Fiction > Harvard Classics > John Dryden > All for Love
John Dryden (1631–1700).  All for Love.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act II
  Cleo.  What shall I do, or whither shall I turn?
Ventidius has o’ercome, and he will go.
  Alex.  He goes to fight for you.
  Cleo.  Then he would see me, ere he went to fight:        5
Flatter me not: If once he goes, he’s lost,
And all my hopes destroyed.
  Alex.  Does this weak passion
Become a mighty queen?
  Cleo.  I am no queen:        10
Is this to be a queen, to be besieged
By yon insulting Roman, and to wait
Each hour the victor’s chain? These ills are small:
For Antony is lost, and I can mourn
For nothing else but him. Now come, Octavius,        15
I have no more to lose! prepare thy bands;
I’m fit to be a captive: Antony
Has taught my mind the fortune of a slave.
  Iras.  Call reason to assist you.
  Cleo.  I have none,        20
And none would have: My love’s a noble madness,
Which shows the cause deserved it. Moderate sorrow
Fits vulgar love, and for a vulgar man:
But I have loved with such transcendent passion,
I soared, at first, quite out of reason’s view,        25
And now am lost above it. No, I’m proud
’Tis thus: Would Antony could see me now
Think you he would not sigh, though he must leave me?
Sure he would sigh; for he is noble-natured,
And bears a tender heart: I know him well.        30
Ah, no, I know him not; I knew him once,
But now ’tis past.
  Iras.  Let it be past with you:
Forget him, madam.
  Cleo.  Never, never, Iras.        35
He once was mine; and once, though now ’tis gone,
Leaves a faint image of possession still.
  Alex.  Think him inconstant, cruel, and ungrateful.
  Cleo.  I cannot: If I could, those thoughts were vain.
Faithless, ungrateful, cruel, though he be,        40
I still must love him.
Now, what news, my Charmion?
Will he be kind? and will he not forsake me?
Am I to live, or die?—nay, do I live?        45
Or am I dead? for when he gave his answer,
Fate took the word, and then I lived or died.
  Char.  I found him, madam—
  Cleo.  A long speech preparing?
If thou bring’st comfort, haste, and give it me,        50
For never was more need.
  Iras.  I know he loves you.
  Cleo.  Had he been kind, her eyes had told me so,
Before her tongue could speak it: Now she studies,
To soften what he said; but give me death,        55
Just as he sent it, Charmion, undisguised,
And in the words he spoke.
  Char.  I found him, then,
Encompassed round, I think, with iron statues;
So mute, so motionless his soldiers stood,        60
While awfully he cast his eyes about,
And every leader’s hopes or fears surveyed:
Methought he looked resolved, and yet not pleased.
When he beheld me struggling in the crowd,
He blushed, and bade make way.        65
  Alex.  There’s comfort yet.
  Char.  Ventidius fixed his eyes upon my passage
Severely, as he meant to frown me back,
And sullenly gave place: I told my message,
Just as you gave it, broken and disordered;        70
I numbered in it all your sighs and tears,
And while I moved your pitiful request,
That you but only begged a last farewell,
He fetched an inward groan; and every time
I named you, sighed, as if his heart were breaking,        75
But, shunned my eyes, and guiltily looked down:
He seemed not now that awful Antony,
Who shook and armed assembly with his nod;
But, making show as he would rub his eyes,
Disguised and blotted out a falling tear.        80
  Cleo.  Did he then weep? And was I worth a tear?
If what thou hast to say be not as pleasing,
Tell me no more, but let me die contented.
  Char.  He bid me say,—He knew himself so well,
He could deny you nothing, if he saw you;        85
And therefore—
  Cleo.  Thou wouldst say, he would not see me?
  Char.  And therefore begged you not to use a power,
Which he could ill resist; yet he should ever
Respect you, as he ought.        90
  Cleo.  Is that a word
For Antony to use to Cleopatra?
O that faint word, respect! how I disdain it!
Disdain myself, for loving after it!
He should have kept that word for cold Octavia.        95
Respect is for a wife: Am I that thing,
That dull, insipid lump, without desires,
And without power to give them?
  Alex.  You misjudge;
You see through love, and that deludes your sight;        100
As, what is straight, seems crooked through the water:
But I, who bear my reason undisturbed,
Can see this Antony, this dreaded man,
A fearful slave, who fain would run away,
And shuns his master’s eyes: If you pursue him,        105
My life on’t, he still drags a chain along.
That needs must clog his flight.
  Cleo.  Could I believe thee!—
  Alex.  By every circumstance I know he loves.
True, he’s hard prest, by interest and by honour;        110
Yet he but doubts, and parleys, and casts out
Many a long look for succour.
  Cleo.  He sends word,
He fears to see my face.
  Alex.  And would you more?        115
He shows his weakness who declines the combat,
And you must urge your fortune. Could he speak
More plainly? To my ears, the message sounds—
Come to my rescue, Cleopatra, come;
Come, free me from Ventidius; from my tyrant:        120
See me, and give me a pretence to leave him!—
I hear his trumpets. This way he must pass.
Please you, retire a while; I’ll work him first,
That he may bend more easy.
  Cleo.  You shall rule me;        125
But all, I fear, in vain.  [Exit with CHARMION and IRAS.
  Alex.  I fear so too;
Though I concealed my thoughts, to make her bold;
But ’tis our utmost means, and fate befriend it!  [Withdraws.
Enter Lictors with Fasces; one bearing the Eagle; then enter ANTONY with VENTIDIUS, followed by other Commanders
  Ant.  Octavius is the minion of blind chance,
But holds from virtue nothing.
  Vent.  Has he courage?
  Ant.  But just enough to season him from coward.
Oh, ’tis the coldest youth upon a charge,        135
The most deliberate fighter! if he ventures
(As in Illyria once, they say, he did,
To storm a town), ’tis when he cannot choose;
When all the world have fixt their eyes upon him;
And then he lives on that for seven years after;        140
But, at a close revenge he never fails.
  Vent.  I heard you challenged him.
  Ant.  I did, Ventidius.
What think’st thou was his answer? ’Twas so tame!—
He said, he had more ways than one to die;        145
I had not.
  Vent.  Poor!
  Ant.  He has more ways than one;
But he would choose them all before that one.
  Vent.  He first would choose an ague, or a fever.        150
  Ant.  No; it must be an ague, not a fever;
He Has not warmth enough to die by that.
  Vent.  Or old age and a bed.
  Ant.  Ay, there’s his choice,
He would live, like a lamp, to the last wink,        155
And crawl the utmost verge of life.
O Hercules! Why should a man like this,
Who dares not trust his fate for one great action,
Be all the care of Heaven? Why should he lord it
O’er fourscore thousand men, of whom each one        160
Is braver than himself?
  Vent.  You conquered for him:
Philippi knows it; there you shared with him
That empire, which your sword made all your own.
  Ant.  Fool that I was, upon my eagle’s wings        165
I bore this wren, till I was tired with soaring,
And now he mounts above me.
Good heavens, is this,—is this the man who braves me?
Who bids my age make way? Drives me before him,
To the world’s ridge, and sweeps me off like rubbish?        170
  Vent.  Sir, we lose time; the troops are mounted all.
  Ant.  Then give the word to march:
I long to leave this prison of a town,
To join thy legions; and, in open field,
Once more to show my face. Lead, my deliverer.        175
  Alex.  Great emperor,
In mighty arms renowned above mankind,
But, in soft pity to the opprest, a god;
This message sends the mournful Cleopatra        180
To her departing lord.
  Vent.  Smooth sycophant!
  Alex.  A thousand wishes, and ten thousand prayers,
Millions of blessings wait you to the wars;
Millions of sighs and tears she sends you too,        185
And would have sent
As many dear embraces to your arms,
As many parting kisses to your lips;
But those, she fears, have wearied you already.
  Vent.  [aside]. False crocodile!        190
  Alex.  And yet she begs not now, you would not leave her;
That were a wish too mighty for her hopes,
Too presuming
For her low fortune, and your ebbing love;
That were a wish for her more prosperous days,        195
Her blooming beauty, and your growing kindness.
  Ant.  [aside]. Well, I must man it out:—What would the queen?
  Alex.  First, to these noble warriors, who attend
Your daring courage in the chase of fame,—
Too daring, and too dangerous for her quiet,—        200
She humbly recommends all she holds dear,
All her own cares and fears,—the care of you.
  Vent.  Yes, witness Actium.
  Ant.  Let him speak, Ventidius.
  Alex.  You, when his matchless valour bears him forward,        205
With ardour too heroic, on his foes,
Fall down, as she would do, before his feet;
Lie in his way, and stop the paths of death:
Tell him, this god is not invulnerable;
That absent Cleopatra bleeds in him;        210
And, that you may remember her petition,
She begs you wear these trifles, as a pawn,
Which, at your wished return, she will redeem  [Gives jewels to the Commanders.
With all the wealth of Egypt:
This to the great Ventidius she presents,        215
Whom she can never count her enemy,
Because he loves her lord.
  Vent.  Tell her, I’ll none on’t;
I’m not ashamed of honest poverty;
Not all the diamonds of the east can bribe        220
Ventidius from his faith. I hope to see
These and the rest of all her sparkling store,
Where they shall more deservingly be placed.
  Ant.  And who must wear them then?
  Vent.  The wronged Octavia.        225
  Ant.  You might have spared that word.
  Vent.  And he that bribe.
  Ant.  But have I no remembrance?
  Alex.  Yes, a dear one;
Your slave the queen—        230
  Ant.  My mistress.
  Alex.  Then your mistress;
Your mistress would, she says, have sent her soul,
But that you had long since; she humbly begs
This ruby bracelet, set with bleeding hearts,        235
The emblems of her own, may bind your arm.  [Presenting a bracelet.
  Vent.  Now, my best lord,—in honour’s name, I ask you,
For manhood’s sake, and for your own dear safety,—
Touch not these poisoned gifts,
Infected by the sender; touch them not;        240
Myriads of bluest plagues lie underneath them,
And more than aconite has dipt the silk.
  Ant.  Nay, now you grow too cynical, Ventidius:
A lady’s favours may be worn with honour.
What, to refuse her bracelet! On my soul,        245
When I lie pensive in my tent alone,
“Twill pass the wakeful hours of winter nights,
To tell these pretty beads upon my arm,
To count for every one a soft embrace,
A melting kiss at such and such a time:        250
And now and then the fury of her love,
When——And what harm’s in this?
  Alex.  None, none, my lord,
But what’s to her, that now ’tis past for ever.
  Ant.  [going to tie it]. We soldiers are so awkward—help me tie it.        255
  Alex.  In faith, my lord, we courtiers too are awkward
In these affairs: so are all men indeed:
Even I, who am not one. But shall I speak?
  Ant.  Yes, freely.
  Alex.  Then, my lord, fair hands alone        260
Are fit to tie it; she, who sent it can.
  Vent.  Hell, death! this eunuch pander ruins you.
You will not see her?  [ALEXAS whispers an Attendant, who goes out.
  Ant.  But to take my leave.
  Vent.  Then I have washed an Æthiop. You’re undone;        265
Y’ are in the toils; y’ are taken; y’ are destroyed:
Her eyes do Cæsar’s work.
  Ant.  You fear too soon.
I’m constant to myself: I know my strength;
And yet she shall not think me barbarous neither        270
Born in the depths of Afric: I am a Roman,
Bred in the rules of soft humanity.
A guest, and kindly used, should bid farewell.
  Vent.  You do not know
How weak you are to her, how much an infant:        275
You are not proof against a smile, or glance:
A sigh will quite disarm you.
  Ant.  See, she comes!
Now you shall find your error.—Gods. I thank you:
I formed the danger greater than it was,        280
And now ’tis near, ’tis lessened.
  Vent.  Mark the end yet.
  Ant.  Well, madam, we are met.
  Cleo.  Is this a meeting?        285
Then, we must part?
  Ant.  We must.
  Cleo.  Who says we must?
  Ant.  Our own hard fates.
  Cleo.  We make those fates ourselves.        290
  Ant.  Yes, we have made them; we have loved each other,
Into our mutual ruin.
  Cleo.  The gods have seen my joys with envious eyes;
I have no friends in heaven; and all the world,
As ’twere the business of mankind to part us,        295
Is armed against my love: even you yourself
Join with the rest; you, you are armed against me.
  Ant.  I will be justified in all I do
To late posterity, and therefore hear me.
If I mix a lie        300
With any truth, reproach me freely with it;
Else, favour me with silence.
  Cleo.  You command me,
And I am dumb.
  Vent.  I like this well; he shows authority.        305
  Ant.  That I derive my ruin
From you alone—
  Cleo.  O heavens! I ruin you!
  Ant.  You promised me your silence, and you break it
Ere I have scarce begun.        310
  Cleo.  Well, I obey you.
  Ant.  When I beheld you first, it was in Egypt.
Ere Cæsar saw your eyes, you gave me love,
And were too young to know it; that I settled
Your father in his throne, was for your sake;        315
I left the acknowledgment for time to ripen.
Cæsar stept in, and, with a greedy hand,
Plucked the green fruit, ere the first blush of red.
Yet cleaving to the bough. He was my lord,
And was, beside, too great for me to rival;        320
But, I deserved you first, though he enjoyed you.
When, after, I beheld you in Cilicia,
An enemy to Rome, I pardoned you.
  Cleo.  I cleared myself——
  Ant.  Again you break your promise.        325
I loved you still, and took your weak excuses,
Took you into my bosom, stained by Cæsar,
And not half mine: I went to Egypt with you,
And hid me from the business of the world,
Shut out inquiring nations from my sight,        330
To give whole years to you.
  Vent.  Yes, to your shame be’t spoken.  [Aside
  Ant.  How I loved.
Witness, ye days and nights, and all ye hours,
That danced away with down upon your feet,        335
As all your business were to count my passion!
One day passed by, and nothing saw but love;
Another came, and still ’twas only love:
The suns were wearied out with looking on,
And I untired with loving.        340
I saw you every day, and all the day;
And every day was still but as the first,
So eager was I still to see you more.
  Vent.  ’Tis all too true.
  Ant.  Fulvia, my wife, grew jealous,        345
(As she indeed had reason) raised a war
In Italy, to call me back.
  Vent.  But yet
You went not.
  Ant.  While within your arms I lay,        350
The world fell mouldering from my hands each hour,
And left me scarce a grasp—I thank your love for’t.
  Vent.  Well pushed: that last was home.
  Cleo.  Yet may I speak?
  Ant.  If I have urged a falsehood, yes; else, not.        355
Your silence says, I have not. Fulvia died,
(Pardon, you gods, with my unkindness died);
To set the world at peace, I took Octavia,
This Cæsar’s sister; in her pride of youth,
And flower of beauty, did I wed that lady,        360
Whom blushing I must praise, because I left her.
You called; my love obeyed the fatal summons:
This raised the Roman arms; the cause was yours.
I would have fought by land, where I was stronger
You hindered it: yet, when I fought at sea,        365
Forsook me fighting; and (O stain to honour!
O lasting shame!) I knew not that I fled;
But fled to follow you.
  Vent.  What haste she made to hoist her purple sails!
And, to appear magnificent in flight,        370
Drew half our strength away.
  Ant.  All this you caused.
And, would you multiply more ruins on me?
This honest man, my best, my only friend,
Has gathered up the shipwreck of my fortunes;        375
Twelve legions I have left, my last recruits.
And you have watched the news, and bring your eyes
To seize them too. If you have aught to answer,
Now speak, you have free leave.
  Alex.  [aside]. She stands confounded:        380
Despair is in her eye as.
  Vent.  Now lay a sigh in the way to stop his passage:
Prepare a tear, and bid it for his legions;
’Tis like they shall be sold.
  Cleo.  How shall I plead my cause, when you, my judge,        385
Already have condemned me? Shall I bring
The love you bore me for my advocate?
That now is turned against me, that destroys me;
For love, once past, is, at the best, forgotten;
But oftener sours to hate: ’twill please my lord        390
To ruin me, and therefore I’ll be guilty.
But, could I once have thought it would have pleased you,
That you would pry, with narrow searching eyes,
Into my faults, severe to my destruction,
And watching all advantages with care,        395
That serve to make me wretched? Speak, my lord,
For I end here. Though I deserved this usage,
Was it like you to give it?
  Ant.  Oh, you wrong me,
To think I sought this parting, or desired        400
To accuse you more than what will clear myself,
And justify this breach.
  Cleo.  Thus low I thank you;
And, since my innocence will not offend,
I shall not blush to own it.        405
  Vent.  After this,
I think she’ll blush at nothing.
  Cleo.  You seem grieved
(And therein you are kind) that Cæsar first
Enjoyed my love, though you deserved it better:        410
I grieve for that, my lord, much more than you;
For, had I first been yours, it would have saved
My second choice: I never had been his,
And ne’er had been but yours. But Cæsar first,
You say, possessed my love. Not so, my lord:        415
He first possessed my person; you, my love:
Cæsar loved me; but I loved Antony.
If I endured him after, ’twas because
I judged it due to the first name of men;
And, half constrained, I gave, as to a tyrant,        420
What he would take by force.
  Vent.  O Syren! Syren!
Yet grant that all the love she boast were true,
Has she not ruined you? I still urge that,
The fatal consequence.        425
  Cleo.  The consequence indeed—
For I dare challenge him, my greatest foe,
To say it was designed: ’tis true, I loved you,
And kept you far from an uneasy wife,—
Such Fulvia was.        430
Yes, but he’ll say, you left Octavia for me;—
And, can you blame me to receive that love,
Which quitted such desert, for worthless me?
How often have I wished some other Cæsar,
Great as the first, and as the second young,        435
Would court my love, to be refused for you!
  Vent.  Words, words; but Actium, sir; remember Actium.
  Cleo.  Even there, I dare his malice. True, I counselled
To fight at sea; but I betrayed you not.
I fled, but not to the enemy. ’Twas fear;        440
Would I had been a man, not to have feared!
For none would then have envied me your friendship,
Who envy me your love.
  Ant.  We are both unhappy:
If nothing else, yet our ill fortune part us.        445
Speak; would you have me perish by my stay?
  Cleo.  If, as a friend, you ask my judgment, go;
If, as a lover, stay. If you must perish—
’Tis a hard word—but stay.
  Vent.  See now the effects of her so boasted love!        450
She strives to drag you down to ruin with her;
But, could she ’scape without you, oh, how soon
Would she let go her hold, and haste to shore,
And never look behind!
  Cleo.  Then judge my love by this.  [Giving ANTONY a writing.        455
Could I have borne
A life or death, a happiness or woe,
From yours divided, this had given me means.
  Ant.  By Hercules, the writing of Octavius!
I know it well: ’tis that proscribing hand,        460
Young as it was, that led the way to mine,
And left me but the second place in murder.—
See, see, Ventidius! here he offers Egypt,
And joins all Syria to it, as a present;
So, in requital, she forsake my fortunes,        465
And join her arms with his.
  Cleo.  And yet you leave me!
You leave me, Antony; and yet I love you,
Indeed I do: I have refused a kingdom;
That is a trifle;        470
For I could part with life, with anything,
But only you. Oh, let me die but with you!
Is that a hard request?
  Ant.  Next living with you,
’Tis all that Heaven can give.        475
  Alex.  He melts; we conquer.  [Aside.
  Cleo.  No; you shall go: your interest calls you hence;
Yes; your dear interest pulls too strong, for these
Weak arms to hold you here.  [Takes his hand.
Go; leave me, soldier        480
(For you’re no more a lover): leave me dying:
Push me, all pale and panting, from your bosom,
And, when your march begins, let one run after,
Breathless almost for joy, and cry—She’s dead.
The soldiers shout; you then, perhaps, may sigh,        485
And muster all your Roman gravity:
Ventidius chides; and straight your brow clears up,
As I had never been.
  Ant.  Gods, ’tis too much; too much for man to bear.
  Cleo.  What is’t for me then,        490
A weak, forsaken woman, and a lover?—
Here let me breathe my last: envy me not
This minute in your arms: I’ll die apace,
As fast as e’er I can, and end your trouble.
  Ant.  Die! rather let me perish; loosened nature        495
Leap from its hinges, sink the props of heaven,
And fall the skies, to crush the nether world!
My eyes, my soul, my all!  [Embraces her.
  Vent.  And what’s this toy.
In balance with your fortune, honour, fame?        500
  Ant.  What is’t, Ventidius?—it outweighs them all;
Why, we have more than conquered Cæsar now:
My queen’s not only innocent, but loves me.
This, this is she, who drags me down to ruin!
“But, could she ’scape without me, with what haste        505
Would she let slip her hold, and make to shore,
And never look behind!”
Down on thy knees, blasphemer as thou art,
And ask forgiveness of wronged innocence.
  Vent.  I’ll rather die, than take it. Will you go?        510
  Ant.  Go! whither? Go from all that’s excellent?
Faith, honour, virtue, all good things forbid,
That I should go from her, who sets my love
Above the price of kingdoms! Give, you gods,
Give to your boy, your Cæsar,        515
This rattle of a globe to play withal,
This gewgaw world, and put him cheaply off:
I’ll not be pleased with less than Cleopatra.
  Cleo.  She’s wholly yours. My heart’s so full of joy,
That I shall do some wild extravagance        520
Of love, in public; and the foolish world,
Which knows not tenderness, will think me mad.
  Vent.  O women! women! women! all the gods
Have not such power of doing good to man,
As you of doing harm.  [Exit.        525
  Ant.  Our men are armed:—
Unbar the gate that looks to Cæsar’s camp:
I would revenge the treachery he meant me;
And long security makes conquest easy.
I’m eager to return before I go;        530
For, all the pleasures I have known beat thick
On my remembrance.—How I long for night!
That both the sweets of mutual love may try,
And triumph once o’er Cæsar ere we die.  [Exeunt.


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