Part 6 out of 10
_Mont_. How vainly we pursue this generous strife,
Parting in death more cruel than in life!--
Weep not, we both shall have one destiny;
As in one flame we lived, in one we'll die.
_Trax_. Why do we waste in vain these precious hours?
Each minute of his life may hazard ours:
The nation does not live whilst he enjoys
His life, it is his safety that destroys.
He shall fall first, and teach the rest to die.
Who is it that commands;--ha! you, or I?--
Your zeal grows saucy!--sure, you may allow
Your empress freedom first to pay her vow.
_Trax_. She may allow--a justice to be done
By him, that raised his empress to her throne.
_Zemp_. You are too bold,--
_Trax_. And you too passionate.
_Zemp_. Take heed, with his, you urge not your own fate.--
For all this pity is now due to me.
_Mont_. I hate thy offered mercy more than thee.
_Trax_. Why will not then the fair Orazia give
Life to herself, and let Traxalla live?
_Mont_. Orazia will not live, and let me die;
She taught me first this cruel jealousy.
_Oraz_. I joy that you have learned it!--
That flame not like immortal love appears.
Where death can cool its warmth, or kill its fears.
_Zemp_. What shall I do? am I so quite forlorn,
No help from my own pride, nor from his scorn!
My rival's death may more effectual prove;
He, that is robbed of hope, may cease to love:--
Here, lead these offerings to their deaths.
_Trax_. Let none
Obey but he, that will pull on his own!
_Zemp_. Tempt me not thus; false and ungrateful too!
_Trax_. Just as ungrateful, and as false, as you.
_Zemp_. 'Tis thy false love that fears her destiny.
_Trax_. And your false love that fears to have him die.
_Zemp_. Seize the bold traitor!
_Trax_. What a slighted frown
Troubles your brow! feared nor obeyed by none;
Come, prepare for sacrifice.
_Enter_ ACACIS _weakly_.
_Aca_. Hold, hold! such sacrifices cannot be
Devotions, but a solemn cruelty:
How can the gods delight in human blood?
Think them not cruel, if you think them good.
In vain we ask that mercy, which they want,
And hope that pity, which they hate to grant.
_Zemp_. Retire, Acacis;--
Preserve thyself, for 'tis in vain to waste
Thy breath for them: The fatal vow is past.
_Aca_. To break that vow is juster than commit
A greater crime, by your preserving it.
_Zemp_. The gods themselves their own will best express
To like the vow, by giving the success.
_Aca_. If all things by success are understood,
Men, that make war, grow wicked to be good:
But did you vow, those that were overcome,
And he that conquered, both, should share one doom?
There's no excuse; for one of these must be
Not your devotion, but your cruelty.
_Trax_. To that rash stranger, sir, we nothing owe;
What he had raised, he strove to overthrow:
That duty lost, which should our actions guide,
Courage proves guilt, when merits swell to pride.
_Aca_. Darest thou, who didst thy prince's life betray,
Once name that duty, thou hast thrown away?
Like thy injustice to this stranger shown,
To tax him with a guilt, that is thy own?--
Can you, brave soldiers, suffer him to die,
That gave you life, in giving victory?
Look but upon this stranger, see those hands,
That brought you freedom, fettered up in bands.
Not one looks up,--
Lest sudden pity should their hearts surprise,
And steal into their bosoms through their eyes.
_Zemp_. Why thus, in vain, are thy weak spirits prest?
Restore thyself to thy more needful rest.
_Aca_. And leave Orazia!--
_Zemp_. Go, you must resign:
For she must be the gods'; not yours, nor mine.
_Aca_. You are my mother, and my tongue is tied
So much by duty, that I dare not chide.--
Can you have so much mercy to forgive?
I do not ask it with design to live,
But in my death to have my torments cease:
Death is not death, when it can bring no peace.
_Oraz_. I both forgive, and pity;--
_Aca_. O, say no more, lest words less kind destroy
What these have raised in me of peace and joy:
You said, you did both pity and forgive;
You would do neither, should Acacis live.
By death alone the certain way appears,
Thus to hope mercy, and deserve your tears.
_Zemp_. O, my Acacis!
What cruel cause could urge this fatal deed?--
He faints!--help, help! some help! or he will bleed
His life, and mine, away!--
Some water there!--Not one stirs from his place!
I'll use my tears to sprinkle on his face.
_Zemp_. Fond child! why dost thou call upon her name?
I am thy mother.
_Aca_. No, you are my shame.
That blood is shed that you had title in,
And with your title may it end your sin!--
Unhappy prince, you may forgive me now,
Thus bleeding for my mother's cruel vow.
_Inca_. Be not concerned for me;
Death's easier than the changes I have seen:
I would not live to trust the world again.
_Mont_. Into my eyes sorrow begins to creep;
When hands are tied, it is no shame to weep.
_Aca_. Dear Montezuma,
I may be still your friend, though I must die
Your rival in her love: Eternity
Has room enough for both; there's no desire,
Where to enjoy is only to admire:
There we'll meet friends, when this short storm is past.
_Mont_. Why must I tamely wait to perish last?
_Aca_. Orazia weeps, and my parched soul appears
Refreshed by that kind shower of pitying tears;
Forgive those faults my passion did commit,
'Tis punished with the life that nourished it;
I had no power in this extremity
To save your life, and less to see you die.
My eyes would ever on this object stay,
But sinking nature takes the props away.
To end with pleasures all my miseries,
Shuts up your image in my closing eyes.
_Enter a Messenger_.
_Mess_. To arms, to arms!
_Trax_. From whence this sudden fear?
_Mess_. Stand to your guard, my lord, the danger's near:
From every quarter crowds of people meet,
And, leaving houses empty, fill the street.
_Trax_. Fond queen, thy fruitless tears a while defer;
Rise, we must join again--Not speak, nor stir!
I hear the people's voice like winds that roar,
When they pursue the flying waves to shore.
_Enter Second Messenger_.
_2 Mess_. Prepare to fight, my lord; the banished queen,
With old Garucca, in the streets are seen.
_Trax_. We must go meet them or it be too late;
Yet, madam, rise; have you no sense of fate?
_Enter third Messenger_.
_3 Mess_. King Montezuma their loud shouts proclaim,
The city rings with their new sovereign's name;
The banished queen declares he is her son,
And to his succour all the people run.
_Zemp_. Can this be true? O love! O fate! have I
Thus doated on my mortal enemy?
_Trax_. To my new prince I thus my homage pay;
Your reign is short, young king--
_Zemp_. Traxalla, stay--
'Tis to my hand that he must owe his fate,
I will revenge at once my love and hate.
[_She sets a dagger to_ MONTEZUMA'S _breast_.
_Trax_. Strike, strike, the conquering enemy is near.
My guards are passed, while you detain me here.
_Zemp_. Die then, ungrateful, die; Amexia's son
Shall never triumph on Acacis' throne.
Thy death must my unhappy flames remove:
Now where is thy defence--against my love?
[_She cuts the cords, and gives him the dagger_.
_Trax_. Am I betrayed?
[_He draws and thrusts at_ MONTEZUMA,
_he puts it by and kills him_.
_Mont_. So may all rebels die:
This end has treason joined with cruelty.
_Zemp_. Live thou whom I must love, and yet must hate;
She gave thee life, who knows it brings her fate.
_Mont_. Life is a trifle which I would not take,
But for Orazia's and her father's sake:
Now, Inca, hate me, if thou canst; for he,
Whom thou hast scorned, will die, or rescue thee.
_As he goes to attack the guards with_ TRAXALLA'S
_sword, enter_ AMEXIA, GARUCCA, _Indians, driving
some of the other party before them_.
_Gar_. He lives; ye gods, he lives! great queen, see here
Your coming joys, and your departing fear.
_Amex_. Wonder and joy so fast together flow,
Their haste to pass has made their passage slow;
Like struggling waters in a vessel pent,
Whose crowding drops choak up the narrow vent.
[_She embraces him_.
_Mont_. I am amazed! it cannot be
That fate has such a joy in store for me.
_Amex_. Can I not gain belief that this is true?
_Mont_. It is my fortune I suspect, not you.
_Gar_. First ask him if he old Garucca know.
_Mont_. My honoured father! let me fall thus low.
_Gar_. Forbear, great prince; 'tis I must pay to you
That adoration, as my sovereign's due:
For, from my humble race you did not spring;
You are the issue of our murdered king,
Sent by that traitor to his blest abode,
Whom, to be made a king, he made a god:
The story is too full of fate to tell,
Or what strange fortune our lost queen befel.
_Amex_. That sad relation longer time will crave;
I lived obscure, he bred you in a cave,
But kept the mighty secret from your ear,
Lest heat of blood to some strange course should steer
_Mont_. I owe him all, that now I am;
He taught me first the noble thirst of fame.
Shewed me the baseness of unmanly fear,
Till the unlicked whelp I plucked from the rough bear,
And made the ounce and tyger give me way,
While from their hungry jaws I snatched the prey:
'Twas he that charged my young arms first with toils,
And drest me glorious in my savage spoils.
_Gar_. You spent in shady forest all the day,
And joyed, returning, to shew me the prey,
To tell the story, to describe the place,
With all the pleasures of the boasted chace;
Till fit for arms, I reaved you from your sport,
To train your youth in the Peruvian court:
I left you there, and ever since have been
The sad attendant of my exiled queen.
_Zemp_. My fatal dream comes to my memory;
That lion, whom I held in bonds, was he,
Amexia was the dove that broke his chains;
What now but Zempoalla's death remains?
_Mont_. Pardon, fair princess, if I must delay
My love a while, my gratitude to pay.
Live, Zempoalla--free from dangers live,
For present merits I past crimes forgive:
Oh, might she hope Orazia's pardon, too!
_Oraz_. I would have none condemned for loving you;
In me her merit much her fault o'erpowers;
She sought my life, but she preserved me yours.
_Amex_. Taught by my own, I pity her estate,
And wish her penitence, but not her fate.
_Inca_. I would not be the last to bid her live;
Kings best revenge their wrongs, when they forgive.
_Zemp_. I cannot yet forget what I have been:
Would you give life to her, that was a queen?
Must you then give, and must I take? there's yet
One way, that's by refusing, to be great:
You bid me live--bid me be wretched too;
Think, think, what pride, unthroned, must undergo:
Look on this youth, Amexia, look, and then
Suppose him yours, and bid me live again;
A greater sweetness on these lips there grows,
Than breath shut out from a new-folded rose:
What lovely charms on these cold cheeks appear!
Could any one hate death, and see it here?
But thou art gone--
_Mont_. O that you would believe
Acacis lives in me, and cease to grieve.
_Zemp_. Yes, I will cease to grieve, and cease to be.
His soul stays watching in his wound for me;
All that could render life desired is gone,
Orazia has my love, and you my throne,
And death, Acacis--yet I need not die,
You leave me mistress of my destiny;
In spite of dreams, how am I pleased to see,
Heaven's truth, or falsehood, should depend on me!
But I will help the Gods;
The greatest proof of courage we can give,
Is then to die when we have power to live. [_Kills herself_.
_Mont_. How fatally that instrument of death
_Amex_. She has expired her latest breath.
_Mont_. But there lies one, to whom all grief is due.
_Oraz_. None e'er was so unhappy and so true.
_Mont_. Your pardon, royal sir.
_Inca_. You have my love. [_Gives him ORAZIA_.
_Amex_. The gods, my son, your happy choice approve.
_Mont_. Come, my Orazia, then, and pay with me,
[_Leads her to ACACIS_.
Some tears to poor Acacis' memory;
So strange a fate for men the gods ordain,
Our clearest sunshine should be mixt with rain;
How equally our joys and sorrows move!
Death's fatal triumphs, joined with those of love.
Love crowns the dead, and death crowns him that lives,
Each gains the conquest, which the other gives.
SPOKEN BY MONTEZUMA.
You see what shifts we are enforced to try,
To help out wit with some variety;
Shows may be found that never yet were seen,
'Tis hard to find such wit as ne'er has been:
You have seen all that this old world can do,
We, therefore, try the fortune of the new,
And hope it is below your aim to hit
At untaught nature with your practised wit:
Our naked Indians, then, when wits appear,
Would as soon chuse to have the Spaniards here.
'Tis true, you have marks enough, the plot, the show,
The poet's scenes, nay, more, the painter's too;
If all this fail, considering the cost,
'Tis a true voyage to the Indies lost:
But if you smile on all, then these designs,
Like the imperfect treasure of our minds,
Will pass for current wheresoe'er they go,
When to your bounteous hands their stamps they owe.
THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO by THE SPANIARDS.
BEING THE SEQUEL OF
THE INDIAN QUEEN.
Dum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna limi. OVID.
AND MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCESS,
DUCHESS OF MONMOUTH AND BUCCLEUCH,
WIFE TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS
AND HIGH-BORN PRINCE,
DUKE OF MONMOUTH[A].
[Footnote A: Anne Scott, duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, was the
last scion of a race of warriors, more remarkable for their exploits
in the field, than their address in courts, or protection of
literature. She was the heiress of the Scotts, barons and earls of
Buccleuch; and became countess, in her own right, upon the death of
her elder sister, lady Mary, who married the unfortunate Walter
Scott, earl of Tarras, and died without issue in 1662. In 1665, Anne,
countess of Buccleuch, married James Fitzroy, duke of Monmouth, eldest
natural son of Charles II. They were afterwards created duke and
duchess of Buccleuch. She was an accomplished and high-spirited lady,
distinguished for her unblemished conduct in a profligate court.
It was her patronage which first established Dryden's popularity; a
circumstance too honourable to her memory to be here suppressed.]
May it please Your Grace,
The favour which heroic plays have lately found upon our theatres, has
been wholly derived to them from the countenance and approbation they
have received at court. The most eminent persons for wit and honour
in the royal circle having so far owned them, that they have judged
no way so fit as verse to entertain a noble audience, or to express
a noble passion; and among the rest which have been written in this
kind, they have been so indulgent to this poem, as to allow it no
inconsiderable place. Since, therefore, to the court I owe its fortune
on the stage; so, being now more publicly exposed in print, I humbly
recommend it to your grace's protection, who by all knowing persons
are esteemed a principal ornament of the court. But though the rank
which you hold in the royal family might direct the eyes of a poet to
you, yet your beauty and goodness detain and fix them. High objects,
it is true, attract the sight; but it looks up with pain on craggy
rocks and barren mountains, and continues not intent on any object,
which is wanting in shades and greens to entertain it. Beauty, in
courts, is so necessary to the young, that those, who are without it,
seem to be there to no other purpose than to wait on the triumphs of
the fair; to attend their motions in obscurity, as the moon and stars
do the sun by day; or, at best, to be the refuge of those hearts which
others have despised; and, by the unworthiness of both, to give and
take a miserable comfort. But as needful as beauty is, virtue and
honour are yet more: The reign of it without their support is unsafe
and short, like that of tyrants. Every sun which looks on beauty
wastes it; and, when it once is decaying, the repairs of art are of as
short continuance, as the after-spring, when the sun is going
further off. This, madam, is its ordinary fate; but yours, which is
accompanied by virtue, is not subject to that common destiny. Your
grace has not only a long time of youth in which to flourish, but
you have likewise found the way, by an untainted preservation of your
honour, to make that perishable good more lasting: And if beauty, like
wines, could be preserved, by being mixed and embodied with others of
their own natures, then your grace's would be immortal, since no
part of Europe can afford a parallel to your noble lord in masculine
beauty, and in goodliness of shape. To receive the blessings and
prayers of mankind, you need only to be seen together: We are ready
to conclude, that you are a pair of angels sent below to make virtue
amiable in your persons, or to sit to poets when they would pleasantly
instruct the age, by drawing goodness in the most perfect and alluring
shape of nature. But though beauty be the theme on which poets love to
dwell, I must be forced to quit it as a private praise, since you have
deserved those which are more public: For goodness and humanity, which
shine in you, are virtues which concern mankind; and, by a certain
kind of interest, all people agree in their commendation, because the
profit of them may extend to many. It is so much your inclination to
do good, that you stay not to be asked; which is an approach so nigh
the Deity, that human nature is not capable of a nearer. It is my
happiness, that I can testify this virtue of your grace's by my
own experience; since I have so great an aversion from soliciting
court-favours, that I am ready to look on those as very bold, who
dare grow rich there without desert. But I beg your grace's pardon for
assuming this virtue of modesty to myself, which the sequel of this
discourse will no way justify: For in this address I have already
quitted the character of a modest man, by presenting you this poem as
an acknowledgment, which stands in need of your protection; and which
ought no more to be esteemed a present, than it is accounted bounty
in the poor, when they bestow a child on some wealthy friend, who
will better breed it up. Offsprings of this nature are like to be so
numerous with me, that I must be forced to send some of them abroad;
only this is like to be more fortunate than his brothers, because I
have landed him on a hospitable shore. Under your patronage Montezuma
hopes he is more safe than in his native Indies; and therefore comes
to throw himself at your grace's feet, paying that homage to your
beauty, which he refused to the violence of his conquerors. He begs
only, that when he shall relate his sufferings, you will consider
him as an Indian Prince, and not expect any other eloquence from his
simplicity, than what his griefs have furnished him withal. His story
is, perhaps, the greatest which was ever represented in a poem of this
nature; the action of it including the discovery and conquest of a new
world. In it I have neither wholly followed the truth of the history,
nor altogether left it; but have taken all the liberty of a poet,
to add, alter, or diminish, as I thought might best conduce to
the beautifying of my work: it being not the business of a poet to
represent historical truth, but probability. But I am not to make
the justification of this poem, which I wholly leave to your grace's
mercy. It is an irregular piece, if compared with many of Corneille's,
and, if I may make a judgment of it, written with more flame than art;
in which it represents the mind and intentions of the author, who is
with much more zeal and integrity, than design and artifice,
Your Grace's most obedient,
And most obliged servant,
_October_ 12. 1667.
Betwixt 1664, when our author assisted Sir Robert Howard in composing
the preceding play, and the printing of the Indian Emperor in 1668,
some disagreement had arisen betwixt them. Sir Robert appears to have
given the first provocation, by prefixing to his tragedy of the Duke
of Lerma, or Great Favourite, in 1668, some remarks, which drew down
the following severe retort. It is therefore necessary to mention the
contents of the offensive preface.
Sir Robert Howard begins, as one taking leave of the drama and
dramatic authors, "his too long acquaintances;" and unwilling again to
venture "into the civil wars of Censure,
_Ubi--Nullos habitura triumphos_."
He states his unwilling interference to be owing to the "unnecessary
understanding" of some, who endeavoured to apply as strict rules to
poetry as mathematics, which rendered it incumbent on him to justify
his having written some scenes of his tragedy in blank verse. In the
next paragraph, Dryden is expressly pointed out as the author of the
Essay on Dramatic Poetry; and is ridiculed for attempting to prove,
not that rhyme is more natural in a dialogue on the stage supposed to
be spoken _extempore_, but grander and more expressive. In like
manner, Sir Robert unfortunately banters our author for drawing from
Seneca an instance of a lofty mode of expressing so ordinary a thing
as _shutting a door_[A], instead of giving an example to the same
effect in English.
Reserate clusos regii postes laris.
Howard's mistranslation of this passage seems to have been
inadvertent. In the Essay it is rendered,
"Set wide the palace gates."]
The author of the Duke of Lerma proceeds to attack the unities;
arguing, because it is impossible that the stage can represent exactly
a house, or that the time of acting can be extended to twenty-four
hours; therefore it is needless there should be any limitation
whatever as to time or place, since otherwise it must be inferred,
that there are degrees in impossibility, and that one thing may be
more impossible than another.
The whole tone of the preface is that of one who wished to have it
supposed, that he was writing concerning a subject rather beneath his
notice, and only felt himself called forth to do so by the dogmatism
of those who laid down confident rules or laws in matters so trifling.
This affectation of supercilious censure appears deeply to have
provoked Dryden, and prompted the acrimony of the following Defence,
which he prefixed to a second edition of the Indian Emperor published
in 1668, probably shortly after the offence had been given. The angry
friends were afterwards reconciled; and Dryden, listening more to
the feelings of former kindness than of recent passion, cancelled the
_Defence_, which was never afterwards reprinted, till Congreve
collected our author's dramatic works. It is worthy of preservation,
as it would be difficult to point out deeper contempt and irony,
couched under language so temperate, cold, and outwardly respectful.
ESSAY OF DRAMATIC POESY;
AN ANSWER TO THE PREFACE
GREAT FAVOURITE, OR THE DUKE OF LERMA.
The former edition of "the Indian Emperor" being full of faults, which
had escaped the printer, I have been willing to overlook this second
with more care: and though I could not allow myself so much time as
was necessary, yet by that little I have done, the press is freed
from some errors which it had to answer for before. As for the more
material faults of writing, which are properly mine, though I see many
of them, I want leisure to amend them. It is enough for those who
make one poem the business of their lives, to leave that correct: yet,
excepting Virgil, I never met with any which was so in any language.
But while I was thus employed about this impression, there came to my
hands a new printed play, called, "The Great Favourite, or, The Duke
of Lerma;" the author of which, a noble and most ingenious person, has
done me the favour to make some observations and animadversions upon
my Dramatic Essay. I must confess he might have better consulted his
reputation, than by matching himself with so weak an adversary. But
if his honour be diminished in the choice of his antagonist, it is
sufficiently recompensed in the election of his cause: which being the
weaker, in all appearance, as combating the received opinions of
the best ancient and modern authors, will add to his glory, if he
overcome; and to the opinion of his generosity, if he be vanquished,
since he engages at so great odds; and, so like a cavalier, undertakes
the protection of the weaker party. I have only to fear, on my
own behalf, that so good a cause as mine may not suffer by my ill
management, or weak defence; yet I cannot in honour but take the glove
when it is offered me; though I am only a champion by succession,
and no more able to defend the right of Aristotle and Horace, than an
infant Dimock[A] to maintain the title of a king.
[Footnote A: The family of Dimock, or Dymock, are hereditary champions
of England; and, as such, obliged to maintain the king's title in
single combat against all challengers.]
For my own concernment in the controversy, it is so small, that I can
easily be contented to be driven from a few notions of dramatic poesy;
especially by one, who has the reputation of understanding all things:
and I might justly make that excuse for my yielding to him, which the
philosopher made to the emperor; why should I offer to contend with
him, who is master of more than twenty legions of arts and sciences?
But I am forced to fight, and therefore it will be no shame to be
Yet I am so much his servant, as not to meddle with any thing which
does not concern me in his preface: therefore I leave the good sense
and other excellencies of the first twenty lines, to be considered by
the critics. As for the play of "The Duke of Lerma," having so much
altered and beautified it as he has done, it can justly belong to none
but him. Indeed they must be extremely ignorant, as well as envious,
who would rob him of that honour; for you see him putting in his claim
to it, even in the first two lines:
Repulse upon repulse, like waves thrown back,
That slide to hung upon obdurate rocks.
After this, let detraction do its worst; for if this be not his, it
deserves to be. For my part, I declare for distributive justice; and
from this, and what follows, he certainly deserves those advantages,
which he acknowledges to have received from the opinion of sober men.
In the next place, I must beg leave to observe his great address in
courting the reader to his party: For, intending to assault all poets,
both ancient and modern, he discovers not his whole design at once,
but seems only to aim at me, and attacks me on my weakest side, my
defence of verse.
To begin with me, he gives me the compellation of "The Author of a
Dramatic Essay;" which is a little discourse in dialogue, for the most
part borrowed from the observations of others: therefore, that I may
not be wanting to him in civility, I return his compliment, by calling
him, "The Author of the Duke of Lerma."
But (that I may pass over his salute) he takes notice of my great
pains to prove rhyme as natural in a serious play, and more effectual
than blank verse. Thus indeed I did state the question; but he tells
me, "I pursue that which I call natural in a wrong application; For
'tis not the question, whether rhyme, or not rhyme, be best, or most
natural for a serious subject, but what is nearest the nature of that
If I have formerly mistaken the question, I must confess my ignorance
so far, as to say I continue still in my mistake: But he ought to have
proved that I mistook it; for it is yet but _gratis dictum_; I
still shall think I have gained my point, if I can prove that rhyme is
best, or most natural for a serious subject. As for the question as he
states it, whether rhyme be nearest the nature of what it represents,
I wonder he should think me so ridiculous as to dispute, whether prose
or verse be nearest to ordinary conversation.
It still remains for him to prove his inference; that, since verse
is granted to be more remote than prose from ordinary conversation,
therefore no serious plays ought to be writ in verse: and when he
clearly makes that good, I will acknowledge his victory as absolute as
he can desire it.
The question now is, which of us two has mistaken it; and if it appear
I have not, the world will suspect, "what gentleman that was, who was
allowed to speak twice in parliament, because he had not yet spoken to
the question[A];" and perhaps conclude it to be the same, who, as it
is reported, maintained a contradiction _in terminis_, in the
face of three hundred persons.
[Footnote A: A sneer which Sir Robert aims at Dryden. Dryden had
written twice on the question of rhyming tragedies.]
But to return to verse, whether it be natural or not in plays, is a
problem which is not demonstrable of either side: It is enough for me,
that he acknowledges he had rather read good verse than prose: for
if all the enemies of verse will confess as much, I shall not need
to prove that it is natural. I am satisfied if it cause delight; for
delight is the chief, if not the only, end of poesy: Instruction can
be admitted but in the second place, for poesy only instructs as it
delights. It is true, that to imitate well is a poet's work; but to
affect the soul, and excite the passions, and, above all, to move
admiration (which is the delight of serious plays), a bare imitation
will not serve. The converse, therefore, which a poet is to imitate,
must be heightened with all the arts and ornaments of poesy; and must
be such as, strictly considered, could never be supposed spoken by any
As for what he urges, that "a play will still be supposed to be a
composition of several persons speaking _extempore_, and that good
verses are the hardest things which can be imagined to be so spoken;"
I must crave leave to dissent from his opinion, as to the former part
of it: For, if I am not deceived, a play is supposed to be the work
of the poet, imitating, or representing, the conversation of several
persons: and this I think to be as clear, as he thinks the contrary.
But I will be bolder, and do not doubt to make it good, though a
paradox, that one great reason why prose is not to be used in serious
plays, is, because it is too near the nature of converse: There may be
too great a likeness; as the most skilful painters affirm, that there
may be too near a resemblance in a picture: To take every lineament
and feature is not to make an excellent piece, but to take so much
only as will make a beautiful resemblance of the whole: and, with an
ingenious flattery of nature, to heighten the beauties of some parts,
and hide the deformities of the rest. For so says Horace,
_Ut pictura poesis erit. &c.--
Haec amat obscurum, vult haec sub luce videri,
Judicis argutum quae formidat acumen.
Desperat tractata nitescere posse, relinquit._
In "Bartholomew Fair," or the lowest kind of comedy, that degree of
heightening is used, which is proper to set off that subject: It is
true the author was not there to go out of prose, as he does in his
higher arguments of comedy, "The Fox" and "Alchemist;" yet he does so
raise his matter in that prose, as to render it delightful; which
he could never have performed, had he only said or done those very
things, that are daily spoken or practised in the fair: for then the
fair itself would be as full of pleasure to an ingenious person as the
play, which we manifestly see it is not. But he hath made an excellent
lazar of it; the copy is of price, though the original be vile. You
see in "Catiline" and "Sejanus," where the argument is great, he
sometimes ascends to verse, which shews he thought it not unnatural in
serious plays; and had his genius been as proper for rhyme as it
was for humour, or had the age in which he lived attained to as much
knowledge in verse as ours, it is probable he would have adorned those
subjects with that kind of writing.
Thus Prose, though the rightful prince, yet is by common consent
deposed, as too weak for the government of serious plays: and he
failing, there now start up two competitors; one, the nearer in blood,
which is Blank Verse; the other, more fit for the ends of government,
which is Rhyme. Blank Verse is, indeed, the nearer Prose, but he is
blemished with the weakness of his predecessor. Rhyme (for I will
deal clearly) has somewhat of the usurper in him; but he is brave, and
generous, and his dominion pleasing. For this reason of delight,
the ancients (whom I will still believe as wise as those who so
confidently correct them) wrote all their tragedies in verse, though
they knew it most remote from conversation.
But I perceive I am falling into the danger of another rebuke from my
opponent; for when I plead that the ancients used verse, I prove not
that they would have admitted rhyme, had it then been written. All
I can say is only this, that it seems to have succeeded verse by the
general consent of poets in all modern languages; for almost all their
serious plays are written in it; which, though it be no demonstration
that therefore they ought to be so, yet at least the practice first,
and then the continuation of it, shews that it attained the end, which
was to please; and if that cannot be compassed here, I will be the
first who shall lay it down: for I confess my chief endeavours are
to delight the age in which I live. If the humour of this be for low
comedy, small accidents, and raillery, I will force my genius to obey
it, though with more reputation I could write in verse. I know I am
not so fitted by nature to write comedy: I want that gaiety of humour
which is required to it. My conversation is slow and dull; my humour
saturnine and reserved: In short, I am none of those who endeavour to
break jests in company, or make repartees. So that those, who decry my
comedies, do me no injury, except it be in point of profit: reputation
in them is the last thing to which I shall pretend. I beg pardon for
entertaining the reader with so ill a subject; but before I quit that
argument, which was the cause of this digression, I cannot but take
notice how I am corrected for my quotation of Seneca, in my defence of
plays in verse. My words are these: "Our language is noble, full, and
significant; and I know not why he, who is a master of, it, may not
clothe ordinary things in it as decently as in the Latin, if he use
the same diligence in his choice of words." One would think, "unlock
a door," was a thing as vulgar as could be spoken; yet Seneca could
make it sound high and lofty in his Latin.
"_Reserate clusos regii postes laris_."
But he says of me, "That being filled with the precedents of the
ancients, who writ their plays in verse, I commend the thing,
declaring our language to be full, noble, and significant, and
charging all defects upon the _ill placing of words_, which I
prove by quoting Seneca loftily expressing such an ordinary thing as
_shutting a door_."
Here he manifestly mistakes; for I spoke not of the placing, but
of the choice of words; for which I quoted that aphorism of
Julius Caesar, _Delectus verborum est origo eloquentiae_; but
_delectus verborum_ is no more Latin for the _placing of
words_, than _reserate_ is Latin for _shut the door_,
as he interprets it, which I ignorantly construed _unlock_ or
He supposes I was highly affected with the sound of those words, and
I suppose I may more justly imagine it of him; for if he had not been
extremely satisfied with the sound, he would have minded the sense a
But these are now to be no faults; for ten days after his book is
published, and that his mistakes are grown so famous, that they are
come back to him, he sends his _Errata_[A] to be printed, and
annexed to his play; and desires, that, instead of _shutting_,
you would read _opening_, which, it seems, was the printer's
fault. I wonder at his modesty, that he did not rather say it was
Seneca's or mine; and that, in some authors, _reserate_ was to
_shut_ as well as to _open_, as the word _barach_, say
the learned, is both to _bless_ and _curse_.
[Footnote A: This erratum has been suffered to remain in the edition
of the Knight's plays now before us, published in 1692.]
Well, since it was the printer, he was a naughty man to commit
the same mistake twice in six lines: I warrant you _delectus
verborum_, for _placing of words_, was his mistake too, though
the author forgot to tell him of it: If it were my book, I assure you
I should. For those rascals ought to be the proxies of every gentleman
author, and to be chastised for him, when he is not pleased to own an
error. Yet since he has given the _errata_, I wish he would have
enlarged them only a few sheets more, and then he would have spared
me the labour of an answer: For this cursed printer is so given to
mistakes, that there is scarce a sentence in the preface without some
false grammar, or hard sense in it; which will all be charged upon the
poet, because he is so good-natured as to lay but three errors to the
printer's account, and to take the rest upon himself, who is better
able to support them. But he needs not apprehend that I should
strictly examine those little faults, except I am called upon to do
it: I shall return therefore to that quotation of Seneca, and answer,
not to what he writes, but to what he means. I never intended it as
an argument, but only as an illustration of what I had said before
concerning the election of words; and all he can charge me with is
only this, that if Seneca could make an ordinary thing sound well in
Latin by the choice of words, the same, with the like care, might be
performed in English: If it cannot, I have committed an error on the
right hand, by commending too much the copiousness and well-sounding
of our language, which I hope my countrymen will pardon me; at least
the words which follow in my Dramatic Essay will plead somewhat in my
behalf; for I say there, that this objection happens but seldom in
a play; and then, too, either the meanness of the expression may be
avoided, or shut out from the verse by breaking it in the midst.
But I have said too much in the defence of verse; for, after all,
it is a very indifferent thing to me whether it obtain or not. I am
content hereafter to be ordered by his rule, that is, to write it
sometimes because it pleases me, and so much the rather, because he
has declared that it pleases him. But he has taken his last farewell
of the muses, and he has done it civilly, by honouring them with the
name of "his long acquaintances," which is a compliment they have
scarce deserved from him. For my own part, I bear a share in
the public loss; and how emulous soever I may be of his fame and
reputation, I cannot but give this testimony of his style, that it is
extremely poetical, even in oratory; his thoughts elevated sometimes
above common apprehension; his notions politic and grave, and tending
to the instruction of princes, and reformation of states; that
they are abundantly interlaced with variety of fancies, tropes, and
figures, which the critics have enviously branded with the name of
obscurity and false grammar.
"Well, he is now fettered in business of more unpleasant nature:" The
muses have lost him, but the commonwealth gains by it; the corruption
of a poet is the generation of a statesman.
"He will not venture again into the civil wars of censure,
_ubi--nullos habitura triumphos_:" If he had not told us he
had left the muses, we might have half suspected it by that word
_ubi_, which does not any way belong to them in that place:
the rest of the verse is indeed Lucan's, but that _ubi_, I will
answer for it, is his own. Yet he has another reason for this disgust
of poesy; for he says immediately after, that "the manner of plays
which are now in most esteem is beyond his power to perform:" to
perform the manner of a thing, I confess, is new English to me.
"However, he condemns not the satisfaction of others, but rather their
unnecessary understanding, who, like Sancho Panza's doctor, prescribe
too strictly to our appetites; for," says he, "in the difference of
tragedy and comedy, and of farce itself, there can be no determination
but by the taste, nor in the manner of their composure."
We shall see him now as great a critic as he was a poet; and the
reason why he excelled so much in poetry will be evident, for it will
appear to have proceeded from the exactness of his judgment. "In
the difference of tragedy, comedy, and farce itself, there can be no
determination but by the taste." I will not quarrel with the obscurity
of his phrase, though I justly might; but beg his pardon if I do
not rightly understand him. If he means that there is no essential
difference betwixt comedy, tragedy, and farce, but what is only made
by the people's taste, which distinguishes one of them from the other,
that is so manifest an error, that I need not lose time to contradict
it. Were there neither judge, taste, nor opinion in the world, yet
they would differ in their natures; for the action, character, and
language of tragedy, would still be great and high; that of comedy,
lower and more familiar. Admiration would be the delight of one, and
satire of the other.
I have but briefly touched upon these things, because, whatever his
words are, I can scarce imagine, that "he, who is always concerned for
the true honour of reason, and would have no spurious issue fathered
upon her," should mean any thing so absurd as to affirm, "that there
is no difference betwixt comedy and tragedy but what is made by the
taste only;" unless he would have us understand the comedies of my
lord L. where the first act should be pottages, the second fricassees,
&c. and the fifth a _chere entiere_ of women.
I rather guess he means, that betwixt one comedy or tragedy and
another, there is no other difference, but what is made by the liking
or disliking of the audience. This is indeed a less error than the
former, but yet it is a great one. The liking or disliking of the
people gives the play the denomination of good or bad, but does not
really make or constitute it such. To please the people ought to be
the poet's aim, because plays are made for their delight; but it does
not follow that they are always pleased with good plays, or that the
plays which please them are always good. The humour of the people is
now for comedy; therefore, in hope to please them, I write comedies
rather than serious plays: and so far their taste prescribes to
me. But it does not follow from that reason, that comedy is to be
preferred before tragedy in its own nature; for that, which is so in
its own nature, cannot be otherwise, as a man cannot but be a rational
creature: But the opinion of the people may alter, and in another age,
or perhaps in this, serious plays may be set up above comedies.
This I think a sufficient answer; if it be not, he has provided me of
an excuse: it seems, in his wisdom, he foresaw my weakness, and has
found out this expedient for me, "That it is not necessary for poets
to study strict reason, since they are so used to a greater latitude
than is allowed by that severe inquisition, that they must infringe
their own jurisdiction, to profess themselves obliged to argue well."
I am obliged to him for discovering to me this back door; but I am not
yet resolved on my retreat; for I am of opinion, that they cannot be
good poets, who are not accustomed to argue well. False reasonings and
colours of speech are the certain marks of one who does not understand
the stage: for moral truth is the mistress of the poet as much as of
the philosopher; poesy must resemble natural truth, but it must be
ethical. Indeed, the poet dresses truth, and adorns nature, but does
not alter them:
_Ficta voluptatis causa sint proxima veris_.
Therefore, that is not the best poesy, which resembles notions of
things, that are not, to things that are: though the fancy may be
great, and the words flowing, yet the soul is but half satisfied when
there is not truth in the foundation. This is that which makes Virgil
be preferred before the rest of poets. In variety of fancy, and
sweetness of expression, you see Ovid far above him; for Virgil
rejected many of those things which Ovid wrote. "A great wit's great
work is to refuse," as my worthy friend Sir John Berkenhead has
ingeniously expressed it: you rarely meet with any thing in Virgil but
truth, which therefore leaves the strongest impression of pleasure in
the soul. This I thought myself obliged to say in behalf of poesy; and
to declare, though it be against myself, that when poets do not argue
well, the defect is in the workmen, not in the art.
And now I come to the boldest part of his discourse, wherein he
attacks not me, but all the ancients and moderns; and undermines, as
he thinks, the very foundations on which Dramatic Poesy is built. I
could wish he would have declined that envy which must of necessity
follow such an undertaking, and contented himself with triumphing over
me in my opinions of verse, which I will never hereafter dispute with
him; but he must pardon me if I have that veneration for Aristotle,
Horace, Ben Jonson, and Corneille, that I dare not serve him in such
a cause, and against such heroes, but rather fight under their
protection, as Homer reports of little Teucer, who shot the Trojans
from under the large buckler of Ajax Telamon.
[Greek: Stae d ax up Aiantos sachei Telamoniadao]
He stood beneath his brother's ample shield;
And covered there, shot death through all the field.
The words of my noble adversary are these:
"But if we examine the general rules laid down for plays by strict
reason, we shall find the errors equally gross; for the great
foundation which is laid to build upon, is nothing as it is generally
stated, as will appear upon the examination of the particulars."
These particulars in due time shall be examined. In the mean while,
let us consider what this great foundation is, which he says is
nothing, as it is generally stated. I never heard of any other
foundation of Dramatic Poesy than the imitation of nature; neither was
there ever pretended any other by the ancients or moderns, or me, who
endeavour to follow them in that rule. This I have plainly said in
my definition of a play; that it is a just and lively image of human
nature, &c. Thus the foundation, as it is generally stated, will stand
sure, if this definition of a play be true; if it be not, he ought to
have made his exception against it, by proving that a play is not an
imitation of nature, but somewhat else, which he is pleased to think
But 'tis very plain, that he has mistaken the foundation for that
which is built upon it, though not immediately: for the direct and
immediate consequence is this; if nature be to be imitated, then there
is a rule for imitating nature rightly, otherwise there may be an
end, and no means conducing to it. Hitherto I have proceeded by
demonstration; but as our divines, when they have proved a Deity,
because there is order, and have inferred that this Deity ought to be
worshipped, differ afterwards in the manner of the worship; so, having
laid down, that nature is to be imitated, and that proposition proving
the next, that then there are means which conduce to the imitating of
nature, I dare proceed no farther positively; but have only laid down
some opinions of the ancients and moderns, and of my own, as means
which they used, and which I thought probable for the attaining of
that end. Those means are the same which my antagonist calls the
foundations, how properly the world may judge; and to prove that this
is his meaning, he clears it immediately to you, by enumerating
those rules or propositions against which he makes his particular
exceptions; as, namely, those of time and place, in these words:
"First, we are told the plot should not be so ridiculously contrived,
as to crowd two several countries into one stage; secondly, to cramp
the accidents of many years or days into the representation of two
hours and an half; and, lastly, a conclusion drawn, that the only
remaining dispute is, concerning time, whether it should be contained
in twelve or twenty-four hours; and the place to be limited to that
spot of ground where the play is supposed to begin: and this is called
nearest nature; for that is concluded most natural, which is most
probable, and nearest to that which it presents."
Thus he has only made a small mistake, of the means conducing to the
end for the end itself, and of the superstructure for the foundation:
But he proceeds:
"To shew therefore upon what ill grounds they dictate laws for
Dramatic Poesy," &c. He is here pleased to charge me with being
magisterial, as he has done in many other places of his preface;
therefore, in vindication of myself, I must crave leave to say, that
my whole discourse was sceptical, according to that way of reasoning
which was used by Socrates, Plato, and all the academics of old, which
Tully and the best of the ancients followed, and which is imitated by
the modest inquisitions of the Royal Society. That it is so, not
only the name will shew, which is, _An Essay_, but the frame and
composition of the work. You see it is a dialogue sustained by persons
of several opinions, all of them left doubtful, to be determined by
the readers in general; and more particularly deferred to the accurate
judgment of my Lord Buckhurst, to whom I made a dedication of my
book. These are my words in my epistle, speaking of the persons whom I
introduced in my dialogue: "'Tis true they differed in their opinions,
as 'tis probable they would: neither do I take upon me to reconcile,
but to relate them, leaving your lordship to decide it in favour of
that part which you shall judge most reasonable." And after that, in
my advertisement to the reader, I said this: "The drift of the ensuing
discourse is chiefly to vindicate the honour of our English writers
from the censure of those who unjustly prefer the French before them.
This I intimate, lest any should think me so exceeding vain, as to
teach others an art, which they understand much better than myself."
But this is more than necessary to clear my modesty in that point: and
I am very confident, that there is scarce any man who has lost so much
time, as to read that trifle, but will be my compurgator, as to that
arrogance whereof I am accused. The truth is, if I had been naturally
guilty of so much vanity as to dictate my opinions; yet I do not find
that the character of a positive or self-conceited person is of such
advantage to any in this age, that I should labour to be publicly
admitted of that order.
But I am not now to defend my own cause, when that of all the ancients
and moderns is in question. For this gentleman, who accuses me of
arrogance, has taken a course not to be taxed with the other extreme
of modesty. Those propositions, which are laid down in my discourse
as helps to the better imitation of nature, are not mine (as I
have said), nor were ever pretended so to be, but derived from the
authority of Aristotle and Horace, and from the rules and examples
of Ben Jonson and Corneille. These are the men with whom properly he
contends, and against "whom he will endeavour to make it evident, that
there is no such thing as what they all pretend."
His argument against the unities of place and time is this: "That 'tis
as impossible for one stage to present two rooms or houses truly,
as two countries or kingdoms; and as impossible that five hours or
twenty-four hours should be two hours, as that a thousand hours or
years should be less than what they are, or the greatest part of time
to be comprehended in the less: for all of them being impossible, they
are none of them nearest the truth, or nature of what they present;
for impossibilities are all equal, and admit of no degree."
This argument is so scattered into parts, that it can scarce be united
into a syllogism; yet, in obedience to him, _I will abbreviate_,
and comprehend as much of it as I can in few words, that my answer to
it may be more perspicuous. I conceive his meaning to be what follows,
as to the unity of place: (if I mistake, I beg his pardon, professing
it is not out of any design to play the _Argumentative Poet_.) If
one stage cannot properly present two rooms or houses, much less two
countries or kingdoms, then there can be no unity of place. But one
stage cannot properly perform this: therefore there can be no unity of
I plainly deny his minor proposition; the force of which, if I mistake
not, depends on this, that the stage being one place cannot be two.
This indeed is as great a secret, as that we are all mortal; but to
requite it with another, I must crave leave to tell him, that though
the stage cannot be two places, yet it may properly represent them
successively, or at several times. His argument is indeed no more than
a mere fallacy, which will evidently appear when we distinguish place,
as it relates to plays, into real and imaginary. The real place is
that theatre, or piece of ground, on which the play is acted. The
imaginary, that house, town, or country where the action of the drama
is supposed to be, or, more plainly, where the scene of the play is
laid. Let us now apply this to that Herculean argument, "which if
strictly and duly weighed, is to make it evident, that there is no
such thing as what they all pretend." 'Tis impossible, he says, for
one stage to present two rooms or houses: I answer, 'tis neither
impossible, nor improper, for one real place to represent two or more
imaginary places, so it be done successively; which, in other words,
is no more than this, that the imagination of the audience, aided by
the words of the poet, and painted scenes, may suppose the stage to
be sometimes one place, sometimes another; now a garden, or wood, and
immediately a camp: which I appeal to every man's imagination, if it
be not true. Neither the ancients nor moderns, as much fools as he is
pleased to think them, ever asserted that they could make one place
two; but they might hope, by the good leave of this author, that the
change of a scene might lead the imagination to suppose the place
altered: so that he cannot fasten those absurdities upon this scene
of a play, or imaginary place of action, that it is one place, and yet
two. And this being so clearly proved, that 'tis past any shew of a
reasonable denial, it will not be hard to destroy that other part of
his argument, which depends upon it, namely, that 'tis as impossible
for a stage to represent two rooms or houses, as two countries or
kingdoms: for his reason is already overthrown, which was, because
both were alike impossible. This is manifestly otherwise; for 'tis
proved that a stage may properly represent two rooms or houses; for
the imagination being judge of what is represented, will in reason be
less choked with the appearance of two rooms in the same house, or
two houses in the same city, than with two distant cities in the same
country, or two remote countries in the same universe. Imagination in
a man, or reasonable creature, is supposed to participate of reason,
and when that governs, as it does in the belief of fiction, reason
is not destroyed, but misled, or blinded; that can prescribe to the
reason, during the time of the representation, somewhat like a weak
belief of what it sees and hears; and reason suffers itself to be so
hood-winked, that it may better enjoy the pleasures of the fiction:
But it is never so wholly made a captive, as to be drawn headlong into
a persuasion of those things which are most remote from probability:
It is in that case a free-born subject, not a slave; it will
contribute willingly its assent, as far as it sees convenient, but
will not be forced. Now, there is a greater vicinity in nature betwixt
two rooms, than betwixt two houses; betwixt two houses, than betwixt
two cities; and so of the rest: Reason, therefore, can sooner be led,
by imagination, to step from one room into another, than to walk to
two distant houses, and yet rather to go thither, than to fly like
a witch through the air, and be hurried from one region to another.
Fancy and Reason go hand in hand; the first cannot leave the last
behind: And though Fancy, when it sees the wide gulph, would venture
over, as the nimbler, yet it is with-held by Reason, which will refuse
to take the leap, when the distance over it appears too large. If Ben
Jonson himself will remove the scene from Rome into Tuscany in
the same act, and from thence return to Rome, in the scene which
immediately follows, reason will consider there is no proportionable
allowance of time to perform the journey, and, therefore, will choose
to stay at home. So, then, the less change of place there is, the
less time is taken up in transporting the persons of the drama, with
analogy to reason; and in that analogy, or resemblance of fiction to
truth, consists the excellency of the play.
For what else concerns the unity of place, I have already given my
opinion of it in my Essay, that there is a latitude to be allowed to
it, as several places in the same town or city, or places adjacent to
each other in the same country; which may all be comprehended under
the larger denomination of one place; yet with this restriction,
that the nearer and fewer those imaginary places are, the greater
resemblance they will have to truth; and reason, which cannot make
them one, will be more easily led to suppose them so.
What has been said of the unity of place, may easily be applied to
that of time: I grant it to be impossible, that the greater part of
time should be comprehended in the less, that twenty-four hours should
be crowded into three: But there is no necessity of that supposition;
for as _place_, so time relating to a play, is either imaginary
or real: The real is comprehended in those three hours, more or less,
in the space of which the play is represented; the imaginary is that
which is supposed to be taken up in the representation, as twenty-four
hours, more or less. Now, no man ever could suppose, that twenty-four
real hours could be included in the space of three; but where is
the absurdity of affirming, that the feigned business of twenty-four
imagined hours, may not more naturally be represented in the compass
of three real hours, than the like feigned business of twenty-four
years, in the same proportion of real time? For the proportions are
always real, and much nearer, by his permission, of twenty-four to
three, than of four thousand to it.
I am almost fearful of illustrating any thing by similitude, lest he
should confute it for an argument; yet I think the comparison of
a glass will discover very aptly the fallacy of his argument, both
concerning time and place. The strength of his reason depends on this,
that the less cannot comprehend the greater. I have already answered,
that we need not suppose it does; I say not that the less can
comprehend the greater, but only, that it may represent it. As in
a glass, or mirror, of half-a-yard diameter, a whole room, and many
persons in it, may be seen at once; not that it can comprehend that
room, or those persons, but that it represents them to the sight.
But the author of the "Duke of Lerma" is to be excused for his
declaring against the unity of time; for, if I be not much mistaken,
he is an interested person;--the time of that play taking up so many
years, as the favour of the Duke of Lerma continued; nay, the second
and third act including all the time of his prosperity, which was a
great part of the reign of Philip the Third: For in the beginning of
the second act he was not yet a favourite, and, before the end of
the third, was in disgrace. I say not this with the least design of
limiting the stage too servilely to twenty-four hours, however he be
pleased to tax me with dogmatising on that point, In my dialogue, as I
before hinted, several persons maintained their several opinions: One
of them, indeed, who supported the cause of the French poesy, said how
strict they were in that particular; but he who answered, in behalf of
our nation, was willing to give more latitude to the rule, and cites
the words of Corneille himself, complaining against the severity of
it, and observing, what beauties it banished from the stage, p. 44.
of my Essay. In few words, my own opinion is this, (and I willingly
submit it to my adversary, when he will please impartially to consider
it) that the imaginary time of every play ought to be contrived into
as narrow a compass, as the nature of the plot, the quality of the
persons, and variety of accidents will allow. In comedy, I would
not exceed twenty-four or thirty hours; for the plot, accidents, and
persons, of comedy are small, and may be naturally turned in a little
compass: But in tragedy, the design is weighty, and the persons great;
therefore, there will naturally be required a greater space of time in
which to move them. And this, though Ben Jonson has not told us, yet
it is manifestly his opinion: For you see that to his comedies
he allows generally but twenty-four hours; to his two tragedies,
"Sejanus," and "Catiline," a much larger time, though he draws both
of them into as narrow a compass as he can: For he shews you only the
latter end of Sejanus's favour, and the conspiracy of Catiline already
ripe, and just breaking out into action.
But as it is an error, on the one side, to make too great a
disproportion betwixt the imaginary time of the play, and the real
time of its representation; so, on the other side, it is an oversight
to compress the accidents of a play into a narrower compass than that
in which they could naturally be produced. Of this last error the
French are seldom guilty, because the thinness of their plots prevents
them from it; but few Englishmen, except Ben Jonson, have ever made
a plot, with variety of design in it, included in twenty-four hours,
which was altogether natural. For this reason, I prefer the "Silent
Woman" before all other plays, I think justly, as I do its author, in
judgment, above all other poets. Yet, of the two, I think that error
the most pardonable, which in too strait a compass crowds together
many accidents, since it produces more variety, and, consequently,
more pleasure to the audience; and, because the nearness of proportion
betwixt the imaginary and real time, does speciously cover the
compression of the accidents.
Thus I have endeavoured to answer the meaning of his argument; for, as
he drew it, I humbly conceive that it was none,--as will appear by his
proposition, and the proof of it. His proposition was this:
"If strictly and duly weighed, it is as impossible for one stage to
present two rooms, or houses, as two countries, or kingdoms," &c.
And his proof this: "For all being impossible, they are none of them
nearest the truth or nature of what they present."
Here you see, instead of proof or reason, there is only _petitio
principii_. For, in plain words, his sense is this: Two things
are as impossible as one another, because they are both equally
impossible: But he takes those two things to be granted as impossible,
which he ought to have proved such, before he had proceeded to prove
them equally impossible: He should have made out first, that it was
impossible for one stage to represent two houses, and then have gone
forward to prove, that it was as equally impossible for a stage to
present two houses, as two countries.
After all this, the very absurdity, to which he would reduce me, is
none at all: For he only drives at this, that, if his argument
be true, I must then acknowledge that there are degrees in
impossibilities, which I easily grant him without dispute; and, if I
mistake not, Aristotle and the School are of my opinion. For there are
some things which are absolutely impossible, and others which are only
so _ex parte_; as it is absolutely impossible for a thing _to
be_, and _not to be_ at the same time: But for a stone to move
naturally upward, is only impossible _ex parte materiae_; but it
is not impossible for the first mover to alter the nature of it.
His last assault, like that of a Frenchman, is most feeble; for
whereas I have observed, that none have been violent against verse,
but such only as have not attempted it, or have succeeded ill in their
attempt, he will needs, according to his usual custom, improve my
observation to an argument, that he might have the glory to confute
it, But I lay my observation at his feet, as I do my pen, which I have
often employed willingly in his deserved commendations, and now most
unwillingly against his judgment. For his person and parts, I honour
them as much as any man living, and have had so many particular
obligations to him, that I should be very ungrateful, if I did not
acknowledge them to the world. But I gave not the first occasion
of this difference in opinions. In my epistle dedicatory, before my
"Rival Ladies," I had said somewhat in behalf of verse, which he was
pleased to answer in his preface to his plays. That occasioned my
reply in my essay; and that reply begot this rejoinder of his, in
his preface to the "Duke of Lenna." But as I was the last who took
up arms, I will be the first to lay them down. For what I have here
written, I submit it wholly to him; and if I do not hereafter answer
what may be objected against this paper, I hope the world will not
impute it to any other reason, than only the due respect which I have
for so noble an opponent.
THE INDIAN EMPEROR.
The Indian Emperor is the first of Dryden's plays which exhibited, in
a marked degree, the peculiarity of his stile, and drew upon him the
attention of the world. Without equalling the extravagancies of the
Conquest of Granada, and the Royal Martyr, works produced when our
author was emboldened, by public applause, to give full scope to
his daring genius, the following may be considered as a model of the
heroic drama, A few words, therefore, will not be here misplaced, on
the nature of the kind of tragedies, in which, during the earlier part
of his literary career, our author delighted and excelled.
The heroic, or rhyming, plays, were borrowed from the French, to whose
genius they are better suited than to the British. An analogy may be
observed between all the different departments of the belles lettres;
and none seem more closely allied, than the pursuits of the dramatic
writer, and those of the composer of romances or novels. Both deal in
fictitious adventure; both write for amusement; and address themselves
nearly to the same class of admirers. Nay, although the pride of the
dramatist may be offended by the assertion, it would seem, that the
nature of his walk is often prescribed by the successful impression
of a novel upon the public mind. If we laugh over low adventures in a
novel, we soon see low comedy upon the stage: If we are horror-struck
with a tale of robbers and murder in our closet, the dagger and the
green carpet will not long remain unemployed in the theatre; and if
ghosts haunt our novels, they soon stalk amongst our scenes. Under
this persuasion, we have little doubt that the heroic tragedies were
the legitimate offspring of the French romances of Calprenede and
Scuderi. Such as may deign to open these venerable and neglected
tomes, will be soon convinced of their extreme resemblance to the
heroic drama. A remarkable feature in both, is the ideal world which
they form for themselves. Every sentiment is lofty, splendid, and
striking; and no apology is admitted for any departure from the
dignity of character, however natural or impressive. The beauty of the
heroine, and the valour of the hero, must be alike resistless; and the
moving spring, through the whole action, is the overbearing passion
of love. Their language and manners are as peculiar to themselves,
as their prowess and susceptibility. The pastoral Arcadian does not
differ more widely from an ordinary rustic, than these lofty
persons do from the princes and kings of this world. Neither is any
circumstance of national character, or manners, allowed as an apology
for altering the established character, which must be invariably
sustained by the persons of the heroic drama. The religion, and
the state of society of the country where the scene is laid, may be
occasionally alluded to as authority for varying a procession, or
introducing new dresses and decorations; but, in all other respects,
an Indian Inca, attired in feathers, must hold the same dignity of
deportment, and display the same powers of declamation, and ingenuity
of argument, with a Roman emperor in his purple, or a feudal warrior
in his armour; for the rule and decorum of this species of composition
is too peremptory, to give way either to the current of human
passions, or to the usages of nations. Gibbon has remarked, that the
kings of the Gepidae, and the Ostrogoths in Corneille's tragedy
of Attila, are profound politicians, and sentimental lovers;--a
description which, with a varying portion of pride, courtesy, and
heroism, will apply to almost all the characters in plays drawn upon
It is impossible to conceive any thing more different from the old
English drama, than the heroic plays which were introduced by Charles
II. The former, in labouring to exhibit a variety and contrast of
passions, tempers, or humours, frequently altogether neglected the
dignity of the scene. In the heroical tragedy, on the other hand,
nothing was to be indecorous, nothing grotesque: The personages were
to speak, not as men, but as heroes; to whom, as statuaries have
assigned a superiority of stature, so these poets have given an
uniform grandeur of feeling and of expression. It may be thought, that
this monotonous splendour of diction would have palled upon an English
audience, less pleased generally with refinement, however elegant,
than with bursts of passion, and flights of novelty. But Dryden felt
his force in the line which he chose to pursue and recommend. The
indescribable charms of his versification gratified the ear of the
public, while their attention was engaged by the splendour of his
images, and the matchless ingenuity of his arguments. It must also
be admitted, that, by their total neglect of the unities, our ancient
dramatic authors shocked the feelings of the more learned, and
embarrassed the understanding of the less acute, among the spectators.
We do not hold it treason to depart from the strict rules respecting
time and place, inculcated by the ancients, and followed in the heroic
plays. But it will surely be granted to us, that, where they can be
observed, without the sacrifice of great beauties, or incurring such
absurdities as Dennis has justly charged upon Cato, the play will be
proportionally more intelligible on the stage, and more pleasing in
the closet. And although we willingly censure the practice of driving
argument, upon the stage, into metaphysical refinement, and rendering
the contest of contrasted passions a mere combat in logic, yet we must
equally condemn those tragedies, in which the poet sketches out the
character with a few broken common-places, expressive of love, of
rage, or of grief, and leaves the canvas to be filled up by the actor,
according to his own taste, power, and inclination.
The Indian Emperor is an instance, what beautiful poetry may be united
to, we had almost said thrown away upon, the heroic drama. The very
first scene exhibits much of those beauties, and their attendant
deformities. A modern audience would hardly have sate in patience
to hear more than the first extravagant and ludicrous supposition of
As if our old world modestly withdrew;
And here, in private, had brought forth a new.
But had they condemned the piece for this uncommon case of
parturition, they would have lost the beautiful and melodious verses,
in which Cortez, and his followers, describe the advantages of the
newly discovered world; and they would have lost the still more
exquisite account, which, immediately after, Guyomar gives of the
arrival of the Spanish fleet. Of the characters little need be said;
they stalk on, in their own fairy land, in the same uniform livery,
and with little peculiarity of discrimination. All the men, from
Montezuma down to Pizarro, are brave warriors; and only vary, in
proportion to the mitigating qualities which the poet has infused into
their military ardour. The women are all beautiful, and all deeply
in love; differing from each other only, as the haughty or tender
predominates in their passion. But the charm of the poetry, and the
ingenuity of the dialogue, render it impossible to peruse, without
pleasure, a drama, the faults of which may be imputed to its
structure, while its beauties are peculiar to Dryden.
The plot of the Indian Emperor is certainly of our author's own
composition; since even the malignant assiduity of Langbaine has been
unable to point out any author from whom it is borrowed. The play was
first acted in 1665, and received with great applause.
THE INDIAN EMPEROR
THE INDIAN QUEEN [A].
[Footnote A: This argument was printed, and dispersed amongst the
audience upon the first night of representation. Hence Bayes is made
to say, in the Rehearsal, that he had printed many reams, to instil
into the audience some conception of his plot.]
The conclusion of the Indian Queen (part of which poem was wrote
by me) left little matter for another story to be built on, there
remaining but two of the considerable characters alive, viz. Montezuma
and Orazia. Thereupon the author of this thought it necessary to
produce new persons from the old ones; and considering the late Indian
Queen, before she loved Montezuma, lived in clandestine marriage
with her general Traxalla, from those two he has raised a son and two
daughters, supposed to be left young orphans at their death. On the
other side, he has given to Montezuma and Orazia, two sons and a
daughter; all now supposed to be grown up to mens' and womens' estate;
and their mother, Orazia, (for whom there was no further use in the
story,) lately dead.
So that you are to imagine about twenty years elapsed since the
coronation of Montezuma; who, in the truth of the history, was a great
and glorious prince; and in whose time happened the discovery and
invasion of Mexico, by the Spaniards, under the conduct of Hernando
Cortez, who, joining with the Traxallan Indians, the inveterate
enemies of Montezuma, wholly subverted that flourishing empire;--the
conquest of which is the subject of this dramatic poem.
I have neither wholly followed the story, nor varied from it; and, as
near as I could, have traced the native simplicity and ignorance of
the Indians, in relation to European customs;--the shipping, armour,
horses, swords, and guns of the Spaniards, being as new to them, as
their habits and their language were to the Christians.
The difference of their religion from ours, I have taken from the
story itself; and that which you find of it in the first and fifth
acts, touching the sufferings and constancy of Montezuma in his
opinions, I have only illustrated, not altered, from those who have
written of it.
Almighty critics! whom our Indians here
Worship, just as they do the devil--for fear;
In reverence to your power, I come this day,
To give you timely warning of our play.
The scenes are old, the habits are the same
We wore last year, before the Spaniards came[A].
Now, if you stay, the blood, that shall be shed
From this poor play, be all upon your head.
We neither promise you one dance, or show;
Then plot, and language, they are wanting too:
But you, kind wits, will those light faults excuse,
Those are the common frailties of the muse;
Which, who observes, he buys his place too dear;
For 'tis your business to be cozened here.
These wretched spies of wit must then confess,
They take more pains to please themselves the less.
Grant us such judges, Phoebus, we request,
As still mistake themselves into a jest;
Such easy judges, that our poet may
Himself admire the fortune of his play;
And, arrogantly, as his fellows do,
Think he writes well, because he pleases you.
This he conceives not hard to bring about,
If all of you would join to help him out:
Would each man take but what he understands,
And leave the rest upon the poet's hands.
[Footnote A: Alluding to the Indian Queen, in which the scene is laid
before the arrival of the Spaniards in America, and which was acted in
1664, as this was in 1665.]
MONTEZUMA, _Emperor of Mexico_.
ODMAR, _his eldest son_.
GUYOMAR, _his younger son_.
ORBELLAN, _son of the late Indian Queen by TRAXALLA_.
_High Priest of the Sun_.
CYDARIA, _MONTEZUMA'S daughter_.
ALMERIA, } _Sisters; and daughters to the late_
ALIBECH, } _Indian Queen_.
CORTEZ, _the Spanish General_.
VASQUEZ, } _Commanders under him_.
SCENE--_Mexico, and two leagues about it_.
THE INDIAN EMPEROR.
SCENE I.--_A pleasant Indian country_.
_Enter_ CORTEZ, VASQUEZ, PIZARRO, _with Spaniards and Indians
of their party_.
_Cort_. On what new happy climate are we thrown,
So long kept secret, and so lately known;
As if our old world modestly withdrew,
And here in private had brought forth a new?
_Vasq._ Corn, oil, and wine, are wanting to this ground,
In which our countries fruitfully abound;
As if this infant world, yet unarrayed,
Naked and bare in Nature's lap were laid.
No useful arts have yet found footing here,
But all untaught and savage does appear.
_Cort._ Wild and untaught are terms which we alone
Invent, for fashions differing from our own;
For all their customs are by nature wrought,
But we, by art, unteach what nature taught.
_Piz_. In Spain, our springs, like old men's children, be
Decayed and withered from their infancy:
No kindly showers fall on our barren earth,
To hatch the season in a timely birth:
Our summer such a russet livery wears,
As in a garment often dyed appears.
_Cort_. Here nature spreads her fruitful sweetness round,
Breathes on the air, and broods upon the ground:
Here days and nights the only seasons be;
The sun no climate does so gladly see:
When forced from hence, to view our parts, he mourns;
Takes little journies, and makes quick returns.
_Vasq_. Methinks, we walk in dreams on Fairy-land,
Where golden ore lies mixt with common sand;
Each downfal of a flood, the mountains pour
From their rich bowels, rolls a silver shower.
_Cort_. Heaven from all ages wisely did provide
This wealth, and for the bravest nation hide,
Who, with four hundred foot and forty horse,
Dare boldly go a new-found world to force.
_Piz_. Our men, though valiant, we should find too few,
But Indians join the Indians to subdue;
Taxallan, shook by Montezuma's powers,
Has, to resist his forces, called in ours.
_Vasq_. Rashly to arm against so great a king,
I hold not safe; nor is it just to bring
A war, without a fair defiance made.
_Piz_. Declare we first our quarrel; then invade.
_Cort_. Myself, my king's ambassador, will go;
Speak, Indian guide, how far to Mexico?
_Ind_. Your eyes can scarce so far a prospect make,
As to discern the city on the lake;
But that broad causeway will direct your way,
And you may reach the town by noon of day.
_Cort_. Command a party of our Indians out,
With a strict charge, not to engage, but scout:
By noble ways we conquest will prepare;
First, offer peace, and, that refused, make war.
SCENE II.--_A Temple_.
_The High Priest with other Priests. To them an
_Ind_. Haste, holy priest, it is the king's command.
_High Pr_. When sets he forward?
_Ind_. He is near at hand.
_High Pr_. The incense is upon the altar placed,
The bloody sacrifice already past;
Five hundred captives saw the rising sun,
Who lost their light, ere half his race was run.
That which remains we here must celebrate;
Where, far from noise, without the city gate,
The peaceful power that governs love repairs,
To feast upon soft vows and silent prayers.
We for his royal presence only stay,
To end the rites of this so solemn day.
_Enter_ MONTEZUMA; _his eldest son_, ODMAR; _his
daughter_, CYDARIA; ALMERIA, ALIBECH, ORBELLAN,
_and Train. They place themselves_.
_High Pr_. On your birthday, while we sing
To our gods and to our king,
Her, among this beauteous quire,
Whose perfections you admire,
Her, who fairest does appear,
Crown her queen of all the year,
Of the year and of the day,
And at her feet your garland lay.
_Odm_. My father this way does his looks direct;
Heaven grant, he give it not where I suspect!
[MONTEZUMA _rises, goes about the Ladies, and
at length stays at_ ALMERIA, _and bows_.
_Mont_. Since my Orazia's death, I have not seen
A beauty, so deserving to be queen
As fair Almeria.
_Alm_. Sure he will not know
[_To her brother and sister, aside_.
My birth I to that injured princess owe,
Whom his hard heart not only love denied,
But in her sufferings took unmanly pride.
_Alib_. Since Montezuma will his choice renew,
In dead Orazia's room electing you,
'Twill please our mother's ghost that you succeed
To all the glories of her rival's bed.
_Alm_. If news be carried to the shades below,
The Indian queen will be more pleased, to know,
That I his scorns on him, who scorned her, pay.
_Orb_. Would you could right her some more noble way!
[_She turns to him, who is kneeling all this while_.
_Mont_. Madam, this posture is for heaven designed,
And what moves heaven I hope may make you kind.
_Alm_. Heaven may be kind; the gods uninjured live.
And crimes below cost little to forgive:
By thee, inhuman, both my parents died;
One by thy sword, the other by thy pride.
_Mont_. My haughty mind no fate could ever bow,
Yet I must stoop to one, who scorns me now:
Is there no pity to my sufferings due?
_Alm_. As much as what my mother found from you.
_Mont_. Your mother's wrongs a recompence shall meet;
I lay my sceptre at her daughter's feet.
_Alm_. He, who does now my least commands obey,
Would call me queen, and take my power away.
_Odm_. Can he hear this, and not his fetters break?
Is love so powerful, or his soul so weak?
I'll fright her from it.--Madam, though you see
The king is kind, I hope your modesty
Will know, what distance to the crown is due.
_Alm_. Distance and modesty prescribed by you!
_Odm_. Almeria dares not think such thoughts as these.
_Alm_. She dares both think and act what thoughts she please.
Tis much below me on his throne to sit;
But when I do, you shall petition it.
_Odm_. If, sir, Almeria does your bed partake,
I mourn for my forgotten mother's' sake.
_Mont_. When parents' loves are ordered by a son,
Let streams prescribe their fountains where to run.
_Odm_. In all I urge, I keep my duty still,
Not rule your reason, but instruct your will.
_Mont_. Small use of reason in that prince is shown,
Who follows others, and neglects his own.
[ALMERIA _to_ ORBELLAN _and_ ALIBECH, _who are this while
whispering to her_.
_Alm_. No, he shall ever love, and always be
The subject of my scorn and cruelty.
_Orb_. To prove the lasting torment of his life,
You must not be his mistress, but his wife.
Few know what care an husband's peace destroys,
His real griefs, and his dissembled joys.
_Alm_. What mark of pleasing vengeance could be shown,
If I, to break his quiet, lose my own?
_Orb_. A brother's life upon your love relics,
Since I do homage to Cydaria's eyes:
How can her father to my hopes be kind,
If in your heart he no example find?
_Alm_. To save your life I'll suffer any thing,
Yet I'll not flatter this tempestuous king;
But work his stubborn soul a nobler way,
And, if he love, I'll force him to obey.
I take this garland, not as given by you,
But as my merit and my beauty's due.
As for the crown, that you, my slave, possess,
To share it with you would but make me less.
_Enter_ GUYOMAR _hastily_.
_Odm_. My brother Guyomar! methinks I spy
Haste in his steps, and wonder in his eye.
_Mont_. I sent thee to the frontiers; quickly tell
The cause of thy return; are all things well?
_Guy_. I went, in order, sir, to your command,
To view the utmost limits of the land:
To that sea-shore where no more world is found,
But foaming billows breaking on the ground;
Where, for a while, my eyes no object met,
But distant skies, that in the ocean set;
And low-hung clouds, that dipt themselves in rain,
To shake their fleeces on the earth again.
At last, as far as I could cast my eyes
Upon the sea, somewhat, methought, did rise,
Like blueish mists, which, still appearing more,
Took dreadful shapes, and moved towards the shore.
_Mont_. What forms did these new wonders represent?
_Guy_. More strange than what your wonder can invent.
The object, I could first distinctly view,
Was tall straight trees, which on the waters flew;
Wings on their sides, instead of leaves, did grow,
Which gathered all the breath the winds could blow:
And at their roots grew floating palaces,
Whose outblowed bellies cut the yielding seas.
_Mont_. What divine monsters, O ye gods, were these,
That float in air, and fly upon the seas!
Came they alive, or dead, upon the shore?
_Guy_. Alas, they lived too sure; I heard them roar.
All turned their sides, and to each other spoke;
I saw their words break out in fire and smoke.
Sure 'tis their voice, that thunders from on high,
Or these the younger brothers of the sky.
Deaf with the noise, I took my hasty flight;
No mortal courage can support the fright.
_High Pr_. Old prophecies foretel our fall at hand,
When bearded men in floating castles land.
I fear it is of dire portent.
_Mont_. Go see
What it foreshows, and what the gods decree.
Meantime proceed we to what rites remain.--
Odmar, of all this presence does contain,
Give her your wreath, whom you esteem most fair.
_Odm_. Above the rest I judge one beauty rare,
And may that beauty prove as kind to me,
[_He gives_ ALIBECH _the wreath_.
As I am sure fair Alibech is she.
_Mont_. You, Guyomar, must next perform your part.
_Guy_. I want a garland, but I'll give a heart:
My brother's pardon I must first implore,
Since I with him fair Alibech adore.
_Odm_. That all should Alibech adore, 'tis true;
But some respect is to my birthright due.
My claim to her by eldership I prove.
_Guy_. Age is a plea in empire, not in love.
_Odm_. I long have staid for this solemnity,
To make my passion public.
_Guy_. So have I.
_Odm_. But from her birth my soul has been her slave;
My heart received the first wounds which she save:
I watched the early glories of her eyes,
As men for daybreak watch the eastern skies.
_Guy_. It seems my soul then moved the quicker pace;
Yours first set out, mine reached her in the race.
_Mont_. Odmar, your choice I cannot disapprove;
Nor justly, Guyomar, can blame your love.
To Alibech alone refer your suit,
And let her sentence finish your dispute.
_Alib_. You think me, sir, a mistress quickly won.
So soon to finish what is scarce begun:
In this surprise should I a judgment make,
'Tis answering riddles ere I'm well awake:
If you oblige me suddenly to chuse,
The choice is made, for I must both refuse:
For to myself I owe this due regard,
Not to make love my gift, but my reward.
Time best will show, whose services will last.
_Odm_. Then judge my future service by my past.
What I shall be, by what I was, you know:
That love took deepest root, which first did grow.
_Guy_. That love, which first was set, will first decay;
Mine, of a fresher date, will longer stay.
_Odm_. Still you forget my birth.
_Guy_. But you, I see,
Take care still to refresh my memory.
_Mont_. My sons, let your unseemly discord cease,
If not in friendship, live at least in peace.
Orbellan, where you love, bestow your wreath.
_Orb_. My love I dare not, even in whispers, breathe.
_Mont_. A virtuous love may venture any thing.
_Orb_. Not to attempt the daughter of my king.
_Mont_. Whither is all my former fury gone?
Once more I have Traxalla's chains put on,
And by his children am in triumph led:
Too well the living have revenged the dead!
_Alm_. You think my brother born your enemy;
He's of Traxalla's blood, and so am I.
_Mont_. In vain I strive.
My lion-heart is with love's toils beset;
Struggling I fall still deeper in the net.
Cydaria, your new lover's garland take,
And use him kindly for your father's sake.
_Cyd_. So strong an hatred does my nature sway.
That, spite of duty, I must disobey:
Besides, you warned me still of loving two;
Can I love him, already loving you?
_Enter a Guard hastily_.
_Mont_. You look amazed, as if some sudden fear
Had seized your hearts; is any danger near?
_1 Guard_. Behind the covert, where this temple stands,
Thick as the shades, there issue swarming bands
Of ambushed men, whom, by their arms and dress,
To be Taxallan enemies I guess.
_2 Guard_. The temple, sir, is almost compassed round.
_Mont_. Some speedy way for passage must be found.
Make to the city by the postern gate,
I'll either force my victory, or fate;
A glorious death in arms I'll rather prove,
Than stay to perish tamely by my love.
_An alarm within. Enter_ MONTEZUMA, ODMAR, GUYOMAR, ALIBECH,
ORBELLAN, CYDARIA, ALMERIA, _as pursued by Taxallans_.
_Mont_. No succour from the town?
_Odm_. None, none is nigh.
_Guy_. We are inclosed, and must resolve to die.
_Mont_. Fight for revenge, now hope of life is past
But one stroke more, and that will be my last.
_Enter_ CORTEZ, VASQUEZ, PIZARRO, _to the Taxallans_: CORTEZ
_stays them, just falling on_.
_Cort_. Contemned? my orders broke even in my sight?
Did I not strictly charge, you should not fight?
[_To his Indians_.
_Ind_. Your choler, general, does unjustly rise,
To see your friends pursue your enemies.
The greatest and most cruel foes we have,
Are these, whom you would ignorantly save.
By ambushed men, behind their temple laid,
We have the king of Mexico betrayed.
_Cort_. Where, banished virtue, wilt thou shew thy face,
If treachery infects thy Indian race?
Dismiss your rage, and lay your weapons by:
Know I protect them, and they shall not die.
_Ind_. O wondrous mercy, shewn to foes distrest!
_Cort_. Call them not so, when once with odds opprest;
Nor are they foes my clemency defends,
Until they have refused the name of friends:
Draw up our Spaniards by themselves, then fire
Our guns on all, who do not strait retire.
_Ind_. O mercy, mercy! at thy feet we fall,
Before thy roaring Gods destroy us all:
See, we retreat without the least reply;
Keep thy Gods silent! if they speak we die.