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ACT V, SCENE i
MESS. Where shall I flee? On what road does reason lead me? We perish utterly, those who were of Egypt. We must seek the inmost parts of the land, and the head of the Nile; there remains scarcely any place free from the Turks.
CHO. Make known the ruin and slaughter of Pharos!
MESS. Alas, who could do this without lamentation? You have heard that the Turks, in pursuit of their enemies, covered the unfamiliar waters of the Nile with a bridge. Now the Sultan's situation seemed entirely changed, if he could fight in the very narrows of the sea, where he could set out all his cohorts where the enemy forces would be confine . Therefore fiercely he charged in a daring attack. Crossing over, he spread great fear and disarray amongst the Turks as they crossed the bridges in disarray, killing some and putting others to flight. At first, fate seemed to favour his plan, but the Turks thunderstruck by this unexpected trouble: a wondrous device filled their boats, one which vomited forth thunder mixed with flames and death. The heavens resounded, the earth was shaken to its core by the sound, horses fled and riders lay strewn on the ground. A troop of Turks quickly occupied the opposite shore, having crossed the river, spurring on their horses. Then fierce battle blazed on both sides, the Turkish troops determined to keep the glory they had gained and the Memphic forces to take it back. The Mamlukes thundered and inflict heavy casualties on the fierce Turks. Our own leader was terrifying as he played his part both as general and as soldier. “Some hope still remains to us as victors, but none if overcome,” he said. “Remember now your parents, the fatherland, your children and your treasures, and your household gods!” He charged among the cavalry, and wherever he turned whole ranks yielded; on all sides many dropped and died. Seeing the noble deeds of their leader, the soldiery roused itself and turned on the Turks. Alas vain hope, alas the blindness of mortals' minds! How treaties bought for much gold would have surpassed laws of a harsh peace and the hard yoke of slavery! Now the Turks were scarcely able to hold their ground, now little by little, exhausted, they turned their terrified backs, when suddenly Selimus, thundering havoc as he flew into battle like a thunderbolt, with the power of a storm coming forth from the flashing of south or a winter gale roiling vast oceans. Our ranks were broken as the invincible guard of the Emperor charged forward like a thunderstorm. The Mamlukes were driven back and, less safe in flight, they scattered in every direction. Cut down in their confusion, they died. Madness and rage then erupted wherever one stood and a torrent of doom, inflicting wounds and madness. See the river rolling in its fill of blood; see the corpses of princes, mangled in the mud; see the fields, rank with the reek of unburied dead; see the night filled with terror, the air with suppliant hands, the dark hisses and the fading wails of ghosts!
CHO. Ah, speak on. What, I ask, of wretched Tomumbeius? Does he yet live, or has he been claimed by this unhappy day?
MESS. Indeed no. Seeing that his every hope was lost, and taking council from the great tumult, he fled at great speed. Selimus has no greater hope than of finding him alive; than promising great honor and gifts to any man who brings him the tyrant of the Egyptians — thus the impious tyrant calls our king! Thus now fares our land.
CHO. Alas, evil, wicked day! Thus now fares our land? Alas, my land, blessed before now with arms and empire! Alas for the nation which was the terror and amazement of the world! Once you flourished with twenty thousand cities: was one cruel man able to cast you down into the depths of the earth? Has the Turk the power to burn your noble palaces, cities, and fields throughout the world, to sap the strength of Pharos with such calamities? To tear down every shrine, every temple, every monument, this enemy of the living, the dead, and the gods alike?
CHO. 2 O king, o heavenly Father,
Likewise our severe Judge
Who is sure to punish crimes,
The first fall of our original ancestors
Falls hard on us, their heirs.
Wriggling it has writhed its wicked way
Into the inmost halls of our hearts.
There it has put forth abundant thorns
Tainted with the poison
Of every kind of evil.
If You take offense at only a few,
And are slow to punish a meager portion
Of the deeds that wretched men do,
If, being holy, You spare one
And chastise another,
Why, then, does scarcely one who dwells in Egypt
Escape the stormy stroke of your anger?
Yet if You punish the crimes of all,
Uprooting utterly the thornbush of sin utterly,
Deep at its rotting roots,
Why, then, do You not burn up the poles of the sky,
The machine of the world, with fire,
Since no part of evil
Can lie hidden from Your anger?
CHO. 3 Oh ruler of flaming Olympus,
You who often strew the unjust lands
With the three-forked lightning;
Never deaf to the suppliant,
Bring forth thunder from every side.
Let the sky light up with avenging fires;
Let Phaethon take fire from the the Dog,
And let Sirius double his wasting heat,
Reworking the Daedalian wound of his beauty,
And consume the world-machine in chaos.
Famous, strong, royal, shining Memphis has perished:
Light of such skill, unique gem of splendour.
Nothing now remains to reveal its excelling, noble beauty,
As it would hardly be right to build the honor of another Alcairo
In its own ashes.
CHO 4. O our Nile, what remains of you?
Now I want to visit the Garonne and the Thames,
Where no force of the impious Turk will come.
Or let us all go from our cursed fatherland
To the roaring rivers of Shaneth.
Farewell, Nile, farewell light of Egypt,
Farewell works, honours, glory, empire, honor;
Long beloved, now long damned;
Farewell forever. O wretched day!
MESS. But I shall stay, that I may know how this evil ends.
TOM. What god has placed me in the Stygian depths, torn from my land? Who will show me a sacred grove where I may hide my wretched head from the light, thrice fled, thrice humbled to the ground, and now, alas, sole survivor of my country’s pyre? Fatherland, kind to the poor, light to the blessed! Now you see ruins and fires, clothed as you are with red ember and black ash. In exchange for our royal gold, for the holy fillets of our kings, let your thirsty banks be sated with blood! You could, if you wished, save devoted hearts, from death, and save the doomed. But now, my nation, you are nothing; and your Nile is nothing, all but choked by the blood of your own people. Where are the royal cities, the haughty strength, the hidden knowledge, the famous works? What was the use of them, since the Turks have taken everything and no faithful subject or citizen has survived these evils to mourn their loss. Yet for whom do I mourn? For Pharos? Pontus is my homeland; there are my parents, my gods, my heritage, my household. Snatched from there, I became a royal courtier, a Mamluke of Pharos, and at last, king in a turbulent age. Oh Pharos, you have what I could accomplish. What do you want? What else do you have in store for me, now that the rest has been lost? Have you any more use for me? Are there any more hateful things that you would have me do? Then return me to my ancestral soil! O unjust one, give back to Pontus what is not your own.
MESS. Oh fate most greatly to be mourned and shunned! All have now deserted you, you unfortunate Palinurus of our state: your nation, fatherland, fellow-citizens, subjects, and the light, the fostering sky, heaven, and the gods.
TOM. Split apart, oh earth, and you, Taenarian chasms, open your jaws to the houses of hideous night. Let the king of Egypt come those places where Sybil led the exiled Phrygian, where the violent hand of Alcides once forced its way; where Love has led a poet and loyalty a king. Let me go to the lands where raging Acheron swirls in a black whirlpool, where Stygian marsh wards off human steps, reeking with a foul odour and an insatiable thirst. What, do you also fear the Turkish thunderbolt?
MESS. Alas, do you not see that this catastrophe has come from that very place? Do you not know, wretch that you are? The sins of his people greatly burden their ruler. The murdered messenger, the violated law of nations, and the broken faith of truces are seeking his punishment. .
TOM. Have mercy, you marsh, at least: you everlasting inhabitant of our kingdom, nature, or fate, or both, have given you a fixed place, I see. Whether you are prosperous or miserable, have mercy, I pray, on a deserted king; have mercy. I advance with willing pace; let a swelling wave raise up bringing filthy mud: any place of safety is a sweet place.
MESS. Saving mud? A ditch for a throne? Alas, dire fate! Who is so stricken in his wits as to envy a place of splendor? Here the very mud seems to possess the splendour of safety.
TOM. If you, whom fortune grants a blessed lot, if she grants to anyone; you who neither desire the fate of another, nor spurn your own! A king bereft of his kingdom entreats you, o marsh! Oh marsh ever safe; whether some god or peaceful nymph protects or a powerful genie, unknown to you are the vices the Turks possess. You do not know hard destructions, and they rest secure who build their cities upon your foundation. Now hide, I pray you, the sad deposit of the Nile, and let his person be protected by your dense reeds. Hide his light with obscuring mists, if you can. Protect the king. Let this be your particular glory, and let him lie safely hidden from the Turks in your bosom. I acclaim your long-faithful breast before princes: your tender bosom; your soft, spacious security. I acknowledge the breasts whence great Persia was so sweetly soothed of every thirst. Ah, I fear an equal fate. Keep faith, oh innocent mud, oh marsh safe to its very depths. Oh true mother in in a stepmother of a land! Never shall you be mastered by the impious plough, nor spread out into streams to quench dry thirst. Oh dream, true messengers of too much truth, oh haughty mind, too prescient of what will be! Why did it see so little? Why did it show me so little? Heaven, marsh, blood: these I saw, and these now I endure. I acclaim you more blessed than a king, Caliph; you who perished in battle proving your faithfulness to the king. You do not see the lost honors of the empire, nor a servile fatherland, nor a Turkish lord. You did not hide your head in the mud, for sheer love of life.
MESS. What use was foreseeing, what use was foreknowledge for him who could neither forestall nor plan? What good is it to know that which it would be sinful to cure? Oh Brutus, your guardian genius foresaw Philippi and the public catastrophe, and a scrying mind warned Caesar of his approaching death. Alas, fate is not ruled by predictions! But who is this now, taking the uncertain road to this place? [Enter a peasant.]
PEAS. Where shall I seek, where shall I look? Where should I think he is hiding? The tracks pressed into the dust show that he is here, here is the shape of a foot cast in the mud. Aha! He moves, and I need not seek further. O sweet hope bought with Turkish gold!
TOM. May the shining day be buried in the Stygian dark!
MESS. And he too, who seeks some good from the death of the king!
PEAS. But he cannot flee for much farther.
TOM. If only he were in far-off Gades!
RUS. Perhaps he hid his wretched self in the marsh.
TOM. May this marsh be submerged in Stygian darkness!
PEAS. Surely I have captured him! Oh lucky peasant, I’ll make Selimus dub me a prince! Come out, feared one.
TOM. Churl, this is a sin.
PEAS. Sin is salvation to me, not sin, if it brings me some benefit. So take off your royal collar. You make a fist, wretch? Now that you are bound, start walking, go before your proud master. (He puts on the rope.)
MESS. This insult is heavier than death itself: that a nameless camp-follower should bind a prince without penalty! The pain (small wonder) forbids me to speak of it. Woe to my wretched self who cannot prevent it, so hard does my fear of the savage tyrant crush me. Now he will hand over a king to fierce wild beasts, or fasten his limbs to a cursed cross, or even give him to his children (such is the madness of the Turks) who will make a contest of seeing which can inflict a deeper wound on his manly body. The house of the Nile has, alas, fallen to its foundation, fire has worked its wrath, the citizen takes his place, the hard stone of servitude survives its ash. Alas holy father Nile, alas ancient kingdom; as we gaze upon the pyre and tomb of a holy place, a mournful voice breaks forth from the depths of the pyre: “Fear the gods and keep the laws, oh mortal man.”
AST. He spoke justly. The accursed gallows-tree has a royal body, the final destruction of Pharos. And now the prideful Turkish Empire turns against the gods with menacing step; it too will fall. Outrageous crimes have damned the former to Styx, but the latter has not been exalted to the kingdom of Heaven: The just hand of punishment destroyed the first, and the latter will perish by the just hand of vengeance.