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- Early Plays - 4/50 -


AMBIORIX. Behold our journey's end! The walls of Rome! To heaven aspires the lofty Capitol.

OLLOVICO. So that is Rome? Italy's overlord, Germany's soon,--and Gaul's as well, perchance.

AMBIORIX. Ah, yes, alas;--so it may prove betimes; The sovereign power of Rome is merciless; It crushes all it conquers, down to earth. Now shall we see what lot we may expect: If here be help against the wrongs at home, And peace and justice for our native land.

OLLOVICO. It will be granted us.

AMBIORIX. So let us hope; For we know nothing yet with certainty.

OLLOVICO. You fear somewhat, it seems?

AMBIORIX. And with good reason. Jealous was ever Rome of her great power. And bear in mind, this proud and haughty realm Is not by chieftains ruled, as is our land. At home the wise man or the warrior reigns,-- The first in wisdom and in war the foremost; Him choose we as the leader of our people, As arbiter and ruler of our tribe. But here--

CATILINE. [Calls down to them.] --Here might and selfishness hold sway;-- Intrigue and craft are here the keys to power.

OLLOVICO. Woe to us, brethren, woe! He spies upon us.

AMBIORIX. [To CATILINE.] Is such the practice of the high-born Roman? A woman's trick we hold it in our nation.

CATILINE. [comes down on the road.] Ah, have no fear;--spying is not my business; By chance it was I heard your conversation.-- Come you from Allobrogia far away? Justice you think to find in Rome? Ah, never! Turn home again! Here tyranny holds sway, And rank injustice lords it more than ever. Republic to be sure it is in name; And yet all men are slaves who cringe and cower, Vassals involved in debt, who must acclaim A venal senate--ruled by greed and power. Gone is the social consciousness of old, The magnanimity of former ages;-- Security and life are favors sold, Which must be bargained for with hire and wages. Not righteousness, but power here holds sway; The noble man is lost among the gilded--

AMBIORIX. But say,--who then are you to tear away The pillars of the hope on which we builded?

CATILINE. A man who burns in freedom's holy zeal; An enemy of all unrighteous power; Friend of the helpless trodden under heel,-- Eager to hurl the mighty from their tower.

AMBIORIX. The noble race of Rome--? Ah, Roman, speak-- Since we are strangers here you would deceive us? Is Rome no more the guardian of the weak, The dread of tyrants,--ready to relieve us?

CATILINE. [Points towards the city and speaks.] Behold the mighty Capitol that towers On yonder heights in haughty majesty. See, in the glow of evening how it lowers, Tinged with the last rays of the western sky.-- So too Rome's evening glow is fast declining, Her freedom now is thraldom, dark as night.-- Yet in her sky a sun will soon be shining, Before which darkness quick will take its flight.

[He goes.]

* * * * *

[A colonnade in Rome.]

[LENTULUS, STATILIUS, COEPARIUS, and CETHEGUS enter, in eager conversation.]

COEPARIUS. Yes, you are right; things go from bad to worse; And what the end will be I do not know.

CETHEGUS. Bah! I am not concerned about the end. The fleeting moment I enjoy; each cup Of pleasure as it comes I empty,--letting All else go on to ruin as it will.

LENTULUS. Happy is he who can. I am not blessed With your indifference, that can outface The day when nothing shall be left us more, Nothing with which to pay the final score.

STATILIUS. And not the faintest glimpse of better things! Yet it is true: a mode of life like ours--

CETHEGUS. Enough of that!

LENTULUS. Today because of debt The last of my inheritance was seized.

CETHEGUS. Enough of sorrow and complaint! Come, friends! We'll drown them in a merry drinking bout!

COEPARIUS. Yes, let us drink. Come, come, my merry comrades!

LENTULUS. A moment, friends; I see old Manlius yonder,-- Seeking us out, I think, as is his wont.

MANLIUS. [Enters impetuously.] Confound the shabby dogs, the paltry scoundrels! Justice and fairness they no longer know!

LENTULUS. Come, what has happened? Wherefore so embittered?

STATILIUS. Have usurers been plaguing you as well?

MANLIUS. Something quite different. As you all know, I served with honor among Sulla's troops; A bit of meadow land was my reward. And when the war was at an end, I lived Thereon; it furnished me my daily bread. Now is it taken from me! Laws decree-- State property shall to the state revert For equal distribution. Theft, I say,-- It is rank robbery and nothing else! Their greed is all they seek to satisfy.

COEPARIUS. Thus with our rights they sport to please themselves. The mighty always dare do what they will.

CETHEGUS. [Gaily.] Hard luck for Manlius! Yet, a worse mishap Has come to me, as I shall now relate. Listen,--you know my pretty mistress, Livia,-- The little wretch has broken faith with me, Just now when I had squandered for her sake The slender wealth that still remained to me.

STATILIUS. Extravagance--the cause of your undoing.

CETHEGUS. Well, as you please; but I will not forego My own desires; these, while the day is fair, To their full measure I will satisfy.

MANLIUS. And I who fought so bravely for the glory And might which now the vaunting tyrants boast! I shall--! If but the brave old band were here, My comrades of the battlefield! But no; The greater part of them, alas, is dead; The rest live scattering in many lands.--

MANLIUS. Oh, what are you, the younger blood, to them? You bend and cringe before authority; You dare not break the chains that bind you fast; You suffer patiently this life of bondage!

LENTULUS. By all the Gods,--although indeed he taunts us, Yet, Romans, is there truth in what he says.

CETHEGUS. Oh, well,--what of it? He is right, we grant, But where shall we begin? Ay, there's the rub.

LENTULUS. Yes, it is true. Too long have we endured This great oppression. Now--now is the time To break the bonds asunder that injustice And vain ambition have about us forged.

STATILIUS. Ah, Lentulus, I understand. Yet hold; For such a thing we need a mighty leader,-- With pluck and vision. Where can he be found?

LENTULUS. I know a man who has the power to lead us.

MANLIUS. Ah, you mean Catiline?

LENTULUS. The very man.

CETHEGUS. Yes, Catiline perchance is just the man.

MANLIUS. I know him well. I was his father's friend; Many a battle side by side we fought. Often his young son went with him to war. Even his early years were wild and headstrong; Yet he gave open proof of rare endowments,-- His mind was noble, dauntless was his courage.

LENTULUS. We'll find him, as I think, most prompt and willing. I met him late this evening much depressed; He meditates in secret some bold plan;-- Some desperate scheme he long has had in mind.


Early Plays - 4/50

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