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The goal I have set for myself in writing this play is to please everybody, a goal that few attain. My first requirement is to have friendly judges who cast favorable votes, you’ll provide these both. There’s no muttering here, your ready silence makes me readier to speak, although I am timid. While the poet was painting his picture of grieving England, on the stage he represented portraits of a grieving soul. The passions draw the soul into differing pursuits, as England is drawn apart by squabbling religion and bad morals. Hear the gist of this thing, set forth in a few words. The characters’ names are Greek. Psyche gave her eight sons to Thelema the pedagogue to be raised, and he is being indulgent of their games. When Psyche was warned in a dream that, if she wanted to be blessed, she needed to take a rose from Paestum, she quickly assigned the task to her son Eros. He’s being sent Paestum. Misos is taking this in bad part. He keeps shouting that Eros is being given preferrred, and he’s trying to to provoke the minds of his brothers with hatred’s goads but, he’s vainly trying to draw Euphrosyne (joined by Thrasos and Elpis) away from Eros. So he’s setting his snares, and with Thelema’s help he’s capturing Eros and his companions. Elpis, avoiding the trap, tells these things to their mother. The mother, summoning her sons together, gives them to Philosopher, and this gentleman more wholesomely teaches them morals and shapes their minds. Look, Thelema’s coming out, I’ll clear the stage. I pray you to give us your pardon, and be well-disposed.
ACT I, SCENE i
THELEMA, EROS, MISOS, EUPHROSYNE, THRASOS, ORGE, ELPIS, LYPE, PHOBOS, PSYCHE
THELEMA Most of all I like this profit of education: when Attic ties bond students’ minds to their teacher, I mean thanks to Minerva’s love-potion. They are sane if they are acting crazy. Otherwise they are liable to attack by bile, choler, melancholy, and death.
EUPHROSYNE You’re learnedly wise in thinking melancholy to be death’s assistant. By Hercules, I don’t think Old Man Homer felt any differently when he sang that Tytius’ moon-like liver kept growing back for the vulture’s benefit, nor did the vulture gape for anything else with his hooked beak of rapaciousness than melancholy, which is always gobbling down abounding delights, raw and uncooked.
ORGE I swear by Mar’s helmet and Minerva’s Gorgon, a cook doesn’t chop up olives any finer than I’d rip up melancholy limb for limb, if ever I had the chance.
PHOBOS For my part, I’m terrified by these threats.
ORGE You runaway rabbit, are you hunting for your holes? There’s need for barking dogs. Shake off that laziness of yours. Well done, Thrasos, I admire your virtue.
LYPE Just now Phobos’ heart has been knocking at its back door.
THELEMA Concentrate your minds. For our lesson is being wasted, together with our time, unless we carefully seize the opportunity. This same Aristotle has taught that as long as something remains the same, it is always born to do the same. What about myself. I am the same Thelema who has always been at your service. And who are you? The children of Psyche, my little chicks and flowers. I remember how, when she gave you into my care to be educated, she dinned into my ears that saying of Horace, until I was sick and tired of hearing it, The jar will long keep the fragrance of what it was once steeped in when new. All you sons of hers should heed this, as is reasonable, and it behooves me to humor her by teaching you wholesome things. Come now, Eros, tell me, what things most please your nature, and what do you dislike?
EROS That’s your job, teacher, for you are accustomed to use your lead to sound each man’s character.
THELEMA Really? Now you, and all the rest of you too, lend me your ears.
ALL We’ll all do so gladly, and our minds as well.
THELEMA In love the first thing is to indulge your affections, and to join yourself to somebody as much like you as possible. Thus raging Orestes embraced his Pylades, Theseus his Pirithous, Damon his Pytheas, and others likewise, let Eros turn this to a profit.
MISOS I’m hoping for a quarrel.
THELEMA Why not you? So that you might be surer to gain your wish, you shouldn’t fix your mind on procrastination. For thus the best advisors advise, there is no greater stimulant to love than to anticipate someone in loving. If a man has refused to give his love, he will be harder than stone and steel if he will not deign to requite it. Nor should you imagine you have to submit to that Pythagorean Walk. For friends will come a-flocking faster to you than learning comes to a dutiful student after great exertion.
ORGE Why is our session lacking in bloodshed?
THELEMA Orge, I’ll perform the funereal rites for your shade. Meanwhile you pay attention, Eros. A magnet does not draw rings to itself as much as love attracts minds. You must strike at a man until you turn him from an ingrate into a thankful fellow. For there’s nothing as useful as being adored, nothing as deadly as not to be loved.
MISOS Are you threatening me with a downfall, master?
THELEMA Is that your judgment, Misos? Eros grows by loving, Misos thrives by not requiting love. If you shun everybody, they’ll offer you an empire and a crown. Mistreated puppies are all the readier to fawn.
ORGE Is this a mockery of our stories and our literature, Thelema?
THELEMA I’m failing to mention the sweetest tool in my toolbox, Orge. If you are cooling off, heat up; if you are hot, cool down. He who casts chains on Mother Nature increases her onrush by the mass of the obstacle he creates. Go running downstream. Yet I’ll add this caution: winged threats work less harm, whereas silence creates fear of an angry man.
MISOS Elpis gapes for a benefice.
THELEMA Elpis will do excellently to hope. If he is far away, you have handled the matter amiss. Hope is a renewal. Come, Thrasos. Elpis and Thrasos open our way to heaven, by your help Hercules cleared Eurymanthus’ ridges.
THRASOS I dare to attack the watchful guardians of Colchis.
ELPIS I hope to card the rough hanks out of Phryxus’ fleece. (Lype and Euphrosyne shake hands.)
THELEMA You’re making an untimely pact, Euphrosyne, a pointless bond. Just as the god of Delphi said that oxen struggling against each other make crooked furrows, so Lype joined with Euphrosyne make men’s minds unstable.
EUPHROSYNE A timely warning. Faugh, Lype, get away. (Phobos cuts some capers.)
LYPE May the gods increase your tears, you perjurer. Then call on Lype.
ELPIS What’s Phobos doing?
THRASOS An apparition is driving Phobos to distraction. I believe he’s afraid of the hound of some shepherd in the moon, or of his own shadow.
THELEMA What’s the matter, Phobos?
PHOBOS When the poet Aeschylus chanced to be sitting in a sunny place, carefree, he died when hit by a tortoise shell, which an eagle dropped on his bald head. You wouldn’t laugh, Euphrosyne, if you remember that Philopoemon the bard gave up the ghost laughing while a donkey was eating figs.
THELEMA Phobos is cautious.
PHOBOS Who know for sure whether fertile India is breeding new Titans?
THELEMA Pray tell me, Phobos, why you’re panting so?
PHOBOS I was thinking about Polyphemus’ cruel rage against Icarius’ shipmates when I anxiously joined Ulysses in searching for the sheepskins. (Thrasos laughs at Phobos.). Now I am grateful to you for having survived. I want you to be wise, Thrasos, and stop that silly laughter. If teeth such as I saw were rending your skin, huge and horrible, then you’d avoid Polyphemus, my bold fellow, and other giants, a hundred servants could scarcely grind enough grain for them.
THELEMA Phobos, you’ve done better to be afraid than the overconfident who have learned by their losses. We’ve been serious long enough, I’ve decided to give you an afternoon’s vacation. Eros, Euphrosyne, Elpis, you other children of my brain, what new games have you invented?
MISOS Does Teacher mean we’re all Minervas, and he’s a fertile Jupiter, when he calls us brain-born?
ELPIS Why are you pining with sorrow, Lype?
MISOS Why are you resisting, Phobos? See how he’s sharpening his claws?
LYPE He’s thinking of nothing less than about fighting, he’s making his weapons blunt so they won’t do any harm.
ELPIS Lype, do me this favor today, don’t be like yourself.
LYPE Indeed I shall — I’m the same as myself, not like myself.
THELEMA Lype, you’re playing the sophist. Meanwhile those of you who want can choose your sports.
EROS Euphrosyne, Thrasos, see how this winged cork of mine is sailing through the sky.
EUPHROSYNE That’s safer than trying to walk on the threatening ocean with cork shoes.
ORGE Play with a lance or with boxing-gloves. Come, Lype, let’s shoot these little darts while our boxers are groaning over their sore arms. (Enter Psyche.)
PSYCHE How quickly the fruits of learning grow tedious for students! Thelema, you’re too indulgent. Nothing in excess.
THELEMA If you keep a bow strung too long it weakens, but if you unstring it, it keeps its strength.
ORGE A full manger quickly stuffs a donkey, if he has no water.
PSYCHE Calm down, for your sake I’ll turn a blind eye. Keep your silence, Orge. (Misos, on the point of departure, is brought back.) Stop, Misos, and all of you pay attention with ears wide open. Sleep had scarcely come over me in my bed, and sweet repose had barely crept through my weary limbs, when a vision silently beguiled my churning mind, representing a series of actions. I seemed to be decreeing laws while perched aloft on a high ivory throne. A band of lictors, sworn to loyalty, stood at my side. I was swollen with royal pride, and, brandishing my threatening scepter here and there, I was casting fear into the common folk. Proudly thundering, I fed on this empty vision, until the short-lived picture of rule passed. Then my sleep became careworn, ruined by my stolen glory, which made me weep. Grief and joy took turns in exercising their powers, my uncertain mind hung in the balance. At last, a winged messenger sent down from the clear sky bore me these words: “Psyche, you shouldn’t imagine that the dream over which you cry is lacking in its mystery. If you seek to encircle your locks with a crown, hear the Fates’ command. Roses grow on the lawns of Paestum, and he who smells them will regain his youthful beauty. For such a man there awaits the eternal honor of rule, he will never have to be fearfully anxious about rebellious subjects, a witch’s evil spell, or the grasses of Colchis. Seek this rose. If you make delays, you will be cheated, accept these sure announcements. You must blaze your trail through thorns, brambles, and difficult roads. Yet you must persist. He who turns back loses his glory, his hope, his reward.” Having said such things, he quickly fled, wrapping himself in a bright cloud. Then, waking, I saw the hem of his cloak sweeping the air, and pursued him with my voice as best I could. My sons, it is up to you to see to the rest. Any glory I possess redounds on you. Who likes the idea of your mother having a scepter and crown?
THRASOS Give the job to Thrasos, Mother, he’ll fetch the rose. Even if it’s guarded by the fire-breathing dragon of the Hesperides, or the forever-barking doorkeeper of the Styx, or the Hydra, working its harm with its renewing snakes, I’ll easily overcome them. Why should I value my noble self any less than Hercules, Amphitryon’s bastard cowherd?
PHOBOS Keep quiet, brother. If he were to hear you, what penalty would you pay?
THRASOS You tell me.
PHOBOS Getting scourged with rods.
THRASOS You villain.
PSYCHE Hold your threats.
THRASOS By this sword —
PSYCHE Come to me, Phobos. Thrasos, shake his hand.
EUPHROSYNE I seem already to be enjoying the aroma of that longed-for rose. How sweetly it blushes!
EROS This is a light burden, since it is imposed by Mother’s hand. If there’s any rose that grows where Tethys menaces the Phasian shore, between the reefs of Acroceraunia, the dogs of Scylla, or Charybdis’ roaring maelstrom, I’ll fetch it back.
MISOS Go play with the little girls’ spindle and top, Eros. Let the cobbler stick to his last, and the little boy to childish things. Look here, mother, I’ll take Orge as companion on my journey, Hercules’ can’t stand up to the two of us.
EROS My reverence for my mother forbids me.
PSYCHE What unharmonious minds! Thelema, you did a fine job of teaching them to have the same likes and dislikes!
THELEMA The nightingale of the forest can’t teach her chicks to sing without taking some time to do it.
PSYCHE My mind’s made up. Eros.
MISOS I’ll not allow it.
PSYCHE You’ll put up with it. Eros, you must make up for these delays. As soon as Aurora becomes aware that Hyperion is coming and her cheeks begin to blush, I want you to take to the road, so that Eros’ happy gift may encircle his mother’s head and bless his brothers. (The others mutter.) This is decided and settled.
EROS Oh, if I could steer Triptolemus’ snakes with an easy yoke, or fly through the air on Pegasus’ wings! But I’ll be as quick as I can.
PSYCHE Let’s go inside. Although you are but boys, you’ll tote your teachers’ gear.
MISOS I’d rather tote their beer.
THELEMA Brothers, together with Elpis I’ll be your Pylades. You too, Euphrosyne, will taste the delights of brotherhood.
ACT I, SCENE ii
The Paestan nymphs don’t know how to weave a crown out of ruddy roses, nor can an Indian smith fashion Psyche’s scepter out of a ruddy ingot of gold. Psyche will be seated aloft on her throne when her sons apply themselves to the same endeavors and do as they are told. Misos will replace Eros, Orge will issue deadly threats, and Phobos will fear them both. Eros, relying on Thrasos’ promises, will take a fall, and a short-lived joy will portend long-lived ruin for happy Euphrosyne. Elpis will be drawn on by false hope, and, suffering a blow, will at length grow wise. Then a greater sorrow will torment Lype, as his happiness goes to pot. On all sides Psyche will be encircled by throngs of cares, nourished by Thelema. Amidst these currents I’m seeking a harbor. (He gets into his barrel.)
ACT I, SCENE iii
MISOS, PHOBOS, LYPE, ORGE
MISOS My dissipate siblings, timid, tepid, blockheads, stumps!
MISOS Nonetheless, siblings Eros will soon mock — at his own expense.
ORGE Ha, you should have said so.
MISOS May Tisiphone avert this omen!
PHOBOS Worst of all, I fear lest those Furies see our family unprotected, break into our house, and kill us in our sleep.
[…] Have you been brooding about this, Phobos?
PHOBOS For heaven’s sake, he who takes no precautions in advance will regret it afterwards. I’m going to put on a breastplate. Lype, let’s take turns in keeping vigil, for I shudder at a prodigy that occurred at night. A screech-owl made its lamentations at my windows, and then an owl, who was clearly asking a repeated question, saying who-ist, who-ist. I made no answer, but when he kept on asking who-ist, in my fear I had a cold sweat and a deadly fever. Then, shivering, I buried myself in my featherbed.
MISOS But you prevailed?
PHOBOS Like a man subduing himself by self-flagellation.
ORGE You silly soul, you mushroom, you pumpkin
LYPE What Enyo is urging you on?
MISOS I demand concord. Harmonious music soothes the ears, but unharmonious music jangles them. So I beg to you bury your private quarrels for a while. You can revive them and stir their ashes. Gradually their sparks will sizzle and a fierce fire will ensue. Meanwhile the situation is this: we have suffered a common rebuff, a common harm, I beg that we apply a healing hand to this wound. Eros himself would do everything unworthily. How how mother holds you and myself in disdain for his sake! Eros pleases her, she pats him on the head.
ORGE Womanly wiles represent horrible vices with a show of virtue.
MISOS You are familiar with Phaedra’s unclean crime against Hippolytus. Although he was born a human, he was a monstrosity of nature once the woman conceived her sin. But why am I saying these things? Suspicion is harmful if you seize hold of it.
ORGE Isn’t it more so, if you neglect it?
MISOS True, but forgive me. All of us brothers ought to be especially joined by a single bond. In doubtful times, if you put your heads together you think more soundly. And yet, it is the worst of folly to reveal what’s in your inmost heart.
ORGE You’ve anchored in safe waters, we live and breathe as one.
MISOS True You’re plunged in silence, Lype.
LYPE Too late you regret what you’ve said. Words go a-flying, a short statement can bring lengthy ruin down on your tongue.
ORGE You’re out of your mind. Phobos, have you been whispering a secret in your brother’s ear?
PHOBOS I want it to be out in the open: everybody who keeps uncertain outcomes before his eyes will fear misfortune.
ORGE If you don’t immediately give me your will, your words, and your hand, I’ll hand you over to the shades. You ought to be afraid of Acheron — their your timid self will be confronted by pallid visions, by your screech-owl, your owl, your hoot-owl.
PHOBOS Ah, Orge, you should hold your tongue.
ORGE Swear your silence.
PHOBOS I swear it.
ORGE Your faith.
PHOBOS I promise it.
ORGE Your help.
PHOBOS It will be so.
ORGE “Otherwise I pray Orge’s sword-hilt may take its revenge.”
PHOBOS Otherwise I pray Orge’s sword-hilt may take its revenge.
LYPE I gladly subscribe.
ORGE Rather sub-swear.
LYPE In witness, I kiss Orge’s indomitable hand.
ORGE Now tell us, Misos, what your fertile mind suggests we should dare to do. Catiline’s conspirators, having made a libation of human blood, were not so steadfast.
MISOS May this turn out to our good fortune! You must immediately believe that Eros will cast a yoke on his brothers, should he fetch the rose. Now his mother is quite insane at the sight of him, and if he also gains her gratitude, he’ll hang over our heads as a threat, without us being able to avenge ourselves. I see these things from afar. You are on your guard too late if you’ve been hit, the art of boxing consists in forestalling blows. And so I am of the opinion we should arrange our battle-line thus. Lype, you will attach yourself to Mother as her perpetual companion, asleep and awake. Fill her with heavy cares and gently bind her heart with your gloomy embrace. She’ll often exclaim that Eros should be called back, you must often press her all the more heavily.
LYPE You’re trying to teach a master the rudiments of his craft. You must especially buck up Phobos, firmly tell him what you want, lest the timid fellow’s usual fear ruin his brain and also our business.
ORGE Wise advise, Lype. If Phobos wavers I’ll apply the spur. Do you hear that, Phobos?
PHOBOS There’s no need. Now Phobos casts off his womanly self, the first growth of beard covers his tender cheeks. Do you see, Orge?
ORGE Bring a lantern.
PHOBOS The ancients were in the habits of offering up to the gods the first trimmings of a beards. Orge, I pray you don’t sacrifice my beard. Orge, I have no prayer to make.
ORGE Pray, do you imagine that I want to mock the gods with a beardless sacrifice?
MISOS Show yourself a man, Phobos. and use the wings of a Pegasus to visit Eros on his journey. Then you must closely glue yourself to Thrasos, and by your admonitions you must keep him from entertaining any sublime ambitions. If they chance to head towards Paestum by a direct route, foresightfully given them the idea the way is beset by Furies, and that this evil you forecast is to be avoided by turning aside, lest it harm them all the worse because they know about it.
PHOBOS Artful advice. Phobos will govern Thrasos if he overmasters him.
MISOS Orge, you Atlas of this tricksy globe, the weight of this scheme rests on your shoulders. Opportunely, importunately, wakeful by night and vigilant by day, you must press them, rail at them, urge them, hound them, exhort them, encourage them. Marshal all your wiles for this combat. If Eros likes something, you dislike it. If fury drives Thrasos, sway his nature, moderate him by urging rest, the others will grow quiet. But in truth spray your bile hither and thither, spewing the seeds of discord. And so that they will spread all the quicker, be loyal to nobody. Cleave to one side or another, as events dictate. If any secret exists, slyly make it public, than be the first to lodge the complaint that trust has been violated. Thus you’ll throw everything into confusion.
ORGE You speak to the point, Misos. The history books are full of such memorials of my ancestors’ victories. Farewell, Misos. At the moment delay is dangerous. Lype, Phobos, I’ll carry the torch before, you follow.
PHOBOS The greatest human woe is not to know what tomorrow has to bring.
ORGE Gods, give him the stomach!
PHOBOS By Jove, I am hungry.
LYPE You’ll be stuffed soon enough.
PHOBOS I’m afraid because of the inconveniences.
ORGE Be of good heart. Like a second Ajax protecting Ulysses, with my shield I’ll cover your timid self. (Exeunt.)
MISOS Go with good omens — to your perdition! They’ve gone. I sent these gullible souls ahead to destroy Eros. Then I’ll follow to destroy them all. Hatred’s foot does not pause at the threshold, it fearlessly continues until it observes the sequel. (Enter Thelema.) Have I been overheard? It’s Thelema. I’ll listen in on him. And you, kindly spectators, hold your tongues, and keep your fingers bunched-up rather than pointing. It’s dangerous to be pointed at, to have it said of you “that’s the one.” (Misos conceals himself.)
ACT I, SCENE iv
THELEMA It’s a pleasure to gain applause when your dagger falls, having drawn its blood. For the palm and the herald praise the victor. But a bloodless battle is like a banquet where there’s plenty of bread but no wine. They say that Miltiades’ trophy gave young Themistocles sleepless nights, he wasso exited by the wind of praise. Nor am I moved by earthly, lowly esteem. Just as Jupiter lords it in heaven, so Thelema rules in this human microcosm. Now farewell to the comic slipper, I walk aloft on the tragic buskin and touch the stars. I shall not stop until Psyche falls, the arena’s sand soaked with her blood. For against my better judgment she assigned this great, sublime, difficult task to Eros. But Eros will collapse under his own weight, and the crash he makes as he suffers his downfall will be hurtful to Psyche. Ah, how whatever things are done by a woman’s decision go to pot! She placed her trust in the dream alone, when that changeful spirit flowed though her veins and Psyche sent Eros to Paestum as her representative to fetch the rose. This is a rose too mystical for Eros to pluck with his ignorant thumb. But I should pardon the fool: let him run at full tilt, he’ll still not gain his goal. My mind’s made up. I’ll imitate the Phoenician, I’m skilled at speaking with a forked tongue, now this way, that way, just as favor blows me with its favoring breeze. You gentlemen in the audience, if a mirror hangs near the heart’s door, it will disprove much which the tongue has just uttered. Pray watch me: now I’m called Thelema —in the future, let him beware! (Changes his costume.) After I have metamorphosized into that stranger, let none of you who are present point me out as Thelema, let him tell Eros I’m the stranger. Thus I’ll play a trick on him. (Misos reveals himself and picks up Thelema’s discarded costume.)
MISOS Thelema, what you crave is to my own liking. Why conceal something that is well known? I praise your deed, Thelema, you will gain gratitude by your faithfulness.
THELEMA Are you talking to me? This is a case of mistaken identify, I don’t know the man you’re addressing. If you want something from me —
MISOS So that may consider me the victor, I’m carrying off the spoils. Thelema will timidly follow my departing horses — unless Thelema recognizes himself.
THELEMA As a slave to Misos.
MISOS Perish both thoughts. He’ll go off, having been given a retired soldier’s wooden sword and a freedman’s cap, if we bestow some blows on Eros.
THELEMA I’m menacing Eros with the mill, with flails, and elm switches. Who can resist Misos when he’s joined to Thelema?
MISOS Apollo’s never shrewder than my endeavors! Thelema, in my brain I’ve enrolled a Carthaginian army.
THELEMA Then you’ll fight with Punic art.
MISOS As our age has now brought it about, this is the only art. Indeed, this single science goes to show that indulgence is to be given to the word, as it universally shows in all its barbaric acts.
THELEMA And what’s that?
MISOS It teaches everybody not to get caught, and to catch others.
THELEMA So stretch your little nets for some bird-catching, Misos, lest winged Eros get away.
MISOS Behold the net. With your permission, Thelema, I’ll put on these clothes and assiduously dance attendance on Mother. I’ll secretly fill her with my precepts while you use empty hope to lead Eros to his ruin.
THELEMA May the gods curse Thelema if he ceases to adore Misos!
MISOS Let’s strike while the iron is hot.
THELEMA Whew, Misos, you’re wise!
MISOS Listen. As always, A man must await his final day, and nobody should be called blessed before his death. Thus nobody is to be crowned with wisdom’s laurel unless a happy outcome blesses his foresightful plan.
THELEMA Misos, you’re playing the philosopher.
MISOS I want you to be a philosopher as well — a peripatetic one, and quickly betake yourself to Eros.
THELEMA I’m off.
MISOS Keep in mind that we’ll meet in the Bankers’ Forum if we need to make more plans about this business.
THELEMA I’ve got it. (Exit.)
MISOS Who wouldn’t call it hard to put on a mild character as well as sheep’s clothing? But I must do so. Spectators, it remains for me to do this, for if I return to my own nature Psyche might catch a scent of our misrepresentation. My mind has a presentiment that I’m going to find enemies at home. But it’s a well-known fact that hatred does not surrender to all its enemies.
ACT I, SCENE v
THRASOS, ELPIS, ORGE, PHOBOS
THRASOS Why look so downcast, Phobos?
PHOBOS That’s my mood.
ELPIS He’s going to sigh again.
THRASOS How shameful it is for a man to furrow his face with wrinkles, to put on a look of fear, to halt in mid-step on a trembling leg, and cover over the beams of youth with an old man’s cloud!
PHOBOS Why denounce Phobos for his fears? Are you keeping in mind what a doubtful labyrinth Eros is heading for, dragging us to our death? So you should be full of dread while the time allows you to fear.
ORGE Fear what?
PHOBOS A second Minotaur.
THRASOS Ha, ha.
PHOBOS You think the Minotaur is silly? If Theseus had not pleased Ariadne, he’d never have found his way back.
ORGE What devices are you inventing, Phobos?
PHOBOS None, but I warn you to turn back.
ELPIS So you’re not afraid.
PHOBOS I’m filled with less hope than Thrasos is.
THRASOS You midget, you dwarf, you Tom Thumb! To whom are you comparing yourself? What if Cerberus were to appear with his triple heads? Phobos would mournfully bark, so Cerberus would recognize a kinsman.
PHOBOS As if it’s pointless to have the strength of a Hercules!
ELPIS This is the way of boasters — they gobble up their enemies when they are absent, but turn tail when they attack.
ORGE Bile is increased by slander. For what is less tuneful to Mars’ ears than the racket of a tongue rather than a trumpet? Come, Phobos, I’m starting a battle. Pretend that I’m an oncoming enemy, with what spirit would you counter me? With what agility would you dodge my hostile sword-point. How would you avoid me when I attacked?
ELPIS Doubtless with his feet.
THRASOS More likely with his wings.
PHOBOS Do you fancy I’m that cowardly? I gladly decline these rash jokes between brothers, lest our headstrong warmth dare something further than befits brothers. Please put away that sword, Orge.
ORGE Don’t be afraid I’ll strike you with my naked sword, its scabbard does a better job of silencing a buzzing fly.
THRASOS You should take this calmly, Phobos. Gather your vengeance-seeking mind.
PHOBOS If my brothers weren’t here —
THRASOS We’re standing back, Phobos. Avenge the insult.
ELPIS He agrees.
PHOBOS This isn’t the right time to utter threats.
THRASOS The spirit of a Hercules, by heavens! He disapproves of doing the thing with his tongue, but he approves of steel.
ORGE What weapon should I fetch, Phobos? A fork or a fan? I’ll be your teacher, Phobos, and you be an attentive student.
ELPIS Childish talk, Orge. Phobos says he’ll soon be your teacher and teach you other ABC’s, which he’ll write in blood on your mangled skin.
ORGE No show of submission will make up for the fellow’s crime.
THRASOS You hear those high-flown words. You should never fear a barking puppy.
ELPIS Orge, as Phobos’ second I charge you to appear tomorrow, about seven in the morning, at the meadow which grows green next to our house. There, he says, the green grass will be reddened by Orge’s blood.
THRASOS I take your life under my protection, he won’t draw his sword before I arrive as a peacemaker.
ORGE Phobos, do you acknowledge what Elpis is saying on your behalf?
THRASOS Give the fellow a good soaking. Why are you hesitating?
ORGE I acknowledge it.
ELPIS Troilus or Hector did not display such disdain for Achilles.
ORGE Speak up, Phobos. You should eat your last meal.
PHOBOS Brothers, you have seen to what pass matters have come.
ELPIS Now you can’t turn back.
THRASOS What he’s thinking is not at all unworthy.
PHOBOS I fear this worst of all, a blot on my honor. For, if I prove the victor, I would be stained by my brother blood, and, together with my brother, I would be a cursed fellow in the eyes of posterity, just like Polynices and Eteocles.
THRASOS It’s noble of you to attach more importance to honor than to life.
PHOBOS But I beg you all to stand forth as soon as Orge draws his sword.
THRASOS Consider it as good as done.
ACT I, SCENE vi
THELEMA alias MISOS in Thelema’s costume, EROS, EUPHROSYNE
“THELEMA” You robber of Paestum’s springtime, we must hurry along lest the rose fade.
EROS This heat is cooking for me. For by degrees I’ve come to feel that Icarus’ puppy has been drying out the springtime vapors with its dry barking.
EUPHROSYNE Oh, brother, if only some god would show us the way by a direct route! My sense of smell is swooning from the scent of the flowers I’ll pick in that Idalian shade. There the marjoram wafts its sweet smell. I mourn that my thumbs are slow to pick them, and that pretty lilies are slow to glow white in my fair baskets.
EROS I’m worried about our brothers’ sloth, Euphrosyne. Mother’s commands don’t stick as firmly in their minds.
“THELEMA” What if they neglect Mothers, as long as she remains dear to you?
EROS The dearer Mother is to me, the dearer are my brothers.
“THELEMA” So your uprightness decrees, others don’t feel the same. I know this, since they often damned Eros for being Mother’s minion.
EUPHROSYNE If I’d known that Misos has been employing his arts to suspend our joys, I’d have made him hang.
EROS You’re too angry, Euphrosyne. The penalty he pays is great, for when the others avoid his plague it rebounds on himself.
“THELEMA” If you waste your time you won’t get it back.
EROS Sometimes delay is helpful. It has given many headstrong fellows advice that made them hasten on their way.
EUPHROSYNE As I hope it’ll give it to Misos.
“THELEMA” Is Misos up to something?
EUPHROSYNE Just like a craftsman.
“THELEMA” A carpenter?
EUPHROSYNE He’s fashioning his schemes out of wood, building a pyre to burn himself alive.
EROS We should forget these things, Euphrosyne.
“THELEMA” Pardon me, Eros, but this hurtful wound requires the immediate attention of a physician. If Misos suffers from some leprosy that might infect his brothers, it must be cut out by the sword, lest the wholesome part be corrupted. Euphrosyne, do this job for me, bring Misos before me as a defendant. (Gesturing at the audience.) Let these be the benches, I’ll play the part of the judge, and Eros will be Misos’ advocator.
EUPHROSYNE Now I’ll be the prosecuting attorney, and later the man who administers the blows. Stand still, Misos. The sedition which the Furies of Gracchus once inflicted on the mistress of the world, the torches of Catiline, these troublesome Misos would cast among his happy brothers. With what schemes is this accursed fellow menacing Eros and Mother? Full of suspicion, he treacherously fills everybody with the scruples of his contrivances, he heats the bile they have conceived within, and rakes up the ashes of anger, until they glow brighter and the hidden fire bursts through the cloud of smoke. Then everything is thrown into confusion and the brands that have caught fire are ablaze. Then quickly the fierce fire burns will burn down our house.
“THELEMA” A capital speech!
EROS If it’s capital thing wretchedly to consider one’s self-advantage, whereas he hurts nobody unless he has been injured himself. They hold against Misos whatever Eros fixes on with his wanton eyes, breathing his sweet poison, and with his Colchian venom pleasantly anticipating the Fate by administering his furtive death. Should he blaze up in wrath, he two-facedly readies the treacheries of a Nessus. As a wizard he casts every harsh spell, sacrificing to the gods of the Underworld with his yew. Fix your mind on this, Your Honor, and understand the reason why Eros’ danger is worse than Misos’, insofar as the evil that can be foreseen is less bad than the one that strikes suddenly.
“THELEMA” My judgment is that you are right. Misos is to be dismissed as not guilty, and Eros is to be punished.
EUPHROSYNE Is Eros really abandoning himself and favoring Misos?
EROS Away with you, for I have brought it about that Misos is a free man and Eros stands convicted. Let the judge pronounce sentence.
“THELEMA” Let Euphrosyne box Eros’ ears a hundred times. (Euphrosyne boxes Eros’ ear.) I’m not turning a blind eye on your previous crimes, and henceforth you’ll pay for them with your back.
EROS Bah, you’ve gone too far with the joke, Euphrosyne.
EUPHROSYNE The judge has ruled that Eros is to be punished.
EROS You mock me thus? To be punished to death? Why has Eros been made a whipping-stock? Euphrosyne boxed my ear? (Thelema laughs.)
EUPHROSYNE Take some hellebore, you unquiet fellow. Come back to yourself. So why are your forgetting Mother’s vision and the rose?
EROS Oh you ruddy buds of Paestum, thrusting up your heads into the gentle airs amidst your rose gardens!
EUPHROSYNE You are praising absent things, Euphrosyne would prefer to enjoy ones that are present. Come now, go to your brothers, Mother is troubled by a long-drawn-out anxiety for our return, while you hunt for […] and desert our expedition with a well-fed grin, Thelema.
“THELEMA” Yes, I’m getting fat. See how my belly casts a shadow a yard long.
EROS By Castor, this bald fellow will be showing us his pate if this delay continues.
EUPHROSYNE What kind of fellow are you calling him?
EROS Let Oedipus untie this knot?
“THELEMA” What, a Gordian one? Time’s passing, Eros. Let’s go inside.
EROS By Castor, you’ll win the prize.
“THELEMA” While love beguiles our senses and fury rules us, mindless hope returns to the lover’s mind.
ACT I, SCENE vii
PHOBOS, ORGE, THRASOS, ELPIS, MISOS in Thelema’s costume, EROS, EUPHROSYNE
PHOBOS This place is deadly, evil, fouler than the Dircaean land. Ah, how my inborn instinct tells me this is something deadly! I on the verge of pleading my life to you in exchange for a glory that’s dripping with blood. But if I didn’t trust in Thrasos’ support, I would never have taken it into my head to settle these quarrels with the sword, I would have humbly begged for pardon. You may celebrate your triumph, Orge, as long as my life is safe in harbor. But now I must think of my funeral, lest Orge devour my unlamented soul. Here in your sight I’ll put on a linen shroud, and likewise take a penny, lest when I’m dead he bury me naked and I be sent across the Acheron without the ferryman’s fee. Thrasos and Elpis are never appearing. I’ve need to be more quiet, lest Orge chance to come and recognize my voice. The shadows are still thick, it doesn’t matter whether I hide in mist. I’ll boldly poke up my head if Thrasos comes. I think I’ve paid more than sufficient attention to glory. Silly me, why didn’t I administer Orge a healing potion? Thus I’d have gained the eternal victory-palm, if Orge had declined a fight. (Orge stamps within.) What sound of feet strikes my ear? Ah, I can’t tolerate the sound of his feet, how can I withstand his hand? It’s Orge, the jig is up for you, Phobos. Fear keeps me from escaping. Shall I fall, like a tree-trunk, until raging Orge stabs m7e? I’ll creep over there, where the mists are thicker. [Enter Orge.]
ORGE This pygmy deserves to have his skin flayed off, I’ll bring it about that he won’t live to talk about this disgrace, Phobos will rue it too late. I’ll leave his body, torn limb-from limb, lying for wild animals to heat. I’ll fix his head to a pole if he meets me while my blood’s still hot.
PHOBOS Thrasos, Elpis! Poor me, poor me!
ORGE In imitation of Achilles, I’ll use a rope to tie him to a chariot.
PHOBOS If my feet would let me escape!
ORGE He’ll die a slow death. First I’ll harvest the teeth in his head. Then I’ll tear his guts from his belly and wrap them around my sword by way of an adornment.
PHOBOS It’s the noose for me! Elpis, Thrasos, my hope has perished, together with my boldness.
ORGE Who’s muttering? Damn this darkness! Who do I see? Phobos? I’ll drive in my sword right up to the hilt. Stop, runaway! Receive this offering, Pluto. (Enter Thrasos and Elpis.)
THRASOS AND ELPIS Hang on, Orge.
ORGE Why do me this injury, Thrasos? These spoils belong to me, whoever steals my prey also robs me of my life.
ELPIS More gently, Orge. Let the joke have its end. By conquering Phobos Orge has demonstrated he’s a son of Mars. (Enter Eros, Thelema, and Euphrosyne.)
“THELEMA” A victor’s greatest glory is clemency.
ELPIS Be careful of what you say. Behold, here’s Thelema.
“THELEMA” Orge, Phobos, Thrasos, Elpis, pray what are these commotions?
ELPIS Wordy squabbles, while Phobos is railing at Orge, and Orge at Phobos.
“THELEMA” Beware of quarreling’s hatreds, keep what’s been done concealed. (He turns to Phobos.)
EROS Just as a fingernail keeps picking at a sore, so Orge is always pressing, raging at, and attacking Phobos.
EUPHROSYNE Their truce will last forever, if once they strike one.
“THELEMA” Pray shake hands.
EUPHROSYNE Orge swears his trust.
ELPIS Thus brothers should.
“THELEMA” By God’s guidance we have come as peacemakers, and also to a timely meeting of brothers. Eros is thinking of going to Paestum. Which of his brothers is his companion?
EU. I’m inseparable from him.
“THELEMA” The same bond binds me.
ELPIS I’m connected to love.
EROS That’s no small service.
“THELEMA” Let Orge and Phobos remain to protect Mother.
PHOBOS That’s indeed safer. For a while ago Thrasos was speaking of half-human cattle.
ORGE Thrasos is half-human himself.
“THELEMA” Restrain your hissing, you little monkey.
ORGE [Hitting him.] Take this, you token of a man.
EROS By the life of our mother, and by our own, brothers, don’t let me see affection become a crime. (Phobos puts back on his shroud.)
PHOBOS With its sinister warning a crow has already forecast many riddles. But I (to whom that croaking dialect is familiar enough) understood that the crow was inviting the others to share his dinner. He sang of human flesh, boiled, roasted, and cooked, most elegantly prepared. I grievously lamented this, and decided to pay a dead man’s offering to the shades. So I bought this shroud. (Thelema and Elpis laugh.)
EROS What’s new, Thrasos?
THRASOS A huge Iliad of things Now is not the time to tell you.
ELPIS It will be more suitable, brother, when your mind becomes weary of a long journey’s tedium.
EUPHROSYNE Why are we hesitantly standing here any more? We need to form a plan. Thelema, if you know a man who prevailed in reaching Paestum on another occasion —
“THELEMA” I do, very well.
EROS I do not think it foolish to follow his advice.
“THELEMA” You should teachers’ advice into practice.
EROS That’s indeed my decision, but in order to do this better I’m searching for that man.
“THELEMA” You’re wise to have the foresight.
THRASOS Leave this concern to me. I am acquainted with the tenant of a barrel, a kinsman of Pallas, and from his tripod I’ll obtain the best of oracles.
EROS Really? Farewell, Thelema. Greet Mother, tell her we’re obeying her wishes.
“THELEMA” Farewell. (Exit Eros, Euphrosyne Thrasos, and Elpis.) That Thrasos is like hemlock. He spreads his poison among the other fine swans. By my elegant artifices I’ve rendered Eros hamstrung and heedless. While Thrasos pounds him on the head, would that he’d use the hammer on his own as well!
ORGE In my heart a harvest of hatred is burning against Thrasos.
PHOBOS This harvest, brother, was set afire by his wiles, that spark created a great conflagration by which the both of them are burned to death.
“THELEMA” Are you two hearts beating as one?
ORGE Except when Phobos is afraid. Forget your fear, Phobos.
PHOBOS My fear? You know what I have to be afraid of. I’m never afraid of things that are present, but I dread absent ones.
ORGE For when you’re present you’re a good-for-nothing.
“THELEMA” Phobos, why strike that flint. A spark will jump forth, and Orge will heat up. Pay attention. Do want to court the favor of Thelema and Psyche by a single effort?
ORGE As long as it makes trouble for Thrasos.
“THELEMA” Let Eros make is journey by the route he has started. Thanks to your help, this delay has dragged on at a snail’s pace. I am Misos, not Thelema the pedagogue. This is a secret of Ibis. Be careful not to reveal this mystery by your babbling, Phobos.
ORGE Why have you pretended not to be Misos?
MISOS I’ll tell you brother, so nothing remains unknown to you. For Eros’ mind is more variable than a running stream. My concern for you all warned me. For what end, pray, would I have passed so many sleeps nights if I were not kept awake by your love, your liberty, your glory, name, and honor?
ORGE He who is exercised by so many concerns is worthy to rule. We’ll follow Eros as if we were deserters, but when he grows sluggish I’ll never serve as a spur or a goad.
PHOBOS And not imagine that Phobos won’t experience many prodigies which will require delay for expiation.
“THELEMA” Go while the omen is good.
Alas, with what a sinister omen Psyche entrusted Eros with the task of the rose. Misos does not allow his brother to walk a well-trodden path by familiar ways, but points him to twists and turns of no sure form. Now he sows the secret seeds of hatred, cropping their short-lived delights with his malicious tooth. Thelema promises he will have a hand in all of this crime, and he is more to be feared because his strength is greater. The mystery is solved, since I have applied a mystery here (it is impermissible to speak the truth save in riddles). Under the name of Psyche, England hopes for the flourishing rose of her ancestral faith, which in that realm once filled the happy air with the manifold fertility of its […]. Ah, shames me to say what stench now exists where once there were sweet aromas. England knows this, she mourns, she groans, she grieves. Who will give her back her former scents? What will Eros do? Whom does Eros’ shadow protect? Ah, Eros protects whose to whom Misos has scarcely left a humble shelter. All Catholics are concealed under the figure of Eros. Misos oppresses these, Misos, whom I designate as heresy, heresy more shape-shifting than Proteus. Taking on all these appearances, he does not think it base to speak with the jaws of a monster, as long as he pronounces capital sentence upon Catholics. Thelema encourages this bane, is not Thelema mad? He who accuses Thelema must fear scandalizing the nobility. These are slaves to the pride of heresy, and they also fear the axe. It is a base kind of servitude when English Peers, who were free men, voluntarily submit to the yoke of slavery. Oh, if a sense of shame would censure their degenerate minds! They would get rid of such a great blot, and of the government of heresy.
Go to Act II