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ACT III, SCENE i
PROCRIS strumming a lyre, WARD
WARD Ugh, that instrument’s doleful sounds! Was Cephalus the only living man who could be sent to be your darling? Was he the only one who loved you? And the only one to remain loyal to his wife (supposing that he did)?
PROC. No many is worthy to be mentioned on the same day with Cephalus, worthy to live and breathe under the same sky. An idle Titan seems to have made the other out of cheaper clay. Now matter how seamy and marked by the wrinkles of a premature old age, his face was more welcome to me than the grace of another man’s pleasant countenance.
WARD That’s how you were deceived by blind affection. What audacity has arrived at our door? (Enter Cephalus and Eumetis)
CEPH. An audacity which does not fear to enter the precincts of the Acheron, surrounded by the thick dark shadows of bristling yew-trees, and with these hands to violate the laws of the deadly marsh of the Styx.
WARD But audacity itself fears women’s sanctuaries, and a sense of shame engenders some fears, so that pleasing virtue can overthrow the houses of the Styx and render the dog gentle towards one departing the Underworld. But heroes themselves pay forfeits for desecrating Venus’ rites.
EU. You goddesses must forgive us if our incautious love has sinned. But the laws enjoined by shame are too grave and severe. (Meanwhile Cephalus admires Procris.) If all the threats of the dire sea nor the crop of monsters that have confronted me cannot terrify this man from coming to see you, are these doors to do so, and a silly love of rustic modesty? [He displays his sword.]
WARD You gods of hatred, bring quick aid to us as we perish. Strengthen our weak feet, oh divine fear, for it is them rather than our hands that will let us live. (Exit.)
CEPH. You flee me, goddess? You flee my arms? Cupid’s dart is no gentler than this sword, that gold which pinks a lover’s heart with its welcome wound when, acting as his mother’s champion, Love stretches his tiny little bow. Ah, dry the doubtful eyes of my candor. Don’t let your unjust fear flee my harmless embrace. Don’t believe that my savage anger, unworthy of my divine blood, makes my passion burn against the female sex. My glory is to be called a subduer of monsters. If in her old age Mother has produced anything hateful and harmful to the earth, it is my task to cleanse the world with my strong right hand. No men have stained this sword of mine but those who have lessened the number of their fellow men by living rather than dying. You were wrong to fear whatever it possesses of savagery and fearfulness. You should believe that it has been created to oppose your enemies. Best of goddesses, it is at your service. You are frightened by encountering this thing, don’t spare me for my ill deserts.
PROC. I wasn’t afraid of you. I wasn’t afraid that evil hatred could be concealed by such an appearance, or that a hero could cherish harshness in his brave breast (for your carriage and the majesty of your face prove that you are a hero). Rather, sorrow grips my wavering mind. What reed would not frighten it? What occasion would terror not grasp at? My sorrow, overcoming a happiness not sufficiently unawares, showed it a sinister omen. Just as bodies half-consumed by starvation are killed if you feed them, dying by the very food which it is death to do without, so this house and its mistress are affected in the absence of its master. You must pardon me if, in my unhappiness I […]
CEPH. Why do you call this house and its mistress bereft of its master? Why be terrified by vain fears? You are safe under my protection, this strong right arm will ensure that no loss will make this house and its mistress seem bereft. And (if you can abandon your fastidiousness about titles), I shall bring it about it that a great hero is at your service, so that as master you may enjoy him who is present.
PROC. I’m not so haughty as to tolerate having a hero for a servant.
CEPH. To hell with whatever friend needs to be called a master!
PROC. I shall take pride in having you as my guest.
CEPH. A hero is a stranger to that word “guest”.
PROC. I’m being naive, I don’t understand what you want.
CEPH. But “guest” will be enough if —
PROC. What, hero, if that’s your designation? Tell me clearly.
CEPH. [Aside.] Good gods, how sweet! How she strives to anticipate me! It only remains for me to ask. But the utterances of her tongue are so modest, that she always seems to be listening to me with chaste ears. She stammers when I try to say dishonorable things. [Aloud] My rustic uncouthness must excuse me, for my love is not that of a courtier. The love on my lips is smaller, but the love that lives mutely in my heart is greater. You tell her, Hegio, you know better how to do it.
EU. It should satisfy you to be a guest, but not of the kind I am. You want to master to this servant, and the friend upon whom the honor of hospitality is granted.
PROC. He will eat at my table and, as a guest, will drink from the same cup.
EU. Kissing the cup after you, he will be happy. I fear for my ward, lest excessive love of that cup make him a sot.
PROC. And he will recline on my dining-couch in my absent husband’s place.
EU. On your couch? Come now, goddess, you meant your bed.
PROC. How shameless of you, old man! Has the blush deserted your cheeks, together with your sense of shame? Famed hero, this chaste woman did not desire this blot on your family honor. Why has your sword spent its life at your side, that champion of maidens, which desires to have the reputation as a monster-slayer, if it remains clinging to your side, and such a foul rascal grows to hoary old age? Cut him down, if you seek any credit as a hero.
CEPH. [Aside.] I’ve tested her sufficiently. Eumetis, what hope is their now?
EU. [Aside.] What hope is their not?
CEPH. How her chastity is hot with keen anger!
EU. You should know that girls of this hot-blooded nature are the best.
CEPH. [Aloud.] Ah, goddess, abandon your great anger, don’t use your harsh words to bring a hero to a death that would be mourned all the world, and to an untimely tomb. As if that mad wanton goddess titillates human minds, do you imagine I am seeking so slake my lust with you? Heroic hearts scorn this. Born without a mother, I’ve had no need for your help.
PROC. Some masculine Minerva! Am I to believe these words?
CEPH. Angry at Jove and mourning that the Titans had fallen because of their undertakings, the earth renewed its war against heaven. Pregnant with anger, it swelled, and at the proper moment it gave birth to a great mass (they called it Typhoeus). Having a mind scarce unmatched to such a great body, now this boy would thunder against the gods with his horrible voice, and now he would wax terrifying, stirring up impious quarrels and hurling his missiles against many of the Olympians, as if he were playing with a hoop. When he grew in years and the first down covered his cheeks, he decided to chase the fearful gods up to the stars and rule over the empty heaven, such was the monster’s audacity. He piled countless mountains up to the stars, and he himself was the topmost one. As a new guest he threatened the celestial citadel, and the crew of gods were terrified at the sight of him, reading their destinies written on his face. As when sluggish death sets siege to the body and has raised its flag over the conquered lower town, and life flees to its citadel, either to defend itself or to seek for aid, so they related everything to the Thunderer. He was afraid and aggrieved, and, indignant at their fears, grasped his ivory scepter in his hand. “By this breast of mine,” he said, striking his breast with his heavy fist, “I shall be your avenger,” and Typhoeus was all but undone by this statement. Then my infant self is said to have suddenly cried before his throne, and to have made childless Jove a father. The god felt that his strength had perished, and he said, heavily groaning, “have me as your heart, and Minerva as your brain.”
EU. You should think that his spirits are royal, taken from the heart of Jove, just as he has struck his enemies using Jove’s hand, and that his strength has grown by this, so that the giant has waited for him to grow to adulthood. The Nile should not hide its gods.
CEPH. Put an end to these delays. I’m in a hurry to father a son like myself, so that when the promised stars carry me off he will remain in this world.
EU. You will allow such an abundance of virtue to exist in one epoch?
PROC. Oh divine one, would that I were free to enjoy your embraces! But now I am pledged.
EU. Chaste marriage oppresses you too greatly.
PROC. It would be too late for me to refuse this yoke imposed on me.
CEPH. Who should be the Amphitryon? Who would be ennobled by this pledge, unless he went half-shares on his love with Jove?
EU. Just like the husband of Alcmene, your husband could not have taken this amiss.
PROC. But she offended out of ignorance.
EU. Imagine this man is your Cephalus.
CEPH. Should one man enjoy all this happiness you provide, Procris?
PROC. They are prepared for one man.
CEPH. Rather, while your years permit, gather all the loves you can, and while you are loveable love so that you may be loved. Nibble dainty foods when they are offered. A man of your own family is food with which you can fill your belly when you’re old and toothless
PROC. He’s worthy of my youthful love, let him have it for himself.
CEPH. He’s a courtier. Perhaps you disdain me and think me uncouth, but I’m not so versed in fearsome weaponry that I can’t ply tuneful lute-strings with a light thumb, dance, and woo a mistress as a poet, praising her rosy cheeks and admiring her ivory breast. Listen —
PROC. You’re laboring in vain, my mind is determined.
CEPH. Does loving Cephalus woo you thus?
EU. In comparison with you he’s a pure bumpkin. His beard hurts you when he kisses.
PROC. He may be a hayseed as far as your mouth is concerned, but he’s welcome to mine, and he’s my only man.
CEPH. [Aside to Eumetis.] Is that enough?
EU. [Aside.] One love-potion remains. [Aloud.] Cephalus is jealous.
CEPH. Although he deserves jealousy (for Aurora is a goddess and pretty with her rosy face) and oppresses his wife with suspicion.
EU. He gives you those clothes, that squalid garment, as well as a guardian over your chastity and shadows to hide your beauty.
CEPH. How well this union of a pearl befits your brow! The rival of your countenance, in vain it strives to surpass your beauty.
EU. What’s its price?
CEPH. For you, let its price be our union.
PROC. That is impermissible
CEPH. It is impermissible, silly woman? Is not whatever is hidden permissible?
PROC. It will not be hidden from me myself, and from lost Faith.
EU. Why toss about these empty words? Shame? Faith?
CEPH. Don’t believe this entirely, there will be no limit at all to you honor. My servant is at hand laden down with gems and all the other trifles which India produces, which I am bestowing on your handmaids. But the golden earth will open its inner recesses for you, plowed by this sword, and as my captive will call you its mistress.
PROC. I place a higher value on Athens with my Cephalus.
CEPH. And the sea will spew the gems hidden on its bottom and within its darkness.
PROC. My hand will not allow itself to be given.
CEPH. When I return to the heaven, my homeland, you will accompany me as a shining star, rising above the Bears, Semele, and the goddesses.
EU. You have prevailed, possess him. Recline, and I don’t imagine a soldier will forget to do his duty, since you and he are alone. (Exit Eumetis.)
CEPH. Let me have a kiss as a pledge of your love, don’t deny me.
PROC. You gods, bear witness that he compelled me by force.
CEPH. Come, this place is suitable for love — But what? Are you afraid Cephalus might see?
PROC. You should forget that man, for a little while you’ll be my Cephalus.
CEPH. (Aside.) And I’ll blame you for being false to this place.
PROC. The short time we have will prevent us from indulging in better sports.
CEPH. [Angrily revealing his true identity.] It’s short er than you think. You monstrosity of womankind! Look at me, you adulteress. Does your unbridled lust know no limit? Does the earth produce so few men that you have the effrontery to commit adultery with your own husband? At last your masks fall away: the forced chastity of your tongue, the habitual modesty of your demeanor, and whatever virtues proclaimed you to be a goddess. What do you imagine a true lover could do if a pretended suitor has accomplished so much? “Would that I were free,” she says! Unless this ear of mine had heard that, it would be open to your blandishments. Do you hope to undo those kisses? Your breath stinks because of your foul speech. Do you imagine that these tears of yours will deceive my seeing eyes? You should save them. Thanks to them you will please men, sweetly telling lies to your simpletons, as once you did to me. Good-bye. (Exeunt in different directions.)
Go to Act IV