To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
ACT II, SCENE i
PSYCHE Now at length, Lype, I feel the sorrows of Niobe, at which I used to laugh while in my carefree state. Ah, what a torment for a mother it is to see her children dangling from fortune’s wheel!
LYPE Chance has left me behind as a help, a friend and a companion to my mother. You won’t ignore Lype?
PSYCHE It’s a sad harmony when Lype strums the strings.
LYPE Thracian Orpheus never used his quill to strum his Thracian lyre more skillfully than when the water of a shining tear gradually slid down the nymphs’ cheeks.
PSYCHE See, my eyes are welling.
LYPE But a river of them has not yet drenched your breast.
PSYCHE Why arouse my bile? Do I please you better with a sparkling eye?
LYPE Fire follows a spark, as Eros follows Orge.
PSYCHE Why do you trouble my darling Eros? I cherish Eros in my embrace. Eros, what clime are you traveling. What land rejoices to be trodden by your foot?
LYPE Let Eros tread the ground, as long as Misos fares well.
PSYCHE My blood curdles at the sound of Misos’ name, as a ghastly pallor varies my ruddy face. I imagine Tisiphone’s snakes rending him with their fangs, and whatever hateful Cocytus spews forth, boiling with its bloody tears.
LYPE Elpis will cure this evil.
PSYCHE Elpis is a Aesculapius. Dogs can close an open wound with a word, there’s healing in their tongue.
LYPE But Phobos doubts this.
PSYCHE No wonder, for often a puppy is crazy, and if it licks at one’s wounds it inflicts insanity.
LYPE But Thrasos such a fellow that he can plunge in his arm and pull out that tongue by the roots.
PSYCHE He could break the neck of a Gaetulan lion! With Thrasos at my side I could subject to my yoke Marthesia, Antiope, Penthesilia, and all the other Amazons the Thermodoon has bred.
LYPE Then with what glee would Euphrosyne would rejoice!
PSYCHE As much glee as would unleash Psyche’s happiness and soak our ambrosial banquet in a great deal of nectar. He would sing paeans, and then, appeasing a thoroughly drunken Bacchus with cakes, he would crow over the god he had overcome. By heavens, the sound of Euphrosyne’s name certainly provokes my palate. I’m hungry and thirsty.
LYPE Quench your thirst with tears for having rashly dispatched Eros to Paestum.
PSYCHE Why renew my sorrow? The ill-omened name of Paestum! Should I follow Eros? What doubtful things have been suggested to me by a fearful dream! Now I hear groaning, now chains rattle with a fearful din, and I see Eros, bound tight. Go, Lype, eat up the miles, and bring back Eros to his dying Psyche.
LYPE Your solitude increases your concerns, I won’t leave you alone.
PSYCHE A lonely person is happier than one who has sadness as a perpetual companion.
LYPE Who does not know Psyche’s child, who knows his mother? Just as fruits are known by their tree, so a tree is know by its fruits.
ACT II, SCENE ii
Oh, thrice blessed he who is nourished by friendly peace, far from the city! Oh, four times blessed who’s weary hours are beguiled by learned leisure! From this cornucopia flows sleep, which overmasters cares. This is a running-course for life, and he who breasts the finish line does not have his hair bound by the mortal palm or the laurel of the Isthmian or Olympic games, but by the crown of virtue, which knows not how to die. This is not the hope of that Cynic who, swollen with pride, scorned the master of Greece in favor of sunbeams. Degenerate Diogenes was lacking in virtue, decorated honor’s stage with his shameful images. Virtue shines all the more when no cosmetics shine, but when its lovely cheeks glow with a genuine bloom. She calms the quarrels of the pugnacious mind, slows contrary impulses, and subjects the rebels with the intellect’s yoke. Let him who sows her seeds bear fruit himself, or let the boaster fall silent. Oh, if this seed would sink its roots deep in mortals’ minds! I shall go and sow my seeds in whatever field I see to be ready.
ACT II, SCENE iii
ORGE You’re more sluggish than sloth itself, while you’re digging your trenches the besieged are making good their escape. It is the task of a noble commander to best his foe in the open field.
MIS. But he serves glory better who drags his living enemies behind him in a crowded triumph.
ORGE He triumphs late whom victory eludes to soften. I hate Bellona when she is feeble, blows dripping with warm blood set martial spirits afire.
MISOS And they burn to ash.
ORGE So far I’ve been following an owl, henceforth I’ll follow Eros’ eagles. Goodbye, Misos.
MISOS I appeal to Orge’s loyalty and that handshake of ours.
ORGE Involving a hand you would already have seen dripping with Eros’ blood, Misos, if your lazy nature had not created delays. Think lofty thoughts and, as an imitator of Jove, confirm your words by your lightning. Look, the fiery clouds are gathering, I shall herald their arrival by breathing forth flames of wrath. Thunder, Misos.
MISOS The eagle hasn’t fetched the three-pronged missiles yet. Bah, the smith of Lemnos is failing to do his job.
ORGE That’s the way Jove should speak. Now give your commands, Misos.
MISOS Let Orge not rage so greatly, and he’ll open his throat and swallow his enemy at a distance. Why aren’t you already dragging along Eros, enchained along with Thrasos? It doesn’t matter whether you do this by art or force.
ORGE Why are you blaming Orge? I’ll be swifter than the south wind, and bring Eros here, flying aloft through the sky and having snatched him up by the hair.
MISOS Oh, you’re truly the chick of a donkey-like eagle! But bear in mind that an eagle does not snatch at flies, nor does peaceful Eros have sharp claws, it would be shameful to conquer him in the arena. Use wiles to do away with this enemy. Pretend to be a runaway from me, in his mind Eros would like to see it and Elpis is hoping for it. Then he’ll have no secret to which Orge is not a party. After that you’ll be holding the rudder — how easy it will be to run ship onto the reefs!
ORGE Good heavens, Misos is clever! I like your plan, be sure you are not far away.
MISOS (Aside, to the audience.) Far away from my art, by which I hope Orge perishes in a timely way, along with Eros. Spectators, there are certain basic principles to hatred (although these do not pertain to yourselves). First and foremost is not to deal with anything dear to your heart, if it has any weight. To any old person you may confide things that are trifling and meaningless. If they involve a double meaning, entrust them to his ears — thus you may turn a profit on his trust. But I don’t hate you. And so let that be revealed to you which is hidden from Orge, I want to play the philosopher. For Eros will soon send Thrasos here, I’ll catch those mice in my mousetrap, those logical conclusions, myself being the bait: borrowing Philosopher’s light, I’ll describe the heavens and the wanderings of the stars, opening up nature’s obscure inner workings with my penetrating mind as if there were no secret from me. I’ll call myself a Pythagoras and say that there’s nothing in all those regions I have not thumbed with my golden thumb. Let no bystander call me a liar. Now my experience has shown its power. (Some people murmur within.) Ha, I hear a chattering mutter. But what would happen if Philosopher were to come looking for his barrel and my trick is bared? I’ll think about that when the need is pressing. They’re here.
ACT II, SCENE iv
THRASOS, ELPIS, ORGE, MISOS
THRASOS Orge, how many fears of Eros have you murdered by your arrival! For Misos depends on your support, and if you fail him he will perish.|
ELPIS How Misos will gnaw his fingernails when he understands this. He’ll wretchedly do himself in by pining, by sorrow and tears.
ORGE Oh what temperate man could stand these bickerings, these quarrels and slanders? Misos backbites against anybody who is not present, whereas unfrowning Eros rushes to embrace them.
THRASOS Orge, you’re our man. Eros fears that blabbermouth, make him party to our secret. He’s urging close-mouthedness, and Orge is steadfast. Hey look, here’s a barrel of excellent wine, pray let’s sample it.
ORGE It’s next to the Cynic’s hut.
THRASOS That’s the one I mean.
ORGE But the wine’s first, I don’t see any ivy.
ELPIS Wine ready for sale has no need of ivy.
THRASOS Orge, do you think it credible that a man tending a temple of Bacchus would not sip the wine?
ORGE I swear by Jove’s Styx, that source of fear for perjurers, if he doesn’t invite us to a feast I’ll stuff the fellow in this barrel. Then I’ll plunge his dry head into sour wine, so that he’ll not get out alive, but rather celebrate Orge’s Day forever.
THRASOS Orge is descended from the gods.
ELPIS At first manage the business more moderately, until he has given us all his information about how we may get to Paestum.
THRASOS That’s my custom — business before pleasure.
ORGE I’ll summon the fellow.
THRASOS Summon him.
ELPIS Look, he’s having his dinner indoors.
MISOS (Pretending to be Philosopher, and hiding in the barrel.) Who’s damaging both my humble cottage and his own feet by his rude kicking?
THRASOS Greetings, taciturn old men.
MISOS And greetings to each of you. What business brings you here?
THRASOS A matter that is great, secret, daring, grave.
MISOS Why are you heading for Paestum. For last night, while I was keeping vigil and studying the stars, I had a premonition that early in the morning chance would bring here some wayfarers bound for Paestum.
ORGE A fine augury!
ELPIS For what reason would they be seeking Paestum?
MISOS For the sake of a blessed rose.
ORGE How exactly true! What are you thinking, Thrasos?
THRASOS Prodigies of the gods! Am I awake while sleeping? Am I seeing when I see Orge with my eyes? And Elpis my brother?
MISOS You are awake and your are seeing. Nothing ought to seem wonderful which escapes the notice of the vulgar, as long as it is clear to us whose mind are more penetrating. The stars keep their nightly vigils so they might teach their servants the secrets of the Fates, future, past, and present.
THRASOS What need is there for words when you know the end? Tell us the easy way to Paestum, for delay is harmful.
MISOS To the right a hill rises to a moderate height, and on its top is an altar of Trivia. From there the descent reveals its many windings.
THRASOS Listen to his false noises. By heavens, it’s Misos!
MISOS I alone am flourishing. Among the French, a man thrives because of his costume. This is how one goes to Paestum. But I forewarn you of this one thing, it is in your interest to pour a libation of pure wine at Trivia’s altar.
THRASOS Do you recognize this bogus Philosopher, Orge?
ORGE Is that so? Let’s beat up this fraud good and proper.
THRASOS In what quarter do the gardens of Paestum breathe forth their aroma?
MISOS In a hidden bay of Libya.
THRASOS Is this how you mock us, you villain? Orge, Elpis, this scoundrel bade us pour a libation to Trivia, but by heavens he himself would make a worthy sacrifice. For they offer Diana libations of human blood.
MISOS I beg you by all the gods and goddesses, forgive my poor self.
ORGE Observe how the liar resumes his true nature, pleading for his life.
THRASOS I’ll bury you alive if you don’t hold your tongue. This is an inexorable decree, this is the will of the Fates. (Misos is shut up in the barrel.)
ELPIS A just punishment for the rascal!
ORGE Busiris’ brazen bull did not bellow as much as this calf, stuffed in the barrel, would have done, unless Thrasos had added his threats.
THRASOS I’ll bring this barrel as a gift for Eros, telling him it’s Massic or Falernian.
ELPIS Let’s roll it in this direction.
THRASOS How hard it is to roll it uphill!
ACT II, SCENE v
EROS, EUPHROSYNE, PHOBOS, THRASOS, ORGE, MISOS, ELPIS
EROS By heavens, Euphrosyne, I’m growing faint.
EUPHROSYNE It’s hot, the sand’s scorching my feet.
PHOBOS Lower your voices. Don’t you think that there are wolves’ dens in such a dense grove? If even one were to catch sight of us, we’d have no hope of escape. For this is the wolves’ habit, that when they mistrust their own ability to attack their prey with their own strength, they sound the alarm for their friends with their fearful howling, and when the others hear the signal they come a-rushing with a single-minded frenzy. If you people are standing about loitering, pray let me take to my heels.
EUPHROSYNE Give Phobos permission to leave, Eros.
EROS Gladly and wholeheartedly.
PHOBOS The gods keep you safe.
PHOBOS [Crosses the stage and stops.] Is anybody crazier than I am, wandering aimlessly in an unknown region without a companion. Now wolves, bears and lions will tear me to shreds. What am I hearing? Hunting hounds? No doubt Diana will give me horns, as she did Actaeon.
EROS Look, Phobos has returned.
PHOBOS Brothers, my love prevents me from giving you to the wolves as their prey. Death would be most pleasant, as long as I keep you in my sight.
EUPHROSYNE Go hang, you worst of creatures.
EROS He suffers from the three-day fever.
EUPHROSYNE The three-day fever? Nothing of the sort. With him, terror is chronic.
PHOBOS Apologize for speaking so rudely.
EUPHROSYNE If your health is questionable, why are you delaying? Consult a physician. Hire Libitina while you’re still alive, so there’ll be somebody to shed tears at your funeral. (Phobos faints.)
EROS Your words are full of swords and steel, Euphrosyne. See how he’s changing color. He’s fallen flat. Regain your consciousness, Phobos, Phobos.
EUPHROSYNE If you jingle his name a third time, Phobos will think the jig is up and die.
PHOBOS I hope that Eros will indict you for parricide.
EUPHROSYNE He’s breathing. Wolves are howling nearby, Phobos. Climb a tree as quick as you can.
PHOBOS I foretold this well enough. But where in the world are we? This is a plain, there are no trees, not even fruit trees.
ELPIS I’ve scarcely moved a step from that grove you saw just now, Phobos.
PHOBOS This is madness. Just now a huge oak was spreading its limbs, in which I could have hidden myself. But now it’s vanished?
EUPHROSYNE Come now, Phobos. Have you entirely forgotten that you are a stage-character here?
PHOBOS A stage-character?
EUPHROSYNE Yes, a stage-character. For these seats are full of spectators: these you imagined to be pines, those cedars, and others first.
PHOBOS What in the world are we doin?
EROS You’re a donkey, and we’re your handlers. And so you should scourge your self and remove that Arcadian stupidity, thanks to which you imagined this crowd of living men to be stumps and blockheads. Beg their pardon.
PHOBOS Silly me, uncouth with my evil ways! Oh excellent spectators, if you would pardon my mistake, how highly I would esteem you! For you should think that, when I was thinking you to be trees, I was placing all my hope in your branches for a unique asylum from the wolves’ rage. Forgive me. This was done out of fear, not deliberate malice.
EUPHROSYNE Tell them that in future you’ll wear glasses.
PHOBOS Good advice. “Several eyes see more than only one.”
EROS Euphrosyne, I can barely move my legs. This green lawn is pleasant. Let us recline here, and let everybody produce what he has brought with him, let him contribute it for a refreshing picnic.
EUPHROSYNE A timely suggestion, Eros. See here, the wine has evaporated in the sunshine.
PHOBOS All the grapes are failing, but there’s hope we can turn a profit on this. The philosophers tell us that whatever humors the sun draws up during the day rain down at night as a similar substance. Unless this is a mere opinion, soon it will rain wine.
EROS In the meantime, Phobos, lest you feed us with your fables, today I’ll stuff this Charybdis so much that it is no longer hungry.
EUPHROSYNE My dog-like Scylla is barking with hunger, Phobos. Feed it a scrap.
PHOBOS “He who strives to avoid Scylla falls into Charybdis.” [Passes him some wine.] Euphrosyne, you have an educated palate, how flavorsome this is!
EUPHROSYNE It’s ambrosia.
EROS Oh if Jupiter would send down his Phrygian cup-bearer Ganymede! I’d indeed challenge Bacchus to a drinking-bout. (Enter Thrasos, Orge and Elpis, with Misos in the barrel.)
THRASOS We’re struggling manfully going uphill. Not much farther along it’s flat.
ELPIS Put your shoulder into it, Orge.
ORGE When the sand seemed most trustworthy it cheated our steps.
THRASOS This is a useful lessen, if you think the sand is like your friends. As the sand fails to support your steps, so they abandon you when you have need of them.
ELPIS My brothers, I’m very afraid we’re rolling the rock of a Sisyphus.
THRASOS Indeed, I swear that before we get there I’ll suck in and out these guts of mine, for whom I declared a holiday, so that those who see me will imagine I’m paunchy Icarus, sent heaven-sent by Bacchus.
EUPHROSYNE (Seeing the approach of the barrel.) Eros, here’s Ganymede the cupbearer whom you invited just now. How your heart’s prayers are answered!
ELPIS Thrasos, see Eros, Euphrosyne, and Phobos. My hope gave me a great presentiment of them.
THRASOS Oh beloved fellows!
ORGE My rival Phobos!
EUPHROSYNE More opportune than Opportunity herself.
ORGE Evoe sent you to water our dry dinner with Massic dew.
THRASOS Look, Eros, we are bringing you Old Man Bacchus in this barrel, for he is present but isn’t doing his job.
ORGE He can scarcely stand upright leaning on a stick, his knees are so wobbly.
EROS We’ll bleed the old man’s vein. But first you should lie down.
THRASOS By heavens, Eros, that’s kind of you.
EUPHROSYNE I want to soak my grain with this vintage potion so that it will turn aside from my liver to these fleshy parts. Let my gullet be my heart’s judge, my tongue its witness, and let my lips plead the case.
THRASOS Come, Euphrosyne, drill a hole in this ancient skin so that the blood flows out. Take a taste, then render your verdict.
EUPHROSYNE You’re speaking of my life.
EROS Thrasos, your virtue deserves such a gift from the gods.
THRASOS He preferred to consult with Eros. (While Euphrosyne drills his hole, Misos cries out within.)
MISOS Oh, oh.
PHOBOS Ah, Cerberus, Minotaur, Cerberus!
EUPHROSYNE Minotaur! (Eros and Euphrosyne run away.)
ORGE Thrasos, Elpis, in all my life nothing more pleasurable has happened to me.
THRASOS Phobos has so shaken up his bones inside that I don’t doubt they’ve been worn down by grinding against each other.
ELPIS Let’s devour these things, brothers.
ORGE Indeed, let’s devour today in delights.
THRASOS These are dainty treats. Misos, what kind of food do you crave? Rabbits, partridges, capons?
ELPIS Capons? That’s so old-fashioned it’s grown a beard. For a long time now people have been eating goat.
ORGE Why goat?
THRASOS The goat is sacred to Bacchus.
ORGE For a stout fellow, no punishment is worse than to draw his sword against the enemy in vain, just as Misos has now bared his helpless teeth.
ELPIS A man whose hope has died is wholly in despair.
THRASOS Misos is more wretched than a dog in this respect, that the dog sees the bone in another dog’s mouth, whereas Misos can only hear us.
ORGE Deep contemplation will absorb him, while he ponders this constellation of misfortune.
ELPIS I believe he has a special attachment to Bootes. For he’s little short of growing stiff with cold.
THRASOS Enough of these things, brothers. Let us quickly follow after Eros, lest Phobos drive him to death with his terrors.
ELPIS And what will happen to Misos?
ORGE Let Misos the philosopher investigate what the stars want, as best he can.
THRASOS What’s in the sphere of your sky, Misos? How many planets? Are they all comets? Ha.
MISOS I’m paying penalties enough.
ORGE As long as you do pay them.
ELPIS Let this man, who deserves them forever pay them forever. (Exeunt.)
MISOS I’m rolled hither and thither, never stopping. This is a punishment not unlike my nature. I’m ruined. It is better to keep my silence, lest somebody coming to my aid hear something and run away.
PHILOSOPHER Whoever sees a grove surrounded by hunters will judge that the rabbit’s death is near at hand, and justly so. Thus the man who lives in solitude amidst this worldly life encounters nobody who do not kill themselves with their own swords or who are caught by their enemies’ wiles. The smith forges fetters which he later wears himself. Let me not plunge myself in these shadows while shunning this light — if light it can be called! — when nights […]. That which scatters the darkness and is the light of the mind is philosophy. Has an earthquake raged against my humble home? I’ll rebuild it in its place. The earth does not move the mind. And yet it is not granted to Man to survive after Lachesis has drawn out his tread. Mighty Amphiaraus foretold his own death by an augury, which nonetheless he suffered.
MISOS What Furies have ever indulged in this degree of hatred? Come, seize the man.
PHILOSOPHER Have the gods given us any pledge? That nothing shall have an outcome against their will.
MISOS Nor shall I come out.
PHILOSOPHER Why not emerge?
MISOS The hell with mathematicians!
PHILOSOPHER Why rail against them? What business have they with you?
MISOS Because they demonstrate that circles have no ending, and so I am going around an about in this circular course.
PHILOSOPHER Come out, why are you resisting?
MISOS Me poke out my head to have it beaten with a mallet?
PHILOSOPHER How so?
MISOS By your colleagues to whom you have so foresightfully given a signal, placing a finger to your lips.
PHILOSOPHER There’s no onlooker.
MISOS What’s the most pleasant thing in life your you?
PHILOSOPHER To harm no man.
MISOS Pledge me your word, or may you hate that what delights you.
PHILOSOPHER I shall do so, by the divinity of Honor. (Misos comes out of the barrel.)
MISOS Bah. By God, I’ll cut that Thrasos up into raw chunks.
PHILOSOPHER Of whom are you talking?
MISOS Medea did not chop up her brother Absyrtus as much as I’ll rip apart my brother.
PHILOSOPHER Simmer down.
MISOS When I see that Thrasos simmering in Phlegethon’s boiling waters.
PHILOSOPHER Meanwhile you come off the boil.
MISOS Rather I’ll quickly burn Thrasos to ashes.
PHILOSOPHER Restrain your hot mind. How can it rule if doesn’t obey?
MISOS I’ll obey its rule until I atone for this sin by sacrificing Thrasos’ guts. (Exit Misos.).
PHILOSOPHER It’s a dire sacrifice which satisfies hatred’s thirst. Happy is he who is aroused by no squabbles or quarrels. I think it is better not to see a man than to look down on him after you have looked at him. (Enter Phobos.)
PHOBOS Ah, ah! Has ever a mortal been driven by such Furies? Fear at my back, ruin at my front. Ah, Bacchus has been transformed into a bull. Now I understand why the poets introduce howling Bacchantes. Ah, Bacchantes!
PHILOSOPHER How various are this world’s circumstances, and the things that provoke the mind! This man is serving a harsh master, although he could maintain his freedom. This is the most wretched form of slavery, that he is enthralled to fear and experiences a care-worn servitude, to his sorrow.
PHOBOS Eros and Euphrosyne have borrowed Mercury’s ankle-wings.
PHILOSOPHER You should live, my good sir.
PHOBOS Does he imagine I’m a dead body, since he bids me to live?
PHILOSOPHER There are no tricks here.
PHOBOS Are you saying there’s no barrel anywhere?
PHILOSOPHER Is your mind helpless?
PHOBOS I’m helpless, by Hercules, since robbers have recently stripped me right down to the sin, so that I don’t even have a threepenny piece to give to the ferryman of the Styx, if I am obliged to die. Pray let this helpless man go.
PHILOSOPHER I’m somebody different than what you imagine.
PHOBOS You wonderful man! So are you able to divine what I’m thinking?
PHILOSOPHER That I’m playing tricks on you.
PHOBOS Bah! There’s the barrel. Now, feet, do your job. (Exit Phobos.)
PHILOSOPHER Fear drives all wisdom from the mind and makes men unteachable. He’s thinking no deep thought, but fearfully shifts one way or another, as chance happens to dictate. Oh, how blessed is the man who has banished timid spirits from his mind’s citadel. He leads an unclouded live, and does not fear to die.
You have seen Psyche’s tears. They contain a mystery, a mystery better expressed by tears than a tongue. Psyche (you already know that she represents England’s calamities) is tossed in a storm of cares, fearing a shipwreck. Nor is her terror without reason, since heresy is sitting at the helm. Oh England, England, once you spread your sails before a gentle zephyr, but now, driven by the blast of the stormy north-wind, you rush towards the rocks and the whirlpools of the shallows. But where is my sorrow taking me? You have heard what Philosopher’s mind is thinking, other men’s salvation is dearest to his heart. Sick men toy with jokes and mock the physician, while the artifices of the changeful disease gradually grow, strong with their venoms. Misos and hotheaded Orge are contriving schemes against each other. Misos is the Devil’s firstborn sin, for the first to hate God engendered heresy. Orge is his brother, he speaks with similar lips, and thinks similar things in his mind. Heresy prepares the tinder, then anger sets it ablaze. Oh the evil heart, if one breeds so many monstrosities! Oh evil England, you bread that many and more! Yet you are not yet barren, though barren soil is better than that which is fertile with so many brambles and stinging nettles. Heresy appoints ministers of the profane word. And these pleasantly incite Orge (you should understand him to represent the people) with the venom of their tongues. Having imbibed this, orge furiously rages against gentle Eros, whereas Misos employs his own arts and cannily spews his poison. But heresy is sometimes deceived by its own schemes, and when it has been deceived it rages. Oh, of some Hercules would smash the teeming heads of this Hydra with the club of Faith, and free England, England, which nurses a Hydra more baneful than the one of Lerna.