A Celebration of Women Writers

"Aristomenes, Act III." 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. 333-351.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 333]


A Myrtle-Grove with a Fountain belonging to Anaxander's Palace.
Enter Amalintha and Phila.

  Amal. WHY had not I a bar'brous Spartan Soul,
Unapt for Love, and harsh, as our rude Customs!
Or why, ye cruel Fates! did you deny
My Birth to be among the neighb'ring Swains,
Where, on the flow'ry Banks of smooth Panisus
I might have sat, and heard the gentle Vows
Of some protesting Shepherd, uncontroul'd!
  Phila. 'Twas on those fatal Plains, I well remember,
That first your Eyes encounter'd with Aristor's.
  Amal. Yes, in a Chace we met, when Truce allow'd it,
Where the young Prince, whom I too much had mark'd
Thro' all the graceful Toils of that blest Day,
Redeem'd my Life, with Hazard of his own,
From the chas'd Boar, that now had almost seiz'd me.
  Phila. When I arriv'd the first of all your Train,
I heard you thank him for the gen'rous Rescue.
  Amal. I did; yes Phila, with my Heart I thank'd him,
And laid it down a Ransom for my Life:

[Page 334]

Since when, how often in this Place we've met,
And with what Pleasure, thou alone can'st tell,
The only Friend, and witness of our Passion.
But, prithee go, and keep off all Intruders,
      [Exit Phila.
Whilst with my Sorrows now I tread this Grove,
Which shou'd not thrive, when all our Hopes are blasted.
      [She walks into the Grove.

From the other Door, the Fox runs over the Stage, follow'd soon after by Aristomenes, his Hands foul with Earth.

  Aristom. Farewell my wild Companion, and my Leader!
      [Pointing to the Fox.
Henceforth thy Figure, in my Ensigns borne,
Shall tell the World (if e'er I 'scape these Walls)
That 'twas thy Conduct drew me from my Bondage.
How fair this Grove appears to my loath'd Dungeon!
      [He sees the Fountain.
Oh! welcome to my Sight, thou gentle Spring!
Ne'er did'st thou cool a Thirst, that rag'd like mine:
I bow my Knees upon thy mossy Brim,
      [He kneels and lays his Mouth to the Stream.
And as they drank, ere Art had worsted Nature,
Draw thy refreshing Stream to my scorch'd Entrails.
      [Drinks again.
Again, O Nectar, most delicious!
This favour more, and then I quit thy Borders.
      [Washes the Earth off his Hands, and rises.

Re-enter Amalintha.

  Amal. Oh! 'tis all dismal, now that Love is absent,
Faded the Flow'rs, and with'ring ev'ry Branch:

[Page 335]

Whilst thro' the Leaves the sad, and sighing Winds,
Methinks, all say, the Hours of Bliss are past;
And here, we ne'er shall meet each other more.
      [Aristom. comes towards her.
Ha! What Intruder do my Eyes behold?
A Stranger, and invade my private Walks,
The Doors too all secur'd! Tell me how you came.
  Aristom. As comes the Mole, by painful working upwards,
Till the sweet Air beat on my clammy Brows.
  Amal. There's something mystical in what you utter;
Which (tho' offended with your Presence here)
I wou'd be glad farther to have Unriddl'd.
      [ Draws her Dagger.
This be my Guard; and now you may proceed,
And, if you dare, discover who you are.
  Aristom. I'd not deny my Name, to 'scape that Dungeon,
      [Pointing behind the Scenes.
From whence these Hands have dug my way to Light.
'Tis Aristomenes that stands before you.
  Amal. O blest and strange Surprise!       [Aside.
  Aristom. Now, if you have a Soul for noble Deeds,
As 'tis reported of you Spartan Ladies,
By my Escape your Fame shall rise so high,
That ne'er an ancient Heroes shall outsoar it:
If not, I know the Place from whence I came,
And 'twill be told with more uncommon Things,
Which shall make up the Story of my Fortunes,
That I alone liv'd to be there twice Bury'd.
      [She looks about.

[Page 336]

Nay, look not round; for if you fear you wrong me,
I wou'd not injure you, to gain my Safety.
  Amal. Nor wou'd I fail to help you to secure it,
For all that Lacedemon holds most Precious.
I gaz'd about, lest any were in sight,
That might prevent my dear Design to save you.
Support me, as I walk, like one that serv'd me,
And when they have unlock'd that Postern-door,
I'll give you some Command before the Guard,
Which to perform they shall admit your Passage:
Or this must force it, if your evil Stars
      [Gives him her Dagger.
Have plac'd such there, as know and wou'd detain you.
  Aristom. As long as Life, I'll proudly wear this Favour.
  Amal. Oh! haste, my Lord, lose not this precious moment.
  Aristom. No, stay; and ere I take one step tow'rds Freedom,
Let me be told, to whose blest Aid I owe it;
And how I may discharge so vast a Debt:
Tho' I, and all that's dear to me shou'd perish,
I wou'd not stir, 'till satisfy'd in this.
  Amal. Know then, my Lord
Tho' whilst I speak, I tremble for your Danger,
That to declare my Name, might work my Ruin:
But since such Gratitude crowns your great Virtues,
I have a Blessing to implore from you,
When the full Time shall ripen and reveal it;
Harder, I fear, to grant, and much more dear

[Page 337]

Than what I now assist you to preserve.
  Aristom. By Liberty, which none like me can value,
By new-recovered Light, and what it shews me,
Your brighter Form, with yet a fairer Mind,
By all the ties of Honour, here I swear;
Be that untouch'd, and your Request is granted.
  Amal. Of you, my Lord, and of the list'ning Gods
I ask no morebut, that you haste to 'scape:
Without that Gate the open Champain lies.
May Fortune, which the hardest Part has done,
Crown her great Work, and lead you safely on!
      [Exit Aristom. leading her.

Enter Phila weeping.

  Phila. What shall I say, or how reveal this to her?
Is't now enough, ye Gods, we bear our own,
That thus you suffer the vain trifler Love
To bring the Griefs of others too upon us!

Amalintha returns.

  Amal. Oh! Phila, I such Tydings have to tell thee,
But thou hast chill'd them in a Moments space
With that cold dew that trickles from thine Eyes.
Is not Aristor  safe?
Thou say'st he is not, in that weeping silence:
But lives he yet? if this thou do'st not answer,
My Death shall free thee from all farther Questions.

[Page 338]

  Phila. Yet he do's live:
But oh! that some free Tongue, that lov'd you less,
Cou'd tell how little time that Life must last
To you so precious, and I fear so fatal!
  Amal. Go on: and if thou kill'st me with the Story,
Believe thou'st crown'd the Kindness of thy Life,
By giving endless Rest to her that wants it.
  Phila. I cannot speak       [Weeping.
  Amal.Then one, that can, I instantly must seek for.
      [Going out.
  Phila. Publick Enquiry pulls his Ruin on her.
Stay, Madam, stay, and since it must be told,
Know that Aristor, soon as free to do it,
Again into your Father's presence rush'd,
And makes a new attempt upon his Person,
But missed his Blow, was seiz'd, and in Confinement
Now waits but the assembling of the Council,
Throughly to be examin'd, and discover'd.
  Amal. Darkness, and Night surround me.
With this Relief to my sad Bed I go,
      [Siezes Phila's dagger.
There wrapt in horrid Shades will lay me down,
And, when thou com'st charg'd with the heavy News,
Beware, no tedious Circumstance detail,
No fruitless Pray'r, or word of Comfort 'scape thee;
But with a Voice, such as the Dying use,
Bid me expire
          Then to my Father go,

[Page 339]

And say, he kill'd his Daughter in his Foe;
Who knowing, she his Temper cou'd not move,
Th' excess of Hate paid with th' excess of Love.
      [Exit weeping and leaning on Phila.

The SCENE changes to the Plains.
Enter Climander.

  Clim. All Patience this wou'd tire
I will not wait the Trifler's slow return,
But go my self (tho' thus unarm'd) amongst them.
      [He is going and meets Arcasius.
Art thou at length come back!
If 'twou'd not waste more time to blame thy stay,
Old loit'ring Man! I shou'd reprove thee for it.
  Arcas. 'Twas vain to move, 'till I had seen the utmost.
  Clim. The utmost! What was that, will they not Fight?
Not Dye for such a General!
  Arcas. My Lord, they will not
Tho' brave Alcander tries to urge their Fury,
And wastes his own, to put new Life into them:
Sometimes he weeps, and throws his Helmet from him,
Kneels to his Troops, and wooes them to Compassion,
Which draws a gen'ral sympathizing Show'r,
And makes him think, he has obtain'd his Purpose:
Then on his fiery Steed in haste he leaps,
And cries, Come on; but not an Ensign waves,
Or any Motion seconds the Design.

[Page 340]

The Meaner sort cry out for aloud for Pay,
And mutiny to be discharg'd the Service.
  Clim. Base, mercenary Slaves! Yet these I'll use:
The Gold and Jewels which my Father gave,
Will fire their Souls, insensible of Duty;
And by it's aid, I'll gain what most I thirst for.
A King his Claim but to one Kingdom lays,
Wide as the Universe is boundless Praise.
This shining Mass shall buy a glorious Name,
They purchase all the World, who purchase Fame.
      [He is going.
  Arcas. Since you're determin'd to attempt these Dangers,
Let me declare the Time to be expir'd,
Which bound you in your Promise to your Father:
By Artifice I wrought you to believe
Those Days remain'd, which are indeed run out.
Your Soul may now be free, and Heaven protect you!
  Clim. For this discov'ry I'll return another
Worthy thy knowledge, when we meet again:
But now make haste, and from its deep concealment,
In the low Earth, fetch me the Wealth I mention'd.
About these Woods thy quick Return shall find me.

Enter Herminia and Barina.

  Bar. See we are come to soon; I said 'twou'd prove so.

[Page 341]

  Herm. It is no matter, long we shall not wait.
      [Bar. looks out for the Shepherds.
I dare not tell her, that I like this Shepherd,
Nor yet indeed scarce own it to my self.
'Tis strange, my Mind shou'd sink thus with my Fortunes;
Yet he did talk above their humble strain,
And, as he knew that Nature had supply'd
What Fortune had deny'd him for Attraction,
Claim'd my weak Heart, and said he must possess it.
  Bar. Sure, they've put off this melancholy Meeting
Design'd in Honour of their lost Protector,
In which our share (tho' secret) must be greatest.
I see none move, nor hear their mournful Notes.
  Herm. Be not impatient: Where can we be better?
Have I not heard thee say sometimes, Barina,
That in a Dream, form'd by the Day's discourse
Of the sweet Life, that here they led in safety,
My Mother saw me wed one of these Swains,
And smil'd, tho' I had made a Choice below me?
  Bar. She did; and therefore never wou'd consent
That you, like others, shou'd behold their Revels:
Nor have I, since her Death left you my Charge,
Allow'd it, till worse Dangers forc'd us hither;
Tho' of myself, I ne'er observe such Trifles,
  Herm. D'ye call those nightly Visions then but Trifles?
  Bar. No doubt our Dreams are so; the work of Phancy,
Where things of Yesterday are odly piec'd

[Page 342]

With what had pass'd some twenty Years before,
Knit in a weak and disproportion'd Chain,
Which cannot hold to lead us to the Future.
Whate'er I've said, I wish this had no meaning,
And that some other Place cou'd give us shelter.
  Herm. We'll walk a while
Great Aristomenes, now cou'd I meet thee!
But that's a Blessing which I must not know,
'Till where thine is, my Spirit too shall go.
Oh! that my Grief wou'd force it to retire,
And Tears for him quench this new-kindl'd Fire!
      [They go off the Stage.

Enter at the other Door Climander.

  Clim. Either my Eyes, indulgent to my Love,
Deceive my Hopes; or now, within their reach
That unknown Beauty moves, which lately charm'd them.
'Tis she! and with the speed that suits my Passion,
I will o'ertake, and farther urge it to her.

Re-enter Herminia.

  Herm. She fears my Fate and fain wou'd have me go,
Before th' assembling Shepherds are arriv'd;
And having met one that can give her tydings,
Is busy to enquire about their coming.

[Page 343]

Untimely Caution!
            'Tis too late to move,
When once o'ertaken by the wings of Love.

Enter Climander behind her.

  Clim. From those fair Lips no sooner fell that word,
But all the neighb'ring Ecchoes caught the Sound,
And sent it doubl'd to Climander's Bosom:
The am'rous Streams have borne it down their Banks,
And the glad Plains breathe nothing, since, but Love.
Oh! speak it once again, and the fond Vine
Shall with a stricter grasp embrace the Elm,
Whilst joyful Birds shall hail it from the Branches.
  Herm. No; I have spoke too much
Since on these Plains no syllable is secret.
Hereafter my close Thoughts shall be confin'd,
And in this Breast lock'd up from all Men's Knowledge.
  Clim. Oh! not if Love be there; it cannot be:
Silence can ne'er last long, nor yet conceal it,
A thousand ways 'twill speak without a Voice,
And, whilst it struggles to obtain that Freedom,
Betraying Sighs will 'scape, and more declare it;
'Twill speak in list'ning to the Lover's Tale,
And say, 'tis Sympathy that makes it pleasant.
  Herm. He shakes my Soul, whilst thus he do's describe it:
For all he speaks I feel, and he must find.       [Aside.

[Page 344]

Oh! yet, let me reflect upon my Birth,
And quit, in time, the Ground I can't maintain!
      [She's going.
  Clim. Nay, do not fly me, and I will be Speechless:
For if I speak, whilst on your Eyes I gaze,
It must be all of Love, and that offends you;
Yet since, perhaps, I ne'er may meet your more,
I wou'd have told the Story of my Heart,
And e'er it breaks, have mov'd you to Compassion.
  Herm. Meet him no more! then, what can Crowns afford me,
Amidst the noisie Pomp, that waits their Lustre?
Still shou'd I vainly listen for the Sound       [Aside.
Of such soft Words which charm my Sorrows from me.
Oh! that our Births were equal, as our Thoughts!
Yet I will pity him, and Fate be guilty.
      [She stops and turns towards him.
  Clim. Blest be the Thought, that thus retards your steps,
And turns again those gentle Lights upon me!
If Pity 'twas; Oh! yet indulge that warmth,
And Love 'twill soon produce, to meet my Wishes.
      [She looks kindly on him.
'Tis done, 'tis done! be witness ye still skies,
That all her Looks are calm, and smooth as yours,
And not one Frown forbids my forward Hopes:
Let this fair Hand be added to confirm them,
And ease the mighty longings of my Passion.
      [Kneels and kisses her Hand.

[Page 345]

  Herm. Take, freely take this first and last of Favours.
Now, Shepherd rise, and hear what I've to say;
And if a Sigh mix with the fatal Sentence,
Believe, 'tis from the Grief, with which I give it.
You must not love me       [She sighs.
  Clim. I must not love you, tho' you Sigh to speak it!
Shou'd Pan pronounce it, in a Voice so loud
'Twou'd rive the knotty Oaks, that shade his Altars,
I wou'd to Syrinxes oppose your Beauties,
And ask the Gods, whose Loves had best Foundation?
  Herm. Those Gods, who made our Births so disproportion'd,
Wou'd say, they ne'er design'd our Hands shou'd join.
But see! the Swains are gath'ring tow'rds this Place:
Yet, Shepherd, know that if a Prince wou'd Love,
'Tis in your Form he must successful prove.

Enter Arcasius with a Casket.

  Clim. Then in this happy Form, since you approve it,
Behold       [She interrupts him.
  Herm. No more! as you wou'd keep th' Esteem I've shown you.
  Clim. Another time must tell this Secret to her.
Th' Ambition of her Mind charms like her Person,

[Page 346]

Nor can the Blood, that breeds such Thoughts be abject.
But welcome good Arcasius with that Bait,
Which shall be soon dispers'd among the Soldiers:
And if it win them to my great Design,
'Tis worth the Kingdoms which its Price might ransom.
      [Exeunt with the Casket follow'd by Arcasius.

Enter Thæta and Lamia.

  Lamia. The Dews are falling, and the Sun declin'd,
Whilst from this neighb'ring Grove are heard the Notes
Of that sweet Bird, that warbles to the Night,
Now telling us her Shadows are approaching:
And yet the tardy Shepherds are not come.
  Thæta. When all our Hours were gay, it was not thus:
But who can haste to break his chearful Pipe,
Tear the sweet Garland, made by her he sighs for,
And sing of Death, when Love is all his Passion?
  Lamia. Now thou dost talk of Love, yet ere we part,
Or fall into our melancholy Strains,
Lend to that Eccho, greedy of thy Voice,
Some moving Words, upon so soft a subject.
  Thæta. Rather that Song I'd chuse, which do's prefer
To all things else the Joys of these sweet Plains;
Since, now perhaps, we must too soon forsake them.

[Page 347]

  Lamia. A better can't be chose; haste to perform it,
Lest the sad Ceremony break our purpose.


She Sings. A young Shepherd his Life,
           In soft Pleasure still leads,
         Tunes his Voice to his Reed,
           And makes Love in the Shades.
         To be Great, to be Wise,
           To be Rich, to be Proud,
         To be loaded with Bus'ness
           Or lost in a Croud,
         He ne'er seeks, or desires:
           Let but Silvia be won,
         He is Great, he is Rich,
           And his Bus'ness is done.                    


         Whilst their Nymphs are as happy,
           As Happy as Fair;
         For who has most Beauty,
           Has of Lovers most share.
         Some will stay, some will fly,
           Some be false, some be true:
         For the Lost we ne'er grieve,
           But still cherish the New.                
         'Tis vain of their Frailties,
           Or Falsehoods to mind 'em:
         Mankind we must take,
           We must take, as we find 'em.

[Page 348]

  Thæta. What Shouts are these!       [Shouts.
  Lamia. They're loud, and speak some Joy; and still repeated.

Enter Herminia and Barina.

  Lamia. Fair Stranger, know you whence these Shouts proceed?
  Herm. I do not; but these coming, sure, can tell us.

Enter with great Signs of Joy Clinias with other Shepherds and Shepherdesses, &c.

  Clim. Swell, swell, Panisus, o'er thy spacious Bounds,
Flow like our Joy, and chear the Meads about thee.
Pan, take in thankful Sacrifice; our Flocks,
And ev'ry rural Swain proclaim his Praises!
  Lamia. Such Sounds, as these, meet with a gen'ral welcome:
But yet, the Cause we wish to hear explain'd.
Good Clinias, tell the Cause
  Clin. He is return'd, and stands, like Fate, amongst 'em,
The Plain's Protector, and the Army's Genius,
The Virgin's Refuge, when the Town's in Flames,
And Shield to those whom Fortune makes his Vassals.
  Herm. 'Tis Aristomenes thou hast described:
No other e'er cou'd fill a Praise like this.
  Clim. 'Tis He indeed, next to the Gods, our Succour.
  Herm. Transporting News! how did the Army meet him?

[Page 349]

  Clim. Just as a long stopt Current meets the sea,
And rushes on, when once't has forc'd a Passage.
  2nd Shep. Heav'n has their Plumes; for high as that they toss 'em:
And not a dusty Soldier in the Host,
That has not hugged him to his swarthy Bosom.
  Clim. No Voice is what it was an Hour ago;
And their hoarse Joy sounds like their distant Drums;
His Hands, as if the Cretan Thongs still held them,
Are useless made, and fetter'd now with Kisses;
Whilst neighing Steeds think that the War surrounds them,
And prance in Air light as their Master's Minds.
  2d Shep. How he escap'd, all ask in such Confusion,
That their loud Questions drive his Answers back,
And will not let them reach the nearest to him.
  Herm. It is enough, ye Powers that guard Messenia!
We now must change our Habits, and return.
      [Aside to Bar.
What did I say, return! O yes, I must,
And never hope to see Climander more:       [To herself
Yet will I give my Heart this last Relief
(Since Fate will have it bear th' unequal Passion)
To let him know my Love, and endless Flight,
And live on the dear Thought that he laments it.
      [Exit with Bar.
  Lam. Where is Aristor? Is he too return'd?
  Clin. That question did the Gen'ral ask aloud;
And 'twas the only one that cou'd be heard:

[Page 350]

But no reply was made; I think he is not.
  Thæta. Then we're but half restor'd
For he so heavily will take that Loss,
Our Joys will not be long, nor he amongst us.
  Lamia. Fear not the worst
  2d Shep. I met a rumour of a stranger Prince,
That with large Sums new fir'd the trembling Host,
And from the Camp had led on some Design
A Party, that for Wealth wou'd risque their Lives,
Tho' cold and dull to Thoughts of gen'rous Duty.
  Clin. 'Tis true; of Rhodes they say,
And some I heard that call'd him Demagetus.
Thick flew his Gold, as swarms of Summer-Bees,
And 'twas to succor or revenge the Gen'ral.
He asked their Aid
But whither he has lead them, none can tell.
Ere Aristomenes return'd, he went
And is not heard of since.
  2d Shep. The Gen'ral's safe, and that's enough for us:
Now therefore Clinias, you that guide our Sports,
Tell us what we're to do to shew our Joy.

  Clin. To Laugh, to Sing, to Dance, to Play,
      To rise with new appearing Day;
      And ere the Sun has kiss'd 'em dry,
      With various Rubans Nosegays tye.
      Deckt with Flow'rs and cloath'd in Green,
      Ev'ry Shepherdess be seen:
      Ev'ry Swain with Heart and Voice
      Meet him, meet him, and rejoice:

[Page 351]

      With redoubl'd Pæans sing him,
      To the Plains, in Triumph bring him:
      And let
Pan and Mars agree,
      That none's so kind and brave as He.



Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom