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ACT IV, SCENE 1
Enter Procne and the maid together with all the Bacchantes, celebrating the festival of Bacchus late at night, all of them singing.
ALL Oh Bacchus, powerful of divine strength, shining child of the lightning, protect your servants.
Oh Bacchus, father of the gods and glory of mortals, protect your servants.
PROC. Is the door open?
MAID Faustula is awaiting your arrival.
PROC. And what about Faustulus?
MAID The old man’s asleep, unconcerned.
PROC. And let him die in his unconcerned sleep. Continue, sisters, lead your wandering chorus.
ALL This festival demands leisure, dark night hides our crimes. Let us rejoice, we are in the darkness.
Behold, our full cups are brimming, and the swimming wine delights us. Let us drink, we are in the darkness.
PROC. You Bacchantes, filled with frenzy, happy with your sports, be brave and enter this ancient temple of the gods. Here there stands an old altar, which once often received welcome perfumes and fat victims, and the fine spoils of kings. Now a rude and uncouth shepherd has long inhabited it, and he befouls it with his filth. We should avenge such a great insult. Continue, sisters, lead your wandering chorus.
ALL Frenzy and wantonness always befits the Bacchantes. (Exeunt. Soon they return with a great shout, leading Faustulus and Faustula and striking at them with their knives.)
FAUSTULA Oh spare an old man, spare him! He was not the man who contrived that unspeakable murder.
PROC. But you and your father had a share in that guilt, and so you will both atone to the gods you scorned. (The father Faustulus is killed, and afterwards his daughter Faustula.) Now I see that the genuine rites of the thyrsus-bearing god have been celebrated. With a smiling face, father, receive these steaming victims, this luxurious feast, and drink enemy blood mixed in with wine. (Exeunt the Bacchantes. Enter Procne’s maid with Philomela, dressed as a Bacchante.)
MAID In this costume she’s safe and unrecognized by anybody. You should hasten into the palace. Have no fear, Procne has heard of your innocence and believes you. (Exit the maid. They converse, removed from the others.)
PROC. Beloved sister, if you can stand that baleful word, what was the cause of this great crime. See, I am here, devoted to you, wielding slaughter and blood in my hand. Have confidence, a certain man will pay heavy forfeits. (Philomela grieves at the sight of the dead Faustula.) Why are you shivering, why do you grieve? This place has earned these hatreds. Perhaps she loved you? Very often blind revenge seeks out friends, so it may strike them as if they were enemies. Dismiss that mad affection which has destroyed you. We must act no more by weeping, we have need of steel. This is only the first step of revenge. Something will follow. What that something is still lies hidden, but it will be something, and it will be something grave, at which heaven will be amazed and earth will groan. As a tigress bereft of her cubs furiously rages, when she does not see the man responsible for the evil, savages whomever she chances to encounter, attacking guilty and innocent alike, so our wrath falls with equal weight on everybody, and since nobody was able to prevent the crime, it judges them all to be guilty of it. Nor will our hatred thus be dissipated. Our vengeance is brooding on something worse. It does not ask why anybody should die, it is enough that they are able to die. I am swept headlong to a thousand killings so I might gain revenge for your felonies, dire Tereus. My crimes will prevail. (Exeunt.)
ACT IV, SCENE ii
Enter Tereus, alone.
Finally Phoebus brings the longed-for day, the chill sky is aglow in the east, the shadows are routed. Why is my mind still darker than the shadows? I nurse clouds within, barring all the bright light of solace. If there is forgiveness for regret, a place for prayers, if the god will look on a penitent with kindness, let him see that I am repentant, let him hear me in my affliction. The rape of my sister, the savage slaughter of her servants, these are burdens that weigh upon my heart. Ixion has set up his wheel in Tantalus’ water so that the punishment of them both might be redoubled for me. It is done, they are calling me. Shall I bear this singly and alone? Spare me your fury, cease, you gods of Hell. I shall deny the deed, nobody comes to accuse me. Am I to be condemned without a witness? Alas poor me! With a single voice the ship, the deep, the forest, the shepherd’s hut cry out that Tereus is guilty. If none of these does, my fearful mind within, feeling remorse for the evil, will speak of the crime, this by itself is too much, this is the equal of a thousand witnesses. I acknowledge my guilt. Attack me, exact your punishment. But why does regret fashion monsters for itself? Let me return to my natural self. I do not like this solitude, it renews ancient evils and frightens me with shadows. I want companions to while away my lengthy days with their peaceful conversation. Come, you royal servants. (Enter Eugenes.)
EU. Does my sovereign call?
TER. Are the rites of Father Lycaeus completed?
EU. They are completed.
TER. Has the queen returned?
STEWARD They say so.
TER. Did she look happy as she celebrated the rites?
EU. It is reported that the Bacchantes looked very happy.
TER. I am very pleased. If Bacchus should dispel her heavy grief today, bringing back her old joy, henceforth I wish the god’s rites to be celebrated with more pomp. I’ll double the rites, I’ll decorate the temples with the spoils of great captains, I’ll offer fat victims so the god can see my gratitude. Call my son, the sole consolation of his aging father. (Exit Eugenes.) He is my legitimate son and the heir to my throne. Legitimate — oh, how sweet that word sounds to me! My legitimate heir — no incest, debauchery or wicked rape brought him to light. Untainted, he succeeds to my realm, but not to my crime. He will abhor his father’s evildoing, harsh in rooting out incest, severe in avenging debauchery. I see the boy my heart adores. (Enter Eugenes with Itys and others.)
ITYS Venerable father, you who serve in god’s stead on earth, I worship the face of your divine power. I wait to learn what your sacred majesty wants.
TER. Who could say those things better? The father of the gods has bequeathed his afflicted father this single consolation. Come here, son. Since you call me a god, I’ll be godlike in my openhanded giving. Take this golden chain, a symbol of your life and of our love. This is pure, as is your life. Let your very innocent age wear this bond, just as our love is a bond, binding both our hearts together with its strong links.
ITYS Now I can truly be called my father’s golden boy.
TER. Such your mother has often called you in jest.
ITYS Such she has called me in earnest. But now for the first time I see the reason, I mean because you are always giving me golden presents.
EU. The prince’s intelligence is growing! How happily the boy engages in elegant sport!
ITYS How splendidly this adorns my neck! I want to show it to Mother right away, and I know she too will give me some present, as soon as she sees your gift. (Exit.)
TER. Go, hasten with heaven’s blessing and good auspices. For you know nothing about rape, are unfamiliar with debauchery, and hate murder, your mind and hands are clean. And I pray that Jupiter will always keep you clean, that the Fates grant you happier days than they have given me. Nor let a guilty conscience disturb your peace or interfere with your sports. May the god who strengthens good men teach you to want good things!
EU. Some sorrow lies upon the king, I’ll follow him. (Exeunt.)
ACT IV, SCENE iii
Enter Procne, with Philomela.
Why are you sadly hanging back? Since you have entered my house, this pestilential, gloomy, Hellish house, this house of Tereus, the rapist and murderer, do you want to burn it down? Just give me a small sign to indicate so. Don’t worry, it will happen. (Philomela shakes her head.). You decline? It is a home which uniquely deserves not to perish, by which Thrace and its royal crime stand revealed. I’ll cast burning brands throughout our nation, I’ll infect its fountains with poison, its river with toxin, I’ll infect its fields and forests with the breath of my mouth, the land will reek of death. (She shakes her head.) Not that? You want to wreak vengeance on Tereus alone, that so that he alone will feel it and endure it. (She nods.) Have confidence, he’ll be shattered, and after he’s overcome he’ll regret having lived. Meanwhile keep to this secret place lest somebody see you. If you happen to hear me talking in a sweet voice, you need to know that much must be dissimulated in these evil matters, so that my revenge will oppress him all the heavier since he is taken unawares. How I fear lest my fury betray itself in my expression, lest my hatred break forth at the first sight of the man! But I’ll impose a bridle on my mind, and limits on my wrath. I must learn to be pleasing, so that I may displease him all the more. But see, the adulterer comes to meet us. (Enter Tereus with others.)
TER. Beloved partner of my bed, goddess of my realm, your return is welcome. Did Bacchus’ feast please you?
PROC. If I didn’t adore your divinity most of all, pleasant Bacchus would be my only god, for he takes away sorrows so, and relieves cares. I shall no longer mourn my sister’s death, it is enough for me that my Tereus lives.
TER. Divine Procne, in whose carriage there resides grace, candor in you face, majesty on your brow, how can I repay you, what thanks can I give you in exchange for such great love? My mind yearns to see your countenance at rest, my heart dances. The splendor of your eyes banishes the night of sorrows, and one light breeze of your favor dissipates all the shadows of my mind, oppressed by evils.
PROC. Henceforth you will experience the fruit of my love. These are mere words, as yet unfulfilled, but the deed will follow — (Aside.) which will happen to your misfortune, something at which the world will shudder. (Aloud.) I am glad that the longed-for day is finally at hand, the happy day on which every wife invites her husband, on which, with all onlookers banished, they freely enjoy an elegant banquet and sports.
TER. This is that day?
PROC. If it is not, I shall make it so, and so you must prepare yourself for tonight, not as a husband, but to be my guest. [Aside.] I’m going, since I can’t maintain this expression any longer. (Exit Procne.)
TER. Oh Bacchus, what shall I call you? With what title shall I decorate your divinity? Let the ignorant world call you a god of frenzy, but I shall call you one of tranquility, for thus you have rendered my wife calm, gentle, and forgetful of evil. Let the man who fails to trip light measures tonight be my enemy and a begrudger of our goods. Let full bumpers be consumed, let flowing bowls run with wine. In the market-place let begarlanded commoners sing of joy and peace. For peaceful Procne invites her Tereus. (Exeunt.)
SEA Rightly did the world’s Creator found black Tartarus, dark Phlegethon and deep Styx in the belly of the quickly-spinning earth.
For rightly do impious men suffer punishments there, when they have earned punishments for their thousand unspeakable deeds. What now, Earth?
EARTH What, Sea?
SEA The sea observes the crimes of the dry land and groans; its sees its deceptions, and fears lest heaven fall too, with the world falling to its misfortune.
EARTH While the earth commits its murders and laughs at rapes, it rejoices at being able to do so many misdeeds. Thus ultimate crimes render me impudent.
SEA But beware lest the swelling ocean overwhelm you again, as it did because of the god’s wrath. If you are wise, you should be able to remember the gods’ anger.
EARTH That happened once, because fixed destiny willed it, but now I do not dread it might happen again.
SEA If you do not dread waters, you should at least fear fires. For thundering Jupiter also threatens flames.
EARTH If he hurls so many fires, he should forget me and beware lest his own sky catch fire.
SEA Is dire crime not yet complete, has not enough murder been committed?
EARTH The greatest remains. Take your seat, you’ll see all rolled up in one.
Go to Act V