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ACT V, SCENE i
Enter JUPITER, CLOTHO, LACHESIS, ATROPOS
CLO. So the clever fellow, passing up our love, demands his father’s exile as the reward for his madness? But see, here is your happy realm and the throne you lost.
LACH. Once more enjoy the home we have prepared for you, Father. This happy day will call you Jove again.
JUP. You kindly Fates, you foresightful authors of my safety and my danger, I do not regret having deferred to destiny. Certainly I took no little pleasure in visiting my brother, so long hateful to me. For as a refugee in Orcus, suffering my exile, I spent my time amongst my kinsmen. It’s nothing that I was away from high heaven a little while, and this was also a boon to the company of the gods. Joys are all the sweeter after you’ve gone without them: I left my home, I learned to enjoy my home, and, losing my rule, I learned how to rule. All my misfortunes have turned out to my benefit.
CLO. But the name of exile is a disgrace.
JUP. The name is nothing, as long as I lack the thing itself.
CLO. But seize a better destiny with an eager hand and take back your realm.
ATR. Mount your throne and rule the company of the gods.
CLO. Clotho gives you a crown and happy days.
LACH. Lavish Lachesis gives you a scepter and kingship over heaven. She promises a rule that will be both happy and enduring.
ATR. I, Atropos, coming last, entrust you with the fearful thunderbolt, your weapon and your aid. With this you may avenge the world’s crimes, you may sit above the commotions of your world. By the help of my arms you may govern in security, free of evils.
CLO. Hail, supreme majesty of the gods above.
LACH. Hail, supreme protector of good men.
CLO. Hail, king of the gods.
ATR. Hail, Thunder.
JUP. You have more than surpassed my deserts and my wishes. You stand most high in my favor, and you have Jove bound to you by a double tie. For you already had him obliged by a great bond of necessity. But now a new and stronger one of love holds him. And now today confirms him, returned from Acheron’s squalid cave, in his heavenly dominion, and now once more I enjoy the light and my realm. But one thing is still lacking to my wishes.
ATR. We understand. You mean Hermes’ punishment?
CLO. Orcus possesses Hermes, given over to his due punishments. Today he has been handed over to Charon and will atone for his deceits.
JUP. But I’m afraid.
LACH. What do you fear?
JUP. He’s deceived Jove so often, this mad, unconquerable fellow has prevailed.
ATR. Will he, being single, get the better of three goddesses?
JUP. I am not rash to doubt. The matter is not at all strange, if this this canny god were easily to get the better of three gods, since nine are his helpers. Helicon, you should be aware, has more power than the waters of the Styx.
CLO. The Parcae will deny this, this kind of water denies it. And Charon himself is present to give you his denial.
ACT V, SCENE ii
LACH. What welcome news does our warden of the Styx bring?
CHAR. New? Quite enough news.
CHAR. Oh my back, my shoulders, my arms! How much I’ve unhappily suffered!
CLO. Tell us the trouble.
CHAR. Oh the muscles of my arms!
LACH. What does this prelude promise?
CHAR. Oh my limbs! I’ve “wasted my oil and my effort.”
JUP. Don’t consider them wasted, you have Jove to remunerate you.
CHAR. I have need of a double payment. Charon earned more in a struggle than if he had set that troublesome god across the water.
ATR. What do you mean“if you had set?”
LACH. What? Where’s your passenger?
CHAR. That I do not know.
CLO. You don’t know? So what do you know, you rascal?
CHAR. After we had come to the shadowy realm of Jove of Tartarus, where the black swamp waters the darling banks (to say nothing of my other efforts), I thought my task was finished, and, poor fellow, I began to imagine that my effort and my responsibilities were at an end. But he, set down by the sluggish pools of Lethe and perceiving the extreme fates which await wretches, created new efforts and a new struggle. A great combat arose. I dragged him towards my skiff. He dragged me backward as I was dragging him, and this fight had many ups and downs. Our quarreling and savage threats gave us new strength. The fight continued and again, when placed in the raft he nimbly sprang out once more. How much sweat the fight cost me! Being an old man I could do no more. The entire marsh resounded with the battle, and the shades who had come from their abodes to wander there fled home.
JUP. Continue. How did your struggle turn out, Charon?
CHAR. The speedy god bested me and, seeing I was exhausted, railed against me in my defeat. “You’ve fought an unequal fight, Charon. You shouldn’t imagine the base oarsmen of the shades can prevail against a god, when it is your proper job to bring the shades to me, since it is my job to supervise and assign them their places. Furthermore, you must acknowledge that I am the god of eloquence, don’t hope to have me as your prey. You’re attempting a fight beyond your strength. Thus I seek the stars, albeit against your will.” Laughing, he gave me a sour look over his shoulder and disappeared into the air. And I, panting and unable to hope for the speedy god’s return, turned my ancient step towards you, to tell you the news.
JUP. I praise your efforts, although I grieve for your misfortune. This is what I foretold, goddesses.
CLO. Thus go our hatreds, thus our threats.
LACH. And so we will make an end.
ATR. Now the tables will be turned, the Fates will be a laughing-stock to mankind, although the world was once one to them. Let human ingenuity be increased by evils, let their malice increase, let their madness increase by having been dammed up.
LACH. Where did Hermes appear to be headed when he made his escape, Charon?
CHAR. Where? Charon has no concern. Look, he himself is present.
ACT V, SCENE iii
CLO. Look, look, the hateful fellow’s come back again. Alas, we poor things!
LACH. I am hurt by his cruel sight.
MERC. Oh, wives! How happy I am. Hail, father, I have boldly returned to your heaven. Come, sisters, give me a happy hand.
LACH. Is the gallows-bird smiling thus?
MERC. What’s the trouble now? Why is your eye held fast? Why does a pallor tinge your cheeks? Why is your sick mind astonished? Why does your youthful color flee, poisoned by black bile? This is he, sisters. I myself am called Mercury. Why not seek out the neck of your returning husband with grateful kisses? What is it? Perhaps it embarrasses you that your husband is coming from the Styx. Certainly there is no need for disgust, goddesses. You too are daughters of Night. That is your homeland, sisters, but I went there against my will, as you know. So what, what is the problem? Come then, this shouldn’t embarrass you.
ATR. But, by Jupiter —
CLO. Bah, how much we are suffering, being cheated by this faithless god!
MERC. Lift up your faces, I haven’t seen the Styx. Now I hope you’ll love me, I haven’t crossed the stagnant pools at all.
LACH. Look at the cheeky rascal!
CLO. Shut your arrogant mouth.
ATR. Hurl your thunderbolt, Zeus, and —
MERC. Alas, what do such great threats mean? Why begrudge an exile, ha, ha, ha, he?
CLO. What are my ears hearing? By the gods! You stand there unmoving, Jupiter? Are you asleep or amazed?
JUP. Not that, Sisters. I’m afraid of this very mighty god. Am I to hurl thunderbolts, where his fearful words will defeat my lightning? You are free to talk, Sister, but you are doing nothing.
LACH. Let’s all plunge our hands into his face.
MERC. Look here, you silly Fates, you poor and unlucky goddesses, listen to me. I don’t give a fig for your puffed-up threats. What is your headstrong anger, your languid frenzy preparing? To you imagine, Fates, that Mercury can thus be overcome? I am the great Hermes, a god greater in his strength. I do not care about the Parcae, I am not interested in my fortune. I scorn you when you are favorable, I laugh when you threaten me. Mercury is his own fortune and fate. My will is my fate, and serves to make the law for the deity of persuasion, the god of eloquence. Fear is for the fool and the madmen, for whom the Fates manufacture horrible visions and uncertain fears. I am called the invincible god of learning and, to the astonishment of the Parcae, I shall bear off the spoils as victor, spoils that are properly my own, the prize of eternity. That diseased ferryman, your herald, mighty with his pole, hoary with his foam-flecked beard and filthy with his hair, will not bet the better of me. Just how I overcame that silence, depending on the mouth of a bird and imposed on me as a fairy-tale — a worthy source of fear for mankind! Neither you nor Orcus will overcome me, dire with my arts. Commend to the Pit a man whom it is permissible to grant those realms. I am above the stars, which I have now subjected to myself. Or rather, you yourselves prepare to possess Tartarus and the spaces of Dis as your realm. Thus your home will be where where your homeland is. You very wretched goddesses! Your ancient faces defile my heavens, go away.
JUP. Look where your fury has gotten you.
CLO. Do you thus mock us goddesses, Hermes, the eternal divinities of heaven and the great gods?
LACH. Stop angrily stirring up a new battle to no good purpose, Clotho, let the victor bear off his spoils. Pray hear what more Lachesis can do. You, you god of learning, but more so of felonies, pay attention to me. As Jove is my witness, I concede that you are the victor, you may bear off the palm with the gods defeated. You ask for eternity, and you shall be eternal, but this burden will be imposed by me: harsh poverty will always accompany you. I myself have granted this gift to your Muses, and I ordain that henceforth whoever wishes to have the Muses for a mistresses must enter into a marriage with Poverty, so that he will be the heir of both your guilt and your punishment. I shall consider this a sufficient penalty, when I see you wandering about, accompanied by your offspring, the single one among the arts, using that useful eloquence of yours to beg the people for gifts and telling jokes. Then you may laugh at our threats, you fool. Against the gods’ will, you demand immortality. I’d like to see you make yourself wealthy when fate forbids.
JUP. I praise your revenge.
LACH. Give your approval, sisters.
CLO. Let it be so. But let the world follow where your word turns it.
JUP. We should depart. Let today be a holiday, which has restored Jove to his realm.
PARCAE. And our revenge will make this a festal day.
ACT V, SCENE iv
Is this how their hatred ends? I’m very glad. I have gained my wishes. How often headlong madness makes a lucky mistake! And how innate dislike expends its powers in rushing headlong to ruin! I could have hoped for everything given me as a punishment. Poverty is the nourisher of learning, and a welcome companion. Why should I care for the gifts of filthy Plutus? He who possesses himself is wealthy enough, and the gifts of learning suffice to help the wise man. Come, come to my bosom, welcome Poverty, you will bring with you the fruitful rewards of effort: a peaceful and free mind. Since the goddess of luck lacks the power to confer it, scorn uncertain wealth, she will show you a more desirable gift. Come, beloved wife, in place of the Parcae. You have frequently been called the inventor of the arts, now my misfortunes will prove you to be my nurse.
But alas, Hermes, why are you preparing a punishment for learning? See here, what sanctuary will it have? Behold, see these walls here, consecrated to the Muses, this hall which will be your home, a refuge which does not wait on the Fates or Chance, strong and everlasting, such as child-consuming Time might envy. It only allows learning to survive, such things as are worthy for the Muses to cultivate. I acknowledge the fair genius of this place, marked by its candor. White, I adore you as my father. I shall safely remain here, a god who has triumphed over fate. This hall will serve in lieu of heaven. Thus it will be, farewell to heaven. White has given Mercury a better realm. Stand amazed, fate, and you, Fortune, high on your wheel, gnash your teeth as you behold happy learning. You have freely given me immortality, and now I have enriched myself against your will. And now I am happily seeking this hospitality that has been readied for me. Though fate forbids, here I shall be a wealthy pauper. And you, as many well-disposed gentlemen as are present, as many as are satisfied the exertions I have undergone as I bested the Fates, give your approval to what I have done, and I shall know you are kindly. Hermes is the victor, you should give him your palm.