Bardanes, first Senator. Ambassador to Bosphorus. The Senators of Cherson. Two Labourers. Gycia, daughter of Lamachus. Irene, a lady—her friend, in love with Asander. Melissa, an elderly lady in waiting on Gycia. Child, daughter of the Gaoler.
Citizens, etc. ACT I. To him Lysimachus , afterwards Asander Enter Lysimachus.
What ails the King, that thus his brow is bent By such a load of care? Lysimachus, The load of empire lies a weary weight, On age-worn brains; tho' skies and seas may smile, And steadfast favouring Fortune sit serene, Guiding the helm of State, but well thou knowest— None better in my realm—through what wild waves, Quicksands, and rock-fanged straits, our Bosphorus, Laden with all our love, reels madly on To shipwreck and to ruin.
From the North, Storm-cloud on storm-cloud issuing vollies forth Fresh thunderbolts of war. The Emperor Dallies within his closed seraglios, Letting his eunuchs waste the might of Rome, While the fierce Scythian, in a surge of blood, Bursts on our bare-swept plains. Upon the South, Our rival Cherson, with a jealous eye, Waits on our adverse chances, taking joy Of her republican guile in every check And buffet envious Fortune deals our State, Which doth obey a King. Of all our foes I hate and dread these chiefly, for I fear Lest, when my crown falls from my palsied brow, My son Asander's youth may prove too weak To curb these crafty burghers.
Speak, I pray thee, Most trusty servant.
Can thy loyal brain Devise some scheme whereby our dear-loved realm May break the mesh of Fate? Indeed, my liege, Too well I know our need, and long have tossed Through sleepless nights, if haply I might find Some remedy, but that which I have found Shows worse than the disease. Nay, speak; what is it?
I know how wise thy thought. My liege, it chances The Archon Lamachus is old and spent. He has an only child, a daughter, Gycia, The treasure of his age, who now blooms forth In early maidenhood. The girl is fair As is a morn in springtide; and her father A king in all but name, such reverence His citizens accord him. Were it not well The Prince Asander should contract himself In marriage to this girl, and take the strength Of Cherson for her dowry, and the power Of their strong fleets and practised arms to thrust The invading savage backward?
Nay, my lord; No more of this, I pray.
There is no tribe Of all the blighting locust swarms of war, Which sweep our wasted fields, I would not rather Take to my heart and cherish than these vipers. Nay; I swear to thee, I would rather see the Prince dead at my feet, I would rather see our loved State sunk and lost, Than know my boy, the sole heir of my crown, The sole hope of my people, taken and noosed By this proud upstart girl.
Speak not of it; Ruin were better far. My liege, I bear No greater favour to these insolent townsmen Than thou thyself. I, who have fought with them From my first youth—who saw my father slain, Not in fair fight, pierced through by honest steel, But unawares, struck by some villanous engine, Which, armed with inextinguishable fire, Flew hissing from the walls and slew at once Coward and brave alike; I, whose young brother, The stripling who to me was as a son, Taken in some sally, languished till he died, Chained in their dungeons' depths;—must I not hate them With hate as deep as hell?
And yet I know There is no other way than that Asander Should wed this woman.
Gycia a tragedy in five acts.
The work, which was mostly written 'amid the not inappropriate sounds and gloom of the London Underground Railway' ibid. A quarto edition with illustrations by George R. Chapman appeared in The lucidity of expression, the many idyllic pictures, the passages of spiritual exaltation, coupled with a strongly didactic character, made the work specially popular with the middle class, whose appreciation was voiced by John Bright when in his speech on Cobden at Bradford, 25 July , he described it as 'another gem added to the wealth of the poetry of our language.
Morris owed his vogue as a poet, which lasted throughout his lifetime, to his enforcement of simple truths in simple language and metre. He earnestly taught in verse a cheerful optimism, and if he often excited critical scorn for his lack of subtlety, he exerted a wide moral influence.
Much of his work betokens discipleship to Tennyson. Its form may have been suggested by Tennyson's 'Maud.
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