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Act II


ACT II. SCENE I.

_Enter_ MELANTHA _and_ PHILOTIS.

_Phil._ Count Rhodophil's a fine gentleman indeed, madam; and, I
think, deserves your affection.

_Mel._ Let me die but he's a fine man; he sings and dances _en
François_, and writes the _billets doux_ to a miracle.

_Phil._ And those are no small talents, to a lady that understands,
and values the French air, as your ladyship does.

_Mel._ How charming is the French air! and what an _etourdi bête_ is
one of our untravelled islanders! When he would make his court to me,
let me die but he is just Æsop's ass, that would imitate the courtly
French in his addresses; but, instead of those, comes pawing upon me,
and doing all things so _mal a droitly_.

_Phil._ 'Tis great pity Rhodophil's a married man, that you may not
have an honourable intrigue with him.

_Mel._ Intrigue, Philotis! that's an old phrase; I have laid that word
by; amour sounds better. But thou art heir to all my cast words, as
thou art to my old wardrobe. Oh, count Rhodophil! Ah _mon cher_! I
could live and die with him.

_Enter_ PALAMEDE, _and a Servant._

_Serv._ Sir, this is my lady.

_Pala._ Then this is she that is to be divine, and nymph, and goddess,
and with whom I am to be desperately in love.
[_Bows to her, delivering a letter._
This letter, madam, which I present you from your father, has given me
both the happy opportunity, and the boldness, to kiss the fairest
hands in Sicily.

_Mel._ Came you lately from Palermo, sir?

_Pala._ But yesterday, madam.

_Mel._ [Reading the letter.] _Daughter, receive the bearer of this
letter, as a gentleman whom I have chosen to make you happy._ [O
Venus, a new servant sent me! and let me die but he has the air of a
_gallant homme_!] _His father is the rich lord Cleodemus, our
neighbour: I suppose you'll find nothing disagreeable in his person or
his converse; both which he has improved by travel. The treaty is
already concluded, and I shall be in town within these three days; so
that you have nothing to do but to obey your careful father._

[_To_ PALA.] Sir, my father, for whom I have a blind obedience, has
commanded me to receive your passionate addresses; but you must also
give me leave to avow, that I cannot merit them from so accomplished a
cavalier.

_Pala._ I want many things, madam, to render me accomplished; and the
first and greatest of them is your favour.

_Mel._ Let me die, Philotis, but this is extremely French; but yet
Count Rhodophil--a gentleman, sir, that understands the _grand monde_
so well, who has haunted the best conversations, and who, in short,
has voyaged, may pretend to the good graces of a lady.

_Pala._ [_Aside._] Hey-day! _Grand monde! Conversation! voyaged!_ and
_good graces!_ I find my mistress is one of those that run mad in new
French words.

_Mel._ I suppose, sir, you have made the tour of France; and, having
seen all that's fine there, will make a considerable reformation in
the rudeness of our court: For let me die, but an unfashioned,
untravelled, mere Sicilian, is a _bête_; and has nothing in the world
of an _honnête homme_.

_Pala._ I must confess, madam, that--

_Mel._ And what new minuets have you brought over with you? their
minuets are to a miracle! and our Sicilian jiggs are so dull and sad
to them!

_Pala._ For minuets, madam--

_Mel._ And what new plays are there in vogue? And who danced best in
the last grand ballet? Come, sweet servant, you shall tell me all.

_Pala._ [_aside._] Tell her all? Why, she asks all, and will hear
nothing.--To answer in order, madam, to your demands--

_Mel._ I am thinking what a happy couple we shall be! For you shall
keep up your correspondence abroad, and every thing that's new writ,
in France, and fine, I mean all that's delicate, and _bien tourné_, we
will have first.

_Pala._ But, madam, our fortune--

_Mel._ I understand you, sir; you'll leave that to me: For the
_menage_ of a family, I know it better than any lady in Sicily.

_Pala._ Alas, madam, we--

_Mel._ Then, we will never make visits together, nor see a play, but
always apart; you shall be every day at the king's levee, and I at the
queen's; and we will never meet, but in the drawing-room.

_Phil._ Madam, the new prince is just passed by the end of the walk.

_Mel._ The new prince, sayest thou? Adieu, dear servant; I have not
made my court to him these two long hours. O, it is the sweetest
prince! so _obligeant_, _charmant_, _ravissant_, that--Well, I'll make
haste to kiss his hands, and then make half a score visits more, and
be with you again in a twinkling. [_Exit running, with_ PHIL.

_Pala._ [_solus._] Now heaven, of thy mercy, bless me from this
tongue! it may keep the field against a whole army of lawyers, and
that in their own language, French gibberish. It is true, in the
day-time, it is tolerable, when a man has field room to run from it;
but to be shut up in a bed with her, like two cocks in a pit, humanity
cannot support it. I must kiss all night in my own defence, and hold
her down, like a boy at cuffs, and give her the rising blow every time
she begins to speak.

_Enter_ RHODOPHIL.

But here comes Rhodophil. It is pretty odd that my mistress should so
much resemble his: The same newsmonger, the same passionate lover of a
court, the same--But, Basta, since I must marry her. I'll say nothing,
because he shall not laugh at my misfortune.

_Rho._ Well, Palamede, how go the affairs of love? You have seen your
mistress?

_Pala._ I have so.

_Rho._ And how, and how? has the old Cupid, your father, chosen well
for you? is he a good woodman?

_Pala._ She's much handsomer than I could have imagined: In short, I
love her, and will marry her.

_Rho._ Then you are quite off from your other mistress?

_Pala._ You are mistaken; I intend to love them both, as a reasonable
man ought to do: For, since all women have their faults and
imperfections, it is fit that one of them should help out the other.

_Rho._ This were a blessed doctrine, indeed, if our wives would hear
it; but they are their own enemies: If they would suffer us but now
and then to make excursions, the benefit of our variety would be
theirs; instead of one continued, lazy, tired love, they would, in
their turns, have twenty vigorous, fresh, and active lovers.

_Pala._ And I would ask any of them, whether a poor narrow brook, half
dry the best part of the year, and running ever one way, be to be
compared to a lusty stream, that has ebbs and flows?

_Rho._ Ay, or is half so profitable for navigation?

_Enter_ DORALICE, _walking by, and reading._

_Pala._ Ods my life, Rhodophil, will you keep my counsel?

_Rho._ Yes: Where's the secret?

_Pala._ There it is: [_Shewing_ DOR.] I may tell you, as my friend,
_sub sigillo_, &c. this is that very lady, with whom I am in love.

_Rho._ By all that's virtuous, my wife! [_Aside._

_Pala._ You look strangely: How do you like her? Is she not very
handsome?

_Rho._ Sure he abuses me. [_Aside._]--Why the devil do you ask my
judgment?

_Pala._ You are so dogged now, you think no man's mistress handsome
but your own. Come, you shall hear her talk too; she has wit, I assure
you.

_Rho._ This is too much, Palamede. [_Going back._

_Pala._ Pr'ythee do not hang back so: Of an old tried lover, thou art
the most bashful fellow! [_Pulling him forward._

_Dor._ Were you so near, and would not speak, dear husband?
[_Looking up._

_Pala._ Husband, quoth a! I have cut out a fine piece of work for
myself. [_Aside._

_Rho._ Pray, spouse, how long have you been acquainted with this
gentleman?

_Dor._ Who? I acquainted with this stranger? To my best knowledge, I
never saw him before.

_Enter_ MELANTHA _at the other end._

_Pala._ Thanks, fortune, thou hast helped me. [_Aside._

_Rho._ Palamede, this must not pass so. I must know your mistress a
little better.

_Pala._ It shall be your own fault else. Come, I'll introduce you.

_Rho._ Introduce me! where?

_Pala._ There. To my mistress.
[_Pointing to_ MELANTHA, _who swiftly passes
over the stage._

_Rho._ Who? Melantha! O heavens, I did not see her.

_Pala._ But I did: I am an eagle where I love; I have seen her this
half hour.

_Dor._ [_Aside._] I find he has wit, he has got off so readily; but it
would anger me, if he should love Melantha.

_Rho._ [_Aside._] Now, I could even wish it were my wife he loved; I
find he's to be married to my mistress.

_Pala._ Shall I run after, and fetch her back again, to present you to
her?

_Rho._ No, you need not; I have the honour to have some small
acquaintance with her.

_Pala._ [_Aside._] O Jupiter! what a blockhead was I, not to find it
out! my wife, that must be, is his mistress. I did a little suspect it
before. Well, I must marry her, because she's handsome, and because I
hate to be disinherited by a younger brother, which I am sure I shall
be, if I disobey; and yet I must keep in with Rhodophil, because I
love his wife.--[_To_ RHO.] I must desire you to make my excuse to
your lady, if I have been so unfortunate to cause any mistake; and,
withal, to beg the honour of being known to her.

_Rho._ O, that is but reason.--Hark you, spouse, pray look upon this
gentleman as my friend; whom, to my knowledge, you have never seen
before this hour.

_Dor._ I am so obedient a wife, sir, that my husband's commands shall
ever be a law to me.

_Enter_ MELANTHA _again, hastily, and runs to embrace_ DORALICE.

_Mel._ O, my dear, I was just going to pay my devoirs to you; I had
not time this morning, for making my court to the king, and our new
prince. Well, never nation was so happy, and all that, in a young
prince; and he is the kindest person in the world to me, let me die if
he is not.

_Dor._ He has been bred up far from court, and therefore--

_Mel._ That imports not: Though he has not seen the _grand monde_, and
all that, let me die but he has the air of the court most absolutely.

_Pala._ But yet, madam, he--

_Mel._ O, servant, you can testify that I am in his good graces. Well,
I cannot stay long with you, because I have promised him this
afternoon to--But hark you, my dear, I'll tell you a secret.
[_Whispers to_ DOR.

_Rho._ The devil's in me, that I must love this woman. [_Aside._

_Pala._ The devil's in me, that I must marry this woman. [_Aside._

_Mel._ [_Raising her voice._] So the prince and I--But you must make a
secret of this, my dear; for I would not for the world your husband
should hear it, or my tyrant, there, that must be.

_Pala._ Well, fair impertinent, your whisper is not lost, we hear you.
[_Aside._

_Dor._ I understand then, that--

_Mel._ I'll tell you, my dear, the prince took me by the hand, and
pressed it _a la derobbée_, because the king was near, made the _doux
yeux_ to me, and, _ensuite_, said a thousand gallantries, or let me
die, my dear.

_Dor._ Then I am sure you--

_Mel._ You are mistaken, my dear.

_Dor._ What, before I speak?

_Mel._ But I know your meaning. You think, my dear, that I assumed
something of _fierté_ into my countenance, to _rebute_, him; but,
quite contrary, I regarded him,--I know not how to express it in our
dull Sicilian language,--_d'un air enjoüé_; and said nothing but _ad
autre, ad autre,_ and that it was all _grimace_, and would not pass
upon me.

_Enter_ ARTEMIS: MELANTHA _sees her, and runs away from_ DORALICE.

[_To_ ARTEMIS.] My dear, I must beg your pardon, I was just making a
loose from Doralice, to pay my respects to you. Let me die, if I ever
pass time so agreeably as in your company, and if I would leave it for
any lady's in Sicily.

_Arte._ The princess Amalthea is coming this way.

_Enter_ AMALTHEA: MELANTHA _runs to her._

_Mel._ O, dear madam! I have been at your lodging in my new _galeche_,
so often, to tell you of a new amour, betwixt two persons whom you
would little suspect for it, that, let me die if one of my
coach-horses be not dead, and another quite tired, and sunk under the
fatigue.

_Amal._ O, Melantha, I can tell you news; the prince is coming this
way.

_Mel._ The prince? O sweet prince! He and I are to--and I forgot it.--
Your pardon, sweet madam, for my abruptness.--Adieu, my dear
servant,--Rhodophil.--Servant, servant, servant all. [_Exit running._

_Amal._ Rhodophil, a word with you. [_Whispers._

_Dor._ [_To PALA._] Why do you not follow your mistress, sir?

_Pala._ Follow her? Why, at this rate she'll be at the Indies within
this half hour.

_Dor._ However, if you cannot follow her all day, you will meet her at
night, I hope?

_Pala._ But can you, in charity, suffer me to be so mortified, without
affording me some relief? If it be but to punish that sign of a
husband there, that lazy matrimony, that dull insipid taste, who
leaves such delicious fare at home, to dine abroad on worse meat, and
pay dear for it into the bargain.

_Dor._ All this is in vain: Assure yourself, I will never admit of any
visit from you in private.

_Pala._ That is to tell me, in other words, my condition is desperate.

_Dor._ I think you in so ill a condition, that I am resolved to pray
for you, this very evening, in the close walk behind the terrace; for
that's a private place, and there I am sure nobody will disturb my
devotions. And so, good-night, sir. [_Exit._

_Pala._ This is the newest way of making an appointment I ever heard
of. Let women alone to contrive the means; I find we are but dunces to
them. Well, I will not be so prophane a wretch as to interrupt her
devotions; but, to make them more effectual, I'll down upon my knees,
and endeavour to join my own with them. [_Exit._

_Amal._ [_To_ RHO.] I know already they do not love each other; and
that my brother acts but a forced obedience to the king's commands; so
that if a quarrel should arise betwixt the prince and him, I were most
miserable on both sides.

_Rho._ There shall be nothing wanting in me, madam, to prevent so sad
a consequence.

_Enter the King and_ LEONIDAS; _the King whispers_ AMALTHEA.

[_To himself._] I begin to hate this Palamede, because he is to marry
my mistress: Yet break with him I dare not, for fear of being quite
excluded from her company. It is a hard case, when a man must go by
his rival to his mistress: But it is, at worst, but using him like a
pair of heavy boots in a dirty journey; after I have fouled him all
day, I'll throw him off at night. [_Exit._

_Amal._ [_To the King._] This honour is too great for me to hope.

_Poly._ You shall this hour have the assurance of it.--
Leonidas, come hither; you have heard,
I doubt not, that the father of this princess
Was my most faithful friend, while I was yet
A private man; and when I did assume
This crown, he served me in the high attempt.
You see, then, to what gratitude obliges me;
Make your addresses to her.

_Leon._ Sir, I am yet too young to be a courtier;
I should too much betray my ignorance,
And want of breeding to so fair a lady.

_Amal._ Your language speaks you not bred up in desarts,
But in the softness of some Asian court,
Where luxury and ease invent kind words,
To cozen tender virgins of their hearts.

_Poly._ You need not doubt,
But in what words soe'er a prince can offer
His crown and person, they will be received.
You know my pleasure, and you know your duty.

_Leon._ Yes, sir, I shall obey, in what I can.

_Poly._ In what you can, Leonidas? Consider,
He's both your king, and father, who commands you.
Besides, what is there hard in my injunction?

_Leon._ 'Tis hard to have my inclination forced.
I would not marry, sir; and, when I do,
I hope you'll give me freedom in my choice.

_Poly._ View well this lady,
Whose mind as much transcends her beauteous face,
As that excels all others.

_Amal._ My beauty, as it ne'er could merit love,
So neither can it beg: And, sir, you may
Believe, that what the king has offered you,
I should refuse, did I not value more
Your person than your crown.

_Leon._ Think it not pride,
Or my new fortunes swell me to contemn you;
Think less, that I want eyes to see your beauty;
And, least of all, think duty wanting in me
To obey a father's will: But--

_Poly._ But what, Leonidas?
For I must know your reason; and be sure
It be convincing too.

_Leon._ Sir, ask the stars,
Which have imposed love on us, like a fate,
Why minds are bent to one, and fly another?
Ask, why all beauties cannot move all hearts?
For though there may
Be made a rule for colour, or for feature,
There can be none for liking.

_Poly._ Leonidas, you owe me more
Than to oppose your liking to my pleasure.

_Leon._ I owe you all things, sir; but something, too,
I owe myself.

_Poly._ You shall dispute no more; I am a king,
And I will be obeyed.

_Leon._ You are a king, sir, but you are no god;
Or, if you were, you could not force my will.

_Poly._ [_Aside._] But you are just, ye gods; O you are just,
In punishing the crimes of my rebellion
With a rebellious son!
Yet I can punish him, as you do me.--
Leonidas, there is no jesting with
My will: I ne'er had done so much to gain
A crown, but to be absolute in all things.

_Amal._ O, sir, be not so much a king, as to
Forget you are a father: Soft indulgence
Becomes that name. Tho' nature gives you power
To bind his duty, 'tis with silken bonds:
Command him, then, as you command yourself;
He is as much a part of you, as are
Your appetite and will, and those you force not,
But gently bend, and make them pliant to your reason.

_Poly._ It may be I have used too rough a way.--
Forgive me, my Leonidas; I know
I lie as open to the gusts of passion,
As the bare shore to every, beating surge:
I will not force thee now; but I entreat thee,
Absolve a father's vow to this fair virgin;
A vow, which hopes of having such a son
First caused.

_Leon._ Show not my disobedience by your prayers;
For I must still deny you, though I now
Appear more guilty to myself than you:
I have some reasons, which I cannot utter,
That force my disobedience; yet I mourn
To death, that the first thing, you e'er enjoined me,
Should be that only one command in nature,
Which I could not obey.

_Poly._ I did descend too much below myself,
When I entreated him.--Hence, to thy desart!
Thou'rt not my son, or art not fit to be.

_Amal._ Great sir, I humbly beg you, make not me [_Kneeling._
The cause of your displeasure. I absolve
Your vow; far from me be such designs;
So wretched a desire of being great,
By making him unhappy. You may see
Something so noble in the prince's nature,
As grieves him more, not to obey, than you,
That you are not obeyed.

_Poly._ Then, for your sake,
I'll give him one day longer to consider,
Not to deny; for my resolves are firm
As fate, that cannot change. [_Exeunt King and_ AMAL.

_Leon._ And so are mine.
This beauteous princess, charming as she is,
Could never make me happy: I must first
Be false to my Palmyra, and then wretched.
But, then, a father's anger!
Suppose he should recede from his own vow,
He never would permit me to keep mine.

_Enter_ PALMYRA; ARGALEON _following her, a little after._

See, she appears!
I'll think no more of any thing, but her.
Yet I have one good hour ere I am wretched.
But, oh! Argaleon follows her! so night
Treads on the footsteps of a winter's sun,
And stalks all black behind him.

_Palm._ O, Leonidas,
For I must call you still by that dear name,
Free me from this bad man.

_Leon._ I hope he dares not be injurious to you.

_Arga._ I rather was injurious to myself,
Than her.

_Leon._ That must be judged, when I hear what you said.

_Arga._ I think you need not give yourself that trouble:
It concerned us alone.

_Leon._ You answer saucily, and indirectly:
What interest can you pretend in her?

_Arga._ It may be, sir, I made her some expressions
Which I would not repeat, because they were
Below my rank, to one of hers.

_Leon._ What did he say, Palmyra?

_Palm._ I'll tell you all: First, he began to look,
And then he sighed, and then he looked again;
At last, he said, my eyes wounded his heart:
And, after that, he talked of flames and fires,
And such strange words, that I believed he conjured.

_Leon._ O my heart!--Leave me, Argaleon.

_Arga._ Come, sweet Palmyra,
I will instruct you better in my meaning:
You see he would be private.

_Leon._ Go yourself,
And leave her here.

_Arga._ Alas, she's ignorant,
And is not fit to entertain a prince.

_Leon._ First learn what's fit for you; that's to obey.

_Arga._ I know my duty is to wait on you.
A great king's son, like you, ought to forget
Such mean converse.

_Leon._ What? a disputing subject?
Hence, or my sword shall do me justice on thee.

_Arga._ Yet I may find a time-- [_Going._

_Leon._ What's that you mutter, [_Going after him._
To find a time?--

_Arga._ To wait on you again--
In the mean while I'll watch you. [_Softly._
[_Exit, and watches during the scene._

_Leon._ How precious are the hours of love in courts!
In cottages, where love has all the day,
Full, and at ease, he throws it half away.
Time gives himself, and is not valued, there;
But sells at mighty rates, each minute, here:
There, he is lazy, unemployed, and slow;
Here, he's more swift; and yet has more to do.
So many of his hours in public move,
That few are left for privacy and love.

_Palm._ The sun, methinks, shines faint and dimly, here;
Light is not half so long, nor half so clear:
But, oh! when every day was yours and mine,
How early up! what haste he made to shine!

_Leon._ Such golden days no prince must hope to see,
Whose every subject is more blessed than he.

_Palm._ Do you remember, when their tasks were done,
How all the youth did to our cottage run?
While winter-winds were whistling loud without,
Our cheerful hearth was circled round about:
With strokes in ashes, maids their lovers drew;
And still you fell to me, and I to you.

_Leon._ When love did of my heart possession take,
I was so young, my soul was scarce awake:
I cannot tell when first I thought you fair;
But sucked in love, insensibly as air.

_Palm._ I know too well when, first my love began,
When at our wake you for the chaplet ran:
Then I was made the lady of the May,
And, with the garland, at the goal did stay:
Still, as you ran, I kept you full in view;
I hoped, and wished, and ran, methought, for you.
As you came near, I hastily did rise,
And stretched my arm outright, that held the prize.
The custom was to kiss whom I should crown;
You kneeled, and in my lap your head laid down:
I blushed, and blushed, and did the kiss delay;
At last my subjects forced me to obey:
But, when I gave the crown, and then the kiss,
I scarce had breath to say, Take that,--and this.

_Leon._ I felt, the while, a pleasing kind of smart;
That kiss went, tingling, to my very heart.
When it was gone, the sense of it did stay;
The sweetness clinged upon my lips all day,
Like drops of honey, loth to fall away.

_Palm._ Life, like a prodigal, gave all his store
To my first youth, and now can give no more.
You are a prince; and, in that high degree,
No longer must converse with humble me.

_Leon._ 'Twas to my loss the gods that title gave;
A tyrant's son is doubly born a slave:
He gives a crown; but, to prevent my life
From being happy, loads it with a wife.

_Palm._ Speak quickly; what have you resolved to do?

_Leon._ To keep my faith inviolate to you.
He threatens me with exile, and with shame,
To lose my birthright, and a prince's name;
But there's a blessing which he did not mean,
To send me back to love and you again.

_Palm._ Why was not I a princess for your sake?
But heaven no more such miracles can make:
And, since that cannot, this must never be;
You shall not lose a crown for love of me.
Live happy, and a nobler choice pursue;
I shall complain of fate, but not of you.

_Leon._ Can you so easily without me live?
Or could you take the counsel, which you give?
Were you a princess, would you not be true?

_Palm._ I would; but cannot merit it from you.

_Leon._ Did you not merit, as you do, my heart,
Love gives esteem, and then it gives desert.
But if I basely could forget my vow,
Poor helpless innocence, what would you do?

_Palm._ In woods, and plains, where first my love began,
There would I live, retired from faithless man:
I'd sit all day within some lonely shade,
Or that close arbour which your hands have made:
I'd search the groves, and every tree, to find
Where you had carved our names upon the rind:
Your hook, your scrip, all that was yours, I'd keep,
And lay them by me when I went to sleep.
Thus would I live: And maidens, when I die,
Upon my hearse white true-love-knots should tie;
And thus my tomb should be inscribed above,
_Here the forsaken Virgin rests from love._

_Leon._ Think not that time or fate shall e'er divide
Those hearts, which love and mutual vows have tied.
But we must part; farewell, my love.

_Palm._ Till when?

_Leon._ Till the next age of hours we meet again.
Meantime, we may,
When near each other we in public stand,
Contrive to catch a look, or steal a hand:
Fancy will every touch and glance improve;
And draw the most spirituous parts of love.
Our souls sit close, and silently within,
And their own web from their own entrails spin;
And when eyes meet far off, our sense is such,
That, spider-like, we feel the tenderest touch. [_Exeunt._

John Dryden

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