To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
TO THAT MOST AUGUST AND LEARNED GENTLEMAN
WILLIAM JUXON, DOCTOR OF LAW, PRESIDENT
OF THE COLLEGE OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST AND
RIGHT WORTHY VICE-CHANCELLOR
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
I should more seriously chide you (right reverend President) for taking the opportunity to congratulate me, if I would not seem to be refusing your attempt (which is the mark of a right reverend patron and most devoted mind) to lighten this burden which has been placed on my shoulders, no matter how unequal to the task my powers may be. For, had I no greater consideration for your opinion than I do for my own, I would not deny that (in addition to my junior academic standing and the shortness of the time), some failing in myself stands revealed, so that it actually manifest that what has been imposed on me was not an honor, but rather a punishment. But this hard lot is not to be refused, but rather to be accepted in the hope that, whatever is expected by others, whose tastes I have not striven to satisfy, I have perhaps amused myself. And you should not esteem this scanty meal as a sign of the server’s disposition towards yourself — which is very different indeed — a server who fetched the meal, I will not say from his pantry, but rather from his poverty, and who was scarcely prepared to store the food away, let alone to dish it up, and who had almost less time to cook the food than to set the table.
Most zealous for your dignity,
CHARINDA, DAMALIS handmaids
EUMETIS old man
ACT I, SCENE i
Does such great beauty nurse this harshness, and a sweet face conceal a hard heart? A poor lovelorn girl moves every cruel stone to get a young man. Sisyphus does his moving with no equal effort, he who lives rolling the rock into his lap thanks to his vain striving. If in any way words swearing true faith, spiced with sweet blandishments so that they will strike the ears with a welcome sound, help unhappy lovers, I have been a Siren, but he has been deaf and rejected my entreaties. I, Aurora, abandoning the neck of that amorous dotard, promise to belong to Cephalus, and gratefully to give him the delights of my bed, sought by many a suitor, to give him my embraces and more, but in being fickle I give my words to the fickle winds. Naked, I have bared my breast, revealing places my bashful garment did not wish to reveal, being a woman all but compelled to rape the man. But he was obdurate, just as a crag fends off the floods that attack it from all sides, unmoved. I think he was born from some mother even wilder than a vixen, she nursed him with Hircanian milk.
But these things are trifles. Does not the tigress, burning with love, yearn for the male of her kind? Whatever animal has a hide impregnable to Mar’s shafts and is protected by the shell on its back yields when wounded by your darts, Cupid. That horrible three-headed guard-dog of the horrid Styx grew pale because of the god’s divinity, and in his fear he happily succumbed to the darts of love. You conquer the Styx, you set Nereus afire amidst the water. Love, you get the better of whatever the air holds, and of whatever the keen sight of the gods can penetrate. But the sorrow of my grief cannot say what harsh crime gave birth to Cephalus, at whose sight Medusa would be amazed and turn to stone. Destroy this monster, Aurora, erase this crime. Let the world not be put to shame by Cephalus —
Alas, I gave too much free rein to my wrath, raging against a guiltless man. It is Love’s crime, not Cephalus’, that has made me unhappy. Gird your loins, Aurora, come, let these impious ones pay forfeits — Venus’ boy, who butts like a kidling, and his accomplice Venus. Venus, locked in Mars’ welcome embrace, you will soon lie prostrate, my vengeance is near at hand and the morning will quickly betray you to Vulcan’s snares, and the helpless god will pay for his fickle darts. It is he, it is he who rashly transfixed my liver with his gold-tipped arrow, while on the other hand he savagely wounded Cephalus’ heart with one made of lead, so that he, being loved, might hate, while I myself, being hated, might love. But don’t wax savage, cruel boy, with that proud divinity conferred on you by fools. By these ruddy cheeks which reveal the shining world with their new light, by these scorned lips, I swear that Nemesis will come, nor will she be in slow in coming. Rather, enhanced by her moderate delay, she’ll rage, she’ll break your arrows — Oh, but what what unseen thing suddenly gnaws at my bowels? The wicked boy has shot once more, raging fire runs through my slothful limbs. I feel its powers, it’s the god. Oh Cephalus, Cephalus, you secretly steal into Aurora’s heart, you burn. You’re savage, you know no moderation. You should want to be present, now you can be very close. I’m yours, you glory of youth, and, having been wounded in offending against his godhead, I acknowledge the god’s just vengeance. The rage of his inextinguishable fire runs through my heart, nor can this ever-flowing fountain of tears suffice to quench it. Oh, what end will there be of my ills? There is a field of snow in Cephalus’ breast, oh would that I might relieve my burning there! You flee me? I shall follow the impious man, menacing him with my Furies, nor let any region keep Cephalus away from me. Love-engendered anger will work the greatest harm.
ACT I, SCENE ii
Hurry, my companions, add wings to your feet. Let the East wind fly no faster or the the horses of the sun — and we left our beds quicker then they — be swifter in bringing the golden daylight. Let the fields be filled by our nets, the forest and ridges of rich Mt. Hymettus by many a yapping dog. Let this fellow, fearsome for his bow, slow the fleet deer’s quick rush, let that one use his hunting-spear to chivvy the boars, fierce with their foam, into our outspread nets, and let another eagerly encourage our faithful hounds with his familiar voice, so that the goddess of the hunt herself might jealously witness our sports. Let no man fear the cold weather or the rain, keep your attention fixed on our quarry so that it will be brought down by our fellows. If anybody’s shoulders become burdened by a boar or a deer, let the townsmen build a fire out of dry wood, so that it might furnish an unbought meal of lavish food to our men when they arrive. Let a woman pour wine with a busy hand, and Procris herself offer a toast with a two year-old vintage. Full cups are merry. Father Liber will refresh our weary limbs. Come, let the horn sound. You all go ahead enthusiastically, I’ll follow without delay. Exit hunters.
ACT I, SCENE iii
But what evil hurts my eyes? Some dire basilisk is killing me with its glance. I’ve caught sight of Aurora. Let this forest be torn up by the roots, die, and wholly disappear. Let this grove be a nesting-place for noxious birds and a home for screech-owls, for when I flee to it as if it were an asylum, I am unhappily betrayed.
AUR. Set fire to Cephalus, my anger. Attack Cephalus. Let my wrath put a curse on this disdainful young man. Now that he has been bewitched by his eyesight, let this spear-thrower know that it is me, not Love’s — Again? You shoot me again?
CEPH. Diana, goddess of the forest, you who deceive gullible men with a show of chastity, are you a virgin? No, you’re a bawd, a party to this crime, you sweetly prostitute this lewd goddess. May you perish, you loathsome one!
AUR. I yield to you, Venus, and you are just, Cupid. Let this attempt proceed under your auspices. I pray you to inspire your servant with sweet eloquence. Oh would that this flame which fires my heart would fire my mouth?. But, alas, why am I, a goddess, humbly wheedling for the sake of a man? You may flee, Love. Now my heart is man-like, and the complaints which have made me a scorned woman are far removed. And you, oh you most greatly fearful handmaids of Jove of the Styx, and you dread Fury with your death-dealing torch, come hither, overwhelm the fire kindled by unhappy Love, make me wholly your own. Dire Nemesis, who are wont to supply arms to neglected love, gird me with madness in my savagery.
CEPH. Ah goddess, cease adoring my embraces, now cease craving my heart, which does not belong to me. A god’s proper love is a modest fear. If your fury demands the life of an innocent man, I cheerfully lie on your altar as an offering, so that you may gently kill me. But that I should betray Procris —
AUR. Cease dinning Procris in these chaste ears of mine. Go, indulge your folly. Continue to enjoy that woman who is eagerly nursing a snake in her bosom. Hurry back to a home which is happy that its master is absent, plant unwanted kisses on your wife’s cheeks, seeking to regain dreams of your happiness.
CEPH And, thinking that Hebe is bearing nectar in her sweet hand, and my lips are eagerly touching a golden drinking-bowl as I am sharing the drink of the gods, I shall be supremely grateful to Jove. And then I shall not refuse to die and seek out heaven, for the first time pleasing to me.
AUR. Unless destiny is concealed from the gods themselves and a false vision of things deceives my all-seeing eyes, I know what is to come. When Hebe employs your nectar to quench another man’s thirst that is more urgent than yours, as you look on, and you seem to be scorned as you offer yourself (oh foul crime, shame of my sex, how the anger of the gods against all perjurers awaits you!), then, fool, you will remember me and my love.
CEPH. Of what Hebe do you speak, goddess?
AUR. The very one whose precious kisses now make you happy, whose coerced smiles please you.
CEPH. As far as I am concerned, Procris alone is sweet.
AUR. You’ll know well enough that you possessed her alone when in your innocence you entertain doubts whether to make her an unhappy woman or a bad one.
CEPH. I make Procris unhappy? I make Procris bad?
AUR. Are you unaware that Love’s arrows are made of gold?
CEPH. These golden arrows of Love have transfixed us.
AUR. A strange Cupid, heavier with gold, will appear and be welcome to your wife.
CEPH. My wife does not know how to be another’s, thus she craves my bed, thus she adores my lips.
AUR. You unlucky fellow, in vain you boast about these things. Unless in the future you wish that they be far removed from yourself, I’m no goddess. It will be far too late when you decide you should be on your guard. Farewell. None regret putting things to the test, many regret being trusting.
ACT I, SCENE iv
Wait, goddess. But let her continue, and let my punishment be far off. Now I am feeling the Furies brandishing their smoldering torches in my breast, black mistrust has gained control of all my heart. Suspicion keeps darting her eyes hither and thither, blame searches out all routes, and Echo resounds the words of that ill-advising goddess, “None regret putting things to the test.” But what indeed am I to test? Her proven loyalty? Sooner could I expect the lusty turtledove to cease mourning its darling’s death than for Procris to be false. Abandon these silly fears. It’s a great injury, but greater to yourself. And yet beauty is very hostile to chastity, a bawd dwells in the eyes. I shall doubt womanly faith, Aurora makes doubt divine. I’ve made up my mind, I’ll test her. Just as gold shines forth at even the slightest testing, and the metal shows itself to be noble when it gleams in the fire, even if her chastity is no less to be trusted, at least it will be better tried. I’ve made up mind to test the thing. False suspicion, I’ve decided to stop your mouth, as long as tested fidelity bears off a greater prize from you. (Exit.)
ACT I, SCENE v
PROC. My ward, you’ve seen that everything is in readiness, as my carefulness dictated?
WARD As if I don’t obey you! Though I may be wholly devoted to your kitchen, where my mother and grandmother lived — and may the earth cover their ashes lightly! — is my concern. You know nothing, but you issue all the commands —
PROC. My only desire is that you should serve each man a suitable meal.
WARD That’s the warning you give me. That’s stinginess. But I am preparing a worthy meal for my lord, in a way that is proper. But this is a rustic crew of men, and if he does not feed them, it will be my responsibility that they go hungry.
PROC. But I would have thought you’d understand better, since you know how hard work it is to care for weary men.
WARD Effort? Let them rest. If hunting is an effort, let them apply themselves to their plows. Let them yoke oxen rather than hunting-hounds, if their lazy zeal brings nothing home but hunger.
PROC. So you dislike hunting?
WARD Why isn’t a good thing? Laughter and sport is always worthy of a lord, and deservedly so. In the days of you're when youth was want to disport itself — those where golden days! — as long as men heard about them, no crop-ruining, cattle-killing boar was able to roam about in that forest, which did not become roast ham. My generous hand rewarded them for their deeds, as their merit demanded.
PROC. An outstanding reward, indeed! (Enter Charinda.) But what news does our Charinda bring? She face expresses happiness before her tongue can. Come, tell me what’s happening, since you’ve been walking about up on the roof of our house.
CHAR. There is a good view in the direction where the lawn stretches toward the nearby woods.
WARD But what business had you on the roof?
PROC. Put off your quarrel to some other time. Go on.
WARD But first you must give me satisfaction. Why were you idling about on the roof?
PROC. For my sake, ward, forgive her her fault. If she has something to report about my Cephalus, what a lucky fault this will be!
WARD She gets credit in your eyes, but when I commit a fault I get punished. But go ahead.
CHAR. An uncertain noise came to my ears, finally I could tell it was made by horns. And I could see a pack of dogs singing along, you could have called it a single chorus of men and dogs. When I heard the racket I imagined it was Master. Afterwards I could see capering men not very far way. One of their company was carrying a noble deer’s head that had been cut off, and he was surrounded by a crew of men and hounds boasting of their catches. I knew that Cephalus was at hand, and thought I should tell you.
PROC. You are welcome. May Jupiter bless your news and our happy love! Let a votive sacrifice fall, but first relieve your master’s hunger, for I adore him more than the gods. (Commotion and hubbub.) My blessed ears! No swallow has passed, bringing happy days, more welcome to the rural throng, no cock has announced the coming of Aurora more welcome to any sleeper, than this loud noise announces my husband’s return.
ACT I, SCENE vi
Enter four capering hunters.
PROC. They’re here. Have you returned again to my embrace, Cephalus? What? Where in the world is he? Where’s Cephalus? Oh my life! Has he vanished? What sudden event has taken him away?
WARD Where’s Master? Do you hear me, Demiphon? Tell us where Cephalus is.
PROC. Why trouble them, ward? But you, tell me where Cephalus is? Why has he just left me, having only glanced at me?
WARD You’ve just gone mad, we know this is the fifth day he’s been away.
PROC. Her insane eyes deceive the old woman. Has he not just now come in and is standing here? Hasn’t he been hastening to fall on my neck and kiss me?
WARD Poetical love is silly. For he’s not come in yet, your companion has abandoned you. Why hasn’t he returned, friend?
HUNTER 1 He came back, Mistress, he was looking at you.
PROC. I saw. Now where has some sudden east wind, sent by Father Aeolus, snatched him from before my eyes, and stolen my life? I must die, ward, my soul is stolen away. You throng, allow this bloodless body, this lifeless body to have its tomb. [She faints.]
WARD She’s fallen! Bring help for the girl, she’s perished! Ah, the poor girl. She’s perished! Oh Procris, Procris! Be quick and bring help! (They carry Procris off. The hunters remain.)
HUNTER 2 Oh the sad fate!
HUNTER 1 Does no hope of life remain?
HUNTER 4 It remains. This is something of womanly fear.
HUNTER 1 But what’s the source of these evils?
HUNTER 4 The reason is Master’s absence, since she saw we have returned without him.
HUNTER 2 But we thought he was at home.
HUNTER 3 Rather, Mistress imagined you saw him.
HUNTER 1 This is the result of excessive love, and I humored her with what I said.
HUNTER 3 So has our Aeolian lord gone missing? Come, we must search for him. The hunter himself must be hunted. Follow me. Exeunt.
Go to Act II