Act V, Scene III

The audience chamber of the palace,

Cepheus, Cassiopea, Andromeda, Cydone, Praxilla, Medes.

CEPHEUS
    A sudden ending to our sudden evils
    Propitious gods have given us, Cassiopea.
    Pursued by panic the Assyrian flees
    Abandoning our borders.

CASSIOPEA
    And I have got
    My children’s faces back upon my bosom.
    What gratitude can ever recompense
    That godlike youth whose swift and glorious rescue
    Lifted us out of Hell so radiantly?

CYDONE
    He has taken his payment in one small white coin
    Mounted with gold; and more he will not ask for.

CASSIOPEA
    Your name’s Cydone, child? Your face is strange.
    You are not of the slave-girls.

CYDONE
    O I am!
    Iolaus’ slave-girl, though he calls me sometimes
    His queen: but that is only ot beguile me.

ANDROMEDA
    Oh, mother, you must know my sweet Cydone.
    I shall think you love me little if you do not
    Take her into your bosom: for she alone,
    When I was lonely with my breaking heart,
    Came to me with sweet haste and comforted
    My soul with kisses, – yes, even when the terror
    Was rising from the sea, surrounded me
    With her light lovely babble, till I felt
    Sorrow was not in the same world as she.
    And but for her I might have died of grief
    Ere rescue came.

CASSIOPEA
    What wilt thou ask of me,
    Even to a crown, Cydone? Thou shalt have it.

CYDONE
    Nothing, unless ’tis leave to stand before you
    And be for ever Iolaus’ slave-girl
    Unchidden.

CASSIOPEA
    Thou shalt be more than that, my daughter.

CYDONE
    I have two mothers: a double Iolaus
    I had already. O you girl-Iolaus,
    You shall not marry Persues: you are mine now.
    Oh, if you have learned to blush!

ANDROMEDA (stopping her mouth)
    Hush, you mad babbler!
    Or I will smother your wild moth with mine.
    Perseus and Iolaus enter.

CEPHEUS
    O welcome, brilliant victor, mighty Perseus!
    Saviour of Syria, angel of the gods,
    Kind was the fate that led thee to our shores.

CASSIOPEA (embracing Iolaus)
    Iolaus, Iolaus, my son!
    My golden-haired delight they would have murdered!
    Perseus, hast thou a mother?

PERSEUS
    One like thee
    In love, O Queen, though less in royalty.

CASSIOPEA
    What can I give thee then who hast the world
    To move in, thy courage and thy radiant beauty,
    And a tender mother? Yet take my blessing, Perseus,
    To help thee: for the mightiest strengths are broken
    And divine favour lasts not long, but blessings
    Of those thou helpest with thy kindly strength
    Upon life’s rugged way, can never fail thee.

CEPHEUS
    And what shall I give, seed of bright Olympus?
    Wilt thou have half my kingdom, Argive Perseus?

PERSEUS
    Thy kingdom falls by right to Iolaus
    In whom I shall enjoy it. One gift thou hadst
    I might have coveted, but she is mine,
    O monarch: I have taken her from death
    For my possession.

CEPHEUS
    My sunny Andromeda!
    But there’s the Tyrian: yet he gave her up
    To death and cannot now reclaim her.

IOLAUS
    Father,
    The Babylonian merchants wait, and Cireas:
    The people’s leaders and thy army’s captains
    Are eager to renew an interrupted
    Obedience.

CEPHEUS
    Admit them all to me: go, Medes.
    As Medes goes out, Diomede enters.

ANDROMEDA
    Diomede! Playmate! You too have come quite safe
    Out of the storm. I thought we both must founder.

DIOMEDE
    Oh, yes, and now you’ll marry Perseus, leave me
    No other playmate than Praxilla’s whippings
    To keep me lively!

ANDROMEDA
    Therefore ’tis you look
    So discount and sullen? Clear your face,
    I’ll drag you to the world’s far end with me,
    And take in my own hands Praxilla’s duty.
    Will that please you?

DIOMEDE
    As if your little hand could hurt!
    I’m off, Praxilla, to pick scarlet berries
    In Argolis and hear the seabirds’ cires
    And ocean singing to the Cyclades.
    I’ll buy you brand new leather for a relic
    To whip the memory of me with sometimes,
    Praxilla.

PRAXILLA
    You shall taste it then before you go.
    You’ll make a fine fair couple of wilfulnesses,
    I pity Perseus.

ANDROMEDA
    You are well rid of us,
    My poor Praxilla.

PRAXILLA
    Princess, little princess,
    My hands will be lighter, but my heart too heavy.
    Therops and Dercetes enter with the Captains of
    The army, Cireas, Tyrnaus, and Smerdas.

ALL
    Hail, you restored high royalties of Syria.

THEROPS
    O King, accept us, be the past forgotten.

CEPHEUS
    It is forgotten, Therops. Welcome, Dercetes.
    Thy friend Nebassar is asleep. He has done
    His service for the day and taken payment.

CASSIOPEA
    His blood is a deep stain on Syria’s bosom.

DERCETES
    On us the stain lies, queen: but we will drown it
    In native streams, when we go forth to scourge
    The Assyrian in his home.

THEROPS
    Death for one’s King
    Only less noble is than for one’s country.
    This foreign soldier taught us that home lesson.

CASSIOPEA
    Therops, there are kings still in Syria?

THEROPS
    Great Queen,
    Remember not my sins.

CASSIOPEA
    They are buried deep,
    Thy bold rebellion, – even thy cruel slanders,
    If only thou wilt serve me as my friend
    True to thy people in me. will this be hard for thee?

THEROPS
    O noble lady, you pay wrongs with favours!
    I am yours for ever, I and all this people.

CIREAS (to Diomede)
    This it is to be an orator! We shall hear him haranguing the people next market-day
    on fidelity to princes and the divine right of queens to have favourites.

IOLAUS
    Cireas, old bribe-taker, art thou living? Did Poseidon forget thee?

CIREAS
    I pray you, Prince, remind me not of past foolishness. I have grown pious.
    I will never speak ill again of authorities and divinities.

IOLAUS
    Thou art grown ascetic? Thou carest no longer then for gold? I am glad,
    for my purse will be spared a very heavy lightening.

CRIES
    Prince, I will not suffer my young piety to make you break old promises; for if it is perilous to sin,
it is worse to be the cause of sin in others.

IOLAUS
    Thou shalt have gold and farms. I will absolve
    Andromeda’s promise and my own.

CIREAS
    Great plutus!
    O happy Cireas!

IOLAUS
    Merchant Tyrnaus, art thou for Chaldea?

TYRNAUS
    When I have seen these troubles’ joyous end
    And your sweet princess, my young resuer,
    Happily wedded.

IOLAUS
    I will give thee a ship
    And merchandise enough to fill thy losses.

PERSEUS
    And prayers with them, O excellent Chaldean.
    The world has need of men like thee.

SMERDAS (aside)
    I quake.
    What will they say to me? I shall be tortured
    And crucified. But she with her smile will save me.

IOLAUS
    Smerdas, thou unclean treacherous coward soul!

SMERDAS
    Alas, I was compelled by threats of torture.

IOLAUS
    And tempted too with gold. Thy punishment
    Shall hit thee in thy nature. Farmer Cireas!

CIREAS
    Prince Plutus!

IOLAUS
    Take thou this man for slave. He’s strong.
    Work him upon thy fields and thy plantations.

SMERDAS
    O this is worst of all.

IOLAUS
    Not worse than thy dessert.
    For gold thou lustest? Earn it for another.
    Thou’lt save thy life? It is a freedman’s chattel.

SMERDAS
    O speak for me, lady Andromeda!

ANDROMEDA
    Dear Iolaus, -

CEPHEUS
    My child, thou art all pity;
    But justice has her seal, and her fine balance
    Disturbed too often spoils an unripe world
    With ill-timed mercy. Thy brother speaks my will.

IOLAUS
    Thou hast increased thy crime by pleading to her
    Whom thou betrayed’st to her death. Art thou
    Quite shameless? Hold thy peace!

ANDROMEDA
    Grieve not too much.
    Cireas will be kind to thee; wilt thou not, Cireas?

CIREAS
    At thy command I will be even that
    And even to him.

Noise outside.

CEPHEUS
    What other dangerous clamour
    Is at our gates?

Perissus enters brandishing his cleaver.

PERISSUS
    Pull out that sharp skewer of thine, comrade Perseus, or let me handle my cleaver.

CEPHEUS
    Thou art angry, butcher? Who has disturbed thy noble serenity?

PERISSUS
    King Cepheus, shall I not be angry? Art thou not again our majesty of Syria?
And shall our majesty be insulted with noses? Shall it be prodded by a proboscis? Perseus,
thou hast slaughtered yonder Palaeozoic icthyosaurus: wilt thou suffer me to chop this neozan?

PERSEUS
    Calmly, precisely and not so polysyllabically, my good Perissus. Tell the king what is this clamour.

PERISSUS
    My monarch, Phineus of Tyre has brought his long-nosed royalty to thy gates and poke it he will into thy kingly presence. His blusterings, King, have flustered my calm great heart within me.

CEPHEUS
    Comes he alone?

PERISSUS
    Damoetes and some scores more hang on to his long tail of hook-nosed Tyrians;but they are all rabble and proletariate, not a citizen butcher in the whole picking. They brandish skewers; they threaten to poke me with their dainty iron spits,- me, Perissus, me , the butcher!

CEPHEUS
    Phineus in arms! This is the after-swell
    Of tempest.

PERSEUS
    Let the phoencian enter, comrade.

Perissus goes out.

    Look not so blank. This man with all his crew
    Shall be my easy care.

Phineus enters the hall with a great company, Tyrians with drawn swords,
Damoetes, Morus and others: after Perissus.

CEPHEUS
    Welcome, Tyre.

CASSIOPEA
    Thou breakest armed into our presence, Phineus.
    Had they been earlier there, these naked swords
    Would have been welcome.

PHINEUS
    I am not here for welcome
    Lady, King Cepheus, wilt thou yield me right,
    Or shall I take it with my sword?

CEPHEUS
    Phineus,
    I never have withheld even from the meanest
    The least thing he could call his right.

PHINEUS
    Thou hast not?
    Who gives then to a wandering Greek my bride,
    Thy perfect daughter?

CASSIOPEA
    She was in some peril,
    When thou wert absent, Tyre.

PHINEUS
    A vain young man,
    A brilliant sworder wandering for a name,
    Who calls himself the son of Danaë,
    And who his father was, the midnight knows.
    This is the lord thou giv’st Andromeda,
    Scorning the mighty King of ancient Tyre.

CEPHEUS
    He saved her form the death to which we left her,
    And she was his, – his wife, if so he chose,
    Or, conquered by the sword from grim Poseidon,
    His, then to take her as he would from that moment.

PHINEUS
    Do his deeds or thy neglect annul thy promise?

IOLAUS
    King Phineus, wilt thou take up and lay down
    At pleasure? Who leaves a jewel in the mud,
    Shall he complain because another took it?

PRAXILLA
    And she was never his; she hated him.

PHINEUS
    I’ll hear no reasons, but with strong force have her,
    Though it be to lift her o’er the dearest blood
    Of all her kin. Tyrians!

Andromeda takes refuge with Perseus.

    Abandon, princess,
    The stripling bosom where thou tak’st thy refuge.
    Thou hast mistook thy home, Andromeda.

IOLAUS
    ‘Tis thou mistakest, Phineus, thinking her
    A bride who, touched, shall be thy doom. Get hence
    Unhurt.

PHINEUS
    Prince Iolaus, the sword that cut
    Thy contract to Poseidon, cuts not mine, –
    Which if you void, thou and thy father pay for it.

PERSEUS
    Phineus of Tyre, it may be thou art wronged,
    But ’tis not at his hands whom thou impugnest;
    Her father gave her not to me.

PHINEUS
    Her mother then?
    She is the man, I think, in Syria’s household.

PERSEUS
    Her too I asked not.

PHINEUS
    Thou wooedst then the maid?
    It shall not help thee though a thousand times
    She kissed thee eyes. Pretty Andromeda,
    Wilt thou have for thy lord this vagabond,
    Wander with him as beggars land and sea?
    Despite thy self I’ll save thee from that fate
    And make thee Queen in Tyre. Minion of Argos,
    Learn, ere thou grasp at other’s goods, to ask
    The owner, not the owned.

PERSEUS
    I did not ask her.
    PHINEUS
    Then by what right, presumptuous, hast thou her?
    Or wherefore lies she thus within thy arm?

PERSEUS
    Say, by what right, King Phineus, thou wouldst take her,
    Herself and all refusing?

PHINEUS
    By my precontract.

PERSEUS
    Thou gavest her to Death, that contract’s broken.
    Or if thou seekest to revoke thy gift,
    Foregather then with Death and ask him for her.
    The way to him is easy.

PHINEUS
    Then by my sword,
    Not asking her or any, because I am a king,
    I’ll take her.

PERSEUS
    If the sword is the sole judge,
    Then by my own sword I have taken her, Tyrian,
    Not asking her or any, who am king
    O’er her, her sovereign. This soft gold is mine
    And mine these banks of silver; this rich country
    Is my possession and owes to my strong taking
    All her sweet revenues in honey. Phineus,
    I wonder not that thou dost covet her
    Whom the whole world might want. Wrest her from me,
    Phoenician, to her father she belongs not.
    (opening his wallet)
    King Phineus, art thou ready? Yet look once more
    On the blue sky and this green earth of Syria.

PHINEUS
    Young man, thou hast done deeds I’ll not belittle.
    Yet was it only a sea-beast and a rabble
    Who thou hast tamed; I am a prince and warrior.
    Wilt thou fright me with thy aegis?

PERSEUS
    Not fright, but end thee;
    For thou hast spoken words deserving death.
    Come forth into the open, this is no place
    For battle. Marshal thy warlike crew against me,
    And let thy Syrian mob-men help with shouts:
    Stand in their front to lead them; I alone
    Will meet their serried charge, Dercetes merely
    Watching us.

PHINEUS
    Thou art frantic with past triumphs:
    Argive, desist. I would not rob thy mother
    Of her sole joy, howe’er she came by thee.
    The gods may punish her sweet midnight fault,
    To who her dainty trickery imputes it.

PERSEUS
    Come now, lest here I slay thee.

PHINEUS
    Thou art in love
    With death: but I am pitiful, young Perseus,
    Thou shall not die. My men shall take thee living
    And pedlars hawk thee for a slave in Tyre,
    Where thou shalt see sometimes far off Andromeda,
    A Queen of nations.

PERSEUS
    Thou compassionate man!
    But I will give thee, hero, marvellous death
    And stone for monument, which thou deservest;
    For thou wert a great King and famous warrior,
    When still thou wert living. Forth and fight with me!
    Afterwards if thou canst, come for Andromeda;
    None shall oppose thy seizure. Behind me, captain,
    So that the rabble here may not be tampted
    To any treacherous stroke.

Phines goes out with the Tyrians, Damoetes and the Syrian favourers of Phineus,
followed by Perseus and Dercetes. Cireas behind them at a distance.

CEPHEUS
    Sunbeam, I am afraid.

ANDROMEDA
    I am not, father.

CEPHEUS
    Alone against so many!

IOLAUS
    Shall I go, father,
    And stand by him?

CEPHEUS
    He might be angry. Hark!
    The voice of Phineus.

IOLAUS
    He cries some confident order.

CEPHEUS
    The Tyrians shout for onset; he is doomed.
    There is a moment’s pause, all listening painfully.

IOLAUS
    The shouts are stilled; there is a sudden hush.
   
    CEPHEUS
    What can it mean? This silence is appalling.

Dercetes returns.

    What news? Thou treadest like one sleeping, captain.

DERCETES
    O King, thy royal court is full of monuments.

CEPHEUS
    What meanest thou? What happened? Where is Perseus?

DERCETES
    King Phineus called to his men to take alive
    The Greek; but as they charged, great Perseus cried,
    ‘Close eyes, Dercetes, if thou car’st to live,’
    And I obeyed, yet saw that he had taken
    A snaky something from the wallet’s mouth
    He carries in his baldric. Blind I waited
    And heard the loud approaching charge. Then suddenly
    The rapid onset ceased, the cries fell dumb
    And a great silence reigned. Astonishment
    For two brief moments only held me close;
    But when I lifted my sealed lids, the court
    Was full of those swift charging warriors stiffened
    To stone or stiffening, in the very posture
    Of onset, sword uplifted, shield advanced,
    Knee crooked, foot carried forward to the pace,
    An animated silence, life in stone.
    Only the godlike victor lived, a smile
    Upon his lips, closing his wallet’s mouth.
    Then I, appalled, came from that place in silence.

CEPHEUS
    Soldier, he is a god, or else the gods
    Walk close to him. I hear his footsteps coming.
    Hail, Perseus!

Perseus returns, followed by Cireas.

PERSEUS
    King, the Tyrians all are dead,
    Nor need’st thou build them pyres nor dig them graves.
    If any hereafter ask what perfect sculptor
    Chiselled these forms in Syria’s royal court,
    Say them, ‘Athene, child armipotent
    Of the Olympian, hewed by Perseus’ hand
    In one divine and careless stroke these statues.
    To her give glory.

CEPHEUS
    O thou dreadful victor!
    I know not what to say nor how to praise thee.

PERSEUS
    Say nothing, King; in silence praise the Gods.
    Let this not trouble you, my friends. Proceed
    As if no interruption had disturbed you.

CIREAS
    O Zeus, I thought thou couldst juggle only with feathers and phosphorus, but I see thou canst give wrinkles in magic to Babylon and the Medes. (shaking himself)
    I cannot feel sure yet that I am not myself s status. Ugh! This was a stony conjuring.

PERISSUS (who has gone out and returned)
    What hast thou done, comrade Perseus? Thou hast immortalised his long nose to all time in stone! This is a woeful thing for posterity; thou hadst no right to leave behind thee for its dismay such a fossil.

CEPHEUS
    What now is left but to prepare the nuptials
    Of sweet young sunny-eyed Andromeda
    With mighty Perseus?

PERSEUS
    King, let it be soon
    That I may go to my blue-ringed Seriphos,
    Where my mother waits, and more deeds call to me.

CASSIOPEA
    Yet if thy heart consents, then three months give us,
    O Perseus, of thyself and our sweet child,
    And then abandon.

PERSEUS
    They are given.

ANDROMEDA
    Perseus,
    You give and never ask; let me for you
    Ask something.

PERSEUS
    Ask, Andromeda, and have.

ANDROMEDA
    Then this I ask that thy great deeds may leave
    their golden trace on Syria. Let the dire cult
    For ever cease ad victims bleed no more
    On its dark altar. Instead Athene’s name
    Spread over all the land and in men’s hearts,
    Then shall a calm and mighty Will prevail
    And broader minds and kindlier manners reign
    And men grow human, mild and merciful.

PERSEUS
    King Cepheus, thou hast heard; shall this be done?

CEPHEUS
    Hero, thou camest to change our world for us.
    Pronounce; I give assent.

PERSEUS
    Then let the shrine
    That looked out from earth’s breast into the sunlight,
    Be cleansed of its red memory of blood,
    And the dread Form that lived within its precincts
    Transfigure into a bright compassionate God
    Whose strength shall aid men tossed upon the seas.
    Give succour to the shipwrecked mariner.
    A noble centre of a people’s worship,
    To Zeus and great Athene build a temple
    Between your sky-topped hills and Ocean’s vasts:
    Her might shall guard your lives and save your land.
    In your human image of her deity
    A light of reason and calm celestial force
    And a wise tranquil government of life,
    Order and beauty and harmonious thoughts
    And, ruling the waves of impulse, high-throned will
    Incorporate in marble, the carved and white
    Ideal of a young uplifted race.
    For these are her gifts to those who worship her.
    Adore and what you adore attempt to be.

CEPHEUS
    Will the fiercer Grandeur that was here permit?

PERSEUS
    Fear not Poseidon; the strong god is free.
    He has withdrawn from his own darkness and is now
    His new great self at an Olympian height.

CASSIOPEA
    How can the immortal gods and Nature change?

PERSEUS
    All alters in a world that is the same.
    Man most must change who is a soul of Time;
    His gods too change and live in larger light.

CEPHEUS
    Then man too may arise to greater heights,
    His being draw nearer to the gods?

PERSEUS
    Perhaps,
    But the blind nether forces still have power
    And the ascent is slow and long is Time.
    Yet shall Truth grow and harmony increase:
    The day shall come when men feel close and one.
    Meanwhile one forward step is something gained,
    Since little by little earth must open to heaven
    Till her dim soul awakes into the Light.

Curtain