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ACT II, SCENE i
Theophilus’ disgrace brings a bumper crop of happiness to Cleanthus.
CLE. (Alone.) Oh thrice-blessed day, worthy of being marked with white, which has witnessed Cleanthus planting his foot on Theophilus’ haughty neck! Rich with new titles, my shield has discarded its unbecoming white blankness, and does not envy the paintings of Apelles or their honors, since with her own hand proud Virtue has painted the emblems it bears. Come, Phoebus, let my locks, bathed with Arabian dew, smile with a purer hue of gold. Let the precincts of mighty Asia, the ridges of Cilicia, and Tmolus, heavy with wine and rich with saffron, encircle their brows with festive garlands. I want to make the earth warm, striking it with the alternate steps of my dance, I want to destroy the lingering day with wine. Put on your greeny foliage, you forests, and you fountains, drunk with wine and milk, reward the cattle for their happy labors with your sweet nectar. Let Jove’s holm-oak sweat balsam, let Syrian nard drip from its thorns. And you, Daphne, the darling of the Muses’ father, why not wreathe my locks with a triumphant wreath? This day has been the first to open for me the gates of happy light, previously I had been buried in shameful darkness. Am I awake and do I behold Phoebus’ chaste light? Or does a vain phantom deceive me, bearing hallucinations of the Gate of Ivory? Does Theophilus lies beneath your feet, Cleanthus, he who just now was sweeping heaven’s precincts with the hem of his flapping robe? Has this Icarus fallen from his ethereal castle? Oh what a great fall! You are pitiful even for your enemy. Didn’t you see my tear-stained cheeks? Didn’t you see my unkempt hair falling wildly to my shoulders? Poor Theophilus, why did treacherous ambition lift you above the golden stars on fragile wings? So that you might plunge into the dark Styx, like a Phaeton? Yes, that’s it. Punishment follows behind the haughty on a foot that does not limp. (Exit.)
ACT II, SCENE ii
Calidorus tries to cheer up Eusebius, sad because of Theophilus’ sudden banishment.
CAL. Why are you silent, Father? Why does a severe cloud sit on your furrowed brow? What pang pierces your heart? Whatever pain troubles Eusebius, even a light one, stabs my heart like a lance.
EUS. I am not scourged by any light pain, an entire army of sadness is ravishing my mind. Whether the Titan is wielding his dripping reins or the silent queen is cruising through her orbit, a sleepless vulture is always gnawing at my marrow.
CAL. Who has inflicted this unkind wound on you?
EUS. Calidorus has inflicted it on me.
CAL. I would sadden your sweet person? Calidorus is the cause of your sorrow? Sooner would Zephyrus, the darling of the Dryads and father of the springtime, damage Paestum’s rosebed, dourly threatening with his cruel sting, sooner would the worker-bees of Hybla grow to loathe their thyme, sooner would the shepherd hate his sheep, than Calidorus would create one little hour for you that is tainted with gall.
EUS. In what flood of Charybdis are you plunged, Theophilus, my sweet other half? The flood which overwhelms your person splashes onto me.
CAL. You grieve over an enemy’s downfall? A punishment which oppresses a guilty man is not to be lamented.
EUS. And yet a punishment which oppresses an innocent man must be lamented.
CAL. Theophilus innocent? The robber of your treasury and that of Christ?
EUS. His guilt is insufficiently established. A man is often proven to be just and righteous whom rumor with its false bugle proclaims to be guilty. Ill-will is in the habit of concealing the stars under the shapeless veil of night.
CAL Greater than envy, a just main raises his head up close to the stars, just as Mt. Olympus grazes the lofty either. He sees the angry thunderbolts of Jove, the battles of the warring winds, storms, blizzards, lightning, sleet, hail, clouds and cold all outspread beneath his feet.
EUS. Theophilus too tramples on envy’s bow, he cannot be wounded by its poisoned shaft, he laughs at the arrows shot by Cleanthus impotent hand. Oh that he would bless my palace once more!
CAL. Sometime you must set a limit on your sadness. Cold does not always grip a pond in its icy bondage, nor does the south wind always breed rains. With the cloudiness conquered, the day takes its turn to smile. Come, let corrosive cares recede far away. Smooth your brow. The pleasant realms of springtime are calling, Flora is eager to open her welcoming bosom for you.
EUS. Why suddenly give me this flowery description of painted fields? Neither the display of youthful Hybla, nor the ridges of Hymettus, nor Tempe itself, those places teeming with the riches of a better time of year, can relieve my mind’s anguish with their scenery. Flowers have no pleasure for me, if Theophilus, my flower, is fading. Go, Calidorus, expiate your sin with weeping, it is by your doing that integrity lies prostrate. By myself I shall burst open the caverns of lamentations, I want to give free rein to tears. At least these caves will echo my sorrowful voice, with avid ear you drink in my complaints.
CAL. The breadth of Mt. Caucasus does not hold me back, nor the land of Juba, that torrid breeder of lions. I shall follow Eusebius. If you ply your sad lute, my Muse will sing with a sad quill. If you groan, likewise shall I. (Exeunt.)
ACT II, SCENE iii
Unequal to the magnitude of his sorrow, Theophilus decides to beg for Lycander’s help.
THEO. Whoever you are that occupies Tantalus’ fugitive place, always abounding in water yet always lacking it, whoever supplies Titys’ bird with the baleful food of your pecked-at heart, whoever dreads the Furies’ scourges, and whoever is plunged in the fiery strait, using your hands as oars on that raging sea, cast your eyes here for a little while: looking at the conflagration of my inmost self, you will learn to love your punishments. Do such great merits lie buried in the waters of oblivion? What? I have given your hand a crook, and your head a miter freighted with glory, and this is how you repay my acts of love? So have I fallen out of your good graces? I swear by the harsh stream of this pallid water, you will remain deeply stored up in my heart. My mind within is planning something of unheard-of and horrible, the pain burns in my seething marrow, some crime, scarce ordinary, is being hatched by my brain. What torpor is binding my limbs? Why is my tongue stuttering? Let piety banish rage, let peaceful repose succeed it. Will you stain your innocent hands with such a crime? Will you wage war against God while you attack Eusebius? Better, ah better, my sorrow! The ruinous thirst for vengeance often begets irreparable fruits. But shall I always drag out inglorious days, unavenged? An eagle does not crawl along the ground. No day will witness Theophilus playing the coward? Why are my cheeks secretly drenched with this bitter dew? Why is this scar on my mind opened up once more? Oh, just as a ship creeps across the Aegean sea while it is unsure whether it should heed the south wind or the north, so my mind is paralyzed by its passion. Thus holy piety and savage anger take turns in pulling at my divided heart, yet neither can conquer or be conquered. My chagrin, yield to piety; Theophilus, yield to God. But my sorrow catches fire again and my rage, which knows not how to yield. I shall follow it as my guide, even if it penetrates to Acheron. Depart, virtue. As a deserter I abandon your camp, walled in with thorns too sharp. If heaven with its rigid adamant spurns my prayers, at least Erebus will heed them. A famous priest of the Underworld dwells in this house next door, a learned spokesman for that dark court. Perhaps he will offer balm to my wounded mind. His lurid doors are opening. (Lycander appears, sitting on a chair.)
ACT II, SCENE iv
Lycander kindly places himself at Theophilus’ service.
THEO. Reverend ruler of the night, whose might incantation commands descending rivers to quiet their resounding noise, at whose arcane mutterings the moon shines red as she flees her brother’s realm on her flying chariot, to whom Tartarus’ iron gates are open wide, whose will is served by the flitting populace of Orcus, behold, Theophilus humbly embraces your knees, and begs you to be a harbor for his shattered barque.
LYC. I shall never refrain from lending a hand to the afflicted. It has always been Lycander’s especial glory to provide sweet balm for troubled minds. Ask whatever you will, you will not ask in vain. You want to be wealthy? The Tagus, swollen with its Iberian gold, will flow into Theophilus’ house. You like honors? You will ascend the slippery slope and find the pinnacle not untrustworthy. You crave to abound in luxury? Your garment will be stiff with the Phrygians’ Attalid handiwork. All the ocean will come a-flowing to your table. Air, earth, and water will pay their tribute to your dishes.
THEO. Let banquets purchased by the world’s tears glut other men, let others chase after glittering mud. I like honor before all else.
LYC. Glory is wont to be the attendant of a lofty man. Tell me, what degree of honor do you like? Do you desire to wield the world’s reins? A crown, studded with the gems of the Red Sea, will encircle your head.
THEO. I am not grasping at a crown made heavy by gold. Would that Eusebius, that treacherous prelate, would grasp after my good will! Once I was his pleasure, his delight, his strength, his darling, but my happy fortune turned its wheel, nor is the blind goddess attempting to turn it back. Why remind you of things you know? I am scorned, I am mocked, in my innocence I am ejected from the palace I gave him. This headstrong anger is tormenting my mind, my sorrow rejects any bridle. Imagine if he relented his arrogance, imagine if he’d extend suppliant hands to my knees! I’d like this better than if Memnon’s mother and Iberian Phoebus both served myself alone.
LYC. The human mind is more fickle than the south wind, more shifting than the sea, it loves men it had previously hated worse than a snake. Banish your anxieties far away, the prelate will be eager to renew his good-will. But you must consult the ruler of the shades, so that a merciful wind will speed your ship. Do you want to visit the king of the Furies?
THEO. Very much so.
LYC. Baleful clouds sit upon their brows, their fiery eyes spew forth sinister comets and whatever dread things the shades fear, and at which the face of Pluto shudders. Perhaps your limbs will be frozen with dread.
THEO. Have no fear. Even if all Hell falls upon me, I shall remain fearless with an unhesitating stance.
LYC. Your heart is stouter than adamant. But novices are wont to be terrified by the denizens of Avernus. It would be better to fortify your stance with a circle.
THEO. Come, make your consecrated enclosures.
LYC. (Draws a circle with his wand.) Let your feet be bound by this ring I draw. Behold its limits, beware less you transgress its appointed boundaries.
THEO. Intone your deadly incantation. (The mage reads from a book.)
LYC. Mighty ruler of the Styx, you whom the dusky court serves, for whom Cocytus rolls its great waves with tears, you who hurl balls of fire and molten rocks, whom Phlegeton dreads, come hither, leaving the empty chaos of darkling night. (Howling and thunder are heard. Enter the Devil, born a black chariot.) The cave of the dark realm is opening. (Theophilus attempts to flee.). Stay your steps. If you flee, Libitina follows at an equal pace. On bended knee you must worship the great divinity of Acheron. (They kneel.)
THEO. I worship the lord of the silent region. Oh, woudl that I could kiss your feet, sweeter than the honeycombs of the race of Hybla! (He kisses them.)
DEV. Rise up. Eusebius’ fierce disposition will grow gentle, the bubble will burst, soon he will clasp Theophilus’ knees with a humble hand. But only if Theophilus consigns to me — (Theophilus freezes.) You dislike my service? Why are you silent.
THEO. A cold sweat passes through my bones, horror shakes my unwilling marrow.
LYC. Good luck. Now you need courage. Has your old ardor cooled off? If your tongue refuses to speak words, let your hand signify. (Offers him pen and ink.) Bid adieu to heaven, and with a new pledge vow eternal loyalty to the king of Tartarus.
THEO. Bid adieu to heaven? Shall I never see the choir of the celestial beings? Shall I wander wretchedly, always an outcast, banished from the golden home of the stars?
DEV. We possess other stars, which know how to accompany their Phoebus. The day clothes our greenery with its ruddy light, nor does it dread the silent oncoming of the night’s chariot. A pregnant autumn that knows no winter blesses our Elysian fields. The breath of the fragrant zephyr grips out fragrant forests, untouched by the north wind. Here you will join me in quaffing bejeweled bumpers brimming with nectar, if only you enroll in our sect. But if you disdain our meadows, clad in eternal springtime, you will always suffer Eusebius’ brazen yoke.
THEO. Give me a pen, give it quickly, I’d rather swim burning Phlegeton than allow Eusebius to trample me with his insolent foot. (He writes and speaks simultaneously.) Farewell, heaven. Farewell, Mary. And a final farewell to you, Christ. I abjure the choir of celestial beings, unkind to Theophilus, and I vow enduring loyalty to the king of Tartarus. (He signs his name and gives the contract to the Devil.)
DEV. Now you have made me happy. You are enrolled as a citizen of Elysium, a heir of Jove of the Underworld. Let the shady Dryads’ houses give a cheer, those mossy caverns, let the babbling lake of Eridanus resound with a triple cheer.
Theophilus has enlisted for Avernus, ho the triumph, ho the triumph, ho the triumph.
He has sent a message to God above, ho the triumph, ho the triumph, ho the triumph.
A mighty guest, he submits to our bondage, ho the triumph, ho the triumph, ho the triumph.
With strings and happy voice sing ho the triumph, ho the triumph, ho the triumph. (Theophilus and Lycander follow the chariot about the theater.)
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