The audience chamber of the palace,
Cepheus, Cassiopea, Andromeda, Cydone, Praxilla, Medes.
A sudden ending to our sudden evils
Propitious gods have given us, Cassiopea.
Pursued by panic the Assyrian flees
Abandoning our borders.
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?
He has taken his payment in one small white coin
Mounted with gold; and more he will not ask for.
Your name’s Cydone, child? Your face is strange.
You are not of the slave-girls.
O I am!
Iolaus’ slave-girl, though he calls me sometimes
His queen: but that is only ot beguile me.
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.
What wilt thou ask of me,
Even to a crown, Cydone? Thou shalt have it.
Nothing, unless ’tis leave to stand before you
And be for ever Iolaus’ slave-girl
Thou shalt be more than that, my daughter.
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.
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?
One like thee
In love, O Queen, though less in royalty.
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.
And what shall I give, seed of bright Olympus?
Wilt thou have half my kingdom, Argive 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.
My sunny Andromeda!
But there’s the Tyrian: yet he gave her up
To death and cannot now reclaim her.
The Babylonian merchants wait, and Cireas:
The people’s leaders and thy army’s captains
Are eager to renew an interrupted
Admit them all to me: go, Medes.
As Medes goes out, Diomede enters.
Diomede! Playmate! You too have come quite safe
Out of the storm. I thought we both must founder.
Oh, yes, and now you’ll marry Perseus, leave me
No other playmate than Praxilla’s whippings
To keep me lively!
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?
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,
You shall taste it then before you go.
You’ll make a fine fair couple of wilfulnesses,
I pity Perseus.
You are well rid of us,
My poor 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.
Hail, you restored high royalties of Syria.
O King, accept us, be the past forgotten.
It is forgotten, Therops. Welcome, Dercetes.
Thy friend Nebassar is asleep. He has done
His service for the day and taken payment.
His blood is a deep stain on Syria’s bosom.
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.
Death for one’s King
Only less noble is than for one’s country.
This foreign soldier taught us that home lesson.
Therops, there are kings still in Syria?
Remember not my sins.
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?
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.
Cireas, old bribe-taker, art thou living? Did Poseidon forget thee?
I pray you, Prince, remind me not of past foolishness. I have grown pious.
I will never speak ill again of authorities and divinities.
Thou art grown ascetic? Thou carest no longer then for gold? I am glad,
for my purse will be spared a very heavy lightening.
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.
Thou shalt have gold and farms. I will absolve
Andromeda’s promise and my own.
O happy Cireas!
Merchant Tyrnaus, art thou for Chaldea?
When I have seen these troubles’ joyous end
And your sweet princess, my young resuer,
I will give thee a ship
And merchandise enough to fill thy losses.
And prayers with them, O excellent Chaldean.
The world has need of men like thee.
What will they say to me? I shall be tortured
And crucified. But she with her smile will save me.
Smerdas, thou unclean treacherous coward soul!
Alas, I was compelled by threats of torture.
And tempted too with gold. Thy punishment
Shall hit thee in thy nature. Farmer Cireas!
Take thou this man for slave. He’s strong.
Work him upon thy fields and thy plantations.
O this is worst of all.
Not worse than thy dessert.
For gold thou lustest? Earn it for another.
Thou’lt save thy life? It is a freedman’s chattel.
O speak for me, lady Andromeda!
Dear Iolaus, –
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.
Thou hast increased thy crime by pleading to her
Whom thou betrayed’st to her death. Art thou
Quite shameless? Hold thy peace!
Grieve not too much.
Cireas will be kind to thee; wilt thou not, Cireas?
At thy command I will be even that
And even to him.
What other dangerous clamour
Is at our gates?
Perissus enters brandishing his cleaver.
Pull out that sharp skewer of thine, comrade Perseus, or let me handle my cleaver.
Thou art angry, butcher? Who has disturbed thy noble serenity?
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?
Calmly, precisely and not so polysyllabically, my good Perissus. Tell the king what is this clamour.
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.
Comes he alone?
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!
Phineus in arms! This is the after-swell
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.
Thou breakest armed into our presence, Phineus.
Had they been earlier there, these naked swords
Would have been welcome.
I am not here for welcome
Lady, King Cepheus, wilt thou yield me right,
Or shall I take it with my sword?
I never have withheld even from the meanest
The least thing he could call his right.
Thou hast not?
Who gives then to a wandering Greek my bride,
Thy perfect daughter?
She was in some peril,
When thou wert absent, Tyre.
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.
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.
Do his deeds or thy neglect annul thy promise?
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?
And she was never his; she hated him.
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.
The stripling bosom where thou tak’st thy refuge.
Thou hast mistook thy home, Andromeda.
‘Tis thou mistakest, Phineus, thinking her
A bride who, touched, shall be thy doom. Get hence
Prince Iolaus, the sword that cut
Thy contract to Poseidon, cuts not mine, –
Which if you void, thou and thy father pay for it.
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.
Her mother then?
She is the man, I think, in Syria’s household.
Her too I asked not.
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.
I did not ask her.
Then by what right, presumptuous, hast thou her?
Or wherefore lies she thus within thy arm?
Say, by what right, King Phineus, thou wouldst take her,
Herself and all refusing?
By my precontract.
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.
Then by my sword,
Not asking her or any, because I am a king,
I’ll take her.
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.
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?
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
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.
Come now, lest here I slay thee.
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.
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.
Sunbeam, I am afraid.
I am not, father.
Alone against so many!
Shall I go, father,
And stand by him?
He might be angry. Hark!
The voice of Phineus.
He cries some confident order.
The Tyrians shout for onset; he is doomed.
There is a moment’s pause, all listening painfully.
The shouts are stilled; there is a sudden hush.
What can it mean? This silence is appalling.
What news? Thou treadest like one sleeping, captain.
O King, thy royal court is full of monuments.
What meanest thou? What happened? Where is Perseus?
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.
Soldier, he is a god, or else the gods
Walk close to him. I hear his footsteps coming.
Perseus returns, followed by Cireas.
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.
O thou dreadful victor!
I know not what to say nor how to praise thee.
Say nothing, King; in silence praise the Gods.
Let this not trouble you, my friends. Proceed
As if no interruption had disturbed you.
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.
What now is left but to prepare the nuptials
Of sweet young sunny-eyed Andromeda
With mighty 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.
Yet if thy heart consents, then three months give us,
O Perseus, of thyself and our sweet child,
And then abandon.
They are given.
You give and never ask; let me for you
Ask, Andromeda, and have.
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.
King Cepheus, thou hast heard; shall this be done?
Hero, thou camest to change our world for us.
Pronounce; I give assent.
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.
Will the fiercer Grandeur that was here permit?
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.
How can the immortal gods and Nature change?
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.
Then man too may arise to greater heights,
His being draw nearer to the gods?
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.