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ACT III, SCENE i
Enter Faustula with Philomela.
Noble virgin (for such your seem to me), however unkind fate makes you miserable, what do you wish? For what do you hope? If I can do anything, command me. (She turns away.) Her appearance is modest. Something still hidden which has not yet come to light. (She turns back.) But confess, who cut out your tongue? Did you? (Philomela twice shakes her head.). But the king said so. Do you deny it? I believe it because of your chastity. It’s impossible any woman could remove her own tongue, since a woman would prefer to die rather than be unable to speak. For my part, I have always considered it the greatest evil for a girl to be born a mute. (Philomela plies her thread.) How modestly and fitly she draws the thread! Can I imagine she’s tainted by witchcraft? Often those in power manufacture evil lies — and I say this silently — yet want to be believed. By whatever happenstance noble Philomela died, her funeral is being celebrated today. (Philomela looks about, very disturbed.) You envy her in death? You’d prefer her not to have a tomb? Oh, you too are seeking a tomb. (Twice she beats her breast.) Oh, you loved the virgin wholeheartedly. Who wouldn’t think so, who saw you affected by the news of her burial? (She turns away.) Father has appointed me the custodian of this girl, commanding me to beat her as I wish. (She turns back.) Let me be a partner in your grief, and I’ll work might and main to soften my father. (Enter Faustulus the shepherd.)
FAUST. Thus you negligently accomplish your father’s command? Thus you perform the duty of a watchman and a guard? Is this your care?
DAUGHT. Have mercy, Father. (He addresses his daughter and Philomela in turns.)
FAUST. Be still. Evil virgin, you don’t know what’s good for you. Runaway whore, let chains bind your feet. You’ve been too free, I’ll make it so you wander about less in future.
DAUGHT. Father, I beg you to be forgiving. The fault is entirely mine.
FAUST. You’ll both pay due forfeits. As I’m the shepherd of the royal flock, your father, and your guardian, I’ll get revenge for your impudence.
DAUGHT. Turn your anger against me, Father, Faustula has deserved it. She has deserved nothing. I summoned her outside.
I’ll hear no more words. Get away, lest my anger grow greater. (Exeunt Philomela and Faustula. Faustulus the father remains.) Is this house so small that it can’t contain two women? If the king himself were to come now, and were to find the door open and that woman free, I have no idea what he’d decide to do with my goods, yet I have my fear. Come now. Since they have no care for Faustulus, Faustulus himself will have a care for his life. After today I’ll be a sterner warden. (Exit.)
ACT III, SCENE ii
Enter Tereus, Procne, and a lengthy procession with Philomela’s funeral, all of them singing.
Thus sweet Philomela seeks out the shades, thus Philomela’s image seeks out the shades. For a long time she herself has been blissfully at rest on the Elysian field.
Let virgins lament, since she lived a virgin. Let mothers mourn, since she should have been a mother. Let the earth groan and the sky resound. (They lay down the bier.)
PROC. Alas, how the other evils agree with this tomb! This tomb is hollow, as is our effort. This tomb is hollow, and our grief is more so. This world is hollow, since it lacks its greatest good. My body is hollow, as if despoiled of its soul. The sound of my lament is hollow.
TER. So why continue, since your grief is in vain?
PROC. Wretched people like to hear about their wretchedness. The bank is soon violated when the river swells, and the face is the heart’s riverbank. When the heart swells with sorrow, it never observes the face’s boundary, but spews forth everything that weighs on it heavily. I am wholly a Niobe, let my tears flow forever. Though my life may depart, let my grief survive forever. Oh you Fates who begrudge good people, you gods, you savage Parcae!
STEWARD This is not the fault of the gods, but the situation of your family.
PROC. Hateful family, which an unlucky star rules. Why does Boreas always abandon his cave so that he may play the tyrant, raging with his wild winds? Thrace lies too close, unlucky in its situation. The friendly West wind does not know this region of the world, nor does any gentle god ever breathe upon it.
TER. At length you should bridle your grief. Everything in excess is a vice, and whatever is immoderate works harm.
PROC. Henceforth each year let this day be marked with a theta, let Phoebus bury his black head, and let each man mark it with a black stone as being unlucky for himself. Let screech-owls fly in the middle of the market-place in the middle of the day, and priests sing of murder deceit, hatreds, wars, fraternal strife, the killing of parents, the rape of virgins, and (if anything worse than these can be heard) the fury of the sea, which surpasses all these evils. Why did the wrathful Thunderer once hurl his savage thunderbolts at the Giants, if his brother is to be permitted to raise his mountains of waters against heaven and the gods with impunity? If the gods are to be such unfair judges, what about impious men?
TER. Her grief is waxing insane, and her sad heart is railing against a sad object. Take away the tomb, the death-rites are completed. (Exeunt omnes, singing.)
ACT III, SCENE iii
Enter three Bacchantes.
1. Now the time is at hand, Bacchantes, the time that is welcome to the god, and the day so often sought by us. Now for three whole years the rites of Father Bacchus have lain silent, no happy voice has been heard in the market-place, no fire has shone on the altars. The neglected temples have grown damp with long-growing mildew. Great squalor has come to taint the altars themselves.
2. And I fear they will still continue to lie hidden by squalor. Behold, this common lamentation and grief over death does not allow happy festivals to be celebrated.
1. Keep your silence. Tereus commands the festival to be observed so that, if this is possible, forgetfulness of her sister’s death might overcome his wife. Nor is it permissible for the god’s rites to be neglected or his temples to be buried, overwhelmed by this death, lest the gods’ angry wrath inflict new death and new calamities. No god is ever scorned with impunity.
3. So lift up […], you young married women, let your mouths gape open, let your loud voices sound forth. Let the fields hear your howling, and likewise the forests, and let Rhodope resound with the trumpet’s blare and the tinkling of brass. Let dark night cover the women’s wantonness, night that is a fellow-conspirator, involved with their secret rites.
2. On every side let their heads be bound with the fertile vine and ivy leaf, let their left sides be clad with fawnskins, and in their right hands let them bear a cup instead of weapons, a beaker brimming with wine. Let their left hand hold up a Bacchic wand covered with grapes, let frenzy drive them all headlong.
ALL Let them hold it up, let frenzy drive them headlong. (Exeunt.)
ACT III, SCENE iv
Enter Faustula and the queen’s maid, dressed in mourning.
FAUST. How that costume suits you! In its sadness it adorns your pretty head and falls to your feet in a fitting drape. Is this how sorrows are adorned at court, such a handsome evil? To be honest, I couldn’t mourn dressed like that. Rather, I should rejoice at having such a splendid appearance.
MAID And I fear lest gloomy costumes often conceal happy minds, lest they rejoice inwardly at what they outwardly grieve. But my sorrow is open and genuine.
FAUST. It is rather the queen who should be grieving, not you, sister.
MAID I saw Philomela, I saw her once. There was nobody who did not love her, except for the ocean and that foolishly barbaric sea-god.
FAUST. So at court they conclude that she has been overwhelmed by the floods of water and stolen by the winds?
MAID Why shouldn’t they conclude that? The king himself said that, he wept, and no ships returned save the flagship.
FAUST. I think so.
MAID You don’t think so. Is there some great secret?
FAUST. I think so, I tell you.
MAID So I hear you say, but I see the way you carry yourself, which says something else.
FAUST. I’m saying nothing otherwise except that, as in other places, at court many evils are imagined.
MAID You’ll continue to hold your tongue?
FAUST. If I don’t hold mine, I know you won’t hold yours.
MAID If I say anything, you can cut out my tongue.
FAUST. But take care.
MAID I say so boldly.
FAUST A woman’s punishment is not light. Perhaps I can serve as a serious example of silence for you. But you’ll keep quiet?
MAID I swear, by all the gods. (Exit Faustula.) Where’s she hurrying? My mind yearns to hear the strange news. If it’s news, whatever it may be, I like it. She’s come back with somebody else. (Enter Faustula with Philomela.)
FAUST. You are carrying yourself more carefully and modestly than usual. This is the queen’s maid, an old friend of mine and very dear.
MAID Who’s this decent maiden?
FAUST. Ask her, if you want.
MAID (As they speak they curtsey to each other.) I’m being quite bold, but forgive me. How much I’d be in your debt, if you would deign to like me. Why is she blushing? Why is she silent?
FAUST. She doesn’t know how to speak, she’s a mute.
MAID So why abuse her and me at once? You have dealt badly with us, I’m embarrassed to have asked her.
FAUST. There’s no need, for she’s suffered worse and will again, and this grieves Faustula’s heart.
MAID Why should she suffer?
FAUST. In her life she’s committed a horrible murder, prince Tereus himself greatly abuses her. But you’ll keep quiet?
MAID Why doubt my loyalty? If any woman can, I can and want to keep quiet.
FAUST. I trust you and I’ll continue. The king calls her a monster, a beast, a witch, and the murderess of Philomela. But, if I could rely on my own judgment, I’d say she was an upright, modest virgin. For this decent form can’t conceal a deformed mind.
MAID But where’s she from, and what’s her name?
FAUST. I don’t know any of that. But with her head-gestures she often invokes the ghost of Philomela, stretches out her hands and turns her eyes to Athens, and she often complains of her tongue.
MAID I’m amazed. May I speak to her? Dear virgin (if I may call you dear, when you are so hateful to my king), admit the crime, if it was done by your hand. A frank confession will earn you forgiveness. (Philomela shakes her head.). You didn’t commit it or incur guilt? (She shakes her head.) Get up, virgin, we believe you. The guilt will not be concealed for long, crime will reveal crime. (Philomela offers Faustula a napkin so she might give it to the maid.)
FAUST. What do you want? For it to be given to the queen’s maid? I’ll serve as your tongue. Put out your hand. (She offers the napkin to the maid.)
MAID What do you mean? What do you want?
FAUST. She asks you to accept this gift, a napkin she embroidered with her own hand. She wanted to give it to you.
MAID It’s not mine.
FAUST. It will be yours, just condescend to accept it.
MAID I do so gladly. What else are you asking? That I unroll it? Don’t worry, I will (Philomela nods towards the palace.) That my mistress should be the first to see it? And that I should warn her to inspect it carefully. I agree.
FAUST. I have to go inside the house, I fear Father will return. But hold your tongue.
MAID May I die if I speak.
FAUST. Goodbye. (Exit Faustula with Philomela.)
MAID They’ve gone so soon? What shall I do? Speak out? I don’t dare, and I don’t dare keep quiet. I’ll tell this only to my mistress, one woman is none at all. Thus, when I reveal this crime, I’ll be telling it to nobody. (Exit.)
ACT III, SCENE v
Enter Procne, Itys, and others.
ITYS Venerable mother, how long will you drag forth your groans? If it won’t make you laugh, I’ll weep for your sister’s death, which you mourn so long.
PROC. No, easy laughter befits your age. My sorrow requires bitter tears.
ITYS Of course, I’ll cry.
PROC. I’m laughing, son. Be still. Oh my mind, anticipating evil, how wretchedly you are wont to oppress the innocent, who are ignorant of the face of crime! But the time will come when even a mute will speak out about the hidden evil. Either my mind deceives me, or my sister has died by treachery. But why do I suspect my husband, whose grief matches my own? We’re both wrong. My husband is coming. (Enter Tereus with others.)
TER. At length you should wipe away your tears, at length your just sorrow should find its just end. The festival of Bacchus is celebrated tonight.
PROC. I know.
TER. And the Thracian matrons expect you to be their companion.
PROC. I’ll be there as their complain, but I fear lest my grief may prevent all my observation of the rites.
TER. Beware lest the scorned god grow mad.
PROC. These evils will surpass all his madness, and I have this consolation for my unhappiness, that there’s nothing that can hurt me more.
TER. However that may be, my wife, the partner of my throne and bed, the place and time command you to moderate your mourning — this solemn place and this time more fit for celebration.
PROC. Allow me to await the Thracian young wives by myself, perhaps my grief will break itself on the middle of the night.
TER. I allow you. (Exit Tereus with all the others. Procne remains.)
PROC. Now the solitude of the night and the horror of my mind bid me dissolve in tears wholly. Oh Bacchus, you mighty child of the great lightning, you uncompromising conqueror of Lycurgus, father Liber, god of frenzy borne by tigers and lynxes, if you have divine power, grant me my sister. At least grant me her body, if you can’t give me her soul. If any god looks on human miseries, look on this miserable woman, teach my heart amidst these doubtful matters. You who are all-seeing, let me see one thing, that I might learn my sister’s fate. I ask this single thing. (Enter the maid.)
MAID Queen, high mistress.
PROC. Who is calling her mistress? Who begrudges her her solitude, and keeps her from observing the rites?
MAID A god who does not wish you solitude, who is the author of society, father Bacchus, to whose altars the happy Bacchantes summon you.
PROC. I must conceal these evils, I’m coming.
MAID If it please you, first I’ll tell you of things that will make your heart shudder.
PROC. Long ago my harsh fate has given me a fearless mind. Whatever it is, I’ll hear it calmly.
MAID Not far from the royal palace lies an ancient forest, which no axe nor iron-equipped hand of iron has ever violated, which the common folk worship as being sacred to Bacchus, since there the vines cling tight to the elms and the ivy weigh down the older trees with its leaves. Not far from this place, towards the east, a tiny hut weighs on the ground near the old and rough-hewn stable, which a shepherd of the royal flock has long inhabited, as he still does. I came there while I chanced to be wandering in the woods, troubled by thirst, and I had a greater thirst for hearing news. For after I entered the house Faustula, the old shepherd’s daughter, straightway showed me a virgin whose hair was torn, her tongue cut out, and whose face was wrinkled beyond her age by cares. Although I could scarcely believe it, Faustula told me she was an enemy of Tereus, a great enemy of your sister, whom she had killed by cruel witchcraft.
PROC. And what did she do when she heard the crime mentioned?
MAID She denied it entirely, and by the gesture of her head she called on the gods as witnesses.
PROG. What shall I do in my unhappiness, I perceive the crime. But what troubles me greatly is that I do not perceive the man responsible. I shall hurry to the forest.
MAID But stop. All you need to is study this handiwork. (She hands Procne the napkin.) The mute virgin gave me this so I’d give it you in turn, and she wanted you to examine it closely.
PROC. What’s here? Words. I see Philomela’s name, I sense a plot. Minerva, grant me to read this all. The whore of her sister, raped by a brotherly hand, Philomela. She send me proof of her crime. (Aside.) Oh the clever wit of sorrow! Oh misery, how you often make us sly! Pitiful virgin, is this how the sea consumed you? Is this your death? So that you may drag out a shameless life, worse than death? Is this how you cared for my love, treacherous husband, evil Tereus, you barbaric man, you author of evils? Oh the sorrow! How great a crime must I commit to repay you for yours? But I pretend, I pretend. (Turning to the maid.) Is this embroidered by her own hand?
MAID So the shepherd’s daughter assured me.
PROC. This handiwork is praiseworthy, but I’m dumbfounded by who may have committed the murder, and so I have decided to follow you as my guide, so that tonight I may speak to her while the young wives are celebrating the festival and the matrons are making their offerings to the gods. Lest the other women learn or suspect anything about this news, you must prepare a Bacchic costume which the mute virgin may wear, as if she were a Bacchante. But do these things in silence.
MAID If I fail to keep my silence, let all trust be denied me, and all salvation. (Exit the maid.)
PROC. Shall I call this the festival of Bacchus, or rather my own, which has granted me such a boon, so that at length I know the man responsible for the crime? If the dark mother of Erebus and the begetter of Hell should be an implacable avenger of rape? If I might call the Furies goddesses? If there is some divine power in the darkling Judges? Oh, let them all support me, and show me their powers while I make ready an inexhaustible revenge for the foul deed!
SEA Maybe you still hope you can conceal your misdeeds, wicked Earth.
EARTH What if they are visible? That’s not your glory. I still retain this consolation for my guilt, that I surpass the waters in all things, while I prevail by my unwonted savagery.
SEA I’ll readily allow myself to be bested in that way, as long as you do not surpass me in better things.
EARTH Wait, Earth has begun this crime, but Sea will be present before it is brought to its completion.
SEA Let such a dire evil be far from my hands, my mind quakes within when I see the crime.
EARTH You’ll see more. The Fates weigh down with countless evils the man they refuse to adorn with good things, and the weight of black crime thrusts down to deepest Tartarus them whom splendid virtue cannot raise up to the stars.
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