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Shall I from known, from certain duty shrink
To shun a threaten’d danger ? O, Araspes !
Shall I, advanc'd in age, in zeal decline ?
Grow careless as I reach my journey's end ?
And slacken in my pace, the goal in view ?
Perish discretion when it interferes
With duty! Perish the false policy
Of human wit, which would commute our safety
With God's eternal honour! Shall His law
Be set at nought, that I may live at ease ?
How would the heathen triumph, should I fall
Through coward fear! How would God's enemies
Yet think a moment.
Where evil may be done, 'tis right to ponder;
Where only suffer’d, know, the shortest pause
Is much too long. Had great Darius paus’d,
This ill had been prevented. But for me,
Araspes, to deliberate is to sin.
Aras. Think of thy pow'r, thy favour with Darius;
Think of thy life's importance to the tribes,
Scarce yet return’d in safety. Live, oh, live.
To serve the cause of God.
God will himself Sustain his righteous cause. He knows to raise Fit instruments to serve him. Know, Araspes, He does not need our crimes to help his cause ; Nor does his equitable law permit A sinful act, from the prepost'rous plea That good may follow it. For me, my friend, The spacious earth holds not a bait to tempt me.
What would it profit me, if I should gain
Imperial Ecbatan, th’ extended land
Of fruitful Media, nay, the world's wide empire,
If mine eternal soul must be the price?
Farewell, my friend, time presses. I have stoln
Some moments from my duty to confirm
And strengthen thy young faith : let us fulfil
What Heav'n enjoins, and leave to Heav'n th' event.
Phar. 'Tis done — success has crown'd our scheme,
And Daniel falls into the deep-laid toils
Our prudence spread.
That he should fall so soon,
Astonishes e'en me. What! not a day?
What! not a single moment to defer
His rash devotions ? Madly thus to rush
On certain peril quite transcends belief.
When happen'd it, Pharnaces?
On the instant : Scarce is the deed accomplish’d. As he made His ostentatious pray’r, e’en in the face Of the bright God of day, all Babylon Beheld the insult offer'd to Darius. For, as in bold defiance of the law, His windows were not clos’d. Our chosen bands, Whom we had plac'd to note him, straight rush'd in, And seiz'd him in the warmth of his blind zeal, Ere half his pray’r was finish’d. Young Araspes,
It offer day, all on the face
With all the wild extravagance of grief,
Prays, weeps, and threatens. Daniel silent stands,
With patient resignation, and prepares
To follow them. — But see, the king approaches.
Sor. How's this? deep sorrow sits upon his brow, And stern resentment fires his angry eye.
Dar. O deep-laid stratagem! O artful wile !
To take me unprepar'd, to wound my heart,
E’en where it feels most tenderly, in friendship.
To stab my fame! to hold me up a mark
To future ages, for the perjur'd prince
Who slew the friend he lov’d! O Daniel, Daniel !
Who now shall trust Darius ? Not a slave
In my wide empire, from the Indian main
To the cold Caspian, but is more at ease
Than I, his monarch! Yes, I've done a deed
Will blot my honour with eternal stain !
Pharnaces ! O thou hoary sycophant !
Thou wily politician ! thou hast snar'd
Thy unsuspecting master!
Let not resentment blind thy royal eyes.
In what am I to blame? Who could suspect
This obstinate resistance to the law ?
Who could foresee that Daniel would perforce
Oppose the king's decree ?
. Thou, thou foresaw'st it :
Thou knew'st his righteous soul would ne'er endure
So long an interval of pray'r. But I,
Deluded king ! 'twas I should have foreseen
His steadfast piety. I should have thought
Your earnest warmth had some more secret source, .
Something that touch'd you nearer than your love,
Your well-feign’d zeal for me - I should have known
When selfish politicians, hackney'd long
In fraud and artifice, affect a glow
Of patriot fervour, or fond loyalty,
Which scorns all show of interest, that's the moment
To watch their crooked projects. - Well thou know'st
How dear I held him ; how I priz'd his truth.
Did I not choose him from a subject world,
Unblest by fortune, and by birth ungrac'd,
A captive and a Jew ? Did I not love him ?
Was he not rich in independent worth?
And great in native goodness ? That undid him!
There, there he fell! If he had been less great,
He had been safe. Thou could'st not bear his bright-
The lustre of his virtues quite obscur'd,
And dimm'd thy fainter merit. Rash old man !
Go, and devise some means to set me free
From this dread load of guilt. Go, set at work
Thy plotting genius to redeem the life
Of venerable Daniel.
'Tis too late.
He has offended ’gainst the new decree;
Has dar'd to make petition to his God,
Although the dreadful sentence of the act
Full well he knew. And by th' establish'd law
Of Media, by that law irrevocable,
Which he has dar'd to violate, he dies.
Dar. Impiety! presumption ! monstrous law!