Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
THE MOURNFUL NOTE OF THE DOVE
Theophilus goes to show how deeply the desire for empty honor is engraved on men’s minds. Although he regarded with disdain the lofty office of Bishop of Adana in Cilicia, he nevertheless could not forego his position as treasurer, which earned him envy, to his great harm. Why waste many words? This man, unused to ill repute, disgraced his true reputation in order to refute a fictitious reproach. For in order to recover his erstwhile dignity, he did not hesitate to employ both his tongue and his pen to pledge himself to Hell. But afterwards, when he had gained what he wished and the cloud of his anger had been dispelled, he fully recognized the atrocity of the crime by which he had entered into this contract. Nor was his repentance in vain. For behold, by the guidance of the Virgin he escaped from the very jaws of the Inferno, to which his impiety had consigned him.
THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
EUSEBIUS a bishop
CALIDORUS his nephew
ACHATES, ALETHES chaplains to Eusebius
CLEANTHUS enemy of Theophilus
THEOPHULUS a treasurer
LYCANDER a mage
ACT I, SCENE 1
Envy renews Cleanthus’ ancient hatred for Theophilus, caused by his dignity of office, which he himself had once hoped to acquire. While fiddles play, Envy pokes her head out of a cave.
ENVY What noise has come to my ears? (She listens.) Is a quill striking up the sound of a feeble lyre? (She arises.) Is Cleanthus’ house resounding to an Orphic lute? Its strings and his fingers are both making noise. I loathe soft melody. (The music falls silent.) Lamentations, groans, wailing, howling, the baying of the three-tongued hound of Erebus, these sound sweet. Is the whole day dedicated to celebration? Are they holding a banquet? Are the young men sodden with wine? Are they stretched out on purple spreads while Envy, that companion of grief, lays siege to the threshold of this house? Let the doors be opened. (The curtain is drawn. She sees Cleanthus, asleep, and a table laden down with cups and plates.) What peaceful, carefree, pleasant rest! Cleanthus, is the sleepy god locking your eyelids shut, while Theophilus is making himself a place among the stars? Can you tolerate this proud man’s arrogant eyes? Where has the ancient vigor of your mind gone? Is your youthful ardor languishing? Has base old age chilled your heart so quickly? Lately you worshipped me alone. Lately the wealth of Araby crackled on Envy’s altars, why are those fragrant piles not still producing clouds of smoke? Now where are the honors due my temple? But perhaps your hot-bloodedness, consecrated to myself, has grown dull, you have no power, your snakes are not full of any poison. Wretch, I’ll make you feel the thunderbolt of my Gorgon-like arm, I’ll have your liver ravished by a serpent’s triple-forked tongue. (She plucks a snake from her locks and holds it in her hand.) Come, you blue-marked viper, the glory of my head, the jewel of my hair, enter into Cleanthus’ treacherous heart, lightly glide until you make your dwelling within his heart, until Cleanthus imbibes your spirit. (She hurls the snake at his breast.) Well done, let me return to my cave. The poison is spreading through his veins. (She enters her cave. Cleanthus awakes.)
CLE. Oh bitter night! Oh bedchamber, as cruel as iron! Oh restless quiet! Sleep has dipped his wand in gall, not honey, the sleep of death has come over my sick self. (He sighs deeply) My breath is barely still going in and out. (He springs from his bed.) Farewell, you unspeakable pillow, you bed, full of Furies. What’s this? My guts are ablaze, my inmost being is catching fire. A cancer is gnawing at my marrow, oh its cruel bite! Has a serving-boy poured me aconite, concealed in treacherous wine? Perhaps Theophilus has given me poisoned food. Perhaps the impious fellow has bewitched me with a Circe’s cup. That’s it. So shall I board the raft of Tartarus without gaining vengeance? Stay your black arrows, Libitina. I’m coming soon, but let Theophilus first fall as a victim to you. When he is dead, I shall gladly die. (Exit.)
ACT I, SCENE ii
Calidorus angrily broods about Theophilus’ generosity towards the poor, and Cleanthus further inflames his mind.
CAL. Would that my cradle had been my coffin, and my life’s first day had been my last! Why did I behold the light of Phoebus with a level gaze, like a featherless eagle? Or why did I wrap my arms around my father’s neck, hanging from it while a little boy? What good do ancestral glories and titles do me, if my purse is empty? When Calidorus is bereft of gold, how can he surround a grove with his keen hunting-hounds, or bring down flocks of birds with his falcon’s talons, or trip measures with his playful feet, or set an iron spur to the flank of his flying horse? He was originally the nephew of Eusebius, but accursed poverty has made him a kinsman of Irus. Will Theophilus, that mushroom of a man, that whelp of Megaera, that fleck of foam from the dog Cerberus, ride roughshod over me? Trust me, he is a fierce-blooded man, he will not tolerate your yoke. Oh plague of Hell! Do you openhandedly enrich nobodies with my uncle’s wealth? Are you leaving me reproaches as my sole inheritance? (Enter Cleanthus. He lowers his voice.)
CLE. This is an easy chance for a conversation, I’ll approach him. [Aloud.] You glory and darling of young men, you noble luminary of our heroes, you living image of your father and nephew of Eusebius, you who challenge the torches of Phoebus with your better light, Calidorus, greetings.
CAL. You should rather bid me die.
CLE. Me bid the flower of our springtime die? A rosebud that has scarcely opened?
CAL. If you call me a rose, I’m doomed to a quick death. If you call me a rose, I’m not lacking in thorns.
CLE. Tell me, you glory of the Muses, you jewel of the Graces, tell me what’s gnawing at your guts.
CAL. Savage poverty is eating up my marrow.
CLE. Your house is resplendent with rooms paneled with cedar, cups made heavy with gems relieve your thirst with unspoiled wine from Lesbos, you dine at your uncle’s table, your hair is fragrant with Assyrian balsam, the silkworm has spilled out its guts on your behalf — and Calidorus is oppressed by poverty?
CAL. If my treasure-chest is in mourning for lack of money and within it only tiny, busy-footed Arachne is spinning a net for midges, if my wallet is bled white for want of the ruddy gold that is wont to supply its color, if no ring of coinage blesses my ears with its divine sound, then proud beams from Mt. Taenarum give no pleasure, my uncle’s dinners have no welcome savor, nor do I take delight in having my head reek of Arabian perfume, and having a cloak dipped in the scarlet dye of Tyre is not to my liking.
CLE. Doesn’t Theophilus contribute to your money-chest?
CAL. He enriches the hovels of paupers with the wealth of my uncle and myself, the humble folk are living on our spoils. All he’s left me is youth without honor.
CLE. Is this how he curbs blood worthy of a royal palace? How he swells with pride like a bubble! How he scrapes the sky with that arrogant head of his!
CAL. And furthermore, he often calls me an uncontrolled wastrel, he often lashes me with that viper’s tongue of his.
CLE. Why, you fool, are you puffed up by this pointless blast of air? Just because the west blesses your full sail with a kindly breeze, have you imagined that the treacherous sea is faithful? Beware, warring winds tear your fragile boat asunder. But another blow tortures me worse. I am embarrassed to reopen the wound.
CAL. Pray tell me the source of your gnawing sorrow. With thirsty ear I’ll happily drink in the honey of your eloquence.
CLE. My mind shrinks back and hesitates. But I’ll describe my wound, since you command me. Theophilus’ impious tongue is sowing discords. He sweeps the market-place with his flowing robe, he dazzles the fickle common folk with the ore of the Tagus. He boasts that it is by his doing that Eusebius sits at the helm. Nor is this enough. He is thinking of obscuring the brilliance of your brow under a monk’s hood.
CAL. Oh, a tongue worthy of three-throated Cerberus! Even if surrounded by six hundred walls, a cloister will not confine my fire’s triple-forked lightning. (Draws his sword.) Even if Castalian ivy weighs down your hair, not unbecomingly stained by the dust of battle, my sword will remove that head of yours, bereft of its wisdom, from your shoulders.
CLE. [Aside.] His blood’s a-boil. That’s enough. (Exeunt.)
ACT I, SCENE iii
Having not long ago refused a bishop’s miter, Theophilus congratulates himself on the carefree nature of his private existence.
THEO. (Alone) Come, Theophilus, relax your heart with joy, sink your quaking fears in the Cretan sea. Dark Sorrow which furrows my soaking cheeks with a rain of tears, and you, Dirge, companion of your brother Lamentation, constantly lashing my sad heart with your scourge, be gone. Let pallid Cares depart on anxious steps, let Happiness flood my rejoicing inmost being. Is their any advantage in submitting my neck to a splendid yoke, and binding my mind’s wings with silken bonds? How much, alas, how much effort exhausts the man worn down by the weight of a bishop’s miter, heavier than Aetna! What shepherd can preside over Christ’s innocent flock with his crook and long retain his vigorous spirits? Hell’s nocturnal thief is always lying in weight for the sheep, never nodding or overcome by heavy slumber. The shepherd in turn keeps his vigils: if night, the mother of sleep, wraps the bright day in her star-spangled cloak, he remains sick with care; or, if Aurora departs her old man’s bedchamber, putting the languid fires to rout with her dewy horse, as hard work always rises in the east together with the sun, although the day might smilingly bestow its friendly nimbus on other men, for this man it shines balefully. No peace interrupts his cares, one labor always follows upon another, and the ending of one evil is a stepping-stone to another. (Enter beggars.)
FIRST BEGGAR Whoever you are, pray look with kindly eyes on the whiteness of my head, the furrows of my brow, the dimness of my eyesight, and these cheeks, dried up by hunger and thirst.
SECOND BEGGAR Pray have pity on a blind father.
THEO. (Giving them both money.) The Creator of the universe, Who has clothed the stars with their golden light, Who covers the trees with the cycle of their greenery, and Who bids the flowers renew their crimson generation, cannot be failing to you.
BEG. 1 Let your days pass bright and cloudless.
BEG. 2 May the roads run wet with balsam, wherever you go. (Exeunt.)
THEO. God loves the poor, He Who, being wealthy, abandoned the stars to enter the humble darkness of a manger, and preferred a mattress of straw to one of Tyrian purple. Very blessed is that tiller of a small field who is satisfied by a small harvest, for whom the just earth supplies wealth, easily-gained nourishment, and an unbought banquet! (He sees shepherds sleeping near their flock). And you are blessed, you whom wakeful care dreads. For you Chloris opens the artful bosom of the choirmaster, in her throat Philomela warbles her unschooled song for you, to you the westerly breezes dedicate their whispers. (He hears the murmur of water.) Tiptoeing by you and summoning Morpheus, the stream dedicates to you its musical tune, its plaintive song gives delight. With its angry lashing a storm scourges heaven-threatening towers, while your hut, smaller than them but greater than the east wind, safely smiles at the great rages of the gales. Peace has pitched its camp in these regions, here only the rabbit dreads harmless deceits, nobody is wounded here save the fertile earth. Only kidlings wage playful wars here with their butting, the forest resounds with their sweet battle. Dread of arms is at a great distance, as is Mars, and his sister Enyo is banished far away. O golden realm of Saturn! O pleasant delights of the countryside! Oh sweet peace! It is delightful to be in this remote valley under a spreading shade, contemplating this bleating flock, these weary peasants wholeheartedly breathing forth the fumes of wine. Let me love to lead an inglorious life, far from the commotion of the city, here let me cheerfully die. It is sweet to live without praise, as long as I may life without fear. (Exit.)
ACT I, SCENE iv
Disturbed by various complaints about Theophilus, Eusebius ousts him from his office of treasurer.
EUS. Is he thus arrogant? Is this young man, bent on his downfall, plying the reins of Phaeton? Is he a heedless birdcatcher chasing after stray feathers? Does he crave to have the highly fickle common folk point him out as the father of the poor? Is this how he is a spendthrift buyer, purchasing applause at my expense? Is he a fool who trusts the untrustworthy common man?
CAL. Your household is always spewing forth a wave of paupers. Each man comes to your palace an Irus and goes home a Midas or a Croesus. With a bountiful hand Theophilus scatters showers of gold, and the city cheers him, thanks to the spoils of yourself and Christ. The streets are flooded. If he sets foot outdoors, a throng of hangers-on accompany him as he walks. Thus he is, horribly puffed up, as he flits about the market-place with his arrogant step.
EUS. What are you saying, Achates, my constant Achates in doubtful matters? Does he like to fly about, borne on the shoulders of the silly throng?
ACH. A ship’s sail is not so swollen by the breeze of a following wind. He hunts for popularity excessively. He squanders your wealth, Father. I myself have seen freezing, homeless fellows, their bones covered by stained scraps of leather, subsequently clad in embroidered garments.
ALETH. Glory is greatly swelling Theophilus’ empty head. He insults your miter with his reproaches, denying that that Eusebius’ hand is equal to the weight of a bishop’s crook.
EUS. I can’t believe such monstrosities. Theophilus swollen with windy pride? Am I awake? Theophilus’ very name speaks of piety.
CAL. He feigns a pious mind with his treacherous face, and hides his crimes under the false color of his title.
EUS. Let Theophilus quickly present himself.
ACH. The sheep owe their shepherd due obedience. (Exeunt Achates and Alethes.)
EUS. Unless he falls to his knees, humbly stretches forth his suppliant hands, and washes away the stains he has acquired with his tears, I am determined to break the stubborn man. Calidorus, you may retire, let the place be free of witnesses. [Exit Calidorus. Enter Theophilus.]
THEO. Greetings, you bright glory of the east, the glory of our world, the holy Tiphys of our reverend ship. As long as you are guiding the helm with your learned hand, we scorn the blows of the angry north wind and the black threats of the raging sea.
EUS. The ship is greatly gaping, drinking in the hostile sea through its shattered planks.
THEO. What storm is troubling our holy vessel?
THEO. It’s pleasant to temper serious matters with a joke.
EUS. My sick mind does not know how to joke in sport. I’m very much the butt of the joke.
THEO. What’s this dire anger? What sudden heat has fired your inmost being?
EUS. My marrow is burning with no sudden heat. How long must I tolerate your swollen head and your hands, so spendthrift with my sacred treasure?
THEO. I swear by the choir of heaven’s stars, no vain thirst for honor gnaws at me. My mind scorned those things, when it gave for your sake. Nor am I afraid of being branded as a prodigal. I worship the Golden Mean.
EUS. Resplendent in luxurious robes, the throng shows you to be a liar.
THEO. No, it shows I am kind.
EUS. Where’s my treasure? Or rather Christ’s?
THEO. I have given it for Christ’s sake.
EUS. Of course.
THEO. That which is given to a poor man is given for Christ’s stake.
EUS. The beggarly throng is being clad at my expense.
THEO. The ruler of heaven is being clad with His own gold.
EUS. Away with Sphinx-like riddles, acknowledge your fault.
THEO. When I am free of blemish?
EUS. A good character confesses its guilt, even if unblemished.
THEO. So why do the rostra run hot with battling tongues? Why does the orator wield his weaponry? Why does Astraea note the guilty with a black verdict and bless the innocent with a happier mark? Let courtrooms fall silent, let judges fall silent, let Astraea set fire to her own throne. Thus you reward my merits?
EUS. Does Theophilus cast his merits in my teeth? I’ll gladly requite you for your merits. Now you must quickly go far from my palace, never to return.
THEO. I cheerfully shun the faithless thresholds of those in power. (Exit.)
EUS. Now, deep rivers, turn your glassy course back to your sources. And you, father of light, must turn back in your orbit, let the Red Sea receive your exhausted chariot in its welcoming breast. Theophilus, my Orestes, has betrayed his trust. Now I should not place my trust in trust itself. (Exit.)
Go to Act II