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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

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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.

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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

Sal. I

Sar. Indeed :

Prince, you forget yourself. Upon what warrant?
Sal. (showing the signet). Thine.
Arb. (confused). The king's 1
Sal. Yes! and let the king confirm it.
Sur. I parted not from this for such a purpose.
Sal. You parted with it for your safety — I
Employ'd it for the best. Pronounce in person.
Here I am but your slave—a moment past
I was your representative.
Your swords.
[ARBAces and SALEMENEs return their swords
to the scabbards.
Sal. Mine's sheathed: I pray you sheathe not yours:
'Tis the sole sceptre left you now with safety.
Sar. A heavy one; the hilt, too, hurts my hand.
(To a Guard.) Here, fellow, take thy weapon back.
Well, sirs,
What doth this mean 7
Bel. The prince must answer that.
Sal. Truth upon my part, treason upon theirs.
Sar. Treason — Arbaces ! treachery and Beleses :
That were an union I will not believe.
Bel. Where is the proof?
Sal. I'll answer that, if once
The king demands your fellow-traitor's sword.
Arb. (to Sal.). A sword which hath been drawn
as oft as thine
Against his foes.
Sal. And now against his brother,
And in an hour or so against himself.
Sar. That is not possible: he dared not; no-
No — I'll not hear of such things. These vain
Are spawn'd in courts by base intrigues, and baser
Hirelings, who live by lies on good men's lives.
You must have been deceived, my brother.
Let him deliver up his weapon, and
Proclaim himself your subject by that duty,
And I will answer all.
Sar. Why, if I thought so—
But no, it cannot be: the Mede Arbaces—
The trusty, rough, true soldier—the best captain
Of all who discipline our nations No,
I'll not insult him thus, to bid him render
The scimitar to me he never yielded
Unto our enemies. Chief, keep your weapon.
Sal. (delivering back the signet). Monarch, take
back your signet.

Then sheathe


Sar. No, retain it; But use it with more moderation.

Sal. Sire, I used it for your honour, and restore it

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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.
Bel. I know not what hath prejudiced the prince
So strongly 'gainst two subjects, than whom none
Have been more zealous for Assyria's weal.
Sal. Peace, factious priest and faithless soldier :
Unit'st in thy own person the worst vices
Of the most dangerous orders of mankind.
Keep thy smooth words and juggling homilies
For those who know thee not. Thy fellow's sin
Is, at the least, a bold one, and not temper'd

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

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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,
If it so please you, pontiff, for that knowledge.
In the mean time receive your sword, and know
That I prefer your service militant
Unto your ministry—not loving either.

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

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Although upon this breath of mine depends
Your own; and, deadlier for ye, on my fears.
But fear not–for that I am soft, not fearful —
And so live on. Were I the thing some think me,
Your heads would now be dripping the last drops
Of their attainted gore from the high gates
Of this our palace, into the dry dust,
Their only portion of the coveted kingdom
They would be crown'd to reign o'er—let that pass.
As I have said, I will not deem ye guilty,
Nor doom ye guiltless. Albeit better men
Than ye or I stand ready to arraign you;
And should I leave your fate to sterner judges,
And proofs of all kinds, I might sacrifice
Two men, who, whatsoe'er they now are, were
Once honest. Ye are free, sirs.

Arb. Sire, this clemency

His lusts have made him mad.

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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

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To be blown down by his imperious breath,
Which spared us — why, I know not.
But let us profit by the interval.
The hour is still our own — our power the same —
The night the same we destined. He hath changed
Nothing czcept our ignorance of all
Suspicion into such a certainty
As must make madness of delay.
Bel. What, doubting still 2
Arb. He spared our lives, nay, more,
Saved them from Salemenes.
Bel. And how long
Will be so spare 2 till the first drunken minute.
Arb. Or sober, rather. Yet he did it nobly;
Gave royally what we had forfeited
Arb. Somewhat of both, perhaps.
But it has touch'd me, and, whate'er betide,
I will no further on.
Bel. And lose the world !
Arb. Lose any thing except my own esteem.
Bel. I blush that we should owe our lives to such
A king of distaffs
Arb. But no less we owe them ;
And I should blush far more to take the grantor's 1
Bel. Thou may'st endure whate'er thou wilt.— the
Havc written otherwise. [stars
Arb. Though they came down,
And marshall'd me the way in all their brightness,
I would not follow.
Bel. This is weakness — worse
Than a scared beldam's dreaming of the dead,
And waking in the dark. — Go to — go to.
Arb. Methought he look'd like Nimrod as he spoke,
Even as the proud imperial statue stands
Looking the monarch of the kings around it,
And sways, while they but ornament, the temple.
Bel. I told you that you had too much despised
And that there was some royalty within him —
What then 7 he is the nobler foe.
Arb. But we
The meaner: — Would he had not spared us :
Wouldst thou be sacrificed thus readily 2
Arb. No — but it had been better to have died
Than live ungrateful.
Bel. Oh, the souls of some men I
Thou wouldst digest what some call treason, and
Fools treachery—and, behold, upon the sudden,
Because for something or for nothing, this
Rash reveller steps, ostentatiously,
"Twixt thee and Salemenes, thou art turn'd
Into —what shall I say ? — Sardanapalus !
I know no name more ignominious.
Arb. But
An hour ago, who dared to term me such
Had held his life but lightly — as it is,
I must forgive you, even as he forgave us —
Semiramis herself would not have done it.
Bel. No-the queen liked no sharers of the king-
Not even a husband. sdom,

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And yet

Say bravely.

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- 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.

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A despised monarch. Look to it, Arbaces:
I have still aided, cherish'd, loved, and urged you ;
Was willing even to serve you, in the hope
To serve and save Assyria. Heaven itself
Seem'd to consent, and all events were friendly,
Even to the last, till that your spirit shrunk
Into a shallow softness ; but now, rather
Than see my country languish, I will be
Her saviour or the victim of her tyrant,
Or one or both, for sometimes both are one ;
And, if I win, Arbaces is my servant.

Arb. Your servant :

Bel. Why not ? better than be slave, The pardon'd slave of she Sardanapalus !

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That grate the palace, which is now our prison—
No further.

Arb. Thou hast harp'd the truth indced :
The realm itself, in all its wide extension,
Yawms dungeons at each step for thee and nie.

Bel. Graves :

Arb. If I thought so, this good sword should dig One more than mine.

Bel. It shall have work enough.
Let me hope better than thou augurest;
At present, let us hence as best we may.
Thou dost agree with me in understanding
This order as a sentence 2

Arb. Why, what other
Interpretation should it bear? it is
The very policy of orient monarchs—
Pardon and poison — favours and a sword—
A distant voyage, and an eternal sleep.
How many satraps in his father's time —
For he I own is, or at least was, bloodless —

Bel. But will not, can not be so now.

How many satraps have I seen set out
In his sire's day for mighty vice-royalties,
Whose tombs are on their path ! I know not how,
But they all sicken'd by the way, it was
So long and heavy.

Bel. Let us but regain
The free air of the city, and we'll shorten
The journey.

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
Within the palace or the city walls,
Where we are known, and may have partisans.
If they had meant to slay us here, we were
No longer with the living. Let us hence.
Arb. If I but thought he did not mean my life
Bel. Fool : hence—what else should despotism
Mean 2 Let us but rejoin our troops, and march.
Arb. Towards our provinces 7
Bel. No ; towards your kingdom.
There 's time, there 's heart, and hope, and power,
and means,
Which their half measures leave us in full scope. —-
Away !
Arb. And I even yet repenting must
Relapse to guilt :
Bel. Self-defence is a virtue,
Sole bulwark of all right. Away, I say !

* [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,
And the walls have a scent of night-shade—hence:
Let us not leave thern time for further council.
Our quick departure proves our civic zeal;
Our quick departure hinders our good escort,
The worthy Pania, from anticipating
The orders of some parasangs from hence:
Nay, there's no other choice, but — hence, I say.
[Erit with ARRAces, who follows reluctantly."


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

Dispense with me — I am no wassailer:
Command me in all service save the Bacchant's.

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.

But sure.


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.

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Myr. In my own country we respect their voices As auguries of Jove. ”

Sar. Jovel — ay, your Baal –
Ours also has a property in thunder,
And ever and anon some falling bolt
Proves his divinity, - and yet sometimes
Strikes his own altars.

Myr. That were a dread omen.

Sar. Yes — for the priests. Well, we will not go


Beyond the palace walls to-night, but make
Our feast within.

Hath heard the prayer thou wouldst not hear.


Are kinder to thee than thou to thyself,
And flash this storm between thee and thy foes,
To shield thee from them.

Sar. Child, if there be peril,
Methinks it is the same within these walls
As on the river's brink.

Myr. Not so; these walls
Are high, and strong, and guarded. Treason has
To penetrate through many a winding way,
And massy portal; but in the pavilion
There is no bulwark.

Sur. No, nor in the palace,
Nor in the fortress, nor upon the top
Of cloud-fenced Caucasus, where the eagle sits
Nested in pathless clefts, if treachery be:
Even as the arrow finds the airy king,
The steel will reach the earthly. But be calm :
The men, or innocent or guilty, are
Banish'd, and far upon their way.

Now, Jove be praised that he The

Myr. They live, then 7
Sar. So sanguinary 2 Thou !
Myr. I would not shrink

From just infliction of due punishment
On those who seek your life : wer’t otherwise,
I should not merit mine. Besides, you heard
The princely Salemenes.

Sar. This is strange;
The gentle and the austere are both against me,
And urge me to revenge.

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.
I have observed your sex, once roused to wrath,
Are timidly vindictive to a pitch
Of perseverance, which I would not copy.
I thought you were exempt from this, as from
The childish helplessness of Asian women. 4

Myr. My lord, I am no boaster of my love,
Nor of my attributes; I have shared your splendour,
And will partake your fortunes. You may live
To find one slave more true than subject myriads:
But this the gods avert 1 I am content
To be beloved on trust for what I feel,

For you.

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