The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron

By George Gordon Byron | Go to book overview

SARDANAPALUS
A TRAGEDY
TO
THE ILLUSTRIOUS GOETHEA STRANGER
PRESUMES TO OFFER THE HOMAGE
OF A LITERARY VASSAL TO HIS LIEGE LORD,
THE FIRST OF EXISTING WRITERS,
WHO HAS CREATED
THE LITERATURE OF HIS OWN COUNTRY,
AND ILLUSTRATED THAT OF EUROPE.
THE UNWORTHY PRODUCTION
WHICH THE AUTHOR VENTURES TO INSCRIBE TO
HIM
IS ENTITLED
SARDANAPALUS.
PREFACE
In publishing the following Tragediesl1 I have only to repeat, that they were not composed with the most remote view to the stage. On the attempt made by the Managers in a former instance, the public opinion has been already expressed. With regard to my own private feelings, as it seems that they are to stand for nothing, I shall say nothing. For the historical foundation of the following compositions the reader is referred to the Notes. The Author has in one instance attempted to preserve, and in the other to approach, the 'unities;' conceiving that with any very distant departure from them, there may be poetry, but can be no drama. He is aware of the unpopularity of this notion in present English literature; but it is not a system of his own, being merely an opinion, which, not very long ago, was the law of literature throughout the world, and is still so in the more civilised part of it. But 'nous avons changd tout cela,' and are reaping the advantages of the change. The writer is far from conceiving that any thing he can adduce by personal precept or example can at all approach his regular, or even irregular predecessors; he is merely giving a reason why he preferred the more regular formation of a structure, however feeble, to an entire abandonment of all rules whatsoever. Where he has failed, the failure is in the architect, -- and not in the art.1[Sardanapalus originally appeared in the same volime with The Two Foseari and Cain.]
DRAMATIS PERSONYE

MEN
SARDANAPALUS, King of Nineveh and Assyria, etc.
ARBACES, the Mede who aspired to the Throne.
BELESES, a Chaldean and Soothsayer.
SALZMENES, the King's Brother-in-law.
ALTADA, an Assyrian Officer of the Palace.
PANIA.
ZAKES.
SFERO.
BALEA.

WOMEN

ZARINA, the Queen. MYRRHA, an Ionian female Slave, and the Favourite of SARDANAPALUS.

Women composing the Harem of SARDANAPALUS, Guards, Attendants, Chaldean Priests, Medes, etc., etc.

Scene -- a Hall in the Royal Palace of Nineveh.

In this tragedy it has been my intention to follow the account of Diodorus Siculus; reducing it, however, to such dramatic regularity as I best could, and trying to approach the unities. I therefore suppose the rebellion to explode and succeed in one day by a sudden conspiracy, instead of the long war of the history.


ACT I

SCENE I

A Hall in the Palace.

Salemenes (solus). He hath wrong'd his queen, but still he is her lord;
He hath wrongd my sister, still he is my brother;
He hath wrong'd his people, still he is their sovereign,
And I must be his friend as well as subject: He must not perish thus. I will not see The blood of Nimrod and Semiramis
Sink in the earth, and thirteen hundred years Of empire ending like a shepherd's tale; He must be roused. In his effeminate heart There is a careless courage which corrup-tion
Has not all quench'd, and latent energies, Repress'd by circumstance but not de-stroy'd --
Steep'd, but not drown'd, in deep voluptuousness.

If born a peasant, he had been a man To have reach'd an empire: to an empire born,
He will bequeath none; nothing but a name, Which his sons will not prize in heritage: -- Yet, not all lost, even yet he may redeem

-550-

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