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The Inflexible Captive.
by Hannah More.
TO THE HONOURABLE MRS. BOSCAWEN.
MY DEAR MADAM,
It seems somewhat extraordinary that although with persons of great merit and delicacy no virtue stands in higher estimation than truth, yet, in such an address as the present, there would be some danger of offending them by a strict adherence to it; I mean by uttering truths so generally acknowledged, that every one, except the person addressed, would acquit the writer of flattery. And it will be a singular circ.u.mstance to see a Dedication without praise, to a lady possessed of every quality and accomplishment which can justly ent.i.tle her to it.
MY DEAR MADAM, With great respect, your most obedient, and very obliged humble servant,
Among the great names which have done honour to antiquity in general, and to the Roman Republic in particular, that of Marcus Attilius Regulus has, by the general consent of all ages, been considered as one of the most splendid, since he not only sacrificed his labours, his liberty, and his life for the good of his country, but by a greatness of soul, almost peculiar to himself, contrived to make his very misfortunes contribute to that glorious end.
After the Romans had met with various successes in the first Punic war, under the command of Regulus, victory at length declared for the opposite party, the Roman army was totally overthrown, and Regulus himself taken prisoner, by Xantippus, a Lacedaemonian General in the service of the Carthaginians: the victorious enemy exulting in so important a conquest, kept him many years in close imprisonment, and loaded him with the most cruel indignities. They thought it was now in their power to make their own terms with Rome, and determined to send Regulus thither with their amba.s.sador, to negotiate a peace, or at least an exchange of captives, thinking he would gladly persuade his countrymen to discontinue a war, which necessarily prolonged his captivity. They previously exacted from him an oath to return should his emba.s.sy prove unsuccessful; at the same time giving him to understand, that he must expect to suffer a cruel death if he failed in it; this they artfully intimated as the strongest motive for him to leave no means unattempted to accomplish their purpose.
At the unexpected arrival of this venerable hero, the Romans expressed the wildest transports of joy, and would have submitted to almost any conditions to procure his enlargement; but Regulus, so far from availing himself of his influence with the Senate to obtain any personal advantages, employed it to induce them to reject proposals so evidently tending to dishonour their country, declaring his fixed resolution to return to bondage and death, rather than violate his oath.
He at last extorted from them their consent; and departed amidst the tears of his family, the importunites of his friends, the applauses of the Senate, and the tumultuous opposition of the people; and, as a great poet of his own nation beautifully observes, "he embarked for Carthage as calm and unconcerned as if, on finis.h.i.+ng the tedious law-suits of his clients, he was retiring to Venafrian fields, or the sweet country of Tarentum."
==> This piece is, in many parts, a pretty close imitation of the _Attilio Regolo_ of Metastasio, but enlarged and extended into a tragedy of five acts. Historical truth has in general been followed, except in some less essential instances, particularly that of placing the return of Regulus to Rome posterior to the death of his wife. The writer herself never considered the plot as sufficiently bustling and dramatic for representation.
WRITTEN BY THE REV. DR. LANGHORNE.
Deep in the bosom of departed days, Where the first gems of human glory blaze; Where, crown'd with flowers, in wreaths immortal drest, The sacred shades of ancient virtue rest; With joy they search, who joy can feel, to find Some honest reason still to love mankind.
There the fair foundress of the scene to-night Explores the paths that dignify delight; The regions of the mighty dead pervades; The Sibyl she that leads us to the shades.
O may each blast of ruder breath forbear To waft her light leaves on the ruthless air, Since she, as heedless, strives not to maintain This tender offspring of her teeming brain!
For this poor birth was no provision made, A flower that sprung and languish'd in the shade.
On Avon's banks, forsaken and forlorn, This careless mother left her elder born; And though unlike what Avon hail'd of yore, Those giant sons that Shakspeare's banners bore, Yet may we yield this little offspring grace, And love the last and least of such a race.
Shall the strong scenes, where senatorial Rome, Mourn'd o'er the rigour of her patriot's doom; Where melting Nature aw'd by Virtue's eye, Hid the big drop, and held the bursting sigh; Where all that majesty of soul can give, Truth, Honour, Pity, fair Affection live; Shall scenes like these, the glory of an age, Gleam from the press, nor triumph on the stage?
Forbid it, Britons! and, as Romans brave, Like Romans boast one citizen to save.
REGULUS, _Mr. Henderson._ PUBLIUS, his Son, _Mr. Dimond._ MANLIUS, the Consul, _Mr. Blisset._ LICINIUS, a Tribune, _Mr. Brown._ HAMILCAR, the Carthaginian } _Mr. Rowbotham._ Amba.s.sador, }
ATTILIA, daughter of Regulus, _Miss Mansell._ BARCE, a Carthaginian captive, _Miss Wheeler._
Guards, Lictors, People, &c.
SCENE--_Near the Gates of Rome._
THE INFLEXIBLE CAPTIVE.
SCENE--_A Hall in the Consul's Palace._
_Enter_ LICINIUS, ATTILIA, _Lictors and People_.
_Lic._ Attilia waiting here? Is't possible?
Is this a place for Regulus's daughter?
Just G.o.ds! must that incomparable maid a.s.sociate here with Lictors and Plebeians?
_At._ Yes, on this threshold patiently I wait The Consul's coming; I would make him blush To see me here his suitor. O Licinius, This is no time for form and cold decorum; Five lagging years have crept their tedious round, And Regulus, alas! is still a slave, A wretched slave, unpitied, and forgotten; No other tribute paid his memory, Than the sad tears of his unhappy child; If _she_ be silent, who will speak for Regulus?
_Lic._ Let not her sorrows make my fair unjust.
Is there in Rome a heart so dead to virtue That does not beat in Regulus's cause?
That wearies not the G.o.ds for his return?
That does not think all subjugated Afric A slender, unimportant acquisition, If, in return for this extended empire, The freedom of thy father be the purchase?
These are the feelings of Imperial Rome; My own, it were superfluous to declare.
For if _Licinius_ were to weigh his merit, That he's _thy father_ were sufficient glory.
He was my leader, train'd me up to arms; And if I boast a spark of Roman honour, I owe it to _his_ precepts and _his_ virtues.
_At._ And yet I have not seen Licinius stir.
_Lic._ Ah! spare me thy reproaches--what, when late A private citizen, could I attempt?
'Twas not the l.u.s.t of power, or pride of rank, Which made me seek the dignity of tribune; No, my Attilia, but I fondly hop'd 'Twould strengthen and enforce the just request Which as a _private_ man I vainly urg'd; But now, the people's representative, I shall _demand_, Attilia, to be heard.