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consequences of a violent passion ; and at the same time of the possibility of surmounting it.
*“In the reign of Cyaxares, son of Phraotes, said he, a bloody war was kindled between the Sacæ and the Medes. The troops of Cyaxares were commanded by his son-in-law Stryangeus, the bravest and most accomplished prince of all the East. He had married Rhetea, the emperor's daughter, who had both wit and beauty, and was of a most amiable temper. Nothing had hitherto either lessened or disturbed their natural passion. Zarina, queen of the Sacæ, put herself at the head of her own troops ; for she was not only adorned with all the charms of her sex, but was mistress of the most heroic virtues. Having been educated at the court of Media, she had there contracted an intimate friendship with Rhetea from her childhood. For two whole years the war was carried on with equa} advantages on both sides. Truces were often made in order to treat of peace ; and during these cessations of arms, Zarina and Stryangeus had frequent interviews. The great qualities which he discovered in this princess, immediately produced esteem; and under the cover of that esteem, love soon insinuated itself into his heart. He no longer endeavored to put an end to the war, for fear of being separated from Zarina ; but he made frequent truces, in which love had a greater share than policy.
“ The emperor at length sent express orders to give a decisive battle. In the heat of the engagement the two commanders met each other ; Stryangeus would have avoided Zarina ; but she, whose heart was yet
* This story has its foundation in antiquity, and is taken from Nicholus of Damn. Ctesias and Diod. Sic.
free from any thing which should restrain her, attacked him, and obliged him to defend himself. Let us spare, cried she, the blood of our subjects : it belongs to us alone to put an end to the war. Love and glory by turns animated the young hero; he was equally afraid of conquering and of being conquered. He frequently exposed his own life by sparing Zarina's, but at length found means to gain the victory; he threw his javelin with a skilful hand, yet scarce had he let it fly, when he repented, and would have recalled it : the queen's horse was wounded ; the horse fell ; and the queen with him. Stryangeus flew instantly to her relief, and would have no other fruit of victory, than the pleasures of saving what he loved. He offered her all sorts of advantages, preserved her dominions to her, and, in the name of the emperor, swore a perpetual alliance with her, at the head of the two armies. After this he begged permission to wait on her to her capital, and she consented to it; but their motives were very different. Zarina’s thoughts were wholly taken up with the care of testifying her gratitude, while Stryangeus sought only an opportunity of discovering his love ; he accompanied the princess in her chariot, and they were conducted with
to Roxanacia. Stryangeus easily found means to prolong his stay there. It was necessary that the emperor should ratify by a treatythe engagements into which his general had entered; and the prince, by his address, caused several difficulties to be started which might make his presence requisite at the court of Zarina. He artfully made advantage of these negociations to let the queen see how much he had her interest at heart; he at first concealed his designs, that he might secure her friendship.-
Virtuous souls do not easily entertain ditrust; their very innocence helps to betray them, when they are ignorant of the wiles of love. Zarina was all gratitude, and her esteem for Stryangeus began by little and little to grow into affection, without her perceiving it. She often suffered her sentiments to break forth in the most conspicuous manner, because she knew not as yet the source of them ; she tasted the secret sweets of a young and growing passion, and was unwilling to examine into the motions of her own heart; but at length she discovered that love had too great a share in them; she blushed at her weakness, and resolved to get the better of it ; she pressed the departure of Stryangeus, but the young Mede could not leave Roxanacia. He was no longer mindful of glory, he forgot all his affection for Rhetea, he yielded himself up entirely to a blind passion, sighed, complained, and being no longer master of himself, declared his love to Zarina in the strongest and most passionate terms.
“The queen did not like to hide the situation of her mind, but shunning all affected evasions and mystery, answered with a noble frankness, I am indebted to
you for my
life and for my crown ; my love is equal to my gratitude, and my heart is no less touched than your's; but I will sooner die than betray my virtue, or suffer that your glory should receive the least blemish. Consider, dear Stryangeus, that you are the husband of Rhetea, whom I love ; honor and friendship oblige me equally to sacrifice a passion which would prove my shame and her misfortune. As she ended these words, she retired. Stryangeus remained confounded, and in despair. He shut himself up in his apartment, and felt by turns all the contrary emotions of an heroic soul
that is combated, conquered, and insulted by a violent and tyranical passion. One while he is jealous of Zarina’s glory, and resolves to imitate her ; the next moment cruel love sports with his resolutions, and even with his virtue. In this tempest of passion his understanding is clouded, his reason forsakes him, and he resolves to kill himself; but he first writes these words to Zarina : “I saved your life, and you
take away mine ; I fall the victim of my love and of your virtue,
, being unable to conquer the one or to imitate the other. Death alone can put an end to my crime, and to my torment. Farewel forever.” He sent this letter to the
queen, who instantly flew to the apartment of the young Mede ; but he had already plunged the dagger into his breast ; she saw him weltering in his blood, fell into a swoon, came again to herself, and by her tears called back his soul that was ready to take its flight. He sighed, opened his eyes, beheld the grief of Zarina, and consented to have his wound taken care of, which for many days was thought mortal.
Rhetea, being informed of this tragical adventure, soon arrived at Roxanacia. Zarina related to her all that had happened, without concealing either her weakness or her resistance. Such noble simplicity cannot be understood or relished but by great souls.Though the war between the Sacæ and the Medes had interrupted the correspondence of these two princesses, it had not in the least diminished their friendship; they knew and esteemed each other too well to be susceptible of distrust or jealousy. Rhetea always beheld Stryangeus with the eyes of a lover. She lamented and compassionated his weakness, because she saw it was involuntary. His wound was at length
healed, but he was not cured of his love. Zarina in vain pressed his departure, but he was not able to tear himself away from that fatal place ; his passion and his torments were renewed. Rhetea perceived it, and fell into a deep sadness; she suffered all the most cruel agitations of soul. Grief for being no longer loved by a man whom alone she loved ; commiseration for a husband given up to despair ; esteem for a rival whom she could not hate. She saw herself every day between a lover hurried away by his passion, and a virtuous friend whom she admired; and that her life was the misfortune of both. How cruel a situation for a generous and tender heart! The more she concealed her pain, the more she was oppressed by it. She sunk at last under the weight, and fell dangerously sick. One day when she was alone with Zarina and Stryangeus, she dropt these words ; “I am dying, but I die content, since my death will make you happy.”
“ Zarina melted into tears at these words, and withdrew. These words pierced the heart of Stryangeus. He looked upon Rhetea, and beheld her pale, languishing, and ready to expire with grief and love. The princess' eyes were fixed and immoveably fastened upon the prince ; his own at length were opened. He was like a man who awakes from a profound sleep, or comes out of a delirium, where nothing had appeared in its natural shape. He had seen Rhetea every day, without perceiving the cruel condition to which he had reduced her; he saw her at present with other eyes; it awakened all his virtue, and kindled again all his former tenderness. He acknowledged his error, threw himself at her feet, and, embracing her, repeated often these words, interrupted by tears and sighs :