Read ACT THE THIRD of Cato A Tragedy‚ in Five Acts , free online book, by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, on ReadCentral.com.

SCENE I. A Chamber.

Enter MARCUS and PORTIUS.

Marc. Thanks to my stars, I have not ranged about
The wilds of life, ere I could find a friend;
Nature first pointed out my Portius to me,
And early taught me, by her secret force,
To love thy person, ere I knew thy merit,
Till what was instinct, grew up into friendship.

Por. Marcus, the friendships of the world are oft
Confed’racies in vice, or leagues of pleasure;
Ours has severest virtue for its basis,
And such a friendship ends not but with life.

Marc. Portius, thou know’st my soul in all its weakness;
Then, pr’ythee, spare me on its tender side;
Indulge me but in love, my other passions
Shall rise and fall by virtue’s nicest rules.

Por. When love’s well-timed, ’tis not a fault to love.
The strong, the brave, the virtuous, and the wise,
Sink in the soft captivity together.

Marc. Alas, thou talk’st like one that never felt
Th’ impatient throbs and longings of a soul,
That pants and reaches after distant good!
A lover does not live by vulgar time;
Believe me, Portius, in my Lucia’s absence
Life hangs upon me, and becomes a burden;
And yet, when I behold the charming maid,
I’m ten times more undone; while hope and fear,
And grief and rage, and love, rise up at once,
And with variety of pain distract me.

Por. What can thy Portius do to give thee help?

Marc. Portius, thou oft enjoy’st the fair one’s presence;
Then undertake my cause, and plead it to her
With all the strength and heat of eloquence
Fraternal love and friendship can inspire.
Tell her thy brother languishes to death,
And fades away, and withers in his bloom;
That he forgets his sleep, and loathes his food;
That youth, and health, and war, are joyless to him;
Describe his anxious days, and restless nights,
And all the torments that thou see’st me suffer.

Por. Marcus, I beg thee give me not an office,
That suits with me so ill. Thou know’st my temper.

Marc. Wilt thou behold me sinking in my woes,
And wilt thou not reach out a friendly arm,
To raise me from amidst this plunge of sorrows?

Por. Marcus, thou canst not ask what Id refuse;
But here, believe me, Ive a thousand reasons

Marc. I know thou’lt say my passion’s out of season,
That Cato’s great example and misfortunes
Should both conspire to drive it from my thoughts.
But what’s all this to one that loves like me?
O Portius, Portius, from my soul I wish
Thou did’st but know thyself what ’tis to love!
Then wouldst thou pity and assist thy brother.

Por. What should I do? If I disclose my passion,
Our friendship’s at an end: if I conceal it,
The world will call me false to a friend and brother. [Aside.

Marc. But see, where Lucia, at her wonted hour,
Amid the cool of yon high marble arch,
Enjoys the noon-day breeze! Observe her, Portius;
That face, that shape, those eyes, that heav’n of beauty!
Observe her well, and blame me if thou canst.

Por. She sees us, and advances

Marc. I’ll withdraw,
And leave you for a while. Remember, Portius,
Thy brother’s life depends upon thy tongue. [Exit.

Enter LUCIA.

Lucia. Did not I see your brother Marcus here?
Why did he fly the place, and shun my presence?

Por. Oh, Lucia, language is too faint to show
His rage of love; it preys upon his life;
He pines, he sickens, he despairs, he dies!

Lucia. How wilt thou guard thy honour, in the shock
Of love and friendship! Think betimes, my Portius,
Think how the nuptial tie, that might ensure
Our mutual bliss, would raise to such a height
Thy brother’s griefs, as might perhaps destroy him.

Por. Alas, poor youth! What dost thou think, my Lucia?
His gen’rous, open, undesigning heart
Has begg’d his rival to solicit for him!
Then do not strike him dead with a denial.

Lucia. No, Portius, no; I see thy sister’s tears,
Thy father’s anguish, and thy brother’s death,
In the pursuit of our ill-fated loves;
And, Portius, here I swear, to Heav’n I swear,
To Heav’n, and all the powers that judge mankind,
Never to mix my plighted hands with thine,
While such a cloud of mischief hangs upon us,
But to forget our loves, and drive thee out
From all my thoughts as far as I am able.

Por. What hast thou said? I’m thunderstruck recall
Those hasty words, or I am lost for ever.

Lucia. Has not the vow already pass’d my lips?
The gods have heard it, and ’tis seal’d in heav’n.
May all the vengeance that was ever pour’d
On perjured heads, o’erwhelm me if I break it!

Por. Fix’d in astonishment, I gaze upon thee,
Like one just blasted by a stroke from heav’n,
Who pants for breath and stiffens, yet alive,
In dreadful looks, a monument of wrath!

Lucia. Think, Portius, think thou see’st thy dying brother
Stabb’d at his heart, and all besmear’d with blood,
Storming at Heav’n and thee! Thy awful sire
Sternly demands the cause, the accursed cause,
That robs him of his son: poor Marcia trembles,
Then tears her hair, and, frantic in her griefs,
Calls out on Lucia. What could Lucia answer,
Or how stand up in such a scene of sorrow?

Por. To my confusion and eternal grief,
I must approve the sentence that destroys me.

Lucia. Portius, no more; thy words shoot through my heart,
Melt my resolves, and turn me all to love.
Why are those tears of fondness in thy eyes?
Why heaves thy heart? Why swells thy soul with sorrow?
It softens me too much Farewell, my Portius!
Farewell, though death is in the word, for ever!

Por. Stay, Lucia, stay! What dost thou say? For ever?
Thou must not go; my soul still hovers o’er thee,
And can’t get loose.

Lucia. If the firm Portius shake,
To hear of parting, think what Lucia suffers!

Por. ’Tis true, unruffled and serene, I’ve met
The common accidents of life, but here
Such an unlook’d-for storm of ills falls on me.
It beats down all my strength I cannot bear it.
We must not part.

Lucia. What dost thou say? Not part!
Hast thou forgot the vow that I have made?
Are not there heavens, and gods, that thunder o’er us?
But see, thy brother Marcus bends this way;
I sicken at the sight. Once more, farewell.
Farewell, and know, thou wrong’st me, if thou think’st
Ever was love or ever grief like mine. [Exit LUCIA.

Enter MARCUS.

Marc. Portius, what hopes? How stands she? am I doom’d
To life or death?

Por. What wouldst thou have me say?

Marc. What means this pensive posture? Thou appear’st
Like one amazed and terrified.

Por. I’ve reason.

Marc. Thy downcast looks, and thy disorder’d thoughts,
Tell me my fate. I ask not the success
My cause has found.

Por. I’m grieved I undertook it.

Marc. What, does the barbarous maid insult my heart,
My aching heart, and triumph in my pains?
That I could cast her from my thoughts for ever!

Por. Away! you’re too suspicious in your griefs;
Lucia, though sworn never to think of love,
Compassionates your pains, and pities you.

Marc. Compassionates my pains, and pities me!
What is compassion, when ’tis void of love?
Fool that I was, to choose so cold a friend
To urge my cause! Compassionates my pains!
Pr’ythee what art, what rhet’ric didst thou use
To gain this mighty boon? She pities me!
To one that asks the warm returns of love,
Compassion’s cruelty, ’tis scorn, ’tis death

Por. Marcus, no more; have I deserved this treatment?

Marc. What have I said? Oh! Portius, Oh, forgive me!
A soul exasperated in ills, falls out
With every thing its friend, itself but hah!
[Shout. What means that shout, big with the sounds of war?
What new alarm?

Por. A second, louder yet,
Swells in the wind, and comes more full upon us.

Marc. Oh, for some glorious cause to fall in battle!
Lucia, thou hast undone me: thy disdain
Has broke my heart; ’tis death must give me ease.

Por. Quick let us hence. Who knows if Cato’s life
Stands sure? Oh, Marcus, I am warm’d; my heart
Leaps at the trumpet’s voice, and burns for glory. [Exeunt.

SCENE II. Part of the Senate House.

Enter SEMPRONIUS, with LEADERS of the Mutiny.

Sem. At length the winds are raised, the storm blows high!
Be it your care, my friends, to keep it up
In all its fury, and direct it right,
Till it has spent itself on Cato’s head.
Meanwhile, I’ll herd among his friends, and seem
One of the number, that, whate’er arrive,
My friends and fellow soldiers may be safe. [Exit.

1 Lead. We are all safe; Sempronius is our friend.
Sempronius is as brave a man as Cato.
But, hark, he enters. Bear up boldly to him;
Be sure you beat him down, and bind him fast;
This day will end our toils.
Fear nothing, for Sempronius is our friend.

Enter SEMPRONIUS, with CATO, LUCIUS,
PORTIUS, and MARCUS.

Cato. Where are those bold, intrepid sons of war,
That greatly turn their backs upon the foe,
And to their general send a brave defiance?

Sem. Curse on their dastard souls, they stand astonish’d!
[Aside.

Cato. Perfidious men! And will you thus dishonour
Your past exploits, and sully all your wars?
Why could not Cato fall
Without your guilt! Behold, ungrateful men,
Behold my bosom naked to your swords,
And let the man that’s injured strike the blow.
Which of you all suspects that he is wrong’d,
Or thinks he suffers greater ills than Cato?
Am I distinguished from you but by toils,
Superior toils, and heavier weight of cares?
Painful pre-eminence!

Sem. Confusion to the villains! all is lost! [Aside.

Cato. Have you forgotten Lybia’s burning waste,
Its barren rocks, parch’d earth, and hills of sand,
Its tainted air, and all its broods of poison?
Who was the first to explore th’ untrodden path,
When life was hazarded in ev’ry step?
Or, fainting in the long laborious march,
When, on the banks of an unlook’d-for stream,
You sunk the river with repeated draughts,
Who was the last of all your host who thirsted?

Sem. Did not his temples glow
In the same sultry winds and scorching heats?

Cato. Hence, worthless men! hence! and complain to Caesar,
You could not undergo the toil of war,
Nor bear the hardships that your leader bore.

Lucius. See, Cato, see the unhappy men: they weep!
Fear, and remorse, and sorrow for their crime,
Appear in ev’ry look, and plead for mercy.

Cato. Learn to be honest men; give up yon leaders,
And pardon shall descend on all the rest.

Sem. Cato, commit these wretches to my care;
First let them each be broken on the rack,
Then, with what life remains, impaled, and left
To writhe at leisure round the bloody stake;
There let them hang, and taint the southern wind.
The partners of their crime will learn obedience.

Cato. Forbear, Sempronius! see they suffer death,
But in their deaths remember they are men;
Strain not the laws, to make their tortures grievous.
Lucius, the base, degen’rate age requires
Severity.
When by just vengeance guilty mortals perish,
The gods behold the punishment with pleasure,
And lay th’ uplifted thunderbolt aside.

Sem. Cato, I execute thy will with pleasure.

Cato. Meanwhile, we’ll sacrifice to liberty.
Remember, O my friends! the laws, the rights,
The gen’rous plan of power delivered down
From age to age by your renown’d forefathers,
(So dearly bought, the price of so much blood:)
Oh, let it never perish in your hands!
But piously transmit it to your children.
Do thou, great liberty, inspire our souls,
And make our lives in thy possession happy,
Or our deaths glorious in thy just defence. [Exeunt CATO, etc.

1 Lead. Sempronius, you have acted like yourself.
One would have thought you had been half in earnest.

Sem. Villain, stand off; base, grov’ling, worthless wretches,
Mongrels in faction, poor faint-hearted traitors!

1 Lead. Nay, now, you carry it too far, Sempronius!

Sem. Know, villains, when such paltry slaves presume
To mix in treason, if the plot succeeds,
They’re thrown neglected by; but if it fails,
They’re sure to die like dogs, as you shall do.
Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth
To sudden death.

1 Lead. Nay, since it comes to this

Sem. Dispatch them quick, but first pluck out their tongues,
Lest with their dying breath they sow sedition.
[Exeunt GUARDS, with their LEADERS.

Enter SYPHAX.

Syph. Our first design, my friend, has proved abortive;
Still there remains an after-game to play;
My troops are mounted;
Let but Sempronius head us in our flight,
We’ll force the gate where Marcus keeps his guard,
And hew down all that would oppose our passage.
A day will bring us into Caesar’s camp.

Sem. Confusion! I have fail’d of half my purpose:
Marcia, the charming Marcia’s left behind!

Syph. How! will Sempronius turn a woman’s slave?

Sem. Think not thy friend can ever feel the soft
Unmanly warmth and tenderness of love.
Syphax, I long to clasp that haughty maid,
And bend her stubborn virtue to my passion:
When I have gone thus far, I’d cast her off.

Syph. Well said! that’s spoken like thyself, Sempronius!
What hinders, then, but that thou find her out,
And hurry her away by manly force?

Sem. But how to gain admission? For access
Is given to none but Juba, and her brothers.

Syph. Thou shalt have Juba’s dress, and Juba’s guards;
The doors will open, when Numidia’s prince
Seems to appear before the slaves that watch them.

Sem. Heavens, what a thought is there! Marcia’s my own!
How will my bosom swell with anxious joy,
When I behold her struggling in my arms,
With glowing beauty, and disorder’d charms,
While fear and anger, with alternate grace,
Pant in her breast, and vary in her face!
So Pluto seized off Proserpine, convey’d
To hell’s tremendous gloom th’ affrighted maid;
There grimly smiled, pleased with the beauteous prize,
Nor envied Jove his sunshine and his skies. [Exeunt.