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SEM., solus. Curse on the stripling! how he apes his sire!
Ambitiously sententious!-but I wonder
Old Syphax comes not; his Numidian genius
Is well disposed to mischief, were he prompt
And eager on it; but he must be spurred,
And every moment quickened to the course.
-Cato has used me ill: he has refused
His daughter Marcia to my ardent VOWS.
Besides, his baffled arms, and ruined cause,
Are bars to my ambition. Cæsar's favour,
That showers down greatness on his friends, will raise me
To Rome's first honours. If I give up Cato,
I claim in my reward his captive daughter.
But Syphax comes!-
Sempronius, all is ready,
I've sounded my Numidians, man by man,
And find 'em ripe for a revolt: they all
Complain aloud of Cato's discipline,
And wait but the command to change their master.
SEM. Believe me, Syphax, there's no time to waste;
Ev'n whilst we speak, our conqueror comes on,
And gathers ground upon us every moment.
Alas! thou know'st not Cæsar's active soul,
With what a dreadful course he rushes on
From war to war: in vain has nature formed
Mountains and oceans to oppose his passage;
He bounds o'er all, victorious in his march;
The Alps and Pyreneans sink before him,
Through winds and waves and storms he works his way,
Impatient for the battle: one day more
Will set the victor thundering at our gates.
But tell me, hast thou yet drawn o'er young
That still would recommend thee more to Cæsar,
And challenge better terms.
Alas! he's lost,
He's lost, Sempronius; all his thoughts are full
Of Cato's virtues :-but I'll try once more
(For every instant I expect him here)
If yet I can subdue those stubborn principles
Of faith, of honour, and I know not what,
That have corrupted his Numidian temper,
And struck the infection into all his soul.
SEM. Be sure to press upon him every motive.
Juba's surrender, since his father's death,
Would give up Afric into Cæsar's hands,
And make him lord of half the burning zone.
SYPH. But is it true, Sempronius, that your senate
Is called together? Gods! thou must be cautious!
Cato has piercing eyes, and will discern
Our frauds, unless they're covered thick with art.
SEM. Let me alone, good Syphax, I'll conceal
My thoughts in passion1 ('tis the surest way) ;
I'll bellow out for Rome and for my country,
And mouth at Cæsar till I shake the senate.
Your cold hypocrisy 's a stale device,
A worn-out trick: wouldst thou be thought in earnest?
Clothe thy feigned zeal in rage, in fire, in fury!
SYPH. In troth, thou 'rt able to instruct grey hairs,
And teach the wily African deceit !
When a plain man, like Sempronius, turns villain, he loves to flatter himself, and to be flattered by others, into an opinion of his own cunning: hence, the boast-" Let me alone, good Syphax," &c., and hence, too, the adroit answer to that boast
"In troth, thou 'rt able to instruct grey hairs,
And teach the wily African deceit.'
But something more must be observed, to let us into the artifice of the following scenes. The vices of men are shaped and modified by their general character. The character of a Roman was that of virtue; in which term the idea of courage and patriotism are combined: when such a man would dissemble, he has but one way of doing it; which is, to run those qualities into the extreme; or, in the poet's fine expression,
"To be virtuous, even to madness."
The African, on the other hand, being by complexion a knave, his dissimulation is of another cast. It consists in a certain pliancy of temper, and a dexterous application of himself to all humours and occasions; in a. studious endeavour, in short, to conceal the proper vice of his nature, as the aim of a better man would be to outrage the virtue of his. Hence Sempronius is always in a storm of zeal; while Syphax assumes as many shapes as the moment calls for, or his Numidian genius suggests. Even the catastrophe of both is suited to this difference of character: Syphax sneaks out of the conspiracy, and would escape death, if he could: Sempronius provokes his fate, and perishes in a rant of bravery, as he had lived.
SEM. Once more, be sure to try thy skill on Juba.
Meanwhile I'll hasten to my Roman soldiers,
Inflame the mutiny, and underhand
Blow up their discontents, till they break out
Unlooked for, and discharge themselves on Cato.
Remember, Syphax, we must work in haste:
Oh think what anxious moments pass between
The birth of plots and their last fatal periods.
Oh! 'tis a dreadful interval of time,
Filled up with horror all, and big with death!
Destruction hangs on every word we speak,
On every thought, till the concluding stroke
Determines all, and closes our design.
SYPH., solus. I'll try if yet I can reduce to reason
This head-strong youth, and make him spurn at Cato.
The time is short, Cæsar comes rushing on us—
But hold! young Juba sees me, and approaches.
JUBA. Syphax, I joy to meet thee thus alone.
I have observed of late thy looks are fallen, O'ercast with gloomy cares and discontent; Then tell me, Syphax, I conjure thee, tell me, What are the thoughts that knit thy brow in frowns, And turn thine eye thus coldly on thy prince? SYPH. 'Tis not my talent to conceal my thoughts, Or carry smiles and sunshine in my face, When discontent sits heavy at my heart. I have not yet so much the Roman in me. JUBA. Why dost thou cast out such ungenerous terms Against the lords and sovereigns of the world? Dost thou not see mankind fall down before them, And own the force of their superior virtue ? Is there a nation in the wilds of Afric, Amidst our barren rocks and burning sands, That does not tremble at the Roman name ?
SYPH. Gods! where's the worth that sets this people up
Above your own Numidia's tawny sons!
Do they with tougher sinews bend the bow?
Or flies the javelin swifter to its mark,
Launched from the vigour of a Roman arm?
Who like our active African instructs
The fiery steed, and trains him to his hand?
Or guides in troops the embattled elephant,
Loaden with war? these, these are arts, my prince,
In which your Zama does not stoop to Rome.
JUBA. These all are virtues of a meaner rank,
Perfections that are placed in bones and nerves. A Roman soul is bent on higher views: To civilize the rude, unpolished world, And lay it under the restraint of laws; To make man mild, and sociable to man; To cultivate the wild, licentious savage With wisdom, discipline, and liberal artsThe embellishments of life; virtues like these Make human nature shine, reform the soul, And break our fierce barbarians into men. SYPH. Patience, kind heavens!-excuse an old man's warmth!
What are these wondrous civilizing arts,
This Roman polish, and this smooth behaviour,
That render man thus tractable and tame ?
Are they not only to disguise our passions,
To set our looks at variance with our thoughts,
To check the starts and sallies of the soul,
And break off all its commerce with the tongue;
In short, to change us into other creatures,
Than what our nature and the gods designed us?
JUBA. To strike thee dumb, turn up thy eyes to Cato!
There may'st thou see to what a godlike height
The Roman virtues lift up mortal man.
While good, and just, and anxious for his friends,
He's still severely bent against himself;
Renouncing sleep, and rest, and food, and ease,
He strives with thirst and hunger, toil and heat;
And when his fortune sets before him all
The pomps and pleasures that his soul can wish,
His rigid virtue will accept of none.
SYPH. Believe me, prince, there's not an African
That traverses our vast Numidian deserts
In quest of prey, and lives upon his bow,
But better practises these boasted virtues.
Coarse are his meals, the fortune of the chase,
Amidst the running stream he slakes his thirst,
Toils all the day, and at the approach of night
On the first friendly bank he throws him down,
Or rests his head upon a rock till morn:
Then rises fresh, pursues his wonted game,
And if the following day he chance to find
A new repast, or an untasted spring,
Blesses his stars, and thinks it luxury.
JUBA. Thy prejudices, Syphax, won't discern
What virtues grow from ignorance and choice,
Nor how the hero differs from the brute.
But grant that others could with equal glory
Look down on pleasures, and the baits of sense;
Where shall we find the man that bears affliction,
Great and majestic in his griefs, like Cato?
Heavens! with what strength, what steadiness of mind,
He triumphs in the midst of all his sufferings!
How does he rise against a load of woes,
And thank the gods that throw the weight upon him!
SYPH. 'Tis pride, rank pride, and haughtiness of soul:
I think the Romans call it stoicism.
Had not your royal father thought so highly
Of Roman virtue, and of Cato's cause,
He had not fallen by a slave's hand, inglorious:
Nor would his slaughtered army now have lain
On Afric's sands, disfigured with their wounds,
To gorge the wolves and vultures of Numidia.
JUBA. Why dost thou call my sorrows up afresh ?
My father's name brings tears into my eyes.
SYPH. Oh! that you'd profit by your father's ills!
JUBA. What wouldst thou have me do?
JUBA. Syphax, I should be more than twice an orphan
By such a loss.
Ay, there's the tie that binds you!
You long to call him father. Marcia's charms
Work in your heart unseen, and plead for Cato.
No wonder you are deaf to all I say.
JUBA. Syphax, your zeal becomes importunate;
I've hitherto permitted it to rave,
And talk at large; but learn to keep it in,
Lest it should take more freedom than I'll give it.