Act III, Scene III

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
    With lightnings.

    I hear the sound of dragging chains.
    Cireas returns with Tyrnaus and Smerdas.

    Smerdas and thou, Tyrnaus, once again
    We meet.

    Save me, yet save me.

    If thou art worth it,
    I may.

    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.

DIOMEDE (without)

CIREAS (jumping)
    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.

    Princess Andromeda!

PERSEUS (apart)
    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.

    What 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)
    Already free!
    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
    Or Phoebus?

    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.

    You must
    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
    Uncared for?

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!
    You loiter?

    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.