The countryside, high ground near the city of Cepheus.
A crowd of Syrians, men and women, running in terror, among them
Chabrias, Megas, Baltis, Pasithea, Morus, Gardas, Syrax.
BALTIS (stopping and sinking down on her knees)
Ah, whither can we run where the offended
Poseidon shall not reach us.
Let’s all die here together.
Let’s stop and die.
Run, run! Poseidon monsters howl behind.
O day of horror and of punishment!
Let us stay here; it is high ground, perhaps
The monster will not reach us.
I have seen the terror near, and yet I live.
It vomits fire for half a league.
As long as a sea-jutting promontory.
It has six monstrous legs.
Eight, eight; I saw it.
Chabrias, it caught thy strong son by the foot,
And dashed his head against a stone, that all
The brains were scattered.
Alas, my son! I will
Go back and join you in the monster’s jaws.
He is stopped by the others.
It seized thy daughter, O pasithea,
And tore her limbs apart, which it devoured
While yet the trunk lay scareaming under its foot,
Lift her up, lift her up. Alas!
These sorrows may be ours.
Ah! Heaven, my son!
I did not wake him when this news of horror
Plucked me from sleep.
My wife and little daughter
Are in my cottage where perhaps the monster
Vomits his fiery breath against the door.
I will go back.
Let us go back, Damoetes.
I’ll not go back for twenty thousand wives
And children. Life is sweet.
Let us not go.
They stop Gardas.
What noise is that?
Run, run, ’tis some new horror.
All are beginning to run. Therops enters.
Where will you run? Poseidon’s wrath is near you
And over you and behind you and before you.
His monsters from the ooze ravage howling
Along our shores, and the indignant sea
Swielled to unnatural tumultuous mountains
Is climbing up the cliffs with spume and turmoil.
O let us run a hundred leagues and live.
Before you is another death. Last night
The Assyrians at three points came breaking in
Across the border and the frontier forces
Are slain. They torture, burn and violate:
Young girls and matrons, men and boys are butchered.
Salvation is not in your front and flight
Casts you from angry gods to men more ruthless.
I wonder not that you are silent, stunned
With fear: but will you listen, countrymen,
And I will show you a cure for these fierce evils.
Oh tell us, tell us, you shall be our king.
We’ll set thy image by the great Poseidon’s
And worship it.
What is the unexampled cause of wrath
Which whelms you with these horrors? Is’t not the bold
Presumptuous line of Cepheus? Is’t not your kings
Whose pride swollen by your love and homage, Syraian,
Insults the gods, rescues Poseidon’s victims
And with a sacrilegious levity
Exposes all your lives to death woe?
There is the fount of all your misery, Syrians,
For this the horror eats you up, – your kings.
Away with them! Throw them into the sea – let Poseidon swallow them!
But most I blame the fell Chaldean woman
Who rules you. What is this Cepheus but a puppet
Dressed up in royal seemings, pushed forth and danced
At her caprice? Unhappy is the land
That women rule, that country more unhappy
That is to heartless foreigners a prey.
But thou, O ill-starred Syria, two worst evils
Hast harboured in a single wickedness.
What cares the light Chaldean for your gods,
Your lives, your sons, your daughters? She lives at ease
Upon the revenues of your hard toil,
Depending on favourites, yes, on paramours, –
For why have women favourites but to ease
Their sensual longings? – and insults your deities.
Do you not think she rescued the Chaldeans
Because they were her countrymen, and used
Her daughter, young Andromeda, for tool
That her fair childish beauty might disarm
Wrath and suspicion? Then, the crime unearthed,
Braved all and set her fierce Chaldeans’ heart, –
You did not hear that? – the good Polydaon
Who serves Poseidon with such zeal! Therefore
The god is angry: your wives, sisters, daughters,
Must suffer for Chaldean Cassiopea.
Let us seize her and kill, kill, kill, killher!
Tear her into a million fragments.
But are they not our kings? We must obey them.
Wherefore must we obey them? Kings are men,
And they are set above their fellow-mortals
To serve us, friends, – not, surely, for our hurt!
Why should our sons and daughters bleed for them,
Syrians? Is not our blood as dear, as precious,
As human? Why should these kings, these men, go clad
In purple and in velvet while you toil
For little and are hungry and are naked.
True, true, true!
This is a wonderful man, this Therops. He has a brain, countrymen.
A brain! He is no clever than you or I, Morus.
I should think not, Damoetes!
We knew these things long ago and did not need wind-bag
Therops to tell us!
We have talked them over often, Damoetes.
We’ll have no more kings, countrymen.
No kings, no kings!
Or Therops shall be king.
Yes. Therops king! Therops king!
Good king Lungs!
Oh, let us make him king. Morus. – he will
Not pass wind in the market-place so often.
Poseidon is our king; we are his people.
Gods we must a worship; why should we worship men
And set a heavenly crown on mortal weakness?
They have offended against great Poseidon,
They are guilty of a fearful sacilege.
Let them perish.
Kill them! Let us appease Poseidon.
Worship Heaven’s power, but bow before the king.
What need have we of king? What are these kings?
They are the seed of gods.
Then, let them settle
Themselves their quarrel with their Olympian kindred.
Why should we suffer? Let Andromeda
Be exposed and Iolaus sacrified;
Then shall Poseidon’s wrath retire again
Into the continent of his vast billows,
If it must be so, let it come by award
Of quiet justice.
Justice! They are the judges
Who did the crime. Wherefore dost thou defend them?
Thou favourest then Poseidon’s enemies?
Kill him too, kill Chabrias. Poseidon, great Poseidon! we are Poseidon’s people.
Let him join his son and by the same road,
Beat his brains out – to see if he has any. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Let him alone: he is a fool. Here comes
Our zealous good kind priest, our Polydaon.
Polydaon! Polydaon! The good Polydaon! Save us, Polydaon!
Ah, do you call me now to save you? Last night
You did not save me when the foreign swords
Were near my heart.
Forgive us and protect.
You, lead us to the palace, be our chief.
We’ll have no kings: lead, you: on to the palace!
Poseidon shall be king, thou his vicegerent.
Therops at thy right hand!
Yes, Therops! Therops!
Oh, you are sane now, being let blood by scourgings!
Unhurt had been much better. But Poseidon
Pardons and I will save.
Polydaon for ever, the good Polydaon, Poseidon’s Viceroy!
Swear then to do Poseidon’s will.
Command and watch the effect!
Will not the tongue
Of Cassiopea once more change you, people?
We’ll cut it out and feed her dogs with it.
Shall Iolaus bleed? Andromeda.
Be trailed through the city and upon the rocks,
As the god will, flung naked to his monsters?
Cepheus and Cassiopea die?
Not one of them shall live.
Then come, my children.
But the beast? Will it not tear us on the road?
It will not hurt you who do Poseidon’s will,
I am your safeguard; I will march in front.
To the palace, to the palace! We’ll kill the Chaldeans, strangle Cepheus, tear the Queen to pieces.
In order, in good order, my sweet children.
The mob surges out following Polydaon and Therops:
only Damoetes, Chabrias, Baltis and Pasithea are left.
Come, Chabrias, we’ll have sport.
My dead son call me.
He goes out in another direction.
Pasithea, rise and come: you’ll see her killed
Who is the murderess of your daughter.
Stay here and die.
Lift her up. Come, fool.
They go out, leading Pasithea.