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ACT III, SCENE i
Aripert assumes the kingship of the Langobards.
ARIP. Albeit my father’s death, my youth’s weak strength, the wheel of fickle Fortune, the various troubles of government, our vicissitudes, the unreliable throw of Mars’ dice, and all uncertain things frighten my young heart with many a fear, your virtue with its happy applause relaxes the burdened fibers of my being. Your loyalty makes me safe, your love makes me blessed.
ALDO Away with those degenerate fears, Aripert. If any clash of arms, if any tumult should arise, our hand will ward off the danger from your person and we shall stand at your side to protect you. Let your spirits revive, renew your former strength of mind, regain your old courage.
GRAU. Have no fear, prince. No way will ever be open for your wounding, there will be no opportunity for your murder. As long as we live, as long as our blood runs warm, we’ll freely submit to labors on your behalf, even if they are as difficult as those of Hercules. Neither that triple-throated bane of Erebus, nor the monster of Crete, nor the Cleonean lion or the Hydra will terrify us with its harm.
ARIP. I praise your noble hearts, I embrace your loyalty. Relying on your virtue I would not tremble at the Moor’s threats or fear the freezing Caucus. I should march boldly through the fields of the Don as a conqueror. But what bugle do I suddenly hear?
<???> Aripert, Ansprand, accompanied by a large force, approaches the city, his iron crop bristles amidst our fields, and with his savage glare he sets his hostile army in line for action. It is full of proud squadrons, and, together with their king, they rush advance with fury, wielding shining swords in their hands and issuing raging threats with their vengeful looks.
ARIP. Let the rebel make his boasts. He has forgotten what our hands and virtue can accomplish. Let him rush at us with his soldiers drawn up in doe order, he’ll stubbornly rush to his own doom. Gird your spirits and come, my great-souled band, let the air throb with drums. Let the steel occupy your right hands, and the shield your left. Having been ruined, let these people obey, let them water all the soil with the blood they spill.
ACT III, SCENE ii
King Luitpert is taken prisoner in a pitched battle.
LUIT. Why proudly march against us unlucky folk and, brandishing our stolen scepter, threateningly ruin our army with your furious expression, fiercely celebrate a triumph with our spoils, and resort to steel to defend that you stole by fraud, piling one crime atop another? Did our piety deserve this? Did our zeal, our favor, and our hand of hospitality? A Hircanian lion, nursed in caves, abandons his fury when he recognizes the one who has fed it and, lowering his mane, fawningly licks the hands that have been kind to it. But you, surpassing savage monster [...] ungrateful attack this heart and this marrow with your dire steel. This is the faith of Aripert, these are the tokens of his love, this is his entertainment, his dances. You will not get away this: heaven sees it, it does, and with its vengeful hand it is preparing its just fires. Why take away my scepter with your greedy hand?
ARIP. Mars dictates laws for himself, my brave Luitpert, Wherever Thetis extends her raging threats, in whatever place Neptune keeps contained in his blue embrace, strong men claim everything as their own right. Why display pretty signs? We must act by the sword. The just is not unjust: this steel will determine that. And whoever Mars has named the victor, let him gain the dynasty and its laurels.
ALDO Aripert, beware lest you are blind and trust this over-bold youth, nor embrace him with your arms more than is reasonable. The great ardor of his youth may induce him to attempt things beyond his strength.
LUIT. And you, you villain, equally hateful to heaven and earth, Aldo, who have betrayed your prince with your unspeakable schemes, you will pay the deserved price for your effort, here you will pay full forfeits for your crime.
ALDO Ansprand, Aldo has done as a man should. He has driven off this infant, and you do not rue this deed. Should I cravenly flee to the altar and endure Chunibert’s insult? An unworthy wrong! I fight off violence with violence. A noble mind does not know how to suffer shame. As long as my sword can defend what my hand has done, steel settles our dispute.
ARIP. Let arms clash, let the clamor of Mars resound.
LUIT. Cease, soldiers.Why should such a great army be destroyed, and innocent blood flow when missiles are hurled? You fight me hand to hand, foot to foot, in combat. Our blood will extinguish these bloody torches and their martial fires. Although I am not your equal in power, I confess, and your inferior in strength and years, Themis will inflict her punishment for my damaged honor, she will be here to help me more, and this right hand of mine will repay you as you deserve for your crimes.
ARIP. Whew, what warlike heat in a fly, an ant, you crumb of a king, you helpless boy. Put down your sword, I’m ashamed to fight an infant. An eagle does not hunt after flies, or a lion for a rabbit. If you’re heart is so eager for fight, and your fury for martial glory, go, you bold fighter, appoint yourself a general over bellicose mice. A gale, bursting forth from the cave of swollen Aeolus does not crush a tree, ripping its crown from its feeble root, so much as fierce Aripert would crush you with his strong arm, my boy. Hurry on your way, my soldiers. Join battle. Why are your hands slow to do their work?
ALDO Hurry, don’t let your quarry escape your slothful hands.
KING Why, Aldo, are you driven by dire fury, and seek my life with that bloodthirsty grin of yours? Although I am oppressed by the unlucky throw of Mars’ dice, thanks to my hard fate, you ought to treat me in the manner which your king would wish, were he enchained.
ALDO It befits victors alone to dictate laws, and the defeated to obey. I’ll handle you in the way that befits a captive.
KING Although Fortune’s fickle wheel has me downcast, I still live, wretched though I be. Although you pursue me with bitter hatred, Aldo, you should show reverence for the sacred rights of a royal scepter.
ALDO I lack the leisure to fritter the day away with words. [To the soldiers.] Take him away and let the band of soldiers immediately give Aripert his hoped-for prize.
ACT III, SCENE iii
Aripert condemns Luitpert to death and puts out Sigebrand’s eyes.
ARIP. Thus the distinguished honors of Mars, thus noble vigor instilled deep in the heart befits the brave, and their virtue stands revealed. The craven enemy has retreated, driven back by the light pushes of our shields, or in falling to our steel has spattered the sodden earth with his spilled blood. Let the victor’s palm and the laurel garland our happy locks, celebrate our triumph with happy applause. Let the clash of arms fall still and let the earth resound with your dancing feet. Come, Aldo, I now create you Duke of Bergamo, and for you, Grauso, the home of the Earl of Breschia awaits. Flourish, live your happy days free of care.
ALDO Indomitable prince, let the water flow back in its courses and seek out its limpid source, before an ungrateful Aldo lives unmindful of you.
ARIP. And now, so that the sight of our longed-for prize may cheer our minds, Aldo, quickly bring Luitpert here. Let him appear, threatening with his gait, and delight our eyes with his tears. [Luitpert is brought out.] Come, great soldier, you champion brave in your threats, you who are stout-hearted in your talk, you who knock over crags of the wild see, mountains, and ash-trees with your breath, now invite me to the open arena of Mars, you terrible Hector. Now bid me fight you hand to hand, foot to foot. What’s happened to that martial vigor, to your recent high spirits, to the heat of your mind, to that gigantic ardor? Has the fervency of your heart perished? Where’s that flashing eye? Such a great fellow has vanished into thin air. Feel fear, my lords, and you martial band. Plant firm your feet, if he spews forth threats, his blast of wind will scatter you in his father’s sight. Fight with Aripert, boy. At last it will be allowed you. Ruler of heaven, preside over this single combat, decide who is to carry off the palm. A rabbit will finally learn what it is to challenge an elephant, a sheep of Arcady will learn what is to want to fight a cruel lion.
KING Aripert, although the iron of these chains weighs me down with its weight, my mind knows not servitude. And although my body is given to my enemy as a prize, I shall still always remain a king in my mind. You can take away a king’s name and title, but you cannot deprive him of his spirit. Your furious wrath leaves me unmoved, as do your threats. I as for no mercy. Burn, rend, cut, tear, twist, pierce, bring on whatever an irate victor can do to a captive.
ARIP. You vaunt fine words, but soon I’ll tame your high-flown spirits, my boy.
LUIT. Though you may thunder punishes, tortures, and fires, I’ll speak the truth.
LUIT. Such is my wish.
ARIP. While death is far a way, your spirits are fierce. When the sword threatens you, you’ll quickly break out in tears.
LUIT. No base fear of death or punishment will shake my being. Rather draw your weapon, and open my side with your hostile steel, I’ll fall by your wounding.
ARIP. You will not want for a killer, a weapon, a hand. You’ll find your death. I appoint this hourglass as the limit of your life. When it has emptied, let sly, brutal Aldo impose your due punishment.
SIG. A cruel deed! Take your dire steel , open my side too, and bid my blood be let. Go on, be cruel and give the rein to your harsh fury. Or rather be pious and grant Sigebrand his request for a welcome death.
ARIP. Since you ask, I’ll grant you a life that’s worse than death. Let his eyes be put out, let him live and crave to die, but let death flee him when he desires it and his lingering life be worse than death. Let him be piteous, but an object of pity to no man. Let him keep breathing, but an object of hatred to himself.
SIG. May God, Who has the power, mete out your just punishment. [He is dragged off. Enter St. Damianus.]
DAM. Aripert, while you consider these things, blind of mind, you imitate unjust rulers in your wrath and fury. You should take care not to do this, which later you would pay a kingdom to make undone.
ARIP. I am doing that which my scepter and the security of my realm require.
DAM. Aripert, where are your headstrong fury and anger driving you?
ARIP. Rather my security.
DAM. What danger terrifies you?
ARIP. There’s no lack of fear, as long as my enemy breathes.
DAM. He’s a young boy, his age attempts nothing.
ARIP. The lion who once hung at his mother’s teat dictates laws to the forest as the king of the beasts.
DAM. Aren’t you afraid of God’s threats and heaven’s wrath?
ARIP. Heaven approves my dead. It is the right of victors to kill their enemies.
DAM. Even innocent ones?
ARIP. He’s guilty, this person is being punished by a just sword.
DAM Guilty of what crime?
ARIP Of ruling.
DAM. So how many guilty men does the world contain, if ruling is a crime. Be moved, ah I pray be moved, by his hand of hospitality.
ARIP. A hand that steel has armed.
DAM. You should revere the rights of the scepter. Only heaven demands vengeance.
ARIP. If heaven should take a tumble, wrenched off its pivot, if the earth should collapse, thrown off its foundation in a quake, Luitpert will nevertheless play a prelude to this universal collapse with his death.
DAM. Think better of it, my prince. No man has shown contempt for heaven’s hot fires, or smiled at its threats, with impunity. When missiles upwards, they fall back on the man who has thrown them. Subdue your anger, a slow but certain vengeance awaits you, your punishment follows after you, albeit with halting steps.
ARIP. Why thunder at me about heaven’s severe threats? Depart, and do not dementedly continue to weary my ears with your entreaties, or I swear by heaven’s brightness and the sacred stars, for your impudence you will join Luitpert in death, killed by this very hand.
DAM. Go away, but you are destined to return, at the cost of your tears.
ARIP. Let him depart and with his own eyes watch the groaning boy die. Let him watch, and groan along with him.
ACT III, SCENE iv
Luitpert is led to his death and Sigebrand is blinded.
LUIT. Just as the rose of Hybla flourishes in the morning, opening its golden brilliance as Phoebus rises, but languishes in the face of the wind’s turbulent gusts and leans its head on its rough thorns, or as on the ridges of Pindus in springtime the marigold, that daughter of the vine, spreading its petals, immediately wilts when you pinch it with your thumb, so my youth, opening its fresh petals in the freshness of youth, perishes in the deadly storms of Boreas, and I fall, a boy scarce entering his first years, dispatched by the unexpected sweep of a cruel scythe. The springtime had scarce driven its chariot across the empurpled meadows when a downpour descended from the thick clouds. Dawn had scarcely painted the day with its first light when black night came on with its darkling shadows. Oh empty splendor of kingship, how it bewitches men’s minds with its transitory gleam, painted with vain shadow on its exterior, which perishes just as it promises great things! What good does it do, you beloved bevy of young men, what good does it do to hasten on my death with your tears? Your laments, your tears, your complaints, sorrow scarce befit this death. Curb your plaints. Just do dying Luitpert this small favor. Take this mark of Luitpert’s love, this token of his death. You, take this little note, and as often as you read it, shed a single tear out of your affection for me. And eventually deliver it to your father Asprand, so that he will live mindful of me, wherever he lives: “Farewell, receive this final embrace.” And a final farewell to you as well, Sigebrand.
SIG. I shall not leave, my prince. No hour will separate me from you, my prince. No steel will part us with its hostile blow, no threats, no sword, torches, torments, flames. Whatever dagger is driven in Luitpert’s side will not separate mine. I shell never leave, unmindful of your shade.
LUIT. The thrice-welcome ardor of your mind! I appreciate your character, your hart, worthy of Sigebrand, and your deserving faith. But live, as an affection which fury, threats, tortures, prison, fire, steel, and torches cannot destroy. Live stronger than steel and death, Sigebrand, live. Thus at least a part of me survives. If you perish, I perish entire. [Enter Aldo and soldiers.]
ALDO Take him away, and quickly use a knife to blind him. Let prison hide his brother in its shadowy dungeon. Hurry up, Luitpert. The sand is silently completing its flowing course, showing that you have a small space yet to live.
LUIT. Pray grant me this small measure of life, Aldo. [He takes up the hourglass.] Just as grain constantly presses down grain in this slippery globe, pushing and likewise being pushed, and spins itself as it tries to escape, so one fleeting day is driven on by the next, hour presses on hour, and thus our age flows on unaware until, completing its invisible course, it empties its vitals by its slow passage. Oh how this hourglass colors Man’s life with its lively signs. The falling of the sand limns forth our slippery fate. The wax is our hope, the glass our life, its color is our delight, its hour a man, its course is short. The minutes flee, our hope fails, our life evaporates, our pleasure is mistaken, death presses on, a man falls. Life is in flux: it slips by, it passes, it perishes. It is like glass: it glitters, it is shattered, it deceives, it disappears. It is painted: it flourishes, it gains and loses its beauty. It is a breeze, a wind, a shadow, a moment, it is nothing.
ALDO Now break off. At last the hourglass summons you to something else.
LUIT. This is the end, Aldo. No delay for Luitpert. Stretch forth Your hand, Christ, receive me as I come. You kindly guide my life’s thread. Take me up as I fall, and protect me when I have been raised up.
ALDO Come, soldier. Use your sword to cut off that hateful head.
SOLD. My mind wavers, I’m afraid, my hand fails.
ALDO Oh, get on with it, you reproach of soldiers, you cowardly fellow, you armed man frightened by the face of an unarmed boy. [Stabs Luitpert.] So take this, my hand does not fail. Get on with it.
SOLD. I can’t, a sudden shaking comes over me.
ALDO Control your craven mind. [To Luitpert.] Take this work of Aldo, you foolish boy. Get on with it, my hand, get on with it, drench yourself wholly in blood. Die, you snake of a person. Drench the warm ground with your dying blood. (Luitpert dies.} Thus, thus heaven has sped on my wishes. At length I have made a death-sacrifice to his proud father. I have made it, and the sand swims with his hostile blood. Oh the welcome sight! How he drenches Chunibert’s breast as he drips. Go, fool, to your father, and take him this token of remembering Aldo. [To the soldiers.] Take him away, I se Sigebrand approaching with sickly steps. [Enter Sigebrand, blind.]
SIG. Why, sorrow, do you trouble my unquiet heart with your savage bite, and constantly vex my tongue with new complaints? My eyes can scarcely shed just tears for you (and, alas, I cannot now call them by that word). It is something to be able to relieve one’s heart with great weeping and wash one’s cheeks with salty dew. My night refuses that dew, and abounds with error. Why do I live yet lack the light, why do I exist at once among the shades and those of the world above? Happy Luitpert! He was first beset by evils, but enjoyed a final end to his evils. Oh return, my prince, return and kindly take Sigebrand with you. Take me as your comrade. Oh I pray that I may be your partner in death, as I was in life. Let death, which alone could separate us when we were joined be the only thing to join us.
ALDO Everything blesses my wishes. How that face, how that countenances pleases Aldo! Sigebrand, stay awake. Why close your windows in the light of day? Look at the sun, dee how it sheds it rays, pouring forth a rosy brilliance as it turns on its golden axis, and bathes all the earth with its ruddy light.
SIG. Who speaks?
SIG. It helps that I am blind. This darkness helps, so that I do not have to see such a monster. Now I congratulate my eyes, but it is unlucky for my hears that the have to hear the sound of such an unspeakable monster.
ALDO You continue to pertly insult me with your talkative tongue, my boy? I swear by the lights of the sky, by the golden halls of heaven, if you don’t curb your tongue my steel will cut your scurvy throat.
SIG. You would bless me, Aldo. Get on with it: for me death, is a boon, not a bane. Plant your sword-point deep in my being, inflict your wound, you are free to attack my person, and I shall gladly submit my bowed head to death.
ALDO I decline. Drag out your life, so that you may wretchedly die a long-drawn-out death, and I can happily giggle at your misfortunes. Shun the day, you night-bird, and sing only in darkness.
SIG. So martial all your strength, my sorrow, torture my marrow. Welcome death, come at last, and close my jaws. Let a genuine night overwhelm this false one. Summoned, itis here, pain stabs my vitals and eternal sleep shuts my eyes. (Sigebrand dies.)
ACT III, FINAL SCENE
Held in contempt, the child Luitprand is sent to his father Asprand with mean presents. Aldo dies, and Aripert is terrified.
ARIP. Has trusty Aldo finished his work, as he was bidden?
ALDO The thing is done, the hateful fellow has died. A double sacrifice has been made: steel closed Luitpert’s eyes, and sorrow those of Sigebrand.
ARIP. Good! I triumph. Now I grasp the scepter in a safe hand, the crown sits firm on my brow. Now I rule.
ALDO Your government is not free of all free. One child of evil Asprand remains, Luitprand.
ARIP. The wrong!
ALDO Your throne is not safe as long as that child breathes.
ARIP. What do you bid me do?
ALDO Kill him.
ARIP. He’s a fly.
ALDO Even flies come to grow stings. You should be aware that cubs eventually become lions, when their claws gradually harden, a shaggy coat hangs from its shoulders, and it drips with hot red blood.
ARIP. Vain things. Why, Aldo, do you confront my mind with vain things, and timidly offer up empty fears? Suppose this boy is a lion, my hand has learned how to conquer lions. Let this helpless, abandoned, a refugee, disgraced wretch go to his father, where he might feed his eyes with the new sorrow of that groaning man. Produce him quickly. (Luitprand is brought in.)
Come, boy, go look for your father, a vagabond exile from Ausonia’s shores, and take him these gifts of mine, tokens of my esteem. A sponge with which to absorb the copious tears of his eyes. A flute, so that when sorrow excessively vexes his heart, with his music he might console himself for his bloody deeds, sitting beneath some far-off shady cliff, and the reed might lessen his series of laments. A little garland, which was present during the killing of the king and the blood-letting of his son, so that he will be reminded of myself and my son, and always help and obey us. Go, you pest. Go, you tortoise, hurry off.
LUIT. Heaven avenge us! [Exit.]
ARIP. Now let today be given over to celebrations, let the entire palace resound with festive applause. [Exit, leaving behind only Aldo.]
ALDO Good! My ship has been borne through the straits by the wind, and has arrived in its longed-for harbor. I entirely triumph, no man can surpass or equal my good fortune, not even he whose temple the crown caresses with its golden embrace, or hefts a proud scepter in his steady hand, aloft on a throne. Now celebrate your gladsome triumphs, Aldo, your victorious locks bound with purple. I worship you alone. Revenge, you are the sole goddess on earth, and it is you, you to whom I pray, I humbly worship your divinity. Come forth a little while from your caverns, goddess, abandon the homes of the pallid shades and soak your hot hands with enemy blood. (Enter the ghost of Luipert.)
What monster suddenly appears before me, approaching with sad steps, and hurling his cruel threats. Depart, specter, return to the home of the silent dead. Back, Luipert. (Enter the ghost of Sigebrand.)
Another? Waves of sweat pour down my limbs. Stop, Sigebrand, I perish. (Enter ghosts of soldiers.)
What, more? I believe that the floodgates have broken and all the Styx is assaulting Aldo. But why am I afraid of these monsters? I’m a greater one myself. So come, you wild band, hurl your flames. Come, Aldo will frighten you too with his apparitions.
LUIT. Pay your due forfeits. Die, evil man.
ALDO I’m dying. Oh, I’m dying, I’m ruined. My marrow’s afire, my guts are groaning, scorched with flames. I’m being burned alive. I’m surrounded with fire, the heat penetrates everything. Oh fetch water, I’m scorched, I’m burning, I’m afire, I’m in flames. Yawn wide, you earth, swallow me and take me into distant dark caverns. I pray you pious mountains fall on me, hide my unhappy head with your rocks. I lived a rebel against heaven, and here I die, an acceptable prize for Avernus’ Styx, but an object of hate to heaven. (He dies. Enter Aripert with his soldiers.)
ARIP. What’s this groaning? What tearful shouting strikes my ears with its complaints? Search everything. My mind inwardly presages I know what, my mind wavers, shaken by an anxious flood of cares, and pain shakes wholly shakes. Go, leave me alone, while I relieve my heart, vexed by woes, with a brief sleep. (Luitpert and Sigebrand appear to the sleeping Aripert, dragging Aldo, and representing that he is doomed to die after seven years.)
Ah, specters, ghosts, flames, the Styx, Furies, torches! What monsters are harassing m my careworn heart with their strange storms? Menacing Luitpert, Sigebrand, Aldo, the world, Styx, heaven and earth, they all frighten me. What monstrosities do I see? A fly is dragging an errant lion is plunging him in the troubled sea. Oh the monsters! A stock is reaped by a sickle. Oh monsters! Come, you loyal band of friends, open up! Why do you like these dire scepters and their signs?
GRAU. What scepters?
ARIP. The ones visible over there, with their foul markings. The groaning!
GRAU. You’re not in your proper mind. Restrain your impulses, bridle your frenzied heart. Here there are no scepters, my prince.
ARIP. Oh, the foul crime! You too are plotting treachery with your deceits. Oh you traitors! I swear by the Acheron, I’ll butcher these traitorous villains with this sword of mine, this brood of the Styx. (He draws his sword and drives them all away.)
But the monsters remain. I have a suspicion what they mean. Aripert will fall, Luitprand will wield the scepter. Is corn this. As long as a drop of blood is warm in this heart and in my living being, no man will steal the scepter I own. Rather you must die, foul specters. The throne of Aripert will remain, and as a victor he will trample them with his strong foot. Oh! (He unexpectedly sees the ghost of Luitpert behind him.).
LUIT. Thus God avenges the murder of innocent men.
Praise be to God and Mary Mother of God