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ACT III, SCENE i
Eusebius regrets having ejected Theophilus from his palace, and restores him to his former dignity.
EUS. (Alone.) O envy, infernal plague, hatred offspring of the father of the Furies! How long will you wage your war? How long will you use your hand to sow certain death? No hellish snake tightens its coils with such a fatal gri,. No swamp of Lerna, fertile in breeding monsters, nurses any such thing at its breast, the Hydra itself does not equal the savage serpents of envy. From its mouth it shoots deadly darts, it kills those it bites. Nor does this snake crawl along the ground or feed on earthly food. It seeks out the loftier realms of the sky, it attacks pinnacles that match the stars in their height, here it moves its huge coils. It wages war against those who dwell in heaven. Wherever virtue is encamped, envy’s army can be seen nearby, bringing up its opposing standards. From the flowers of Hybla it is wont to suck black poison, it is eager to taint Hymettus’ honeycombs with its Thessalian venom. It saw the brilliance of Theophilus’ heavenly mind, shining without a cloud, the roses of his fragrant heart, and saw chaste lilies, which thus far the Stygian wind had not blasted with its horrid toxins. As it saw this, it indignantly dimmed my eyes with an envious mist, calling nettles roses and Circe’s cups nectar. It made my heart swell with rage, it kindled my passions. Soon my anger oppressed innocent Theophilus, who was given no hearing. Rage, you are a kingdom-destroying gale! When you take the lead, the criminal son is stained red by his father’s blood, the father thirsts after the gore of his son, as you turn love into unholy hatreds and throw everything into confusion: willfulness is your logic. What zephyr will bring you on its favorable wing, Theophilus? What pinion will let me behold your sweet face? (Enter Achates.)
ACH. I bring you golden news, reverend bishop. Theophilus seeks an interview.
EUS. You’re telling me the truth?
ACH. Truth itself proclaims nothing more assured.
EUS. Tell him to hurry to my palace. (Exit Achates.) This festive day arrives, flying on a favorable chariot, I have surpassed my hope. (Enter Theophilus, clad in mourning.). Theophilus is here, Eusebius’ pillar. Let the citizens of heaven give a cheer. Would, oh would that I could hang from your neck! (Embraces him.) Bacchus does not embrace elms so tightly with his vines as I join my bosom to that of Theophilus. Pray forgive me, Theophilus, headstrong anger robs a disturbed mind of its illumination. When rage rules, reason is banished far from the citadel of the mind, to which it cannot attain.
THEO. Oh venerable shepherd, you who open and shut the doors of heaven, what good does it do to confess yourself a guilty man? A diseased sheep never harms the master of the sheepfold. Integrity always shines forth unblemished. Come, rather you should erase my blemishes. If I have committed any impious sin or done anything disgraceful, it will be washed away by my copious tears. If I am oppressed by envy’s tooth, forgive an innocent man.
EUS. Virtue is wont to be attacked by the darts of resentment, but a great wind turns them back, so they strike those who shoot them. A life led piously sufficiently speaks of a pure mind’s unsullied nature. Let us join hands. Let this Gordian knot endure, dreading being untied even if Erebus should groan. Let envious jealousy consume its own marrow. Although Megaera should arouse all Tartarus, she will do so in vain. Return to my palace, long bereft of your beneficial sunshine. Away with that gown, as black as night. Mount up once more to your erstwhile prestige and your old rank of honor. Whatever Cilicia contains in its wealthy bosom is yours, you may command it with confidence.
THEO. My ship founders when over-laden, let it cleave to the nearer regions of the safe shoreline. Who would trust a fragile skiff to the Aegean Sea?
EUS. Swifter than an arrow, honor flees from those who seek after it, but it follows those who flee it.
THEO. And yet virtue and honor stake no lengthy claim on the heart’s throne.
EUS. The brilliance shines all the greater when virtue is clad in honor’s rays.
THEO. Virtue blesses the humble huts of the poor, it disdains royal homes.
EUS. Virtue dwells in a palace, nor does it scorn the home of Eusebius.
THEO. And yet, because my bishop commands me to abjure sin, I would prefer to lead quiet days in the shade of a hovel, enjoying the forest’s hospitality (Exeunt with linked hands. Enter Cleanthus.)
ACT III, SCENE iii
Cleanthus is annoyed that Theophilus is taken back into Eusebius’ good graces. Calidorus does no little to soothe his discomfort.
CLE. (Alone.) So do I see their hands conjoined? Does the fickle bishop favor Theophilus once more? Has his old love revived so quickly? In what circle am I being sent spinning, to my unhappiness? Thus it is: joys tire of being wheeled about, whereas grief, borne on a chariot traveling in the opposite direction, clings all too long to its iron scepter. Harsh distaff of the Parcae, oh too bitter shifts of faithless fortune! Thus you persist in mingling the happy with the sad, tears with sports, and groans with the laughter of games. Oh goddess, wanton in deceiving us and only constant in your elusiveness! Theophilus, lately befouled by filth, neglect and starvation, scorned, mocked, a vagabond, and (that which I think most shameful of all), disgraced, exchanged day for dark night, hating the sunlight. The wretch groaned under the weight of such sufferings, with the result that he made me weep against my will. But, alas, the scene has shifted. Once more he carries his neck upright, intoxicated with his good fortune, and in his empty vanity he arrogantly looks down on Cleanthus once more. Oh moon, you glory and leader of the starry band, are you not yet hiding your head under a sad shroud? Does golden Dawn not see her chariot turned backwards and day buried in eternal darkness? My prayer is that everything should feel grief when Cleanthus grieves. And you, Aeolus, ruler of the clouds, grant that the south wind’s murmuring breezes might swiftly take me where a guilty reputation for his exile might never pursue me. Let even heaven fall, its pivot shattered, and crush me beneath its weight, as long as it crushes Theophilus. Why waste my days in speaking? (He draws his sword.). I have decided to destroy this bane with my steel. Neither the lofty ridges of the heavenly beings, nor earth,, sea, nor the dark home of Avernus will conceal my enemy. (Enter Calidorus. He speaks quietly.) You fool, why lash out at the insensate breezes? Superior to your fury, he scorns the threats you utter when absent. So if you cannot relieve your seething anger by his death, you can by your own. (Points the sword at his breast.)
CAL. Cleanthus, what are you doing?
CLE. The deed of Hercules.
CAL. Stay your impious hand.
CLE. Why forbid me to board the gloomy old man’s barque? I am eager to enter the chaos of the kingdom of silence. (Calidorus checks his hand.)
CAL. Why forbid the brief springtime of your life to enjoy its first flowering? Why do you want to nip the bud of the Graces with your cruel blade?
CLE. As far as I am concerned, my blade begets sweet repose.
CAL. Rather your blade begets a repose as cruel as iron.
CLE. Relax your grip. While wishing to be kind, you destroy me.
CAL. If I relax it, I kill you.
CLE. For me, life is a lengthy death.
CAL. Yet even a friendly death lasts longer.
CLE. If my exile outside the borders of Avernus would end itself, I’d gladly hide myself there, so as not to see the face of cruel Theophilus in that place.
CAL. Children submit to great pain, but it is disgraceful for a man to be overcome by evils. Tiphyus looks on storms unmoved. Just as an ash tree rises, adorning the forest with its foliage, to the degree that it groans when wounded by the farmer’s axe, so a brave man’s mind, when vexed by cares, thrives all the more. A wound provides spirits. An angry God’s thunderbolt is cheerfully greeted with kisses. Although Olympus’ walls should be damaged and collapse, the noise of their downfall enhances our peace of mind. Sometime you must overmaster your untamed rage, let your sword come to love its peaceful sheath once more. In any event, its fatal stroke would destroy you.
CLE. (Gives Calidorus the sword.). You win, oh faithful friend. Calidorus, you win. I shall look upon the hateful daylight, I shall rather be disgraced, wretched, and cut off from the world, I shall live on as a laughing-stock for heaven and earth, rather than have Calidorus lose his beloved.
CAL. Today a laurel-wreath will shade Cleanthus’ hair. Let the choir of heaven’s beings cheer with a hooray. Fury, an unsightly beast, a dragon far fouler than the Python, lies prostrate, shot by Cleanthus’ darts. (He replaces the sword in Cleanthus’ sheath.) Let this sheath cover your angry steel, your swordpoint does better to hide here than in the breast of your enemy. Let your indomitable passion subside, the light of day mitigates grief.
ACT III, SCENE iii
Theophilus is overwhelmed by pangs of conscience.
THEO. (Alone.) Theophilus, yet not Theophilus, why are your cheeks drenched with a rain of tears? All the sea cannot wash away your unsightly blemishes. In my folly I preferred regions plunged in eternal darkness to the dwellings of the stars, the crew of night to the blessed choir of the supernals, the tyrant of Erebus to God. And yet with my daring foot I pollute the holy earth, being a tenant of the Styx. What? With my lungs I inhale the wholesome air, lately contaminated by the putrid pestilence of my breath. Will Phoebus’ beauty bless my eyes, when my tongue curses his chariot, a tongue that deserves to be condemned to the waters of Tantalus? Why does the earth refuse a thousand times to yawn for me? Why are Megaera’s torches, flaming with pitchy fire, not yet spewing dire sulphur? Ah, my right hand, for me too sinister! Could you then grip the screech-owl’s fatal feather, drenched in Gorgon’s gall and the poison of the three-headed dog? Could you sign for your own destruction? I pray you wither and grow feebler than the south wind’s bane, when it robs the forest of its falling leaves. Or rather let Niobe’s flinty rock freeze your fingers with an enduring chill. Will it ever be granted me to see my writing, teeming with crimes, once more? What snow-white dove will bring me the sad pages? I’ll gladly enter naked into the cave of a starveling tiger, I’ll gladly swim the insatiable whirlpool of Charybdis, as long as I may recover that unhappy contract. Shall I go back to Lycander’s house? The King of the stars forbids? Shall I weary the Thunderer with humble prayer? Avernus does not allow this. Whether Memnon’s mother opens the doors of the rosy day, or whether the evening star is lighting heaven’s fires, I see the Styx with its jaws a-gape, I see my contract in the land of Dis. Though sad night hides everything, it does not hide my crimes. So is heaven inexorable? Do the supernals’ gates remain locked? Flint is softened by rain, and the blessed home of heaven’s beings is opened by tears. I am minded to wash Christ’s feet, wounded with a nail for my sake, with these tears, although all of Orcus should burst with indignation. (As he seeks to flee a Fury confronts him.)
FUR. Thus you take to your heels, you base soldier, you coward? Wherever you go I shall follow as your avenger.
THEO. She’s pursuing me. O what threatening snakes she brandishes! (As he flees another confronts him.)
FUR. 2 The ferry of Dis is awaiting its new guest, why delay? Quickly, quickly, let us make haste. (He makes the sign of the cross. The Furies disappear.)
THEO. Christ, You terror of the Furies and master of Erebus, command these monsters of Phlegethon to reverse their course and re-cross the sluggish waters of Acheron. (He looks around him.) Heaven turns no deaf ear to my prayer. What a fire burns the cruel orbs of their eyes! Alas, what a noise is made by the crack of their whips! I shall sing a paean to the unconquered King of Heaven. (While he kneels, the Devil confronts him, displaying the contract.)
DEV. Do you recognize your handwriting? Read through these pages. In vain you burden heaven with your pointless noise. What do these words mean? You vow perpetual loyalty to the king of Tartarus. Oh the sweet song, as sweet as honey! Farewell, heaven. Farewell, Mary. And a final farewell to you, Christ. I claim the tribute owed to my altars.
THEO. (He drives him away with the sign of the cross.) Depart, monster. Now that I am returned, Christ holds me once more, bound in His splendid fetters. (Enter Lycander.) And Lycander approaches.
ACT III, SCENE iv
Over Lycander’s vain objections, Theophilus invokes God’s most august mother, and experiences her most efficacious aid.
LYC. Hail, Theophilus, you glory of the east and pillar of the world, next only to Eusebius. I congratulate you that your day shines bright, the clouds banished. Phoebus has never shone better with his nimbus. Once more Eusebius calls you his brilliance. Why to you hide your stellar brow beneath a dark cloud? (Theophilus sighs.) What do those sighs, fetched from deep within, signify?
THEO. The wheel, the vulture, the stone, whatever tortures are familiar to the households of guilty men, these dwell in my heart. The whole band of Furies which Avernus harbored in its breast has migrated into me, and yet you ask what pain is scourging me? You first baneful cause of this evil, you architect of an unspeakable crime, you sacrificial victim due for Jove of the Styx! It is at your instigation that the treacherous labyrinth of the black court has trapped Theophilus in its Daedalus-wrought windings.
LYC. You want me to untangle your twisted path? I’ll give you a thread of Cnossos. Do you want to enjoy once more the sight of that contract you desire? Although it may be buried in the profound bosom of Dis, compelled by my incantation it will follow your hand, gladly and with a will.
THEO. Do you desire me, a shipwreck, to drink once more of the unlovely waters of Cocytus? It’s enough to have been destroyed one time. I abominate those arts which are noxious to me and to yourself.
LYC. You ought to dilute your scruples with vintage wine. The camp-follower of the Styx habitually drowns his mind-ulcerating cares in forgetful Falernian.
THEO. God has joined thorn as companions to crime, and liquid Bacchus does not blunt them. Whoever sins is his own tormentor. Come, let us both break out of the cave of the infernal Wolf, his unspeakable cave, flowing with blood, savage. The Shepherd will take us straying sheep to his bosom once more.
LYC. Go, follow your Leader, hanging between thieves as a joke to the world. Choose the uncertain over the certain, pour forth your vain prayers in unheard hymns. I like bumpers foaming with wine. Sumptuous banquets summon Lycander, I like the camp of Dis. (Exit. )
THEO. Wretched man! Stay your steps, why are you in such a hurry? Are you going down to Persephone’s realm while yet alive? I, at least, give free rein to my tears, I weep for your sin and for mine. But which one of the Saints shall Theophilus invoke? Mary shines forth among the legions of heaven, just as Cynthia is bright amidst the lesser lights. It is in her eyes that salvation and lovely hope dwell. She has also overcome the dragon of the Styx, this indomitable heroine has trampled underfoot that snake’s fertile head. (He kneels.) Show your favor, you dogstar of the sea, you harbor for the shattered ship. Do you not see how my rudderless ship is tossed on trackless waves? How my mast groans, blasted by the south wind’s destructive gale? How the wind-storm roils the sea from its deepest beds? At length shine your virgin’s beams, with which you bring back Phoebus, with which you calm the ocean’s shifting commotions. I pray you, Mother of the Word, do not turn a deaf ear to my words. You can wrench the thunderbolt from the red-hot hand of the angry [...], you can give me back the writing of my criminal hand. Although they lie hidden in the depth of Tartarus, you can wrest them from the very bosom of the dark tyrant. Give me back the mad letters I wrote down, I swear by the Saints I shall rip them up with this same hand, or wash them away with a great rain of tears. (The heaven opens and the Blessed Virgin Mary appears.)
B. V. M. Your great anguish has submerged your great sins, Theophilus. I bid you leave the dark caverns of night, you ancient dragon. (Enter the Devil, trembling.) Quickly return the fatal pages.
DEV. You’ll not get away thus, you soft, spineless rabbit.
B. V. M. Return to the house of punishment, that place abounding with flames. (He exits, issuing threats.)
The Virgin has bested proud Orcus, give a cheer, you Saints. Once more the Virgin has bested the Serpent, sing a hymn. The dragon enters his dark cave, the court of Tartarus is roaring. Theophilus’ soul found the Mother of God to be loving. Oh hail, chaste star of the sea, bearing salvation to shipwrecks! Oh hail, fair harbor of heaven, and asylum for wretches!
B. V. M. The conquered dragon has suffered a fall. Do you acknowledge your hand’s sin, Theophilus? How close that small mass, lighter than a feather, came to sinking your person in the deep Styx because of its great weight! All Avernus is concealed in that little document. It knew every accursed thing of which Orcus is ignorant. Henceforth beware and keep a tighter reign on your wild mind’s impulses. Be clever at avoiding nets. In the future, having once been deceived by a deceptive hook, you must imagine hidden barbs to lurk beneath all treacherous baits.
THEO. Am I awake? Or, flying out of the Gate of Ivory, is a dream filling my inmost being with its empty sweetness? Am I not bound by my sin? Now I live, now I triumph, now I embrace all heaven wholeheartedly. (Opens the document.) What Nile, wandering in its deep bed, or what Rhone, flowing with a flying torrent, or what Clitumnus with its shallow water will restore to these pages their former whiteness? Although the Sicilian Strait, the Red Sea and all the ocean soak the hellish characters on this document, they will never wash it clean. O sweet altar! And sweeter Virgin, to whom it is consecrated! As long as the rosy mother of the day banishes the dark of night and Cynthia’s brightness makes the attendant fires of the sky seem dim, your glory will live on Theophilus’ grateful lyre.