In the Temple of Poseidon
I am done with thee, Poseidon Ennosigaios, man-slayer, ship-breaker, earth-shaker, lord of the water! Never was faithful service so dirtily rewarded. In all these years not a drachma, not an obolus, not even a false coin for solace. And when thou hadst mocked me with hope, when a Prince had promised me all my findings, puttest thou me off with two pauperised merchants of Babylon? What, thou takest thy loud ravenous glut of the treasures that should have been mine and roarest derision at me with thy hundred-voiced laughters? Am I a sponge to suck up these insults? No! I am only moderately porous. I will break thy treasury, Poseidon, and I will run. Think not either to send thy sea-griffins after me. For I will live on the top of Lebanon, and thy monsters, when they come for me, shall snort and grin and gasp for breath and return to thee baffled and asthmatic.
As he talks Iolaus and Perseus enter.
What, Cireas, wilt thou run? I’ll give thee gold
To wing thy shoes, if thou wilt do my bidding.
I am overheard! I am undone! I am crucified! I am disembowelled!
Be tranquil, Cireas, fool, I come to help thee.
Do you indeed! I see, they have made you a god, for you know men’s minds. But could old father Zeus find your newborn godhead no better work than to help thieves and give wings to runaways? Will you indeed help me, god Iolaus? I can steal then under thy welcome protection? I can borrow Poseidon’s savings and run?
Steal not: thou shalt have gold enough to but
Thy liberty and farms and slaves and cattle.
Prince, art thou under a vow of liberality? Or being about to die, wilt thou distribute thy goods and chattels to deserving dishonesty? Do not mock me, for if thou raise hopes again in me and break them, I can only hang myself.
I mock thee not, thou shalt have glut of riches.
What must I do? I’ld give thee nose and ears
For farms and freedom.
Wherefore dost thou bribe
This slave to undo a bond my sword unties?
I shrink from violence in the grim god’s temple.
Zeus, art thou there with thy feathers and phosphorus? I pray thee, my good bright darling Zeus, do not come in the way of my earnings. Do not be so cantankerously virtuous, do not be so damnably economical. Good Zeus, I adjure thee by thy foot-plumes.
Cireas, wilt thou bring forth the wretched captives
Who wait the butcher Polydaon’s knife
With groanings? We would talk with them. Wilt thou?
Will I? Will I? I would do any bad turn to that scanty-hearted rampageous old ship-swallower there. I would do it for nothing and for so much gold will I not?
And thou must shut thine eyes.
Eyes! I will shut mouth and nose and ears too, nor ask for one penny extra.
Dost thou not fear?
Oh, the blue-haired old bogy there? I have lived eighteen years in this temple and seen nothing of him but ivory and sapphires. I begin to think he cannot breathe out of water; no doubt, he is some kind of fish and walks on the point of his tail.
Enough, bring forth the Babylonian captives.
I run, Zeus, I run: but keep thy phosphorus lit and handy against Polydaon’s return unasked for and untrumpeted.
He runs out.
O thou grim calmness imaged like a man
That frown’st above the altar! dire Poseidon!
Art thou that god indeed who smooths the sea
With one finger, and when it is thy will,
Rufflest the oceans with thy casual breathing?
Art thou not rather, lord, some murderous
And red imagination of this people,
The shadow of a soul that dreamed of blood
And took this dimness? If thou art Poseidon,
The son of Cronos, I am Cronos’ grandchild,
Perseus, and in my soul Athene moves
I hear the sound of dragging chains.
Cireas returns with Tyrnaus and Smerdas.
Smerdas and thou, Tyrnaus, once again
Save me, yet save me.
If thou art worth it,
Thou shalt have gold. I am well worth it.
I’ll empty Babylonia of its riches
Into thy wallet.
Has terror made thee mad?
Refrain from speech! Thine eyes are calm, Tyrnaus.
I have composed my sould to my sad fortunes.
Yet wherefore sad? Fate has dealt largely with me.
I have been thrice shipwrecked, twice misled in deserts,
Wounded six times in battle with wild men
For life and treasure. I have outspent kings:
I have lost fortunes and amassed them: princes
Have been my debtors, kingdom lost and won
By lack or having of a petty fraction
Of my rich incomings: and now Fate gives me
This tragic, not inglorious death: I am
The banquet of a god. It fits, it fits,
And I repine not.
But will these help, Tyrnaus,
To pass the chill eternity of Hades?
This memory of glorious breathing life,
Will it alleviate the endless silence?
But there are lives beyond, and we meanwhile
Move delicately amid aerial things
Until the green earth wants us.
PERSEUS (shearing his chains with a touch of his sword)
Yet a while
Of the green earth take all thy frank desire,
Merchant: the sunlight would be loth to lose thee.
O radiant helpful youth! O son of splendous!
I live again.
Thou livest, but in chains,
But thy good sword will quickly shear them.
Thou wilt give me all Babylonia holds
Of riches for reward?
More, more, much more!
But thou must go to Babylon to fetch it.
Then what security have I of payment?
Keep good Tyrnaus here, my almost brother.
I will come back and give thee gold, much gold.
You’ld leave him here? In danger? with the knife
Searching for him and grim Poseidon angry?
What danger, when he is with thee, O youth,
Strong radiant youth?
Yourself then stay with me,
And he shall bring the ransom from Chaldea.
Here? Here? Oh God! They’ll seize me yet again
And cut my heart out. Let me go, dear youth,
Oh, let me go; I’ll give thee double gold.
Thou sordid treacherous thing of fears, I’ll not
Venture for such small gain as the poor soul
Thou holdest, nor drive with danger losing bargains.
Oh, do not jest! It is not good to jest
With death and horror.
I jest not.
Oh God! Thou dost.
Who? Who? Who?
Is’t not a woman’s voice?
Withdraw into the shadow: let our swords
Be out against surprise. Hither, Tyrnaus.
Cireas! Where are you, Cireas? It is I.
It is the little palace scamp, Diomede.
Plague take her! How she fluttered the heart in me!
Say nothing of us, merchant, or thou diest
Iolaus, Perseus and Tyrnaus withdraw into the dimness
Of the Temple. Andromeda and Diomede enter.
Iolaus’ rosy sister! O child goddess
Dropped recently from heaven! Its light is still
Upon thy face, thou marvel!
My little sister
In these grim precincts, who so feared their shadow!
Cireas, my servant Diomede means
To tell you of some bargain. Will you walk yonder?
Cireas and Diomede walk apart talking.
Art thou, as these chains say, the mournful victim
Our savage billows spared and men would murder?
But was there not another? Have they brought thee
From thy sad prison to the shrine alone?
He, – he, –
Has terror so possessed thy tongue,
It cannot do its office? Oh, be comforted.
Although red horror has its grasp on thee,
I dare to tell thee there is hope.
Ah heaven! What hope! I feel the knife even now
Hacking my bosom. If thou bring’st me hope,
I’ll know thee for a goddess and adore thee.
Be comforted: I bring thee more than hope,
You’ll give me chains? You’ll give me jewels?
All of my own that I can steal for you.
Steal boldly, O honey-sweet image of a thief, steal and fear not. I rose for good luck after all this excellent
morning! O Poseidon, had I known there was more to be pocketed in thy disservice than in thy service, would I
have misspent these eighteen barren years?
Undo this miserable captive’s bonds.
No, I’ll undo them, Cireas: I shall feel
I freed him. Is there so much then to unlink?
O ingenuity of men to hurt
And bind and slay their brothers!
‘Tis not a dream,
The horror was the dream. She smiles on me
A wonderful glad smile of joy and kindness,
Making a sunshine. Oh, be quicker, quicker.
Let me escape this hell where I have eaten
And drunk of terror and have slept with death.
Are you so careless of the friend who shared
The tears and danger? Where is he? Cireas!
TYRNAUS (coming forward)
O thou young goddess with the smile! Behold him,
Tyrnaus the Chaldean.
ANDROMEDA (dropping the chain which binds Smerdas)
Who has forestalled me?
Maiden, art thou vexed
To see me unbound?
I grudge your rescuer the happy task
Heaven meant for me of loosening your chains.
It would have been such joy to feel the cold
Hard irons drop apart between my fingers!
Who freed you?
A god as radiant as thyself,
Thou merciful sweetness.
Had he not a look
Like the olympian’s? was he not bright like Hermes
He was indeed. Thou know’st him then?
In dreams I have met him. He was here but now?
He has withdrawn into the shadow, virgin.
Why do you leave me bound, and talk, and talk,
As if Death had not still his fingers on me?
ANDROMEDA (resuming her task)
Forgive me! Tyrnaus, did that radiant helper
Who clove thy chains, forget to help this poor
Pale trembling man?
Because he showed too much
The sordid fear that pities only itself,
He left him to his fate.
Alas, poor human man!
Why, we have all so many sins to answer,
It would be hard to have cold justice dealt us.
We should be kindly to each other’s faults
Remembering our own. Is’t not enough
To see a face in tears and heal the sorrow,
Or must we weigh whether the face is fair
Or ugly? I think that even a snake in pain
Would tempt me to its succour, though I knew
That afterwards ‘twould bite me! but he is a god
Perhaps who did this and his spotless radiance
Abhors the tarnish of our frailer natures.
Oh, I am free! I fall and kiss thy robe,
O goddess, o deliverer.
Go quickly from this place. There is a cave
Near to those unkind rocks where you were shipwrecked,
A stone-throw up the cliff. We found it there
Climbing and playing. Reckless of our limbs
In the sweet joy of sunshine, breeze and movement,
When we were children, I and Diomede.
None else will dream of it. There have I stored
Enough of food and water. Closely lurk
Behind its curtains of fantastic stone:
Venture not forth, though your hearts pine for sunlight,
O r death may take you back into his grip.
When hot pursuit and search have been tired out,
I’ll find you golden wings will carry you
To your Chaldea.
Can you not find out divers
Who’ll rescue our merchandise from the sunk rocks
Where it is prisoned?
You have escaped grim murder,
Yet dream of nothing but your paltry gems!
You will call back Heaven’s anger on our heads.
We cannot beg our way to far Chaldea.
Diving is dangerous there: I will not risk
Men’s lives for money. I promised Cireas hat I have,
And yet you shall not go unfurnished home.
I’ll beg a sum form my brother Iolaus
Will help you to Chaldea.
O my dear riches!
Must you lie whelmed beneath the Syrian surge
ANDROMEDA (to Diomede)
Take them to the cave. Show Cireas
The hidden mouth. I’ll loiter and expect you
Under the hill-side, where sweet water plashes
From the grey fountain’s head, our fountain. Merchants, go;
Athene guard you!
Not before I kneel
And touch thy feet with reverent humble hands,
O human merciful divinity,
Who by thy own sweet spirit moved, unasked,
Not knowing us, cam’st from thy safe warm chamber
Here where Death broods grim-visaged in his home,
To save two unseen, unloved, alien strangers,
And being a woman feared not urgent death,
And being a child shook not before God’s darkness
And that insistent horror of a world
O’ershadowing ours. O surely in these regions
Where thou wert born, pure-eyed Andromeda,
There shall be some divine epiphany
Of calm sweet-hearted pity for the world,
And harsher gods shall fade into their Hades.
You prattle, and at any moment, comes
The dreadful priest with clutch upon my shoulder.
Come! Come! You, slave-girl lead the way, accursed!
Chide not my servant, Babylonian.
Go, Diomede; darkness like a lid
Will soon shut down upon the rugged beach
And they may stumble as they walk. Go, Cireas.
Diomede and Cireas go out,
Followed by the merchants.
Alone I stand before thee, grim Poseidon,
Here in thy darkness, with thy altar near
That keeps fierce memory of tortured groans
And human shrieks of victims, and, unforced,
I yet pollute my soul with thy bloody nearness
To tell thee that I hate, contemn, defy thee.
I am no more than a brief living woman,
Yet am I more divine than thou, for I
Can pity. I have torn thy destined prey
Form thy red jaws. Thy say thou dost avenge
Fearfully insult. Avenge thyself, Poseidon.
She goes out: Perseus and Iolaus come forward..
Thou art the mate for me, Andromeda!
Now, now I know wherefore my eager sandals
Bore me resisitlessly to thee and Syria.
This was Andromeda and not Andromeda,
I never saw her woman till this hour.
Knew you so ill the child you loved so well,
Sometimes we know them least
Whom most we love and constantly consort with.
How daintily she moved as if a hand
She loved were on her curls and she afraid
Of startling the sweet guest!
O Perseus, Perseus!
She has defied a strong and dreadful god,
And dreadfully he will avenge himself.
Iolaus, friend, I think not quite at random
Athene led me to these happy shores
That bore such beautiful twin heads for me
Sun-curled, Andromeda and Iolaus,
That I might see their beauty marred with death
By cunning priests and blood-stained gods. Fear not
The event. I bear Athene’s sword of sharpness.
They go out.