Act IV, Scene III

 
    A room commanding the outer court of the palace.
    Nebassar, Praxilla.

PRAXILLA
    I have seen them from the roof ; at least ten thousand
    March through the streets. Do you not hear their rumour,
    A horrid hum as of unnumbered hornets.
    That slowly nears us?

NEBASSAR
    If they are so many,
    It will be hard to save the princess.

PRAXILLA
    Save her!
    It is too late now to save anyone

NEBASSAR
    I fear so

PRAXILLA
    But near is too late to die
    As loyal servants for the lords whose bread
    We have caten. As least we women of the household
    Will show the way to you Chaldeans.

NEBASSAR
    We are soldiers,
    Praxilla, and need no guidance on a road
    We daily tread in prospect. I’ll bring my guards.
    He goes out saluting Cassiopea who enters.
    Swift Diomede must have reached by now,
    Praxilla.

PRAXILLA
    I hope so, madam.

She goes out to the inner apartments.

CASSIOPEA
    Then Iolaus
    Is safe. My sad heart has at least that comfort.
    O my Andromeda, my child Andromeda,
    Thou wouldst not let me save thee. Hadst thou too gone,
    I would have smiled when their fierce fingers rent me.

Cepheus enters.

CEPHEUS
    The mob is nearing; all my Syrian guards
    Have fled; we cannot hope for safety now.

CASSIOPEA
    Then what is left but so set rapid fire
    To the rafters and prevent on friendly swords
    The rabble’s outrage?

CEPHEUS
    Was it for such a fate
    Thou camest smiling from an emperor’s palace,
    O Cassiopea, Cassiopea!

CASSIOPEA
    For me
    Grieve not.

CEPHEUS
    O Lady, princess of Chaldea,
    Pardon me who have brought thee to this doom.
    Yet I meant well and thought that I did wisely;
    But the gods wrest our careful policies
    To their own ends until we standappalled
    Remembering what we meant to do and seeing
    What has been done.

CASSIOPEA
    With no half soul I come
    To share thy kingdom and thy joys; entirely
    I came, to take the evil also with thee.

CEPHEUS
    Is there no truth in our high-winging ideals?
    My rule was mild as spring, kind as the zephyr:
    It tempered justice with benevolence
    And offered pardon to the rebel and sinner;
    I showed mercy, the rare sign of gods and kings.
    In this to difficult world, this too brief life
    To serve the gods with virtue seemed the best.
    A nation’s happiness was my only care:
    I made the people’s love my throne’s sure base
    And dreamed the way I chose true, great, divine.
    But the heavenly gods have other thoughts than man’s;
    Their awful aims transcend our human sight.
    Another doom than I had hoped they gave.

CASSIOPEA
    A screened Necessity drives even the gods.
    Over human lives it strides to unseen ends;
    Our tragic failures are its stepping-stones.

CEPHEUS
    My father lived calm, just, pitiless, austere,
    As a stern god might sway a prostrate world:
    Admired and feared, he died a mighty king.
    My end is this abominable fate.

CASSIOPEA
    Another law than mercy’s rules the earth.

CEPHEUS
    If I had listened to thee, O Cassiopea,
    Chance might have taken a fairer happier course.
    Always thou sadist to me, ‘The people’s love
    Is a glimmer on quicksands in a gliding sea:
    Today they are with thee, to-morrow turn elsewhere.
    Wisdom, strength, policy alone are sure.’
    I thought I better knew my Syrian folk.
    Is this not my well-loved people at my door,
    This tiger-hearted mob with bestial growl,
    This cry for blood to drink, this roar of hate?
    Always thou spok’st to me of the temple’s power,
    A growing danger menacing the State.
    Its ambition’s panther crouch and serpent pride
    And cruel craft in a priest’s sombre face:
    I only saw the god and sacred priest.
    To priest and god I am thrown a sacrifice.
    The golden-mouthed orator of the market-place,
    Therops, thou bad’st me fear and quell or win
    Gaining his influence to my side. To me
    He seemed a voice and nothing but a voice.
    Too late I learn that human speech has power
    To change men’s hearts and turn the stream of Time.
    Thy eyes could read in Phineus’ scheming brain.
    I only thought to buy the strength of Tyre
    Offering my daughter as unwilling price.
    He has planned my fall and watches my agony.
    At every step I have been blind, have failed:
    All was my error; all’s lost and mine the fault.

CASSIOPEA
    Blame not thyself; what thou hadst to be, thou wert,
    And never yet came help from vain remorse.
    It is too late, too late. To die is left;
    Fate and the gods concede us nothing more.

CEPHEUS
    But strength to meet the doom is always ours.
    In royal robes and crowned we will show ourselves
    To our people and look in the eyes of death and fate.
    What is this armoured tramp?
    The Chaldean guards enter with Nebassar at their head.

CAPTAINS
    O King, we come
    To die with thee, the soldiers of Chaldean;
    For all in Syria have abandoned thee.

CEPHEUS
    I thank you, soldiers.

CRIES OUTSIDE
    Poseidon, great Poseidon! we are Poseidon’s people. In, in, in!
    Kill the cuckold Cepheus, tear the harlot Cassiopea.

CEPHEUS
    Voices of insolent outrage
    Proclaim the heartless rabble. On the steps
    Of our own palace we’ll receive our subjects.

CASSIOPEA
    This, this becomes thee, monarch.

NEBASSAR
    Soldiers, from
    With serried points before these mighty sovereigns.

The mob suges in, Therops and Perissus at their head, Polydaon a little behind, Damoetes,
Morus and the rest. Praxilla and others of the household come running in.

MOB
    On them! On them! Cut the Chaldeans to pieces!

THEROPS
    Halt, people, halt: let there be no vain bloodshed

CASSIOPEA
    Here is a tender-hearted demagogue!

THEROPS
    Cepheus and Cassiopea, ’tis vain and heinous
    To dally with your fate; it will only make you
    More criminal before the majesty
    Of the offended people.

CEPHEUS
    Majesty!

CASSIOPEA
    An unwashed majesty and a wolf-throated!

THEROPS
    Insolent woman, to thee I speak not. Cepheus,-

CEPHEUS
    Use humbler terms. I am thy King as yet.

THEROPS
    The last in Syria. Tell me, wilt thou give up
    Thy children to the altar, and thyself
    Surrender here with this Chaldean woman
    For mercy or judgment to the assembled will
    Of Syria.

CASSIOPEA
    A tearing mercy, a howling judgment!

POLYDAON
    Therops, why do you treat with these? Chaldeans!
    And you, Praxilla! Women of the household!
    Bring out the abominable Andromeda
    Who brought the woe on Syria. Why should you vainly
    Be ripped and mangled?

CRIES OF WOMEN
    Bring out Andromeda!
    Bring out the harlot’s daughter, bring her out!

CRIES OF MEN
    Andromeda! Andromeda! Andromeda!
    Bring out this vile Andromeda to die!
    Andromeda enters from the inner palace, followed
    By slave-girls entreating and detaining her.

PRAXILLA (sorrowfully)
    Wilt thou be wilful even to the end?

CASSIOPEA
    Alas, my child!

ANDROMEDA
    Mother, weep not for me. perhaps my death
    May save you; and ’tis good that I should die,
    Not these poor innocent people. Against me
    Their unjust god is wroth.

CEPHEUS
    O my poor sunbeam!

ANDROMEDA (advancing and showing herself to the people)
    O people who have loved me, you have called me
    And I am here.

A fierce roar from the mob.

THEROPS
    How she shrinks back appalled!

PRAXILLA
    God! What a many-throated howl of demons!
    Their eyes glare death. These are not men and Syrians.
    The fierce Poseidon has possedssed their breasts
    And breathed his awful blood-lust into all hearts
    Deafening the voice of reason, slaying pity:
    Poseidon’s rage glares at us through these eyes,
    It is his ocean roar that fills our streets.

Cries from the mob.

BALTIS
    Seize her! Seize her! The child of wickedness!

VOICES OF WOMEN
    Throw her to us! Throw her to us! We will pick
    The veins out of her body one by one.

DAMOETES

Throw her to us! We will burn her bit by bit.

MORUS
    Yes, cook her alive; no, Damoetes? Ho, ho, ho!

VOICES OF MEN
    She has killed our sons and daughters: kill her! Kill her.

VOICES OF WOMEN
    She is the child of her wicked mother: kill her!

MOB
    Throw her to us! Throw her to us!

MEGAS
    We’ll tear her here, and the furies shall tear her afterwards for ever in Hell.

THEROPS
    Peace, people! She is not yours, she is Poseidon’s.

ANDROMEDA
    Alas, why do you curse me? I am willing
    To die for you. If I had known this morn
    The monster’s advent, I would have gone and met him
    While you yet slept, and saved your poor fair children
    Whose pangs have been my own. Had I died first,
    I should not then have suffered. O my loved people,
    You loved me too: when I went past your homes,
    You blessed me always; often your girls and mothers
    Would seize and bind me to their eager breasts
    With close imprisonment, kiss on their doorways
    And with a smiling soft reluctance leave.
    O do not curse me now! I can bear all,
    But not your curses.

PERISSUS
    Alack, my pretty lady!
    What madness made you do it?

POLYDAON
    She has rewarded
    Your love by bringing death upon you, Syrians,
    And now she tries to melt you by her tears.

MOB
    Kill her, kill her! Cut the Chaldeans to pieces! We will have her!

PASITHA
    O do not hurt her! She is like my child
    Who the fierce monster tore.

MEGAS
    Unnatural mother!
    Would you protect her who’s cause your child was eaten?

PASITHA
    Will killing her give back my child to me?

MEGAS
    No, it will save the children of more mothers.

DAMOETES
    Gag up her puling mouth, the white-faced fool!

VOICES
    Tear, tear Andromeda! Seize her and tear her!

WOMEN
    Let us only get at her with our teeth and fingers!

NEBASSAR
    Use swords, Chaldeans.

POLYDAON
    Order, my children, order!
    Chaldean, give us up Andromeda,
    And save your King and Queen.

NEBASSAR
    What, wilt thou spare them?

CASSIOPEA
    Thou wilt not give my child to him, Nebassar?
    Thou dar’st not!

NEBASSAR
    Queen, ’tis better one should die
    For all.

POLYDAON
    I swear to thee, I will protect them.

CASSIOPEA
    Trust not his oaths, his false and murderous oaths.

NEBASSAR
    He is a priest: if we believe him, nothing
    We love, something may gain.

MEGAS
    What wilt thou do?
    The people do not like it. See, they mother.

POLYDAON
    Let me have first their daughter in my grip,
    Be sure of the god’s dearest victim. People,
    I am Poseidon’s priest and your true friend.
    Leave all to me.

CRIES
    Leave all to Polydaon! The good priest knows what he is doing.

POLYDAON
    Soldiers, give up the princess.

NEBASSAR
    Shall she be only given to Poseidon?
    Will you protect her from worse outrage?

POLYDAON
    I will.

PRAXILLA
    Look! what a hideous triumph lights the eyes
    Of that fierce man. He glares at her with greed
    Like a wild heast of prey, and on his mouth
    There is a cruel unclean foam. Nebassar,
    O do not give her.

NEBASSAR
    If there were any help!
    Go forth, O princess, O Andromeda.

CASSIOPEA
    My child! My child!

ANDROMEDA
    Give me one kiss, my mother.
    We shall yet meet. I think. My royal father,
    Andromeda farewells you, whom you loved
    And called your sunbeam. But the night receives me.

CEPHEUS
    Alas!

DAMOETES
    How long will these farewells endure?
    They are not needed: you shall meet presently
    Death’s angles can collect your tattered pieces.

CASSIOPEA
    O savage Syrians, let my curses brood
    Upon your land, an anguished mother’s curse.
    May the Assyrian come and flay you living,
    Impale your sons, rip up your ravished daughters
    Before your agonising eyes and make you feel,
    Who drag my child from me to butcher her,
    The horror that you do. I curse you, Syrians.

ANDROMEDA
    Hush, mother, mother! What they demand is just.

NEBASSAR
    Lead back the King and Queen into the Palace,
    Women. We too will from this sad surrender
    Remove your eyes.

CASSIOPEA
    I will not go. Let them tear her
    Before me: then surely Heaven will avenge me.

CEPHEUS
    Come, Cassiopea, come: our death’s delayed
    By a few minutes. I will not see her slain.

Cepheus and Praxilla go in, forcibly leading Cassiopea;
they are followed by the slave-girls and then by Nebassar and the Chaldeans:
Andromeda is left alone on the steps.

CRIES OF THE MOB (surging forward)
    Drag her, kill her, she is ours.

POLYDAON
    Therops and thou, Perissus, stand in front
    And keep the people off, or they will tear her,
    Defraud Poseidon.

PERISSUS
    Cheer up, my princess, come!
    You shall be cleanly killed.

THEROPS
    People of Syria,
    Rob not Poseidon of his own! ’tis not the way
    To turn his anger.

VOICES
    Right, right! Leave her to Poseidon: out with her to the sea-monster.

GARDAS
    Therops is always right.

DAMOETES
    We will have her fist: we will dress his banquet for him: none shall say us nay.

MORUS
    Good; we will show Poseidon some excellent cookery. Ho, ho, ho!

MEGAS
    No, no, no! To the rocks with her! Strip her, the fine dainty princess, and hang her up in chains on the cliff-face.

A WOMAN
    Strip her! Of with her broidered robe and her silken tunic!
    Why should she wear such, when my daughter carries only coarse woollen?

A WOMAN (shaking her fist)
    Curse the white child’s face of thee. It has ruined Syria. Die, dog’s daughter.

DAMOETES
    Is she to die only once who has killed so many of us? I say, tie her to one of these pillars and flog her till she drops.

MORUS
    That’s right, skin her with whips: peel her for the monster, ho, ho, ho!

BALTIS
    Leave her: Hell’s tortures shall make the account even.

POLYDAON
    In order, children: let all be done in order.

THEROPS
    She droops like a bruised flower beneath their curses,
    And the tears lace her poor pale cheeks like frost
    Glittering on snowdrops. I am sorry now
    I had a hand in this.

ANDROMEDA
    You two have faces
    Less cruel than the others. I am willing
    To die, – oh, who would live to be so hated?
    But do not let them shame or torture me.

PERISSUS
    Off! Off! Thick-brained dogs, loud-lunged asses! What do you do, yelping and braying here? Will you give a maimed meal to Poseidon’s manhound? Do you know me not? Have you never heard of Perissus, never seen Perissus the butcher? I guard Poseidon’s meat, and whoever toches a morsel of it, I will make meat of him with my cleaver. I am Perissus, I am the butcher.

VOICES
    It is Perissus, the good and wealthy butcher. He is right. To the rocks with her!

VOICES OF WOMEN
    Bind her first: we will see her bound!

PERISSUS
    In all that is rational, I will indulge you.
    Where is a cord?

CRIES
    A cord, who has a cord?

DAMOETES
    Here is one, Perissus. ‘Tis rough and strong and sure.

PERISSUS
    Come, wear your bracelets.

ANDROMEDA
    O bind me not so hard!
    You cut my wrists.

She weeps.

PERISSUS
    You are too soft and tender.
    There, dry your eyes, – but that, poor slip, you cannot .
    See, I have tied you very lightly: say not
    That this too hurts.

ANDROMEDA
    I thank you; you are kind.

PERISSUS
    Kind! Why should I not be kind? Because I am a butcher must I have no bowels? Courage, little Princess: none shall hurt the but thy sea-monster and he, I am sure, will crunch thy little bones very tenderly. Never had man-eater such sweet bones to crunch. Alack! But where is the remedy!

POLYDAON
    Now take her to the beach and chain her there
    Upon the rocks to bear her punishment.
    Perissus, lead her forth! We’ll follow you.

CRIES
    Not I! Not I!

DAMOETES
    You’ld kill us, Polydaon!
    Poseidon’s anger walks by the sea-beaches.

POLYDAON
    The fierce sea-dragon will not hurt you, friends,
    Who bring a victim to Poseidon’s altar
    Of the rude solemn beaches. I’ll protect you.

CRIES
    We’ll go with Polydaon! With the good Polydaon!

POLYDAON
    Perissus, go before. We’ll quickly come.

PERISSUS
    Make way there or I’ll make it with my cleaver.
    Heart, little Princess! None shall touch thee. Heart!

Perissus and others make their way out with Andromeda.

POLYDAON
    Hem, people, hem the Palace in with myriads:
    We’ll pluck out Cepheus and proud Cassiopea.

CRIES
    Kill Cepheus the cuckold, the tyrant! Tear the harlot Cassiopea.

THEROPS
    Is this thy sacred oath? Had not Nabassar
    Thy compact, priest?

POLYDAON
    I swore not by Poseidon
    Wilt thou oppose me?

THEROPS
    Thy perjury too much
    Favours my private wishes. Yet would I not
    Be thou with such a falsehood on my conscience.

POLYDAON
    Why, therops, be thyself and thou shalt yet
    Be something great in Syria.

DAMOETES
    Where’s Iolaus?
    Shall be not also die?

POLYDAON
    Too long forgotten!
    O that I should forget my dearest hatred!
    By this he has concealed himself or fled
    And I am baulked of what I chiefly cherished.

THEROPS
    Oh, do them justice! The great house of Syria
    Were never cowards. The prince has been o’erwhelmed
    On his way hither with rash sword to rescue:
    So Aligattas tells, who came behind us.
    He’s taken to the temple.

POLYDAON
    Heard you?

MOB
    Hurrah!

BALTIS
    But what’s the matter now with our good priest?
    His veins are all out and his face is blood-red!

DAMOETES
    This joy is too great for him.

POLYDAON
    I am god,
    A god of blood and roaring victory.
    Oh, blood in rivers! His heart out of his breast,
    And his mother there to see it! And I to laugh
    At her, to laugh!

THEROPS
    This is not sanity.

POLYDAON (controlling himself with a great effort)
    The sacrilegious house is blotted out
    Of Cepheus. Let not one head outlive their ending!
    Andromeda appoints the way to Hades
    Who was in crime the boldest, then her brother
    Yells on the altar: last Cepheus and his Queen -

CRIES
    Tear her! Let the Chaldean harlot die.

POLYDAON
    She shall be torn! But not till she has seen
    The remnants of the thing that was her daughter:
    Not till her sweet boy’s heart has been plucked out
    Under her staring eyes from his red bosom.
    Till then she shall not die. But afterwards
    Strew with her fragments every street of the city.

CRIES
    Hear, hear Poseidon’s Viceroy, good Polydaon!

MEGAS
    In! in! cut off their few and foreign swordsmen.

CRIES
    In! in! let not a single Chaldean live.

The mob rushes into the Palace: only Therops and Polydaon remain.

POLYDAON
    Go, Therops, take good care of Cassiopea,
    Or she will die too mercifully soon.

THEROPS (aside)
    How shall we bear this grim and cruel beast
    For monarch, when all’s done! He is not human.

He goes into the Palace.

POLYDAON
    I have set Poseidon’s rage in human hearts;
    His black and awful influence flows from me.
    Thou art a mighty god, Poseidon, yet
    And mightily thou hast avenged thyself.
    The drama’s nearly over. Now to ring out
    The royal characters amid fierce holings
    And splendid, pitiless, crimson massacre, –
    A great finale! Then, then I shall be King.
    (As he speaks, he gesticulates more
    wildly and his madness gains upon him.)
    Thou luckless Phineus, wherefore didst thou leave
    So fortunate a man for thy ally?
    The world shall long recall King Polydaon.
    I will paint Syria gloriously with blood.
    Hundreds shall daily die to incarnadine
    The streets of my city and my palace floors,
    For I would walk in redness. I’ll plant my gardens
    With heads instead of litacs. Hecatombs
    Of men shall groan their hearts out for my pleasure
    In crimson rivers. I’ll not wait for shipwrecks.
    Assyrian captives and my Syrian subjects,
    Nobles and slaves, men, matrons, boys and virgins
    At matins and at vespers shall be slain
    To me in my magnificent high temple
    Beside my thunderous Ocean. I will possess
    Women each night, who the next day shall die,
    Encrimsoned richly for the eye’s delight.
    My heart throngs out in words! What moves within me?
    I am athirst, magnificently athirst,
    And for a red and godlike wine. Whence came
    The thirst on me? it was not here before.
    ‘Tis thou, ’tis thou, O grand and grim Poseidon,
    Hast made thy scarlet senssion in my soul
    And growest myself. I am not Polydaon,
    I am a god, a mighty dreadful god,
    The multitudinous mover in the sea,
    The shaker of the earth: I am Poseidon
    And I will walk in three tremendous paces
    Climbing the mountains with my clamorous waters
    And see my dogs eat up Andromeda.
    My enemy, and laugh in my loud billows.
    The clamour of battle roars within the Palace!
    I have created it, I am Poseidon.
    Sit’st thou, my elder brother, charioted
    In clouds? Look down, O brother Zeus, and see
    My action! They merit thy immortal gaze.

He goes into the Palace.