A Celebration of Women Writers

"Aristomenes, Act II." by Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661 - 1720)
From Winchilsea, Anne (Kingsmill) Finch, Countess of. Miscellany Poems, on Several Occasions, London: printed for J[ohn] B[arber] and sold by Benj. Tooke at the Middle-Temple-Gate, William Taylor in Pater-Noster-Row, and James Round, in Exchange-Alley, Cornhil, 1713. p. 317-332.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 317]


A Room in the Palace. Aristor alone.

  Arist. I've torn with Cries the Roof of this vile Mansion.
And from that Window, barr'd too closely up
To give me leave to leap upon their Heads,
Have curs'd the Croud, and told 'em whose I am:
At which they laugh, and cry, 'tis Phila's Madman.
      [He attempts but cannot force the Door.
Confusion! that she dares confine me thus!
Whilst my free Thoughts, unfollow'd by my Hand,
Must see that cursed Deed, they can't prevent.
Oh! Aristomenes, my noble Father!
Hear me, ye Fates, and let me but Revenge him;
Give me Revenge; and now, methinks, I grasp it,
Broke thro' his Guards, I seize upon the Tyrant,
And stab him thus, and thus       [He acts all this.
Then bear him to the Ground, thus falling on him,
And to his Heart thus tearing my wide way.
Oh! O', O', O',       [Throws himself upon the Ground.

Enter Amalintha, the Door by one without immediately lock'd after her.

  Amal. Where is this wretched Mourner?
Oh! let me find him, tho' to raise his Sorrows

[Page 318]

With the sad Sound of my repeated Groans.
Ha! on the Ground! then be it too my Seat!
      [Sits on the Ground by him.
For I will share in this Excess of Grief,
As well as in the Days of milder Fortune,
I bore a part in Love, that knew no Measure.
O Aristomenes! oh! my Aristor!
      [She puts her Handkerchief before her Eyes weeping.
  Aristor. Whoe'er thou art, repeat again that Sound:
Such groans shall hourly issue from his Dungeon,
And fright the bloody Spartans into Madness.
      [He looks up.
Ha! sure I shou'd know that Form, that Shape, those Limbs,
That lab'ring Bosom, and those Locks dishevel'd:
But take not from thy Face that friendly Cloud;
Do not expose it, lest thro' all its Charms
My deep Revenge find out whose Stamp it bears,
And urge me on to something Dark and Fatal.
  Amal. This from Aristor! this to Amalintha!
      [She rises and shews her face.
  Aristor. Why wou'd'st thou tempt me thus advent'rous Maid,
And bring the blood of Anaxander near me?
      [Coming up fiercely to her.
Canst thou too fondly think, that Love's soft Bands,
His gentle Cords of Hyacinths and Roses,
Wove in the dewy Spring, when Storms are silent,
Can tye these Hands, provok'd by horrid Murther!

[Page 319]

Oh! do not trust it
But fly this Ground, while I have Power to bid thee.
  Amal. Aristor, no; my Flight shall not preserve me:
The Life, I've kept but to indulge your Love,
Now to this loud, mistaken Rage I offer.
Take it, Oh! take it; Means cannot be wanting,
Altho' no Instrument of Death be near you:
This Hair, these flatter'd Locks, these once-lov'd Tresses
Round my sad Neck thus knit will soon perform it;
Or, on these trembling Lips your Hand but prest
Will send the rising Breath down to my Heart,
And break it, telling who deny'd it Passage.
  Aristor. Tryal beyond the Strength of Man and Lover!
  Amal. Or, if you wou'd be quicker in Dispatch,
Speak but a few such Words, as now you utter'd,
And my poor hov'ring Soul will fly before 'em.
Farewel Aristor, see! the Work is done:
I did but think I heard their killing Sound,
And the bare Fancy saves you farther Study.
      [She faints, he catches her in his Arms.
  Aristor. Oh! stop the glorious Fugitive a moment;
And I will whisper to it such Repentance,
Such Love, such Fondness, such unheard-of Passion,
As shall confine it to it's beauteous Mansion.
Thus let me hug, and press thee into Life,
And lend thee Motion from my beating Heart,

[Page 320]

To set again the Springs of thine in working.
  Amal. I hear your Summons, and my Life returns:
But tell me, ere again so firm 'tis fixt
That it must cost an Agony like this,
To let it out to Liberty and Ease,
Will you not hate me for my Father's Guilt?
  Aristor. By the soft Fires of Love, that fill my Breast,
And dart through all the Horrors of my Soul,
Like Heaven's bright Flashes in a Night of Shadows,
I will not hate, or e'er reproach thee more:
Yet let me breathe so gently one Complaint,
So gently, that it may not break thy Peace,
Tho' it for ever has discarded mine,
And ask, why you thus cruelly wou'd use me,
Why, have me seiz'd, and bound with frantick Fetters,
Snatch'd from my Duty by a Woman's wile,
And here confin'd, whilst my great Father perish'd?
  Amal. 'Twas none of mine, by your dear self I swear;
It was the Fates design and Phila's action;
She saw you thus disguis'd amongst the Croud,
And, ere she would acquaint me with your Danger,
Follow'd to watch the means how to prevent it.
  Aristor. I will belief you to my Heart's relief,
Which must have broke, had your Consent been with her.

[Page 321]

But, Amalintha, now my Rage is gone,
And Love thro' this mistake has forc'd his way,
It spreads before my Thoughts the gaudy Scene
Of those Delights, which have been once allow'd it;
Brings to my Phancy in their softest Dress
The gentle Hours, that told our private Meetings;
Shews me the Grove, where, by the Moon's pale Light
We've breath'd out tender Sighs, 'till coming Day
Has drawn them deeper, warning us to part,
Which ne'er we did, 'till some new Time was set
For the return of those transporting Pleasures.
  Amal. And so again, Aristor, we'll contrive,
And so again, we'll meet, and sigh, and love.
  Aristor. Oh! O', O', Amalintha!
  Amal. Oh! why that Groan, that deep, that deathlike Groan!
  Aristor. When Soul and Body part, it can't be softer;
And I must leave thee, Soul to sad Aristor.
With all those Pleasures which I but repeated,
As dying Friends will catch one last Embrace
Of what they know, they must forego forever.
  Amal. Indeed, you've call'd my wand'ring Fancy back
From those Delights, where 'twou'd have endless stray'd:
But, my Aristor! (for I'll call you mine,
Though all the Stars combine against my Title,
And bar fulfilling of the Vows they've witness'd)

[Page 322]

Tell me, tho' we must ne'er in Nuptials join,
May we not meet, and at this distance sigh?
And when I've hoarded up a Stock of Tears,
Which in the Spartan's sight I dare not lavish,
Oh! tell me, if I may not seek you out,
And in large Showers thus pour them down before you?
      [She weeps.
  Aristor. Cease to oppress me more; thou weeping Beauty,
And think with what vast Storms my Soul is toss'd!
      [Comes up to hear earnestly.
Think too, that but to gaze upon thee thus,
To stand in reach of thy Ambrosial Breath,
And hear thy Voice, sweet as the Ev'ning Notes,
When in still Shades the Shepherds sooth their Loves,
I wou'd not mind an Army in my way,
Or stop at raging Seas, or brazen Towers.
Yet, Amalintha, tho' I Dye to speak it,
Yet we must part, we must, my Amalintha!
  Amal. Never to meet agen? Tell me but that.
  Aristor. Alas! not I, the Fates can only tell it:
Let them make even one Account betwixt us,
And give this Hand the Liberty to seal it.
And we'll in spight of vengeful Thunder join,
If then, thy Heart be as resolv'd as mine.
  Amal. No: on those Terms you mean, we must not meet:
But since those Fates deny it to your Power,

[Page 323]

The Will I to your mighty Wrongs forgive,
      [From without the door.
  Phila. Madam, you'll be surpriz'd; haste to return:
Your Father's now just going to your Lodgings.
  Aristor. All Plagues and Curses meet him!
  Amal. Oh! then I must be gone.
A little time will call the State to Council;
And when the Croud by that is thither drawn,
One I will send to wait on your Escape:
And if you tempt new Dangers, know Aristor
That Amalintha too will perish in them.
  Aristor. Fear not, my Love.
  Phila. Haste, Madam, haste, or we are all Undone.
      [From without.
  Amal. So from his few short Moments calls away
A gasping Wretch, the cruel BIrd of Prey;
Bids him make haste th' Eternal Shades to find,
And leave like me, all that is Dear behind.
  Aristor. Whilst, like the Friend that's sadly weeping by,
I see the much lov'd Spirit from me fly;
And with vain Cries pursue it to that Coast,
Where it must land, and my weak Hopes be lost.

[He leads her to the Door, and returns speaking as he's going out at the Other.

Now, let Revenge awhile sustain my Heart,
And Fate yet close my Life with some exalted part!       [Exit.

[Page 324]

The Stage darken'd represents the Inside of a Dungeon, Aristomenes lying down in it, and struggling as coming out of a Swoon.

  Aristom. At last 'tis vanquish'd; and my soaring Spirits
Dispel the gloomy Vapours, that oppress'd them,
And cloath'd my Dreams with more than mortal Horrour.
So low in my deep Phancy was I plung'd,
That o'er my Head impetuous Rivers rush'd,
And Mountains grew betwixt our World and me:
Hungry and Cold, methought I wander'd on
Thro' fruitless Plains, that Food nor Comfort nourish'd,
'Till hideous Serpents twisted me about,
And drew me to their Den all foul and loathsome;
But I will quit the Bed, that breeds such Visions,
And summon all my Officers to Council;
For with to-morrow's Dawn we'll storm Phærea.
      [He walks about feeling for the Door.
Ha! where's the Door, my Tent is sure transform'd,
And all I touch is Rock that streams with Dew.
Oh! that I'd slept, that I had slept for ever!
      [He starts.
Yes, Anaxander, yes! thou worst of Furies!
I know thy Dungeon now, and my dark Ruin:
Yet why, ye Fates, since fall'n below your Succour,

[Page 325]

Wou'd ye thus cruelly restore my Senses,
To make me count my Woes by tedious Moments,
Dye o'er again, choak'd by unwholsome Damps,
Parch'd up with Thirst, or clung with pining Hunger,
Borne piecemeal to the Holes of lurking Adders,
Or mould'ring to this Earth, where thus I cast me?
      [Throws himself on the Ground.

Musick is heard without the SCENE, after it has play'd awhile and ceases, He speaks.

How, Harmony! nay then the Fiends deride me:
For who, but they, can strike Earth's sounding Entrails,
Or with low Winds thus fill her tuneful Pores?
Oh! that some Words of horrid Sense wou'd join it,
To tell me where I might conclude my Sorrows!
1st Voice. Fallen Wretch! make haste, and Dye!
         To that last Asylum fly,
         Where no anxious Drops of Care,
         Where no sighing Sorrows are,
         Friends or Fortune none deplore,
         None are Rich, and none are Poor,
         Nor can Fate oppress them more.
         To this last Asylum fly,
         Fallen Wretch! make haste and Dye!
      [The Voice ceases.

[Page 326]

  Aristom. Thou counsell'st rightly; show me but the way,
And with the Speed thou urgest I'll obey thee.       [He rises.

The Voice Sings again.

1st Voice. A pointed Rock with little pains
         Will split the Circle of thy Brains,
         To thy Freedom I persuade thee,
         To a wat'ry Pit will lead thee,
         Which has no glorious Sun-beam seen,
         No Footstep known, or bord'ring Green,
         For thousand rolling Ages past.
         Fallen Wretch! to this make haste,
         To this last Asylum fly.
         Fallen Wretch! make haste and Dye!

  Aristom. I come, thou kind Provoker of Despair,
Which still is nearest Cure, when at the Highest.
I come, I come

Going towards the Voice, another Sings at the other side, upon which He stops and listens.

2nd Voice. Stay, oh! stay; 'tis all Delusion,
         And wou'd breed thee more Confusion.
         I, thy better Genius, move thee,
         I, that guard, and I, that love thee;
         I, who in thy rocky way,
         Cloth'd in Eagles Feathers lay,
         And in safety brought thee down,
         Where none living e'er was known.
         Chearful Hope I bring thee now,
         Chearful Hope the Gods allow,

[Page 327]

         Mortal, on their Pleasures wait,
         Nor rush into the arms of Fate.
      [The Voice ceases.

  Aristom. To hope, is still the Temper of the Brave:
And tho' a just Despair had dispossess'd it,
Yet, thus encourag'd, will I trust the Gods
With those few Moments, Nature has to spare me;
Nor follow thee, thou bad persuading Spirit.
Yet tell me, who thou art, and why thou tempt'st me?

1st Voice. I thy evil Genius am,
         To Phærea with thee came;
         Hung o'er thee in the murd'ring Croud,
         And clapp'd my dusky Wings aloud;
         Now endeavour'd to deceive thee,
         And will never, never, leave thee.

2d Voice. I'll protect him from thy Pow'r.
1st Voice. I shall find a careless Hour.
2d Voice. Laurels He again shall wear,
         War and Honour's Trumpet hear.

1st Voice. For one fatal, famous Day,
        He his dearest Blood shall pay.
        Hear it ye repeating Stones,
        And confirm it by your Groans!

[A dismal Groan is heard round the Dungeon.

  Aristom. What all this Bellowing for a Conqueror's Death!

[Page 328]

The Field of Honour is his Bed of Ease;
He toils for't all the Day of his hard Life,
And lays him there at Night, renown'd and happy:
Therefore his Threat was vain malicious Fury.

1st Voice. Now away, away I fly;
         For hated Good is rushing by.

               [Here the Voice ceases quite.

A Machine, like a Fox, runs about the Dungeon smelling, and rushes against Aristomenes, who taking it for his evil Genius, catches at it, and speaks.

  Aristom. What! hast thou Substance too, and dar'st assault me!
Nay then, thou shalt not 'scape; I'll seize and grapple with thee,
And by my conqu'ring Arm o'ercome thy Influence.
Fool that I was! to think, it cou'd be vanquisht.
This is some rav'ning Beast; the Fur betrays it;
A Fox, I think, teach me to be as subtle,
Extremity, thou Mother of Invention!       [He catches it.
I have it now; and where it leads, will follow.
My better Genius do's this Hour preside:
Be strong that Influence, and thou my Guide.
      [Exit, led out by the Fox.

The SCENE changes to the Plains by the Woodside.
Enter from the Wood
Herminia alone and faint.

  Herm. Here 'twas she left me; but so far I've stray 'd,
Unheeding every thing, but my sad Thoughts,

[Page 329]

That my faint Limbs no longer can support me.
Oh! let me rest; and if 'tis Death I feel,
A Guest more welcome none yet entertain'd.
      [She sits down, leaning against a Tree.

Enter Climander looking towards the Camp, as expecting the returns of Arcasius.

  Clim.He has exceeded much the time prefixt;
And yet, I wou'd not doubt him:
I've climb'd the Hill, better to view the Camp;
And all are fixt, and motionless as Death.
Therefore awhile I will command my Patience:
He cannot now be long
      [He turns and sees Herm. and gazes earnestly on her.
           Ha! Who lies there?
A lovely Shepherdess; but faint she seems.
Say, beauteous Maid, if so much Strength is left,
How best a Stranger, may assist, or serve you!
      [He kneels down by her.
She do's not speak; but looks into my Heart,
And melts it to the softness of her Eyes.
Hard by, a Spring clear as the Tears she drops,
Runs bubbling under a delicious Shade:
Water, thence fetch'd in a Pomegranate's rind,
May call her fainting Spirits to their office.
      [He goes out.
  Herm. He's gone, but quickly will return again;
Yet he's so gentle sure I need not fear him:
Tho' at his first approach my Heart beat high,
'Till Halcyon sounds, and words of Pity calm'd it;
Nay, something courtly in them was imply'd:
And if the Swains are polish'd, all like him,
Their humble Sheds may scorn our ruder Greatness.

[Page 330]

Enter again Climander with Water in a Pomegranate-Shell.

  Clim. Pan! if thou e'er did'st hear a Shepherd's Prayer,
Endue this Water, sacred to thy Name,
With all the Vertues, needful to restore her.
      [She drinks.
  Herm. Your Pray'r is heard; kind Shepherd take my Thanks,
And He, whom you invok'd, reward you largely!
  Clim. Oh! You may far outdo all He can grant,
In but declaring where you feed your Flocks,
And to what Shade, when Phoebus hottest shines,
You lead those happy Sheep, to 'scape his Fury;
That I, exposing mine to the wide Plains,
May seek you out, and sigh till Night before you.
  Herm. Alas! I have no Flocks, or Skill to guide them;
No leafy Hamlet, strew'd with painted Flowers;
Or mossy Pillow, to repose my Head:
But wander from a distant, fatal Place,
Where I have lost my Parents, and my Succour,
And now, in such a Habit as becomes it,
Seek the low Plains, to learn the Art you practice.
  Clim. She may be Noble then; and for her Form,
'Tis sure the fairest that my Eyes e'er fix'd on.       [Aside.
Who were your Parents, gentle Maid, declare?
  Herm. They were not mean, and yet I must conceal them:
My Mother early Dy'd; but Fame has told me,

[Page 331]

She'd all Perfections, which make Others Proud,
Yet wore them, as she knew not they adorn'd her.
And be, in this, my Father's Praise exprest:
That by an Oracle He was confest
Of all the Græcian Race to be the Best.
  Clim. The Best of Men! and you the Fairest Woman!
And in a Moment I the greatest Lover!
      [He speaks this transportedly and seizes her Hand, which he kisses.
Whilst to complete my Bliss, by Heav'ns decree
These Beauties all are mine, and thus I claim them.
  Herm. Protect me all ye Powers, that wait on Virtue,
From the dark Ends of such unruly Transports!
      [She takes her Hand away hastily and rises.
Nor dare, presumptuous Swain, once to renew them,
Or tempt more Dangers than a Crook can answer!
  Clim. A Man there lives not, shou'd have urg'd that to me,
Built round with Steel, or plung'd all o'er in Styx.
Then, let your Beauty's Triumphs be complete,
Which, after such a Threat, can bend my Knee,
And make me sue for Pardon, as for Life.
  Herm. I can forgive, whilst I forbid such Language;
Since She, who yields to have her Beauty worshipp'd,
Must pay too much to him, that brings the Incense.
  Clim. To Me, you cannot, 'tis a Debt to Fate.
Your Heart is mine; the amorous Stars ordain it,
Which smiling, hung o'er my auspicious Birth,

[Page 332]

And not an angry Planet cross'd their Influence:
They bid me Love, and the Harmonious God
When askt, what Path shou'd lead me on to Glory,
Sent forth a Sound, that charm'd the hoary Priest,
And said, a Passion, soft as that, must bless me.
Then, do not strive to disappoint their Purpose,
Or quench Celestial Flames with Scorn or Coldness.
Oh! that a Smile might tell me, that you wou'd not,
A gentle Word, a Look, a Sigh confirm it,
Or any sign, that bears the stamp of Love!
But 'tis in vain, and some more happy Youth
Has drawn my Lot, and mock'd foretelling Phoebus.
  Herm. I must not leave you with a Thought that wrongs me:
For know, no Passion e'er possess'd this Breast,
Nor will the mighty Griefs, that now have seiz'd it,
E'er yield to give a softer Guest admittance.
But my Companion comes; Shepherd farewell!
When next we meet, if Heav'n that Moment sends,
For your Assistance lent, we may be Friends.
  Clim. Heav'n can't be true, if it no more affords,
Nor Oracles explain themselves by Words.
Let talking Age the Joys of Friendship prove,
Beauty for Youth was made, and Youth alone for Love.
      [Exeunt severally.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom