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ACT II, SCENE i
ALB. And so, dear master, can we allow so many labours to be in vain? Can we abandon so many noble citizens to utter chaos? Shall the proud imperial capital of Memphis be taken by a Tartar exile, a robber of Asia? Where are we being swept? What has driven our minds into doubt and blind frenzy? If so many dire, grave, burdensome battles are to bring death to the land, then let them come. The Turk, elated, lives on the spoils of his neighbor, he who sits safe in the tower of Memphis! Why have we not stretched out our right hand in supplication before, if not because our kingdom has stood untouched, our affairs unsullied? When our kingdoom stood, its affairs untroubled, could a treaty contrary to our laws be purchased?
MAM. Should I believe anything so foolish?
ALB. The king himself desires a peace, and under no other solution. He awaits a Turkish messenger who comes to make peace.
MAM. What is this I hear? Is this man, to whom we have delivered the sceptre of the kingdom of Memphis, and charged him with succouring its fallen condition with his help, to betray Egypt to the Turks? So he will buy peace for himself at the price of his kingdom? I suppose that amidst the downfall of our ruined nation we shall be schooled in obedience to new masters. Before that I would seek out the hidden channels of my soul with my swordpoint and stab my own side, before allowing such a great crime of a single man to go unpunished.
ALB. Noble prince, it is fitting for you to think of the recalcitrant kingdoms of Egypt, you whose deep heart is consumed with a heavenly fire sent by Him who steers the heavens. Even though fate has diverted the kingship to another, still your gaze is fixed upon your country lest she be drawn down into calamity.
MAM. Let the seven-mouthed Nile be muddled together and, turning back upon its source, rise up to the highest heavens, before this crime be loosed upon Pharos with my assent!
ALB. But the council of princes may not agree.
MAM. Everyone will agree to defend the fatherland. Although there are ever disagreements among them, you have only to show them enemy forces and a war on the home front; all alike will gather every aid and dare every battle to put out the blaze.
ALB. Quiet now, the lord himself approaches in a state of affliction. You go to meet him, I’ll conceal myself. [He hides.]
ACT II, SCENE ii
TOMUMBEIUS, ALBUCHOMAR, MAMLUKE
TOM. As a ship upon the swelling of a fierce sea, which the storm twists into the rocks — now the rapid whirlwind and the crashing of heaven spinning her round, now struggling in vain against the fierce attack — at last, conquered, succumbs to the wild evil, or as a giant pine, the honor of the lofty mountain, upon which the Aeolian cohort vents all its raging power, exhausted, puts down its proud cone-bearing crests to the earth again and again — the South wind striking it with fierce sounds on this side. now the cruel North wind beating upon this, with the shrieking, savage East wind in tow — thus my sick heart is shaken by an evil on two fronts: shame, anger and confused pain sting as if the very winds rushed upon me. Love of the fatherland carries me, frightened, to and fro. Shall I sue for peace? I would only forge fetters of gold. Should I raise arms once again? I am so greatly perplexed!
ALB. [From his place of concealment.] Now is the time, approach him and rouse him for war, anything easily impels his inconstant mind.
MAM. By your leave?
TOM. Say what you please, but be brief.
MAM. Why, oh great prince, do you wrestle with yourself so? Why does your mind sink in hard times, you whose ardour has been so great in times of favour? Where has the former fervor of your mind vanished? Where is your enduring virtue, your great courage, and the surpassing honor of the Mamluke clan, our outstanding glory, we who have gained all we possess? Is it not they who defeated the wild Tartars. They pushed the Britons, that people indomitable in war, out of Syria. Can this same force of theirs not expel the Turks? Oh undimmed light of Caitbeius, who can tell forth your praises, equal as they are to your virtues? Oh you thunderbolt for your enemy, the true salvation of us in our subjection, we who thrice made the Turks turn tail.
TOM. What is this? Will you examine these things as if I were ignorant? I too know very well how to advance the iron of Mars, and have myself waged war with a victorious right hand. Before I received the kingship of Memphis, I never once blushed to say these very same things. It is the fatherland that causes my mind to waver with anxious dread. Of all my loves, one embraces all the rest, and plunges itself most deeply into my innermost heart. It shone once, only now to fall into hardships; it has taken others’ property, and now is bereft of its own! My fatherland used to make me arrogant, now it makes me afraid.
ALB. The rage of a falling land calls for vengeance!
TOM. Anger is the worst counsellor.
MAM. Worry is a worse one.
TOM. He who flees fights again!
ALB. But sometime he must prevail.
TOM. Nothing remains for a dead man.
MAM. Nor for a man who has been defeated.
TOM. Hope is the soul of life, life the hope of the mortal soul, which rouses up fortune when it is nearly overcome.
MAM. Hope is useless in protecting the kingdom from fear.
TOM. Still, vain hopes in a time of evil may be better than none.
ALB. It is not hope, but this over-cautious anxiety that has provided these ill-advised councils of a beaten mind.
TOM. Any coward can begin a war; it is better to yield to a fierce conqueror.
MAM. Doing nothing will lead to nothing.
TOM. The wretched man does little or nothing, but the blessed accomplish many things.
ALB. Beaten, as we are, should we then hand everything over to the conqueror?
TOM. What of this? Surely if you choose to start wars, then waging them by deceit is better than open fighting, for open enemies can wound a hidden one only lightly. Let us then fight with tricks, invent devices. Let us not bear arms until he learns how to ward off our schemes.
MAM. Treachery must be bought with bribes. No wicked man is without his price.
TOM. If sins can be bought, then no good man is without his price. Greed is a shameless instigator of every crime. Like a wave burning whatever it touches, the deep thirst for gold, that insatiable madness, sweeps men off their feet.
MAM. Fight with strength or fight with deceit, as long as you fight. Whatever comes to pass; let no treaties be made. [Exeunt Tomumbeius and the Mamluke.]
ALB. This affair erupts anew, I profit from its beginnings.
ACT II, SCENE iii
TWO MAMLUKES, CALIPH
MAM. 1 Thus, thus Pharos may obey the haughty Turk. If only Tomumbeius would perish, let Turkey govern the Nile! We will reclaim the rampart of our lost kingdom, I believe, only if our deceptions succeed. Again the splendour of shining Egypt will flower; great power will again rest upon the Memphic kingdom, and friendly banners again reach the heights of the sky. The revived fame of the Mamluke clan will hold fast its ancient honor, and fill the land with glory from the rising of Apollo to the house of his setting.
MAM. 2 Should we not rather consider how to uproot the fastness of the Turkish divan from Siene — a divan obtained by rape and slaughter which now looms above our very necks ? I would lead my force to the high gates of the city, ahead of the soldier-band, and I, a horseman, would die in the first ranks upon the spears. Subdued by the Nile, the Indus will water Siene, and the cold of the Don will be reduced by Pharos’ heat.
CAL. If such ardour for arms consumes your minds, what then will happen to the messenger?
MAM. 2 To what messenger?
CAL. He whom they say is brining conditions of peace from the Turk.
MAM. 1 Do you really believe that the Turks send messengers, and not Sinons, traitors, deserters, who would spy out our every deed in our own homes?
MAM. 2 So he is a messenger; does this mean we must receive him? Will the predator of Asia give us peace and laws, he for whom Asia is not enough, who seeks the blood and prey of the Nile? Let there be be no peace, nor any treaty with hateful men. Let us contend in hatred, let race rise against race When their ashes are buried in the earth, let our descendants keep their wrath alive. Let us be ashamed of a furtive crime: an open, free, and unconquerable one is better.
MAM. 1 What then prevents the messenger from being killed, lest perchance the brief mention of peace to the king delay the war we have stirred up?
MAM. 2 God, Desire, or some other powerful divinity inspires this useful idea. The thought pleases me very greatly as well.
CAL. O princes, nobly born, how your words always agree with your minds! Yet I fear that if this thought becomes too ardent it may attract a greater evil. You know well that messengers are sacrosanct for all peoples. You yourselves know the laws, especially those of Pharos, the one common mother of us all which embraces us all as her sons. You yourselves know how great is the reverence of the Turks for a messenger, and how determinedly they will deal out punishment when their law has been broken. Would you send the sacrosanct person of a barbarian Turk down to Hell? You would send down with him the laws and customs of your renowned fatherland, in the sight of God in heaven, the Judge of right and wrong? Will a single crime violate all laws? But I won’t speak of our customs, or laws, of an avenging God? What of the fact that this messenger represents a powerful prince? Does this not move you? What of the fact that he belongs to the fierce, unconquered Turk, and victorious Selimus? What offers more chance of keeping good peace than a treaty? Will these things not move you? I beg you not to fasten upon this unholy deed:, a sin which the ages will never keep silent, and no man could ever approve; a crime which men will curse, and God will punish.
MAM. 2 A spy is hardly a messenger.
CAL. He was sent.
MAM. 1 By one who is cruel and impious in war.
CAL. And yet one who openly declared war.
MAM. 2 A national enemy.
CAL. A national enemy who is also a king.
MAM. 1 He is a thief, not an enemy.
CAL. He rules an empire.
MAM. 2 He who prefers a treaty is an enemy of our state. Therefore, as you love your safety, keep silent. [To his companion.] Take this man as partner in your every crime. Until he sleeps amongst the shades of the dead, he will not cease to be your faithful comrade.
MAM. 1 I agree, let us go. Great deeds are destroyed by delay. [Exeunt.]
CAL. O Maker of eternal light,
Who governs the seasons with stable order;
Maker of the moon, that mirror of the daylight
As she monthly advances her face;
O noblest light of the eye,
Who sees and fearfully rules over all —
The holy fires in the sky,
As well as the leaders of the world below —
From the heights, far away from Man’s contagion,
Removed, on Your throne, from impiety,
Do You not see some sign of the outrageous madness
That has afflicted the slaves of Pharos?
Do You not see the Pharian slaves
Ruling lawlessly at their whim?
Do you see and not grow angry?
And once Your rage has been kindled,
Alas, what will this anger betoken for Pharos?
O Nile, the seething flow draws
Your little ship towards the cruel rocks. Cease, at last,
Little boat, from the headlong flight of your course;
Furl your sails at last, being exposed
To impious storms and the awful threats
Of a sea which knows not how to be sparing.
Do you not groan already in the rough squalls?
Will you succumb to the waves,
Stripped as you are of oars?
Has your helmsman entirely
Strayed from his course ?
Ah, beware lest you become
The plaything of treacherous winds!
Cease, cease this headlong course,
lest you turn feeble hands to reckless deeds.
By means of delay, noble Fabius saved
his great country, after it had suffered a great defeat
at the lake thanks to its rash counsel .
Behold grasping Scylla on the right,
who tears sailors apart with canine fury;
on the left destruction: a horrible
whirlpool and the evil Sirens.
You are equally headlong. Either see aright or artfully shun
The infamous crags of Acroceraunia.
Your elders made the fatherland famous,
and lifted it up almost to the heavens.
Did they raise up their fatherland to this end:
that it should now collapse in your fearful young hands?
What thanks will there soon be for you
among your wretched citizens, they who now
see endless slavery and fear death without end?
I shudder to speak it, my mind flees in fear:
I dread the fates of our children.
I see a young wife snatched from the
embrace of her husband, so that, carried off,
she might repeatedly serve the monstrous lust of the Turks;
I see boys taken to be slaughtered,
and virgins subjected to deeds of shame;
I see prized temples, high palaces, surpassing cities,
all razed to the ground.
I see the breasts of pregnant women —
alas for their wombs — and white-haired elders, too,
pierced by barbarian scimitar in piteous wise:
alas for the ill fortune of this place,
even for those who survive!
What could I say that is more painful, since these are
the most painful, if you have no regard for these wretched folk?.
If the black Halcyon-bird can calm the waters
and the Titan peacefully shine from the glad sky,
scattering clouds with his hallowed brow,
it is the choice of a maddened mind to prefer
that the winds should mix with the waters in a whirling tumult.
It is the choice, too, of a maddened mind
freely to offer one’s head to frequent dangers
in a time of sorrowful evils.
Where are you rushing? Cease, cease!
Divine retribution now draws those
who are marked for the gallows, those doomed to death;
it veils their reason with blind security and clouded errors,
and their keen sight with trickery. Next, it adds
madness, so that they might acknowledge their evils
when they are punished with a penalty
that will be the crime of crimes —
and so an avenging harm brings retribution
for their wicked deeds.
Their arches of triumph will be cast to the ground,
only so that desolation might reign over their fields
and affliction over the kingdoms.
The enemy will trample down royal sceptres with arrogant feet,
while on the ground smokes Ilium,
that former mistress of kingdoms.
Go to Act III