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CEPHALUS, disguised as a soldier

So Cephalus has gone missing, and in his place here am I, Polemoceraunus. See how clothes can change one’s appearance, when cunning art weaves new wiles. I imagine that in this disguise I could deceive even myself, escape the keen eyesight of Procris’ love, and, being my own rival, seek to gain my own bed with another man’s appearance. But you, Proteus, must give my undertakings your blessings, and since you have given me this trick of disguising myself as someone else, add the borrowed gait of godly strides. Give me six-foot long words that suit this bogus military character, and may the Muse Calliope sit on my lips and make me seem a hero, the equal of Alcides. Let her manufacture Herculean words, six feet long. Welcome Simplicity and sincere Truth, forgive me if I attempt to violate your rights, I who do not know how to perform deceptions, and I once hated them. And pardon me, you gods bound by your oaths, whom Love tricks with impunity, give me pardon for lying well. (Enter Eumetis). But who confronts me? My Eumetis? I must act artfully so that this experienced old man may help my enterprise unaware of what he is doing.
EU. Who is this great new guest who has come to our shores? This fellow does not know our manner of dress, he scarcely displays a man’s good decorum. He seems to want to converse with me. [ He approaches Cephalus and kneels.)
CEPH. You greet me as a good omen, venerable old man, as I first set foot on a foreign strand, though I keep silent about my name, which is well known in other climes. But get up, I have great reverence for old age.
EU. Illustrious guest, gladly accept this token of my due esteem. Although your face does not attest to as many years as does mine, yet it might bear something surpassing youth, or even humanity.
CEPH. This face of mine lies about my age. It is destined never to experience the evils of aging, thriving with perpetual bloom.
EU. Are you some god?
CEPH. A hero.
EU. Pray let me ask your name. Tell it to me, as long as it is fit for mortal ears.
CEPH. I am called Polemoceraunus, and for brevity’s sake I wish all my epithets to be omitted.
EU. Oh happy land of ours, worthy of such a guest!
CEPH. You should have said worthy of my visit. But tell me what manner of girls this land produces. Does it seem worthy of having a hero for a guest?
EU. Only the stars produce beauties worthy of you.
CEPH. But I choose to bless your land with offspring worthy of having me as a father. So I have been borne here by a great fleet. I had approached these shores, when the cloud-covered sky wanted to hide from my sight this very dear shore and prevent me from gaining it and and my Procris, whose beauty has made famous in every quarter of the world. Grown greater, the storm raged. You could have said that Giants made of water were attacking the heaven, such great wave-mountains were being thrown up. Fear of certain death gripped our sailors, but I, unmoved, laughed at Neptune’s threats, free of fear (for fear is the mark of a degenerate mind). As I sat on the poop, I endured seeing the other ships overwhelmed by the raging abyss. When a sudden downpour attacked my ship, I myself was unconcerned about death (for death is men’s source of terror) and the whirling eddies now seized my craft, it chanced that a sea-lion offered me its back, and, instead of a ship, on this I was bravely carried. It delivered me to these shores, and, paying its respects, plunged into its sea. Since I am deposited here, my other losses count for nothing. Old man, you guide to youth, given me by Minerva, be my friend.
EU. I am your servant.
CEPH. No, I say, my friend. Your name?
EU. I’m called Eumetis.
CEPH. Eumetis, I tell you you’ll be my friend.
EU. So I will.
CEPH. Eumetis, I’m in love with Procris, I adore her. Old man, that wanton boy Cupid rages more cruelly than usual in the brave minds of heroes.
EU. Procris is truly handsome.
CEPH. This is a source of pain. I would prefer to witness the cruel faces of triple-jawed Cerberus, the stars falling from the raging sky upon my terrified self, and whatever horrible thing is concealed in the monstrous Underworld, rather than look upon that face.
EU. So you love her?
CEPH. But I also fear to see her, since what I have heard greatly wounds me.
EU. You should leave our shores.
CEPH. I don’t want to, and the sight of her can’t harm me any more than the evil of never seeing her torments me. Let me see her.
EU. I will. Wait a little while, until she goes to the temple to perform the rites.
CEPH. That’s nothing, I also want to speak to her.
EU. She’s not unfriendly.
CEPH. She’s approachable? Tell me, friend, is she sweet with a moderate amount of ease, as befits her breeding? Does she dance? Is she cheerful in her husband’s absence? Is she devoted to banquets and stage-plays? Or does she austerely keep herself at home, devoted to domestic affairs? Is there any hope, Eumetis? My pockets are bulging with gems — [Aside.] and my tongue with deeds — so you won’t go without a reward. Just bid me to hope and be of good cheer.
EU. There’s hope. But —
CEPH. But what?
EU. I’m ashamed of doing this service, nor shall I do it safely.
CEPH. Safely? Even if I’m unarmed, with my eyes I act the part of Medusa. And even if I don’t, you can and should be sheltered by appearing to be under my protection. Pretend to be my Hegio in name and appearance. You know how to pretend?
EU. You may regard that as honorable for an old man, and therefore as nothing novel.
CEPH. You need to tell my story in a grandiose manner, so that the tale will match my life.
EU. Have no fear, great hero, I’ll do whatever you require.
CEPH. Go away, and when you’ve done a good job of altering yourself, so that you may deceive all your fellow-countrymen, join me.
EU. It’s nothing, if I can’t deceive you too. Farewell, Polemoceraunus, oh greatest of heroes. (Exit.)
CEPH. Farewell, Eumetis, best and wisest of men.


Is there any hope? My hope is sadder than sorrow. He makes no empty promises, which goes to show that she is being unfaithful, having him as an accomplice. If I could be clever enough in this business, I should learn a great deal. This opportune masquerade has revealed my friend’s heart, hitherto unknown to me. I fancied I could safely set him over my wife as a guardian, so that he pleasantly bewitched my mind with his obsequiousness and was privy to my every secret. Had I not chosen to try my hand at deception and see whether he could recognize a friend’s familiar face, I would have revealed to him every design concerning my wife which my careful sorrow is contriving. Now, as if he had a transparent heart, I see everything and know what I must do. I shall employ this rascal as my agent, so that I might scrutinize everything all the better. And when all is revealed thanks to his help, he’ll pay for his crimes as he deserves. (Exit.)


Enter Procris, ward, Charinda.

PROC. So has Cephalus not returned? Oh our household!
WARD He has not returned. I myself have heard the hunters whispering this.
PROC. What beasts do they say he feared? What animal’s rage devoured my darling, unmoved by his appearance?
WARD Before he threw himself into those sports, he went away on his own, and was seen again by nobody.
PROC. As their master, he was feeding his hounds. Oh, you are unfortunately diligent! Old woman, when I going to meet Cephalus in happy death, you held me back so I might hear these things, and by your piety you made me miserable. Was I not seeking to find my husband’s shade straightway? Entering into the highways of Tartarus, I say him sitting as a citizen amidst the blessed of Elysium. He hastened towards me, whom Charon had kept off his skiff, eager to kiss me and lovingly stretching out his arms. The grim old man refused to allow this. I recall that he resembled you with his squalid face, his many years, his wrinkles and frightful eyes, your very appearance.
WARD Go on, so I’m Charon! Concerning Charon of the Styx, you should believe that Cephalus was not borne in my skiff. You should believe he did not ask to be a passenger on that shore, but rather that he still feeds on the air of the upper world. If he were dead, the bad news would come a-flying.
PROC. Then there’s no point in telling dire stories.
WARD You invent anything.
PROC. My mind is gullible when it comes to evil.
WARD [To herself.] You can more quickly believe what you appear to desire. Who of sound mind doubts you hate the man you seek to kill even at the cost of your own death? Trust me, nothing else is dead — [She breaks off because there is a knock at the door.] But somebody’s knocking.
PROC. Go, Charinda. Bring back happy news, as is your habit, but this time may the gods make it more true.
WARD Good, may this keep your mind undamaged. Come, keep those dark clothes for things marked by sad evil, and which are suitable for things where a decent funereal color is wanted. But here, without your dress becoming excessively burdensome, a light garment becomes your youthful elegance, one of a color that matches your cheeks. Go, abandon your weeping, exchange your injuries for joys and your tears for laughter. Let your youth discover that a woman who makes a trifle into something sad is acting in excess. But see, the maid returns. (Charinda returns.)
CHAR. A noble hero, so handsome with his youthful comeliness, excellent for his fine carriage, like great Mars when he visits the beautiful goddess of Cyprus, pleasant with his warlike expression, stands at the door. So does a hoary old man reverend for his beard. Comely wrinkles have furrowed his pale cheeks, who appears to have placed himself at the service of the inexperienced lad. They both desire an interview.
PROC. Everybody’s agreed that Cephalus is dead. See, my ward, now I have suitors.
WARD Not that.
PROC. Nobody dares to admit he’s my husband’s rival.
WARD [To herself.] Rather you could say that dogs have learned manners and out of modesty are refraining from eating each other’s food when they are hungry. [Aloud.] Are these the faces of good hosts? Let’s go away and repair the damage our weeping has done to them. Love does not like tear-soaked eyes.
PROC. Keep the guests away.
WARD A sad house should not be open for guests, as happy ones are. Tell them that our heavy sorrows like seclusion, and invent other things.
CHAR. That’s enough, I’ll be deaf to their entreaties. (Exeunt.)


CEPH. We can’t get in, Eumetis. These are your promises?
EU. You should think our hearts are more patient than these doors, as long as you are open-handed. Knock vigorously.
CEPH. Is there nobody?
EU. See, there’s a girl up there. (Charinda and Damalis appear […])
CHAR. What are you doing, you silly little thing? Mistress refuses to be seen.
DAM. But her ward doesn’t. I fear that the men can’t get a bite to eat, being kept at such a distance.
CHAR. But they’ll beg you to let them in.
DAM. It’s a royal thing to have a soldier begging you, I like the joke. Soldiers make by far the sweetest lovers. {Enter Eumetis and Cephalus.] Who’s stomping about this sacred precinct with such a barbaric step?
EU. Who, you ask? He who wholly —
DAM. Keep silent, you with the white beard. Won’t your master condescend to be his own Mercury, dealing with us?
CEPH. I beg your problem. I admit that my youthful bashfulness is bold on the battlefield, and I have a fierce glare, but when it comes to love I blush.
DAM. Really? What color do you blush? Black?
CEPH. Get away, you rude girl. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?
DAM. Fools are ashamed of themselves.
CEPH. Good nymph, it’s not my face that blushes, but rather my heart.
DAM. You say so? Now I’m being called a nymph, Charinda.
CEPH. When I think about your mistress’ beauty, comparing it to my own unworthiness —
DAM. You have a low opinion of my mistress, if you seek her although you are an unworthy man.
CEPH. She will not pay attention to my love because I deserve it. Although (if you will be so kind), so that I won’t sound my own praises (people dislike self-praise ), you describe my exploits, Hegio. Your eloquence matches my deeds.
DAM. Be careful not to lie, old man.
EU. I would if I could. But only if all the conjoined mouths into which bright Helicon pours its waters, all the brains which have even dreamed of twin-peaked Parnassus, are not reckoned as lying when they join in singing of the deeds of poetic heroes, and of whatever deserves honor. You can say that by a single word that three hundred men have been dispatched to heaven. These eyes have seen this just as well as they are looking at this house.
DAM. I dislike those foul-smelling soldiers.
EU. What if one couldn’t see signs of a menacing spirit in his fierce glance? His expression was so calm. So, while he was doing nothing, you could see a thousand Centaurs thrust back, routed and killed by his one foot, and reeking in the manner of a week-old corpse. You ought to fear lest the ruined spirit of your household might die by annihilation, paying the forfeit. Let men talk of Hercules and make great boasts of having seen him. Let them have their fable to tell. Am I, an eyewitness, to say that Atlas was given a rest thanks to those shoulders? I scorn such piffling things. The heaven dangled from the tip of his ear (it’s covered by his hair), just like an earring does for you or for me.
DAM. You’re recounting miracles.
EU. These are all trifles. But Love’s darts have pierced this man, they have injured him, they have overcome him. The god weigh on him unduly.
DAM. You are weighed down, who have carried all the gods together and heaven itself? Now you feel that Cupid, the lightest of all things, is heavy?
CEPH. Love has power over the gods themselves.
DAM. Her virtue makes Pallas immune.
CEPH. Her Gorgon’s head frightens the little boy.
DAM. And a terrible Gorgon resides in your face.
CEPH. Yes, when my anger is a-boil, I have nothing but a stony glance.
DAM. I desire to see how handsome you are when you’re angry.
EU. Though the fields you till in the manner of your ancestors be carefully defended against enemy threats, although you join with or three or four neighboring kingdoms, they are unequal to our fury, but are safe thanks to our disdain for them.
CEPH. Rather because of my love.
DAM. But where did you get the idea of loving? That scarred face fall in love?
CEPH. You doubt this? You should trust your own experience.
DAM. Won’t this water put out the fire? (Damalis empties a chamber pot over Cephalus’ head.)
CEPH. You’re pouring oil on my love. And, very impatient because of it, I seek entry at the cost of this ring. It belonged to your mistress and was a pledge to me. Henceforth let it be your reward, loyal Charinda. There’s an inscription, read your mistress’ verse. (They come down. Eumetis lets in the servant Phorus, laden down with merchant’s wares.)
CLAR. Let the men in.
EU. Now, Phorus, you don’t need to be instructed about the job you’ve been hired to do?
PHOR. Do you think I need instruction at my age? Rather, you should be afraid about yourself. Do your duty so that Polemoceraunus may discover Procris’ chastity. The ward shouldn’t want to purchase her hopes at such a high price, stubborn old woman as she is. Hegio, I think you could make her pregnant sooner than you could sway her to the good. But see, the women are here. (Enter the maids, exeunt Cephalus and Eumetis.) Listen here, you pretty little beauties, I’m bring something of Polemoceraunus’ and a few gifts as tokens of his gratitude for your hospitality.
DAM. Come in, let this good donkey of a guest receive his reward.

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