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_Pub._ And is he gone?--now be thyself, my soul-- Hard is the conflict, but the triumph glorious.
Yes.--I must conquer these too tender feelings; The blood that fills these veins demands it of me; My father's great example too requires it.
Forgive me _Rome_, and _glory_, if I yielded To nature's strong attack:--I must subdue it.
Now, Regulus, I _feel_ I am thy _son_.
_Enter_ ATTILIA _and_ BARCE.
_At._ My brother, I'm distracted, wild with fear-- Tell me, O tell me, what I dread to know-- Is it then true?--I cannot speak--my father?
_Barce._ May we believe the fatal news?
_Pub._ Yes, Barce, It is determin'd. Regulus must go.
_At._ Immortal Powers!--What say'st thou?
_Barce._ Can it be?
Thou canst not mean it.
_At._ Then you've all betray'd me.
_Pub._ Thy grief avails not.
_Enter_ HAMILCAR _and_ LICINIUS.
_Barce._ Pity us, Hamilcar!
_At._ Oh, help, Licinius, help the lost Attilia!
_Ham._ My Barce! there's no hope.
_Lic._ Ah! my fair mourner, All's lost.
_At._ What all, Licinius? said'st thou all?
Not one poor glimpse of comfort left behind?
Tell me, at least, where Regulus is gone: The daughter shall partake the father's chains, And share the woes she knew not to prevent. [_Going._
_Pub._ What would thy wild despair? Attilia, stay, Thou must not follow; this excess of grief Would much offend him.
_At._ Dost thou hope to stop me?
_Pub._ I hope thou wilt resume thy better self, And recollect thy father will not bear----
_At._ I only recollect I am a _daughter_, A poor, defenceless, helpless, wretched daughter!
Away----and let me follow.
_Pub._ No, my sister.
_At._ Detain me not--Ah! while thou hold'st me here, He goes, and I shall never see him more.
_Barce._ My friend, be comforted, he cannot go Whilst here Hamilcar stays.
_At._ O Barce, Barce!
Who will advise, who comfort, who a.s.sist me?
Hamilcar, pity me.--Thou wilt not answer?
_Ham._ Rage and astonishment divide my soul.
_At._ Licinius, wilt thou not relieve my sorrows?
_Lic._ Yes, at my life's expense, my heart's best treasure, Wouldst thou instruct me how.
_At._ My brother, too---- Ah! look with mercy on thy sister's woes!
_Pub._ I will at least instruct thee how to _bear_ them.
My sister--yield thee to thy adverse fate; Think of thy father, think of Regulus; Has he not taught thee how to brave misfortune?
'Tis but by following his ill.u.s.trious steps Thou e'er canst merit to be call'd his daughter.
_At._ And is it thus thou dost advise thy sister?
Are these, ye G.o.ds, the feelings of a son?
Indifference here becomes impiety-- Thy savage heart ne'er felt the dear delights Of filial tenderness--the thousand joys That flow from blessing and from being bless'd!
No--didst thou love thy father as _I_ love him, Our kindred souls would be in unison; And all my sighs be echoed back by thine.
Thou wouldst--alas!--I know not what I say.-- Forgive me, Publius,--but indeed, my brother, I do not understand this cruel coldness.
_Ham._ Thou may'st not--but I understand it well.
His mighty soul, full as to thee it seems Of Rome, and glory--is enamour'd--caught-- Enraptur'd with the beauties of fair Barce.-- _She_ stays behind if Regulus _departs_.
Behold the cause of all the well-feign'd virtue Of this mock patriot--curst dissimulation!
_Pub._ And canst thou entertain such vile suspicions?
G.o.ds! what an outrage to a son like me!
_Ham._ Yes, Roman! now I see thee as thou art, Thy naked soul divested of its veil, Its specious colouring, its dissembled virtues: Thou hast plotted with the Senate to prevent Th' exchange of captives. All thy subtle arts, Thy smooth inventions, have been set to work-- The base refinements of your _polish'd_ land.
_Pub._ In truth the doubt is worthy of an African.
_Ham._ I know.----
_Pub._ Peace, Carthaginian, peace, and hear me, Dost thou not know, that on the very man Thou hast insulted, Barce's fate depends?
_Ham._ Too well I know, the cruel chance of war Gave her, a blooming captive, to thy mother; Who, dying, left the beauteous prize to thee.
_Pub._ Now, see the use a _Roman_ makes of power.
Heav'n is my witness how I lov'd the maid!
Oh, she was dearer to my soul than light!
Dear as the vital stream that feeds my heart!
But know my _honour_'s dearer than my love.
I do not even hope _thou_ wilt believe me; _Thy_ brutal soul, as savage as thy clime, Can never taste those elegant delights, Those pure refinements, love and glory yield.
'Tis not to thee I stoop for vindication, Alike to me thy friends.h.i.+p or thy hate; But to remove from others a pretence For branding Publius with the name of villain; That _they_ may see no sentiment but honour Informs this bosom--Barce, thou art _free_.
Thou hast my leave with him to quit this sh.o.r.e.
Now learn, barbarian, how a _Roman_ loves! [_Exit._