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Past enmities ; to strike perpetual league
With Vanoc; whom our emperor invites
To terms of friendship, strictest bonds of union.
Van. We must not hold a friendship with the Roman.
Val. Why must you not ?
Van. Virtue forbids it.
You thought our friendship was your greatest glory.
Van. I thought you honest. — I have been deceived. -
Would you deceive me twice? No, tribune; no !
You sought for war, - maintain it as you may.
Val. Believe me, prince, your vehemence of spirit, Prone ever to extremes, betrays your judgment. Would you once coolly reason on our conduct
Van. Oh I have scann'd it thoroughly- night and day
I think it over, and I think it base;
Most infamous ! let who will judge - but Romans.
Did not my wife, did not my menial servant
Seducing each the other, both conspire
Against my crown, against my fame, my life ?
Did they not levy war and wage rebellion ?
And when I would assert my right and power
As king and husband, when I would chastise
Two most abandon'd wretches — who but Romans
Opposed my justice, and maintain’d their crimes ?
Val. At first the Romans did not interpose,
But grieved to see their best allies at variance.
Indeed when you turn'd justice into rigor,
And ev’n that rigor was pursued with fury,
We undertook to mediate for the queen,
And hoped to moderate-
Van. To moderate ! -
What would you moderate ? — my indignation;
The just resentment of a virtuous mind ?
To mediate for the queen ! — You undertook ? —
Wherein concern’d it you? But as you love
To exercise your insolence! Are you
To arbitrate my wrongs ? Must I ask leave,
Must I be taught to govern my own household ?
Am I then void of reason and of justice ?
When in my family offences rise,
Shall strangers, saucy intermeddlers, say,
Thus far, and thus you are allow'd to punish ?
When I submit to such indignities;
When I am tam'd to that degree of slavery —-
Make me a citizen, a senator of Rome,
To watch, to live upon the smile of Claudius ;
To give my wife and children to his pleasures,
To sell my country with my voice for bread.
Val. Prince, you insult upon this day's success,
You may provoke too far — but I am cool —
I give your answer scope.
Van. Who shall confine it? —
The Romans ? - let them rule their slaves — I blush,
That, dazzled in my youth with ostentation,
The trappings of the men seduced my virtue.
Val. Blush rather that you are a slave to passion :
Subservient to the wildness of your will;
Which, like a whirlwind, tears up all your virtues,
And gives you not the leisure to consider.
Did not the Romans civilize you? —
Van. No. They brought new customs and new vices over,
Taught us more arts than honest men require,
And gave us wants that nature never knew.
Val. We found you naked --
Van. And you found us free. —
Val. Would you be temperate once, and hear me out —
Van. Speak things that honest men may hear with temper,
Speak the plain truth, and varnish not your crimes.
Say that you once were virtuous — long ago .
A frugal hardy people, like the Britons,
Before you grew thus elegant in vice,
And gave your luxuries the name of virtues.
The civilisers ! — the disturbers say ; —
The robbers, the corrupters of mankind, —
Proud vagabonds !— who make the world your home,
And lord it where you have no right.
What virtue have you taught?
Van. Oh patience !
· Val. Can you disown a truth confessed by all ?
A praise, a glory known in barbarous climes ?
For as our legions march they carry knowledge,
The arts, the laws, the discipline of life.
Our conquests are indulgences, and we
Not masters, but protectors of mankind.
Van. Prevaricating, false — most courteous tyrants ; —
Romans ! Rare patterns of humanity!
Came you then here, thus far through waves to conquer,
To waste, to plunder out of mere compassion ?
Is it humanity that prompts you on
To ravage the whole earth, to burn, destroy ?
To raise the cry of widows and of orphans ?
To lead in bonds the generous free-born princes,
Who spurn, who fight against your tyranny ?
Happy for us, and happy for you spoilers,
Had your humanity ne'er reach'd our world -
It is a virtue — (so it seems you call it)
A Roman virtue that has cost you dear :-
And dearer shall it cost if Vanoc lives.-
Or if we die we shall leave those behind us
Who know the worth of British liberty.
Val. I mean not to reproach your ancestors.
Untaught, uncultivated as they were,
Inhospitable, fiery and ferocious ;
Lions in spirit, cruel beyond men ;
Your altars reeking oft with human blood :
Nor will I urge you further on your merits.
I come instructed, Sir, to offer peace,
The peace that Didius offers, Valens sues for;
Propose your terms, and you will find me forward
To win the Roman general to compliance,
And to deserve once more the name of friend.
Van. Deliver up the queen, send back my daughter : This done, we may be brought to treat of peace.
Val. Therein the dignity, the faith of Claudius,
Would highly suffer.
Van. Is then the dignity,
The faith of Claudius, founded on injustice ?
Is it his glory to protect a traitress,
A base, a profligate, adulterous woman ?
Fit emperor indeed to govern Romans !
Val. Yet after this you married Cartismand !
Van. I was ambitious, – that I learn'd from you.
That I did wed with treachery, and was a friend
To Romans, is the whole reproach of Vanoc,
But they and she combined have clear'd my honor,
And when I stain it by forgiving either,
Let my own subjects brand me for a coward.
Val. Talk not of honor, prince, an empty sound,
The vaunting of a Briton in his choler!
To me at least you should have spared the boast :
You can renounce your word, we know, at pleasure,
Forget past services, worn marks of kindness;
Then quarrel with your friends to free the debt,
And sacrifice all faith to your resentments.
Van. This accusation I can hear unmoved,
It sullies not my soul, nor taints my fame.
It is a slander - I expect no better.
Val. Do I calumniate? Ungrateful Vanoc,
Perfidious prince! Is it a calumny
To say that Gwendolen, betrothed to Yvor,
Was by her father first assured to Valens ?
By solemn promises you made her mine,
And I, by faithful services, deserved her.
What have I done to merit this injustice ?
Van. My daughter! - No!-
Were it to save her life, she should not wed
Val. Then hear me, proud Cornavian ! -
Unthinking prince, I take you at your word;
Nor shall you forfeit it a second time.
She shall not wed, she shall not be a wife,
But she shall be a slave :- and to a Roman!
The wretched mother shall she be of slaves,
And live to curse her offspring and her father!
I will not ask your leave to use my captive
As I please :- she is my right; my property.
We thank you that there needs no further courtship.
I can command her, and she must comply.
Fortune is just :-- what you refuse, she gives,
And Vanoc suffers for his breach of promise.
Van. Hence, menacer ! — nor tempt me into rage.--
This roof protects thy rashness; but begone.
I cannot answer for my indignation.
If thou should'st dare to violate my child,
Or but pollute her cheek with one rude kiss
What heavy vengeance shall I not require ! -
Nor man nor woman, nor the new-born infant,
Nor anything that's Roman, will I spare ;
But in the bitterness of wrath destroy. .
And for thy lewd ill-manner'd threats, remember,
That I henceforward do abjure all peace :
Nor shall you buy my friendship with your empire.
Away!— Alan, conduct the tribune forth : -
And let him pass unquestion’d. (Exit.)
Val. The king is much incensed — alas ! he knows not How far a lover's tongue belies his heart ! Mine are fond menaces; the throes of love.