The women’s apartments of the Palace.
All’s ready, let us go.
My little mistress whom I love, let me
Beseech you by that love, do not attempt it.
Oh, this is no such pretty wilfulness
As all men love to smile at and to punish
With tenderness and chidings. It is a crime
Full of impiety, a deed of danger
That venturous and iron spirits would be aghast
To dream of. You think because you are a child,
You will be pardoned, because you are a princess
No hand will dare to punish you. You do not know
Men’s hearts. They will not pause to pity you,
They will not spare. The people in its rage
Will tear us both to pieces, limb from limb,
With blows and fury, roaring round like tigers,
Will you expose yourself to that grim handling
Who cry out at the smallest touch pain?
Do not delay me on the brink of action.
You have said these things before.
You shall not do it.
I will not go with you.
So you expose me
To danger merely and break the oath you swore;
For I must do it then unhelped.
Your mother, child, and then you cannot go.
I shall die then on the third day from this.
What! you will kill yourself, and for two strangers
You never saw? You are no human maiden
But something far outside mortality,
Princess, if you do this.
I shall not need.
You threaten me with the fierce people’s tearings,
And shall I not be torn when I behold
My fellows’ piteous hearts plucked from their bosoms
Between their anguished shrieks? I shall fall dead
Then you’ll repent this cruelty.
Hush, I will go with you. If I must die,
Have I not loved you, Diomede?
Have I not taken your stripes upon myself,
Claiming your dear offences? Have I not lain
Upon your breast, stealing from my own bed
At night, and kissed your bosom and your hands
For very love of you? And I had thought
You loved me: but you do not care at last
Whether I live or die.
Oh hush! I love you,
I’ll go with you. You shall not die alone,
If you are bent on dying. I’ll put on
My sandals and be with you in a moment.
Go, little princess. I am with you; go.
O you poor shuddering men, my human fellows,
Horribly bound beneath the grisly knife
You feel already groping for your hearts,
Pardon me each long moment that you wrestle
With grim anticipation. O, and you,
If there is any god in the deaf skies
That pities men or helps them. O protect me!
But if you are inexorably unmoved
And punish pity, I, Andromeda,
Who am a woman on this earth, will help
My brothers. Then, if you must punish me,
Strike home. You should have given me no heart;
It is too late now to forbid it feeling.
She is going out. Athene appears.
What is this light, this glory? Who art thou,
O beautiful marble face amid the lightnings?
My heart faints with delight, my body trembles,
Intolerable ecstasy beats in my veins;
I am oppressed and tortured with thy beauty.
I am Athene.
Art thou a goddess? Thy name
We hear far off in Syria.
I am she
Who helps and has compassion on struggling mortals.
ANDROMEDA (falling prostrate)
Do not deceive me! I will kiss thy feet.
O joy! Thou art! Thou art!
Lift up thy head,
I help myself,
When I help these.
To thee alone I gave
This knowledge. O virgin, O Andromeda,
It reached thee through that large and noble heart
Of woman beating in a little child.
But dost thou know that thy reward shall be
Betrayal and fierce hatred? God and man
Shall league in wrath to kill and torture thee
M id dire revilings.
My reward shall be
To cool this anguish of pity in my heart
And be at peace: if dead, o still at peace!
Thou fear’st not then? They will expose thee, child,
To slaughter by the monsters of the deep
Who shall come forth to tear thy limbs.
Shall I be hated, in that other world?
Wilt thou love me?
Thou art my child.
O mother, O Athene, let me go.
They linger in anticipated pangs.
Go, child. I shall be near invisibly.
She disappears. Andromeda stands with clasped
Hands straining her eyes as if into infinity.
You are not gone as yet? What is this, princess?
What is this light around you! How you are altered,
Diomede, let us go.
They go out.