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ACT II, SCENE i
Unable to find food, Reparatus decides to open a vein to help the young man. But he cannot find his body and, while bent on suicide, is interrupted by the arrival of two robbers.
REP. I appear to have walked into the haunts of this inhospitable forest with ill-omened steps. This unyielding earth preserves no tracks of wild beasts, rather it bristles is dark inthis unpleasant location. The entire path is full of brambles. Quivering shade is cast by a cypress tree and makes the place gloomy. A suitable dwelling for Reparatus! A worthy home! Here an owl has made its nest, and hoarse screech-owls sing a song of ill omen. Wholesome herbs are banished from here, where many a hydra teems and snakes thrive, where the sad grass imbibes death’s horror. This place escapes the notice of innocent men, it is a fitting home for treachery. Since you are striving to be pious, this is the place you should do so. Once I had the opportunity to be such, but the will was lacking. Now I wish to be, but the opportunity eludes me. Come, Reparatus, since you are unable to give food to the poor fellow, it is reasonable to turn yourself into food. I’ll immediately open a vein with this flint, to stop the boy’s thirst and hunger. But piety ill-suits a murderer. This is an unaccustomed task, I admit, and one that does not match my manners, my life, my nature. But I am inspired, although it’s uncertain whether by a devil or a god, and I am compelled to lend the dying lad a hand. But why do I see this place destitute of his body, and the grass bearing a fresh imprint? Where has he fled? Or where has he been taken? By what beast? From what caverns did one emerge, bent on committing such a great crime? Or where did it betake itself, fleeing from this cave, whether it was a boar shaggy with its bristles or a lion who rules that Erymanthian boar, fearful for his wicked claw? Whatever beast you are that, envying my deeds, lurk in waiting for human blood within this forest, assuaging your ravening hunger with bloody gore, abandon your prey. Reparatus demands those spoils. Let him who committed the crime bear off its trophy. This is a work which requires an author more harmful than you. Do you hear me? Or is my blood being spared? Have you stolen the young man so I might not be pious? Bah, my poor piety, such as would embarrass even the forest beasts. But what should I do now? What means shall I adopt? Now this hand is unable either to shed another man’s blood or spill its own for another’s salvation. What more remains? I must take a third way. Since my blood cannot flow for Orianus’ sake, let it flow for my own, and let this hand, which was afraid to destroy an innocent man, dare to destroy a guilty one. Come, my hand, and perform a task which will make heaven shudder, although the sight of me has offended its stars, which the earth will curse, although I have filled its regions with the news of my crimes. Only the court of the dark, moonless Underworld and its crew of Furies will approve. The world will be relieved of its burden, and humanity will cease to fear its plague any more, since I am said to be the cause of its ruination and dread. Just as a plague sent from Acheron or the depths of the Styx does its slaughter, destined to spread destruction to the ends of the earth, so I infested Asia, striding through all the world’s regions with my crime. This one consideration weighs on me as I am about to die, that before my death my hand could commit no greater felonies and work no more murder. So, Reparatus, die in that part of you which is less guilt-ridden. But what’s this commotion here? What’s this disturbance which stays my threatening hand from delivering its blow? I seem to be hearing my captains raising an uproar. The one voice belongs to Poliandrus, the other to Apistius. The sound and fury of each is familiar. For, second only to myself, the world has never known their equal when it comes to felonies. My opportunity to die is ruined, I’ll wait for another occasion. Are they approaching, dragging Orianus with his hands tied behind his back and joined to Philenus? Either monstrosities are troubling my senses or I am being deceived by magic. But withdraw and hold your silence. [He hides. Enter the others.]
ACT II, SCENE ii
POLIANDER, APISTIUS, PHILENUS, ORIANUS, REPARATUS
Having captured Philenus and Orianus, the robbers Poliander and Apistius quarrel about their prizes and heap insults on each other. Apistius furtively steals Poliander’s sword and is on the verge of killing him when he is terrified as Poliander draws a sword which he kept concealed in the staff he holds in his hand. Finally, as a means of ending their quarrel, they decide to kill both captures. When the old man first begs for the life of the young one, and then the young one for that of the old, but in vain, Reparatus offers to die in lieu of them both, accusing himself of piety in their presence. Poliander is about to kill him but is prevented by Apistius on condition that Reparatus be entrusted to a certain Cacus, a heretic fighting alongside the robbers, for his instruction, so that, thanks to Cacus’ teaching, he might henceforth abandon the piety and scruples of conscience by which he is afflicted.
POL. Get back, Apistius, I want both captives.
AP. You’ll get neither.
POL. You refuse me them?
AP. I do.
POL. So you’re unfamiliar with Poliander?
AP. I know him well enough and more. For you are that Poliander who’s a plague to earth and heaven, an object of hatred to mankind, and an enemy of God. You used to be a champion of the pagan gods and a scurvy devotee of brutal Jove. You were bloodstained with the gore of sacrificed oxen and smeared with their sacrificial shit (my mind recoils at the mention of such wickedness). Now you’re a base thief, and no less stupid as a robber than you used to be as a superstitious idolater. You are that Poliander who’s the source of every crime, the public sewer, the dregs of the market-place, the bane of the people. You are a consummate assassin and yet a low-down common clown. You’re a kitchen-nausea and a tavern-stench. Furthermore Poliander’s a wizard, a burglar, a bugger, a pimp, and is filthier than any pig. Now, Poliander, you can see if I know you well enough. I can say more, if you wish.
POL. Shut your impudent mouth. Now it’s fair for me to sing your praises, my sense of duty obliges me. You’re Apistius. That’s the worst brand of infamy. Just as you deny you’re a pagan, I deny you’re a Christian. This word lacks significance, since you only assume the empty title in order to conceal your deceit. What then? You don’t believe in or worship any divinity. You’re an atheist, and your name of Apistius (which is worse) is an index to your character. Now learn who your father was. An adulterous incubus sired you on a whore, and in your infancy Furies picked you up, nursed you on snake-milk, and brought you to light. Nature was amazed that such a monstrosity had been created and shuddered, not without without reason. And the nature of your life, your manners, and your honesty of mind is sufficiently well known both to Hell and heaven. I pass over your acts of fraud, murder, plunder, theft and incest. To have debauched your mother and then cut open her belly with a mad hand, what kind of crime was that? You think it a joke. It was a light misdemeanor to visit a violent death on your sisters. Setting entire cities afire along with their inhabitants is a sport for your nature. You regard despoiling churches and rifling consecrated monuments of the Faith as legitimate profit-making. Making brother fight brother is the stuff of laughter. Insulting God and all his saints with your sacrilegious mouth is urbane wit. Not keeping your word is sage counsel. To mould your expression and your faith into all shapes, like a Proteus, according to their master’s whim is a small thing. To corrupt decent young men with your talk, your advice, and your wealth is polite sport. To besmirch a virgin’s reputation, to corrupt her mind with stealthy wiles, to leave nothing cruel, impious, base, or abominable undone, this is your praise, this is your trust, this is your piety. Want more?
AP. That suffices, you’ve slandered me enough. Restrain the scourge of your triple bite, you Cerberus, and hold your tongue, or I swear by Jove of the Underworld, the shades of Tartarus, and those base Goddesses, I’ll take this sword, sacrifice your soul to Pluto, and give your body as food for beasts and birds. Are you attacking Apistius? You’quicker run away heaven and Jove’s hurled lightning than avoid my grasp by flight. You ungrateful thief, is this how you repay my favors, because I found you wallowing in shit and raised you up on high?
POL. On a gallows, I suppose.
AP. And strengthened your feeble hands?
POL. For murders.
AP. And your mind?
POL. For deceptions.
AP. And honored you with Reparatus as a companion?
POL. For debaucheries.
AP. And taught you how to spill blood?
POL. Human blood.
AP. And taught you art?
POL. The art of doing wrong.
AP. And the use of arms?
POL. For assassinations.
AP. And made you a man?
POL. A robber.
AP. And gave you self-confidence.
POL. Against God.
AP. And bade you fight?
POL. Against my nation.
AP. And be daring?
POL. For crimes.
AP. Where have my good deeds gone?
POL. To Hell, I suppose.
AP. How you will you repay my favors?
POL. By crucifixion.
AP. Who will pay me my due honors?
POL. The devil.
AP. Who’ll reward me for my good deeds?
POL. The hangman.
AP. Have all these things slipped your mind?
POL. Would they had never slipped into it!
AP. Are you silent because you’ve forgotten?
POL. Come, don’t imagine Poliander has forgotten you. Hear me acknowledging and celebrating your good points. I admit you have been my sole professor of larceny, and I award you the palm for mischiefmaking. I’ll never forget this, that you lifted me up from the dust, so that I might be hanged on a cross all the easer. You filled my gullible mind with fraud and deception, you armed my hands for murder, you gave me to Reparatus as a partner in crime. You taught me the ways and means by which human blood can be shed. Finally, you bade me fight against God and my nation, to be bold in wrongdoing, to plan mischief, to plunder holy things, and to invent all the means of transgression by which God, nature, and Man are wont to be offended. It will never slip my mind that I learned these things from you. Now, inasmuch as I admit I’m not equal to rewarding such great merits, Hell will do the job of repaying you for your favor. Expect a cross, and the devil to give you your honors. And, since we have no hangman’s good offices, my hand will do the job. [As he speaks, Apistius manages to steal his sword.]
AP. Keep your promises, my executioner. You hesitate?
POL. Damn! Who stole my sword?
AP. Idiot, haven’t I already told you you’ve lost your brain? Did you imagine you could escape this face and hand, and escape my fury alive? Now call down Jove’s lightning, Juno’s wrath, and ask for the loan of the trident-wielding god’s weapon. And add to these Pluto and the Styx, and whatever other divinity ancient error adored with sacred honor as being no less powerful on earth than than among the stars, if you do not fall to my sword this day as a rotten, bloodless corpse, feeding the birds and worms with your body, they’ll never get you. Although the Fates resist and offer me a thousand entreaties, you’re going to die.
POL. I understand. Are you really saying these things seriously? Would you really attack an unarmed man?
AP. Do you imagine that Apistius jokes or gives his enemy the time to defend himself?
POL. But it’s impolite to attack men unawares.
AP. Politesse hardly applies to a thief.
POL. Take the prey for yourself.
AP. You’re wise too late, Poliander. You should have done so earlier.
POL. What more do you require from me?.
POL. What a thirst! What’s this enthusiasm?
AP. The enthusiasm for blood of a mind thirsty for revenge.
POL. And you are pursuing me for being guilty of what crime?
AP. Of them all.
POL. Name one as an example.
AP. For having besmirched my name with hateful libels.
POL. Well then, I plead guilty to all charges. I maintain you’re not a robber, not an atheist, not a murder. The Apistian hand has never been reddened by blood. Your mind, free of guile, has always disdained sordid profit. No man has ever cultivated friendship with more innocent faith. In your piety you transcend even the gods, and Numa himself, I believe, in justice. A chaste mother gave birth to you, by a holy father. I maintain that you are heaven-descended, whether you prefer to be the son of Mars, or of Jove. Or, if I must say you are of human birth, you must have come forth from the womb the son of some king, you are a by-blow of the Caesars. For such a mind, such a character can scarcely be produced from base-born stock. A lion shudders at being born from a donkey, an eagle from a dove, or a horse from a sluggish ox. In just the same way, Apistius would be indignant at reproach for his breading.
AP. Have you finished your speech?
POL. I can add a few more things, but ones that are beyond doubt. You are so free of blood-lust that you are unwilling to kill even a fly, or dare touch a flea, or crush a louse with a vengeful finger, whether it has been chewing your flesh with its armed mouth or boldly walked stomping on your skin with its unequal feet.
AP. Keep still, you impudent man.
POL. If you can’t be moved either by good words or bad ones, what remains?
AP. For you to spew forth your life at this blow.
POL. Stop, make sure you have no cause for regret. Regret is an over-late schoolmaster for a headstrong mind.
AP. The man who regrets having killed a scoundrel is a fool.
POL. A guilty man should not accuse someone else of crime.
AP. He who punishes crimes makes his own hands innocent.
POL. You’d destroy a friend.
AP. I want to destroy an ingrate.
POL. A comrade?
AP. But an enemy.
POL. A student?
AP. A rebel against his schoolmaster’s very person.
POL. A suppliant?
AP. Who was recently an arrogant butcher.
POL. An unarmed man?
AP. An enemy indeed ensures that.
POL. You’ve made your mind?
AP. Regard Apistius as adamant. I’ll soften the ground with your blood. So die. [Poliander produces the sword from his staff.]
POL. Come here, why are you backing away? Are you afraid of this staff? Give me your hand, thief.
AP. What’s this? Is a devil deceiving my eyes, or do I see a stick quickly transformed into a sword? A piece of wood threatening to murder me, sharpened with a long pointed piece of iron?
POL. What are you afraid of? Give me your hand.
AP. Poliander, now I realize you’re a great wizard. You have Avernus on your side and demons for friends.
POL. You deny that God exists, and yet you think demons exist?
AP. Anything frightening can be regarded as a demon.
POL. Why flee a stupid robber?
AP. I flee wrong. The changed shape of your staff makes me timid. Who would think a sword can grow out of a dry stick?
POL. Don’t you see this is manufactured by art?
AP. Magical art, I know.
POL. I concealed these burglars’ tools in my staff, and you are amazed by a sword concealed in wood, you dunce?
AP. You surpass your professor, I admit. I like the device. Come, let’s divide our spoils. You’ll take the old man, and I the young one. Trickery will be removed if we share and share alike.
POL. That’s not alike. I demand the young one.
AP. I only see one remedy for this scurvy discord, if its grounds are removed. Let this be an end to our quarrel. Let both the lad and the gaffer die by our steel.
POL. Your suggestion is to my liking. I’ll start with the lad.
AP. Go ahead.
PHIL. Hold back your raging hand from striking until I say a few words on this young man’s behalf.
PHIL. If it’s right that the man who set you to seeking each other’s death should die, it is fitting to direct your rage against me. I was the sole cause of such great confusion, and I alone should pay the price. I admit that it was my fault that the young fellow continues to live and is on the point of starvation, since I revived him and came close to making him a innocent but nevertheless fatal impediment for your slaking of your blood-lust. I pressed the light of day on him against his will, bidding him enjoy the breath of life once more, and thrust him into your clutches unwittingly. My piety has sinned both against you and him. Ah, my offence does not provide you with two blameless men: let your fury destroy the guilty, but spare the innocent.
POL. What say, Apistius?
AP. The old one dies first.
OR. Allow a speaker’s brief interruption to avert your cruel deed and stop your crime. Grant this brief space of time to my tears.
AP. Either get it over with quickly or be silent.
OR. Is this old man thought to be responsible for our fault? Have his acts of piety toward myself earned him death? Heaven forbid, and you must dispel such a dire misdeed from your minds. I’m guilty, I’ve earned my death. He has not, who unwisely rescued this wandering stranger and prevented his death by starvation, so that I might better die at your hands. He who hales a guilty man before a judge deserves to be absolved of all blame and, if a man presents his captain with an enchained enemy, reason teaches that he has earned praise, not punishment. This matter has turned out no differently: this loyal old man has brought you your enemy, the evildoer, and yet you allow him to die yet absolve the guilty party? I came close to witnessing your destruction, dry-eyed, and I was the one who kindled the mutual heat for a fight you had in your minds. I knocked out of Reparatus’ hands the sword with which he was about to pierce his breast. I have seen him abjectly groveling at my feet, unable to use his weapons and shattered by fear, and not reluctant to die by my hand.
AP. I can more readily believe you saw the devil.
OR. He stretched forth his hand begging for death, since he loathed this life.
POL. Perhaps he was praying to God. What kind of crime is this? See, the boy’s mad.
AP. It’s fair that they both die. I’ll strike the old one, you kill the young one. [Reparatus emerges from concealment.]
REP. Hold your steel. Turn your anger’s weapons against my person. Believe this, it is a great crime I come to expiate. I have greatly sinned. I am pious, and I pity these two. I demand to die. This is the sum of my wrongdoing: I’m pious. In your eyes nothing further need be said. In this very place I did what the young man said. He vainly asked for death at my hand, and refused to give me death at his own when I asked for it in return. And then, when I was trying to bring him food, this old man intervened so that there was no need for my handiwork. You ought to punish my good intention, even if it came to nothing. Whoever has taken pity and wanted to help the afflicted has violated the laws of robbery. And this I have done, although my handiwork came to naught. And an even worse evil was added to this: that my hand was unable to shed his blood, and trembled with fear. Do you think these things are trifles? To what pass will our affairs come if such a mistake hamstrings our very captains?
AP. I believe they’ll come to Hell or the cross.
POL. Come, Reparatus, since you acknowledge your crime and sincerely regret having been pious, so that you don’t attempt a similar wrong in the future, in the name of the devil, the god of robbers, whose representative I am here, with this sword I give you to the Styx and set you free.
AP. Restrain your impulse, my angry friend. Where has your reason fled? Don’t you see the trouble you’ll create for us, if you kill this man? If you take away our commander, to whom will such a random assortment of men be obedient? Whose leadership will such a quarrelsome band obey? Yours? They disapprove of your foolish ideas. Mine? They loathe my shifty loyalty. Are you forgetting those things?
POL. What should I do? Should I refuse to grant death to my leader when he asks for it?
AP. Fix your stupid attention on Apistius. I’ll apply a sure remedy for Reparatus’ perplexing evil. Among the robbers serves a certain Cacus, a man of feverish mind, possessed of sly wit and an insolent tongue. Leaving behind himself the ancient rites of Judea, he became a runaway to the gentiles. Then, wearying of their numerous gods, he applied himself to One and became a Christian convert, duly baptized at the holy font. But he did not stop there. Rather, taking another way, he went astray in his wilful error and, like a drunken man, himself belched forth whatever Carpocras had spewed from that criminal mouth of his, or whatever that debauched crew of Gnostics had to offer. This divinely inspired professor concocted a great theology by joining new stuff to old. He gave the right to peach to women and filthy buggers, denied men free will or any limits to their crime or punishment. He taught whomever he chose to sin as if challenging God, by losing faith in the Cross. He denied good works to Man, or that any evil could exist unless it were wholly created by God, so that he who commits debauchery or murder does not sin. He is in a state of salvation, as long he believes that God suffers sin, and it is preordained by God’s will that a man is to be damned to the Styx, without respect to his merits. He taught that God used him to set an example when He made him a robber, and that he was not reluctant to die among robbers, for he proclaimed he was not existing in the world to save the pious, but rather those who had gained a great reputation for crime. Each scurvy thing he said he corroborated out of Holy Writ, for he was so accustomed to befoul Scripture with his novel interpretations that its sacred history did not fail to give its approval to any manner of wrongdoing, when he expounded it according to the Hebrew or the Greek. In the company of a pair of nuns (the first abstracted from a convent, the second his wife, with the two of them taking turns in his bed), it is questionable whether he abandoned the world or fled from it. Transformed from a teacher of the Gnostic tribe into a thief and driven out of the world for his rascality, in fear of punishment he migrated as far as our solitude. This man, Reparatus, I appoint as your teacher regarding matters of faith, to rule you and restrain you in his fashion, so as to dispel every anxious scruple from your heart and make you resemble himself.
POL. I. e., a villain.
REP. Stop there, villain. I want to go on living, since I seem not to have been sufficiently wicked. The world is damned to endure a worse man after myself. I alone aspired to that rank, and to the be the last word in evildoing. But Cacus proved the victor by advancing his armies further than mine, he has bested me. No misdeed of mine could match heresy. I must apply myself to that evil. But I cannot. I cannot remove the daylight from the sky, nor can I deny that the dominion of this world, together with its sea and sky, is subject to God, their Creator. I cannot profess some strange divinity, maintain some dubious faith, or deny that there is a Church, beautiful, single, the bride of the Thunderer, the inexhaustible light of faith, the teacher of truth. I cannot deny that there is a Phlegethon, or fires waiting to punish sin after death, any more than I can deny what I see.
AP. You see nothing. You can deny a thousand more things than these.
POL. Who can doubt that? And swear to them as well.
REP. I’ll try.
AP. I approve. But what’s your opinion about the youth, or about the old man?
REP. Let them both live, since the one could not die by my means, and the other prevented anybody from dying here in my absence.
POL. Behold our new prizes!
OR. Woe’s me!
REP. What sudden pain has overcome Orianus at the sight of this woman?
AP. Either I’m looking at Cacus dressed as a woman, or at a devil in his place.
POL. Indeed, Cacus is an effeminate rascal.
AP. It’s him for sure. Hey, Cacus, what’s new? Who emasculated you? You’re wearing a woman on your back.
ACT II, SCENE iii
CACUS, APISTIUS, POLIANDER, REPARATUS, ORIANUS, PHILENUS
Cacus, a professor of the Gnostic sect, has lost his clothing while taking a bath and put on some women’s clothing he found. He comes across Reparatus and his companions. Orianus is moved by his costume to relate what happened to Amaranthus’ daughter and her friend. Cacus takes Reparatus into his care and Orianus, having been granted his life, becomes Reparatus’ companion. Philenus is sent home.
CAC. God has worked this great transformation with the result that, having left the sea, I have become this women, and, once Cacus, am now should be called by the new name of Caca.
AP. Tell us who cacafied you, and how this was done?
CAC. Alas, my brothers, I grieve that yesterday, while I was taking a bath in a river, my tunic disappeared. I lost it by leaving it on the grass. Naked, I passed the entire night weeping over it, and had no hesitation in planning to hang myself. But when day dawned and I was carefully hunting around for a branch capable of bearing the weight of my sacred body —
POL. You mean your accursed body.
AP. Keep going.
REP. I like your witticism.
CAC. — this costume confronted me. What need for words? I put down the rope, got dressed in hope, and transmuted my changeable male self into a woman. Thus God had concern for His servant, even if He took His time about it, and Woman became my salvation.
POL. This villain speaks amazing sentences!
AP. Pay attention to me, Cacus. A timid mind is troubling our leader Reparatus, they call it a conscience.
CAC. Perhaps he’s deficient in faith.
AP. No, he suffers from an excess of faith, he’s not sufficiently an infidel and he refuses to deny God.
CAC. He’s too timid. Peter denied Him.
POL. And you did too.
AP. Nor does he dare worship the devil.
CAC. But with caution.
AP. Is this how you teach us to fall into Avernus?
CAC. But with caution.
AP. He strives to be pious.
CAC. Therefore he has sinned against God. One should be pious towards the sun, but impious towards Man.
REP. What about towards the devil?
POL. The holy demon!
AP. He confesses there is one Church in the world.
CAC. Whoever believes is called God’s temple.
POL. Including your brainless head, I suppose.
AP. He wants us all to be ruled by a single shepherd.
CAC. This is Christ. For the earth holds no other.
REP. Thus a ship without a captain, a ship without a master —
POL. Thus Hell without the devil, and Cacus without God.
AP. He believes that Christ exists in bread and wine.
CAC. Figuratively, of course.
REP. Christ said this is my body.
CAC. I explain that as a metaphor, as when He proclaimed He was a door or a vine.
POL. But that’s how you explain God, too.
CAC. And furthermore, He was accustomed to speak in parables.
POL. As a professor, you are parabolical, which is to say diabolical.
AP. He thinks some sins are expiated after death.
CAC. When a tree falls, so it keeps lying in the same place.
POL. It ought to fall on you, or you from it.
AP. He honors the saints.
CAC. That honor is granted to God alone.
REP. So we can’t honor our parents or the king?
AP. And invokes them.
CAC. We are taught they come from God.
POL. Thus those who lack feet will pay for it in Hell.
AP. The Commandments intimidate him.
CAC. Trust me, you don’t sin.
REP. Who’ll have faith in you?
POL. Those who lack good works.
AP. He desires to obey the Law.
CAC. The ability to do that is not granted to Man.
REP. To what end are we given the commands, but not the ability to obey them?
CAC. So that God may punish those whom He hates.
POL. Especially Cacus.
AP He shuns sin.
CAC. God does not blame a just man for sinning.
POL. So God is either blind or unjust.
AP. He dreads Gehenna.
CAC. And He does not condemn bad works.
REP. What about good works?
CAC. They’re bad for your health.
REP. So the devil teaches.
POL. Lucifer himself couldn’t have said it any better.
AP. He abhors evil.
CAC. God alone inspires us to evildoing. In this city, there’s no wrong I’ve not committed. Let God Himself attest that.
REP. He has insulted the Styx, now he’s about to deny the devil.
CAC. God commanded the devil to create evil.
POL. Oh, you have the pious, reverent mind of a serpent!
AP. A thousand trashy ideas of this kind overwhelm him and make him fearful, giving his mind no rest. So try to fill him with your precepts.
CAC. Your request is a holy one. I’ll extract the thorn of conscience from his foot so that he can freely bestride the path of criminality, which leads to God, its creator. He’ll disdain good works and banish pointless sanctity far away. I’ll teach him that human merits are not a pure thing, but rather crimes, and that they make God angry. I’ll teach him that the Church can be mistaken and deceived.
AP. [Introducing Cacus to Reparatus.] Here’s your instructor in the new science of reading Scripture.
REP. But I recognize him as a thief of Holy Writ. Where’d you learn this stuff.
CAC. By the spirit.
REP. An evil one, I imagine. But still, I’d like to hear these things and brood upon them. Orianus, since just now you took alarm at the sight of this person, tell me whose costume this and what sad story it called to mind.
OR. To be brief, Reparatus, you know understand that the moon has once reflected her brother’s fires with her full face after the time that I lost my companions and have been wandering this silent forest, a dweller in a cliffside cave, a guest protected by the leaves of my woodland home. One night I was resting my limbs, wearied by their great exertion, in this capacious cavern, and my eyes had been closed to the light in a light sleep as my home was plunged in looming darkness, when, behold, a sudden rumor aroused my fearful, astonished mind. I tell you that some guests had come a-running to my cave. The first to come into sight was a maiden, and the second a young man. They had scarcely come to rest in the vaulted cave when the maiden spoke in tearful tones, sadly groaning, “Alas, this bitter night, this very unlucky girl! Into what miseries, into what great evils have I come! Robbers are pursuing us, no escape will hide you. Why cherish vain hopes? Your father lies on the ground, moribund with his many wounds and the sluggish cold of death. You are fated soon to be prey for the cruel beasts of the forest, or a savage robber will sully your chastity.” With these words she fell to the ground in a swoon in the young man’s sight and by a timely intervention he held her up until her wandering soul returned. Then he spoke to console the maid, “Even if you are suffering grave evils, why make them yet more so with your tears? Vain lamentation can’t protect your life, as is your desire. God requires those who refuse to abandon themselves to act with industry and brave spirits, these folk have Him on their side in doubtful situations. Let our flight be protected by night, our lives by our art. Here’s the way we’ll save ourselves. Let us both change our costumes. It’s reasonable for you to pretend you’re a man while I take on the appearance of a woman, so that, if we should chance to fall into the robbers’ clutches, you may better protect your chastity. Leave the rest to me.” Then by his entreaties he persuaded the long-reluctant girl to put on a man’s clothing, and he quickly dressed himself as a woman. Now sleep had scarcely refreshed their weary bodies with by casting its short-lived dew, when the surrounding woodland resounded with a great clamor. A troop of robbers was surrounding the forest on every side. The young man immediately shook off his sleep and rose up, and urged the maiden to join him in flight. Day had not yet broken. They left the cave, and I followed them as they fled. Where the silvery river of Pactolus winds it way around Mt. Tmolus, between its rocks, making its way with its golden sands, until it joins the grassy Hermus and flows into the bosom of Thetis, there stands a meadow thick with flowers, surrounded by woodland, where the flat land is adorned with many vines and the road, hidden in receding mazes, confuses the incautious footsteps of travelers. This is the way to the river. An uncouth forest rises up on theater-like ridge and looks down on the wandering waters of the river with its shady brow, and forms a rocky bank, as if with a continual wall of trees and rocks. Here we were brought by our speedy flight. While we were coping with the treachery of our way and the darkness of those places, alas, by an evil stroke of fortune we became separated. The girl lost the young man, and I lost them both. It chanced that we both struggled up to mountain-peak, but by different ways, both myself and the girl disguised by the young man’s costume. When the girl was the first to arrive at the mountain-top and (it now being daylight) saw me in the distance, climbing up the other side, she became frantic with fear and fled back. She got halfway down the slope, where she saw the river flowing in its harmless bed, she cried out “in vain,” while I was calling to her in turn, and leapt into the golden stream. With a mournful plash the river took pity on her, received her body, and, bearing her weeping self on its bosom, swept her out of my sight. Alas, what sadness overwhelmed my breast at that spectacle! Now great sobs issued from my heart and a torrent of tears flowed from my eyes. My mind’s terror twice restrained me from plunging into the river to pursue their girl, and from that time, like a wild beast, I have lurked in the darkness, shunning the light of day. Furthermore, what has happened to the young man remains uncertain. And yet he left the cave clad in this costume, the memory of which has called forth these pious tears.
REP. Orianus, you tell a story full of piety and savage in its outcome, and a deed better done by my hand. Wrongdoing does not belong to the pious. It’s the business of robbers to do dire things, and of others to suffer them. Now’s the time for me to return to my cave and my home, hanging on a high cliff. Let Orianus come as my companion. Let Philenus return to the home from whence he came. [The others exit, leaving Philenus.]
ACTUS II, SCENE iv
Hearing of the virgin’s supposed death, Philenus returns home, bent on consoling Amaranthus.
PHIL. Poor Amaranthus, with what a harsh and uninterrupted course your fates keep flowing! There was no point in you rescuing the girl from the sea, since the fury of a lesser water has snatched her from you. Ah, it would have been better for you if your wife had been barren and gone without your children! Nobody could say you had sired to children for the benefit of the savage waters. I’All visit the old man to bring the news. I’all relieve his great cares as best I can.
Go to Act III