    Rapt by the music of her voice, that sang
    Heroic songs and histories of the gods,
    Or at brisk morn, or long-delaying eve,
    Have paced the shores of sunlight hand in hand,
    ’Twas but a robe ye held: ye were deceived;
    There was no Pyrrha.                                            1390

      _Ch._              What strange speech is this?
    Was there no Pyrrha? What shall we believe!

      _Deid._ Lady, thy speech troubles mine ear in vain.

      _Th._ ’Tis then thine ear is vain; and not my speech.

      _Deid._ My ears and eyes and hands have I believed,
    But not thy words. A moment since I held her.
    What wilt thou say?

      _Th._             That eyes and hands and ears
    Deceived thy trust, but now thou hearest truth.

      _Deid._ Have we then dreamed, deluded by a shade
    Fashioned of air or cloud, and as it seems
    Made in thy likeness, or hath some god chosen
    To dwell awhile with us in privity                              1401
    And mutual share of all our petty deeds?
    Say what thy dark words hint and who thou art.

      _Th._ I Thetis am, daughter of that old god,
    Whose wisdom buried in the deep hath made
    The unfathomed water solemn, and I rule
    The ocean-nymphs, who for their pastime play
    In the blue glooms, and darting here and there
    Checquer the dark and widespread melancholy
    With everlasting laughter and bright smiles.                    1410
    Of me thou hast heard, and of my son Achilles,
    By prescient fame renowned first of the Greeks:
    He is on this island: for ’twas here I set him
    To hide him from his foes, and he was safe
    Till thou betray’dst him—for unwittingly
    That hast thou done to-day. The seeming pedlar,
    To whom thou leddest Pyrrha, was Ulysses,
    Who spied to find Achilles, and thro’ thee
    Found him, alas! Thy Pyrrha was Achilles.

      _Chorus._

            O daughter of Nereus old,                               1420
            Queen of the nymphs that swim
            By day in gleams of gold,
            By night in the silver dim,
            Forgive in pity, we pray,
            Forgive the ill we have done.
            Why didst thou hide this thing from us?
            For if we had known thy son
            We had guarded him well to-day,
            Nor ever betrayed him thus.

            For though we may not ride                              1430
            Thy tall sea-horses nor play
            In the rainbow-tinted spray,
            Nor dive down under the tide
            To the secret caves of the main,
            Among thy laughing train;
            Yet had we served thee well as they,
            Had we thy secret shared:
            Nor ever had lost from garden and hall
            Pyrrha the golden-haired,
            Pyrrha beloved of all.                                  1440

      _Th._ (_to Deid._). Dost thou say nought?

      _Deid._                                 Alas, alas! my Pyrrha.

      _Th._ Art thou lamenting still to have lost thy maid?

      _Deid._ I need no tongue to cry my shame; and yet
    Thy mockery doth not grieve me like my loss.

      _Th._ I came not here to mock thee, and forbid
    Thy grief, that doth dishonour to my son.

      _Deid._ Nay, nay, that word is mine: speak it no more.

      _Th._ Weepest thou at comfort? Is deceit so dear
    To mortals, that to know good cannot match
    The joy of a delusion whatsoe’er?                               1450

      _Deid._ What joy was mine shame must forbid to tell.

      _Th._ Gods count it shame to be deceived: but men
    Are shamed not by delusion of the gods.

      _Deid._ Then ye know nothing or do not respect.

      _Th._ Why what is this thou makest? the more ye have loved
    The more have ye delighted, and the joy
    I never grudged thee; tho’ there was not one
    In all my company of sea-born nymphs,
    Who did not daily pray me, with white arms
    Raised in the blue, to let her guard my son.                    1460
    And for his birthright he might well have taken
    The service of their sportive train, and lived
    On some fair desert isle away from men
    Like a young god in worship and gay love.
    But since he is mortal, for his mortal mate
    I chose out thee; to whom now were he lost,
    I would not blame thy well-deservèd tears:
    But lo, I am come to give thee joy, to call
    Thee daughter, and prepare thee for the sight
    Of such a lover, as no lady yet                                 1470
    Hath sat to await in chamber or in bower
    On any wallèd hill or isle of Greece;
    Nor yet in Asian cities, whose dark queens
    Look from the latticed casements over seas
    Of hanging gardens; nor doth all the world
    Hold a memorial; not where Ægypt mirrors
    The great smile of her kings and sunsmit fanes
    In timeless silence: none hath been like him;
    And all the giant stones, which men have piled
    Upon the illustrious dead, shall crumble and join
    The desert dust, ere his high dirging Muse                      1481
    Be dispossessèd of the throne of song.
      Await him here. While I thy willing maids
    Will lead apart, that they may learn what share
    To take in thy rejoicing. Follow me!

      _Ch._ Come, come—we follow—we obey thee gladly—
    We long to learn, goddess, what thou canst teach.

           [_Exeunt Th. and Chor._

      _Deid._ Rejoice, she bids me. Ah me, tho’ all heaven spake,
    I should weep bitterly. My tears, my shame
    Will never leave me. Never now, nevermore                       1490
    Can I find credit of grace, nor as a rock
    Stand ’twixt my maids and evil; even not deserving
    My father’s smile. Why honour we the gods,
    Who reck not of our honour? How hath she,
    Self-styled a goddess, mocked me, not respecting
    Maidenly modesty; but in the path
    Of grace, wherein I thought to walk enstated
    High as my rank without reproach, she hath set
    A snare for every step; that day by day,
    From morn to night, I might do nothing well;                    1500
    But by most innocent seeming be betrayed
    To what most wounds a shamefast life, yielding
    To a man’s unfeignèd feigning; nay nor stayed
    Until I had given,—alas, how oft!—
    My cheek to his lips, my body to his arms;
    And thinking him a maid as I myself,
    Have loved, kissed, and embraced him as a maid.
    O wretched, not to have seen what was so plain!
    Here on this bank no later than this morn
    Was I beguiled. There is no cure, no cure.                      1510
    I’ll close my eyes for ever, nor see again
    The things I have seen, nor be what I have been.

           [_Covers her face weeping._

      _Enter Achilles._

      _Ach._ The voices that were here have ceased. Ah, there!
    Not gone. ’Tis she, and by my cast-off robe
    Sitting alone. I must speak comfort to her,
    Whoe’er I seem. O Deidamia, see!
    Pyrrha is found. Weep not for her. I tell thee
    Thy Pyrrha is safe. Despair not. Nay, look up.
    Dost thou not know my voice? ’Tis I myself.                     1519
    Look up, I am Pyrrha.—Ah, now what prayer or plea
    Made on my knees can aid me—If thou knowst all
    And wilt not look on me? Yet if thou hearest
    Thou wilt forgive. Nay, if thou lovedst me not,
    Or if I had wronged thee, thou wouldst scorn me now.
    Thou dost not look. I am not changed. I loved thee
    As like a maiden as I knew: if more
    Was that a fault? Now as I am Achilles
    Revealed to-day to lead the Greeks to Troy,
    I count that nothing and bow down to thee
    Who hast made me fear,—                                         1530
    Let me unveil thy eyes: tho’ thou wouldst hide me,
    Hide not thyself from me. If gentle force
    Should show me that ’tis love that thou wouldst hide ...
    And love I see. Look on me.

      _Deid._ (_embracing_).    Ah Pyrrha, Pyrrha!

      _Ach._ Thou dost forgive.

      _Deid._                 I never dreamed the truth.

      _Ach._ And wilt not now look on me!

      _Deid._                           I dare not look.

      _Ach._ What dost thou fear? A monster! I am not changed
    Save but my dress, and that an Amazon
    Might wear.

      _Deid._   O, I see all.

      _Ach._                But who hath told thee?

      _Deid._ There came one here much like thee when we called,1540
    Who said she was a goddess and thy mother.

      _Ach._ ’Twas she that hid me in my strange disguise,
    Fearing the oracle.

      _Deid._           She praised thee well,
    And said that thou wouldst come...

      _Ach._                            What didst thou fear,
    Hiding thine eyes?

      _Deid._          I cannot speak the name.
    Be Pyrrha still.

      _Ach._         Be that my name with thee.
    Yet hath thy father called me son Achilles.

      _Deid._ He knows?

      _Ach._          There’s nought to hide: but let us hence.
    He is coming hither, and with him my foe.
    Let them not find us thus, and thee in tears.                   1550

           [_Exeunt._

      _Enter Lycomedes, Ulysses, Diomede, and Abas._

      _Lyc._ It may be so, or it may not be so:
    You have done me an honest service ’gainst your will,
    And must not wrest it to a false conclusion.
    I bid you be my guests, and with your presence
    Honour the marriage, which ye have brought about.
    Ye need not tarry long.

      _Ul._                 Each hour is long
    Which holds the Argive ships chained to the shore.
    This is no time for marriage.

      _Lyc._                      There’s time for all;
    A time for wooing and a time for warring:
    And such a feast of joy as offers now                           1560
    Ye shall not often see. Scyros shall show you
    What memory may delight in ’twixt the frays
    Of bloody battle.

      _Dio._          I am not made for feasts.
    I join the cry to arms. But make your bridal
    To-night, and I’ll abide it.

      _Lyc._                     I’ll have’t to-night.
    So shall Achilles’ finding and his wedding
    Be on one day. And hark! there’s music tells me
    That others guess my mind.

      _Enter Chorus with Ach. and Deid. following._

      _Chorus._

      Now the glorious sun is sunk in the west,
        And night with shadowy step advances:                       1570
      As we,—to the newly betrothed our song addrest,
        With musical verse and dances,
      In the order of them who established rites of old
        For maidens to sing this song,—
      Pray the gifts of heaven to gifts of gold,
        Joy and a life long.

      _Ach._ Good king and father, see thy daughter come
    To hear thee call me son.

      _Lyc._                  Son if I call thee,
    I understand not yet, and scarce believe                        1579
    The wonders of this day. And thou, my daughter,
    Ever my pride and prayer, hast far outrun
    My hope of thy good fortune. Blessed be ye both:
    The gods have made your marriage; let the feast
    Be solemnized to-night; our good guests here
    Whose zeal hath caused our joy, I have bid to share it.

      _Chorus._

        We live well-ruled by an honoured king,
        Beloved of the gods, in a happy isle;
        Where merry winds of the gay sea bring
        No foe to our shore, and the heavens smile
    On a peaceful folk secure from fear,                            1590
    Who gather the fruits of the earth at will,
    And hymn their thanks to the gods, and rear
    Their laughing babes unmindful of ill.
    And ever we keep a feast of delight,
    The betrothal of hearts, when spirits unite,
    Creating an offspring of joy, a treasure
        Unknown to the bad, for whom
        The gods foredoom
        The glitter of pleasure,
        And a dark tomb.                                            1600

    Blessèd therefore O newly betrothed are ye,
    Tho’ happy to-day ye be,
    Your happier times ye yet shall see.
        We make our prayer to the gods.

    The sun shall prosper the seasons’ yield
    With fuller crops for the wains to bear,
    And feed our flocks in fold and field
    With wholesome water and sweetest air.
    Plenty shall empty her golden horn,
    And grace shall dwell on the brows of youth,
    And love shall come as the joy of morn,                         1611
    To waken the eyes of pride and truth.

    Blessèd therefore thy happy folk are we.
    Tho’ happy to-day we be,
        Our happier times are yet to see.
            We render praise to the gods;

        But chiefest of all in the highest height
        To Love that sitteth in timeless might,
        That tameth evil, and sorrow ceaseth.
            And now we wish you again,                              1620
            Again and again,
            His joy that encreaseth,
            And a long reign.

      _Ach._ Stay, stay! and thou, good king, and all here, hear me.
    I would be measured by my best desire,
    And that’s for peace and love, and the delights
    Your song hath augured: but to all men fate
    Apportions a mixed lot, and ’twas for me
    Foreshown that peace and honour lay apart,
    Wherever pleasure: and to-day’s event                           1630
    Questions your hope. I was for this revealed,
    To lead the Argive battle against Troy:
    Thither I go; whence to return or not
    Is out of sight, but yet my marriage-making
    Enters with better promise on my life
    Thus hand in hand with glorious enterprise.
    After some days among you I must away,
    Tho’ ’tis not far.

      _Ul._            Well said! So art thou bound.

      _Dio._ The war that hung so long will now begin.

      _Lye._ I ask one month, Achilles: grant one moon:
    They that could wait so long may longer wait.                   1641

      _Chorus._


                                                                      1.

        Go not, go not, Achilles; is all in vain?
        Is this the fulfilment of long delight,
          The promise of favouring heaven,
          The praise of our song,
          The choice of Thetis for thee,
          Thy merry disguise,
          And happy betrothal?
        We pray thee, O we beseech thee, all,
        Son of Thetis, we counsel well,                             1650
          Do not thy bride this wrong.


                                                                      2.

        For if to-day thou goest, thou wilt go far,
        Alas, from us thy comrades away,
          To a camp of revengeful men,
          The accursed war
          By warning fate forbidden,
          To angry disdain,
          A death unworthy.
        We pray thee, O we beseech thee, all,
        Son of Peleus, we counsel well,                             1660
          This doom the oracle told.

      _Lyc._ What said the oracle?

      _Ach._                     It darkly boded
    That glory should be death.

      _Lyc._                    And so may be:
    Nay, very like. Yet men who would live well,
    Weigh not these riddles, but unfold their life
    From day to day. Do thou as seemeth best,
    Nor fear mysterious warnings of the powers.
    But, if my voice can reckon with thee at all,
    I’ll tell thee what myself I have grown to think:
    That the best life is oft inglorious.                           1670
    Since the perfecting of ourselves, which seems
    Our noblest task, may closelier be pursued
    Away from camps and cities and the mart
    Of men, where fame, as it is called, is won,
    By strife, ambition, competition, fashion,
    Ay, and the prattle of wit, the deadliest foe
    To sober holiness, which, as I think,
    Loves quiet homes, where nature laps us round
    With musical silence and the happy sights
    That never fret; and day by day the spirit                      1680
    Pastures in liberty, with a wide range
    Of peaceful meditation, undisturbed.
    All which can Scyros offer if thou wilt.—

      _Ul._ This speech is idle, thou art bound to me.

      _Ach._ I hear you all: and lest it should be said
    I once was harsh and heedless, where such wrong
    Were worse than cowardice, I now recall
    Whate’er I have said. I will not forth to Troy:
    I will abide in Scyros, and o’erlook
    The farms and vineyards, and be lessoned well                   1690
    In government of arts, and spend my life
    In love and ease, and whatsoever else
    Our good king here hath praised—I will do this
    If my bride bid me. Let her choose for me;
    Her word shall rule me. If she set our pleasure
    Above my honour, I will call that duty,
    And make it honourable, and so do well.
    But, as I know her, if she bid me go
    Where fate and danger call, then I will go,
    And so do better: and very sure it is,                          1700
    Pleasure is not for him who pleasure serves.

      _Deid._ Achilles, son of Thetis! As I love thee,
    I say, go forth to Troy.

      _Ach._                 Praised be the Gods,
    Who have made my long desire my love’s command!

      _Ch._ Alas! We have no further plea. Alas!
    Her ever-venturous spirit forecasts no ill.

      _Lyc._ Go, win thy fame, my son; I would not stay thee.
    Thou art a soldier born. But circumstance
    Demands delay, which thou wilt grant.

      _Ach._                              And thus
    To-night may be the feast. To-morrow morn                       1710
    Do thou, Ulysses, sail to Aulis, there
    Prepare them for my coming. If, Diomede,
    Thou wilt to Achaia to collect my men,
    The time thou usest I can fitly spend,
    And for some days banish the thought of war.

      _Dio._ I will go for thee, prince.

      _Lyc._                           ’Tis settled so.
    Stand we no longer here: night falls apace.
    Come to the palace, we will end this day,
    As it deserves, never to be forgot.



NOTES


THE FIRST PART OF NERO


This play was not intended for the stage, as the rest of my plays are.
It was written as an exercise in dramatic qualities other than scenic;
and had its publication been contemplated, I should have been more
careful not to deserve censure in one or two places: these however
I have not thought it worth while to erase or correct. Owing to its
inordinate length I have found it necessary, so that the volumes of
this series might be of uniform size, to couple with it the shortest of
the other plays. Hence


ACHILLES IN SCYROS

is here out of order. Instead of standing second it should come fifth,
that is after _The Christian Captives_. The following note is taken
from the first edition.

_Note to_ Achilles in Scyros.—After I had begun this play I came by
chance on _Calderon’s_ play on the same subject, _El Monstruo de los
Jardines_. The monster is _Achilles_; the gardens the same. Excepting
an expression or two I found nothing that it suited me to use, and
I should not have recorded the circumstance, if it were not that
_Calderon’s_ play seemed to me to contain strong evidence that he had
read _The Tempest_. This observation cannot be new, but I have never
met with it; so I offer it to my readers, thinking it will interest
them as it did me.

_El Monstruo de los Jardines_ opens with a storm at sea, and shipwreck
of royal persons, similar as it is inferior to _Shakespeare’s_ (but
compare also the Devil’s shipwreck in the second act of _El magicio
prodigioso_, which may be read in _Shelley’s_ translation). _Stephano_
has his counterpart,

_Un cofrade de Baco, que ha salido, Por no hacerle traicion, del mar á
nado Pues el no beber agua le ha escapado,_

and the whole play is then on a supposed desert island, which turns
out to be strangely peopled. There is the monster _Achilles_, who in
many respects remembers _Caliban_, and is even addressed as _Señor
monstruo_: ’_Monsieur Monster_.’ There is _Thetis_, who is to her
nymphs as _Prospero_ to his spirits; with musical enchantments, and
voices in the air, and even a _fantastico bajél_. _Calderon_ has
moreover hit upon the same device of imitative fancy as tempted
_Dryden_ in like sad case, and pictured a man who had never seen a
woman. The island is wandered on by the prince and his suite, and one
of them says of it _Republica es entera_, &c. A curious reader might
find more than I have here noticed: but _Calderon_ is as far from
sympathy with _Shakespeare_, as he is from the Greek story, with his
drums and trumpets and _El gran Sofí_.

There is a passage in my _Achilles_ (_l. 518 and foll._) which is
copied from _Calderon_: but this is after _Muley’s_ well-known speech
in the _Principe Constante_ (see note to _The Christian Captives_);
which is quoted in most books on _Calderon_. In my short play, which
runs on without change of scene or necessary pause, I have had the
act and scene divisions indicated by greater and lesser spaces in the
printing.[A]

R. B., 1890.

[A] Not followed in this edition. 1901.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. All other
spelling and punctuation remains unchanged.

Italics are represented thus _italic_.

Line 1374/5 of The First Part of Nero “Now may some god of mischief
Dare set me in the roll of puny spirits.” Roll could be a misprint for
role but has not been changed.

The varied ellipses remain unchanged.

The titles have various decorative borders. These have not been shown.





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