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    Act IV

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    Chapter 5
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    The scene changes to a splendid palace, in the interior of which is seen at the end of a long vestibule a lovely garden, in which are many trees laden with all kinds of fruit.

    SCENE I.--AGLAURA, CIDIPPE.

    AGL. I can bear it no longer, my sister. I have seen too many wonders; future times will scarcely conceive them; this sun, that sees all, and lays all before our gaze, never beheld the like. This dazzling palace and this stately equipage are a display hateful to me; shame as well as spite overwhelm me. How cruelly Fortune has treated us; see how her inconsiderate bounty blindly lavishes, exhausts, and unites her efforts to make all these treasures the lot of a younger sister!

    CID. I share all your feelings; your griefs are mine; in this delightful spot, all that displeases you wounds me; all which you consider a deadly insult oppresses me no less than yourself, and leaves bitterness within my breast and blushes on my brow.

    AGL. No, my sister, no living queen, in her own realm speaks in such sovereign tones as Psyche in these abodes. Here we see her obeyed with scrupulous exactitude; and a yearning study of her will seeks it even in her eyes, a thousand beauties throng around her, and seem to say to our jealous looks, "Whatever your charms may be, she is still fairer, and we who serve her are fairer than you." She orders, it is done; none refuse, none rebel. Flora, clinging to her steps, lavishes her sweetest charms around her; Zephyr flies to execute her orders, and his mistress and he, too much a prey to her charms, forget their own love in their eagerness to serve her.

    CID. She has gods at her services, soon she will have altars; our sway extends over weak mortals only, whose continual caprice and impudence, rebelling secretly from us, oppose either murmurs or stratagem to our will.

    AGL. It was but little indeed that at our court so many hearts contended for her, preferring her to us! It was not enough that she was there worshipped night and day by a crowd of lovers. When we were comforting ourselves with seeing her on the brink of the grave by the sudden order of the oracle, she thought fit to display before us the miracle of her new destiny, and has chosen our eyes to be witnesses of that which at the bottom of our hearts we least desire.

    CID. What above all fills my heart with despair is to see this lover, so perfect, so born to please, a captive under her sway. Were it in our power to choose from so many monarchs, should we find one who bears such a noble mien? To see your wishes fulfilled beyond expectation is oftentimes a bliss that engenders unhappiness; there is no splendid train, no proud palace, but opens some door to incurable ills. But to possess a lover of perfect merit, to see yourself dearly beloved by him, is a happiness so lofty, so exquisite, that its worth cannot be expressed.

    AGL. No more of this, my sister; the thought of it would kill us; let us rather think of revenge; let us find means of breaking the spell that fosters this affection between her and him.

    She comes; I have darts ready, such as she shall find difficult to parry.

    SCENE II.--PSYCHE, AGLAURA, CIDIPPE.

    PSY. I come to bid you farewell; my lover wishes your departure. He can no longer endure that you should deprive him of a particle of the joy he feels in being alone to contemplate me. The merest look, the slightest word, is a treasure for his love, and I rob him of it when I grant it to my sisters in favour of the ties of blood.

    AGL. Jealousy is very keen, and these nice sentiments well deserve that he who shows such tenderness for you should be considered above the generality of lovers. I speak thus because I do not know him; nor do you know his name, or that of those to whom he owes the light. This alarms us. I hold him to be a mighty prince, whose power is extreme, far above kingly sway. His treasure which he has strewn beneath your feet would put Abundance herself to the blush. Your love for him is as keen as his for you; you are his delight, he is yours; your happiness, my sister, would be perfect if you but knew whom you love.

    PSY. What care I! He loves me. The more he sees me, the more I please him. There are no pleasures which delight the soul, but anticipate my wishes. I do not understand the cause of your alarm when all here obeys my will.

    AGL. What boots it that all bows to you here if this lover ever conceals what be is? If we are alarmed, it is for your interest alone. Vain it is that everything meets you with a smile, and brings delight; true love scorns reserve; and whoever persists in concealment is conscious that he is in some way open to reproach. Should this suitor prove fickle--for often change in love is pleasing, and between ourselves, I dare say that, however dazzling the flash of your charms, there are others as fair as you--if, I say, another beauty should bind him under new thralls, if in the state in which you are now, alone and defenceless at his mercy, he should go so far as to offer violence, on whom should the king wreak his vengeance for this change or this insolence?

    PSY. You fill me with dread. Kind heaven! can I be so unfortunate?

    CID. Who knows but that Hymen's knot....

    PSY. Say no more, I could not bear it.

    AGL. I have but one word more to say. This prince who loves you, sways the winds, gives us Zephyr's wings for a chariot, and every moment lavishes on you new pleasures, when he thus openly breaks the order of nature, may perhaps mingle some little imposture with so much love. Perhaps this palace is nothing more than an enchantment; these gilt ceilings, these mountains of wealth, with which he buys your affection, so soon as he shall be weary of your caresses, will vanish in a moment. You know as well as ourselves what power lies in spells.

    PSY. In my turn, what cruel alarms I feel!

    AGL. Our friendship seeks your good only.

    PSY. Farewell, sisters, we must close our meeting; I love, and fear lest he should grow impatient; go, and to-morrow, if I may, you shall see me, either happier or crushed by the deepest anguish.

    AGL. We go to apprise the king of the new glory, the excess of bliss which heaven showers upon you.

    CID. We go to relate to him the surprising and marvellous tale of so pleasing a change.

    PSY. Trouble him not, sisters, with your suspicions, and when you describe to him this charming empire....

    AGL. We both know what we must conceal and what speak, and need no lessons.

    ZEPHYR carries off PSYCHE'S sisters in a cloud, which descends to the earth, and in which he bears them rapidly away.

    SCENE III.-LOVE, PSYCHE.

    LOVE. You are alone at last. I can once more without your importunate sisters as witnesses declare to you what sway eyes so fair have won over me, and how extreme is the delight that a sincere ardour inspires when once it has locked two hearts together. I can unfold to you the loving eagerness of my enraptured soul, and swear that, enslaved to you alone, its rapture has no other aim than to behold this ardour followed by a similar ardour, to conceive no other wish but to bind my vows to your desires, and make all that pleases you my only delight. But wherefore does a cloud of sadness seem to dim the brightness of those beautiful eyes? Is there aught which you can want in these abodes? Scorn you the homage of the vows here paid to you?

    PSY. No, my Lord!

    LOVE. What is it then? And to what must I attribute my misfortune? You sigh less from love than from grief. The roses of your cheek are faded, a token of secret sorrow. Scarce are your sisters gone than you sigh of regret. Ah! my Psyche, when two hearts are swayed by an equal passion, can their sighs have a different object? and when their love is true, and the loved one nigh, is there room to sigh for relatives?

    PSY. That is not the cause of my sorrow.

    LOVE. Is it the absence of a rival, and a favoured rival too, that causes this neglect?

    Psy. How ill you understand a heart wholly yours. I love you, my Lord; and my love is vexed at the undeserved suspicion which you have conceived. You but little know your own deserts, if you fear that you are not loved. I love you; and since I beheld the light of day, I have shown myself proud enough to scorn the vows of more than one king; and since I must disclose to you my whole heart, I have found none but you worthy of me. And yet I feel a certain sadness, which I would fain conceal from you; a gloomy grief is mingled with all my affection. Ask not the cause of it; perhaps, if you knew it, you would punish me for it, and if I still dare to aspire to anything, I am sure I should not obtain it.

    LOVE. And do you not dread lest I should in my turn feel vexed at you for so ill understanding your own powers, or for pretending to be ignorant of the absolute sway you exercise over me? Ah! if you doubt it in the least, be undeceived. Speak.

    PSY. I should have to bear with the shame of a refusal.

    LOVE. I pray you to harbour kinder feelings in my behalf; the trial of it is easy. Speak; everything waits on your will. If you cannot trust my words without oaths, I swear by those beautiful eyes, those lords of my heart, those divine authors of my passion; and if it be not sufficient to swear by your beautiful eyes, I swear by the Styx, by which all the gods do swear.

    PSY. After this assurance, my fears are somewhat allayed. My Lord, here I look on pomp and abundance, I adore you, and you worship me; my heart is enraptured, my senses charmed by it; but amidst this highest bliss, I have the misfortune of not knowing which it is whom I love. Dispel this darkness, and unfold to me who this perfect lover is.

    LOVE. Psyche, what is that you say?

    PSY. That this is the happiness for which I long, and that if you refuse it to me....

    LOVE. I have sworn it, I am no longer master of it; but you do not know what you ask. Leave me my secret. If I discover myself, I lose you and you me. The only remedy is for you to retract your words.

    PSY. Is this my sovereign sway over you?

    LOVE. Your power is unbounded, and I am wholly yours. But if our wooing has charms for you, lay no obstacle in the way of its pleasing continuance. Do not force me to flight. This would be the least misfortune which can happen to us from that wish which has seduced you.

    PSY. My Lord, you now wish to test me; but I know how far I am to believe it. I pray you to let me know the measure of my glory, and no longer to conceal from me for what illustrious choice I have rejected the vows of so many kings.

    LOVE. Do you will it so?

    PSY. Suffer me to beseech you to it.

    LOVE. If you knew what cruel misfortune you draw upon yourself by it....

    PSY. My Lord, you fill me with despair.

    LOVE. Think well on it; I can yet be silent.

    PSY. Do you pledge yourself by oaths which you do not mean to keep.

    LOVE. Be it so! I am a god, the most powerful of all gods, absolute master on this earth, and in the heavens; my power is supreme in the ocean and the air; in a word, I am Love himself. I have wounded myself with my own darts for love of you; and, alas! but for the violence which you impose on me, and which has turned my passion for you into wrath, you would have me now for your husband. Your wish is accomplished; you know whom you loved; you know the lover whom you charmed; see now what misfortune is upon us. Yourself you force me to abandon you, yourself you force me to deprive you of all the fruits of your victory. It may be that your beautiful eyes will see me no more; this palace, these grounds, once vanished with me, will cause your rising glory to fade away. You would not believe me, and the dispelling of this doubt has for fruit that Fate, at whose blows the very heavens tremble, mightier than my love, mightier than all the gods united, which is even now showing its hatred to you, and driving me hence.

    LOVE flies away, and the gardens vanish.

    SCENE IV.

    The stage represents a desert and the wild banks of a river.

    PSYCHE, the RIVER GOD, reclining on a bank of reeds, and leaning on an urn.

    PSY. Cruel destiny! aching pain! fatal curiosity! Speak, dread solitude, what hast thou done with all my felicity? I loved a god; was beloved by him; my happiness redoubled at every moment; and now behold me, alone, bewailing, in the midst of a desert, where, to increase my pain, when shame and despair are upon me, I feel my love increasing now that I have lost the lover. Its very remembrance charms and poisons my soul. Its delights tyrannise over a wretched heart, which my passion has condemned to the keenest pain. Kind heaven! When Love abandoned me, why did he leave me the fire he had breathed into me. O thou! the pure and inexhaustible source of all good, lord of men and gods, dear author of the pain I now endure, art thou for ever vanished from my sight? I! I banished thee! when love was deepest, when bliss supreme, an unworthy suspicion filled my heart with alarm. Ungrateful heart, the fire was but ill-kindled; for from the first moment of love we cannot have any wish other than that of him whom we cherish. Let me die, it is the only choice left me after the loss I have made. For whom, great gods, would I live, for whom entertain a single wish? Thou, river, whose wave washes these desert sands, bury my crime in thy waters; and end ills so miserable by allowing me to find a rest in thy bed.

    THE RIVER GOD. Thy death would sully my stream, Psyche. Heaven forbids it. Perhaps after such heavy sorrows, another fate awaits thee. Rather flee Venus' implacable anger. I see her seeking thee in order to punish thee; the son's love has excited the mother's hatred. Flee! I will detain her.

    PSY. I shall await her avenging wrath! What can it have that will not be too pleasant for me? Whoever seeks death dreads no gods or goddesses, but can defy all their darts.

    SCENE V.--VENUS, PSYCHE, THE RIVER GOD.

    VEN. Insolent Psyche, you dare then to await my arrival after you have deprived me on earth of my honours, after your seducing charms have received the incense which is due to mine alone? I have seen my shrines forsaken, I have seen all the world, enslaved by your charms, idolise you as the sovereign beauty, offer to you a homage until then unknown, and not stay to consider whether there was another Venus at all; notwithstanding this, I see you bold enough not to dread the punishment your crime justly deserves, and to meet my gaze as if my resentment were but little matter.

    PSY. If I have been loved by a few mortals, is it a crime in me to have possessed charms by which they allowed their eyes to be captured while they were blind to you? I am but what heaven hath made me, I have only those attractions which it has been willing to lend me; if the vows that were paid to me pleased you but little, you had only to show yourself, to conceal no longer from men that perfect beauty which has but to show itself in order to bring them back to their duty.

    VEN. You should have guarded better against these vows; this veneration, this incense ought to be declined, and in order to undeceive them more effectively, you should yourself have rendered this homage to me in their presence. You found pleasure in this error, from which on the contrary you should have shrunk with horror. Your haughty temper, proud of having rejected a thousand kings, has carried the extravagant ambition of its choice even to the skies.

    PSY. Have I in my ambition aspired to heaven?

    VEN. Your insolence is without an equal; do you not aspire to the gods when you reject all the kings of the world?

    PSY. If Love had hardened my heart to all their passion, and had reserved me for himself alone, do I stand guilty? and must you to-day as a price for so dazzling a love crush me with everlasting sorrow?

    VEN. Psyche, you should have known your position better, and the rank of this god.

    PSY. And has he allowed me time and opportunity for doing so when from the first he became absolute master of my heart?

    VEN. You have allowed your heart to be charmed by him, and you have loved him as soon as he said, "I love."

    PSY. How could I refuse to love the god who inspires all with love, and who was pleading his own cause? He is your son; you well know his power, his merit.

    VEN. Yes; he is my son; but a son who excites my wrath; a son who ill returns to me what he knows is due; a son who knows that I am forsaken, and who, the more to flatter his own unworthy affection, since you return his love, wounds no one, forces no one to come to my shrine and address his supplications to me. You have made a rebel of him; but the whole world shall behold my dire revenge on you, and I shall teach you whether it is meet for a mortal maiden to suffer a god to sigh at her feet. Follow me; you shall find by your own experience to what degree of mad self-reliance this ambition was leading you. Come, and arm yourself with as much patience as you possess presumption.

    FOURTH INTERLUDE.

    The scenes represent the infernal regions; a sea of fire is discovered, whose waves are rolling unceasingly. This terrible sea is enclosed by burning ruins; and, standing in the midst of the raging billows, through a frightful opening, appears PLUTO'S palace. Eight FURIES issue from it, and form the entry of the ballet, in which they show their delight at having kindled such dire wrath in the heart of the sweetest of divinities. A GOBLIN adds perilous jumps to their dances, and meanwhile PSYCHE, who, in obedience to VENUS, has come to the infernal regions, is seen crossing again in CHARON'S bark, holding the box given to her by PROSERPINA for VENUS.
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