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Marcian! Look on me!
Well, I know thee not.
Yet thine is a true face, whoe'er thou art;
It hath the calm—the artless dignity
To which once more I'll bend unbonneted;
Ay, tho' my next deed be to punish crime,
Or fall by guilty hands—let Virtue take
My latest homage in so fair a shape!
Thou ravest, Marcian ; answer me-one word -
The blood thou seek'st to shed-Say 'tis not kindred !
Great Nature, no ! look I so black with vice?
No, tho' disowned by all, save one, my last-
Last prayer shall bless them!
Then Heaven bless thee too!
MARCIAN. But say, what maid so noble yet remains To bless the fallen, degraded Marcian?
CALANTHE. Listen! there was—but many a year ago And many a league from hence-a cot embowered, Where dwelt a soldier 'midst his family. Their fortune kept not pace with their high birth. He taught them to fear God, succour the stranger, And love the name of one great race. The first Who bore that name unto those Sylvan echoes, Was then a gallant gentleman, a scholar, Who talked the winter nights through of his kindred.
CALANTHE. No, Marcian, with him came
Ah tell me not! look up! I will not think
On her now—but on thee. Soft! Twilight eyes
And hair like ripened corn? She was a child
Angelo's frown is on this pallid brow.
Yet-yet I hear the green leaves of that grove
Rustle above us still. That happy home,
That mental-hospitable--Oh Calanthe!
Who wert my little sister ! dost remember
The dark bright girl whom Marcian called his bride?
She's flown, she's false, and I came forth to die
Upon my rival's steel, or pierce his heart.
Marcian! for charity's sweet sake-
Again 'tis Angelo's; but pleads in vain.
I must not hear thee speak thus. Promise me
Thou wilt not dare attack thy rival's life.
Leave him to heavenly justice; and remember
It was not even in the tented field
Thine ancestry won fame; their peaceful glories
Shall live when heroes are forgotten. Then
Let not one of ye risk a life so rashly,
In private brawl, nor be a murderer!
As thou wouldst meet thy cousin's soul in bliss,
Nor wound it deeper here, than thou hast done,
Correct thyself alone. Bethink thee-when
I stood, a child, beside thy giant form,
And cried “ Do as Calanthe bids !" did Marcian
E'er disobey her then ?-(Kneels.)
Witch! No, thou Angel !-(Raising her.)
I will avoid my wronger. Yes, I swear
I'll sacrifice e'en just revenge to thee.
For, altered as I am, thou still canst own me.
Can I forget-abandon any one
Of the de Medicii ?
I can bear that
From thee, and now; yet such words were my ruin.
Thou dost not ask to what pretext I clung.
Hear the most mean, unnatural excuse,
That ever urged false pride to wreck itself,
That it might be revenged on excellence.
From childhood I remember my best praise
Was for the chance of springing from such race.
For their sakes only was I tolerated,
For their sakes was expected to be great.
Yet, maids would add, in cold and cruel sport,
“ He looks not like them, wherefore then insist
On his attempting to mate Angelo,
The high, refined, and sensitive Angelo,
So gently virtuous, and so wisely brave ?"
And didst thou hate, or envy one, who strove
To serve, to save, to render thee his equal ?
I knew I might be richer, happier,
By emulating him; but no ! I felt
A bad malicious vanity, and strove
More to deform my homeliness of face.
I chose a rude, coarse bearing, branded his
As deep hypocrisy. I gamed with wretches,
Lost ’mongst them nearly all his gifts to me,
Trampled my household Gods, made e'en my bride
The flaunting hostess of these slaves ! the curse
Rebounds upon me now. I've set them on
To call me their sworn brother, in his hearing,
And boast how deep I drank, to mortify
One whose kind arms would open to me yet,
One who would plead for the poor prodigal,
And quite forget my sins in my return.
CALANTHE. Yet Angelo, himself, I learn, hath strayed And, by excess, already much incensed
MARCIAN. Stay! now it all comes back, a light breaks on me. Surely they sometime told me ye did love; And next that Angelo pined ’neath thy scorn. Canst thou disdain him, and yet pity me?
They erred; we never--no-he loves me not.
That thou didst honour to his qualities,
Ere thou hadst seen him, I may
well attest. I have lost sight of ye, in scenes of riot, Yet thou wert formed to please, and love such man.
No! when my fond ambition for your house
Turns selfishness, and drags one scion down
To share my poor estate ; may he despise me!
'Twas not for my sake he displeased his sire.
A rumour reached me that my noble uncle,
Having discovered that his only son
Stood deeply pledged to usurers, for gold
Whose uses were unknown, rebuked him sternly.
I sought the truth, and learnt some friend had cancelled
The bond which stood 'twixt sire and son, a cause
Of enmity, and they are reconciled.
My uncle knows for whom his son
Thus stooped to deal with knaves, being forbidden
To name me in his presence. Aye, Calanthe,
A prison gaped for me-
It was! that truth
I did extort, and winged it to his father.
But they knew not, what I now read, Calanthe,
On the flushed cheek, that thou-
Do not betray me! (MARCIAN takes out his Tablets.)
Nor deem that, though a parent's grief might sway-
He heeds me not ! What writ'st thou ?
But the vow
I made thee, lest I should forget it, sweet !
Why now thou look'st like Angelo; hope still!
Resolve on bettered life; thou art young yet;
I have a kinsman who will shelter thee;
I'll kneel for thee to the de Medicii ;
I will woo Angelo, to give thee back
His friendship. Peace and all good gifts go with it!
Thou shalt be blest, e'en now, 'tis not too late.
"Twill be my glory to restore thee, Marcian,
To all that thou hast lost. Yonder's my home
Wilt thou go with me?
I will come anon,
Thou merciful and fearless innocent!
Should the world blame thee
Sir, my world is Conscience !
Bless thee! Oh! if the blessings of a wretch
Not all depraved, not dead to gratitude-
Of one who never thought to weep again,
Much less to smile- I cannot speak, Calanthe,-
But, by these tears, I will-I must deserve this.-(Rushes out.)
FABIAN (Coming forward).
Who was that, Lady? I know a gallant
Who would lay down his life for such soft tones.
Thou didst not hear us? daredst not even watch
No word reached me; and for his looks
I feared too much to gaze on them, believe me.
(A Cry without.) Murder ! arrest the villain ! help—here! help!
They have met, and he has broken faith with me.
They bear a body this way. Let us fly!
CALANTHE (Looking out). No, no ! 'tis he! he's slain ! Alas that blood !
CITIZENS bear in MARCIAN, wounded.
Oh my dear friend ! speak to me!
Can such a noble lady call him friend?
Hush! he's not dead; he'll tell me-presently-
(Kneels beside him and examines his wound.) A death blow !-Here, some trusty hand hold these ! I will reclaim them.-(Gives tablets and jewel to a Citizen.)