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And, madam, all that I can promise now,
show, And wish to stay, though they resolve to go.
Ber. As some faint pilgrim, standing on the shore, First views the torrent he would venture o'er; And then his inn upon the farther ground, Loth to wade through, and lother to go round ; Then dipping in his staff, does trial make How deep it is, and, sighing, pulls it back; Sometimes resolved to fetch his leap, and then Runs to the bank, but there stops short again; So I at once Both heavenly faith and human fear obey, And feel before me in an unknown way. For this blest voyage I with joy prepare, Yet am ashamed to be a stranger there.
S. Cath. You are not yet enough prepared to die; Earth hangs too heavy for your soul to fly. Por. One way (and heaven, I hope, inspires my
mind) I for your safety in this strait can find; But this fair queen must further
S. Cath. Name any way your reason can invent.
And I'll prepare a faithful guard this night
death be freed, And you unforced to any wicked deed. S. Cath. Madam, my thoughts are with them
selves at strife, And heaven can witness how I prize your life; But 'tis a doubtful conflict I must try, Betwixt my pity and my piety: Staying, your precious life I must expose; Going, my crown of martyrdom I lose. Por. Your equal choice when heaven does thus
divide, You should, like heaven, still lean on mercy's side. S. Cath. The will of heaven, judged by a private
breast, Is often what's our private interest; And therefore those, who would that will obey, Without their interest must their duty weigh. As for myself, I do not life despise, But as the greatest gift of nature prize. My sex is weak, my fears of death are strong, And whate'er is, its being would prolong. Were there no sting in death, for me to die, Would not be conquest, but stupidity; But if vain honour can confirm the soul, And sense of shame the fear of death controul; How much more then should faith uphold the mind, Which, showing death, shows future life behind?
Ber. Of death's contempt heroic proofs you give; But, madam, let my weaker virtue live. Your faith
you your own life resign; But not when yours must be involved with mine. Since then you do not think me fit to die, Ah, how can you that life I beg deny!
S. Cath. Heaven does in this my greatest trial
make, When I, for it, the care of you forsake; But I am placed, as on a theatre, Where all my acts to all mankind appear, To imitate my constancy or fear: Then, madam, judge what course I should pursue, When I must either heaven forsake, or you.
Por. Were saving Berenice's life a sin,
will we sound,
[Erit St Cath. Por. Yet there is one way left! it is decreed, To save your life, that Maximin shall bleed; 'Midst all his guards I will his death pursue, Or fall a sacrifice to love and you.
Ber. So great a fear of death I have not shown, That I would shed his blood to save my own; My fear is but from human frailty brought, And never mingled with a wicked thought.
Por. "Tis not a crime, since one of you must die, Or is excused by the necessity.
Ber. I cannot to a husband's death consent, But, by revealing, will your crime prevent. The horror of this deed
Against the fear of death has armed my mind,
[Exit with Valerius and Guards. Por. [Solus.] "Tis true, what she has often urged
[To Por. That my late orders were contemned by you: That Berenice from her guards you freed.
Por. I did it, and I glory in the deed.
name, But I?
Por. Yes, I, and all who love your fame.
Mar. Porphyrius, your replies are insolent.
Max. Then conscience is a greater prince than 1,
peace; Then, that wild beast he safely may release.
Max. I can forgive these liberties you take,
Por. Sir, I acknowledge I too much have done,