His sloth and shame by only being that 19
Which he should be, as easily as the thing
He should not be and is. Were it less toil
To sway his nations than consume his life?
To head an army than to rule a harem?
He sweats in palling pleasures, dulls his soul,
And saps his goodly strength, in toils which yield not
Health like the chase, nor glory like the war --
He must be roused. Alas! there is no sound
(Sound of soft music heard from within.
To rouse him short of thunder. Hark! the lute,
The lyre,' the timbrel; the lascivious tinklings 29 Of lulling instruments, the softening voices
Of women, and of beings less than women,
Must chime in to the echo of his revel,
While the great king of all we know of earth
Lolls crown'd with roses, and his diadem
Lies negligently by to be caught up
By the first manly hand which dares to snatch it.
Lo, where they come! already I perceive
The reeking odours of the perfumed trains,
And see the bright gems of the glittering
At once his chorus and his council, flash 40 Along the gallery, and amidst the damsels, As femininely garb'd, and scarce less fe-male,
The grandson of Semiramis, the manqueen. --
He comes! Shall I await him? yes, and
And tell him what all good men tell each other,
Speaking of him and his. They come, the slaves,
Led by the monarch subject to his slaves.
Enter SARDANAPALUS effeminately dressed, his Head crowned with Flowers, and his Robe negligently flowing, attended by a Train of Women and young Slaves.
Sar. (speaking to some of his attendants).
Let the pavilion over the Euphrates
Be garlanded, and lit, and furnish'd forth
For an especial banquet; at the hour 50 Of midnight we will sup there: see nought wanting,
And bid the galley be prepared. There is
A cooling breeze which crisps the broad
We will embark anon. Fair nymphs, who deign
To share the soft hours of Sardanapalus, We 'll meet again in that the sweetest hour, When we shall gather like the stars above us,
And you will form a heaven as bright as theirs.
Till then, let each be mistress of her time:
And thou, my own Ionian Myrrha, choose; 60
Wilt thou along with them or me?
Myr. My lord --
Sar. My lord, my life! why answerest thou so coldly?
It is the curse of kings to be so answer'd.
Rule thy own hours, thou rulest mine -- say, wouldst thou
Accompany our guests, or charm away
The moments from me?
Myr. The king's choice is mine.
Sar. I pray thee say not so: my chiefest joy
Is to contribute to thine every wish.
I do not dare to breathe my own desire,
Lest it should clash with thine; for thou art
still 70 Too prompt to sacrifice thy thoughts others.
Myr. I would remain: I have no happi-ness
Save in beholding thine; yet --
Sar. Yet! what YET?
Thy own sweet will shall be the only bar-rier
Which ever rises betwixt thee and me.
Myr. I think the present is the wonted hour
Of council; it were better I retire.
Sal. (comes forward and says) The Ionian slave says well: let her retire.
Sar. Who answers? How now, brother?
Sal. The queen's brother,
And your most faithful vassal, royal lord.
Sar. (addressing his train). As I have
said, let all dispose their hours 81 Till midnight, when again we pray your presence. [The court retiring.
(To MYRRHA, who is going.) Myrrha! I thought thou wouldst remain.
Myr. Great king,
Thou didst not say so.
Sar. But thou lookèdst it: