THE success of a Dramatic piece on the Stage, depends, says Voltaire, upon accidental circumstan­ces, but the day of publication decides its fate.

Persuaded of the truth of this remark, the Author of the Tragedy of Alfred would have submitted his performance, to the final judgment of the Reader, without preface or apology, if he had not been ad­vised, and indeed urged, to make a reply to some hostile criticisms, which appear to have been founded upon prejudice and opinion, rather than reason and argument.

It has been alledged, that the character of Al­fred, in the Tragedy, does not agree with the cha­racter of Alfred in History: "That the Hero, the Legislator, is degraded to a Lover, who enters the Danish camp, from a private, not a public, mo­tive, and acts the part of an impostor."

In Tragedy, if the subject be Historical, an au­thor is not permitted to introduce events, contrary [Page iv] to the great established facts of History; for in­stance, in the Tragedy of Alfred, the Hero must not be killed, nor driven out of England by the Danes; but preserving those ancient foundations, as the piers of his bridge, the Author may bend his arches, and finish the fabrick, according to his taste and fancy, for the poet is at liberty, and it is the es­sence of his art, to invent such intermediate circum­stances, and incidents, as he thinks will produce the most affecting situations. In this department, the Poet's fancy is controuled by nothing, but pro­bability and consistence of character, the barriers of dramatic truth. Let us apply this principle to the point in dispute.

Alfred was a young man, when he fought the battle of Ethendune. The victory, which gave him possession of the kingdom, must have been gained before he begun to model the state, Is it im­probable to suppose, that a young hero was in love? Is it inconsistent to represent the person, who was a Legislator when advanced in years, as a lover in his youth! Does it degrade the character of a hero to suppose, that he was in love with the princess whom he afterwards married? Is it not rather in­jurious to his heroism to conclude, that he chose a consort whom he did not love? If this reasoning is just, there will be no difficulty in vindicating the subsequent conduct of the hero. The dramatic and the real Alfred, are both involved in the charge of imposture; both entered the Danish camp in dis­guise; the previous events, as narrated in the tra­gedy, are nearly the same with those mentioned in history. Alfred, for almost two years, had wan­dered thro' England, concealing himself under feign­ed names and characters. He lived in the midst of his enemies, by being supposed to be dead. Emerg­ing from this obscurity, he appears in the tragedy, and is informed of the alarming ambiguous situation of Ethelswida; his usual stratagems present them­selves, one would think, naturally to his mind, ex­tremely [Page v] agitated, and prone both by temper and habit, to the most daring and romantic enterprizes. He resolves to enter the Danish camp, to learn the fate of Ethelswida, and observe the strength and or­der of the enemy's army, before he ventures a deci­sive engagement.

The continued artifice is inevitable. The con­duct of Alfred, in the camp of Hinguar; the man­ner in which he deceives the Dane, is extremely similar to the conduct of Orestes in the Electra of Sophocles, which no critic hitherto has blamed. Orestes enters the palace of Aegisthus, as the mes­senger of his own death, carrying an urn, which contains (he says) the ashes of Orestes, whose un­timely fate he most circumstantially relates. The Grecian hero practises the deceit with an intention to kill the persons whom he deceives. The English hero deceives Hinguar only to gain access to Ethels­wida, without meaning to hurt the person of his enemy. To praise Sophocles, and blame the author of Alfred, for the same conduct, seems a direct contradiction, which can only be accounted for, in one way; an imaginary idea has been formed of the character of Alfred as an old mortified, ascetic sage, of spirit too sublime and aetherial to descend to hu­man passions or human actions. But the real as well as the dramatic Alfred was a young hero, a bard, a winner of battles, brave and magnanimous, but compelled by the pressure of those desperate times, in which he lived, to practise a thousand arts to exist by simulation and dissimulation. Whoever recollects and weighs these circumstances, will it is presumed readily pardon the artifice of Alfred, in the Tragedy, and acknowledge that the feigned in­cidents of the piece are altogether consistent with the true. If not, the author must be contented to la­bour under the imputation of an erroneous judgment, for he meant nothing less than to degrade the cha­racter of Alfred; on the contrary, finding in the [Page vi] records of a remote and barbarous age, a hero of great renown, but from the defect of his historians, involved in clouds and darkness: ‘Qui caput inter nubila condit.’ he was tempted to seize his name, and display his character in new situations, connected with the old and well known events of his life and fortune. The play is printed as it was performed. An alter­ation has been made, in one scene, and sent to the Theatre, which, if the Tragedy should be resumed or revived, may perhaps contribute to heighten its effect.


To furnish a new Prologue for each Play,
To dress the self-same dish, a different way;
Exhausts the poet's art. And every year,
Palates grow nicer, rarities more dear.
The cabinet, who in the green room sit,
The secret junto of the realm of wit;
In these hard times, resolved their stock to spare,
And crib the Prologue from the bill of fare.
Alfred on English ground alone may stand,
The darling hero of his native land:
No, no, our Poet cry'd—this is no time,
Nor is it prudent now to save your rhime;
Fir'd with my subject I have rashly dar'd,
And you in Prologue should protect your bard:
When my adventurous muse, indulg'd before,
Now vent'ring further, needs indulgence more;
She dares to trace the workings of a mind,
The greatest and the best of human kind;
Adjust its movements to dramatic plan,
And blend the god-like hero with the man.
The greater Alfred's fame, our bard risks more;
Such weight the flying courser never bore.
Alfred! whose life such strange events adorn,
That history beholds romance with scorn;
Him to present, here in his native land,
Where still his genius, and his laws command,
Is an attempt like his, who rashly tried,
The burning chariot of the sun to guide!
Yet this attempt from admiration rose,
Nor should he find in Alfred's kingdom foes:
He, who by temper led, not love of fame,
Is the fond echo of your hero's name.


OUR bards of late, so tragic in their calling,
Have scarce preserv'd one heroine from falling:
Whether the dame be widow, maid, or wife,
She seldom from their hands escapes with life:
If this green cloth could speak, would it not tell,
Upon its well-worn nap how oft I fell?
To death in various forms deliver'd up,
Steel kills me one night, and the next the Cup:
The tragic process is as short, as certain;
With * THIS,—or THIS, I drop—then drops the curtain!
No saint can lead a better life than I,
For half is spent in study'ng how to die.
The learn'd dispute, how Tragedies should end;
O happily say some—Some death defend:
Mild criticks wish good fortune to the good;
While others hot-brain'd, roar for blood! blood! blood!—
The fair, tho' nervous, tragic to the soul,
Delights in daggers, and the poison'd bowl:
"I would not give a black-pin for a Play,
"Unless in tenderness I melt away:
"From pangs, and death no lovers would I save,
"They should be wretched, and despairand rave;
"And ne'er together lie—but in the grave!"
The brave rough soldier, a soft heart discovers;
He swears and weeps at once, when dead the lovers:
As down his cheeks run trickling nature's tide,
"Damn it—I wish those young ones had not dy'd:"
[Page] Tho' from his eyes the drop of pity falls,
He fights like Caesar, when his country calls:
In spite of critic laws, our bard takes part,
And joins in concert with the soldier's heart:
O let your feelings with his party side,
For once forgive me that I have not dy'd;
Too hard that fate, which kills a virgin bride.

Dramatis Personae.

  • ALFRED King of England, Mr. LEWIS.
  • EDWIN, Earl of Devonshire, Mr. HULL.
  • HINGUAR, King of the Danes, Mr. AIKIN.
  • ROLLO, a Danish Chief, Mr. L'ESTRANGE.

OFFICERS, English and Danish.

  • ETHELSWIDA, betrothed, to Alfred Mrs. BARRY.
  • RONEX, Consort of Hinguar, Mrs. JACKSON.
    • EDDA,
    • ELISA,
    Attendants on Ethelswida.



SCENE I. A Camp.
THE name of Surrey and the shield he bore,
With ease deceived the unsuspecting soldier:
I knew the port of Alfred.
So he thought;
And, ere he laid his weary limbs to rest,
Gave me, in charge, to warn thee to be silent.
[Page 2]
My lord of Devonshire, on me depend.
Steel shall not tear the secret from my breast;
Astonish'd as I am, at such a secret;
Who can unfold the cause? Why, at this hour,
When, big with England's fate, each moment rolls,
Does Alfred hide himself, in clouds and dark­ness?
And spread uncertain rumours of his state,
Confounding all belief?
He spread them not.
From his uncertain fate, those rumours rose.
Ere since that time, when the perfidious Dane
Attack'd the English, in the hour of peace;
On Alfred's wedding day.
It was believed,
That Alfred, in the general carnage, fell,
At Cyppenham; that, in the swelling flood
Of wintry Avon, Ethelswida perish'd.
Such was the first report.
Fain would I hear
Th' eventful tale of much-enduring Alfred;
And what is yet of Ethelswida known.
When faithless Hinguar, with his host, ad­vanc'd,
The King, distracted for his lovely bride,
Sent off a hundred knights, by Surrey led,
To guard the Princess to a place of safety:
Then, furious, fac'd the Dane;—with odds op­prest.
Around their King, his faithful nobles fell,
Alfred, by favour of the night, escap'd,
And wander'd long, obscure, from place to place.
Thro' woods and forests, like some beast of prey,
[Page 3] By cruel hunters chac'd. Much he endur'd;
And much his people suffer'd. English virtue,
Like England's oak, grew firmer from the storm.
Often the peasant his last morsel brought
To the dark wood or cave, where Alfred lay;
If questioned by the Dane, denied the deed;
And died, undaunted, to preserve his prince.
The story▪ thrills my blood; by heaven and earth—
Where did he rest at last?
He never rested;
Even when he had a place of refuge found;
Where the deep winding streams, Parret and Thone
Their waters mix, a little island lies,
With alders overgrown. No name it had,
Tho' now the name of Athelney it bears.
Marshes and pools, by inundation form'd,
Perplex the dire approach. There Alfred fix'd
His dreary habitation. Two brave knights
At first were all his train. Day after day
The numbers grew; and many a gallant knight,
Found out the wild asylum of his Lord.
From thence, with inroads fierce, they gall'd the Dane.
Dark as the spirits of the night they came,
And vanish'd at the dawn: In that retreat,
The sun, thro' every sign, o'er Alfred roll'd.
Did Ethelswida there rejoin her Lord?
Nor she herself, nor any of her train,
Have ere been heard of, since she left her Lord.
For certain, then, she lives. If she had pe­rish'd,
Her fate would have been known.
[Page 4]
The Danes ascrib'd
To me the inroads made by daring Alfred;
And both the Danish princes took the field.
Hinguar, with fire and sword laid waste the land.
Hubba, his host to Kenwith castle led,
And, with strong siege, begirt my ancient towers.
Then Alfred issued from his lonely isle,
Conceal'd, as now, beneath another name.
Did Alfred fight in Kenwith's bloody field?
He fix'd the fortune of that doubtful day.
When Hubba with his life the REAFEN lost,
Th' inchanted standard, on whose magic wings
Conquest, till then, had flown. The battle won,
Alfred, impatient, bent his rapid course
To Westmorland; where, as he fondly hop'd
His Ethelswida dwelt. He found her not;
And, late last night, in deep despair, return'd.
I see the clouded tract, thro' which he pass'd
Invisible.—Now he has reach'd the point,
And will break forth in splendor. We shall fight
To-morrow or to-day.
On these steep hills.
By nature and by art, impregnable,
Which far and wide command Wiltonia's vale.
In absence of the King, my camp I pitch'd.
Audacious Hinguar occupies the plain,
And braves us to descend.
Proclaim the King.
The King of England, at his people's head,
Then roll their rising valour on the foe.
Thy zeal becomes thee. He will chuse his time.
Mean while the story of his death believ'd,
[Page 5] Lessens the weight and burden of the war;
Prevents the junction of the Danish chiefs,
And makes our foes secure. Soldier, farewell!
The-King expects me: In my tent he rests.
My bosom throbs to see him rise in arms.
Spirits in Heaven may there attain perfection;
But weakness in this world, is nature's stamp,
With which she marks the sons of men her own.
Who can compare with this accomplish'd Prince,
In valour or in virtue? He excells
The Counsellor, the Sage, in civil wisdom.
The light of ancient times shines in his soul;
And the Bards listen to his voice divine:
But vain his virtue and his wisdom vain,
Against affection's power, too much he lov'd,
And mourns too much his Ethelswida lost.
He comes with grief oppress'd.
Health to the King!
Has balmy sleep descended on his cares?
My sleep is haunted with my waking thoughts;
The vision of the night is Ethelswida.
Sometimes, a broken seene of other woes
My troubled fancy to her image joins,
And adds the monarch's to the lover's grief.
This very night, in dreams, I thought myself
Under the friendly roof, where once I lay,
Beset, on every side, with Danish spears;
When, to preserve my life, a noble youth,
The only offspring of a widow'd dame,
Unknown to me, my personage assum'd,
And stopp'd the hounds, that bay'd for Alfred's blood.
O gen'rous youth!
[Page 6]
Full in the gate he stood;
And brandishing his sword, aloud proclaim'd,
That England's King alive should ne'er be taken.
Headlong the foes rush'd on: Numbers he slew:
At last, unshrinking, in his place he fell;
And still the Danes believe that youth was Alfred.
No wonder that they should!—
This very night.
Pale in his wounds, the gallant form appear'd,
Whilst o'er the bleeding body of her son,
Majestic in her grief, his mother hung.
(to Devonshire.)
A warrior from the Danish camp, demands
Admittance to thy presence.
Let him enter.
[Exit Mess.
(Alfred walks aside.)
Enter a WARRIOR, with his beaver down.
Stranger, unfold thy purpose.
(He takes off his helmet.)
Surrey, by heaven,
In Danish armour!
(Alfred, turning, sees him.)
My royal master!
Surrey! that strangearray, thy aspect sad
Denounce thy tidings.—Ethelswida—
[Page 7]
She lives!—Why, like the messenger of death;
Dost thou before me stand? Some dreadful thing▪
Thou smother'st in that pause. I charge thee speak.
What has befallen my love?
Is Ethelswida captive?
Yes, my Lord.
To whom?
To Hinguar.
To my mortal foe!
Is she in Hinguar's power? Is brutal Hinguar
The master of her fate?
Would that I durst
This painful truth deny.
O wretched Alfred!
Destin'd to suffer misery and shame,
That princes seldom feel! All other ills,
Altho' in troops they came, I have endur'd.
Manhood and patience yield to this. O, Surrey!
Had I been Surrey, and hadst thou been Alfred,
I ne'er had brought such tidings to my friend
Great is the grief, that renders thee unjust.
Hear me, O King! and if thou blam'st me then,
Ill-fated Surrey, shall offend no more.
What has my passion spoke? Thy pallid cheek,
Thy hollow eye, those inauspicious arms,
Are signals of distress!
[Page 8]
The story hear,
Of Ethelswida's fortune; how it chanced,
That Surrey lives to tell it.
O, my friend!
Forget my words. With destiny at odds,
And with myself, impatience glanc'd at thee,
The martyr of my cause.
That fatal night,
When, with my precious charge, I left my Lord,
Thro' many dangers happily we pass'd;
But when we reached fair Eden's distant vale,
We found no refuge there.
Too well I know,
The Scots had raz'd Pendragon's lofty tower:
Then, whither didst thou fly?
There I dismiss'd
Most of my faithful Knights. A few I kept,
Of chosen men the choice. Eastward we steer'd,
Towards the wilds, beyond the source of Tine.
By midnight marches, in untrodden paths,
That wind o'er mountains vast, thro' valley's deep;
We reach'd a lonely mansion, in a dale,
Which at the foot of snow-clad Cheviot lies.
There Ethelswida found a safe retreat;
And in those deserts wild, she might have dwelt,
Unheard of and unknown.
Why did she not?
The rumour of thy death a tempest rais'd,
Which, from that harbour, drove her out to sea.
On me she laid her absolute commands,
To guide and guard her, as I could, to Kenwith:
My friends I warn'd to meet us on our way,
And on we went, till one unhappy time,
[Page 9] The Danes surpriz'd us in a narrow vale.
Against their fierce attack, our little band,
Around the Princess, form'd a fence of steel.
More and more narrow still the circle grew,
Till I alone was left with Ethelswida.
Alone I fought, till at her feet I fell.
Her dismal shrieks, her piercing cries I heard;
More grievous sar, than all the wounds I bore.
Methinks I hear her cries: She call'd on Alfred;
Did she not, Surrey? Providence divine!
Why was not Alfred near?
As I have heard,
From some who in the troops of Hinguar fought,
For he it was who led the hostile band,
She swoon'd with grief and terror on the spot.
The Dane to her unwonted pity show'd,
And rais'd her from the ground.
Tell me the truth;
Do not deceive me, Surrey.
O, my Lord,
I never did, nor will l now deceive thee!
But of the Princess this I only know,
That in the Danish camp, she still remains,
Guarded with care, her name and rank unknown.
What should I think! Can she submit to live—
To live, her honour lost? How didst thou 'scape
From such a slaughter? And how cam'st thou hither,
Commission'd by the Dane?
When night came on,
Some English peasants, who had seen the fight,
Crept from their huts, in secret, to the field,
With pious purpose to inter the dead.
In me alone, some sparks of life they found.
Their care preserv'd me. When my strength return'd,
[Page 10] To Hinguar's camp I went, gave out myself
Of Danish race, altho' in England born.
My service was accepted. I have found
Favour in Hinguar's sight; and, in the band
That guards his person, serve. From them I learn'd,
That Ethelswida, near his tent, is lodg'd
A mournful captive,
Near his tent! O heaven!
How have I merited?
Raise not thine eyes,
Nor lift thy hands to heaven: Far other looks,
Far other actions, heaven of thee requires.
Thou art a king, a soldier, and a lover;
Fight for thy crown, thy country, and thy bride.
Go forth, this instant, animate thy troops,
And lead them to revenge their wrongs and thine.
(Alfred muses.
Why does my royal master hang his head,
And bend on earth his eyes?
Forbear, my Lord.
(To Surrey.)
What is thine errand to the camp of England?
To offer battle.—But the true intent
Of Hinguar, is to learn if Alfred lives;
For various rumours have perplex'd the Dane.
He shall be satisfied. I see a ray,
Which thro' the darkness breaks. It grows more bright.
My friend, the tumult of my thoughts forgive.
(Goes aside with Surrey.)
What does he meditate? I know
His mind with dreadful images is fill'd.
In Hinguar's arms he sees his ravish'd bride:
Ravish'd or not, she's captive to his foe.
[Page 11] Enflav'd by force, 'tis force must set her free,
He cannot treat with Hinguar; that he knows,
By sad experience; for the woes of Alfred,
And all the evils of this hapless land,
Arose from England's confidence in Denmark.
No ties divine or human, bind the Danes.
Of all the impious race, by far the worst,
And most profane is Hinguar.
(to Surrey.)
Go, prepare
For my reception.
Ah, may heaven avert,
Those ills, which my prophetic soul forebodes!
[Exit Surrey.
I heard the parting words of faithful Surrey,
Which mark too well, the colour of thy purpose.
Thy approbation I do not expect.
None can approve, but those who feel like me.
The Danish camp, disguis'd, I will explore,
Clad in the vesture of a British Bard,
And learn, for certain, Ethelswida's fate,
Whatever has befallen my hapless bride;
Assur'd of that, my heart shall shake no more.
Something like this my anxious soul foretold.
I read thy thoughts, but urge me not to hear
Thy friendly counsels, which I cannot follow.
In great events, the agitated mind
Consults its genius only. Low or high
The active spirits in that level flow,
Nor fall nor rise, to act another's counsel;
That potent counsellor directs me now,
I feel the impulse, oft in perils felt:
Nor is my arm confin'd to Ethelswida;
The strength and order of the Danish host,
How, and what quarter, I may best attack,
Attentive I'll observe.
[Page 12]
Since thou hast fix'd
Thy resolution, to contend is vain;
The part of friendship now is to consult,
How we may guard thee best.
By the moon's light,
As, with a swift career, their camp I pass'd,
A wood, extended on the right I saw,
(Their left the village Ethendune defends,)
Canst thou inform, if they have opened paths,
Or planted watches there?
Neither, my Lord!
Presumptuous Hinguar holds such caution vain.
When dusky eve descends, in the dark time
Between the fall of night, and the moon's rise,
In silence, thither march a thousand men,
Chosen with care, the bravest of our host;
There let them watch till morn, if no alarm
Comes ere the dawn, at dawn they may retire.
To choose and lead that band shall be my care:
My warriours are the hunters of the Hill;
Accustom'd to the woods, fearless they move,
By the pale glimpses of the clouded moon!
To them the changeful aspects of the night,
Whose false presentments armies oft confound,
In all their forms are known.
I wou'd not wish
A better leader, nor a braver band.
The word.
St. George.
O, may he guard the King!
And, as the minds of yonder heathen, host,
[Page 13] In darkness lie; so may their eyes be dark,
And blind to Alfred!
As they still have been,
This is no new, tho' seeming bold attempt.
I have essay'd it, for a slighter cause,
When, in the Isle of Athelney, Ilay,
The quarters of the Dane I oft explor'd,
In this disguise, and mark'd destruction's line.
Farewell, thy wisdom no direction needs;
Nor shall I long be absent from my friend.
End of the FIRST Act.


SCENE, The Danish Camp.
THE tale of Orpheus, (which in Rome I heard,
Whose lyre harmonious civiliz'd mankind,
Is verified to-day. The stubborn sons,
Of Denmark sympathize with Alfred's strain;
And, as he leads the song, their passions flow.
Hinguar himself is wonder-struck.
Enter an OFFICER.
Be gone;
Thou tread'st already on forbidden ground,
Inform the King, that Erick is return'd.
Hinguar approaches, and with him the bard,
Whose lyre is fram'd, by necromantic art;
Inchanted are the strings.—Away, with speed.
[Exit Surrey,
Enter HINGUAR and ALFRED, in conversation,
(To the Officer.)
(Exit Off.)
Now, I believe the death of Alfred.
This ring, the well-known signet of his power,
He never trusted to another hand.
[Page 15]
When, in the rocky cave, I found him dead,
I then resolv'd, King of the warlike Danes,
To bear to thee the tidings of his death;
And as a proof, which could not be deny'd,
That ring I took, which erst mine eyes beheld,
Upon his finger plac'd, with rites and charms,
When he was crown'd, in London, England's King.
I will reward thee to thy utmost wish.
Thou art no Saxon, but of British race,
And lov'st the mountains of thy native land;
Choose where they fairest rise; they shall be thine,
With all their valleys and their Sylvan streams.
The Gods I serve have sent thee to my aid.
'Tis my belief thou can'st assist me much,
In what is dearer to my soul than empire.
How can the bard assist a Prince like thee?
In high respect, I hold thy art divine.
Whate'er thou art, magician, bard or seer,
Or if thou art all these, I crave thine aid.
Amidst my victories, I am most wretched;
By love tormented, unsuccessful love.
Thy love, with equal love, is not return'd?
More grievous still. The fair, my soul desires,
Cannot distinguish nor reward my love.
If thou her cruel malady can'st charm,
And drive wild frenzy from her troubled mind,
Task to fulfil thy wish the power of Hinguar.
In me behold the man of thy desire.
Unlawful arts I neither use, nor know;
But am, in nature's secrets, deeply skill'd.
Far from the pleasures and the cares of men,
By strange misfortune, to the desart driven,
A lonely anchoret, for years, I lived.
[Page 16] 'To me are known the virtues of each plant,
'That grows in hill or dale, in sun or shade;
How one, by sympathy, with madness taints;
And how another clears th' infected blood.
Much I can help or harm.
Exert thy skill;
And plant and herb, or song and spell employ.
Do what thou will'st, so thou restor'st the fair.
Did her dire frenzy from distress arise?
From sudden perturbation of the mind?
Or is the cause unknown?
From grief, from fear,
From terror to excess, her frenzy rose.
Dreadful the shock she suffered!
How, my Lord?
What did she suffer?
In her person, nothing;
But agony of mind, to an excess,
Not easy to describe.
Has she reveal'd
Her name, her family?
By different names
She calls herself; and when with questions urg'd,
She makes extravagant, fantastic answers,
And seems unconscious of her true condition.
Her general temper, is it sad or gay?
For frenzy is most various.
So is hers;
For she exhibits every various mood,
That frenzy e'er assum'd. But thou shalt see,
And judge her strange demeanor. In yon tent,
[Page 17] With purple bright, she dwells; and to this spot,
Where now we stand, she frequently repairs.
This is her usual hour. Behold! she comes.
(Enter Ethelswida, with two women attending, fantastically drest.)
How beautiful she is! O, piteous sight!
Her frenzy's high.
Did ere thine aged eyes
Behold her equal?
(Ethelswida passes them, and advances to the front.)
Eagles of the rock,
Lend me your sounding wings; cherubs of heaven,
Who soar above the sun, your pinions lend,
To bear me to my love.
(to Alfred.)
I do.
The crested swans were heard to sing
A sad lamenting strain;
As floating with the stream, his corse
Descended to the main,
Still of a lover lost. I never heard
Her roving words tend to one point so long.
Sorrow and rage excessive, both are madness.
Time always cures them, if the frame is sound.—
She speaks again.
My heart swells in my breast,
And stops my breath. Oceans of tears I shed,
And shake the high pavilion with my sighs.
But neither sighs nor tears give me relief,
(To Hinguar.)
Thou keeper of the keys of death and hell,
[Page 18] Unlock the iron gate, and set me free.
Then I shall smile and thank thee.
Queen of beauty!
I am thy captive, and obey thy will.
To soothe the grief that preys upon thy heart,
My care has hither brought a Bard divine,
Whose voice can charm the ache and agony,
Which spirits feel. He's gentle, mild, and wise,
And shall attend thy call.
I will not call him.
His garb is vile; I hate it.
Hate not him.
Whose heart is tun'd to sympathize with thine.
I shun the house of mirth, and love to dwell,
A constant inmate of the house of sorrow.
(Whilst he speaks, Ethelswida gazes and knows him.)
Then thou art not so wise, as wou'd appear,
From thy white head, and grave habiliments.
(Walks aside in great emotion. Returns.)
If thou art fond and weak, and foolish too;
Why, so am I. We may consort together,
And build strong castles.
Thy harp shall move
The trees and rocks. In order they shall rise,
As high as Babel's tower.
Forthwith they shall.
Are all thy songs of melancholy strain?
The greater part.
Then thou hast lost thy love;
Else thou could'st ne'er have felt true melancholy.
[Page 19] I will not hear thee now. I'm poor in spirit,
And have not force to bear a strong affection.
I choose a garland song, a lighter strain.
There liv'd a youth, by silver Thames,
Who lov'd the maidens fair;
But loose, at large, the rover rang'd,
Nor felt a lover's care.
We must not with one censure level all.
Some men are true of heart, but very few.
Those live not long, they die before their time.
'Tis pity of them. Oh!
walks aside.
A show'r of tears
Fast falling calms the tempest of her mind.
'Tis a deep rooted malady.
My Lord,
A troop of English horsemen, from the hill,
Descend into the plain. Our warriours wait,
Impatient, thy commands.
I come.
(Exit Officer.)
(To Alfred.)
Till I return. Edda, Elisa, mark me.
Give her full scope; in nothing cross her mood,
That this reflecting sage, compleat, may see
The picture of her mind.
(After a pause, ap proaches Alfred.)
Thou pilgrim sad,
Whose head the hand of time hath silver'd o'er,
Com'st thou from Palestine?
From Rome I come.
[Page 20]
From Rome! Thou dost not wear thy triple crown;
And yet I know thou art the holy Sire,
The common father of the Christian world.
Compassion show to me.—With wicked men,
With heathens and idolaters, I dwell;
Without the benefit of holy church.
Nor shrift, nor absolution have I known,
For seven long years.
I will, myself, confess thee.
The peace of heaven shall on thy soul descend.
(To the attendants.)
A course most fortunate her fancy steers;
Most likely to effect the King's desire.
In this conceit, to me she may reveal
Her name, her parentage, perhaps the grief
That rankles in her breast. Please to retire,
As if it were confession.
Haste away,
For fickle is her mind.
I like it not.
This may be stratagem: They're Saxons all.
'Tis fit they be observ'd. I'll keep in sight.
(offers to embrace her.)
O, beware!
Death lurks in every corner. Why expose
Thy noble life to such inglorious peril?
Not thus did I expect to see the King.
If 'ere mine eyes beheld my Lord again,
[Page 21] I hop'd to see him in the light of steel,
Prompt to defend himself, or rescue me.
Why com'st thou thus?
I come to know thy fate.
For, since I heard thou wast in Hinguar's power,
Distraction here has reign'd.
I comprehend thee.
Could Alfred think I would survive my honour?
I knew not what to think: But much I fear'd.
Dismiss that fear; and be of this assur'd,
I shall be as I am, or shall be nothing.
Fly from this place of peril; fly, with speed.
Thy presence to us both is sure perdition.
My own distress, with fortitude, I bore;
But feel my weakness, when the danger's thine.
The part I act, I hardly can sustain:
Didst thou not mark, when first I heard thy voice,
How real passion mingled with the feign'd?
When I beheld thee risen from the grave,
And braving death again for Ethelswida,
The veil of frenzy scarce conceal'd my transport.
I saw thy struggling soul, then—not till then,
Athwart the cloud, the beam of reason shone.
Tarry not here; else I shall lose my reason,
And be the thing I seem.
Till night shall spread
Her favouring mantle o'er my secret steps,
I cannot leave this place; and then I hope
To bear thee with me, thro' the host of Den­mark.
Of that, we shall have time to speak hereafter.
This garb secures me frequent, free access.
Now, let me warn thee, shou'd it be suspected,
[Page 22] That I am not the person I pretend,
Thy ready answer must, with mine, accord;
I am thy brother; Surrey is my name,
And Emma thine.
Alas! I'll-omen'd name!
In my defence, the noble Surrey fell.
He lives to serve thee in the camp of Hinguar.
What miracle! mine eyes beheld him slain.
They come, they come; resume thy wild de­meanor.
(Ethelswida walks aside, as formerly.)
Enter ELISA and EDDA.
The King draws near.
Array me for his presence.
I'll have a crown to deck my pensive brows;
It shall be made of sun-beams, and of stars,
Caught as they shoot: and when the rainbow rests
Its glowing shaft upon the mountains side,
I'll dip my robe in gold. Away, away.
[Exeunt Elisa and Edda.
It was a false alarm. The English horse,
When we advanced against them, wheel'd and fled.
What judgment hast thou form'd? Did she say ought
In her Confession?
She flew off at once
From that conceit. Her mind's a burning fire,
[Page 23] Where sudden thoughts, like wreaths of smoak arise,
And, parting from the flame, disperse in air.
Her shatter'd fancy, like a mirror broken,
Reflects no single image just and true,
But many false ones.
Dost thou hope to cure
The malady, which thou describ'st so well?
There is more ground of hope than cause of fear.
Forthwith the wonders of thine art essay;
Meanwhile, within the circle of my tents,
Secure remain. Gothred's imperious daughter,
(Whom in an evil hour, when new in England,
To please the Danes I was induc'd to wed)
Is in the camp arriv'd. I guess her purpose,
And will prevent her speed.
(A voice behind the scenes.)
Presumptuous slave!
(Another voice.)
Thou can'st not pass.
Who shall oppose the Queen?
Enter RONEX.
I come too late; she's gone. Hail to the King;
Who is this minion, that usurps my place,
And, with mock majesty, dishonours Denmark?
Outrageous as thou art, respect at least
The stranger's ear.
(To Alfred,)
Retire, and shun the storm.
[Exit Alf.
What pageantry is this?
Why hast thou left,
[Page 24] Without permission of thy Lord, the place
Appointed for thee?
Ha! Am I thy slave?
That thou presum'st to treat me with such scorn,
Hast thou forgot my birth? dost thou not know
I am the heir of Denmark and of England,—
That in my right thou reign'st?
To Denmark go;
There o'er thy barren rocks and desarts reign:
But fair and fertile England is my own.
The sword, that won, shall keep the pleasant land.
I conquer'd for myself.
Talk'st thou of conquest,
Thou woman's warrior, who consum'st thy days
In secret, lawless, and inglorious love?
Whilst o'er thy head thy slaughter'd brother's ghost
For vengeance shrieks in vain.
None of my foes,
Of whom the fellest far, I reckon thee,
Shall long elude my vengeance: From this hour,
I cast thee off; for ever I renounce thee;
And soon thou shalt behold another queen
Exalted in thy place.
Fulfil thy threat,
And thou shalt soon behold another King.
The leaders and the soldiers of thy host
Revere in me the Scandinavian line.
When I am not thy Queen, thou reign'st no more.
This instant leave me, or by Denmark's Gods
By Loda's altar, stain'd with human blood,
To Iceland's dreary isle thou shalt be borne,
There to repent thy solly.—Guards!
[Page 25] Enter an OFFICER with SOLDIERS.
Stand off!
Tyrant, when next we meet—
Force her away.
Never let Gothred's daughter enter here.
[Exeunt. Ronex and Guards.
Small is her boasted influence with my people;
And yet her jealous rage is fell and bloody;
My fair Norwegian felt her mortal hate.
I must not trust my lovely captive's life,
To the slight keeping of that officer,
Who yielded to the threats of haughty Ronex.
This instant I'll dismiss him, and appoint
The brave and faithful Erick to this place.
End of the SRCOND Act.


EARLY my doubts arose. I ne'er believ'd
Her malady was real. Often, my Lord,
Have I observ'd her looks sedate and calm:
Then, quick as thought, when she had caught my eye,
She started into well-dissembled frenzy.
Why ne'er unfold thy doubts?
Till now, I durst not;
Because I had no proof of my suspicion:
For in thy presence, with amazing art,
She counterseits distraction. Well I knew
Thy partial love would ill receive a charge
On mere conjecture founded. What I saw
This day to certainty has chang'd my doubts.
Try her, my Lord; and if I have deceived thee,
I ask no mercy.—
If she has deceiv'd me,
As I believe she has, I'll show her none.
This is the Lover whom her songs bewail,
The favourite, for whom she guards her charms,
And mocks the credulous Dane. He mocks me too.
I'll take luxurions vengeance.—Guards.
[Page 27] [Enter Erick with a plume and scarf, with Danish soldiers.]
My Lord.
Unsheath your swords. Be ready, at a word,
To execute my orders. Send him hither.
(To Erick.
(Exit Edda.
Surpriz'd, subdued, with dread of instant death,
I'll search his secret soul; and then the slave,
For his presumption dies.
[Enter Alfred, views the scene for a moment, and then advances intrepidly.
Thou traitor! villain!
How durst thou, with thy puny arts, attempt
To practise upon me?
Take back those names;
Which utter'd here, do not dishonour me;
But on thy self return.
Ha! Dost thou brave me?
I'll pull thy courage down.
Thou can'st not, Hinguar.
I mock the lifted sword. and smile at death.
Tell me, impostor, who thou really art,
And who that woman is, thy false associate,
In this vile artifice?
Not from the dread
Of what thy vengeance can inflict, I answer;
But to assert my honour. To thy tents,
[Page 28] Altho' disguised I came, no traitor I.
I came not, Hinguar, to attempt thy life;
But to enquire a much-lov'd sister's fate;
For whom I trembled, since the hour I heard
She was thy captive.
Ha! thy sister, say'st thou?
What is thy name?
Thy name is known,
Of great account, amongst the foes of Denmark.
Thou art the chosen friend of English Alfred.
His faithful subject.
What's thy sister's name?
Emma. Alas! to great misfortune born!
Suspend a while thy judgment of her fortune.
(To the GUARDS, who go off.)
The tale of Alfred was devised
To smooth thy way to Emma.
So it was,
Yet Alfred, if alive, in peril lives;
And doubtful, at this moment, is his fate.
Dead or alive, I care not. If he lives,
He never can regain his kingdom lost;
Nor England e'er shake off the yoke of Denmark.
Surrey, tho' war and battle are my joy,
Yet I desire sometimes in peace to dwell.
Thy sister's beauty has inflam'd my heart,
And policy accords with love's desire.
The charming Emma shall be Hinguar's bride:
And England, partial to her own, obey
Princes, whose blood is native to the land.
[Page 29]
Thou hast a Queen.
What then? The Gods of Denmark
Do not, like yours, their votaries confine
To the domestic bondage of one wife.
My soul abhors the daughter of old Gothred,
That furious woman, who was once my Queen:
Her I divorce; and on her vacant throne,
Will place thy sister.
That her faith forbids.
A Christian cannot wed a heathen Lord.
Thy mind, averse, is fertile in objections.
Saxon, thou speak'st not with a brother's tongue.
Thou hast deceiv'd me once.—Erick!
Enter ERICK.
My Lord.
Within my tent confine and guard him strictly.
[Exeunt Alfred and Erick.
I do suspect this is the Lover still.
It much behoves me soon to be resolv'd.
'Tis just, with fallacy, to prove the false;
And turn the arts of woman on herself.
I'll give a rude alarm, and shake her soul,
Even to the center. To my wish, she comes,
Buried in thought. She has not yet observ'd me.
(Steps aside.
I fear we are discover'd and betray'd.
That Danish woman, whom I never lov'd,
[Page 30] Has held a private conference with Hinguar.
She pierces me with her malicious eyes,
Swimming in joy, and conscious of detection.
She has o'erheard us.—
Hinguar comes behind and seizes her arm.
Why dost thou start,
And look so guilty? Where's thy frenzy now?
The artful semblance, that deceiv'd the Dane?
Thy fear betrays the fraud I knew before.
Confess thy fault and trust to Hinguar's mercy.
Altho' thou hast offended deeply,
Thy beauty pleads for thee: My love forgives.
One victim is enough.
One victim! ah!
Yes, thy associate, the pretended Bard,
Who call'd himself thy brother: He hath paid
The forfeit, with his life.
(Staggers ready to faint.)
Thou bloody Dane!
Inhuman monster! hast thou murder'd Alfred?
And dost thou speak of love to Ethelswida?
Alfred and Ethelswida!
Tyrant! Yes.
There's nothing now to save or to deny.
In me, behold the bride of royal Alfred!
Thy treachery, and not thy valour, Dane,
Upon our nuptial day, divorc'd our loves.
But neither force nor fraud can part us now.
Where Alfred is, my soul shall shortly be.
[Page 31]
Thou'rt greatly chang'd. This courage is not real.
'Tis not thy nature.
I shall change no more
My former fear from love extreme arose.
Then, life was dear to me, for Alfred's sake.
But now, since he is dead, for Alfred's sake,
I wish to die, and loath the life I lov'd.
'Tis bravely spoken.
'Tis not my desire
To hold discourse with thee. Go, from my sight;
Thou'rt hideous to my eyes, thou vile assassin!
(Turns away.)
Hear me!
I wou'd not, if I could prevent it.
But what I can I will. I speak no more.
My lips are clos'd for ever.
Yet I know
A way to open them. That bitter smile
I reck not; no, nor those averted eyes.
Know, I have turn'd thy arts against thyself,
And caught thee, in thy own deceitful snare.
From impotence of mind, thou hast reveal'd
Th'important secret, that the bard was Alfred.
Now, if he dies, it is thy folly kills him:
He lives, by thee, discover'd to his foe.
Does Alfred live, and has my tongue betray'd him
Have I discover'd Alfred to his foe?
Still thou may'st preserve his life,
His fate on thee depends.
[Page 32]
On me!
On thee!
Accept my offer'd hand, and Alfred lives.
Nay, reascends, in peace, his father's throne.
If not, I swear by Odin, awful name,
The God of battles, whom alone I serve,
This hour, my rival dies.
Is this thy mercy?
Would Hinguar, conscious that my heart is full
Of love to Alfred, take a faithless hand?
I wou'd; I will, this instant; speak the word.
I shudder at the thought, and loath thee more,
Much more than ever. Brutal is thy passion,
And horrible to womankind thy love.
Is this thy answer? Whilst the Saxon lives.
Thou hast some hope. Of him I will dispose,
Without delay.
Stay, I conjure thee, stay.
My time is precious. I have deeply sworn,
And fix'd the only ransom of his life.
Touch not the life of Alfred.
Every word,
Thy passion speaks, accelerates his doom.
I go to see himdie.
(seizing his robe.)
Thou shalt not go.
By all that's holy, I will not survive him.
Some of thy sex, I know, have sworn as much,
And have surviv'd the vow.
[Page 33]
One moment stay.
Her countenance is like a troubled sky,
When the wind veers about.
Inspire me, heaven!
The life of Alfred, and the fate of England,
Are in the balance. Yes, I am inspir'd.
Heaven, that suggests the thought, will give me strength
To act the generous deed.
Her mind gives way.
Hinguar! should I consent to be thy bride,
Would Alfred's life be safe? What pledge for that?
What hostage hast thou worth the King or England?
Consider and demand.
Set Alfred free:
The English camp is near: conduct him thither:
Let me have full assurance of his safety;
Then lead me to the altar. When my vow
Is made, tho' made to thee, our holy faith
Enjoins till death, observance.
Set him free
And trust a woman's word! I like it not.
Fortune hath favour'd me, beyond my hopes.
My rival, both in empire and in love,
Is in my power. How shall I best improve
The prosperous hour, which my good planet rules?
Enter ERICK.
My Lord, the valiant Rollo craves admittance.
I will not see him. He is sent by Ronex,
With some ungrateful message. Ask his business.
[Page 34]
Unask'd he told it. In the field, to-day,
His brother press'd too near the English horse:
They turn'd and took him pris'ner. Rollo begs,
That he may be exchang'd.
For whom?
For Surrey,
Whom in the tent he saw.
He and his brother,
And all their tribe, are not worth such a ransom.
Erick, that Surrey is the King of England.—
Alfred himself.
He is, by heaven!
And my fair captive is the Mercian maid
By Alfred lov'd, the beauteous Ethelswida!
Go, bring the Saxon hither.
[Exit Erick.
Now, I'll sound him.
The policy of state enjoins his death:
The politicks of love suspend his doom.
The instrument he is, by which I'll work
This woman to my will. If I can make
Her lover false to her, pride and revenge,
Will bring her not reluctant to my arms.
Thus play the passions of her way ward sex,
Birds of a kind, they build their nests alike;
And one true falcon, like another flies.
So, every woman, when her love is scorn'd,
By certain instinct, takes the same revenge.
(Enter ALFRED, in his first dress, advances reso­lutely,]
Twice have we met to-day, and both the times,
With borrow'd names and forms, thou hast de­ceiv'd me.
Alfred; I know thee now.
[Page 35]
Hinguar, thou dost,
Repine not at this chance. If we had met,
In lists of combat or embattled field,
Death or captivity had been thy portion.
Uncertain ever is the fate of arms.
I have not found it so. In every battle
On my victorious banners fortune waits.
Suppose then, that thou wert, by chance of war,
My pris'ner; say, what wou'dst thou now expect
Sould be thy doom?
'Tis Hinguar's part to say,
And mine to suffer.
Thou shalt suffer nothing,
Unworthy of a king. Tho' of the race
Of war and battle, who have stretch'd the spear
Of conquest o'er mankind; yet I will speak
The words of peace. The English and the Danes
Have fought too long, for this contested land,
Whose spacious kingdoms can, with ease, contain
The rival nations; and the fertile fields
Glut, with luxurious plenty, their desires,
Let us divide the Land, and join in league
Eternal: Then, united, shake the world.
Treaties of peace and leagues have oft been made;
But how observed, thou know'st.
There was no bond
To make the sormer treaties fast and sure.
The peace I offer now shall be confirm'd,
By ties, which bind the nations to each other.
My valiant brother left an only child,
In Denmark born, but here in England bred;
Matchless in form and seature is the maid;
Straight as the pine, that grows on Norway's hills.
She rises tall above the virgin-train:
[Page 36] Blue rolls her melting eye: Her heaving breast
Is whiter than the snow, that's newly fallen,
This maid of beauty I will give to Alfred,
The pledge and bond of union and of peace.
(ALFRED remains silent.
Why dost thou not reply? Dost thou disdain
A bride of Danish race?
Silent, I stand
To learn the full extent of thy design.
Mean'st thou not still to blend the nations more:
To mix the royal blood of either land;
And wed thyself a wife of English race?
I do.
And 'tis my bride that thou hast chosen.
Call her not thine. Nothing belongs to thee.
A captive has no right.
Thou keep'st thy word,
And treat'st me like a king!
I'll make thee one,
Which now thou art not. Wed the maid of Den­mark;
And o'er thy father's ancient kingdom reign.
Unworthy I should be to reign,—to live,
If I could make such barter of my honour,
Is this the peace of Hinguar?
Yes: no other,
Are these the terms that thou propound'st to Alfred?
They are.
I am a captive and urarm'd;
So, with impunity, thou may'st insult me.
[Page 37]
I stand astonish'd at thy pride, thy folly.
Thou ruin'd Alfred, think of thy condition.
Thy life or death upon my nod depends.
Ruin'd I am; but it was human weakness,
And no disgraceful fault, that ruin'd Alfred.
Impell'd by tender, anxious, jealous love;
Despising danger, to thy tents I came;
And dost thou think I am so quickly alter'd?
Dost thou imagine, that the dread of death
Can move my soul to yield to thee my bride?
And lead, if she would follow me, to shame?
Hinguar, the meanest man of Saxon race,
In freedom born would from such baseness shrink;
And scorn, with insamy, to purchase life.
Thou talk'st it well; and I have often heard
Of the persuasive eloquence of Alfred.
Plain are my words: They speak thy certain doom.
If not the friend and firm ally of Hinguar,
Thou dy'st.
My death will not conclude the war,
One course there is, if greatly thou aspir'st
To reign supreme in England, and possess
With honour gain'd, fair Ethelswida's charms.
I do.
Then mark me, Dane! Tho' thou art sprung
From heroes, more than human,—Odin's race,
Who stretch'd the spear of conquest o'er the world;
And thou, thyself, in war and battles bred,
Chain'd to thy sword submissive fortune lead'st;
Alfred▪ whose fathers have in battle fallen,
Whose valour ne'er could fix inconstant fortune,
Offers to meet thee, in the listed field;
And, by his single arm, to thineoppos'd,
Decide the sovereignty of England's realm,
By the award of heaven. In this encounter,
[Page 38] My nobles and my people will abide;
And, if thou conquer'st, Ethelswida's thine.
What folly to presume, thou fallen Alfred!
That I will free my captive, and contend
With him on equal terms!
Brav'd as I was,
I thought it fitting thus, to meet thy scorn.
Perhaps I entertain'd a glimpse of hope,
That thou might'st, choose thus nobly to prevail,
To gain by valour warlike England's crown;
And to the beauteous Ethelswida come,
The victor, not the murderer, of her husband.
The beauteous Ethelswida has consented
To give her hand. The terms which thou disdain'st,
Vain glorious Saxon! are more ample far,
Than those which she did stipulate for thee.
Thus she rewards the constancy of Alfred.
Consider that.
No, not one moment, Dane.
Thy faith in love and war to me are known.
I will take no advantage of thy passion.
Hear my determin'd purpose: Thou shalt die,
Or wed the maid of Denmark. Heated now
And chaff'd with keen contention, pride rebels
Against thy reason. I will give thee time
To cool, and take the counsel of thy judgment.
One hour thou hast to think.
(To Erick.)
Conduct him hence.
Prudence requires that Hinguar too should think.
Behold you banners streaming to the wind,
The host of England will revenge their King.
[Exeunt Alfred and Erick.
This Alfred bears a high and haughty mind,
Not likely to submit. Over his grave,
[Page 39] The path of Hinguar lies. When he is dead,
After a storm of rage, a flood of tears,
The changeful sky of woman will grow clear,
And beauty's beams on the new lover shine.
Enter EDDA.
The tidings which I bring, my pardon plead,
For this intrusion.
Say, what has befallen?
Ronex, the Queen pursues the Captive's life.
Rollo, devoted to her will, address'd me,
With promises of infinite reward,
If I would lend my aid. When I resus'd,
He threaten'd me. The party of the Queen
Was strong enough, he said, by force, to right her.
That was his errand here?
I seem'd to slight
His menaces. He kindled into rage;
Swore, that the bravest chiefs of Denmark's host,
Were in his tent assembled with the Queen,
And waited his return, to rise in arms,
And execute her orders.
I'll prevent them,
And crush this nest of traitors. Rollo's tent;
That is the place?
It is.
Look to thy charge.
Here, thou art absolute; the guards obey thee.
Manet EDDA.
This lovely captive will, at last, be Queen.
I must endeavour to regain her favour.
End of the THIRD Act.


FOR England and for Ethelswida's sake,
To gain a little time, appear to yield.
'Ere this, the valliant Edwin is inform'd
Of thy disaster. Night approaches fast;
And Danish discord aids the English arms.
Shew not thy soul so open to the Dane.
My friend, to whom my favour has been fatal,
It is thy fortune to behold the last
And darkest scene of Alfred's tragic life.
Something it grieves me, that mankind who judge
By the event! perhaps may blame my rashness,
Do thou defend the ashes of thy friend
And publish to the world—
Enter EDDA and ERICK.
Erick! the captive
Desires once more, to see the Saxon Prince.
For thy permission to the king I'll answer.
'Tis not my part to question, but obey.
[Exit Edda.
What can this woman mean?
Surrey, I tremble,
And, like a coward, shake from head to foot.
My mind, for this encounter, is not arm'd.
Stern was my preparation, firm the mail
That bound my breast, against approaching death.
This trial takes me on another quarter;
The woes of Ethelswida!—Rise, my soul!
[Page 41] Against the storm. I ought to strengthen her;
And stand myself a rock.
(to Erick.)
Ritire with me;
Let their discourse be, as she wishes, private.
[Exeunt Erick and Edda.
[ETHELSWIDA comes towards ALFRED, with great emotion.]
O, Ethelswida, do not pierce my heart,
With looks so full of pity and of love!
My soul looks thro' my eyes. My love, my lord,
My king, my husband!
Oh! thou fann'st the fire,
On which my reason ashes heaps, in vain.
Like Hercules, I wear the poison'd robe:
Thou pull'st the garment; and my nerves are torn.
Why didst thou wish to see the ruined Alfred?
Not ruin'd yet. His love endangered Alfred:
My love shall save him still.
Can there be truth
In Hinguar? Now, my soul begins to fear.
What dost thou fear?
The weakness of thy sex.
The weakness of my sex!—I guess thy thoughts.
What did the tyrant say of Ethelswida?
What I despis'd, discredited, and scorn'd.
He said, that he had sought aud won thy love:
That thou consented'st to become his bride.
On what conditions?
[Page 42]
Then, thou did'st consent!
Hear! men and angels hear!
Angels and men,
And Alfred, hear and judge. To save thy life,
To stop the bloody tyrant's lifted arm,
I did consent, on this express condition,
That Hinguar, instantly, shou'd set thee free.
When certain of thy safety, Alfred, then,
I was prepar'd and arm'd to mock the Dane—
To die.
Forgive me, noblest of thy sex;
Greater than fancy'd heroine of the song;
Forgive the wrong I offer'd to thy virtue.
Accept thy freedom; let my hand restore
The king of England to his injur'd people,
Robb'd of their hero, by my luckless love.
And when the time shall come, as come it will,
Unless the planet of this hour shou'd strike,
That Alfred his predicted fate fulfils;
And, in the circle of his empire sits,
With glory crown'd, remember Ethelswida,
Who died, exulting, to preserve her Lord.
Remember thee! This is no time to speak,
To ope the floodgates of my bursting heart.
Remember thee! Whatever be my fate,
Thou ne'er shall be forgot, while Albion lifts
Her head above the waves. But know, my love,
That this barbarian never was sincere:
For other terms to me he has propos'd;—
A Danish bride.
To thee a Danish bride!
Or instand death, to follow the resusal.
Alfred, thou liv'st!—
[Page 43]
I live till he returns.
For, tho' I scorn'd his offer, he persisted;
Gave me one hour more calmly to consider.—
The time's expired.
Thou must not, shalt not die.
Rash is the counsel of affection.
I know the character of Hinguar well.
Nor life nor liberty will he bestow
On those whom he has wrong'd. If I shou'd wed
The Danish maid, I but embrace dishonour.
And perish with addition of disgrace.
What means the crafty Dane?
I think he meant
To circumvent the soul of Ethelswida.
Should I consent to wed a Danish bride,
He hopes to rouze the woman in thy heart,
And profit by the rage of slighted beauty.
Perhaps, the women of his savage land
Have taught him, thus, to judge of womankind.
If they are like the clouds, that change their form,
And, careless, fly before each shifting gale,
Far different is the soul of Ethelswida.
Alfred, thy love is dearer than my life.
Dearer than both, is Alfred's life or fame.
In this extreme distress, remove me far;
Exclude me from thy thoughts; suppose me dead;
And act, as if I never had been born.
Thy magnanimity gives edge to mine.
Rather than wed the Danish maid, I die:
Yet to elude the deadly rage of Hinguar,
And wait the chances of the coming night,
Big with event—
[Page 44] Enter ERICK.
My Lord, a numerous band,
Led by the Queen and the fierce Bothnic chief,
Surrounds the tents.
Give me a sword.
Take this.
If thro' their squadrons, I can win my way,
At midnight I return.
One moment past,
On whose uncertain wing perdition floats;
The next may bring salvation. O, my love!
Ere Ronex comes, retire! Shun the first shock
Of her impetuous rage.
Here I remain,
And live or die with thee. To fly from her,
Were to confess myself the wretch she thinks me.
I'll meet her, as I ought. Wrong'd by her hate
And by her husband's love, my innocence
I will not plead; but urge my injuries,
And crave of her redress.
(Entering with Danish Soldiers.)
Spare those that yield:
Kill all that dare resist.
(Seeing Ethelswida.
See, where she stands,
Like an enchantress, in the magic circle.
Advance and seize her.
(Drawing his sword.)
Hold! he dies, that stirs.
Till I have spoken. Hear, mistaken Queen!
And learn from me how wide thy anger errs.
Ha! Who art thou, that bear'st so brave a form?
[Page 45] Yet in this place, to shame devoted, dwell'st
The pander and the guard of Hinguar's love.
What is thy name?
My name?
Fear'st thou to tell?
It will amaze thee much: My name is Alfred.
The King of England!
Thou look'st a King?—
Yet most incredible thou should'st be Alfred.
Not more incredible, than that the person,
Whose life thy rash resentment now pursues,
Is Alfred's bride, the princess Ethelswida,
Born of a race dishonour never strain'd,
And to the strictest rules of virtue bred.
My soul, O Queen, devoted to my Lord,
But one affection knows, and worse than death
Abhors the love of Hinguar. Thy protection
My sex demands and my misfortunes claim.
Embrace this fair occasion to be just,
And generously repair the cruel wrong,
Thy thougnts have offered to my spotless fame.
The princess Ethelswida!—Do I dream?
Or does each waking sense assure a scene
Of things and persons, more incredible
Then ever vision of the night combin'd?
Enter ROLLO.
Odin be prais'd. I come in time to save them.
Hearken, my liege, to faithful Rollo's voice.
This is the King of England!
[Page 46]
I believe it,
Before thou cam'st, he had himself reveal'd.
His royal presence warrants what he is.
Princess, the hatred and the fell intent,
With which, confessedly, at first I came,
Do not relate to thee, unlike in all,
To the imagin'd object of my wrath.
My error pardon; and my deeds shall show
The pity, which I feel for thy misfortunes;
The high esteem, in which I hold thy virtue.
Thy pity for distress, thy love of virtue,
Nobly thy deeds may prove. Deliver Alfred
The victim of his love and of his virtue.
Long is the tale, too long to tell it now.
But Hinguar's voice has doom'd my Lord to death.
Because to him he wou'd not yield his bride.
If then the cause of that decree offend thee,
Treat with the King of England, and prevent it.
By Thor's right arm, the lady counsels well,
Renounce all thoughts of amity with Hinguar,
Who never will forgive thy friends or thee,
The insult of this day.—Unite with England,
And give the nations peace.
Thy daring soul
Soars to the highest pitch of bold emprize.
But will the Danish chiefs adopt thy counsel?
Make trial; prove their hearts; if they should faint,
Ruin abides them. They have gone too far,
With safety, to recede. If he who draws
His sword against a King, away should throw
The useless scabbard, what ought he to do,
Who draws his sword against a fell usurper,
Who dares not show the mercy of a Prince?
[Page 47]
That argument comes near. I'll urge it home;
And, when we have consulted and resolv'd,
The King of England then—
To their demands
Will cordially agree. A common cause,
In time of danger, leads to sure accord.
[Exeunt Ronex and Rollo.
My love, look up; and, with a face of joy,
Welcome the dawn of hope.
Us'd to despair,
Like one in darkness long immured, as yet
I relish not the light.
Soon shalt thou see
The rock of danger prove the rock of refuge;
And from the foe we dreaded safety come.
Still I suspect the faith of Danish friends.
But most, of all, my soul distrusts the Queen,
That furious woman, who puts off the sex;
And, in her rage, against her husband arms.
Let us of what she is avail ourselves;
And o'er the bridge, she builds, the torrent cross,
Which roars unfordable.
Before she came,
Of the approaching night, big with event,
Thou wast about to speak. Fain wou'd I hear
Of ought that's good, and not deriv'd from Ronex.
This hour,—for now the shades of night de­scend,
A chosen band, by valiant Edwin led,
Draw near the Danish camp; and, in the wood,
My orders wait. If noble Surrey lives,
Deeds will be done to night.
[Page 48]
And Hinguar too,
He will not slumber.—See, the Dane returns!
Enter ROLLO.
The Queen of Denmark and the chiefs, in council,
Thy presence wait, to fix their last resolve.
Whate'er on me depends, they may command.
Is the defect peculiar to myself?
Or is it incident to womankind,
By sudden strong impressions to be sway'd?
The image of this dreadful Ronex haunts me;
And, like a ghost, excites inhuman fears.
When I was toss'd upon a sea of peril,
In which my foot could reach no ground of hope,
I swam, with courage, on the stormy waves.
In shallower water now, fearful I wade,
Andreel at every surge. She gaz'd on Alfred;
Avow'd her admiration of his form.—
Enter EDDA.
Lady, I bring alarming news.
To whom?
To thee.—When thou hast heard my tidings, judge.
Among the Danish captains, one there is,
To me, by blood and friendship, strictly join'd:
He told me, that the chiefs at last, agreed
To join with England, upon this condition,
That English Alfred, weds the Danish Queen.
I saw it in her eyes; foretold my fate.
Should he refuse, what then?
In that event,
They mean to treat with Hinguar, and restore
[Page 49] To him his captives. But their hope is high,
That Alfred will consent.
Not whilst I live.—
But will the Danes permit a woman's life
To stand a wall between them and their purpose?
The rage of Ronex, like a swelling wave,
Over that slender mound will burst amain:
Woman to woman is the fellest foe.
And such a woman, search from end to end
The world, all nations and religions try,
There is not to be found a parallel
To this unprincipled, unbridled Ronex.
The passion of the moment, is the God
She always serves.
Alas! What shall I do,
Who in the level of her fury stand?
Ronex, thy deadly foe, is also mine.
Ere now, beneath her hatred I had fallen,
But for my pow'rful friend.
Thy friend!—Is he
High in command?
To Bothnick Rollo next.
Many and brave the warriors, he commands.
Behind thy tent the passage to the plain,
This night, he guards.
My hopes revive again.
Should I escape, or if, perchance, I perish,
No more my destiny entangles Alfred.
For me, the eagle left his airy way,
And, stooping in my tract, his freedom lost.
Edda, if pity of my lost estate
Can move a woman's heart, or vast reward
[Page 50] Induce thy soul to do an act humane,
Persuade thy friend.
To what?
To let me pass.
Then, whither wilt thou go?
If I can gain
The shelter of the neighb'ring wood, I'm safe.
But any place I hold more safe than this.
Wilt'st thou assist me?
I embrace thy fate.
Thro' the dark night, and thro' surrounding arms,
I shall attend thee hence, if I can win
My friend to guide our steps. Forthwith, Ill try.
Please to thy tent repair.
I wrong'd thee once;
And thou, at last, hast prov'd thyself my friend.
With perfect trust, my soul on thee relies.
May angels prompt thy tongue.
Manet EDDA.
No art of mine;
The dread of Ronex, working on her mind,
Conjur'd each spectre up, I wish'd to raise.
I'll guide her steps committed to my care;
And lead her safe to Hinguar's longing arms.
End of the FOURTH Act.


SCENE, The Tents—At a distance mountains and trees; the moon in crescent, and the stage darkened.
HAD she not fail'd, 'ere this, she had return'd.
Unbraced by vain suspense and expectation,
My spirit flags; and, like a racer tired,
Swerves in the course. I am not what I was.
Hark to that hollow sound!—Is it the hum
Of voices roll'd together in the wind?
Or roars the blast of autumn through the woods?
Alas, I was not wont to fear the night.
When, wan'dring on the pleasant banks of Trent,
By moon-light, oft I trac'd the glittering stream,
And mus'd on Alfred. Peaceful were the sounds,
And to my temper tun'd, which then I heard.
My steps, light as they were, amongst the leaves,
From her high roost the fluttering stock-dove scar'd;
Or startled from his lair the bounding stag.
Begirt with armies now, hemm'd round with spears,
I fear at every step to rouse a foe.
Thro' the dim shades, behold a human form.
'Tis Edda.—Ah, what tidings!
Enter EDDA.
Good—and bad.
Of Alfred what?
[Page 52]
Enrag'd at his refusal
To wed their willing Queen, the Danish chiefs
His sword demanded, and to Rollo gave
Charge of his person. Still they sit in council
New courses to devise.
Would I were hence,
Before those dreadful counsellors determine.
What says thy friend?
He answers sor thy safety,
If firm thy purpose be, this night, to fly.
Blest be thy tongue!
What else remains to say
Or do,—the cover of the tent will hide.
Yet, ere I plunge into the stream of fate
Angels! and saints, who once yourselves were hu­man,
Now, perfect spirits and with Seraphs mix'd,
Administer to heaven's eternal King!
O, hear my suppliant voice, and to the throne
Where sovereign mercy sits, prefer the prayer
Of one in deep distress, who in the hour
Of her prosperity, never forgot
To bow before your shrines. Gracious descend,
Thro' darkness, night and death, my footsteps guide.
But if I'm doom'd, in the rough Path to fall,
O, guard the King of England; from the rage
Of cruel foes—preserve the life of Alfred!
Exeunt to the tent.
Enter ROLLO with two Danish soldiers.
It is the Queen's command.
[Page 53]
The warrant's good.
The Queen commands our swords.
Yes, to kill men,
Arm'd and resisting; that's a soldier's task.
To kill a helpless woman likes me not.
If you demur!—
[First soldier speaks aside to the second; then turns to Rollo.]
My Lord, we are resolved.
I know you resolute and secret both;
Selected you as worthy of reward,
Befitting such a service.
We'll perform it.
The deed, when done, must never be avow'd;
But to the chance of this unruly night
Solely imputed.
Silent is the grave!—
Whoever sees us dies.
Look there my Lord,
(Ethelswida and Edda in the back ground.
Who may they be, who yonder steal along,
Timid their step and mien?
Forthwith, pursue.
She in the azure mantle, is the princess.
Of her make sure.
[Exeunt the Danes.
Manet ROLLO.
Not without much regret,
Did I consent to Ethelswida's death.
My soul was loth to hurt the lovely maid;
Loth to put out the radiant star of beauty,
[Page 54] 'Ere half her course was run. Necessity
Impos'd this deed on my reluctant mind.
For, tho' the star was bright, she beam'd destruc­tion;
And, like a comet, from her tresses shook
Discord and war.
Enter RONEX.
Are my commands obey'd?
Just as my soldiers were about to enter,
And execute their orders, from the tent,
With silent steps she stole: they saw, pursued,
And have, ere now, o'ertaken.
Speed their swords!—
My fortune, now, is on the anvil placed,
For fate to strike and fashion good or evil.
Hinguar comes on, dark as the night that shades him.
He shall be met.
Hail, sovereignty of Denmark!
A foe, whom we expected not, draws near;
The host of England—
Cover the plain.
Along their line, I heard the voice of Erick.
That traitor leads them on.
Caught in a net,
Spread by the hand of chance!—
[Page 55]
What shall we do?
What refuge now in counsel, or in arms?
The King of England is our only refuge.
Make him thy friend; and he will quickly turn
On Hinguar's troops the torrent of his arms.
No choice is left. Fly, and bring Alfred hither.
(To the officer.
In pledge of amity, restore his sword.
Manent ROLLO and RONEX.
Rollo, thou look'st as if thou didst repent,
What we have done. My soul's a constant stream,
Which knows no changeful ebb.
If Alfred should
Desire to see that Ethelswida's safe—
I'll find an answer fit, He comes. Behold him.
O'er his fix'd eyes, his frowning brows project.
His mind is high wound up.
Now, King of England,
Let no resentment of the past provoke
Thy soul to judge, with passion, of the present.
Hinguar, thy mortal foe, comes on resolv'd
His lovely prize, by valour, to regain.
Oppos'd to him we stand, equal in arms.
But from their hill the English host descend,
To turn the scale of combat. Dost thou wish
The tyrant to prevail?
Answer direct
Thy question needs not, Hinguar is my foe.
Grant me those equal terms, I ask'd at first;
And to your arms I join the force of England.
[Page 56]
Thy terms are more agreeable to Ronex,
Than those the policy of Denmark nam'd.
By Frea, eldest goddess of the sky,
The ancient arbiter of human things,
I swear to the performance.
In that tent,
If Ethelswida rests, I wish to see her.
Far from this spot, where Hinguar points his march,
The Princess to a safer place is mov'd,
Near my pavilion.
A fierce attack
Is on the right begun.
The troops of England!—
If Alfred gives his aid, it must be now.
This officer will on thy steps attend;
And to the Danish chiefs announce thy purpose.
That is the way direct. Along this path
I go to combat Hinguar.
[Exit Rollo.
Queen of Denmark,
To the afflicted Captive comfort give.
She is the bond and cement of our friendship.
[Exit Alfred.
Then we shall ne'er unite. He does suspect me.
He rivitted on mine his jealous eyes.
There is no proof, and I will brave the suspicion,
With loud appeals, with vows and protestations
Of purest innocence.—That shout is near;
It comes against the wind:—My foes prevail.
Nearer and nearer still!—'Tis time to fly.
[Page 57] On one side Alfred, on the other Hinguar.
Here let them meet, and fight for Ethelswida.
(behind the scenes.
Pursue along the vale; the leaders kill,
But spare the common men.
Enter HINGUAR with soldiers.
This is the place.
Now I have reach'd the port of my desire.
The prize of love and conquest anchors here.
Where are the guards? where she, whom they shou'd guard?
What does this awful solitude portend?
(Enter, from the opposite side of the stage, the two Assassins, with the robe of Ethelswida, stained with blood.)
Twice have we chang'd our course. To keep this robe,
We lose ourselves.
By Hela's sulphur'd fires,
The robe of Ethelswida, stain'd with blood!
Infernal villains!—
Caught, undone,—the King!
(Throwing down the mantle.)
We are but instruments to work the will
Of our superiors.
Have you killed the lady.
Who own'd this garment?
To deny were vain.
The Queen commanded us, and we obey'd.
We know our fate, and we will die like men.
[Page 58]
Long shall you live in pain and wish for death.
The ragged Saw shall tear your tortur'd limbs;
And when your carcasses are all one wound,
Fastened on iron hooks you shall be hung,
And die by inches.—Bear them to their fate.
[Exeunt guarded.
My Lord, the troops which on the left advanc'd,
Attack'd, and soon subdu'd the guards of Ronex;
But charged by English Alfred, in their turn,
Before him fly.
My trumpets!—sound a charge,
And call the straggling soldiers to my spear.
The charm, that drew me to this spot, will bring
The Saxon hither.—Odin, brace my arm,
And let my sword, like thine own thunder, fall
On Alfred's crest.
(The trumpets sound.
Enter ALFRED, with English soldiers, and the OFFICER of the first ACT.
Behold the man!—
Whose steel
Shall pierce thy heart.
Thy menaces, barbarian,
Tho' fierce and rude, become thee better now,
Than when I heard them last.
I threatened then;
And now I will perform.
My soldiers brave
Restrain your ardour.
[Page 59] (To Hinguar,)
Spare thy people, King!
Let us, alone, in mortal strife engage;
Whilst every Dane and Saxon shall look on;
And by the fortune of their Prince abide.
'Tis what I wish'd; but did not think thou durst
Come from the crowd, and, single, meet my arm.
In more than this mistaken: But by deeds,
Not words, I will convince thee.
Prompt thy tongue;
But slow thy hand. Come on. Odin for Denmark!
For England and her King, the living God!
(They fight, Hinguar falls.
Now, where is Hinguar's pride?
Here, in his heart,
Unconquer'd still the pride of Hinguar dwells.
To die in battle is a warrior's death.
The hero fights and falls; but never yields.
Hinguar has fought. From sea to sea, his sword,
Thro' England blaz'd, a meteor dropping blood.
The wolf and eagle followed to the feast,
Tracking its course. The warrior, old in arms.
The youthful chief, by many a virgin lov'd,
Lay reeking in their gore.
As thou dost now!
The virgin's and the widow's curse have found thee,
And laid in dust the troubler of the land.
In dust thy hopes are laid. Behold that robe.
Belike, thou know'st it.
Ethelswida's robe,
With bloody gashes torn! More fell than bears
[Page 60] That starve on hill of snow, how durst thou lift
Thy cursed hand?
No. Ethelswida fell
By Ronex. Yet, altho' I killed her not,
Her death delights me. Saxon, I rejoice
At thy calamity. Happy my lot,
Compar'd with thine. To the Valkyrian maids
I go, to Odin and the hall of joy.
Thou of thy love bereft, shalt waste thy days,
In lamentation, like the wretch who pines
By Hela's lake and drinks the poison'd stream,
Pour'd from the jaws of snakes. I laugh at thee,
And, like my fathers, die.
His dying voice
Of me prophetic fpake. O, Ethelswida!
And Surrey too! in Alfred's cause has fallen.
Now on the top, the summit of affliction,
Like a tree, stript of bark and branch, I stand,
Bare on all sides, and naked to the storm.
Voice behind the scenes.
Where is the conquering King, my lord, my husband?
Make way and let me rush—where is my Alfred?
ETHELSWIDA enters and sees him. (Edwin following.)
Eternal powers! Is this the scene of joy?
(After a pause, looking at the robe,
am the cause accurst of Alfred's death,
And England's ruin. Bear me witness, heaven!—
But words are vain. Let those bewail their doom,
Who live to suffer, and prolong their pain.
The gleam of hope, extinguish'd by despair,
Sharpens my sense of misery, and spreads
[Page 61] A deeper horror on my tortur'd mind.
My sure, and now my only friend, come forth.
(Draws a dagger.
Spirit of Alfred, stay!
(Alfred revives.
The shades of death
Still swim before my eyes. I heard the ghost
Of Ethelswida call!
He lives, he lives!
My heart surcharg'd, bursts with a flood of joy.
Her voice, her form; 'tis she, 'tis she herself!
My Ethelswida!
(Runs into her arms.)
Alfred! Gracious heaven!
For ever blest thy Providence divine!
In error lost, upon the brink we stood,
Of bottomless perdition. O, my love,
Most certain seem'd thy death.
I saw thee dead,
And rais'd my arm to join my lot to thine.
I heard the dagger fall. It was reserv'd
For thee, thou pride and glory of thy sex,
To give the noblest proof of love—and live.
Ere since the sad commencement of our woes,
Deep on my heart engrav'd was the resolve,
Not to survive thee in the storms of fortune.
That anchor held like fate.
Whence came that sign
Which friends and foes deceived?
True was the sign
[Page 62] Of death. The wearer of my garment died,
For me mistaken.
'Twas a wounded mind.
Which laid me low. Oppress'd with grief I sunk.
Edwin, my friend—
Compleat is Edwin's joy
To see his Prince with love and glory crown'd.
The scene is ghastly, and with death deform'd.
In place more fitting, of our friends and foes
According to desert, we will decree.
The nations now are one; with Hinguar died
The enmity of England and of Denmark.
My people with their monarch shall be blest
Whilst such a partner of my empire reigns.
Nor shall the story of the toils of Alfred,
Sink to oblivion, in the tide of time,
Or to posterity descend in vain.
From hence the people of the land he lov'd;
And future Princes of that land may learn,
Fearless to stem the torrent of disaster,
And ne'er of England, or themselves, despair.

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