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| scene I. - SARDANAPALUS. 255 - Arb. The hour ! — what hour? Bel. Sire, your justice. Sal. Of midnight. Sal. Or– Bel. Midnight, my lord ' Your weakness. Sul. What, are you not invited 2 Sar. (raising the sword). How 7
What is there in thee that a prince should shrink from of open force : We dread thy treason, not svenom — Thy strength: thy tooth is nought without its The serpent's, not the lion's. Cut him down. Bel. (interposing). Arbaces ! are you mad? Have I not render'd [iustice. | My sword * Then trust like me our sovereign's Arb. No-I will sooner trust the stars thou prat'st And this slight arm, and die a king at least [of, Of my own breath and body—so far that None else shall chain them. Sal (to the Guards). Take him not, —kill. [The Guards attack ARBAces, who defends himself valiantly and derterously till they traper.
You hear him, and me.
Sai. Strike 1 so the blow's repeated Upon yon traitor—whom you spare a moment, I trust, for torture—I'm content.
Sar. What—him 1 Who dares assail Arbaces 2
Sar. Indeed :
Prince, you forget yourself. Upon what warrant?
Sar. No, retain it; But use it with more moderation.
Sal. Sire, I used it for your honour, and restore it
Because I cannot keep it with my own. Bestow it on Arbaces.
Sur. So I should : He never ask'd it. Sal. Doubt not, he will have it,
Without that hollow semblance of respect.
By the tricks taught thee in Chaldea.
Bel. Hear him, My liege — the son of Belus ! he blasphemes The worship of the land, which bows the knee Before your fathers.
Sar. Oh for that I pray you Let him have absolution. I dispense with The worship of dead men; feeling that I Am mortal, and believing that the race sashes. From whence I sprung are — what I see them —
Bel. King ! do not deem so : they are with the And [stars,
Sar. You shall join them there ere they will rise, If you preach farther— Why, this is rank treason.
Sal. My lord :
To school me in the worship of
And dinn'd, and deafen'd with dead men and Baal, And all Chaldea's starry mysteries.
Bel. Monarch respect them.
Sar. Oh I for that — I love them : I love to watch them in the deep blue vault, And to compare them with my Myrrha's eyes; I love to see their rays redoubled in The tremulous silver of Euphrates' wave, As the light breeze of midnight crisps the broad And rolling water, sighing through the sedges Which fringe his banks: but whether they may be Gods, as some say, or the abodes of gods, As others hold, or simply lamps of night, Worlds, or the lights of worlds, I know nor care not. There's something sweet in my uncertainty I would not change for your Chaldean lore; Besides, I know of these all clay can know Of aught above it, or below it—nothing. I see their brilliancy and feel their beauty—1 When they shine on my grave I shall know neither.
Bel. For neither, sire, say better.
Sar. I will wait,
1 to I know them beautiful, and see them brilliant.”—MS.] * [The second Act is, we think, a failure. The conspirators have a tedious dialogue, which is interrupted by Salemenes with a guard. Salemenes is followed by the king, who
Although upon this breath of mine depends
Arb. Sire, this clemency
His lusts have made him mad.
Must oft receive her right as a mere favour.
Sar. That's a good sentence for a homily, Though not for this occasion. Prithee keep it To plead thy sovereign's cause before his people.
Bel. I trust there is no cause.
Sar. No cause, perhaps; But many causers: —if ye meet with such In the exercise of your inquisitive function On earth, or should you read of it in heaven In some mysterious twinkle of the stars, Which are your chronicles, I pray you note, That there are worse things betwixt earth and
heaven Than him who ruleth many and slays none; And, hating not himself, yet loves his fellows Enough to spare even those who would not spare him Were they once masters—but that's doubtful. SaYour swords and persons are at liberty [traps t
To be blown down by his imperious breath,
- F siceNE I. SARDANAPALUS. 257 Arb. What 7 thus suspected — with the sword Arb. I must serve him truly — slung o'er us Bel. And humbly * But by a single hair, and that still wavering, Arb. No, sir, proudly—being honest.
A despised monarch. Look to it, Arbaces:
Arb. Your servant :
Bel. Why not ? better than be slave, The pardon'd slave of she Sardanapalus !
That grate the palace, which is now our prison—
Arb. Thou hast harp'd the truth indced :
Bel. Graves :
Arb. If I thought so, this good sword should dig One more than mine.
Bel. It shall have work enough.
Arb. Why, what other
Bel. But will not, can not be so now.
Bel. Let us but regain
I doubt it.
Arb. *T will be shorten’d at the gates, It may be. Bel. No ; they hardly will risk that.
They mean us to die privately, but not
* [Arbaces is a mere common-place warrior ; and Beleses, on whom, we suspect. Lord Byron has bestowed more than usual pains, is a very ordinary and uninteresting villain. Sardanapalus, indeed, and Salemenes, are both made to speak of the wily Chaldean as the master-mover of the plot, as a politician in whose hands Arbaces is but a “warlike puppet ; ” and Diodorus Siculus has represented him, in fact, as the first instigator of Arbaces to his treason, and as making use of his priestly character, and his supposed power of foretelling future events, to inflame the ambition, to direct the measures, to sustain the hopes, and to reprove the despondency, of his comrade. But of all this nothing appears in the tragedy. Lord Byron has been so anxious to show his own contempt for the priest, that he has not even allowed him that share of cunninz and evil influence which was necessary for the part which he had to fill. Instead of being the original, the restless and unceasing prompter to bold and wicked measures, we find him, on his first appearance, hanging back trom the enterprise, and chilling the energy of Arbaces by an enumeration of the real or possible difficultics which might yet im
Let's leave this place, the airgrows thick and choking,
Enter SARDANAPAlus and SALEMENEs.
Sar. Well, all is remedied, and without bloodshed, That worst of mockeries of a remedy; We are now secure by these men's exile.
Sal. Yes, As he who treads on flowers is from the adder Twined round their roots.
Sar. Why, what wouldst have me do?
Sal. Undo what you have done.
Sar. Revoke my pardon 2
Sal. Replace the crown now tottering on your
Sor. That were tyrannical.
Sar. We are so. What danger can they work upon the frontier 2
Sal. They are not there yet – never should they Were I well listen’d to. s be so,
Sar. Nay, I have listen’d Inpartially to thee — why not to them 2
Sal. You may know that hereafter; as it is, I take my leave, to order forth the guard.
Sar. And you will join us at the banquet 7
Sur. Nay, but 'tis fit to revel now and then.
Sal. And fit that some should watch for those who Too oft. Am I permitted to depart 2 [revel
Sar. Yes Stay a moment, my good Salemenes, My brother, my best subject, better prince Than I am king. You should have been the monarch, And I — I know not what, and care not; but Think not I am insensible to all Thine honest wisdom, and thy rough yet kind, Though oft-reproving, sufferance of my follies. If I have spared these men against thy counsel, That is, their lives —it is not that I doubt The advice was sound; but, let them live: we will not Cavil about their lives — so let them mend them. Their banishment will leave me still sound sleep, Which their death had not left me.
pede its execution. Instead of exercising that power over the mind of his comrade which a religious impostór may well ssess over better and more magnanimous souls than his own, eleses is made to pour his predictions into incredulous ears; and Arbaces is as mere an epicurean in his creed as Sardana. o: When we might have expected to find him gazing with ope and reverence on the star which the Chaldean points but as his natal planet, the Median warrior speaks, in the language of Mezentius, of the sword on which his confidence Siepends, and instead of being a tool in the hand of the pontiff, he says almost every thing which is likely to affront him. Though Beleses is introduced to us as engaged in devotion, and as a servent worshipper of the Sun, he is nowhere made either to feel or to counterfeit that professional zeal against Sardanapalus which his open contempt of the gods would naturally call for ; and no reason appears, throughout the play, why Arbaces should follow, against his own conscience and opinion, the counsels of a man ot whom he speaks with dislike and disgust, and whose pretences to inspiration and sanctity he treats with unmingled ridicule. – Bishop Hessa-) | Sul. Thus you run | The risk to sleep for ever, to save traitors — A monent's pang now changed for years of crime. Still let thern be made quiet.
Sur. Tempt me not : My word is past. | Sul. But it may be recall’d. Sar. T is royal. | Sul. And should therefore be decisive.
This half indulgence of an exile serves | But to provoke — a pardon should be full, Or it is none. | Sur. And who persuaded me After I had repeal'd them, or at least Only dismiss'd thern from our presence, who Urged me to send them to their satrapies 2 Sul. True; that I had forgotten; that is, sire, If they eer reach'd their satrapies— why, then, Reprove me more for my advice 2 Sar. And if They do not reach them — look to it ! — in safety, In safety, mark me — and security— Look to thine own. | Sal. Permit me to depart; Their safety shall be cared for. | Sar. Get thee hence, then; And, prithee, think more gently of thy brother. |
Sal. Sire, I shall ever duly serve my sovereign. [Erit SALEMENEs. Sar (solus). That man is of a temper too sewere ; | Hard but as lofty as the rock, and free From all the taints of common earth — while I Am softer clay, impregnated with flowers: But as our mould is, must the produce be. If I have err'd this time, ’tis on the side Where error sits most lightly on that sense, I know not what to call it; but it reckons With me ofttimes for pain, and sometimes pleasure; A spirit which seems placed about my heart To count its throbs, not quicken them, and ask Questions which mortal never dared to ask me, Nor Baal, though an oracular deity – 1 Albeit his marble face majestical Frowns as the shadows of the evening dim His brows to changed expression, till at times I think the statue looks in act to speak. Away with these vain thoughts, I will be joyous – And here comes Joy's true herald.
Myr. In my own country we respect their voices As auguries of Jove. ”
Sar. Jovel — ay, your Baal –
Myr. That were a dread omen.
Sar. Yes — for the priests. Well, we will not go
Beyond the palace walls to-night, but make
Are kinder to thee than thou to thyself,
Sar. Child, if there be peril,
Myr. Not so; these walls
Sur. No, nor in the palace,
Now, Jove be praised that he The
Myr. They live, then 7
From just infliction of due punishment
Sar. This is strange;
Myr. 'T is a Greek virtue.
Sar. But not a kingly one — I'll none on 't; or If ever I indulge in 't, it shall be With kings — my equals.
Myr. These men sought to be so.
Sar. Myrrha, this is too feminine, and springs From fear
Sar. No matter, still 'tis fear.
Myr. My lord, I am no boaster of my love,