THE WORLD WELL LOST
By JOHN DRYDEN
The Temple of Isis.
Enter SERAPION, MYRIS, Priests of Isis.
SERAP. Portents and prodigies are grown so fre-
That they have lost their name. Our fruitful Nile
Flowed ere the wonted season, with a torrent
So unexpected, and so wondrous fierce,
That the wild deluge overtook the haste
Ev'n of the hinds that watched it: men and beasts 5 Were borne above the tops of trees, that grew On th' utmost margin of the water-mark.
Then, with so swift an ebb the flood drove back-ward,
It slipt from underneath the scaly herd: 10 Here monstrous phocæ1 panted on the shore;
Forsaken dolphins there, with their broad tails,
Lay lashing the departing waves: hard by 'em,
Sea-horses flound'ring in the slimy mud,
Tossed up their heads, and dashed the ooze about
Enter ALEXAS behind them.
MYR. Avert these omens, heav'n!
SERAP Last night, between the hours of twelve
In a lone aisle o' th' temple while I walked,
A whirlwind rose, that, with a violent blast,
Shook all the dome: the doors around me clapt; 20 The iron wicket, that defends the vault, Where the the long race of Ptolemies is laid,
Burst open, and disclosed the mighty dead.
From out each monument, in order placed,
An armèd ghost start2 up: the boy-king3 last 25 Reared his inglorious head. A peal of groans Then followed, and a lamentable voice
Cried, ' Egypt is no more!' My blood ran back,
My shaking knees against each other knocked;
On the cold pavement down I fell entranced, 30 And so unfinished left the horrid scene.
ALEX. (showing himself). And dreamed you this?
or did invent the story,
To frighten our Egyptian boys withal,
And train 'em up betimes in fear of priesthood?
SERAP. My lord, I saw you not, 35 Nor meant my words should reach your ears; but
I uttered was most true.
ALEX A foolish dream,
Bred from the fumes of indigested feasts,
And holy luxury.
SERAP. I know my duty:
This goes no farther.
ALEX. 'Tis not fit it should; 40 Nor would the times now bear it, were it true.
All southern, from yon hills, the Roman camp
Hangs o'er us black and threat'ning, like a storm
Just breaking on our heads.
SERAP. Our faint Egyptians pray for Antony; 45 But in their servile hearts they own Octavius.
MYR. Why then does Antony dream out his hours,
And tempts not fortune for a noble day
Which might redeem what Actium4 lost?
ALEX. He thinks 'tis past recovery.
SERAP. Yet the foe 50 Seems not to press the siege.
ALEX. Oh, there's the wonder.
Mæcenas and Agrippa, who can5 most
With Cæsar, are his foes. His wife Octavia,
Driv'n from his house, solicits her revenge;
And Dolabella, who was once his friend, 55 Upon some private grudge now seeks his ruin: Yet still war seems on either side to sleep.
SERAP. 'Tis strange that Antony, for some days
Has not beheld the face of Cleopatra;
But here, in Isis' temple, lives retired, 60 And makes his heart a prey to black despair.
ALEX. 'Tis true; and we much fear he hopes by
To cure his mind of love.
SERAP. If he be vanquished,____________________