22 June 2014

Dryden's Antony and Cleopatra


                           by John Dryden (1678)

Antony. But grieve not, while thou stayest,
My last disastrous times;
Think we have had a clear and glorious day,
And Heav'n did kindly to delay the storm,
Just till our close of ev'ning. Ten years love,
And not a moment lost, but all improv'd
To th'utmost joys, -- what ages have we liv'd?
And not to die each others; and so dying,
While hand in hand we walk in groves below,
Whole troops of lovers ghosts shall flock about us,
And all the train be ours.
Cleopatra. Your words are like the notes of dying swans,
Too sweet to last. Were there so many hours
for your unkindness, and not one for love?
Antony. No, not a minute, -- This one kiss -- more worth
Than all I leave to Caesar.
Cleopatra. O tell me so again,
And take ten thousand kisses for that word.
My lord, my lord! speak, if you yet have being;
Sign to me, if you cannot speak; or cast
One look! Do anything that shows you live.
Iras. He's gone too far to hear you;
And this you see, a lump of senseless clay,
The leavings of a soul
Charmion. Remember, madam,
He charg'd you not to grieve.
Cleopatra. And I'll obey him.
I have not lov'd a Roman, not to know
What should become his wife; his wife, my Charmion!
For 'tis to that high title I aspire;
And now I'll not die less. Let dull Octavia
Survive, to mourn him dead; My nobler fate
Shall knit our spousals with a tie too strong
For Roman laws to break.
Iras. Will you then die?
Cleopatra. Why shoul'dst thou make that question?
Iras. Caesar is merciful
Cleopatra. Let him be so
To those who want his mercy; My poor lord
Made no such cov'nant with him, to spare me
When he was dead. Yield me to Caesar's pride?
What! to be led in triumph through the streets,
A spectacle to base plebeian eyes;
While some dejected friend of Antony's,
Close in a corner, shakes his dead, and mutters
A secret curse on her who ruin'd him!
I'll none of that.
Charmion. Whatever you resolve,
I'll follow, even to death.
Iras. I only feared
For you' but more should fear to live without you.
Cleopatra. Why, now, 'tis as it shou'd be. Quick, my friends,
Dispatch; ere this, the town's in Caesar's hands:
My lord looks down concern'd, and fears my stay,
List I should be surprised;
Keep him not waiting for his love too long.
You, Charmion, bring my crown and richest jewels;
With 'em, the wreath of victory I made
(Vain augury!) for him, who now lies dead;
You, Iras, bring the cure of all our ills.
Iris. The aspicks, madam?
Cleopatra. Must I bid you twice?
[Exit Charmion and Iras]
'Tis sweet to die, when they wou'd force life on me,
To rush into the dark aboad of death,
And seize him first; if he be like my love,
He is not frightful, sure.
We're now alone, in secresie and silence'
And is not this like lovers? I may kiss
These pale, cold lips; Octavia does not see me;
And, oh! 'tis better far to have him thus,
Than see him in her arms. -- O welcome, welcome!
[Enter Charmion and Iras]
Charmion. What must be done?
Cleopatra. Short ceremony, friends;
But yet it must be decent. First, this laurel
Shall crown my hero's head; he fell not basely,
Nor left his shield behind him. -- Only though
Cou'dst triumph o'er thy self; and though alone
Wert worthy so to triumph.
Charmion. To what end
These ensigns of your pomp and royalty?
Cleopatra. Dull, that thou art! why 'tis to meet my love;
As when I saw him first, on Cydnos bank,
All sparkling, like a goddess; so adorned,
I'll find him once again; my second spousals
Shall match my first in glory. Haste, haste, both,
And dress the bride of Antony.

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