Amyntas, A Tale of the Woods/Act III

ACT THIRD.

SCENE I.

THYRSIS AND CHORUS.

THYRSIS.
O infinite cruelty! O thankless heart!
O thankless woman, and thrice and four times most
Ungrateful sex! and thou, Nature thyself,
Negligent mistress, why in looks alone,
And surfaces of women, dost thou put
All that is in them of the gentle and kind?
Ah, my poor friend! perhaps he has slain himself!
I see him not; I have searched all the place
In which I left him, and looked round about,
And searched again, and found no trace of him.
He must have slain himself! I'll ask the shepherds,
Whom I see there. Friends, have you seen Amyntas,
Or heard of him?

CHORUS.
Thou seemest much disturbed:
What is it troubles thee? Why this heat and panting?
Has any ill befallen? Pray thee tell us.

THYRSIS.
I dread ill of Amyntas. Have ye seen him?

CHORUS.
Not since he left thyself. What dost thou dread?

THYRSIS.
That he has slain himself.

CHORUS.
Has slain himself,
Why? for what reason?

THYRSIS.
Oh, for Hate and Love.

CHORUS.
Terrible enemies to league together!
What could they not? But tell us, pray, more clearly.

THYRSIS.
He loved a nymph too well, who too much hated him.

CHORUS.
Nay, tell us all. This is a thoroughfare;
And while thou talkest, some one may arrive
With news of him, perhaps his very self.

THYRSIS.
Most willingly. For 'tis not just, that such
Extreme and strange ingratitude should miss
Its proper infamy. My friend had learnt
(Alas! 'twas I that told him and conducted him;
I repent now) that Sylvia meant to go
With Daphne to a fount to bathe herself.
There then he followed, doubting and uneasy,
Moved, not by his own heart, but by my urgent
And goading importunity. Oft times
Would he have turned him back; and I as oft
Forced him along. Scarcely had we arrived
In neighbourhood of the place, when lo! we heard
Cries of a woman in distress; and Daphne
Appeared at the same time, wringing her hands.
The moment she beheld us, she cried out,
"Help, help! Sylvia is forced!" The enamoured boy
As soon as his ear heard, sprung like the pard.
I followed him: and lo! bound to a tree
Was the fair nymph, naked as she was born.
The rope that bound her, was her own soft hair,
Her very hair, twisted about the tree
In savage knots; and that bright zone of her's,
Which held her virgin bosom in its clip,
Was made to serve the outrage, and strapped fast
Her hands to the hard trunk. Nay, even the tree
Itself was forced to that vile ministry;
And a green withy of its flowering boughs
Fettered each delicate leg. Right fronting her
We saw a villain Satyr, who that moment
Was finishing his fastenings. She did all
She could to hinder him; but what was that?
The moments vanished. Amyntas with a lance
In his right hand, came on the Satyr, like
A lion. I had filled my lap with stones:
And the brute ravisher fled. His flight left leisure
To the glad lover's eyes; and round he turned them
With earnestness upon those lovely limbs,
Which looked as delicate and fair as cream
When curdled smooth it trembles in white baskets.
I saw his visage sparkle fire. But soon
Accosting her in a low voice, and modestly,
He said, "O heavenly Sylvia, thou must pardon
These hands, if it be too presumptuous bold
To come so near thy limbs of loveliness.
Necessity compels them,—hard necessity
To loosen all these knots; and so I pray thee,
Let not the grace, which fortune thus concedes them,
Be painful to thee."

CHORUS.
Words to mollify
A heart of stone: but what did she reply?

THYRSIS.
Nothing. But in disdain and shame kept down
Her eyes towards the earth, hiding, as much
As in her lay, her delicate bosom. He,
Assisting her aloof, began to untie
Her tresses, saying all the while, "Unworthy
Of knots so beautiful was this hard trunk.
What are the advantages of Love's own servants,
If trees and they have such fair bonds in common?
Hard-hearted tree! and could'st thou hurt the hair
That did thee so much honour?" After this
He loosed her hands with his, in such a manner
As showed how much he feared, yet longed, to touch them;
And then he stooped to set her ancles free;
But she, the moment she could use her hands,
Made a contemptuous gesture, and said, "Shepherd,
See that thou touch me not: I am Diana's:
Leave me to loosen them."

CHORUS.
Can such pride be
In woman's heart? Oh graceless recompence
For such a graceful service!

THYRSIS.
He drew back,
And stood apart in reverence, not even raising
His eyelids to admire her, but denying
The pleasure to himself, purely to take
The trouble of denying it from her.
I, who kept close, and witnessed every thing,
And heard as well, felt ready to cry out;
But I restrained myself. Now hear a wonder;
After much trouble she unloosed herself,
And scarcely had done so, than without saying
A bare adieu, she set off like a fawn.
Certainly for no fear; for his respect
Was too well known.

CHORUS.
Why fled she then?

THYRSIS.
Because
She fain would have owed thanks to flight alone,
Not to his modest love.

CHORUS.
Ungrateful still:
But what did he do then? What said he?

THYRSIS.
I know not;
For in my haste to finish my fine work
And bring her back, I missed both her and him.
When I returned, he was not at the fountain;
And therefore is it that I dread some evil.
I know he was disposed to slay himself,
Even before this happened.

CHORUS.
'Tis the custom
And artifice of Love to threaten suicide:
But the blow seldom follows.

THYRSIS.
Heaven grant
He may be no exception.

CHORUS.
Trust he will not.

THYRSIS.
I'll look into the cave of sage Elpino.
Amyntas, if alive, may have gone there;
For there he has been often used to sweeten
His bitter sufferings in the flowing sound
Of that clear pipe, which is of charm enough
To make the mountains listen, and the streams
Run into milk, and the hard trees give honey.

SCENE II.

AMYNTAS, DAPHNE, AND NERINA.

AMYNTAS.
Pitiless was thy pity,
O Daphne, when thou did'st pull back the lance;
For the more slowly my death comes, the more
His shadow will oppress me.
And why thus lead me through so many paths,
Discoursing all the while? What dost thou fear?
That I shall kill myself? Thou fear'st my comfort.

DAPHNE.
Despair not, dear Amyntas.
I know her well. 'Twas but shame-facedness
That made her fly, not cruelty.

AMYNTAS.
Ah me!
It is my safest business to despair.
Hope is my ruin. Even now, alas!
It tries to spring up in this heart of mine,
Solely because I live. What evil is there
Worse than the life of such a wretch as I am?

DAPHNE.
Live, live, unhappy one, in spite of wretchedness:
Endure thy state, to be at last made happy.
If thou dost live and hope, thy hope's reward
Will be what thou hast seen in that bare beauty.

AMYNTAS.
Nay, love and fate thought not my misery
Quite perfect, till in all its perfectness
Mine eyes had seen the bliss,
Which I must ever miss.

NERINA.
(coming among the trees.)
Thus must I be the raven of bad news.
O wretched Montano! miserable for ever.
How wilt thou bear thyself, when thou art told
What has befallen thine own and only Sylvia?
Poor grey bereaved old man, no more a father!

DAPHNE.
I hear a sorrowful voice.

AMYNTAS.
I hear a name,
That strikes through ears and heart.

DAPHNE.
It is Nerina,
The gentle nymph whom Cynthia holds so dear!
She that has such sweet eyes, and beautiful hands,
And manners of such grace and friendliness.

NERINA.
Still he must know it; he must make them gather
Her luckless relics, should she be not whole.
Oh Sylvia, what a hard and dreadful lot!

AMYNTAS.
Alas! who can it be? Who speaks?

NERINA.
O Daphne!

DAPHNE.
Why talkest thou to thyself? and what of Sylvia,
And all these sighs?

NERINA.
A dreadful thing it is,
That makes me sigh.

AMYNTAS.
What horror does she speak of?
A deadly ice has shot about my heart,
And shuts up my loud spirit.
Is she alive?

DAPHNE.
Tell us, pray tell us!

NERINA.
Oh God, that I should be the messenger!
But I must speak. Sylvia—she came to me—
To my house—naked. Why, thou knowest well.
When she was dressed, she asked me to go with her
And join a chace, down in the Wood of Holms:
I said I would. We went, and found a throng
Of nymphs arrived; when lo! I know not whence,
A most enormous wolf dashed right among us,
His jaws all bathed in blood. Sylvia like lightning
Fits a large arrow to a bow I had,
And draws and strikes him sheer upon the head.
He plunges back into the woods; and she,
Holding a lance in ready fierceness, follows.

AMYNTAS.
Oh dolorous beginning! What, ah me!
Will be the end?

NERINA.
I with another lance
Followed her track, but far enough behind,
Not being so swift. As soon as they had reached
The inmost part of the wood, she disappeared.
Still I pursued the track; which led so far
That I arrived at last at the most desert
And gloomy spot in the forest. There I came
Upon the lance of Sylvia:—and not far off
Was a white net, which I myself had bound
Her tresses with; and as I looked about,
I saw seven wolves, busy in licking blood
Among some naked bones. They saw not me,
As it turned out, so earnest was their meal.
Brimful of fear and pity, I returned:
And this is all I know of Sylvia's fate.
Here is the net.

AMYNTAS.
All which thou knowest! and the net! and blood!
O Sylvia, thou art dead. (He falls to the earth.)

DAPHNE.
This misery
Has overcome him. How now! Is he dead?

NERINA.
He breathes again! 'Twas but a passing swoon;
He comes to himself.

AMYNTAS.
Oh Sorrow,
Why dost thou so contrive to torture me,
That death is spared me still. Thou art too merciful.
Or wouldst thou leave the task to mine own hands?
Content! Content! since thou wilt do it not,
Or cannot. Oh if this dire news be true,
And my great misery perfect, why stay longer?
What can I look for more? Oh Daphne, Daphne,
To this most bitter end 'twas thou didst keep me,
Even to this end most bitter.
A sweet and comely death might I have died,
Compared with dying now. Thou didst prevent me;
And heaven, which knew I should have so outstripped
This fiercer misery that was to follow,
May now, in striking its last wound upon me,
Well grant me leave to die.
Thou too shouldst grant me leave.

DAPHNE.
Have patience yet, till thou hast learnt the truth.

AMYNTAS.
The truth! What truth? Did I not wait before,
And learn too much?

NERINA.
Would I had held my peace!

AMYNTAS.
Fair nymph, I pray thee, give me
That net,—the poor remains of all that beauty.
It shall be my companion
For the small space I have to live and move,
And with its presence aggravate a martyrdom,
Which is, indeed, small martyrdom, at best,
If I have need of being helped to die.

NERINA.
Ought I to give it him or not?
The very reason which thou giv'st for asking it
Compels me to deny it thee.

AMYNTAS.
Deny!
Deny me at my last extremity
A thing so small! Even in this I see
The malice of my fate. I yield! I yield!
Let it stay with thee; and do ye, stay both:
I vanish, never to return.

DAPHNE.
Amyntas!
Amyntas! Stay!
Oh, with what desperate fury does he run!

NERINA.
So swiftly, 'tis in vain to follow him.
I will pursue my way; and it may be
Better perhaps that I do hold my peace,
And tell not poor Montano.

CHORUS.
There is no need of death
To bind a great heart fast:
Faith is enough at first, and Love at last.
Nor does a fond desert
Pursue so hard a fame
In following its sweet aim;
Since Love is paid with its own loving heart.
And oftentimes, ere it work out its story,
It finds itself clasp glory.