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as for my wife, what was she to you? Ye cannot be greatly disturbed that she is in her grave. No, ye are quiet, calm, and prudent persons; it would be a most indiscreet thing of you, you who have suffered no wrongs yourselves, to 5 stir on her account; and then how unreasonable I should be, were I to speak of two fair and innocent maidens. It is weak of me to weep, though they were my daughters.
O men and Christians, brothers, fathers! but ye are content to bear with such wrongs, and I alone of all here
10 may go to the gates of the cities, and try to discover which of the martyred heads mouldering there belongs to a son or a friend. Nor is it of any account whether the bones of those who were so dear to us, be exposed with the remains of malefactors, or laid in the sacred grave. To the
15 dead all places are alike; and to the slave what signifies who is master. Let us therefore forget the past, — let us keep open the door of reconciliation, — smother all the wrongs we have endured, and kiss the proud foot of the trampler. We have our lives, we have been spared; the mer
20 ciless blood-hounds have not yet reached us. Let us therefore be humble and thankful, and cry to Charles Stuart, O King, live forever! — for he has but cast us into a fiery furnace and a lion's den.
In truth, friends, Mr. Renwick is quite right. This
25 feeling of indignation against our oppressors is a most imprudent thing. If we desire to enjoy our own contempt, and to deserve the derision of men, and to merit the abhorrence of Heaven, let us yield ourselves to all that Charles Stuart and his sect require. We can do nothing
30 better, nothing so meritorious, nothing by which we can so reasonably hope for punishment here and condemnation hereafter. But if there is one man at this meeting, — I am speaking not of shapes and forms, but of feelings, — if there is one here that feels as men were wont to feel, he
55 will draw his sword, and say with me, Woe to the house of Stuart! Woe to the oppressors! And may a just God look with favor on our cause.
CXXXV.—ALCESTIS AND PHERES.
[yittorio Alfieri was born in Asti, In Piedmont, in 1749, and died in 1804 Born of a rich and noble familf, lib early education was defective, and his youth was passed without any honorable object in life, but at the age of twenty-seven, he resolved to become a tragic poet, and with this view began a laborious course of study, in order to acquire the knowledge he had failed to obtain in his boyhood and youth. He wrote twenty-one tragedies, six comedies, besides several poems and translations from Greek and Latin. The plots of his plays are simple, the verse is unmusical, and the style dry and hard, but they have great energy of expression and fervor of sentiment, and never fail to produce a strong effect upon an audience.
The following scene is from " Alcestis," one of the last tragedies Alfieri composed, and marked by a tenderness of feeling not found in his earlier plays. The plot is founded upon a Greek legend. Alcestis is the wife of Admetus, the son of Pheres. Admetus has died, and an oracle had declared that he might be restored to life if another person would consent to die in his place. Aloeetis, in this dialogue, announces her purpose of devoting herself to death, in order that her husband might return to life.]
Alcestis. Weep thou no more. O monarch, dry thy tears,
Pheres. What mean thy words?
5 Hath then Apollo — is there then a hope 1
Alcestis. Yes, hope for thee, hope, by the voice pronounced From the prophetic cave. Nor would I yield To other lips the tidings, meet alone For thee to hear from mine. 10 Pheres. But say, oh! say,
Shall, then, my son be spared?
Alcestis. He shall, to thee.
Thus hath Apollo said, — Alcestis thus Confirms the oracle; be thou secure. 15 Pheres. O sounds of joy! He lives!
Alcestis. But not for thi*;
Think not that e'en for this the stranger, joy, Shall yet revisit these devoted walls. Pheres. Can there be grief when, from his bed of death, 20 Admetus rises? What deep mystery lurks Within thy words? What mean'st thou? Gracious heaven J
Thou, whose deep love is all his own, who heareet
The tidings of his safety, and dost bear
Transport and life in that glad oracle
To his despairing sire; thy cheek is tinged 5 With death, and on thy pure, ingenuous brow
To the brief lightning of a sudden joy
Shades dark as night succeed, and thou art wrapt
In troubled silence. Speak! oh! speak!
Alcestis. The gods
10 Themselves have limitations to their power,
Impassable, eternal; and their will
Resists not the tremendous laws of fate:
Nor small the boon they grant thee in the life
Of thy restored Admetus. 15 Pheres. In thy looks
There is expression more than in thy words,
Which thrills my shuddering heart. Declare what terms Can render fatal to thyself and us
The rescued life of him thy soul adores? 20 Alcestis. O, father! could my silence aught avail
To keep that fearful secret from thine ear,
Still should it rest unheard till all fulfilled
Were the dread sacrifice. But vain the wish;
And since too soon, too well, it must be known, 25 Hear it from me.
Piier.es. Through all my curdling veins
Runs a cold, death-like horror; and I feel
I am not all a father. In my heart
Strive many deep affections. Thee I love, 30 O fair and high-souled consort of my son!
More than a daughter; and thine infant race,
The cherished hope and glory of my age;
And, unimpaired by time, within my breast;
High, holy, and unalterable love ftO For her, the partner of my cares and joys,
Dwells pure and perfect yet . Bethink thee, then,
In what suspense, what agony of fear, I wait thy words; for well, too well, I see Thy lips are fraught with fatal auguries To some one of my race. 5 Alcestis. Death hath his rights,
Of which not e'en the great Supernal Powers May hope to rob him. By his ruthless hand, Already seized, the noble victim lay, The heir of empire, in his glowing prime 10 And noon-day struck; — Admetus, the revered, The blessed, the loved, by all who owned his sway, By his illustrious parents, by the realms Surrounding his, — and oh! what need to add, How much by his Alcestis? Such was he, 15 Already in the unsparing grasp of death, Withering, a certain prey. Apollo thence Hath snatched him, and another in his stead, Although not an equal, — (who can equal him ?) -— Must fall a voluntary sacrifice. 20 Another of his lineage, or to him By closest bonds united, must descend To the dark realm of Orcus0 in his place, Who thus alone is saved.
Pheres. What do I hear?
25 Woe to us, woe! — what victim ? — who shall be Accepted in his stead?
Alcestis. The dread exchange
E'en now, O father! hath been made; the prey
Pheres. All prepared the prey!
35 And to our blood allied! O heaven ! — and yet
* Orcus, the god of the lower world.
Thou bad'st me weep no more!
Alcestis. Yes, thus I said,
And thus again I say, —thou shalt not weep Thy son's, nor I deplore my husband's doom. 5 Let him be saved, and other sounds of woe, Less deep, less mournful far, shall here be heard, Than those his death had caused. With some few tears, But brief, and mingled with a gleam of joy, E'en while the involuntary tribute lasts,
10 The victim shall be honored, who resigned
Life for Admetus. Wouldst thou know the prey,—
15 Pheres. What hast thou done? O heaven!What hast thou done? And think'st thou he is saved
20 Than his loved parents, — than 1' i children more,
25 Who as a child adore thee! Desolate
Would be the throne, the kingdom, reft of thee.
30 Thou in whose life alone Admetus lives, —
35 My race is run ; —the fulness of my years,