It may perhaps be necessary to ac­quaint the reader, that Euripides has written a tragedy upon the same subject. In his Heraclidae, Macaria is sacrificed in the second act, and never afterwards mentioned; and Acamas is a mute. In­deed the whole conduct of this play is so entirely different from that of the Greek poet, that the author is hardly conscious to himself of having borrowed any thing more from him, than the general idea of the Suppliants taking refuge in the temple, and Macaria's voluntary offer of her own life.


WITH countenance thrice chang'd from red to pale,
Our author sends me forth to tell his tale;
Croesus said he—who rul'd those lands that lie—
Croesus—the Nabob of Antiquity:
When satiated with war, with wealth, with praise,
Defir'd new pleasures still to sooth his days;
And publish'd vast rewards (sure out of spite)
To him who should produce some new delight;
This flame unquench'd burns on from age to age,
Panting for novelty you seek our stage:
To please this taste, a classic bard will try,
To make soft bosoms heave a classic sigh;
Feel Deianira's faded charms, and trace
Alcides' godlike virtues in his race:
Hard is the task who strives your praise to gain,
And hard the part a poet must sustain.
Herculean labours might our Prologue fill,
And prove the club less powerful than the quill,
To clear the course, to turn the tide of wit,
To charm the watchful dragon of the pit;
The Hydra's hiss to check, the giants quell,
And bind the barking Cerberus of Hell,
[Page] Might the best strength of Hercules require,
Tho' to his force were added Orpheus' lyre:
Yet will we not despond—Alcides' race
In every one's remembrance holds a place;
The tale has trembled on each infant tongue,
The tale that Busby taught—that Dryden sung:
This night attend, one generous tear bestow,
To weep the hero's wrongs, the daughter's woe,
Like kind protectors grant the widow's suit,
And crown your poet with the golden fruit.

Dramatis Personae.

DEMOPHON, King of Athens,
ACAMAS, his Brother,
HYLLUS, Son of Deianira,
IOLAUS Friend of Deianira,
ALCANDER, Herald from Eurystheus,
THESTOR, a Priest,
HAEMON, an Officer attend­ing Deianira.
DEIANIRA, Widow of Her­cules,
MACARIA, her Daughter,
  • Officers, Priests, Virgins, &c.
SCENE. The Vestibules of the Temples of Ju­piter and Juno, at Athens; and a Grove.



IOLAUS, and others, round an Altar near the Temple of Jupiter.
HERE, wretched outcasts! poor remains of friends
To him who once was Hercules, rest here.
Jove's altar be your refuge. May it check
Eurystheus' impious rage; and, like a tower,
Baffle the bloody tyrant, who from Argos
Exiles the royal race; and now forbids
Each state to shelter our distress. Thine only,
Athenian Demophon, remains untried:
Grant heaven!—
[Page 10] Enter HAEMON.
Oh, Haemon, never to my eyes
More welcome was thy presence. Faithful servant,
Is Deianira, is Macaria lodged
Safe in yon shrine?
Spite of Eurystheus' spies,
Who chaced their flight; by the moon's waining orb
Befriended, safely in yon shrine are lodged
Mother and daughter.
Gracious are ye, gods!
And my soul bends devoutly to your thrones,
For lives preserved far dearer than my own.
Th' imperial widow there of great Alcides
Mourns, with a mourning universe, the fate
Of her illustrious lord; in whose sad tomb
Lye buried all her hopes.
Grant her, good heaven,
That fortitude her age requires, to bear
The mighty loss. For, oh, her feeble frame,
By woes made feebler; and the thousand perils
Of this dread flight—
With toil and grief o'erpower'd,
Nature gives way, and in short broken slumbers
A transient respite feels. Through the lone ile,
At day-break, I drew near; and saw Macaria
With anxious tenderness scarce breathing o'er her,
A sigh, that would not be supprest, broke forth;
While from her eye, half-glimmering with a smile,
Stole such a tear as burnt upon my heart,
Strait I retired unseen. Oh, Iolaus,
What can thy love, thy wisdom now devise,
To turn misfortune's torrent, that bears down
Each rising hope?
This day decides our doom.
If Demophon reject us—
We are dust
Before the whirlwind of Eurystheus' wrath.
—But lead me to the temple.
[Page 11]
The gate opens;
And lo, Macaria—
What a soul of sorrow!
O'er her wan visage melancholy throws
Its mournful ensign; yet that conscious air,
That decent dignity, which makes grief proud
Of such a consort, mark her for the daughter
Of the world's hero. Haemon, to the city;
And learn if any herald be arrived
To cross our purpose.
[Exit Haemon.
MACARIA descends with Virgins.
Ever-honoured lady?
If that an old man's aid—
I will shake off
[not regarding Iolaus.
This feebleness. My powers, lose not your func­tions.
Softly, dear virgins, softly; the least whisper
Wakes her. A little longer, balmy sleep,
Spread thy still pinions; in oblivious dews
Her senses steep a little longer yet;
Grief soon enough will rouse them. How I haste
To know the worst can happen. Iolaus!
So soon to see thee, after our dread parting,
My virtuous friend!
Welcome to my sad heart,
As the dear drops that nourish it! But whither
Goest thou, sweet maid, with such disorder'd step?
No new affliction?
In a breast o'er-flowing,
Like Deianira's, can misfortune find
A place for new affliction? yet, poor queen!
Hopeless, she talks of hope; and would gild o'er
The sorrow that consumes her, with a smile,
In pity to her daughter. Oh, that fiend
Eurystheus! the detested cause of all!
Think of his fierce immitigable hate
To Hercules! Think with what fortitude
My noble sire sustained a life of labours,
[Page 12] That savages would shrink from! And shall ven­geance
Sleep, till the wretch exterminates our race?
First down to Tartarus!—Oh, pardon, pardon
My nature's rashness. I am calm again;
I'll listen to thy council, which has ever
Been wise and wholesome; for unless thy friendship
Still lends thy sheltering succour to thy queen—
Ah, what can I, alas, feeble old man!
Let her but hear thy voice. Alas, alas!
To wretchedness like her's, the very voice
Of friendship yields relief. Let her but see
Thy pitying eye, but not suffused with tears,
Thou good old man! no, dry thy tears, and speak,
Fallacious tho' they be, some lenient words
That sound like comfort. I the while will go—
Why shrinks my heart? Why faulters thus my tongue,
As Demophon were dangerous? I'll go to him.
Unknown! unguarded! go to Demophon
Uncalled! Thy heart, Macaria, well may shrink,
And thy tongue faulter. I have caught th' alarm.
Thy filial piety, too generous maid!
Unwarily betrays thee.
Well I know
Thy friendly fears; he is not Acamas!
That high heroic spirit, who amongst
The foremost sons of Argos famous stood.
'Twas not in praise of Demophon, the tongue
Of fame grew lavish.
But from Acamas,
His brother, there's small hope: all kingly power
Is lodg'd in Demophon; be counsel'd then.
Till his heart's soften'd to receive thy suit,
Quit not the sanctuary.
More forcibly
Than fear can counteract, an unseen hand
Urges me on. I feel, I fell within,
A more than mortal earnest of success;
Let not thy doubts oppose it. Oft I've heard,
[Page 13] There is an eloquence in artless grief,
Of power to melt the sternest. I'll essay.
That power on Demophon.
My words are vain.
Go then, Macaria, if it must be so,
Obedient to thy monitory call.
And, Dryas, thou, and ancient Amycus,
Silent attend the princess. You are suppliants,
Soliciting relief; let every look,
And every motion, suit that humble state.
Wise, Iolaus, is thy wary charge.
And now, inspired with boldness, on I go,
Secure in heaven.
[Exit Macaria attended.
May gracious heaven, which loves
That virtue which so sorely it afflicts,
Thy soul's desires indulge thee!—Here's my post;
This altar, and that temple—here I'll watch,
One day; perhaps the only one, that fate
Has now to give me.
Haemon back so soon?
What tidings dost thou bring?
Tidings to thrill
Thy heart with horror. Scarcely had I entered
Yon winding vale, when suddenly I heard
The steps of men advancing. Eagerly,
And all at once, sometimes they seemed to talk,
Loud was their leader's voice above the rest;
And soon his cruel eye, and haughty port,
Proclaimed him the stern herald of Eurystheus.
He, whose rancorous revenge
Pursues us thro' the world.
Remorseless villain!
Yet Haemon, villain as he is, fear not.
This shrine's our sanctuary; its awful God,
[Page 14] Whose word controuls the fury of the floods,
Shall baffle the base plots of impious men.
Heard you that shriek?
It was Macaria's voice!
And lo, Alcander!—Haemon, rush between—
She's lost!—Alcander, like a ravening vulture,
Seizes his prey!
Enter MACARIA, &c. pursued by ALCANDER.
God of the temple! save,
Oh save thy trembling suppliant!
Hell-hound, stop!
Thou slave to a vile tyrant! what fresh malice
Is thy black bosom fraught with?
Fond old man!
Whither art thou transported? Yield Macaria.
Eurystheus has proscribed your wretched lives.
Yield to your king:
Not while this arm can save her.
Lady, this way.
Yes, lead me from the sight
Of that unhallowed monster.—Hah, presum'st thou
T'advance one impious step?—hold, on thy life.
The bolt of Jove is lifted—wretch, behold
The sanctuary, and tremble.
Exit with Haemon to the Temple.
Long thou shalt not
A sanctuary find it.
From her country
Already hast thou forced her. Would'st thou more?
Ah, suffer her the mournful privilege
To breathe in exile.
Still dost thou pretend!
Thus then I crush thy age.
Help, men of Athens!
Forbear! 'tis worse than murder.—Hah, respect
The altar of a God omnipotent.
[Page 15] Enter ACAMAS, with Guards.
Whence these loud outcries, that profane the temple.
Of him who thunders?—Peace, I charge you, peace.
Bring forth th' offender, as you dread the weight
Of our displeasure. Acamas commands—
Bring forth th' offender:
Royal Acamas,
Protect an old man, outraged by that wretch;
Who, in contempt of every sacred rite,
From Jove's own altar drags me.
Rash, rash man!
Whom I—but first inform me, reverend stranger,
What country claims thy birth, and what thy name.
Mycenae is my country; and my name
Herculean Iolaus.
Whence are those?
Sad Deianira's suppliant train, imploring
Thine, and yon temple's refuge, from the rage
Of merciless Eurystheus.
Yet that temple
Shall not secure them from their rightful lord,
Who here demands his slaves.
Suppress thy tongue,
Irreverent as thou art! and mark my words:
Till Demophon's return from Marathon,
With whose young prince he went to celebrate.
His daughter's spousals, all authority
Devolves on Acamas.—I'm Athen's king;
And I forbid all force.
Why then by force
Dost thou with-hold the vassals of Eurystheus?
Are they not suppliants?—To violate
The rites of hospitality, reject
The poor man's suit, who only has his prayers,
His humble prayers, and miseries to protect him,
Would make the good gods shudder on their thrones.
[Page 16] Enter MACARIA from the Temple.
'Tis Acamas himself!—restrain me not.
A thousand doubts, a thousand apprehensions!
But a lov'd mother's dangers drive me on:
They put a tongue in the mute lips of fear;
Inspire me with new courage.—On the ground,
Trembling, I clasp thy knees!—Oh Acamas!
If ever thou hast felt, as sure thou hast,
The tender touch of nature—If the anguish
Of a sad daughter for the best, alas!
The wretchedest of mothers!—my despair,
Oh whither doth it drive!—let thy own heart
Tell thee, what grief like mine wants words to utter.—
Say, while I've sense to hear, that Deianira
Is safe—That Acamas protects her—bids
Macaria live in her dear mother's life!
Macaria here at Athens!—as from heaven
Some blessed spirit spoke, my every sense
Is wrapt in admiration!—'tis Macaria!
Her voice, her mien!—such the bright blaze of beauty
That burst on me at Argos!—What rude hand
Could injure that fair form; which my heart wor­ship'd,
When my enchanted eyes first gazed upon thee?
Divine Macaria, speak!
His very name into distraction throws
My powers, and choaks all utterance?—With me kneel,
Ye venerable friends of Hercules!
And tell, for his sad daughter, the distress
Of a poor queen, and princess; driven like slaves
From realm to realm.—My brother too, dear youth!
If scap'd the assassin's dagger, he still breathes
The vital air: to Acamas commend him!
Oh, Sir! to Hyllus, Deianira, all,
[Page 17] Be a protector from the bloodiest tyrant!
The most remorseless wretch!
Rise, royal maid,
Of every wish secure. The utmost grace
My power can grant, his daughter well may claim,
Whose godlike friendship from the realms of death
Rescued my sire.
Tears are but fruitless thanks.
Yet are they all th' unhappy have to give;
Take them, and let thy charitable heart
Supply the rest.—Now say, thou bold, bad man!
[to Alcander.
I waste no further words.—If thou respect'st
[to Acamas.
The friendship of Eurystheus, render back
These fugitive remains of Hercules,
That public ravager.—
Inhuman russian!
Whose savage tongue even wretchedness insults;
Insults the ashes of that god on earth;
Who, could he hear such profanation!—Rise,
Thou mighty spirit! clad in horrors, come
Forth from thy tomb! even at thy very look,
This wretch, his tyrant, every slave thro' all
His host, would quake to death!
Such pageantry
Suits not Alcander; whose indignant king
Expects an answer.
Take this answer back,
First tell thy king what thou at Athens seest;
Tell what thou hear'st; then say, while Acamas
Rules in this land of liberty, no tyrant
Shall force our injured suppliant from his shrine.
Hah, is this Acamas? not more for valour
Than wisdom famed.—Not thus, if I know aught
Of reverend Thestor, whose divine forecast
Makes him oracular; not thus would he
Counsel his king. Consult him; be not rash;
Thou speak'st the fate of thousands.
[Page 18]
Hast thou not heard? Retire.
Then hear, Eurystheus;
War, instant war, 'gainst Athens I denounce.
A valiant host, led by their valiant king,
Moves on.—Ere sun-rise at your gates expect
The conqueror!
Dreadful his defiance sounds.
And to my frightful fancy wasteful war
In all its horrors rises.—He, perhaps,
The generous friend, whose soul now melts to see
Griefs not his own; even Acamas may fall!
Were Acamas the noblest of his line,
Could he more nobly fall? Had I a life
For every peril, in a cause like this
I'd risk them all with transport! Ah, restrain
Those lovely tears. I swear, no power on earth
Shall harm Macaria, while these arms can bear
The shield and sword before her.
To the queen,
With heart o'erflowing, suffer me t' impart
This gracious goodness. Would to heaven, my Hyllus
Were present now to share it, the young soldier
Of generous Acamas.
Would heaven, he were!
I long to clasp him. Iolaus, send
A herald forth; I long to lead to war
The brother of Macaria.
Heaven, that knows
How much he wants a friend like Acamas,
From its blest fount thy charity repay!
My tongue makes no reply.—I cannot stop;
I cannot follow her.—How quickly, oh,
How subtly something steals thro' every vein;
Another soul, I think—
Enter an OFFICER.
Far as the eye
From yonder tower can reach, a cloud of dust
Darkens the air; while thro' it break by fits
[Page 19] Bright transient flashes; such as to the sun
Glitter from pikes and helmed heads: it seems
Hitherward moving.
On my life, Eurystheus!
The usurper, by this fraudful march, would take
At unawares our troops, would terrify
Our suppliants from the temple. He shall find,
Rash as he is, the justice of our cause
Laughs at surprize, not fears it.—Where's my ar­mour?
My soul's i' th' field already—nay, dispatch—
My spear, my target.—Cheerly do my spirits
Course their quick round. In air I seem to tread,
Moved magically on.—Divine Macaria!
Thy beauty—'tis thy virtue!—forth I go,
To prove their power upon a soldier's sword.


Flourish of Trumpets.
Enter ACAMAS and Officers.
LEAD to the grove the light-armed troop—call Sicyon.
Now, my brave friends! who side by side with me,
Full many a time have fought; fellows in arms,
Attend; for never a more glorious cause
Called your young valour forth: 'tis Deianira,
The great Alcides' widow: 'tis Macaria,
Whose wrongs and beauty might with hero's fire
Warm the cold coward's heart. These Royal Sup­pliants
Ask your bold aid against that black usurper,
Who comes from Argos with a cursed design
To drag them from your shrines. And will not each
Athenian sword start forth? If public honour,
If reverence for your altars, if compassion,
That noblest virtue of a noble mind,
If these can fire your breasts, in this day's battle
Strain every nerve; oh, fight it to the death.
And now go forth; go each among the lines;
Rouze, animate the soldiers, man by man.
[Exit Officers.
My lord.—
Thou, Menas, with thy troop,
Shalt guard this temple, and its royal guests,
Till my return from th' onset. Would to heaven
I were sole combatant! in single fight,
Shield against shield, to grapple with yon tyrant,
Beneath Macaria's banners. 'Twas at Argos
My eyes first caught her charms; and here my soul
[Page 21] Each hour is more her captive. Fancy dwells
Enchanted on th' idea; on my ears
Still floats her tongue's sweet melody, and sways
The motion of my heart.
Another signal,
And louder than the last.—
It sounds to arms.
March my battalion to the western gate.
[Exit Officer.
—What, Sicyon, hoa!—the soldiers' hearts are mine;
Mine too their arms, till Demophon's return,
And nobly will I use them. Should he come,
My hopes were air. Oh, not one moment then
Will I trust fate.—Give me, dread god of war!
In this day's fight, some portion of thy own
Terrific spirit.—
Enter an OFFICER.
Demophon, my lord—
Hah, what of Demophon?
With all his train
Enters the gates from Marathon.
My gracious lord, I saw him; while his son,
Young Conon, with the troops of royal guards,
Marched towards the grove.
Oh, death to all my hopes!
Back, and inform thee better—nay remain.
What's to be done? his cold, his gloomy spirit
Blunts every sword, and deadens every heart.
What's to be done?—Alcander, was he with him?
With most obsequious reverence, I beheld him
Tender the king a paper, as he enter'd
The shrine of Juno.
Vengeance on the villain!
Worse than a poisonous mineral he works here;
The traitor teems with wiles. I'll cross upon them;
I'll rouze this brother to defy Eurystheus.
Should he, by priestly phantoms terrified,
[Page 22] Refuse to fight—should he presume to yield,
To yield Macaria! horrible surmise!
"Be my protector!" was the dear maid's prayer
Upon her trembling knees. Thou, holy altar!
Hear and attest my vow. I will by heaven!
Yonder he stalks; and all full freedom leaves me
To work upon the priest, and credulous king;
And force the temple's portal to let forth
Its royal victims. Now my bark's afloat,
And to Eurystheus' throne, on a full tide,
Will bear me, if my marriage with his sister
Fail not.—But still this headlong Acamas!
He is a rock will wreck us. Demophon
Is jealous of him: on that jealousy
I'll strike a dangerous, superstitious spark,
Soon to flame forth. At Juno's temple now
He makes a holy halt; the interim's mine
Here with old Thestor. Wherefore loiters thus
The reverend dreamer, whose high sanctity
The magic power of gold must move to murder?
Oh, art thou come at length, my ancient friend?
Ancient, but, ah! how unimpaired by age!
Time, that digs deep his furrows on most brows,
Only gives comlier grace to Thestor's years,
Adds reverence to the hairs it silvers o'er.
Well, we are once more met; my king's concerns
Call us in haste together: they are weighty,
Nice, urgent, full of dexterous enterprize,
And ask thy secret, sudden aid.
If they
Aught of religious import bear, (as what
But sacred purposes claim Thestor's counsel)
[Page 23] Impart them to the servant of the god,
Whose conscientious mind—
I know it well;
Well as I know thy zeal, thy friendly zeal
Proved oft in times long past, which now Alcander
Means to prove home again. Nearer, good Thestor.
Thou see'st yon shrine; thou know'st what fugitives,
Its sanctuary shelters; and the hate,
The mortal hate, Eurystheus bears their race,
But chiefly bears Macaria; from whose loins
Another race, more hateful, may come forth.
Canst thou not then—Why do thy fearful eyes
So cautiously shun mine?—Canst thou not then
Call down a voice oracular from heaven,
That claims a victim?—that Macaria claims?
I know thou canst; and far be't from Alcander
To question his friend's will.
Is this thy friendship?
The token this of thy high veneration
For Thestor's character? whose heart long since
From this vain world estranged—
Old man!—but yet
Calmly I'll commune with thee; I'll convince
Thy scrupulous spirit that her single death
Will save the lives of thousands, which a war
With Argos must devote.
The lives of thousands
Lie on their consciences who wage the war.
Shall Thestor's hands be stain'd with guiltless blood?
Shall Thestor's tongue belye the temple's god?
With a false oracle his thunders brave?
—Th' engendering storm already!
These nice qualms,
These conscientious horrors, were they wont
To stagger Thestor?—Wants the seer more warrant
To be oracular? Go then, consult
The entrails of your beasts, your babbling birds,
And groaning oaks; or single forth some goat,
Yeaned at full moon, and kill him with a knife,
(Of that be sure) exactly shaped and sized.
[Page 24] This shall disarm your god of his red bolt,
And make your murders holy.
Such loud passion,
Affronting to the god!—
Are you not all,
Priestess and priest alike, the supple slaves
Of interest? Whence your tripods and your crowns,
Statues of gold and silver, glittering gems
That sanctify your shrines? Whence this vast splen­dour?
And what, but the rich bribes of crafty knaves,
And superstitious cowards?—One word more
Of hypocritic mummery, and, by heaven,
I will unfold such scenes!—
Ungenerous man!
Whose headlong phrenzy, on my least demur,
Unmindful of all forms, all ceremonies,
Of all past benefits, temple and priest
Would overturn—
Why then the infirmity
Of thy friend's temper urge to the extreme,
Upon a point so trying?
Hah! and is
The point to me less trying?—grant it just;
(And sad necessity makes most things just)
Yet, to pronounce a sacrifice at once—
Shed, without hesitation, royal blood—
No reverence had to my own fame; no care
For my own life, and every worldly hope.—
Thy fame, thy life, if there be confidence
In a king's word, in friendship like Alcander's,
Shall be secure; thy every worldly hope,
To the minutest scruple, warranted.
—And now, how softened seems that countenance,
Which speaks, without a tongue, my friend's assent;
Speaks him again my ancient honour'd Thestor!
Here then, behold th' instructions: take them; read them;
And with them take this pledge; Eurystheus sends it;
[Page 25] This gem from his own finger. Now dispatch;
Pronounce the oracle; be firm; and prosper.
[Exit Thestor.
Now fate begins its work!—I have already
Alarmed the timorous temper of the king
About these fugitives.—But he approaches,
Here to perform a superstitious vow,
He made before his march to Marathon.
Enter DEMOPHON and his train.
How venerable the horror that enfolds
Jove's holy temple! with profoundest awe
Behold thy servant enters.
May its god
Inspire thy righteous spirit so to act
As best becomes his servant! This remember,
The hand, the chastening hand of heaven lies on
These exiles; and each shrine, save this, oh king,
Against them shut, as against things unholy.
How desperate then to risk for them a war!
Thy doubts already have found entrance here.
Therefore, to know heaven's purpose, I have sent
The most inspired of all th' oracular priests,
Our ancient Thestor; without whose sage voice
In holy things we move not.
To his voice,
As is most fit, I bow me. Yet hear further,
What never oracle more truly spoke:
Your brother's dangerous spirit, every hour
More dangerous by Macaria's matchless charms—
Forgive my forward friendship—but behold
Graced with the royal ensigns, where he comes
Exulting on, in burnished armour clad,
As he were Athens' king, and peace and war
Hung on his nod!—I must not stay to cross
The army's idol.
[Page 26]Enter ACAMAS.
Back to Athens welcome,
My royal brother.
When we went from Athens,
In peaceful garb was Acamas arrayed.
The soldier's falchion now invests his thigh;
The sun now glitters on his polished helm;
And clanking arms and armour sound to war.
And if war e'er was just, and heaven ap­proved,
'Tis now; when Deianira and Macaria,
By a vile tyrant exiled, suppliants come
To thee, and to the God whom thy religion
Doth venerate in that shrine; which scarce protects them
From the brute outrage of a haughty herald.
I heard Macaria plead; and tears burst forth.
Alcander spoke; and at each ruffian word
My indignation burned. To hesitate
In such a cause were guilt.
Thy passion speaks this
The glittering glory of rash enterprize
Fires thy transported spirit, that would flame
The meteor of a multitude's amaze,
No thought beyond the present hour: unmindful
Of a king's duty; that the royal sword
Should save, not sacrifice, a people's lives;
And then be sheath'd, when it has fixt the base
Of future happiness; that each exploit,
Weigh'd and digested deep, must be consign'd,
In history's long roll, to times unborn,
And stand their rigid test.
Such then, such is
Th' occasion this important hour presents.
Stamp this exploit in history's long roll,
To stand the rigid test of times unborn.
Rouze then at once, insulted virtue cries,
Rouze, and revenge!—the troops are marshalled—I
Will march my veterans.
[Page 27]
Heedless of th' event;
By heavenly admonition unassured,
What would thy frantic fury?
It would hurl
Yon ruthless ruffian headlong from the throne
Of Argos, and restore its rightful heirs;
Restore Alcides' royal race!—i'th' presence
Of Jove's dreadful sanctuary, I've given my word
To embroil my kingdom
In civil factions, well as foreign war.
Art thou to learn what spirits there are stirring,
By their own vices ruin'd? bold, seditious,
Desperate of what may happen; without hope,
But from the general wreck—these are at work,
All ready, like the pent-up pestilence
To burst upon us!
Oh, ignoble fear!
Bane of all worth! which every sacred tye,
The splendor of th' Athenian name, its glory,
Would basely trample down. Shall then this state,
Famed for its love of freedom thro' the world,
And love of mercy—hah! shall generous Athens
Crouch to Eurystheus? to an Argian tyrant
Its royal suppliants yield?—My brother, no!
They shall not quit the temple.
Shall not quit?—
Presumest thou with these fantastic flights,
Romantic visions of a love-sick boy,
To fright us to compliance?
Lovesick boy?—
That was my word.—Macaria? does the name
Flush with a crimson shame thy conscious cheek?
The loves that revel in Macaria's eyes,
These are the orators that plead for war;
And these the generous virtues that would risk
A kingdom's ruin.
Well; Macaria then
Sounds the alarm for war; her filial sighs,
[Page 28] The wrongs of weeping beauty, that might move
The world to arms, move me.—I own the charge;
I triumph in the weakness!—check thy scorn!
Cast on thy slave, not me, that menacing frown,
Proud king! for I will speak, when justice bids,
Tho' death his dart shook at me.—With these sup­pliants
My honour is at stake; dear as that honour
I hold, and will protect them; tho' Alcander
Had every wile of every fiend—remember!
For by the soul of my dread sire! the sword,
To them, shall pass thro' me.
Did I not hear
A voice like that of Acamas? or was it
My fancy's coinage?—hah!
What sudden blaze
Of beauty breaks upon me from the temple?
By heaven, 'tis she! the syren that seduc'd
My brother: and no wonder! for her eyes
Have witchcraft in them; and each lovely look
A melancholy grace that melts the soul.—
Art thou Macaria?
The distrest Macaria!
Daughter of Deianira; and with her,
Hither from Argos by Eurystheus driven;
Where Acamas—may heaven reward his virtue!
Saw, and supported us. Canst thou inform me
Of my protector?
Hence, this moment, lady,
My brother went.
And art thou Demophon,
His brother? whom we owe a life of thanks.
Oh, Sir, to him, to you, with gratitude
As low as to our guardian gods we bend,
For our late blessing. Like a chearful morn,
Fair opening on a dark and dismal night,
The gracious tidings came: they lifted up
[Page 29] The lamp of life just fading in her eye;
And gave to a despairing daughter's heart
A happy mother.
In this changeful scene,
No mortal creature, till the hour of fate,
May be called happy.
Yet might I entreat you
To cast one casual glance—admire the work
Of your own goodness—heavens!—how changed from her,
Who lately on the ground, on the cold ground
Lay hopeless, almost liseless.—With the sight
Of her good genius bless her!
Much Macaria,
I fear, o'er-rates th' indulgence Demophon
May yield to Deianira.
How such friendship
Fills me with wonder! but a virtuous heart
Is happy in the happiness it gives.
Enter the shrine, and bless her with thy presence.
Joy to Macaria! if 'tis joy to hear
Hyllus has scaped the tyrant's treacherous wiles
T' ensnare his honoured life.
Blest be the tongue
That speaks the tidings! Come, my Hyllus come!
Ready to fold thee to his friendly breast
Stands Acamas; and Demophon will join
His godlike brother! Oh, we're blest indeed!
Son, mother, daughter, blest in two such friends!
Solemn Music. Enter THESTOR, and Priests.
Pause ye, my reverend brethren? Let no thought,
Ill-omen'd look, or word, this place profane;
With solemn silence all ye priests of heaven
Attend. Brief are the words, and terrible,
Of the dread oracle!
[Page 30]
What oracle!
No interruption, maid. At thy command,
Oh king, did we proclaim a sacrifice:
Wrapt in celestial musings then approached
These reverend sages; and with solemn voice
Chaunted their holiest hymn; the shrines burnt bright
With sacred fires; and every altar sent
Its swelling incense, on a hallowed cloud,
To him on high.
This dreadful preparation—
When thus burst forth the awful voice:—"No steer,
"No blood of bulls will now propitiate heaven
"To grant success. Would Athens stand secure—
"Would Hyllus save his royal father's throne,
"And his own life—The blood of Deianira—
Horror of horrors!—Deianira's blood!
The priest of Jove with pitying eye beholds
Thy suffering soul. But hear the oracle—
"Would Hyllus save his royal father's throne,
"And his own life, the blood of Deianira
"Must, in a purple stream of sacrifice,
"Float on the sacred altar of the god!"
She faints! ah, gently lend your aid!
[Macaria faints.
How lovely,
Even when the hand of death lies cold upon her!
I live! I yet survive! the dreadful sounds
Still thunder in my ears!—my mother's blood!
Tell me, tremendous god! what unknown crime
Provokes such vengeance? Why is it decreed,
That the whole race of Hercules must feel
Thy horrible displeasure?
Ah! presume not,
Rash virgin, heavenly wisdom to arraign!
Just is the god, tho' terrible; his will
Must be obeyed. But that thy soul would sink
At the tremendous sounds, should'st thou hear all—
For yet the oracle's but half declared—
[Page 31]
But half declared?—
"The blood of Deianira
"Must, in a purple stream of sacrifice,
"Float on the sacred altar of the god;
"Unless, with free and voluntary choice,
"Alcides' daughter here devotes her own!"
Thanks, gracious powers! thanks, from her inmost soul,
That daughter offers!—Let her brother reign!
Spare her loved mother's life! and lo, Macaria,
With tears of transport, here devotes her own!
Lead to the altar! crown, with garlands crown,
Your victim; and be conquerors!
What is this
That pleads for her so plaintively? a pity,
That's almost painful. Wherefore, in the bloom
Of youth, should such unblemish'd virtue die?
—Ponder a moment.
Interrupt not, Sir,
The solemn offering; which, for worlds, I would not
Should now be frustrate. Holy men, proceed:
For me death has no terrors. I conjure you,
Ye delegates of heaven! obey heaven's voice.
Lead to the altar; I implore to die.
It must not be.—
Heaven's voice hath spoke! What mortal
May dare gainsay the sentence? Here below,
Mercy should sit enthroned in monarchs' hearts,
And temper justice; but when from above
The awful oracle of Jove hath spoke,
They hear, and they obey.
True, sacred seer;
Thy word's the word of heaven; as heaven thou heed'st,
Oh, holy Demophon! hear and obey.
Virgin, that fortitude, beyond thy sex,
Divinely is inspired; yet cautiously
We would proceed. My own religious purpose,
Yet unperformed, at present claims my care;
[Page 32] That done, ye sage interpreters of heaven!
We'll commune further.
[Exeunt Demophon and Priests.
Look not, Iolaus,
With eyes like those. I pray thee, ruffle not
That calm serenity, which suits a soul
On its eternal journey. Wherefore weep?
The name of death no terror has for her,
Who with a conscious triumph dies; and goes
Youthful, with all her virgin virtues crown'd,
Like a bright star to heaven.
Macaria hear.
More sudden than the lightning's flash, a thought
Darts on my mind—
Yet once more, Iolaus,
Cross not my purpose; I'm resolved to die:
Die for my mother—for thee, brother—friends—
Thou virtuous, good old man!
Me! die for me!
But gracious heaven may still point out a way—
May pour swift vengeance on th' usurper's head—
Hyllus shall reign! a sister's death confirm
Her brother to his throne!—When I am gone,
Here, Iolaus, with a daughter's love,
Tend the poor queen! oh, sooth her sorrowing soul!
But tell her not thou saw'st this bursting tear.


DEIANIRA, and her Attendants, round an Altar in the Temple.
QUEEN of the silent night! and thou,
Whose radiant orb with glory gilds the day,
Thro' yonder blue serene of heaven's high way,
Bid some obedient spirit go;
And, bending at Jove's footstool, hail the power,
Who, at Alcides' mortal moment, bore
The hero to the sky's abode;
Th' illustrious hero, whom the world below
Mourns in mixt Paeans of triumphant woe,
Their friend and tutelary god.
When frowning o'er his birth, the hate
Of haughty Juno, burning to destroy,
Tost the fell serpents on the dauntless boy,
Her ruthless ministers of fate;
Chill crept the blood thro' every quaking heart;
But when their forky tongues began to dart,
While red with wrath each eyeball rolls,
And round his limbs their spiry volumes clasp,
The cradled hero, with his infant grasp,
Crushed out the snaky monsters' souls.
Thou too, thy victor-arm o'erthrew
The savage-minded form of Diomed,
Who fat with subject's gore his horses fed;
At Lerna's lake, thy valour slew
The many-headed Hydra, whose foul breath,
To all who breathed it, was the blast of death;
The cloud-begotten Centaurs fell;
The Nemean lion, and fierce Typhon's son;
Then, fated to obey Eurystheus' frown,
Thou drag'st grim Cerberus from hell.
Vengeance on curst Eurystheus' head!
Vengeance and death! in anguish we invoke;
Give, great Alcides! give him to the stroke
Of thy bold son! Let Hyllus tread
Upon his crouching neck; thence mount the
His father's great avenger, and his own!
DEIANIRA speaks.
To thee, thus round the altar's base,
Lost Deianira, and her suppliant train,
Sigh their sad souls! oh, must they sigh in vain!
Avenge, avenge thy royal race!
Forgive the intrusion, royal dame, if thou
Art Deianira, as this suppliant train
Bespeaks thee; and those strains, that thro' the dome
Swell'd to Alcides' praise; but, more than all,
The features of that venerable face,
From whence Macaria drew her virgin charms.
[Page 35] If thou art she, may Acamas intreat
An audience with thy daughter?
Godlike youth!
(For Godlike ever, Acamas will seem,
In Deianira's eyes) unknown to me
My daughter went to supplicate the king;
Grant heaven! she finds in him the noble friend
She found in his brave brother!
I am her friend;
Yes, 'tis the boast of Acamas, his glory,
To be Macaria's friend. Oh, Deianira!
Thou hear'st a soldier—my soul is in my tongue;
I love thy daughter:—not the wonders only
Of her fair form; yet, oh!—but that high honour,
The stamp of her great sire; and every virtue,
More virtuous made by filial piety,
Have fix'd my love. To her I dedicate
My life; and, on this sword, avow myself
The champion of her wrongs, and Deianira's.
She has been ever good, and heaven re­wards
Her virtue, in the generous prince it raifes
For her, and my protector. Hapless Hyllus!
He scarce hath been so fortunate. Where now,
Friendless and comfortless, wanders my son?
Hither I came, resolved on secrecy;
But, oh! that anxious tenderness, that sigh,
Heaved from the bottom of a mother's breast,
Unfix my purpose. Know then, Hyllus lives;
And, more to move thy wonder, he lives here,
A soldier in th' Athenian camp, disguised
From every eye but mine: to me, this moment,
The secret he entrusted.
Quickly bear me,
Oh bear me to my boy—
A little longer
Be mistress of yourself; this transport check
A little longer; till occasion calls
The gallant youth. By Demophon's command
The priests prepare a sacrifice; that finished,
[Page 36] Hither will I conduct him. The meanwhile
Safe let the secret in your bosom sleep,
And trust the rest to Acamas.
Oh, born
To counteract the cruelty of fate,
And make life worth a wish! in thee I'll trust;
My son shall be thy soldier.
He and I
Will make Eurystheus shrink beneath our swords.
The troops of Argos too, tho' now compelled
To rise 'gainst Hyllus in rebellious arms,
Will drop their weapons, when their wondering eyes
View their own hero, in th' Athenian ranks,
Gaunt with revenge, and terrible in wrongs,
Like a young son of Mars!
Enter HYLLUS, like a Soldier.
The troops, my lord—
Hah! Deianira here?—my honour'd mother!
Dear to thy mother's heart!—oh let me thus,
And thus enfold my Hyllus! how at sight
Of my loved boy the sun of heaven resumes
Its wonted glory! this is life indeed!
This to a mother's winterly old age
Restores a youthful spring! tell, tell me all;
Where, where hast thou been wandering? how cam'st hither,
Oh too adventurous! to these longing arms?
Thou shalt hear all: to thy impatient ears
My heart I'll open; tell thee, thro' what perils
I reach'd th' Athenian camp; with Acamas
To make one last bold effort—but time flies;
And dangerous is delay.—I now am here
To tell thee, prince, Eurystheus' troops are on
Full march to Athens.—Shall we give them battle?
Blow loud the blast of war! let, let it rouze
The spirit of its god within my breast!
I burn for vengeance!
[Page 37]
Vengeance thou shalt have.
But now, young soldier, temper this rash fire,
Whose blaze may else betray thee: recollect
A mother and a sister.
Dearer both
Than his own life to Hyllus!
Yet thou hast not
Beheld thy sister?
I beheld Macaria,
(And my heart yearn'd to speak, as I beheld her)
Move tow'rds the palace, with a suppliant train.
Anxious her looks, and pale her languid cheeks:
Th' admiring multitude, as she past on,
Gazed with an eye that pity had suffused
With many a tear. I stopt, with wonder struck.
She enter'd then.—There is no mischief meant—
No plot against her?—by th' immortal spirit
Of great Alcides! I would fire the palace,
And rescue her dear life!
With Deianira
Wait my return. Be cautious; Hyllus only
Can betray Hyllus; warned again, beware.
Hyllus is now my soldier.
Oh, my son!
I fear thy fortune yet, against Eurystheus,
That bloody tyrant! who, by fire-eyed Mars,
Horribly swears, his rage shall never die,
Never know peace, till on thy neck he plants
His mortal foot, and crushes all our race!
His foot on me! more safe might he bestride
The angry surge, when tempests toss the seas.
Deio. Oh, moderate thy rage, th' untimely death
Of many a gallant spirit!
He dies blest,
Who, dying, slays the villain he detests.
How wildly dost thou start! thy struggling soul
Shoots thro' thine eyes. Oh, with less horror look!
Less fixed to rush on fate! pity thy mother!
[Page 38] She has no son but thee! oh, leave Eurystheus
To Jove's dread bolt.
To Jove I offer him
In dreadful sacrifice. Jove smiles well pleased,
When from his heaven the god beholds his altar
Smoke with a tyrant's blood.
My gallant boy!
Alas, too noble!—let me gaze thee o'er;
Let me find where that godlike spirit dwells,
That lifts thee thus aloft. So frowned his sire,
When with undaunted heart his young arm struck
The Cleonaean savage. Looks he not
As some superior power within moved
Each animated grace?
The king approaches.
At once retire, so please you, to the altar,
The inmost altar.
Lead, my reverend friends.
While Deianira retires, the Train sings,
Vengeance on curst Eurystheus' head!
God of the shrine! let Hyllus tread
Upon his crouching neck: thence mount the throne,
His father's great avenger, and his own!
Exeunt Deianira, &c.
Thy looks are troubled! some accursed chance!
What have they done? what dared?—By heaven, that silence
Casts on the heart of Hyllus more alarm,
Than mortal man e'er gave it!
These are thy exploits!
[to Acamas.
[Page 39]
Soldier attend me at the western gate.
Exit Hyllus.
Eurystheus comes upon us!
Let him come.
With hastier steps we'll teach him to retire.
Rash, disobedient youth!—dispatch a herald,
Now, presently, with terms of peace.
With terms
Of fell defiance rather speed him forth,
And hurl the torch of war.—Oh shame! that men,
Singled to be the substitutes of gods,
Should bear such dastard minds! what treacherous offers
Has the usurper tender'd? take them; seize them.
Go, barter thy humanity for gold.
Sell a sad mother's life, a queen's! and with it
Her royal daughter's!—First, by heaven, thyself,
Thy kingdom first shall perish! I will rouze
All Athens.—Hah! perhaps my own brave troops—
The fate of Deianira and Macaria,
Tyrant! shall seal thy own!
We marked this menace;
His fiery visage grim with ire; like some
Distemper'd sky before the bursting bolt.
At the least check his lion-heart flies forth,
And knows nor king, nor brother.
It affronts
The awful silence of the place, and makes
The altars tremble.
What, if the rash youth
Should, in his frenzy, make a desperate onset
With his battalions!—
Therefore, without pause,
The willing victim yield. We'll find a means
To counteract him; only yield Macaria,
Thy safety now the sacrifice requires.
[Page 40]
And heaven again demands it. We once more
Invoked the sacred oracle; once more
The sacred oracle pronounced her doom.
Tempt not the gods too far; be warned of heaven.
For if Macaria lives, she lives a brand
To fire thy kingdom. Acamas will wed her;
And war with Argos, an eternal war,
Shall Athens wage.
A war, with gods averse.
Oh tremble at the thought!
With gods averse!—
How weak is mortal wisdom, mortal might!
Obedient then to heaven, the victim yield.
And lo, as hither brought by heaven's own hand,
To force thee to thy good, Macaria comes.
Yet, I behold her not—celestial guardians
Of innocence, watch o'er her! Should her blood,
Oh horrible! be shed for mine—oh king!
Torn with a thousand terrors, from the palace
I've hurried to the temple—let me die
For a loved parent!—hah! while thus thou turn'st
From me, take heed, rash king! thou turn'st from Jove,
Whose voice commands the victim.
Lead along,
Interpreters of heaven; and thou, Macaria,
Wait here awhile. The god must be obeyed.
MACARIA alone.
The god must be obeyed—transporting sounds!
And now, at this dread moment, while the priests
Prepare the rites; to thee, tremendous power!
Who sit'st high over all—hah! whence are these
[Page 41] Loud throbs? why rush my spirits thro' my breast?
If innocence shake thus, what ribs of steel
May bide the beating of a guilty heart,
When sounds the mortal summons?—hah, the gates
Unfold; and Deianira quits the temple!
It was her voice—hark, hark! I could not err.
Thro' the vaulted arch of this lone ile
Plaintive it past along.
Protect me! save,
Oh save me from a mother's eye, that strikes
All resolution dead.
Art thou return'd,
My life? ah, what delay, this tedious hour,
Has held thee from thy mother's heart, that longs
Thus eagerly to clasp thee?
Oh, my mother!
Close to thy bosom clasp thy child, who loves,
For ever loves thee!
The loud storm, that late
So thunder'd in our ears, is rolling off;
The troubled air's at rest; and every fear
Flies before chearful hope. I've seen thy brother—
Why dost thou sigh? thou too shalt see him; thou
Shalt soon embrace my boy.—How my heart triumphs
At thy approaching fortune! With what pride,
What exultation; shall Mycenae welcome
Her favourite virgin! With what envious eyes
Behold the mother of a child like thee!
Thy virtues, Deianira, merit more
Than such a child can give.
How faintly falls
Each accent from thy tongue; and sure thy eyes
Glance on thy mother with a joyless smile,
That hardly hides a tear?
[Page 42]
With the same eyes,
Still, still do I behold thee; but so used
To weep, involuntary tears will start.
Come, let me kiss them dry. Perish Eu­rystheus!
Whose cruelties have thus o'erpower'd thy spirits.
His death will cost his conquerors a dear triumph!
Yet let him die! barbarian! let him perish!
How dear soe'er the purchase.
Can I hear,
And not forewarn her of th'impending ruin,
Ready to rush upon her?
Said they not
The priests prepare a sacrifice?—the blood
Of that, ye pitying powers! I hope will end
Thine and my sorrows. Are the rites begun?
Soon will the victim bleed?
Too soon thou'lt think it.
Would heaven! I might be present.
Enter an OFFICER.
Hah, that stranger!
Know'st thou from whence that stranger?
Royal queen,
With greeting from imperial Demophon
Thy servant comes.
Whate'er the errand, Sir,
Welcome to Deianira. In this breast
Here is a heart indebted to thy king,
That delegate from heaven to deal its blessings,
And from the dust lift up affliction's head.
What would his gracious pleasure?
To conduct
The princess to his presence, I am sent.
Conduct Macaria?—Misconceive me not—
If 'tis his will—yet wherefore—upon what
Occasion sends he? Is she to preside
At the high sacrifice?—Or, may it be!
[Page 43] To solemnize with her his brother's nuptials?
Yet sure a mother would at such an hour
Prove no unwelcome guest?
For heaven's sake, stir not;
Quit not the temple; let me, let me go,
Safe in this stranger's conduct.
Stay one moment.
Something I had to say—one little moment
Indulge a mother's fondness. Ah, Macaria!
How precious is one moment, when we part
With all that's dearest!—see these foolish tears!
But my fond eyes, when next we meet, shall gaze
With double transport on thee!
Death hath not
A keener pang!
This one embrace!—and now,
Now, honoured stranger, to thy hands I trust—
What words shall say how much! but on thy brow
There is a virtue claims all trust. Receive,
And to a mother back return the heart
That now forsakes her breast! Oh thou, in whom
My soul delights, farewell!—What, not one look,
Macaria?—not one word?
Lead, lead me hence!
To me thou dost not speak!
—Ah Deianira!
[Exit Macaria with the Officer.
She vanishes!—she's gone!—
Back to the temple—
Permit me, honoured queen—
Yet went she not
More pensive forth, more seemingly alarmed,
Than such occasion suited. Should Alcander—
Oh, Iolaus! in that traitor's life
Live countless dangers; and a mother's heart
Has fears for every one: scarce would'st thou think
[Page 44] How much th' alacrity of my poor spirits
Sinks with my child's dejection. Let it pass.
Tempestuous was the morning of this day;
How will it close? but yet it soon will close;
And then—thou hear'st not? Why so fearfully
Do thy eyes gaze me o'er? from thy pale cheek
The colour flies—
Thy limbs tremble—
And that disorder—
Where, where's Acamas!
—Hah! Deianira here!—
Heaven guard my son!
What means that wild emotion? Speak, before
My apprehensive spirit—
Oh, Acamas!
I know thy fears, and came-to check th' alarm.
There is no danger, lady; be composed.
It was Alcander's infamous device;
But the king's undeceived.
Oh, you have banished
A thousand terrors!—
Demophon's our friend:
Against Eurystheus he denounces war;
And Acamas, by his command, even now
Marches to meet th' usurper.
Thanks, kind gods!
Protectors of my child!
Oh, there is life
In these great tidings!—Hyllus, Hyllus then
Shall march to meet th' usurper!
[Page 45]
Hyllus shall:
In all his guilty pomp, furious he comes,
T' arrest the rolling thunder of our wrath,
Or sink before it.
Oh, tremendous hour!
Farewell! farewell, my mother! hence I go,
At fate's high call.
Go then, my only boy!
Remember what Alcides was, and conquer!
[Exeunt Hyllus and Acamas.
—How all on fire for fame his spirits flashed
As he shot forth! I tremble at his valour!
Alas, his virtues are too terrible!
—But he is gone to battle. Mighty Mars!
Go with him forth! Let thy bright aegis blaze
O'er his young breast?—If he must meeet Eurys­theus,
Who with the blood of our whole race would fill
The measure of his crimes, oh, may his faulchion
Lay the fell tyrant low!—Let me but live,
God of revenge! to see that glorious day!
Then take me, take me hence! I've lived enough.


A Grove. At the End of it the Temple of Juno.
HAIL to immortal Juno's facred shrine!
Goddess of Argos, hail! Thou, in whose breast
Eternal hatred 'gainst Alcides' race
Dwells unextinguished! To thy altar, queen,
Lo, I devote his daughter! here, this hour,
In spite of Acamas, Marcaria dies!
Enter THESTOR from the Temple.
Alcander's order Thestor has obeyed;
Yet vainly sure the altars now must blaze,
Without a victim; when thy mortal foe
Th' Athenian army heads; when Acamas
The bold, th' intrepid, is gone forth to fight,
Perhaps to slay Eurystheus. That, at once,
Tumbles thy towering projects down; and all
Thy statesman's wiles are air.
And is Alcander
Thus known? Vain augur, there will be no battle:
I sent forth Acamas; by my instructions
He heads th' Athenian army; at his will,
Alcander this tremendous hero moves,
The puppet of his pleasure. Demophon
[Page 47] Has fool'd his brother with a mock command;
And after him sent orders, on his life,
Not to engage Eurystheus. Now believ'st thou
Thy altars smoke in vain?
That's a device
Of policy indeed!
The same instructions
Go to each chief; while Conon, the king's son,
I, for a special purpose, have dispatched,
To make Eurystheus privy to the plot,
And bid him in his own entrenchments keep.
But still, should Acamas attack the ranks?—
They are too strong; he dares not. On the heights
Eurystheus is well posted, and must baffle
His boldest efforts. There will be no battle.
Meantime, Macaria—
True; while her mock hero
Vaunts it before the troops, Macaria dies
At Juno's altar. Speed thee to the king,
Ere he finds time to cool; into his breast
Infuse, as thou art wont, religious awe.
Go then, without delay, his fancy fright
With slighted oracles, and vengeful gods
Ready to bolt their thunder.
Exit Thestor.
Triumph now
My heart! now glory in a daring deed,
Which fools call villainy, who want the spirit
To be successful villains. In my view
Glitters the crown of Argos; my hands now
The sceptre seem to grasp; and by my side
Eurystheus' sister sits in regal state:
My hopes can soar no higher; one cloud only
Lours o'er my prospect. Hyllus!—curse upon
The forward stripling. Hyllus lives! were he
Once placed within my compass—but this hand
Must crush him, and it shall. I have already
Sent forth a secret sword. But where's this victim?
Thestor wants power to work upon the king;
[Page 48] That power I'll quickly furnish; play the son
An engine on his sire.
Behold the wretch,
Whose footsteps I've been tracing. This earth bears not
A more abhorred object to my eyes
Than thee; and yet I follow thee, thou vile
Artificer of fraud. But ruin gathers
Already o'er Eurystheus' head and thine.
Prophetic are my words: and Hyllus, Hyllus,
Comes to fulfil the prophecy.
Can laugh alike at prophecy and prophet.
He soars, officious babler, 'bove thy sphere,
And the vain boy thou boast'st of: but go on;
In blind security go dreaming on,
Into the pit destruction digs.
He's gone:
A deep, determined villain, who would wade
Thro' all the blood of all the royal race,
T' usurp the throne of Argos. But oh, never,
All-gracious Jove! let such a traitor wear
Thy own Alcides' crown. His black soul now
Sits brooding over some new villainy.
Alarming were his words—hold; let me ponder.
[He retires.
For worlds, my queen! for worlds, thou should'st not risk
A second time such perils. Gracious heaven!
My frighted ears still-hear the soldiers scoffs!
Their levelled spears still lighten in my eyes!
Ah, go not to the palace; thy Macaria
Is safe; the king's her friend; thou hast the assu­rance
[Page 49] Of royal Acamas. Then be advised;
Back to Jove's temple.
Thou art not a mother!
No darling child hast thou within the grasp
Of a fell tyrant! desperate else, like me,
Thou would'st rush forth thro' swords and threaten­ing spears,
Without a thought of danger. Go thyself
Back to Jove's temple. What should I do there?
I want no sanctuary without my daughter!
No world, no life for me!—Should Demophon—
Suspicion is the guest of guilty minds,
And shall not harbour here:—else should the king,
Forced by Eurystheus' threats, Alcander's wiles,
By passion, interest, policy, caprice—
Eternal powers! on what a slender thread
Hangs human happiness!
—Hah! Iolaus—
[Iolaus comes forward.
My queen! good heaven!
Thou tremblest to behold
Thy queen thus rashly wandering! thy queen too
Trembles at her own rashness! but distracted.
With anxious doubts and fears, I sought the palace.
Haemon, where art thou? whom thy queen dis­patched
For quick intelligence—thou com'st not, Haemon.
My fond impatience speeds not thy return—
Thou seest not danger in the frightful forms
Maternal passions paint it.—Still I hear
No tidings.—Iolaus, speak some words
Of comfort to me.
I, alas, am past
All power of comfort! an old blasted tree,
With moss o'ergrown, and wither'd!
Thy heart heaves
With something thou would'st hide!
From shrine to shrine
Vainly I follow—
[Page 50]
Haemon, thou hast seen her;
And wherefore comes she not?—the sacrifice,
Is it perform'd?—oh, such suspence is death!
The victim, has it bled? then why, Macaria,
This terrible delay?
She to the palace
Went with the king. When the procession passed,
At a small distance, I beheld the grove
With multitudes encircled; listening all
To hear the trumpet's signal, that devoted
The victim to the god. Along the vale,
Broken, by fits, came floating on the air
The sound of solemn hymning; I beheld
The priest in purple vestment take his stand;
I saw the sun beams glittering on his sword,
Uplifted for the blow; I heard the trump:—
Sudden 'twas all confusion!—
Thou'st caught my fears: I read them in thy eyes,
Alcander's ruffian band have crossed the rites—
The populace call on the king to yield,
Dread Jove! to yield my child!—But no; the ties,
The sacred ties of friendship, of relation,
He better knows—the debt of gratitude
He owes Alcides, deeply is engraved,
And to his race he'll pay it. Rest, poor heart!
Safe in that hope—safe in his piety
To heaven!—the best religion to the gods
Is mercy to mankind.
The king's thy shield;
And every shaft the tyrant shoots shall back
Return to his own breast.
It may be so.—
But yet, but yet this horrible suspense
The worst of apprehensions conjures up,
In their worst forms—All dark where-e'er I turn!
And dismal all!—on a lone rock I stand,
The wild waves raving round me!
Yet awhile,
A little while endure—the thunder's o'er;
And now the scattering rack flies harmless on.
[Page 51]
My heart will bear no more! I'll to the grove:
Yet, to break in unbid!—a moment's pause—
What, if I enter here; in Juno's temple,
Try to propitiate the incensed power,
And make her less my foe? I'll enter here;
And try to deprecate her wrath. To th' temple
Lead on, thou good old man: prayers such as mine,
Prayers from a broken heart, plead not in vain.
[Exit with Iolaus to the Temple.
Struck with an arrow, hapless queen, she flies
From place to place! but can't fly from herself.
Oh then, in pity to her woes, dread Jove!
In pity to her virtue!—hark, I heard
The tread of feet—'tis Demophon; what brings him
To Juno's temple?—with a priest he comes—
I'll to the sacred grove.
I tell thee, no;
Macaria must not bleed.
My gracious lord—
My mind misgives me; I will not consent.
Just as the sword was raised for sacrifice,
It thunder'd on the right; and from my lips
Ill-omen'd words involuntary fell—
My mind misgives me—priest, she shall not bleed.
Forgive thy servant, who upon his king
Charges whate'er may seem of ill portent.
Thy doubts and thy delays, which mock alike
The priest and oracle; these from above
Bad omens of displeasure bring; which now
The victim hardly can avert:—no longer
Oppose her fate.
Eurystheus, wild with rage,
Brands thee; oh king, with perfidy. Nay, mark
[Page 52] His dreadful menace; if this very hour
Macaria doth not on the altar bleed,
Thy son's life pays the forfeit.
Conon's life?
What! how! where is he?
In Eurystheus' camp.
Eurystheus' camp?—oh I remember—fly—
Fly to Eurystheus' camp—prevent—inform—
Say, Demophon consents—this very hour
Macaria dies—quick to the Argian camp—
Haste, seize Macaria; bid the priests approach:
Thy violated altar now, dread queen!
Shall have due honours done—the victim bleeds.
Oh, transport to my soul! no human power
Can snatch her now from fate.
Lo, king of Athens,
Obedient to heaven's call, the priests, in slow,
Solemn procession, with Macaria move
To Juno's temple.
Solemn Music. A slow Procession. MACARIA drest like a Victim, attended by Priests.
Holy men, approach,
And execute your office. Demophon
No longer heaven's resistless will withstands.
Uninterrupted now the victim lead to sacrifice.
Virgin, thou there discern'st
Great Juno's temple: with profoundest reverence,
Behold, the servant of the sacred goddess
Conducts thee to the altar.
Gods above!
To you Macaria lifts her latest prayer;
To you devotes herself for a lov'd parent.
Oh, let the sighs of innocence, to which
Your heavenly gates stand open day and night,
Find entrance! Let the virtues of her son
Lighten her loss of me! comfort them both!
The Queen and Hyllus comfort! for ye can,
[Page 53] Tho' poor Macaria cannot. Without pause,
Now do your office, priest. Nay, touch me not:
Freely to death I follow.
[She walks attended towards the Temple, with solemn Music.]
Now, my son
Conon shall live; and Juno be appeased.
DEIANIRA and IOLAUS from the Temple.
Hark, Iolaus! heard you not the sounds
Of sad solemnity? and lo, attired
By virgin vest—Earth hide me from the sight!
'Tis she! oh horror, horror! my dear daughter
Led forth a victim!—closer yet my child,
And closer! he who tears thee from thy mother
Shall bring the Furies with him!
Alcan. Curst accident!
Priests, do your office—
Thou bloody tyrant, hold!—oh, lost to all
Humanity! from daemons sprung thou art!
From vengeance, murder, death! whate'er of horror
Lays waste the world!—Could not her innocence,
Youth, beauty, all! not all—but yet thou could'st not!
Tyrant, thou dar'st not do it! the very stones
Would from this violated altar start,
In vengeance of the crime! Heaven's wrathful king
Blast with his bluest lightning!—Oh, what fiend
From hell could tempt thee to so damned a deed!
Had I not patience beyond mortal man—
Injurious queen! what wert thou?—Goes she not,
Obedient to heaven's holy oracle,
A voluntary victim to preserve
Thy wretched being?—Seize her!
Off! forbear!
Horrible wretch!
[Page 54]
What dreadful profanation!
Retire, before th' offended goddess—
Pronounce the sentence; Conon bids thee speak!
He does: and wakes each agonizing nerve
Within a father's breast! But to behold
That spectacle!—yet Conon, yet my son—
If one must die!—Sound, sound for sacrifice!
No, dare not, as you're men! it were a sound
To start the powers of heaven! I clasp thy knees!
Mercy! oh, mercy! on the most forlorn,
Unfortunate of womankind! No more
My frantic rage upbraids thee: by the name
Revered of parent, spare, oh spare my child!
And if you must have blood, take mine for hers!
And freely shall it flow.
The impious hand,
Raised 'gainst her reverend age, is raised 'gainst hea­ven!
It braves the thunderer's bolts!
Regard not her,
Unnatural child! she feels not for the mother
Who gave the life she scorns; regard not her:
Thee I again implore; in bitterness
Of bursting anguish, clasp thy knees again.
Nay, turn not—In the terror of thine eye
A drop I see, that will not be restrained;
'Tis nature pleading from my heart to thine!
Oh, hear her terrible, her tender cry!
And here the poignard plunge!
Tempt not, rash king,
Tempt not the gods!—on thee, on all thy race,
A mother's innocent blood will cry for blood!
Macaria is the victim! speak the word
Which the gods spoke. Now, from you opening heaven,
They all look down on this tremendous scene!
They view this agonizing heart, that [...]eaves
Enter DEMOPHON. &c.
Search all the temple round.
Seize, bind the villain, whose infernal wiles
Have snared my credulous soul. Th' attrocious slave,
On whom the Furies must inflict new pangs,
Tortures untried before!
He's gone to prove
Their fiercest indignation.—Start not, king;
He who the shrine would stain with innocent blood,
No fanctuary should find it.
Read, read there
The ruffian's scroll to Thestor, the avouch
Of a false oracle, by him suborned
To work Macaria's death.
Inhuman slave!
Oh horrible!
Ah, more of horror yet,
Unhappy queen, remains! much horror more,
To wound a mother's, and a sister's breast!
That wretch Alcander!
My ill-boding heart!
Yet let me fummon—
Summon all thy powers,
For thou need'st all, at this tremendous trial,
Unhappy queen!—that sacrilegious villain
Dispatched a ruffian, with a secret dagger,
T' assassinate thy Hyllus.
Crowd not round—
Lend not your cruel aid to hold me on
The rack of life,—why should I live to weep
My son, my murder'd son!
Do all our hopes,
Our flattering hopes, end thus?—oh,
Dispatch a herald—
Himself the herald—hah, that tru
Some fresh alarm—Eurystheus, on
Urg'd by these curs'd distractions,
[Page 64] Invades the city.—Demophon, guard well
The royal charge,—Now, tyrant, face to face
Let us but meet; and Jove stand arbiter;
Mourn not, sweet maid. Thy brother I'll bring back
Alive; or come with him a breathless corse.
Enter an OFFICER.
Hah! from the camp thou com'st—inform me, soldier—
Eurystheus is no more;—beneath the arm
Of Hyllus—
Lives my son?
Speak, quickly speak,
Of my lov'd Hyllus.
From Alcander, lady,
A letter to Eurystheus was dispatched,
To storm th' Athenian camp, while Acamas
Was prisoner. This did Hyllus intercept.
When, the same moment, an assassin struck
A poniard at his breast. A hundred swords
Flamed forth at once; and dead beneath his feet
The baffled ruffian sunk.
Deia. and Mac.
Thanks, gracious powers.
Proceed, proceed—
The troops, with fury fired,
At such black perfidy, with general voice
Called upon Hyllus, Hyllus, to lead on,
And charge Eurystheus' tent. Right on they march­ed,
Led by the gallant prince; and with a shout
Made a full charge. Eurystheus, at the head
Of his own guards, advanced: the leaders met;
[...] Hyllus with a noble blow
[...] [...]ant's helm. To earth he fell,
[...] his soul.
The royal trumpet
[a trumpet sounds.
[...] hero's entry.—Lo, with wreaths
[Page 65] Of conquest crowned, Alcides' godlike son
Triumphantly approaches.
Enter HYLLUS, with a Coronet; attended by Of­ficers.
Give me way—
Oh, I come not too late. Macaria lives:
And Deianira lives.
My conqueror.
My Hyllus.
My loved master.
But, alas,
Thy garment!—ah, thy garment smeared with blood—.
It is Eurystheus' blood. I slew the tyrant.
And here his regal coronet present,
A trophy to my mother. All his troops,
Who hated, as they feared him, dropt their arms,
When they beheld my falchion in his breast,
And hailed the son of Hercules their king.
Transporting sounds to Deianira's ears;
Who mourned her son a victim to th' assassin,
Sent by the villain, who lies breathless there,
Slain by that prince's hand.
The ruffian met
A fate too honourable: but he's dead;
And with him die resentment.
Generous prince:
Whose nobleness of mind with wonder strikes me;
With wonder and with shame. Yes, I have been
Too credulous. My crime before me stands
A dreadful warning, ne'er with human blood
To stain religion's altars.
From this moment,
We are firm friends: and now 'tis double joy,
With my own hand to have preserved your son.
—But oh, my more than friend, my Acamas;
How shall my full heart pay th' eternal debt,
That gratitude owes thee?
[Page 66]
Macaria lives?
I saved Macaria's life. I'm more than paid.
Not till she hath enrich'd thee with herself.
Take then, protector of her life and mine;
From a fond mother's hand, that freely gives,
Oh take the daughter of my soul!
A maid,
Forgive a brother's boast; unparalleled
In every virtuous grace. A gem she is,
Brighter than glitters in the diadem
Thou placest on my brow. Take her; she's thine.
And thus united, share with me my throne,
Thy friendship's noble gift.
God of our fathers!
Who from th' abyss of misery, in a moment,
Up to a heaven of happiness canst lift
Poor mortals; what a change incredible
Hath this day wrought!—the rude repinings pardon
Of a rash woman; questioning thy just,
Thy fatherly corrections; which dissolve,
When the sharp season of probation's past,
Like fostering dews, in mercies on mankind.


WELL! these heroic times—I scarce can speak—
These ancient fables, borrow'd from the Greek,
Are all so full of passion, rage, and death,
So violent—they take away one's breath.—
Let me recover, pray:—this tragic strife
Night after night,—leads me a weary life.
Thro' what variety of folks, long dead,
Through what strange times and beings are we led!
Now a fond daughter trembling for her sire;
Now Phaedra, burning with unlawful fire!
A heroine now, for Greece my brain I rack;
Now Desdemona, smother'd by a Black.
To take these various shapes, and fill the whole,
An actress needs a transmigrating soul.
This night, you'll own, I've had full cause to mourn
A chief renown'd from my embraces torn.
Well might a widow weep the best of men!
Oh! such a husband I shan't have again.
With bright renown he fill'd the Eastern climes,
And differ'd, ladies, from these modern times.
In life's first dawn, to deeds of terror bred,
The youthful hero crush'd the serpent's head.
[Page 68] In these our days, when men their object miss,
There are who like to hear the serpent hiss.
One thing there is, which I must not disguise;
Tho' brave, heroic, generous, and wise,
The lover, tam'd, aside his club could throw,
Chain'd to the distaff, like a modern beau.
Yet, all his toils and all his labours past,
By death ev'n Envy was subdued at last.
We read, (so says our bard) in Ovid's stile
How for himself he rais'd the funeral pile.
There on his club reclining,—like a guest
With garlands crown'd—he sunk to endless rest.
Yet even now, in these degenerate days,
Heroic virtue still can merit praise.
When round the ship, in the deep roaring tide,
Devouring flames advance on ev'ry side;
Lo! on the anchor where the hero lies,
With look serene, and still the foe defies,
He views the flame, he views the brawling wave,
Then sinks—undaunted sinks in glory's grave.
May his example every breast inspire,
And kindle thro' the land our antient fire.
For nought,—as Shakespeare sings, "can make us rue
"If Britain to herself will prove but true."

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