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The Bride of Messina, and On the Use of the Chorus in Tragedy

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SCENE I. A spacious hall, supported on columns, with entrances on both sides;at the back of the stage a large folding-door leading to a chapel.DONNA ISABELLA in mourning; the ELDERS OF MESSINA.ISABELLA.Forth from my silent chamber's deep recesses,Gray Fathers of the State, unwillinglyI come; and, shrinking from your gaze, upliftThe veil that shades my widowed brows: the lightAnd glory of my days is fled forever!And best in solitude and kindred gloomTo hide these sable weeds, this grief-worn frame,Beseems the mourner's heart. A mighty voiceInexorable—duty's stern command,Calls me to light again.Not twice the moonHas filled her orb since to the tomb ye boreMy princely spouse, your city's lord, whose armAgainst a world of envious foes aroundHurled fierce defiance! Still his spirit livesIn his heroic sons, their country's pride:Ye marked how sweetly from their childhood's bloomThey grew in joyous promise to the yearsOf manhood's strength; yet in their secret hearts,From some mysterious root accursed, upsprungUnmitigable, deadly hate, that spurnedAll kindred ties, all youthful, fond affections,Still ripening with their thoughtful age; not mineThe sweet accord of family bliss; though eachAwoke a mother's rapture; each alikeSmiled at my nourishing breast! for me aloneYet lives one mutual thought, of children's love;In these tempestuous souls discovered elseBy mortal strife and thirst of fierce revenge.While yet their father reigned, his stern controlTamed their hot spirits, and with iron yokeTo awful justice bowed their stubborn will:Obedient to his voice, to outward seemingThey calmed their wrathful mood, nor in arrayEre met, of hostile arms; yet unappeasedSat brooding malice in their bosoms' depths;They little reek of hidden springs whose powerCan quell the torrent's fury: scarce their sireIn death had closed his eyes, when, as the sparkThat long in smouldering embers sullen lay,Shoots forth a towering flame; so unconfinedBurst the wild storm of brothers' hate triumphantO'er nature's holiest bands. Ye saw, my friends,Your country's bleeding wounds, when princely strifeWoke discord's maddening fires, and ranged her sonsIn mutual deadly conflict; all aroundWas heard the clash of arms, the din of carnage,And e'en these halls were stained with kindred gore.Torn was the state with civil rage, this heartWith pangs that mothers feel; alas, unmindfulOf aught but public woes, and pitilessYou sought my widow's chamber—there with tauntsAnd fierce reproaches for your country's illsFrom that polluted spring of brother's hateDerived, invoked a parent's warning voice,And threatening told of people's discontentAnd princes' crimes! "Ill-fated land! now wastedBy thy unnatural sons, ere long the preyOf foeman's sword! Oh, haste," you cried, "and endThis strife! bring peace again, or soon MessinaShall bow to other lords." Your stern decreePrevailed; this heart, with all a mother's anguishO'erlabored, owned the weight of public cares....