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TO THAT MOST DISTINGUISHED AND LEARNED MAN, RALPH FREEMAN,
KNIGHT OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, AUDITOR OF IMPRESTS
FOR THE BRITISH REALM, WILLIAM ALABASTER GIVES HIS GREETING
ORE or less forty years ago I produced this stillborn abortion of two weeks’ growth, meant for one night’s spectacle, not for a ripe age. As she had lain dormant for so great a space, I hoped that my invented Roxana would sleep forever amidst the shades of her countrymen, when, behold, lately a plagiarist (justly named after the cross) got his hands on a corrupt copy of this poem, awoke Roxana, sleeping, reluctant, and well aware of her personal shortcomings, and dragged her once more onto Reputation’s stage to enact her own tragedy. And, in addition to the faults she had acquired from her hasty birth, he added so many blemishes of his own, that he seems to have entered into a competition with myself to see which of us could sin the more. What was I to do? Ought I suffer a vicious book to circulate, which bears my name, if not on its front, at least on its back? Or should I, an old man of nearly seventy, with my talent now faded and in an inappropriate situation in life, to worship the Muses of my youth? My fatherly nature prevailed, that I should not exclude the offspring of my youth from an old man’s care. Hence I have brought back to the classroom most of the faults he has commited, either because of his peculiar talent, or out of a depraved association with copyists. Thus Roxana now makes her appearance, marked more by blemishes, than by science. And, wrinkled by interpolated lines, she shows herself to be rather like her father. Thus, in the name of our ancient friendship, I send you this buskin, in which, in view the acumen of your wit and your easy association with the Muses, you may correct my omissions, or out of your affection you may defend it. For if I were to weed out all the tares from its diction, a goodly part of this field would be denuded of its turf. You are admonished to recite this stuff in a frothy tone, as poets are wont to do with their trragedies, so as to achieve a grander effect when they read aloud with vocal bombast. But you will preserve the intonation of a robust voice in Rome’s Lament, which will come to the stage within the year. I dare have high hopes for that one; as for this one, I leave the value of the book to the reader’s judgment. Farewell.
FOR THAT DISTINGUISHED MAN, A COLLEAGUE AND ALWAYS A FRIEND,
WILLIAM ALABASTER, DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY,
HUGH HOLLAND OFFERS HIS CONGRATUALTIONS FOR ROXANA REVIVIFIED,
IN A SONNET COMPOSED OF HENDECASYLLABLES
Lo, Roxana the survivor is lately returned from Orcus’ abysmal threshold, and she, who was by a most shameful misfortune repressed, now goes winging her way throughout the world. What Greek thunders in such pear-shaped tones, whose Muse is as swift, and as pressed? She is not yet exhausted, by old age oppressed, but flows on like water’s downstream current. Here Roxana and her children will triumph, whose bard is Thetfield’s elderly minister, and a master of minstrels wherever they be. Let this amazing construction serve them for a tomb, which raging Atossa will not pull down, nor will time scatter thier sacred bones.
TO THAT MOST DISTINGUISHED AND LEARNED MAN,
DOCTOR WILLIAM ALABASTER, GREETINGS,
ON THE SUBJECT OF HIS TRAGEDY ROXANA,
ACKNOWLEDGED BY ASSERTION OF OWNERSHIP,
AND NOW PUBLISHED BY HIMSELF
Roxana, freed from the theater’s stages where once, wearing the buskin, she scorned the earth and trod upon the stars, raising her head to heaven, having for so many years been at liberty and entirely independent, at length (alas) has been forced to play the slave for greedy printers. Hence she has made a wretched appearance, mutilated and abounding with blemishes. Treacherous Bessus did not harm her so, nor did Atossa herself bloody her with her whips, plowing her roasy skin with her leathery lashings, as did a plagiarist who mangled her Hellenic song, dislocating and disjointing her Sophoclean measures to make her fit his Procrustean bed. But for Roxana a father lives (and may he continue to live!), a better one than Moleon, who by a laying on of hands acknowledges his brain-born child, and claims her as his own. But the both of them are in the plagiarist’s debt, he because he is thus given the opportunity to enjoy a plaything of his youth, she because she sees the light in a more wholesome condition. If only readers’ kindly breeze of favor be well-disposed, let it bid everyone fare well and give their applause.
Whenas Oxartes king of Bactria
Did breath forth life, his kingdom and his son
Which Oromasdes hight, he did bequeath
Unto his younger brother Moleons rule,
Untill such time as his young son become 5
Able to rule, and fitt for gouernance.
But Oromasdes groweing to some yeares
And through those yeares to some discretion
Demaunds the kingdome at his unckles hands
Who drave him off with lingering delayes 10
Alleadgeing still his insufficiencie
To rule a Kingdome, being under yeares.
But Oromasdes without further stay
From Bactria fled to the Gangarides
Where he espoused the daughter of a king, 15
And strongly fortified with warlike men
Of fierce resolue, returnd to Bactria
Where he depriv’d his unckle Moleon
Of kingdome, crowne, and eke of dearest life.
This Moleon had a daughter by his wife 20
Roxana cal’d, whom least that she should fall
Into the hands of those fell enemies
He closely sequestered in a wooden toure
Within a secret corner of a wood,
And for her keeping large prouision gave. 25
But not long after (so it chanc’d)
As Oromasdes, hunting in the woods
By luckelesse chaunce lost all his companie
Save Bessus only, and by worser chaunce
Light on the place whereat Roxana was. 30
Whom when he saw so young and beautifull
Was straight on fire with loues affection
Then with the engines of his faire fram’d speech
He wonne her love and us’d her as his wife
Till she brought foorth a son and daughter too. 35
These things thus handled full for ten yeares space
Untill aspireing Bessus fell in loue
With queene Atossa; and in hope to winne
His soules desire reueal’d unto the queene
The totall secrets of his souereigne king: 40
Who streight inflam’d with furies jealous fire
Voweth to graunt him whatsoere he will
So he deny not but with trust betray
Roxana and her children to her hands:
Which thing no sooner Bessus had performed 45
But them Atossa murder’d cruelly
And then perfor’d her disloyall vowe
And lay with Bessus: but the king ere while
Aduertiz’d of this dealeing by the nurse
Commandeth Bessus to be strangled 50
And afterward deuiseth with himselfe
How he migh<t> murder his espoused queene;
At length resolu’d to dip the diadem
Which on his head he usually did weare
In deadly poyson mixed for the nones 55
And in a banquet whereunto the queene
Had solemnly invited him her guest
To crowne the cup wherein she us’d to drink.
The like deuice she plotted for his end
And so by mutuall treason, perish both. 60
OROMASDES the king
ATOSSA the queen
ARSACES a senator
ROXANA Moleon’s daughter
SISIMITHRES Roxana’s son
ARIASPE her daugher
DAMIANA a noble lady of the Court
Chorus of the queen’s handmaids
ACT 1ST, SCENE 1ST
Doth not the utter dampe of blackest hell
Darken the brightsome circles of my sight
And my fresh fancie in blind error wrappe?
Or this my searching eyes have spy’de from farre
Is that accursed forlorne Bactria? 5
May be my bodies watchmen wake and dimme
With the loath glimpse of sunshine darkened;
Yet the sharpe eyesight oft revenge sees farre;
Even through the bowells of eternall night
And the earth itself to find out Bactria. 10
I see the proud height of the haughtie towers;
The cittie’s chearfull, loookes not chearfull long.
I knowe the sumptuous buildings of the court
Once mine (woe worth that once), but now my foes:
I see to much; better returne to hell. 15
For this is hell, and if ought, worse then hell.
But fond, effeminate, heartlesse sorrowe cease.
Much more then to much hath to thee been yielded.
Powerfull revenge, of all things mightiest,
More swift then is the lightnings sudden glance 20
And more devouring then the fires wide jawes,
Come, and what left is of my wounded smile
Wholly dispatch; my liver is to ranke.
Leasure serves now to sigh; I trow I shall
Become a man againe not past mans straight: 25
But these are words; the day is almost spent
Which Pluto graunted to my wrongs revenge:
Then whereon stay these promis’d advocates
Whome hells great lord appoined for mine ayde?
The least delay revenge thinks tedious. 30
But what deformed ghost approacheth heere?
So pale, so wanne, so rawboned, terrible?
If my considerable soule remember well
‘Tis death, for once I felt his furious hands
Yet never saw him smile: with men alive 35
Is his abode, we dead men cannot die.
ACT 1ST, SCENE 2ND
DEATH Moleons sad ghost, if any thing thou crave
That may by our indeavour be perform’d
Speake on: to death doth no man sue in vaine.
If rankors spight and angers furious thirst 40
Wherewith thou art all on fire, blood must allay;
In vaine thou seek’st the Furies, whose delayes
Will mitigate greifes force; I cann in breife
Performe thee more, then thousand ambages;
For warres, deseases, pestilence and hunger 45
All waite on me, as yeomen of my guard
With thousand mischeifes moe, to men unknowne
Which every day in uncouth shapes arise
To sett old leeches shamefully to schoole.
MOL. An ordinary thing that needs must be 50
It is to dye: what’s done by law and right
That’s noe revenge; life there is mellow ripe
By whose procurement and by whom thou dies’t;
How much against thy will, that’s what makes death;
Death is not misery, but a wretched death. 55
DEATH What fury hath inforc’d thy troubled soule
To such vile outrage? Sure so extreame hate
No small beginninge hath: then Moleon speake;
Death has his eares at leyseure still to learne
New cause of slaughter. MOL. I will the rather, 60
That the report and everlasting shame
Of so foule fact may thee with greife infect
To favour our designs: for so revenge
With double strength will give the greater stroke.
Those towers, this Kingdom of rich Bactria 65
Once did my brother Oxyart commaund,
And left me lord protector at his death
Till Oromasdes his young some became
Of yeares to rule:but he, not brooking stay,
Ambitioius boy with greedy thirst of reigne 70
Before his time, went out unto the king
Of the Gangarides, whose daughter he espousd,
And borrowing his forces, bad me warrs
With doubtfull fight long while; but he at length
Winning the day (such is the dye of warre) 75
Reft me of life, and throne dearer than life,
Yet life and throne were not so greivous losse
(Though both be great) if not accompanied
With my sole daughters shamefull injury;
Whome least she should become the victors prey 80
(So true a prophet in mishap is feare)
Farre from resort of man in thickest woods
I closely hid: but open is that maide
Which is not vayl’d with shame and chastitie;
Beside a vestall virgin I her vow’d 85
And lock’t her safely in a wooden toure,
But there’s noe towre, there’s no religion
So strongly fenc’d, which curious wantonnes
Or lewd licentious lust wil not subdue;
In vayne our prayers, in vayne was our devotion. 90
Tyrants make gods, and unmake as occasion
Or feare constraines, and but the vulgar serve them.
The king by chaunce as he in hunting stray’d
From his companions, found my daughter there
Hid in the wood, and he which should have beene 95
Atossas true freind, sought by lust to stayne
My daughters honour, but not my daughter, she
Which with a tyrant so neare of her blood
A foule adulterer, that slew her father,
In whoredome, loves and marriage hath agreed: 100
Nay more, which barren wife could never doe,
By birth of children hath made him a father,
By whome her father lost her, and she her father.
To witt, this onely wanted in my woes
My selfe to stocke mine enemie; but where 105
I sought revengement, there my foe might find
His ages comfort, and his kingdomes heyre;
So I gott children, least my foe should want:
My child, in whome my happinesse I deemed,
I found the way to all unhappines. 110
No plague to that which from thyselfe ariseth.
But on the bastard, whore, and gracelesse mother
My neece, my daughter, or, as she will, both
(But neece and daughter both I doe abhorre)
And on the tyrant, shame to all our stocke 115
Which wil be cal’d my nephew and my sonne
(But sonne and nephew both doe I abhorre),
On him, or her, on both, on all sides fall
The vengeance of my curse, till well one nett
Hath caught them both; oft times too violent wrath 120
Wanting whereon to work hath vaynely cool’d;
Our rage hath found on whome itselfe to wreacke,
Least one should want, by daughter’s made my foe,
With her I will beginn, and on her trye
What mischeife after shall on him be brought. 125
DEATH A monstrous masse of mischeife intricate,
Whereout so many heads, so many rootes
Of hate arise, a rich crop of destruction;
But what devise shall compasse all this ill?
By whose advise thou work’st it much avayle. 130
MOL. Let me alone; for that our vowes take place,
That good successe may answer the attempt
To this no helpe need, save suspition;
Ther fetch in hell from out some secret roome
Where hid from all, and feare knowne to herselfe, 135
[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]
DEATH I see thy drift, I knowe the monster well,
Many hath she brought to death, and more will bring.
Doe thou stay heere, I’le fetch her presently.
ACT 1ST, SCENE 3RD
As the swift Brittaine hound in Sherwood chase
When he hath winded the betraying sente 140
Of some hid beast, trembles in every joynt
And snuffs and pants, and calling with shreeke crye
Allready seemes to teare which he nor hath
Nor sees, and yet in hope both sees and hath,
Even so the wealthy spoyles of this damn’d house 145
Are mine allready in presumeing hope;
I thinke them sure because I’le have them sure.
Now, and ne’re to now, I begin to live
When all mine enemies beginn to dye;
Now is my kingdome better then before. 150
He is a king that will not what he cannot,
And can what he will: we can, we are kings;
And so we were, but they shall deare repent
Through whome t’is sayd we were; what should men doe
With crownes and scepters, wer’t not for the foes? 155
It is my pleasure, and I will be king.
Now my brave followers who’le make lesse my greife
To make yourselves great? If you be my freinds
Now shew your loves; for you can never better.
Let me but see the thrice accursed heads 160
Of my childe and my nephewes sonne
Without their bodies, so they’ll better please,
And so they may winne favour and my love;
But when they dye, let them perceive they dye
And ere they dye, els t’is but sport to dye. 165
All in such hast? sure I presumed you loved me
And now I plainely see it. Whome have we heere?
Roxana welcome, come embrace thy father.
Men say all beawty perishes in death,
It seemes not so in thee, thou ‘rt fayrer dead, 170
If fathers looke makes me not partiall.
And my young cosens heere, a man may knowe
By mother, father, and by grandfather.
But my old nephew, and my new made sonne
This double band of amitie needs must 175
Make you much welcome to your unkle-father,
Much for your selfe, more for your children
And your two wives. Heere anger hath an end;
Now bitter furie cease, perish revenge,
It shall not perish; noe, beware my soule 180
Too prateing fond are wee, and which would be
The greatest sin this heart could intertaine
Almost made innocent: t’is no small steppe
To love, to speak in love; though otherwise
My heart imagine still, so speake, so doe. 185
ACT 1ST, SCENE 4TH
DEATH, SUSPICION, MOLEON
DEATH Such is his furious anger towards all.
SUSP. Well, on afore. DEATH Why com’st thou not before?
SUSP. Because I’le have no such fooles come behind,
[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
I have a kind of necke. DEATH Thou fear’st in vaine.
SUSP. He never feares in vaine that feares enough. 190
DEATH Why doth thou hide that? SUSP. Why am I Suspition?
DEATH Why rush’st thou back? SUSP. For feare while I am away
Some theife should robbe my house. DEATH There’s nothing in’t.
SUSP. Yet doeth that nothing something trouble me. 195
DEATH Why number’st thou thy keyes? SUSP. Least my goodman
Have stolen them from me to let in his whore
And cuckold me. DEATH That writhen sack’d old knave?
SUSP. Aurora loved Tython an older knave.
DEATH Why doeth that fraile lattice <run> crosse thy breast?
Susp. I am betraid; what means these questions 200
And heer’s a secret witnesse of my words.
MOL. Monster of helbred feinde, that hid in hell,
Hid’st a worse hell within thee, lend me helpe.
Thou shalt have matter plentie of much ill.
A servants’ lust, a kings unstayned bed, 205
An ignorant queene despys’d for ignorance,
A bastards mother, and a mothers bastard,
Sons, mothers, nephewes, devils, and what not?
SUSP. Blame not thy daughter, she is ignorant.
MOL. For whoredome mean’st thou or impietie? 210
SUSP. She was constraynd. MOL. To marry, was she not?
And beare children? SUSP. Poore soule what could she doe?
MOL. What did the Greeke queene, and the Belides?
Their fame growes stale, she should have made it new.
SUSP. Are not thy nephewes heires unto the crowne? 215
MOL. Was not my son in lawe his unckles bane?
SUSP. But thine own daughters? MOL. Hang up my owne father
If my owne father be mine eyemie.
SUSP. What then may I suspect? What shall I doe?
MOL. What ever bloudy fearefull, impious 220
Mischeife or villany, or if ought be worse,
That noe suspition ever may suspect,
Noe death revenge, when most it doeth revenge.
Fill all the court with strange contagious fire
Such as thy selfe may’st loath, and enter whole 225
As to a fact, which when thy selfe hath done
Thou loath’st thyself because thyself hath done it.
Be sure no corner of the court stand quiet
But every light suspition let flie,
Be’t true or be it false, so it be ill. 230
If any spark of love or grace appeare
That yet escap’d the violent streame of sin
See them soone quench’d, yet what is this to thee
To see them quenched? In court no greater strangers
Then these, these perish of their owne accord. 235
Rather let growe, what onely by thee growes:
Suspitious jealousie and needlesse bane,
Wrath, treason, vengeance, and impietie,
What ever foe can wish, or freind can rue:
Still let them feare, and not knowe what they feare 240
But whatsoe’er on any man may fall
That let them feare upon themselues shall fall;
Nor let their feares be frustrate, but still strive
For vengeance one against another, till at last
The selfe same treason hath insnar’d them both. 245
And now behold with what great royaltie
Atossa trembling towards the temple goes
Her last nights dreame with greife to expiate
Whose outward countenance tells her inward feares.
Now rouse thyselfe and all thy powers unite 250
That thou may’st take just measure of thy selfe;
What thou art able many thousands knowe
But how much scarce thyselfe: till proofe be made
No man can rightly of himself esteeme.
And Death doe thou attend her, without thee 255
Suspition’s nothing, or but litle worth.
THE CHORUS SINGS
Night, in thy bespotted trayne
What thousand coloured formes remaine!
What uncouth shapes thy presence can
Disclose to drowned sence of man, 260
And shew in thy eternall glasse
What shall heerafter come to passe!
Suspitious feare, and guilty care,
The leader of thy chariot are.
So did Atossa the last night 265
Dreames and fancies much affright.
As doth the little hony bee
From freshest feild,
Whatever herbe, flower, plant or tree
Doth sweetest yeild 270
All the rich dainties of the spring
In provident wise
Home to her hive full weary bring
On laden thighs:
And though they differ much in tast, 275
As doth befall,
One hony liquor works at last
Out of them all.
So doth doth mans mind of body freed
One image feigne 280
Of all the fanc<i>es sence can breed
In troubled braine.
At midnight when the steadfast pole of heaven
On equall beame stood even
Into the chamber where Atossa slept
Two ugly serpents crept 285
With wretched folds, ratling their powrfull scales
And threat’ning their huge tayles.
In the mid time of the day
When the sun was at his hight
A wild wolfe appeard in sight 290
That did all the court dismay
And the fatall bird of night
Sang a woefull well away.
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