A room commanding the outer court of the palace.
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?
If they are so many,
It will be hard to save the princess.
It is too late now to save anyone
I fear so
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.
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,
I hope so, madam.
She goes out to the inner apartments.
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.
The mob is nearing; all my Syrian guards
Have fled; we cannot hope for safety now.
Then what is left but so set rapid fire
To the rafters and prevent on friendly swords
The rabble’s outrage?
Was it for such a fate
Thou camest smiling from an emperor’s palace,
O Cassiopea, Cassiopea!
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.
With no half soul I come
To share thy kingdom and thy joys; entirely
I came, to take the evil also with thee.
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.
A screened Necessity drives even the gods.
Over human lives it strides to unseen ends;
Our tragic failures are its stepping-stones.
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.
Another law than mercy’s rules the earth.
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.
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.
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.
O King, we come
To die with thee, the soldiers of Chaldean;
For all in Syria have abandoned thee.
I thank you, soldiers.
Poseidon, great Poseidon! we are Poseidon’s people. In, in, in!
Kill the cuckold Cepheus, tear the harlot Cassiopea.
Voices of insolent outrage
Proclaim the heartless rabble. On the steps
Of our own palace we’ll receive our subjects.
This, this becomes thee, monarch.
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.
On them! On them! Cut the Chaldeans to pieces!
Halt, people, halt: let there be no vain bloodshed
Here is a tender-hearted demagogue!
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.
An unwashed majesty and a wolf-throated!
Insolent woman, to thee I speak not. Cepheus,-
Use humbler terms. I am thy King as yet.
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
A tearing mercy, a howling judgment!
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.
Wilt thou be wilful even to the end?
Alas, my child!
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.
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.
How she shrinks back appalled!
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.
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.
Throw her to us! We will burn her bit by bit.
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!
Throw her to us! Throw her to us!
We’ll tear her here, and the furies shall tear her afterwards for ever in Hell.
Peace, people! She is not yours, she is Poseidon’s.
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.
Alack, my pretty lady!
What madness made you do it?
She has rewarded
Your love by bringing death upon you, Syrians,
And now she tries to melt you by her tears.
Kill her, kill her! Cut the Chaldeans to pieces! We will have her!
O do not hurt her! She is like my child
Who the fierce monster tore.
Would you protect her who’s cause your child was eaten?
Will killing her give back my child to me?
No, it will save the children of more mothers.
Gag up her puling mouth, the white-faced fool!
Tear, tear Andromeda! Seize her and tear her!
Let us only get at her with our teeth and fingers!
Use swords, Chaldeans.
Order, my children, order!
Chaldean, give us up Andromeda,
And save your King and Queen.
What, wilt thou spare them?
Thou wilt not give my child to him, Nebassar?
Thou dar’st not!
Queen, ’tis better one should die
I swear to thee, I will protect them.
Trust not his oaths, his false and murderous oaths.
He is a priest: if we believe him, nothing
We love, something may gain.
What wilt thou do?
The people do not like it. See, they mother.
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.
Leave all to Polydaon! The good priest knows what he is doing.
Soldiers, give up the princess.
Shall she be only given to Poseidon?
Will you protect her from worse outrage?
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.
If there were any help!
Go forth, O princess, O Andromeda.
My child! My child!
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.
How long will these farewells endure?
They are not needed: you shall meet presently
Death’s angles can collect your tattered pieces.
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.
Hush, mother, mother! What they demand is just.
Lead back the King and Queen into the Palace,
Women. We too will from this sad surrender
Remove your eyes.
I will not go. Let them tear her
Before me: then surely Heaven will avenge me.
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.
Therops and thou, Perissus, stand in front
And keep the people off, or they will tear her,
Cheer up, my princess, come!
You shall be cleanly killed.
People of Syria,
Rob not Poseidon of his own! ’tis not the way
To turn his anger.
Right, right! Leave her to Poseidon: out with her to the sea-monster.
Therops is always right.
We will have her fist: we will dress his banquet for him: none shall say us nay.
Good; we will show Poseidon some excellent cookery. Ho, ho, ho!
No, no, no! To the rocks with her! Strip her, the fine dainty princess, and hang her up in chains on the cliff-face.
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.
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.
That’s right, skin her with whips: peel her for the monster, ho, ho, ho!
Leave her: Hell’s tortures shall make the account even.
In order, children: let all be done in order.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In all that is rational, I will indulge you.
Where is a cord?
A cord, who has a cord?
Here is one, Perissus. ‘Tis rough and strong and sure.
Come, wear your bracelets.
O bind me not so hard!
You cut my wrists.
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.
I thank you; you are kind.
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!
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.
Not I! Not I!
You’ld kill us, Polydaon!
Poseidon’s anger walks by the sea-beaches.
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.
We’ll go with Polydaon! With the good Polydaon!
Perissus, go before. We’ll quickly come.
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.
Hem, people, hem the Palace in with myriads:
We’ll pluck out Cepheus and proud Cassiopea.
Kill Cepheus the cuckold, the tyrant! Tear the harlot Cassiopea.
Is this thy sacred oath? Had not Nabassar
Thy compact, priest?
I swore not by Poseidon
Wilt thou oppose me?
Thy perjury too much
Favours my private wishes. Yet would I not
Be thou with such a falsehood on my conscience.
Why, therops, be thyself and thou shalt yet
Be something great in Syria.
Shall be not also die?
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.
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.
But what’s the matter now with our good priest?
His veins are all out and his face is blood-red!
This joy is too great for him.
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!
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 –
Tear her! Let the Chaldean harlot die.
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.
Hear, hear Poseidon’s Viceroy, good Polydaon!
In! in! cut off their few and foreign swordsmen.
In! in! let not a single Chaldean live.
The mob rushes into the Palace: only Therops and Polydaon remain.
Go, Therops, take good care of Cassiopea,
Or she will die too mercifully soon.
How shall we bear this grim and cruel beast
For monarch, when all’s done! He is not human.
He goes into the Palace.
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.