Serap. ’Tis strange that Antony, for some days past,
Has not beheld the face of Cleopatra;
But here, in Isis’ temple, lives retired,
And makes his heart a prey to black despair.

Alex. ’Tis true; and we much fear he hopes by absence
To cure his mind of love.

Serap. If he be vanquished,
Or make his peace, Egypt is doomed to be
A Roman province; and our plenteous harvests
Must then redeem the scarceness of their soil.
While Antony stood firm, our Alexandria
Rivalled proud Rome (dominion’s other seat),
And Fortune striding, like a vast Colossus,
Could fix an equal foot of empire here.

Alex. Had I my wish, these tyrants of all nature,
Who lord it o’er mankind, should perish,—perish,
Each by the other’s sword; but since our will
Is lamely followed by our power, we must
Depend on one; with him to rise or fall.

Serap. How stands the queen affected?

Alex. Oh, she dotes,
She dotes, Serapion, on this vanquished man,
And winds herself about his mighty ruins;
Whom would she yet forsake, yet yield him up,
This hunted prey, to his pursuer’s hands,
She might preserve us all: but ’tis in vain—
This changes my designs, this blasts my counsels,
And makes me use all means to keep him here,
Whom I could wish divided from her arms,
Far as the earth’s deep centre. Well, you know
The state of things; no more of your ill omens
And black prognostics; labour to confirm
The people’s hearts.

Enter Ventidius, talking aside with a Gentleman of Antony’s.

Serap. These Romans will o’erhear us.
But, who’s that stranger? By his warlike port,
His fierce demeanour, and erected look,
He’s of no vulgar note.

Alex. Oh ’tis Ventidius,
Our emperor’s great lieutenant in the East,
Who first showed Rome that Parthia could be conquered.
When Antony returned from Syria last,
He left this man to guard the Roman frontiers.

Serap. You seem to know him well.

Alex. Too well. I saw him at Cilicia first,
When Cleopatra there met Antony:
A mortal foe he was to us, and Egypt.
But,—let me witness to the worth I hate,—
A braver Roman never drew a sword;
Firm to his prince, but as a friend, not slave.
He ne’er was of his pleasures; but presides
O’er all his cooler hours, and morning counsels:
In short the plainness, fierceness, rugged virtue,
Of an old true-stampt Roman lives in him.
His coming bodes I know not what of ill
To our affairs. Withdraw to mark him better;
And I’ll acquaint you why I sought you here,
And what’s our present work. [They withdraw to a corner of the stage; and Ventidius, with the other, comes forward to the front.

Vent. Not see him, say you?
I say, I must, and will.

Gent. He has commanded,
On pain of death, none should approach his presence.

Vent. I bring him news will raise his drooping spirits,
Give him new life.

Gent. He sees not Cleopatra.

Vent. Would he had never seen her!

Gent. He eats not, drinks not, sleeps not, has no use
Of anything, but thought; or if he talks,
’Tis to himself, and then ’tis perfect raving:
Then he defies the world, and bids it pass;
Sometimes he gnaws his lip, and curses loud
The boy Octavius; then he draws his mouth
Into a scornful smile, and cries, “Take all,
The world’s not worth my care.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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