Act I, Scene I

A rocky and surf- beat margin of land walled in with great frowning cliffs.
CIREAS, DIOMEDE.

CIREAS
Diomede? You here so early and in his wild wanton weather!

DIOMEDE
I can find no fault in the weather, Cireas; it is brilliant and frolicsome.

CIREAS
   The rain has wept itself out and the sun has ventured into the open; but the wind is shouting like mad and the sea is still in mighty passion. Has your mistress Andromeda sent you then with matin-offerings to Poseidon, or are you walking here to whip the red roses in your cheeks redder with the sea-breezes?

DIOMEDE
   My mistress as much for your Poseidon as I for your glum beetle-browed priest Poludaon. But you, Cireas? Are you walking here to whip the red nose of you redder with the sea-breezes or to soothe with them the marks of his holiness’s cudgel?

CIREAS
   I must carry up these buckets of sea-water to swab down the blue-haired old fellow in the temple. Hang the robustious storm-shaken curmudgeon! I have rubbed him and scrubbed him and bathed him and swathed him for these eighteen years, yet he never sent me one profitable piece of wreckage out of his sea yet. A gold bracelet, now, crusted with jewels, dropped from the arm of some drowned princess, or a sealed casket velvet lined with a priceless vase carried by the Rhodian merchants: that would not have beggared him! And I with so little could have bought my liberty.

DIOMEDE
   May be ’twas that he feared. For who would wish to lose such an expert body-servant as you, my Cireas?

CIREAS
   Zeus! If I thought that, I would leave his unwashed back to itch for a fortnight. But these Gods are kittle cattle to joke with. They have too many spare monsters about in their stables trained to snap up offenders for a light breakfast.

DIOMEDE
   And how prosper the sacrifices, Cireas? I hope you keep your god soothingly and daintily fed in this hot summer season?

CIREAS
   Alack, poor old Poseidon! He has had nothing but goats and sea-urchins lately, and that is poor food for a palate inured to homme a la phenicienne, Diomede. It is his own fault he should provide wrechage more freely. But black Polydaon’s forehead grows blacker every day: he will soon be as mad as Cymbal’s bull on the headland. I an every moment in terror of finding    myself tumbled on the altar for a shipwrecked Phoenician and old blackbrows hacking about in search of my heart with his holy carving-tools.

DIOMEDE
   You should warn him beforehand that your heart is in your paunch hidden under twenty pounds of fat: so shall he have less cutting-exercise and you an easier exit.

CIREAS
   Out! would you have me slit for a water-god’s dinner? Is this your tenderness for me?

DIOMEDE
   Heaven forbid, dear Cireas. Syria would lose half her scanpishness if you departed untimely to a worse world.

CIREAS
   Away from here, you long sauciness, you thin edge of naughty satire, But, no! First tell me what news of the palace? They say King Phineus will wed the Princess Andromeda.

DIOMEDE
   Yes, but not till the Princess Andromeda weds King Phineus. What noise is that?

CIREAS
   It was the cry of many men in anguish.
   He climbs up a rock.

DIOMEDE
   Zeus, what a wail was there! Surely a royal
   Huge ship from Sidon or the Nile has kissed
   Our ragged beaches.

CIREAS
   A Phoenician galley
   Is caught and spinning in the surf, the men
   Urge desperate oars in vain. Hark, with a crash
   She rushes on the boulders’ iron fangs
   That rip her tender sides. How the white ship
   Battered against them by the growling surf
   Screams like a woman tortured! From all sides
   The men are shaken out, as rattling peas
   Leap from a long and bursting sheath: these sink
   Gurgling into the billows, those are pressed
   And mangled on the jagged rocks.

DIOMEDE
   O it must be
   A memorable sight! Help me up, Cireas.

CIREAS
   No, no, for I must run and tell old blackbrows
   That here’s fresh meat for hungry grim Poseidon.

He climbs down and out running.

DIOMEDE
   You disobliging dog! This is the first wreck in eighteen months and I not see it! I will try and climb round the rock even if my neck and legs pay the forfeit.

She goes out in the opposite direction.