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- Early Plays - 5/50 -


STATILIUS. No doubt; the consulate he long has sought.

LENTULUS. His efforts are in vain; his enemies Have madly raged against him in the senate;-- He was himself among them; full of wrath He left the council--brooding on revenge.

STATILIUS. Then will he surely welcome our proposal.

LENTULUS. I hope so. Yet must we in secret weigh Our enterprise. The time is opportune.

[They go.]

* * * * *

[In the Temple of Vesta in Rome. On an altar in the background burns a lamp with the sacred fire.]

[CATILINE, followed by CURIUS, comes stealing in between the pillars.]

CURIUS. What, Catiline,--you mean to bring me here? In Vesta's temple!

CATILINE. [Laughing.] Well, yes; so you see!

CURIUS. Ye gods,--what folly! On this very day Has Cicero denounced you in the council; And yet you dare--

CATILINE. Oh, let that be forgotten!

CURIUS. You are in danger, and forget it thus-- By rushing blindly into some new peril.

CATILINE. [Gaily.] Well, change is my delight. I never knew Ere now a vestal's love,--forbidden fruit;-- Wherefore I came to try my fortune here.

CURIUS. What,--here, you say? Impossible! A jest!

CATILINE. A jest? Why, yes,--as all my loving is. And yet I was in earnest when I spoke. During the recent games I chanced to see The priestesses in long and pompous train. By accident I cast my roving eye On one of them,--and with a hasty glance She met my gaze. It pierced me to the soul. Ah, the expression in those midnight eyes I never saw before in any woman.

CURIUS. Yes, yes, I know. But speak--what followed then?

CATILINE. A way into the temple I have found, And more than once I've seen and spoken to her. Oh, what a difference between this woman And my Aurelia!

CURIUS. And you love them both At once? No,--that I cannot understand.

CATILINE. Yes, strange, indeed; I scarcely understand myself. And yet--I love them both, as you have said. But oh, how vastly different is this love! The one is kind: Aurelia often lulls With soothing words my soul to peace and rest;-- But Furia--. Come, away; some one approaches.

[They hide themselves among the pillars.]

FURIA. [Enters from the opposite side.] Oh, hated walls,--witnesses of my anguish. Home of the torment I must suffer still! My hopes and cherished aspirations languish Within my bosom,--now with feverish chill Pervaded, now with all the heat of passion, More hot and burning than yon vestal fire.

FURIA. Ah, what a fate! And what was my transgression That chained me to this temple-prison dire,-- That robbed my life of every youthful pleasure,-- In life's warm spring each innocent delight?

FURIA. Yet tears I shall not shed in undue measure; Hatred and vengeance shall my heart excite.

CATILINE. [Comes forward.] Not even for me, my Furia, do you cherish Another feeling,--one more mild than this?

FURIA. Ye gods! you, reckless man,--you here again? Do you not fear to come--?

CATILINE. I know no fear. 'Twas always my delight to mock at danger.

FURIA. Oh, splendid! Such is also my delight;-- This peaceful temple here I hate the more, Because I live in everlasting calm, And danger never lurks within its walls.

FURIA. Oh, this monotonous, inactive life, A life faint as the flicker of the lamp--! How cramped a field it is for all my sum Of fervid longings and far-reaching plans! Oh, to be crushed between these narrow walls;-- Life here grows stagnant; every hope is quenched; The day creeps slowly on in drowsiness,-- And not one single thought is turned to deeds.

CATILINE. O Furia, strange, in truth, is your complaint! It seems an echo out of my own soul,-- As if with flaming script you sought to paint My every longing towards a worthy goal. Rancour and hate in my soul likewise flourish; My heart--as yours--hate tempers into steel; I too was robbed of hopes I used to nourish; An aim in life I now no longer feel.

CATILINE. In silence still I mask my grief, my want; And none can guess what smoulders in my breast. They scoff and sneer at me,--these paltry things; They can not grasp how high my bosom beats For right and freedom, all the noble thoughts That ever stirred within a Roman mind.

FURIA. I knew it! Ah, your soul, and yours alone, Is born for me,--thus clearly speaks a voice That never fails and never plays me false. Then come! Oh, come--and let us heed the call.

CATILINE. What do you mean, my sweet enthusiast?

FURIA. Come,--let us leave this place, flee far away, And seek a new and better fatherland. Here is the spirit's lofty pride repressed; Here baseness smothers each auspicious spark Ere it can break into a burning flame. Come, let us fly;--lo, to the free-born mind The world's wide compass is a fatherland!

CATILINE. Oh, irresistibly you lure me on--

FURIA. Come, let us use the present moment then! High o'er the hills, beyond the sea's expanse,-- Far, far from Rome we first will stay our journey. Thousands of friends will follow you outright; In foreign lands we shall a home design; There shall we rule; 'twill there be brought to light That no hearts ever beat as yours and mine.

CATILINE. Oh, wonderful!--But flee? Why must we flee? Here too our love for freedom can be nourished; Here also is a field for thought and action, As vast as any that your soul desires.

FURIA. Here, do you say? Here, in this paltry Rome, Where naught exists but thraldom and oppression? Ah, Lucius, are you likewise one of those Who can Rome's past recall without confession Of shame? Who ruled here then? Who rule to-day? Then an heroic race--and now a rabble, The slaves of other slaves--

CATILINE. Mock me you may;-- Yet know,--to save Rome's freedom from this babble, To see yet once again her vanished splendor, Gladly I should, like Curtius, throw myself Into the abyss--

FURIA. I trust you, you alone; Your eyes glow bright; I know you speak the truth. Yet go; the priestesses will soon appear; Their wont it is to meet here at this hour.

CATILINE. I go; but only to return again. A magic power binds me to your side;-- So proud a woman have I never seen.

FURIA. [With a wild smile.] Then pledge me this; and swear that you will keep Whatever you may promise. Will you, Lucius?

CATILINE. I will do aught my Furia may require; Command me,--tell me what am I to promise.

FURIA. Then listen. Though I dwell a captive here, I know there lives a man somewhere in Rome Whom I have sworn deep enmity to death-- And hatred even beyond the gloomy grave.

CATILINE. And then--?

FURIA. Then swear, my enemy shall be Your enemy till death. Will you, my Lucius?

CATILINE. I swear it here by all the mighty gods!


Early Plays - 5/50

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