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Weigh well this book; and may the Spirit of grace,
Who stamp'd the seal of truth on the bless'd page,
Descend into thy soul, remove thy doubts,
Clear the perplex'd, and solve the intricate,
Till faith be lost in sight, and hope in joy,
Darius on his Throne. – PhaRNACES, SORANUS,
· Princes, Presidents, and Courtiers.
Phar. Hail, King Darius ! live for ever!
Welcome, my princes, presidents, and friends!
Now tell me, has your wisdom aught devis’d
To aid the commonwealth ? In our new empire,
Subdu'd Chaldea, is there aught remains
Your prudence can suggest to serve the state,
To benefit the subject, to redress
And raise the injur'd, to assist th' oppress’d,
And humble the oppressor ? If you know,
Speak freely, princes. Why am I a king,
Except to poise the awful scale of justice
With even hand; to minister to want;
To bless the nations with a lib’ral rule,
Vicegerent of th' eternal Oromasdes ?
Phar. So absolute thy wisdom, mighty king,
All counsel were superfluous.
Hold, Pharnaces !
No adulation : 'tis the death of virtue.
Who flatters is of all mankind the lowest,
Save he who courts the flattery. Kings are men,
As feeble and as frail as those they rule,
And born, like them, to die. The Lydian monarch,
Unhappy Craesus, lately sat aloft,
Almost above mortality : now see him :
Sunk to the vile condition of a slave,
He swells the train of Cyrus. I, like him,
To misery am obnoxious. See this throne ;
This royal throne the great Nebassar fill'd;
Yet hence his pride expell’d him. Yonder wall
The dread terrific writing to the eyes
Of proud Belshazzar show'd; sad monuments
Of Heav'n's tremendous vengeance; and shall I,
Unwarn’d by such examples, cherish pride ?
Yet to their dire calamities I owe
The brightest gem that glistens in my crown,
Sage Daniel. If my speech have aught of worth,
Or if my life with aught of good be grac'd,
To him alone I owe it.
Sor. [aside to Phar.] Now, Pbarnaces,
Will he run o'er, and dwell upon his praise,
As if we ne'er had heard it ; nay, will swell
The nauseous catalogue with many a virtue
His own fond fancy coins.
O great Darius !
Let thine unworthy servant's words find grace,
And meet acceptance in his royal ear,
Who subjugates the East. Let not the king
With anger bear my pray’r.
I know thou lov'st me; I but meant to chide
Thy flattery, not reprove thee for thy zeal.
Speak boldly, friends, as man should speak to man.
Perish the barb'rous maxims of the East,
Which basely would enslave the free-born mind,
And plunder man of the best gift of Heav'n,
His liberty of soul.
Darius, hear me.
Thy princes, and the captains of thy bands,
Thy presidents, the nobles who bear rule
O'er provinces, and I, thine humble creature,
Less than the least in merit, but in love,
In zeal, and duty, equal with the first,
We have devis’d a measure to confirm
Thy infant empire, to establish firmly
Thy pow'r and new dominion, and secure
Thy growing greatness past the pow'r of change.
Dar. I am prepar'd to hear thee. Speak, Pharnaces.
Phar. The wretched Babylonians long have groan'd Beneath the rule of princes weak or rash : The rod of pow'r was sway'd alike amiss By feeble Merodach and fierce Belshazzar. One let the slacken’d reins too loosely float Upon the people's neck, and lost his pow'r By nerveless relaxation. He who follow'd Held with a tyrant's hand the cruel curb, And check'd the groaning nation till it bled : On different rocks they met one common ruin : Their edicts were irresolute, their laws Were feebly plann'd, their councils ill-advis'd; Now so relax’d, and now so overstrain’d, That the tir’d people, wearied with the weight They long have borne, will soon disdain control, Tread on all rale, and spurn the hand that guides 'em.
Dar. But say, what remedy ?
That too, O King !
Thy servants have provided. Hitherto
They bear the yoke submissive. But to fix
Thy pow'r and their obedience, to reduce
All hearts to thy dominion, yet avoid
Those deeds of cruelty thy nature starts at,
Thou should'st begin by some imperial act
Of absolute dominion, yet unstain’d
By aught of barbarous. For know, O king !
Wholesome severity, if wisely fram’d
With sober discipline, procures more reverence
Than all the lenient counsels and weak measures
Of frail irresolution.
To thy request.
Not I, but all request it.
Be thy imperial edict issued straight,
And let a firm decree be this day pass’d,
Irrevocable, as our Median laws:
Ordain that for the space of thirty days
No subject in thy realm shall aught request
Of God or man, except of thee, O king !
Dar. Wherefore this strange decree?
'Twill fix the crown
With lasting safety on thy royal brow,
And, by a bloodless means, preserve th' obedience
Of this new empire. Think how much ’twill raise
Thy high renown. 'Twill make thy name rever'd,
And popular beyond example. What!
To be as Heav'n, dispensing good and ill
For thirty days ! With thine own ears to hear
Thy people's wants, with thine own lib'ral hands