Joanna Baillie.

The martyr : a drama in three acts online

. (page 3 of 4)
Online LibraryJoanna BaillieThe martyr : a drama in three acts → online text (page 3 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Lord of life, and sing our song of hope,
That death has lost his sting, the grave his
triumph.

CORDENIUS.
O make me then the partner of your hopes !

\_Taldng the hand of SYLVIUS, and then
of several other CHRISTIANS.

Brave men ! high destined souls ! immortal

beings !

The blessed faith and sense of what we are
Comes on my heart, like streams of beamy light
Pour'd from some opening cloud. O to conceive
What lies beyond the dim, dividing veil,
Of regions bright, of blest and glorious being !

FATHER.

Ay, when it is withdrawn, we shall behold
What heart hath ne'er conceived, nor tongue
could utter.

CORDENIUS.

When but a boy, I've gazed upon the sky,
With all its sparks of light, as a grand cope
For the benighted world. But now my fancy
Will greet each twinkling star, as the bright la^mp
Of some fair angel on his guardian watch.
And think ye not, that from their lofty stations
Our future glorious home, our Father's house,
May lie within the vast and boundless ken
Of such seraphic powers ?



A DRAMA. 33

FATHER.

Thy fancy soars on wide and buoyant wings ;
Speak on, my son, I would not check thy ardour.

CORDENIUS.

This solid earth is press'd beneath our feet,
But as a step from which to take our flight ;
What boots it then, if rough or smooth it be,
Serving its end ? Come, noble Sylvius !
We've been companions in the broil of battle,
Now be we fellow-soldiers in that warfare
Which best becomes the brave.

SYLVIUS.

Cordenius Maro, we shall be companions
When this wide earth with all its fields of blood
Where war hath raged, and all its towers of

strength

Which have begirded been with iron hosts,
Are shrunk to nothing, and the flaming sun
Is in his course extinguished.

CORDENIUS.

Come, lead me, father, to the holy fount,
If I in humble penitence may be
From worldly vileness clear* d.

FATHER.

I gladly will, my son. The spirit of grace
Is dealing with thy spirit : be received,
A ransom'd penitent, to the high fellowship
Of all the good and bless' d in earth and heaven I



34 THE MARTYR :

Enter a CONVERT.

Whence comest thou, Fearon ? Why wert thou

prevented

From joining in our last respectful homage
To those, who have so nobly for the truth
Laid down their lives ?

CONVERT.

I have been watching near the grated dungeon
Where Ethocles, the Grecian, is immured. \

FATHER.

Thou say'st not so ! A heavier loss than this,
If they have seiz'd on him, the righteous cause
Could not have sufFer'd. Art thou sure of it ?
We had not heard of his return from Syria.

CONVERT.

It is too true : he landed ten days since
On the Brundusian coast, and as he enter' d
The gates of Rome, was seized and dragg'd to
prison.

FATHER.

And we in utter ignorance of this !

CONVERT.

He traveled late and unaccompanied,

So this was done at night-fall and conceal'd.

But see his writing, given me by a guard,

Who has for pity's sake betray'd his trust :

It is addressed to thee. [Giving him a paper.



A DRAMA. 35

FATHER (after reading ify

Alas, alas ! it is a brief account

Of his successful labours in the East :

For with his excellent gifts of eloquence,

Learning, and prudence, he has made more

converts

Than all our zealous brotherhood besides.
What can we do ? He will be sacrificed :
The church in him must bleed, if God so wills.
It is a dreadful blow.

CORDENIUS (to the CONVERT),
I pray thee, in what prison is he kept ?

CONVERT.
In Sylla's tower, that dwelling of despair.

CORDENIUS.

Guarded by Romans ?

CONVERT,

Yes ; and strongly guarded.

CORDENIUS,
Yet, he shall be released.

FATHER (to CORDENIUS).

Beware, my son, of rash, imprudent zeal:
The truth hath suffer' d much from this ; beware :
Risk not thyself: thy life is also precious.
D 2



36 THE MARTYR '.

CORDENIUS.

My whole of life is precious ; but this shred,
This earthly portion of it, what is that,
But as it is employ 'd in holy acts ?
Am I Christ's soldier at a poorer rate
Than I have served an earthly master ? No ;
I feel within my glowing breast a power
Which says I am commission'd for this service.
Give me thy blessing thy baptismal blessing,
And then God's spirit guide me ! Serving God,
I will not count the cost but to discharge it*

FATHER.

His will direct thee then, my gen'rous son !
His blessing be upon thee ! Lead him, Sylvius,
To the blest fount, where from his former sins
He shall by heavenly grace be purified.

\JExeunt.

SCENE II.

The Garden of Sulpicius.

Enter SULPICIUS, and PORTIA, with flowers in
her hand.

PORTIA.

Was it not well to rise with early morn
And pay my homage to sweet Flora ? Never
Were flowers by mid-day cull'd so fair, so

fragrant,
With blending streaky tints, so fresh and bright.



A DRAMA. 37

See ; twinkling dew-drops lurk in every bell,
And on the fibred leaves stray far apart,
Like little rounded gems of silver sheen,
Whilst curling tendrils grasp with vigorous hold
The stem that bears them ! All looks young and

fresh.

The very spider thro' his circled cage
Of wiry woofi amongst the buds suspended,
Scarce seems a lothly thing, but like the small
Imprisoned bird of some capricious nymph.
Is it not so, my father ?

SULPICIUS.

Yes, morn and youth and freshness sweetly join,
And are the emblems of dear changeful days.
By night those beauteous things

PORTIA.

And what of night ?

Why do you check your words ? You are not sad ?

SULPICIUS.

No, Portia ; only angry with myself
For crossing thy gay stream of youthful thoughts
With those of sullen age. Away with them !
What if those bright-leaved flowers, so soft and

silken,

Are gathered into dank and wrinkled folds
When evening chills them, or upon the earth
With broken stems and buds torn and dispers'd,
Lie prostrate, of fair form and fragrance reft
When midnight winds pass o'er them ; be it so !

D 3



38 THE MARTYR :

All things but have their term.

In truth, my child, I am glad that I indulged

thee

By coming forth at such an early hour
To pay thy worship to so sweet a goddess,
Upon her yearly feast.

PORTIA.

I thank you, father ! On her feast, 'tis said,
That she, from mortal eye concealed, vouchsafes
Her presence in such sweet and flowery spots :
And where due offerings on her shrine are laid,
Blesses all seeds and shoots,and things of promise.

SULPICIUS.

How many places in one little day
She needs must visit then !

PORTIA.

But she moves swift as thought. The hasty

zephyr,

That stirr'd each slender leafi now as we enter' d,
And made a sudden sound, by stillness folio w'd.
Might be the rustling of her passing robe.

SULP1CIUS.

A pleasing fancy, Portia, for the moment.
Yet wild as pleasing.

PORTIA.

Wherefore call it wild ?

Full many a time I've listen'd when alone



A DRAMA. 39

In such fair spots as this, and thought I heard

Sweet mingled voices uttering varied tones

Of question and reply, pass on the wind,.

And heard soft steps upon the ground \ and then

The notion of bright Venus or Diana,

Or goddess-nymphs, would come so vividly

Into my mind, that I am almost certain

Their radiant forms were near me, tho' conceaPd

By subtle drapery of the ambient air.

And oh, how I have long'd to look upon them !

An ardent strange desire, tho' mix'd with fear.

Nay, do not smile, my father : such fair sights

Were seen were often seen in ancient days ;

The poets tell us so.

But look, the Indian roses I have foster' d

Are in full bloom; and I must gather them.

\_Exit, eagerly.

SULPICIUS (alone).

Go, gentle creature, thou art careless yet :
Ah ! couldst thou so remain, and still with me
Be as in years gone by ! It may not be ;
Nor should I wish it : all things have their

season :

She may not "now remain an old man's treasure,
With all her woman's beauty grown to blossom.

Enter ORCERES.
The Parthian prince at such an early hour ?

D 4



4*0 THE MARTYR :

ORCERES.

And who considers hours, whose heart is bent
On what concerns a lover and a friend ?
Where is thy daughter ?

SULPICIUS.

Within yon flowery thicket, blythe and careless ;
For tho' she loves, 'tis with sweet, maiden fancy,
Which, not impatient, looks in cheering hope
To future years.

ORCERES.

Ay, 'tis a shelteied passion,

A cradled love, by admiration fostered :

A showy, toward nurse for babe so bashful.

Thus in the shell athwart whose snowy lining

Each changeful tint of the bright rainbow plays,

A little pearl is found, in secret value

Surpassing all the rest.

SULPTCIUS.

But sayest thou nothing

Of what I wish to hear ? What of Cordenius ?

ORCERES.

By my good war-bow and its barbed shafts !
By the best war-horse archer e'er bestrode !
I'm still in ignorance ; I have not seen him.

SULPICIUS.
Thou hast not seen him ! this is very strange*



A DRAMA. 41

ORCERES.

So it indeed appears. My wayward friend
Has from his home been absent. Yesterday,
There and elsewhere I sought, but found him not.
This morning by the dawn again I sought him,
Thinking to find him surely and alone ;
But his domestics, much amazed, have told me,
He is not yet return' d.

SULPICIUS.
Hush ! thro* yon thicket I perceive a man.

ORCERES.
Some thief or spy.

SULPICIUS.

Let us withdraw awhile,
And mark his motions ; he observes us not.

Enter CORDENIUS from a Thicket in the back
Ground.

CORDENIUS (after looking round him with delight).

Sweet light of day, fair sky, and verdant earth,
Enrich'd with every beauteous herb and flower,
And stately trees, that spread their boughs like

tents

For shade and shelter, how I hail ye now !
Ye are his works, who made such fair abodes
For happy innocence, yet, in the wreck
Of foul perversion, has not cast us off.

[Stooping to look at the.flvwers.



THE MARTYR I

Ye little painted things, whose varied hues
Charm, ev'n to wonderment ; that mighty hand
Which dyes the mountain's peak with rosy tints
Sent from the rising sun, and to the barbed
Destructive lightning gives its ruddy gleam,
Grand and terrific, thus adorns even you !
There is a father's full unstinted love
Display'd o'er all, and thus on all I gaze
With the keen thrill of new-waked exstacy.
What voice is that so near me and so sweet ?

PORTIA without, singing some notes of prelude,
and then a Song.

' SONG.

The lady in her early bower
Is blest as bee in morning flower ;
The lady's eye is flashing bright,
Like water in the morning light ;
The lady's song is sweet and loud,
Like skylark o'er the morning cloud ;
The lady's smiles are smiles that pass
Like morning's breath o'er wavy grass.

She thinks of one, whose harness'd car
In triumph comes from distantwar ;
She thinks of one, whose martial state
Will darken Rome's imperial gate ;
She thinks of one, with laurel crown'd,
Who shall with sweeter wreaths be bound.
Voice, eye, and smiles, in mingled play,
The lady's happy thoughts betray.



A DRAMA. 43

CORDENIUS.

Her voice indeed, and this my fav'rite song !
It is that gentle creature, my sweet Portia.
I call her mine, because she is the image
Which hath possessed my fancy. Such vain

thoughts

Must now give place. I will not linger here.
This is the garden of Sulpicius ;
How have I miss'd my path ? She sings again.

\_Sings without, as before.

She wanders fitfully from lay to lay,

But all of them some air that I have prais'd

In happy hours gone by.



SONG.

The kind heart speaks with words so kindly

sweet,

That kindred hearts the catching tones repeat ;
And love, therewith his soft sigh gently blending,
Makes pleasing harmony. Thus softly sending
Its passing cheer across the stilly main,
Whilst in the sounding water dips the oar
And glad response bursts from the n earing shore,
Comes to our ears the home-bound seamen's

strain,
Who from the lofty deck, hail their own land

again.



44 THE MARTYR :

CORDENIUS.

gentle, sweet, and cheerful ! fbrm'd to be
Whate'er my heart could prize of treasured love !
Dear as thou art, I will not linger here.

Re-enter SULPICIUS and ORCERES, breaking out
upon him, and ORCERES catching hold of his
robe as he is going off.

ORCERES.

Ha ! noble Maro, to a coward turn'd,
Shunning a spot of danger !

SULPICIUS.

Stay, Cordenius.

The fellest foe thou shalt contend with here,

Is her thou call'st so gentle. As for me,

1 do not offer thee this hand more freely
Than I will grant all that may make thee happy,
If Portia has that power.

CORDENIUS.

And dost thou mean, in very earnest mean,
That thou wilt give me Portia thy dear Portia ?
My fancy catches wildly at thy words.

SULPICIUS.

And truly too, Cordenius. She is thine,
If thou wilt promise me to love her truly.



A DRAMA. 45

CORDENIUS.

(Eagerly clasping the knees, and then kissing the
hands O/'SULPICIUS.)

Thanks, thanks ! thanks from my swoln, o'er-

flowing heart,
Which has no words. Friend, father, Portia's

father !

The thought creates in me such sudden joy
I am bewilder'd with it.

SULPICIUS.

Calm thy spirits.

Thou should'st in meeter form have known it

sooner,

Had not the execution of those Christians
(Pests of the earth, whom on one burning pile,
With all their kind, I would most gladly punish,)
Till now prevented me. Thy friend, Orceres
Thou owest him thanks pled for thee power-
fully,

And had my leave. But dost thou listen to me ?
Thy face wears many colours, and big drops
Burst from thy brow, whilst thy contracted lips
Quiver, like one in pain.

ORCERES.
What sudden illness racks thee ?

CORDENIUS.
I may not tell you now : let me depart.



46 THE MARTYR:

SULPICIUS (holding Mm).

Thou art my promised son ; I have a right
To know whate'er concerns thee, pain or plea-
sure.

CORDENIUS.

And so thou hast, and I may not deceive thee.
Take, take, Sulpicius. O such with'ring words!
The sinking, sick'ning heart and parched mouth \
I cannot utter them.

SULPICIUS.

Why in this agony of perturbation ?
Nay, strive not now to speak.

CORDENIUS.

I must, I must !

Take back thy proffer'd gift ; all earth could

give ;
That which it cannot give I must retain.

SULPICIUS.

What words were these? If it were possible,
I could believe thee touch* d with sorcery,
The cursed art of those vile Nazarenes.
Where hast thou past the night ? their haunts are
near.

ORCERES.

Nay, nay ; repress thine anger ; noble Maro
May not be questioned thus.



A DRAMA. 4-7

SULPICIUS.

He may, and shall. And yet I will not urge him,
If he, with hand press* d on his breast, will say,
That he detests those hateful Nazarenes.

CORDENIUS.

No ; tho' my life, and what is dearer far,
My Portia's love, depended on the words,
I would not, and I durst not utter them.

SULPICIUS.

I see it well : thou art ensnared and blinded
By their enchantments. Demoniac power
Will drag thee to thy ruin. Cast it off;
Defy it. Say thou wilt forbear all intercourse
With this detested sect. Art thou a madman ?

CORDENIUS.

If I am mad, that which possesses me
Outvalues all philosophers e'er taught,
Or poets e'er imagined. Listen to me.
Call ye these Christians vile, because they suffer
All nature shrinks from, rather than deny
What seems to them the truth ? Call ye them

sorcerers,

Because their words impart such high conceptions
Of power creative and parental love,
In one great Being join'd, as makes the heart
Bound with ennobling thoughts ? Call ye them

curst

Who daily live in steady strong assurance
Of endless blessedness ? O, listen to me !



48 THE MARTYR:

Re-enter PORTIA, bursting from a Thicket
close to them.

PORTIA.
O, listen to him, father !

SULPICIUS.

Let go my robe, fond creature ! Listen to him !
The song of syrens were less fatal. Charms
Of dire delusion, luring on to ruin,
Are mingled with the words that speak their faith ;
They, who once hear them, flutter round

destruction

With giddy fascination, like the moth,
Which, shorn of half its form, all scorch'd and

shrivell'd,

Still to the torch returns. I will not listen ;
No, Portia, nor shalt thou.

PORTIA.

O, say not so !

For if you listen to him, you may save him,

And win him from his errors.

SULPICIUS.

Vain hope ! vain hope ! What is man's natural

reason

Opposed to demon subtlety ? Cordenius !
Cordenius Maro 1 I adjure thee, go !
Leave me ; why would'st thou pull destruction

on me?
On one who loved thee so, that tho' possessed



A DRAMA. 49

Of but one precious pearl, most dearly prized,
Prized more than life, yet would have given it to

thee.
I needs must weep : ev'n for thyself I weep.

CORDENIUS.

Weep not, my kind Sulpicius ! I will leave thee,
Albeit the pearl thou would'st bestow upon me
Is, in my estimation, dearer far
Than life, or power, or fame, or earthly thing.
When these fierce times are past, thou wilt,

perhaps,

Think of me with regard, but not with pity,
How fell soe'er my earthly end hath been,
For I shall then be blest. And thou, dear Portia,
Wilt thou remember me ? That thought, alas !
Dissolves my soul in weakness.
O, to be spared, if it were possible,
This stroke of agony. Is it not possible,

That I might yet Almighty God forgive me!

Weak thoughts will lurk in the devoted heart,
But not be cherish'd there. I may not offer

Ought short of all to thee.

Farewell, farewell ! sweet Portia, fare thee well !

[(JRCERES catches hold of him to prevent
his going

Retain me not : I am a Parthian now,
My strength is in retreat.

[Exit.

E



50 THE MARTYR :

PORTIA.

That noble mind ! and must it then be ruin'd ?

save him, save him, father 1 Brave Orceres,
Wilt thou not save thy friend, the noble Maro ?

ORCERES.

We will, sweet maid, if it be possible.
We'll keep his faith a secret in our breasts ;
And he may yet, if not by circumstances
Provok'd to speak, conceal it from the world.

PORTIA.
And you, my father ?

SULPICIUS.

1 will not betray him.

PORTIA.

Then all may yet be well ; for our great gods,
Whom Caesar and his subject-nations worship,
Will not abandon Rome's best, bravest soldier
To power demoniac. That can never be,
If they indeed regard us.

ORCERES.

Were he in Parthia, our great god, the sun,
Or rather he who in that star resides,
Would not permit his power to be so thwarted,
For all the demonry that e'er exerted
Its baleful influence on wretched men.
Beshrew me! for a thought gleams thro' my brain,
It is this God, perhaps, with some new name,
Which these bewilder'd Nazarenes adore.



A DRAMA.
SULPICIUS.

With impious rites, most strange and horrible.

ORCERES.

If he, my friend, in impious rites hath join'd,
Demons, indeed, have o'er the soul of man
A power to change its nature. Ay, Sulpicius;
And thou and I may, ere a day shall pass,
Be very Nazarenes. We are in ignorance ;
We shoot our arrow in the dark, and cry,
" It is to wound a foe." Come, gentle Portia ;
Be not so sad ; the man thou lovest is virtuous,
And brave, and loves thee well; why then
despair ?

PORTIA.

Alas ! I know he is brave and virtuous,
Therefore, 1 do despair.

ORCERES.

In Nero's court, indeed,

Such men are ever on the brink of danger,

But would'st thou have him other than he is?

PORTIA.

no! I would not ; that were base and sordid ;
Yet shed I tears, even like a wayward child
Who weeps for that which cannot be attain' d,
Virtue, and constancy, and safety join'd.

1 pray thee pardon me, for I am wretched,
And that doth make me foolish and perverse.

{Exeunt.



THE MARTYR:



ACT III.

SCENE I. Before the Gate of NERO'S Palace :
Guards with their Officers, discovered on
Duty.

Enter to them another Officer, speaking as he
enters to the Soldiers.

FIRST OFFICER.

Strike up some sacred strain of Roman triumph ;
The Pontiff comes to meet the summoned council.
Omit not this respect, else he will deem
We are of those who love the Nazarenes.
Sing loud and clearly.

Enter PONTIFF attended.

SACRED HYMN by the Soldiers.

That chief, who bends to Jove the suppliant

knee,

Shall firm in power and high in honour be;
And who to Mars a soldier's homage yields,
Shall laurell'd glory reap in bloody fields ;
Who vine-crown'd Bacchus, bounteous Lord!

adores,
Shall gather still, unskath'd. his vintage stores ;



A DRAMA. 53

Who to fair Venus lib'ral off' ring gives,
Enrich'd with love, and sweet affection lives.
Then, be your praises still our sacred theme,

Venus, Bacchus, Mars, and Jove supreme !

PONTIFF.

1 thank ye, soldiers! Rome, indeed, hath

triumph' d,

Bless' d in the high protection of her gods,
The sov'reign warrior-nation of the world ;
And, favour'd by great Jove and mighty Mars,
So may she triumph still, nor meanly stoop
To worship strange and meaner deities,
Adverse to warlike glory.

[Exit, with his train.

FIRST OFFICER.

The Pontiff seems disturb'd, his brow is lowering.

SECOND OFFICER.

Reproof and caution, mingled with his thanks,
Tho' utter 'd graciously.

FIRST OFFICER.

He is offended,

Because of late so many valiant soldiers

Have proselytes become to this new worship ;

A worship too, as he insinuates,

Unsuited to the brave.

THIRD OFFICER.

Ay, ay ! the sacred chickens are in danger.

E 3



54 THE MARTYR :

SECOND OFFICER.

Sylvius is suspected, as I hear.

FIRST OFFICER.

Hush ! let us to our duty ; it is time
To change the inner guard.

[Exeunt with music, into the gate of the palace.



SCENE II.

A Council Chamber in the Palace, NERO with his
Counsellors discovered; NERO in the act of
speaking.

NERO.

Yes, Servius ; formerly we have admitted,
As minor powers, amongst the ancient gods
Of high imperial Rome, the foreign deities
Of friendly nations ; but these Nazarenes
Scorn such association, proudly claiming
For that which is the object of their faith,
Sole, undivided homage : and our altars,
Our stately temples, the majestic forms
Of Mars, Apollo, thundering Jove himself
By sculptor's art divine, so nobly wrought,
Are held by these mad zealots in contempt.
Examine, sayest thou ! shall imperial Caesar
Deign to examine what withstands his power?
I marvel at thy folly, Servius $illus.



A DRAMA. 55

Enter an Officer.

OFFICER.

The Pontiff, mighty Caesar, waits without,
And craves admittance.

NERO.
Let him be admitted.

Enter PONTIFF.

Pontiff, thy visage, if I read it well,

Says, that some weighty matter brings thee here :

Thou hast our leave to speak.

PONTIFF.

Imperial Nero, did'st thou not condemn
That eloquent, but pestilential Nazarene,
The Grecian Ethocles, whose specious words
Wrap in delusion all who listen to him,
Spreading his baleful errors o'er the world?

NERO.

Did I condemn him ! Ev'en this very day,
He in the Amphitheatre meets his doom ;
Having, I trust, no power of words to charm
The enchafed lion, or the famish' d wolf.

PONTIFF.

I am inform'd, and I believe it true,
That this bold malefactor is enlarged.



56 THE MARTYR I

NERO.

It is impossible ! Cordenius Maro
Is sworn to guard the prisoner ; or, failing,
(How could he fail ?) to pay with his own life
The forfeit. But behold his fav'rite friend,

Enter ORCERES, followed by SULPJCIUS.

The Parthian Prince, who will inform us truly.
Orceres, is thy friend Cordenius coming?
I have commanded him, and at this hour,
To bring his guarded prisoner to the palace,
Here to remain till the appointed time.

ORCERES.

I know not ; nor have I beheld Cordenius

Since yesterday; when, at an early hour,

Sulpicius and myself met him by chance :

But for the prisoner, he is at hand,

Ev'n at the palace gate ; for as we enter' d

We saw him there, well circled round with

guards,
Tho' in the martial throng we saw not Maro.

NERO.

[To the Pontiff.] Said I not so?

[To an Officer.] Command them instantly

To bring this wordy Grecian to our presence.

[Exit OFFICER.

Sulpicius, thou hast known this Ethocles,
Is he a madman or ambitious knave,



A DRAMA.

Who sought on human folly to erect
A kind of fancied greatness for himself ?

SULPICIUS.
I know not which, great Nero.

NERO.

And did'st thou not advise me earnestly
To rid the state of such a pestilence ?

SULPICIUS.

And still advise thee, Nero ; for this Greek
Is dang'rous above all, who, with their lives,
Have yet paid forfeit for their strange belief!
They come : the prisoner in foreign garb
So closely wrapp'd, I scarcely see his face. .

Enter Prisoner, attended.

PONTIFF.

If it in truth be he.

NERO.
[To the Pontiff.] Dost thou still doubt ?

[To the Prisoner.] Stand forth, audacious rebel

to my will !
Dost thou still brave it, false and subtle spirit ?

CORDENIUS (throwing off his Grecian cloak,

and advancing to NERO).
I am not false, Augustus, but if subtle,
Add to my punishment what shall be deem'd
Meet retribution. I have truly sworn,


1 3

Online LibraryJoanna BaillieThe martyr : a drama in three acts → online text (page 3 of 4)