Act V, Scene II

 
   

The Temple of Poseidon.

Polydaon, Therops, Dercetes, Cydone, Damoetes and a great number of Syrians, men and women.
Iolaus stands bound, a little to the side: Cepheus and Cassiopea surrounded by armed men.

POLYDAON
    Cepheus and Cassiopea, man and woman,
    Not sovereigns now, you see what end they have
    Who war upon the gods.

CASSIOPEA
    To see thy end
    My eyes wait only.

POLYDAON
    Let them see something likelier,
    Is’t not thy son who wears those cords and that
    An altar? what! the eyes are drownded in tears
    Where fire was once so ready! Where is thy pride,
    O Cassiopea?

CASSIOPEA
    There are other gods
    Than thy Poseidon. they shall punish thee.

POLYDAON
    If thou knew’st who I am, which is most secret,
    Thou wouldst not utter vain and foolish wishes.
    When thou art slain, I will reveal myself.

CASSIOPEA
    Thou hast revealed thyself for what thou art
    Already, a madman and inhuman monster.

CEPHEUS
    My queen, refrain from words.

DAMOETES
    Perissus comes.

CASSIOPEA
    Ah God!

THEROPS
    Look, the Queen swoons! Oh, look to her!

Perissus enters.

POLYDAON
    Yes, raise her up, bring back her senses: now
    I would not have them clouded. News, Perissus!
    Thy face is troubled and thy eyes stare wildly.

PERISSUS
    Stare, do they? They may stare, for they have cause.
    You too will stare soon, Viceroy Polydaon.

THEROPS
    What rare thing happened? The heavens were troubled strangely,
    Although their rifts were blue. What hast thou seen?

PERISSUS
    I have seen hell and heaven at grips together.

POLYDAON
    What do I care for hell or heaven? Your news!
    Did the sea-monster come and eat and go?

PERISSUS
    He came but went not.

POLYDAON
    Was not the maiden seized?

PERISSUS
    Ay, was she, in a close and mighty grasp.

POLYDAON
    By the sea-beast?

PERISSUS
    ‘Tis said we all are animals;
    Then so was he: but ’twas glorious beast.

POLYDAON
    And was she quite devoured?

PERISSUS
    Why, in a manner,-
    If kisses eat.

POLYDAON
    Ha! Ha! Such soft caresses
    May all my enemies have. She was not torn?
    What, was she taken whole and quite engulfed?

PERISSUS
    Something like that.

POLYDAON
    You speak with difficult slowness
    And strangely. Where’s your blithe robustness gone,
    Perissus?

PERISSUS
    Coming, with the beast. He lifted her
    Mightly from the cliff to heaven.

POLYDAON
    So, Queen,
    Nothing is left thee of Andromeda.

PERISSUS
    Why, something yet, a sweet and handsome piece.

POLYDAON
    You should have brought it here, my merry butcher,
    That remnant of her daughter.

PERISSUS
    It is coming.

POLYDAON
    Ho, ho! Then you shall see your daughter, queen.

DERCETES
    This is a horrid and inhuman laughter.
    Restrain thy humour, priest! My sword’s uneasy.

THEROPS
    It is a scandal in Poseidon’s temple.

POLYDAON
    Do you oppose me?
    (to Therops)
    wilt thou resist Poseidon,
    misguided mortal?

DERCETES
    He glares and his mouth works,
    This is a maniac. Does a madman rule us?

THEROPS
    There has been much of violence and mad fierceness,
    Such as in tumults may be pardoned. Now
    It is the tranquil hour of victory.
    When decency should reign and mercy too.
    What do we gain by torturing this poor Queen
    And most unhappy King?

POLYDAON
    Hear him, O people!
    He favours great Poseidon’s enemies.
    Therops turns traitor.

DAMOETES
    He rails at the good priest.

CRIES
    Therops a traitor!

MEGAS
    Therops, thou favour kings?
    Thou traitor to Poseidon and his people?

GARDAS
    I say, Hear Therops. He is always right,
    Our Therops; he has brains.

CRIES
    Hear Therops, Therops!

THEROPS
    Let them be punished, but with exile only.
    I am no traitor. I worked for you, O people,
    When this false priest was with the King of Tyre
    Plotting to lay on you a foreign chain.

CRIES
    Is it so? Is it the truth? Speak, Polydaon.

POLYDAON
    Must I defend myself? Was it not I
    Who led you on to victory and turned
    The wrath of dire Poseidon? If you doubt me,
    Be then the sacrifice forbidden; let Cepheus
    And Cassiopea reign; but when the dogs
    Of grim Poseidon howl again behind you,
    Call not to me for help. I will not always pardon.

CRIES
    Polydaon, Polydaon, Poseidon’s mighty Viceroy! Kill Therops! Iolaus upon the altar!

POLYDAON
    Now you are wise again. Leave this Therops.
    Bring Iolaus to the altar here.
    Lay bare his bosom for the knife.

THEROPS
    Dercetes,
    Shall this be allowed?

DERCETES
    We must not dare offend
    Poseidon. But when it’s over, I’ll break in
    With all my faithful spears and save the King
    And Cassiopea. Therops, ‘twould be a nightmare,
    The rule of that fierce priest and fiercer rabble.

THEROPS
    With all the better sort I will support thee.

PERISSUS
    Therops, my crowd-compeller my eloquent Zeus of the marketplace. I know thy heart is big with the sweet passion of repentance, but let it not burst into action yet. Keep thy fleet sharp spears at rest, Dercetes. There are times, my little captain, and there is a season. Watch and wait. The gods are at work and Iolaus shall not die.

POLYDAON
    We only wait until our mighty wrath
    Is shown you in the mangled worst offender
    Against our godhead. Then, O Cassiopea,
    I’ll watch thy eyes.

PERISSUS
    Behold her, Polydaon.

Perseus and Andromeda enter the temple.

CRIES
    Andromeda! Andromeda! Who has unchained her?
    It is Andromeda!

CEPHEUS
    It is the spirit of Andromeda.

THEROPS
    Shadows were ne’er so bright, had never smile
    So sunny! She is given back to earth:
    It is the radiant winged Hermes brings her.

DERCETES
    ‘Tis he who baffled us upon the beach.
    I see the gods are busy in our Syria.

Andromeda runs to Cassiopea and clasps and kisses her knees:
the soldiers making way for her.

CASSIOPEA (taking Andromeda’s face between her hands)
    O my sweet child, thou livest!

ANDROMEDA
    Mother, mother!
    I live and see the light and grief is ended.

CASSIOPEA (lifting Andromeda into her arms)
    I hold thee living on my bosom. What grief
    Can happen now?

CEPHEUS
    Andromeda, my daughter!

POLYDAON (awaking from his amazement)
    Confusion! Butcher, thou hast betrayed me. Seize them!
    They shall all die upon my mighty altar.
    Seize them!

PERSEUS (confronting)
    Priest of Poseidon and of death,
    Three days thou gav’st me: it is but the second.
    I am here. Dost thou require the sacrifice?

POLYDAON
    Art thou a god? I am a greater, dreadfuller.
    Tremble and go from me: I need thee not.

PERSEUS
    Expect thy punishment. Syrians, behold me,
    The victim snatched from grim Poseidon’s altar.
    My sword has rescued sweet Andromeda
    And slain the monster of the deep. You asked
    For victims? I am here. Whose knife is ready?
    Let him approach.

THEROPS
    Who art thou, mighty hero?
    Declare unto this people thy renown
    And thy unequalled actions. What high godhead
    Befriends thee in battle?

PERSEUS
    Syrians, I am Perseus,
    The mighty son of Zeus and Danaë.
    The blood of gods is in my veins, the strength
    Of gods is in my arm: Athene helps me.
    Behold her aegis, which if I uncover
    Will blind you with its lightnings; and this sword
    Is Herpe, which can pierce the earth and Hades.
    What I have done, is by Athene’s strenth.
    Brone from Seriphos through pellucid air
    Upon these winged shoes, in the far west
    I have traversed unknown lands and nameless continents
    And seas where never came the plash of hum;an oars.
    On torrid coasts burned by the desert wind
    I have seen great Atlas buttressing the sky,
    His giant head companion of the stars,
    And changed him into a hill; the northern snows
    Illimitable I have trod, where Nature
    Is awed to silence, chilled to rigid whiteness;
    I have entered caverns dim where death was born:
    And I have taken from the dim-dwelling Graiae
    Their wondrous eye that sees the past and future:
    And I have slain the Gorgon, dire Medusa,
    Her head that turns the living man to stone
    Locking into my wallet: last, today,
    In Syria by the loud Aegean surges
    I have done his deed that men shall ever speak of.
    Ascending with winged feet the clamorous air
    I have cloven Poseidon’s monster whose rock-teeth
    And fiery mouth swallowed your sons and daughters.
    Where now has gone the sea-god’s giant stride
    That filled with heads of foam your fruitful fields?
    I have dashed back the leaping angry waters;
    His Ocean-force has yielded to mortal.
    Even while I speak, the world has changed around you
    Syrians, the earth is calm, the heavens smile;
    A mighty silence listens on the sea.
    All this I have done, and yet not I, but one greater.
    Such is Athene’s might and theirs who serve her.
    You know me now, O Syrians, and my strength
    I have concealed not. Let no man hereafter
    Complain that I deceived him to his doom.
    Speak now. Which of you all demands a victim?
    He pauses: there is silence.
    What, you have howled and maddened, bound sweet women
    For slaughter, roared to have the hearts of princes,
    And are you silent now? Who is for victims?
    Who sacrifices Perseus?

THEROPS
    Speak! Is there
    A fool so death-devoted?

PERSEUS
    Claims any man victims?

CRIES
    There’s none, great Perseus.

PERSEUS
    Then, I here release
    Andromeda and Iolaus, Syrians,
    From the death-doom: to Cepheus give his crown
    Once more. Does any man gainsay my action?
    Would any rule in Syria?

CRIES
    None, mighty Perseus

PERSEUS
    Iolaus, sweet friend, my work is finished.
    He severs his bonds.

IOLAUS
    O mighty father, suffer me for thee
    To take thy crown from the unworthy soil
    Where rude hands tumbled it. ‘Twill now sit steady.
    Dercetes, art thou loyal once again?

DERCETES
    For ever.

IOLAUS
    Therops!

THEROPS
    I have abjured rebellion.

IOLAUS
    Lead them royal parents to their home
    With martial pomp and music. And let the people
    Cover their foul revolt with meek obedience.
    One guiltiest head shall pay you forfeit: the rest,
    Since terror and religious frenzy moved
    To mutiny, not their sober wills, shall all
    Be pardoned.

CRIES
    Iolaus! Iolaus!
    Long live the Syrian, noble Iolaus!

IOLAUS
    Andromeda, and thou, my sweet Cydone,
    Go with them.

CEPHEUS
    I approve thy sentence, son.
    Dercetes and his soldiers, Therops and the Syrians leave
    Syrians leave the temple conducting Cepheus
    And Cassiopea, Andromeda and Cydone.

IOLAUS
    Now, Polydaon,-

POLYDAON
    I have seen all and laughed.
    Iolaus, and thou, O Argive Perseus,
    You know not who I am. I have endured
    Your foolish transient triumph that you might feel
    My punishments more bitter-terrible.
    ‘Tis time, ’tis time. I will reveal myself.
    Your horror-staring eyes shall know me, princes,
    When I hurl death and Ocean on your heads.

PERSEUS
    The man is frantic.

IOLAUS
    Defeat has turned him mad.

PERISSUS
    I have seen this coming on him for a season and a half. He was a fox at first, but this tumult gave him claws and muscles and he turned tiger. This is the end. What, Polydaon! Good cheer, priest! Roll not thy eyes: I am thy friend Perissus, I am thy old loving school-mate; are we not fellow-craftsmen, priest and butcher?

POLYDAON
    Do you not see? I wave my sapphire locks
    And earth is quaking. Quake, earth! Rise, my great Ocean!
    Earth, shake my foemen from thy back! Clasp, sea,
    And kiss them dead, thou huge voluptuary.
    Come barking from your stables, my sweet monsters:
    With blood-stained fangs and fiery mouths avenge me
    Mocking their victory. Thou, brother Zeus,
    Rain curses from thy skies. What, is all silent?
    I’ll tear thee, Ocean, into watery bits
    And strip thy oozy basal rocks quite naked
    If thou obey me not.

IOLAUS (advancing)
    He must be seized.
    And bound.

PERISSUS
    Polydaon, old crony, grows thy soul too great within thee? Dost thou kick the unworthy earth and hit out with thy noble firsts at Heaven?

IOLAUS
    It was a fit, it is over. He lies back white
    And shaking.

POLYDAON
    (As he speaks, his utterance is hacked by pauses of silence. He seems unconscious of those around him,
    his being is withdrawing from the body and he lives only in an inner consciousness and its vision.)

    I was Poseidon but this moment.
    Now he departs from me and leaves me feeble:
    I have become a dull and puny mortal.
    (half rising)
    It was not I but thou who feared’st, god.
    I would have spoken, but thou wert chilled and stone.
    What feared’st thou or whom? Wert thou alarmed
    By the godhead lurking in man’s secret soul
    Or deity greater than thy own appalled thee?…
    Forgive, forgive! Pass not away from me.
    Thy power is now my breath and I shall perish
    If thou withdraw…. He stands beside me still
    Shaking his gloomy locks and glares at me
    Saying it was my sin and false ambition
    Undid him. Was I not fearless as thou bad’st me?
    Ah, he has gone into invisible
    Vast silences!… whose, whose is this bright glory?
    One stands now in his place and looks at me.
    Imperious is his calm Olympian brow,
    The sea’s blue unfathomed depaths gaze from his eyes,
    Wide sea-blue locks crown his majestic shape:
    A mystic trident arms his tranquil might.
    As one new-born to himself and to the world
    He turns from me with the surges in his stride
    To seek his Ocean empire. Earth bows down
    Trembling with awe of his unbearable steps,
    Heaven is the mirror of his purple greatness….
    But whose was that dimmer and tremendous image?….
    A horror of darkness is around me still,
    But the joy and might have gone out of my breast
    And left me mortal, a poor human thing
    With whom death and the fates can do their will….
    But his presence yet is with me, near to me….
    Was I not something more than earthly man?…
    (with a cry)
    It was myself, the shadow, the hostile god!
    I am abandoned to my evil self.
    That was the darkness!… but there was something more.
    Insistent, dreadful, other than myself!
    Whoever thou art, spare me… I am gone, I am taken
    In his tremendous clutch he bears me off
    Into thick cloud; I see black Hell, the knives
    Fire-pointed touch my breast. Spare me, Poseidon…
    Save me, O brilliant God, forgive and save.

He falls back dead.

PERSEUS
    Who then can save a man from his own self?

IOLAUS
    He is ended, his own evil has destroyed him.

PERSEUS
    This man for a few hours became the vessel
    Of an occult and formidable Force
    And through his form it did fierce terrible things
    Unhuman: but his small and gloomy mind
    And impure dark heart could not contain the Force.
    It turned in him to madness and demoniac
    Huge longings. Then the Power withdrew from him
    Leaving the broken incapable instrument,
    And all its might was split from his body. Better
    To be a common man mid common men
    And live an unaspiring mortal life
    Than call into oneself a Titan strength
    Too dire and mighty for its human frame,
    That only afflicts the oppressed astonished world,
    Then breaks its user.

IOLAUS
    But best to be Heaven’s child.
    Only the sons of gods can harbour gods.

PERISSUS
    Art thou then gone, Polydaon? My monarch of breast-hackers, this was an evil ending. My heart is full of woe for thee, my fellow-butcher.

IOLAUS
    The gods have punished him for his offences,
    Ambition and a hideous cruelty
    Ingenious in mere horror.

PERSEUS
    Burn him with rites,
    If that may help his soul by dark Cocytus.
    But let us go and end these strange upheavals:
    Call Cireas from his hiding for reward,
    Tyrnaus too, and Smerdas from his prison,
    Fair Diomede from Cydone’s house.
    Humble or high, let all have their deserts
    Who partners were or causes of our troubles.

IOLAUS
    There’s Phineus will ask reasons.

PERSEUS
    He shall be satisfied.

PERISSUS
    He cannot be satisfied, his nose is too long; it will not listen to reason, for it thinks all the reason and policy in the world are shut up in the small brain to which it is a long hooked outlet.

PERSEUS
    Perissus, come with me: for thou wert kind
    To my fair sweetness; it shall be remembered.

PERISSUS
    There was nothing astonishing in that: I am as chockfull with natural kindness as a rabbit is with guts; I have bowels, great Perseus. For am I Perissus? Am I not the butcher?

They go out: the curtain falls.