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Perform so noble and so brave defeat
On Sacrovir? (O Jove, let it become me
To boast my deeds, when he, whom they concern,
Shall thus forget them.)
These are the common customs of thy blood,
When it is high with wine, as now with rage:
This well agrees with that intemperate vaunt
Thou lately madest at Agrippina’s table,
That, when all other of the troops were prone
To fall into rebellion, only thine
Remained in their obedience. Thou wert he
That saved the empire, which had then been lost,
Had but thy legions, there, rebelled or mutined;
Thy virtue met, and fronted every peril,
Thou gavest to Cæsar, and to Rome, their surety,
Their name, their strength, their spirit, and their state,
Their being was a donative from thee.
Arr. Well worded, and most like an orator.
Tib. Is this true, Silius ?
Save thy question, Cesur, Thy spy of famous credit hath affirmed it.
Arr. Excellent Roman!
He doth answer stoutly.
Sej. If this be so, there needs no other cause
Of crime against him.
What can more impeach
The royal dignity and state of Cæsar,
Than to be urged with a benefit
He cannot pay?
In this, all Cæsar's fortune
Is made unequal to the courtesy.
Lat. His means are clean destroyed that should requite.
Gal. Nothing is great enough for Silius' merit.
Arr. Gallus on that side too?
Come, do not hunt
And labour so about for circumstance,
To make him guilty, whom you have foredoomed:
Take shorter ways; I'll meet your purposes.
The words were mine, and more I now will say:
Since I have done thee that great service, Cæsar,
Thou still hast feared me; and, in place of grace,
Returned me hatred : so soon all best turns,
With doubtful princes, turn deep injuries
In estimation, when they greater rise
Than can be answered. Benefits, with you,
Are of no longer pleasure than you can
With ease restore them; that transcended once,
Your studies are not how to thank, but kill.
It is your nature to have all men slaves
but you acknowledging to none.
The means that make your greatness, must not come
In mention of it; if it do, it takes
So much away, you think: and that which helped,
Shall soonest perish, if it stand in eye,
Where it may front, or but upbraid the high.
Cot. Suffer him to speak no more.
Var. Note but his spirit.
Afer. This shows him in the rest.
Sej. He hath spoke enough to prove him Cæsar's foe.
Lat. Let him pe censured.
Cot. His thoughts look through his words.
Stay, most officious senate, I shall straight
Delude thy fury. Silius hath not placed
His guards within him, against fortune's spite,
So weakly, but he can escape your gripe,
That are but hands of fortune: she herself,
When virtue doth oppose, must lose her threats.
All that can happen in humanity,
The frown of Cæsar, proud Sejanus' hatred,
Base Varro's spleen, and Afer's bloodying tongue,
The senate's servile flattery, and these
Mustered to kill, I'm fortified against,
And can look down upon: they are beneath me.
It is not life whereof I stand enamoured ;
Nor shall my end make me accuse my fate.
The coward and the valiant man must fall,
Only the cause, and manner how, discerns them:
Which then are gladdest, when they cost us dearest.
Romans, if any here be in this senate,
Would know to mock Tiberius' tyranny,
Look upon Silius, and so learn to die. [Stabs himself.
Var. O desperate act !
An honourable hand !
Tib. Look, is he dead ?
'T was nobly struck, and home. Arr. My thought did prompt him to it. Farewell, Silius. Be famous ever for thy great example.
Underneath this stone doth lie
As much beauty as could die;
Which in life did harbour give
To more virtue than doth live.
FRANCIS BEAUMONT, 1586–1616.
JOHN FLETCHER, 1576-1625.
Ptolemy, king of Egypt, having secured the head of Pompey, comes with his friends Achoreus and Photinus to present it to Cæsar, as a means of gaining his favour. To them enter Cæsar, Antony, Dolabella, and Sceva.
Pho. Do not shun me, Cæsar.
From kingly Ptolemy I bring this present,
The crown and sweat of thy Pharsalian labour,
The goal and mark of high ambitious honour.
Before, thy victory had no name, Cæsar,
Thy travel and thy loss of blood, no recompense;
Thou dreamedst of being worthy, and of war,
And all thy furious conflicts were but slumbers:
Here they take life; here they inherit honour,
Grow fixed, and shoot up everlasting triumphs.
Take it, and look upon thy humble servant,
With noble eyes look on the princely Ptolemy,
That offers with this head, most mighty Cæsar,
What thou wouldst once have given for’t, all Egypt.
Ach. Nor do not question it, most royal conqueror,
Nor disesteem the benefit that meets thee,
Because 't is easily got, it comes the safer:
Yet, let me tell thee, most imperious Cæsar,
Though he opposed no strength of swords to win this,
Nor laboured through no showers of darts and lances,
Yet here he found a fort, that faced him strongly,
An inward war: He was his grandsire's guest,
Friend to his father, and when he was expelled
And beaten from this kingdom by strong hand,
And had none left him to restore his honour,
No hope to find a friend in such a misery,
Then in stepped Pompey, took his feeble fortune,
Strengthened, and cherished it, and set it right again:
This was a love to Cæsar.
Give me hate, gods!
Pho. This Cæsar may account a little wicked ;
But yet remember, if thine own hands, conqueror,
Had fallen upon him, what it had been then;
If thine own sword had touched his throat, what that way!
He was thy son-in-law; there to be tainted
Had been most terrible! Let the worst be rendered,
We have deserved for keeping thy hands innocent.
Cæsar. Oh, Sceva, Sceva, see that head! See, captains, The head of godlike Pompey!
Sce. He was basely ruined;
But let the gods be grieved that suffered it.
And be you Cæsar.
Oh thou conqueror,
Thou glory of the world once, now the pity ;
Thou awe of nations, wherefore didst thou fall thus?
What poor fate followed thee and plucked thee on
To trust thy sacred life to an Egyptian?
The life and light of Rome to a blind stranger,
That honourable war ne'er taught a nobleness,
Nor worthy circumstance showed what a man was?
That never heard thy name sung but in banquets,
And loose lascivious pleasures ? to a boy,