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' or force enough to engage their spectators, for five acts
together, by a fimple action, supported by the violence • of passions, the beauty of sentiments, and the nobleness • of expression. I would not be understood to mean that all thefe things are to be found in my performance: I only shew the reader what I aimed at, and how I would have pleased him, had it been in my power.
As to the character of Sophonilba; in drawing it, I have confined myself to the truth of history. It were an affront to the age, to suppose such a character out of nature ; especially in a country which has produced fo many great examples of public spirit and heroic virtues, even in the softer sex: and I had destroyed her character intirely, had I not marked it with that strong love to her country, disdain of servitude, and inborn aversion to the Romans, by which all historians have distinguished her. Nor ought her marrying Mafiniffa, while her former hus. band was still alive, to be reckoned a blemish in her character. For, by the laws both of Rome and Carthage, the captivity of the husband dissolved the marriage of course; as among us impotence, or adultery : not to mention the reasons of a moral and public nature, which I have put into her own mouth in the scene between her and Syphax.
This is all I have to say of the play itself. But I can. not conclude without owning my obligations to those concerned in the representation. They have indeed done me more than justice. Whatever was designed as amiable and engaging in Mafiniffa shines out in Mr. Wilks's action. Mrs. Oldfield, in the character of Sophonisba, has excelled what, even in the fondness of an author, I could either with or imagine. The grace, dignity, and happy variety of her action have been universally apa plauded, and are truly admirable.
THEN learning, after the long Gothic night,
Fair, o'er the western world, renew'd his light,
With arts arising Sopbonifba rose:
The tragic mufe, returning, wept her woes.
With her th' Italian scene first learnt to glow :
And the first tears
for her were taught to flotu. Her charms the Gallic mufes next inspir'd: Corneille himfelf saw, wonder'd, and was fir’da
What foreign theatres with pride have shewn,
Britain, by jufter title, makes her own.
When freedom is the caufe, 'tis hers to fight;
And bers, when freedom is the theme, to write.
For this, a British author bids again
The beroine rife, to grace the Britiso scene.
Here, as in life, the breathes her genuine flame;
She asks what bofom has not felt the fame?
Asks of the British youth-Isfilence there?
She dares to ask it of the British fair.
To-night, our home-/pun author would be true,
to nature, history, and you.
Well pleas'd to give our neigbbours due applause,
He owns their learning, but disdains their laws.
Not to his patient touch, or happy flame;
'Tis to his British heart he trufts for fame.
If France excel him in one free-born thought,
The man, as well as poet, is in fault.
Nature! informer of the poet's art,
Whose force alone can raise or melt the heart,
Thou art his guide ; each passion, every line,
Whate'er he draws to please, must all be thing.
Be thou his judge: in every candid breast,
Tby filent whisper is the facred tefi.
А ст І.
Enter Sophonisba and Phæniffa.
HIS hour, Phæniffa, this important hour,
Or fixes me a queen,
or from a throne
Throws Sophonisba into Roman chains.
Detested thought! For now his utmost force
Collected, desperate, distress'd, and fore
From battles lost; with all the rage of war,
Ill-fated Syphax makes his last effort.
But say, thou partner of my hopes and fears,
Phoeniffa, fay; while, from the lofty tower,
Our straining eyes the field of battle fought,
Ah, thought you not that our Numidian troops
Gave up the broken field, and scattering filed,
Wild o'er the hills, from the rapacious fons
Of still triumphant Rome?
Phæn. The dream of care !
And think not, Madam, Syphax can resign,
But with his ebbing life, in this last field,
A crown, a kingdom, and a queen he loves
Beyond ambition's brighteit with; for whom,
Nor mov'd by threats, nor bound by plighted faith,
He scorn'd the Roman friendship (that fair name
For flavery) and from th' engagements broke
Of Scipio, fam'd for every winning art,
The towering genius of recover'd Rone.
Soph. Oh, name him nor! These Romans ftir
blood To too much rage. I cannot bear the fortune Of that proud people.-Said you not, Phoenissa, That Syphax lov'd me; which would fire his battle, And urge him on to death or conqueft? True,
He loves me with the madness of desire;
His every passion is a Nave to love;
Nor heeds he danger where I bid him go,
Nor leagues nor interest
. Hence these endless wars,
These ravag'd countries, these successless fights,
Sustain'd for Carthage; whose defence alone
Engag'd my loveless marriage-vows with his.
But know you not, that in the Roman camp
I have a lover too; a gallant, brave,
And disappointed lover, full of wrath,
Returning to a kingdom whence the sword
Of Syphax drove him?
Young Mafiniffa, the Maffylian King,
The first addresser of my youth; for whom
My bosom felt a fond beginning wish,
Extinguish'd foon : when once to Scipio's fide
Won o'er, and dazzled by th' enchanting glarc
Of that fair seeming hero, he became
A gay admiring slave, yet knew it not.
E'er since, my heart has held him in contempt ;
And thrown out each idea of his worth,
That there began to grow : nay had it been
As all.poffest, and soft, as hers who sits
In secret shades, or by the falling stream,
And wastes her being in unutter'd pangs,
I would have broke, or cur'd it of its fondness..
Phæn, Heroic Sophonisba !
Soph. No, Phoenifla;
It is not for the daughter of great Afdrubal,
Descended from a long illustrious line
Of Carthaginian heroes, who have oft
Fillid Italy with terror and dismay,
And shook the walls of Rome, to pine in love,
Like a deluded maid; to give her life,
And heart high-beating in her ccuntry's cause,
Meant not for common aiins and houshold cares,
To give them up to vain prefuming man;
Much less to one who stoops the neck to Rome,
An enemy to Carthage, Magnifla.