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British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview

One only shadow of a hope is left me;
The noble-minded Hastings, of his goodness,
Has kindly underta'en to be my advocate,

And move my humble suit to angry Gloster. 125

ALIC. Does Hastings undertake to plead your cause?
But wherefore should he not? Hastings has eyes;
The gentle lord has a right tender heart,
Melting and easy, yielding to impression,
And catching the soft flame from each new

beauty, 130
But yours shall charm him long.

J. SH. Away, you flatterer! Nor charge his generous meaning with a weakness
Which his great soul and virtue must disdain.
Too much of love thy hapless friend has proved;

Too many giddy, foolish hours are gone, 135
And in fantastic measures danced away: May the remaining few know only friendship.
So thou, my dearest, truest, best Alicia,
Vouchsafe to lodge me in thy gentle heart
A partner there; I will give up mankind, 140
Forget the transports of encreasing passion, And all the pangs we feel for its decay.

ALIC. (embracing). Live! live and reign forever in my bosom;
Safe and unrivalled there possess thy own;

And you, ye brightest of the stars above, 145
Ye saints that once were women here below, Be witness of the truth, the holy friendship,
Which here to this my other self I vow.
If I not hold her nearer to my soul,
Than ev'ry other joy the world can give, 150
Let poverty, deformity and shame, Distraction and despair seize me on earth;
Let not my faithless ghost have peace hereafter,
Nor taste the bliss of your celestial fellowship.

J. SH. Yes, thou art true, and only thou art

true; 155
Therefore these jewels, once the lavish bounty Of royal Edward's love, I trust to thee.

(Giving a casket.)

Receive this all that I can call my own,
And let it rest unknown and safe with thee:

That if the state's injustice should oppress me, 160
Strip me of all, and turn me out a wanderer, My wretchedness may find relief from thee,
And shelter from the storm.

ALIC. My all is thine;
One common hazard shall attend us both,

And both be fortunate or both be wretched. 165
But let thy fearful, doubting heart be still; The saints and angels have thee in their charge,
And all things shall be well. Think not, the good,
The gentle deeds of mercy thou hast done
Shall die forgotten all; the poor, the pris'ner, 170
The fatherless, the friendless, and the widow, Who daily own the bounty of thy hand,
Shall cry to heav'n, and pull a blessing on thee;
Ev'n man -- the merciless insulter, man --
Man, who rejoices in our sex's weakness, 175
Shall pity thee, and with unwonted goodness, Forget thy failings and record thy praise.

J. Sh. Why should I think that man will do for me
What yet he never did for wretches like me?

Mark by what partial justice we are judged; 180
Such is the fate unhappy women find, And such the curse entailed upon our kind,
That man, the lawless libertine, may rove
Free and unquestioned through the wilds of love;
While woman, sense and nature's easy fool, 185
If poor, weak woman swerve from virtue's rule, If, strongly charmed, she leave the thorny way,
And in the softer paths of pleasure stray;
Ruin ensues, reproach and endless shame,
And one false step entirely damns her fame. 190

In vain with tears the loss she may deplore,
In vain look back to what she was before;
She sets, like stars that fall, to rise no more.

Exeunt.


ACT II

SCENE I

Scene continues.

Enter ALICIA, speaking to JANE SHOREas entering.

ALIC. No farther, gentle friend; good angels guard you,
And spread their gracious wings about your slum-bers.
-- The drowsy night grows on the world, and now
The busy craftsman and o'er-labored hind

Forget the travail of the day in sleep. 5
Care only wakes, and moping Pensiveness; With meagre, discontented looks they sit,
And watch the wasting of the midnight taper.
Such vigils must I keep; so wakes my soul,
Restless and self-tormented! O false Hastings! 10
Thou hast destroyed my peace. (Knocking without.)

What noise is that?
What visitor is this who with bold freedom
Breaks in upon the peaceful night and rest
With such a rude approach?

Enter a Servant.

SERV. One from the court;

Lord Hastings (as I think) demands my lady. 15

ALIC. Hastings! Be still my heart, and try to meet him
With his own arts -- with falsehood. -- But he comes.

-512-

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