Darkness. The Temple of Poseidon.
Cireas! Why, Cireas! Cireas! Knave, I call you!
Is the rogue drunk or sleeps? Cireas! You, Cireas!
My voice comes echoing from the hollow shrine
To tell me of solitude. Where is this drunkard?
A dreadful thing it is to stand alone
In this weird temple. Forty years of use
Have not accustomed me to its mute threatening.
It seems to me as if dead victims moved
With awful faces all about this stone
Invisibly here palpable. And Ocean
Groans ever like a wounded god aloud
Against our rocky base, his voice at night
Weirdly insistent. I will go and talk
With the Chaldeans in their chains: beteer
Their pleasing groans and curses then the hush.
He goes out and after a while comes back, disordered.
Wake, sleeping Syria, wake. Thou art violated,
Thy heart cut out: thou art outraged Syria, outraged,
Thy harvests and thy safety and thy sons
Already murdered! O hideous sacrilege!
Who can have dared this crime? Could the slave Cireas
Have ventured thus? O, no, it is the proud
God-hating son of Cepheus, Iolaus,
And that swift stranger borne through impious air
To upheave the bases of our old religion.
They have rescued the Chaldeans. Cireas lies
Murdered perhaps on the sound-haunted cliffs
Who would have checked their crime. I’ll strike the gong
That only tolls when dread calamity
Strides upon Syria. Wake, doomed people, wake.
He rushes out. A gong sounds for some moments.
It is silent and he returns, still more disordered.
Wake! Wake! Do you not hear Poseidon raging
Beneath the cliffs with tiger-throated menace?
Do you not hear his feet upon the boulders
Sounding, a thunderous report of peril,
As he comes roaring up his stony ramparts
To slay you? Ah, the city wakes. I hear
A surge confused of hurrying, cries and tumult.
What is this darkness moving on me? Gods!
Where is the image? Whose is this awful godhead?
The shadow of Poseidon apears, vague and alarming at first,
Then distrinct and terrible in the darkness.
My victims, Polydaon, give me my victims.
POLYDAON (falling prostrate)
It was not I, it was not I, but others.
My victims, Polydaon, give me my victims.
O dire offended god, not upon me
Fall thy loud scourges! I am innocent
How art thou innocent, when the Chaldeans
Escape? Give me my victims, Polydaon.
I know not how they fled nor who released them.
Gnash not thy blood-stained teeth on me, O Lord,
Nor slay me with those glaring eyes. Thy voices
Thunders, a hollow terror, through my soul.
Hear me, unworthy priest. While thou art scheming
For thy own petty mortal aims abroad,
I am insulted in my temple, laughed at
By slaves, by children done injurious wrong,
My victims snatched from underneath my roof
By any casual hand, my dreadful image
Looking deseted on: for none avenges.
Declare thy will, O Lord, it shall be done.
Therefore I will awake, I will arise,
And you shall know me for a god. This day
The loud Assyrians shall break shouting in
With angry hooves like a huge-riding flood
Upon this country. The pleasant land of Syria
Shall be dispeopeld. Wolves shall howl in Damascus,
And Gaza and Eupharates bound a desert.
My resonant and cliff-o’ervaulting seas,
Black-cowled, with foaming tops thundering shall climb
Into your lofty seats of ease and wash them
Strangled into the valleys. Fom the deep
My ravening herds pastured by Amphitrite
Shall walk upon your roads, devour your maidens
And infants, tear your strong and armed men
Helplessly shrieking like weak-wristed woman,
Till all are dead. And thou, neglectful priest,
Shalt go down living into Tartarus
Where knives fire-pointed shall disclose thy breast
And pluck thy still-renewing heart from thee
For ever: till the world cease shall be thy torments.
O dreadful Lord!
If thou wouldst shun the doom,
And keep my Syria safe, discover then
The rescuer of the Babylonian captives
And to the monsters of my deep expose
For a delicious banquet. Offer the heart
Of Iolaus here still warmly alive
And sobbing blood to leave his beautiful body:
Slaughter on his yet not inanimate bosom,
The hero for whose love he braved my rage,
And let the sacrilegious house of Cepheus
Be blotted from the light. Thy sordid aims
Put from thy heart: remember to be fearless.
I will inhabit thee, if thou deserve it.
He disappears thundering.
Yes, lord! Shall not thy dreadful will be done?
Phineus enters and his Tyrnaus with torches.
Wherefore has the gong’s ominous voice tonight
Affrighted Syria? Are you Polydaon
Who crouch here?
Welcome, king Phineus.
Who art thou?
Thine eyes roll round in a bright glaring horror
And rising up thou shak’st thy gloomy locks
As if they were a hungry lion’s mane
Preparing for the leap. Speak, Polydaon.
Yeas, I shall speak, of sacrilege and blood,
Its terrible forfeit, and the wrath of Heaven.
Cepheus enters with Dercetes and Syrian soliders, Therops, Perissus and
A throng of Syrians; scores of torches.
What swift calamity, O Polydaon,
Has waked to clamorousness the fatal gong
At which all Syria trambles? What is this face
Thou showest like somegrim accusing phantom’s
In the torches’ light? Wherefore rang’st thou the bell?
It rang the doom of thee and all thy house,
I glimpse a striking plot
And ’tis well-staged too.
The victims are released,
The victims bound for terrible Poseidon.
Thou and thy blood are guility.
Thou art mad!
‘Tis thou and thy doomed race are seized with madness
who with light hearts offend against Poseidon.
But they shall perish. Thou and thy blood shall perish.
O, thou appal’st me. wherefore rings out thy voice
Against me like a clamorous bell of doom
In the huge darkness?
Poseidon’s self arose
In the dim night before me with a voice
As angry as the loud importunate surge
Denouncing thee. Thou and thy blood shall perish.
Cepheus, let search be made. Perhaps the victims
Have not fled far, and all may yet be saved.
Scour, captain, scour all Syria for the fugitives.
Dercetes and thy troop, down to the coast,
Scan every boulder: out, out, Meriones,
Callias, Ordiamas and Pericarpus,
Ring in the country-side with cordons armed,
Enter each house, ransack most private chambers,
But find them.
Mercetes and the captains go out with their soldiers,
The people making way for them.
People of Syria, hearken, hearken!
Poseidon for this sacilege arouses
The Assyrian from the land and from the sea
His waves and all their sharp-toothed monsters: your men
Shall be rent and disembowelled, your women ravished.
Butchered by foemen or by Ocean’s dogs
Horribly eaten: what’s left, the flood shall swallow.
Cries and groans.
Spare us, Poseidon, spare us, dread deity!
Would you be spared? Obey Poseidon, people.
Thou art our King, command us.
Bring the woman,
Chaldean Cassiopea, and her daughter.
Tell them that Syria’s King, command us.
Therops and others go out to do his bidding.
What mean you, priest?
Wherefore my queen and princess?
I do the will of terrible Poseidon.
Thou and thy blood shall perish.
Thou then art mad!
I thought this was a skilful play. Think’st thou
I will permit the young Andromeda,
My bride, to be mishandled or exposed
To the bloody chances of wild popular fury
In such a moment?
Phineus, I know not what thou wilt permit:
I know what terrible Poseidon wills.
Poseidon! thou gross superstitious fool,
Hast thou seen shadows in the night and took’st them
For angry gods?
Refrain from impious words,
Or else the doom shall take thee in its net.
Refrain thyself from impious deeds, or else
A hundred Tyrian blades shall search thy brain
To look for thy lost reason.
Patience, King Phineus!
It may be, thou shalt have thy whole desire
By other means
One of the fugitives is seized.
Creeping about the sea-kissed rocks we found him
Where the ship foundered, babbling greedily
Of his lost wealth, in cover of the darkness.
Now we shall know the impious hand, Tremble,
Tremble, king Cepheus.
I am besieged, undone.
No doubt it is my rash-brained Iolaus
Ruins us all.
Soldiers enter, driving in Smerdas.
I am dragged back to hell.
I am lost and nothing now can save me.
The choice is thine. Say, wilt thou save thy life
And see the green fields of thy land once more
And kiss thy wife and children?
You mock me, mock me!
No, man! Thou shalt have freedom at a price
Or torture gratis.
Price? Price? I’ll the price.
The names of those whose impious hands released thee:
Which if thou speak not, thou shalt die, not given
To the dire god, for he asks other victims,
But crushed with fearful tortures.
O kind Heaven!
Have mercy! Must I give her up, – that smile
Of sweetness and those kindly eyes, to death?
It is a dreadful choice! I cannot do.
It was a woman did this!
I will say no more.
I breathe again: it was not Iolaus.
Seize him and twist him into anguished knots!
Let every bone be crushed and every sinew
Wrenched and distorted, till each inch of flesh
Gives out its separate shriek.
O spare me, spare me:
I will tell all.
Speak truth and I will give thee
Bushles of gold and shipment to Chaldea.
Gold? Gold? Shall I have gold?
SMERDAS (after a pause)
You would have taken on the beach, arrived,
And his the sword bit through my iron fetters.
Palter not! Who was with him? Thou shalt have gold.
Thus far is well.
Thou hast a shifty look about the eyes.
Thou spokest of a woman. Was’t the Queen?
Hast thou told all? His face grows pale. To torment!
I will tell all. Swear then I shall have gold
By grim poseidon’s head I swear.
O hard necessity! The fair child princess,
Andromeda, with her young slave-girl came,
She was my recuer.
There is a deep silence of amazement.
I’ll not believe this! Could that gentle child
Devise and execute so huge a daring?
Thou liest: thou art part of some foul plot.
He has the accent of unwilling truth.
Phineus, she is death’s bride, not thine. Wilt thou
Be best man in that dolorous wedding? Forbear
And wait poseidon’s will.
Shall I have Syria?
When it is mine to give thee.
The Queen arrives.
Remove the merchant.
The soldiers take Smerdas into the background,
Cassiopea enters with Andromeda and Diomede, Nebassar and the Chaldean gurard.
Keep ready hands, upon your swords, chaldeans.
What is this tumult? Wherefore we called
At this dim hour and to this solemn place?
Com’st thou with foreign falchions, Cassiopea,
To brave the Syrian gods? Abandon her,
Chaldeans. ’tis a doomed head your swords encompass.
Since when dost thou give thy commands in Syria
And sentence queens? My husband and thy King
Stands near thee; let him speak.
Let him. There stands he,
Why hidest thou thine eyes, monarch of Syria,
Sinking thy forehead like a common man
Unkingly? What grief o’ertakes thee?
You see he speaks not.
‘Tis I command in Syria. Is’t not so,
Stand forth, Andromeda.
What would you with my child? I stand here for her.
She is accused of impious sacrilege,
And she must die.
Die! Who accuses her?
Bring the Chaldean.
Oh, the merchant’s seized
And all is known. Deny it, my sweet lady,
And we may yet be saved.
Oh poor, poor merchant!
Did I unloose thy bonds in vain?
And why should I conceal it, Diomede?
What I had courage in my heart to do,
Surely I can have courage to avow.
But they will kill us both.
I am a princess.
Why should I lie? From fear? But I am not afraid.
Meanwhile the soldiers have brought Smerdas to the front.
Look, merchant. Say before all who rescued thee?
She was it?
It is she. Oh, do not look
With that sad smile upon me. I am compelled.
Is this the slave-girl?
It is she.
Lies at thy bidding. Put him to the question.
I’ll not permit it.
Why man, it is the law. We’ll not believe
Our little princess did the crime.
Look at the paltering priest. Do you not see
It is a plot, this man his instrument
Who lies so wildly? He’ll not have him questioned.
No doubt ’twas he himself released the man,-
Who else could do it in this solemn temple
Where human footsteps fear to tread? He uses
The name of great Poseidon to conceal
His plottings. He would end the line of Cepheus
And reign in Syria.
This sounds probable.
Does he misuse Poseidon’s name? Unbind
Victims? Kill him!
Look how he pales, O people!
Is’t thus that great Poseidon’s herald looks
When charged with the god’s fearful menaces?
He diets you with forgeries and fictions.
Let him be strangled!
This is a royal woman.
Well, let the merchant then be put to question.
Come and be tickled, merchant. I am the butcher.
Do you see my cleaver? I will tortureyou kindly.
O help me, save me, lady Andromeda.
Oh, do not lay your cruel hands upon him.
I did release him.
Ah, child Andromeda.
You, little princess! Wherefore did you this?
Because I would not have their human hearts
Mercilessly uprooted for the bloody
Monster you worship as a god! Because
I am capable of pain and so can feel
The pain of others! For which if you I love
Must kill me, do it. Alone am guilty.
Now, Cassiopea! You are silent, Queen.
Lo, Syrians, lo, my forgeries and fictions!
Lo, my vile plottings! Enough, Poseidon wills
That on the beach this criminal be bound
For monsters of the sea to rend in fragments,
And all the royal ancient blood of Syria
Must be poured richly forth to appease and cleanse,
Swords from the scabbard! Gyre in your King form harm;
Chaldeans! Hew your way through all opposers!
Thou in my arms, my child Andromeda!
I’ll keep my daughter safe upon my bosom
Against the world.
What dost thou, Babylonian?
To the palace,
My trusty countrymen!
Oppose them, soldiers!
They cheat the god of the crime-burdened heads
Doomed by his just resentment.
We are few:
And how shall we lay hands on royalty?
Nebassar, darest thou oppose the gods?
Out of my sword’s way, priest! I do my duty.
Draw, King of Tyre!
‘Tis not my quarrel, priest.
Nebassar and the Chaldeans with drawn swords go out from the Temple, taking the King and
Queen, Andromeda and Diomede.
People of Syria, you have let them pass!
You fear not then the anger of Poseidon?
Would you have us spitted upon the Chaldean swords? Mad priest must we be broached like joints and tossed like pancakes? We have no weapons. Tomorrow we will go to the Palace and what must be done shall be done. But ’tis not just that many should be slain for the crime of one and the house of Syria outrooted. Follow me and observe my commands, brave aristocracy of the shop, gallant commoners of the lathe and anvil, follow Perissus. I will lead you tonight to your soft downy beds and tomorrow to the Palace.
All the Syrians go out led by Therops and Perissus.
Thou hast done foolishly in this, O priest.
Hadst thou demanded the one needful head
Of Iolaus, it was easy: but now
The tender beauty of Andromeda
Compels remorse and the astonished people
Recoil from the bold waste of royal blood
Thou appointest them to spill. I see that zeal
And frantic superstition are bad plotters.
Henceforth I work for my sole hand, to pluck
My own good from the storms of civic trouble
This night prepares.
He goes out with his Tyrians.
O terrible Poseidon,
Thyself avenge thyself! Hurl on this people
The sea and the Assurian. Where is the power
Thou said’st should tarry with me? I have failed.
He remains sunk in thought for a while,then raises his head
Tomorrow, Syrian? Tomorrow is Poseidon’s