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THE HAPPY CONCORD OF BROTHERS
JOHN AND PAUL
John and Paul, twin brothers who were noble for their virtue no less than for the distinction of their birth, obtained Rome for a theater for their final struggle, a theater equal to their greatness of mind, and ennobled the city by their death no less than by their birth. Julian cast a greedy eye on their rich patrimony. But when he saw he was baffled in his hope, he quenched his thirst for gold with the blood of these brothers. Yet he did not do so with impunity. For while Terentianus was carrying out Julian’s impious command, a demon took possession of his son. A little while thereafter he was cured by the holy relics of these same martyrs. Astonished by this thing, Terentianus together with his son enrolled in Christ’s army and bequeathed to posterity the story of these martyrs, written in his own hand.
ST. JOHN, ST. PAUL brothers and martyrs
JULIAN THE APOSTATE the emperor
LIBANIUS an orator
HIERO a Christian priest
NARCISSUS a friend of the martyrs
MAXIMUS a magician
TERENTIANUS prefect of the Praetorian Guard
CETHEGUS his son
MELANDER a sacrificial priest
POLYTHEA the spirit of idolatry
ROME, THE TIBER, FURY, PRIDE, ERROR,
DECEIT non-speaking parts
POLYTHEA PERFORMS THE PROLOGUE, ACCOMPANIED BY HER SERVANTS
Polythea appears on a throne, being worshipped by Rome, kneeling on one side, and the Tiber, kneeling on the other, the one setting a reed at her feet, the other a crown.
POLYTH. It is well. Once more Polythea wields her scepter on her ancestral throne. Rome, the mistress of the world, submits her seven hills to me. The Tiber offers me a blue-green token of flourishing power. Lately, exiled from the diurnal home of the gods, I sought out the unpleasant realm of Pluto. (She stands up.) Caesar is summoning me again. I come. But first let Phoebus halt his stupendous chariot, let the daylight be banished from the fearful sky, let the Titan hide in Cimmerian darkness. The heaven grows dark at my onbreathing. Wherever I walk, the earth groans, unaccustomed to bear my weight, the citadels of the Quirinal shake with tottering battlements. Do you see? The water is abandoning the Tiber’s sources and banks. The forest resounds, bereft of its fruit. Autumn senses my arrival, and with a trembling hand takes back its pledges of bounty. I wish to survey the territory of my empire. (She beholds an overturned altar and pious images cast down on the ground.) How this novel sight feeds my eyes! Galilee’s affairs are overthrown. Hey-ho for triumph! Let Hell’s choir give a cheer. (She perceives Julian, devoting his time to the art of magic, with skulls affixed to walls and a chalice filled with blood.) What? I see Julian, that spawn of the Furies, that whelp of the three-tongued dog. He’s conjuring up the Hellish Sisters. His sword is red with the blood of infants. You have sacrificed as many victims to the Styx as there are heads adorning your chamber. Let your fury blaze up like Aetna when it belches forth fireballs from its inmost heart, let Enceladus thus burn in your inmost being. Whatever Nero left undared, let Julian, that child of the god of the shades, dare to do. Destroy Christ’s pernicious flock, destroy it, kill it. Come hither, come hither, you trusty followers of Polythea. (Fury, Pride, Error and Deceit enter and are sent to Julian as her ambassadors.) Fury, glowering with your threatening eye, be Julian’s companion. Let Pride add her arrogant step. And you, treacherous Error, who devise meandering paths with your artistic hand, follow your comrades. Let Deceit be a contriver of crime, with that seductive face of hers. Go, accompany your brothers at an equal pace. I like this savage gang. Now I myself am coming, open your arms for my arrival. (Julian rises up, and they embrace. The curtains are closed.)
John and Paul relate their baffling dreams. Hiero provides clear explanations for both these riddles.
JOHN What Oedipus will solve this riddle, contrived with the deceits of a Daedalus? What son of Philip will once more use his hand to sever this Gordian knot? Sleep is a god honey-sweet to others, but just now he visited my bedchamber armed with a harsh sting. For before touching my cheeks with his poppy-drenched scepter, he dipped it with the venom of the tangled Sphinx.
PAUL He is a cruel tyrant to me too, brother. Behold, I had scarce stolen my heavy eyes away from my cares, when wakeful care once more tormented me in my sleep. Sweet peace of mind was banished far away from my repose. Doris’ halls, Proteus’ flocks and the choirs of the forest were silent, bound by the welcome chain of Morpheus. Yet sleep hovered over my bed bearing an unfriendly wand. (Enter Hiero.) Explain the god’s hidden deceptions, Hiero. You priest, beloved to the choir of the Saints, the King has given you the golden key to His heaven, by means of which He will perhaps open the Gates of Horn for me, unlocking the bars of sleep.
HIERO I’ll attentively drink in the streams of your speech. Often there is weight in light and unsubstantial appearances.
JOHN While in her chariot the moon was assiduously traversing heaven’s wakeful vigils, behold, I saw a flying dove which with its white plumage surpassed the snow of chill Mount Haemus. While it sported in the sky, weaving a thousand twists with its errant meanderings, the guardian of his thunderbolt swooped down from Jove’s redly-gleaming court. It savagely followed the dove, giving pursuit with its cruel rage, and struck at it with an ivory foot. Feathers went a-flying as playthings of its cruel beak.
HIERO Did the painted flocks of birds bring it help?
JOHN The whole ethereal legion came to its aid. They wounded, laid low, and killed the eagle. Dione’s darling alit on a rock. The chorus of swans sang Hooray with its milk-white trumpeting.
HIERO You champion of your laureled, bejeweled house, allow me to bestow a kiss on your hand. Hail, you dove, free of black bile! King Julian will gorge on your blood like an eagle. But you, a better dove, seek a celestial perch, triumphing over death. Heaven’s noble swans sing a victory-hymn.
JOHN Alas, I am afraid, such a shade of Daphne will lap my not-undeserving locks. And yet I shall not be unwilling to trade my life for so great a laurel.
PAUL So you will bestride the stars with your proud foot and leave your brother behind as an exile?
JOHN A similar palm perhaps await you. Recount your dream, I shall hang on your words.
PAUL The doorkeeper was opening heaven’s bright gates of light, bringing welcome news of daytime to the birds. The earth was growing intoxicated by this sober wine, when sleep bound my limbs with its sweet chains. Behold, I saw a ship, its sail bellied by the west wind’s breeze, rich with the jewels of the Red Sea. Boreas sounded his trumpet, threatening wars. Orion likewise brandished his sword. The day had scarce been born when it was entombed once more in black water, and night again possessed sole rule over the sea. The ship was drinking in the unfriendly rain and groaning, wounded, when Jove’s bright-faced twin sons shed their light and the Zephyr began to play. Triton’s conch fell silent, Phoebus was reborn with a more vigorous nimbus, and the ship was grounded on a hospitable shore.
HIERO You are both fortunate. This dream blesses you with Nereus’ rosy treasure, Paul, the treasure of the virtues, before Julian, ravening and burning with a thirst for gold, will savagely assault you with his north wind’s weaponry. Yet a better Castor and Pollux will give you anchorage in heaven’s ethereal harbor.
PAUL Will heaven crown us both with Daphne’s laurel? My ship, the north wind is too slow in attacking you.
JOHN Hey, eagle, come flying on swift wings. The dove seeks your wounding.
HIERO Phlegon will soon bring this hour. The palace’s door-hinge creaks, the purple-clad thief is coming out. Move your feet.
Julian seeks relief from the tedium of arms in the company of Libanius and Maximus. They incite him against the brothers.
JUL. You two luminaries of Lycean Apollo, you twin pillars of Athenian Minerva, I am wearied of the excessively bloodthirsty sport of the god of steel, and prefer the seclusion of the Muses. I like Calliope’s camp more than yours, Bellona. Let the bugle’s blare yield to the more pleasant murmur of the lyre. That priest does not traverse the listening forests to the sound of his Thracian quill, the flowing waters of Pegasus’ fountain does not soothe the choir of the Muses, with as much delight as the sweet stream of your eloquence cheers my inmost being.
LIB. Just as Phoebus plucks the plangent strings of his lute with an eloquent hand, providing spice to the banquets of almighty Jove, so you, Julian, govern the tune of canons with your skillful fingers. The choir of the Muses stood round Caesar’s blessed cradle.
MAX. The descendent of Atlas, the goddess who shields her breast with the snakes of Gorgons, and the father of the Muses who dyes the water with the divine glow of his brow, have set up their abiding thrones in the learned bosom of the Augustus. Continue, you glory of the Muses, to love Apollo’s sweet retreats. It is fitting for a sovereign to tire the holy virgins in the dance.
JUL. You are responsible for my lightning-like eloquence, and are the Phoenix of my manners. You, a second Chiron, have molded my youth as if it were wax, Maximus. If there is any welcome sweetness in my words, your Hymettus has supplied its Attic honey. Come, what rewards await your labors?
LIB. I have never thirsted for the treasures of the Tagus. The Augustus’ sacred favor is more important to me than the spoils provided by the Red Sea. But if you wish to be a friend to Jove, you should wholly uproot that race of Christians, an unspeakable brood born of the stock of the Lernaean Hydra, from the bowels of your empire. You will never offer up to the Styx more acceptable victims.
JUL. Why is Rome teeming with these Hellish monsters?
MAX. Once upon a time a she-wolf’s teat nourished twin brothers with her savage milk, but now degenerate Rome harbors twin wolves who gnaw at their mother’s guts with an impious fang. Paul and his brother, those two sons of Hecate, have befouled the sunlight. Their baleful plague is spreading abroad. Use your steel to put a check on this teeming brood of the Hydra, lest a deadly bane infect the common folk.
JUL. Before Phoebus rests his head on Thetis’ glassy couch they shall both die, drowned in a river of their own blood. The wealth they leave behind will repay you for your good offices, but the gleam of gold is less than your merits.
LIB. If Caesar sheds bright light with the clear brilliance of his brow, I am scarce concerned for riches. (Exeunt Libanius and Maximus.)
The martyrs steadfastly resist Julian’s blandishments and threats, and decide to bestow their riches on the poor. Narcissus expresses the wish to lose his life together with his friends.
JUL. (Alone.) Come Julian, take on the tongue of a Nestor, but the disposition of a Pluto. Should this Greekish wolf lie hidden under lamb’s clothing? Let whatever hideous thing cunning Sinon devised during the fall of Troy be called candid honesty of mind, integrity, faith and piety. There remains to be committed a crime greater than that of duplicitous Sinon. [To a servant.] Boy, have those Roman lads come to the royal palace, Paul and his brother. [Exit the boy.] O how blessed he his, and how he touches heaven’s household with his lofty head, whoever has learned to play well the part of a Proteus! Protected by deceit, as if by a trusty helmet, I shall attack those twin whelps of the Styx. My words will flow bathed in Attic honey, but a poison more dire than the lake of Avernus will dwell deep within my being. (Enter the brothers.) You gentlemen born of the noble blood of Quirinus, when your countenances dazzle my eyes, I seem to be seeing the stars born of Spartan Tyndarus.
JOHN Yet when the sun raises its chariot from the eastern waters he overwhelms these twin stars with its superior light. Thus when Caesar’s brilliance shines, the glory and brilliance of our light vanishes like smoke.
PAUL As soon as the stars of Tyndarus’ sons shine bright in a clear sky and the raging winds fall still, Galatea brings her playful dances to the world. Would that your North Star, the sole source of salvation for those that sail the seas, would calm the storm by which Christ’s ship has so long suffered, the night banished!
JUL. Why waste your prayers on deaf ears, Paul? Your words are scattered by the winds. Both of you are of good blood, the dignity of your manners enhances your breeding, the Tagus provides the both of you with a pot of gold, the whole world admires your accomplishments, yet you will bear the yoke of Christ?
JOHN Like a conquering battle-standard, the nourishing Cross, illuminated by the light of its dying Sun, encourages its legions to scorn pale death’s cruel arrows.
JUL. You are willing to exchange the plunder of the Indian Ocean and the insignia of office for harsh chains, my court for the squalor of a dark dungeon, your good reputation for disgrace?
PAUL A dungeon is better than the Garden of the Hesperides, when Christ is a guest there too.
JUL. An emerald does not decorate an august hand so much as the glory of mercy ornaments a ruler. Why submit your necks to a reluctant sword? What’s the point of cheating your cheeks of their youthful bloom? The years roll by all too quickly. Snatch at your fleeting days.
JOHN What’s the point of deserting the camp of Christ? God hates base runaways. Even if you degenerately abandon Christ’s standard, you will not brand a mark of disgrace on our glory.
JUL. I believe this wild beast suffers from giddiness. Let him go to bed, let sleep calm his distraught mind. Tomorrow, unless you worship Jove with a cloud of Arabian incense, an eternal sleep will overcome the both of you. (Exit Julian. Enter Narcissus.)
NARC. “An eternal sleep will overcome the both of you.” Oh, the owl’s ominous complaint! That iron sleep will likewise envelop my body in its dark embrace. Tell me, why is that lion ablaze? Why is he issuing threats?
JOHN An accursed hunger for precious gold fires his marrow, so he thirsts for blood with gaping jaws. It is in vain that a stream of nectar baits his painful hook, Christ should be appointed heir to our wealth.
PAUL Gold’s weight retards one’s progress towards heaven.
NARC. Oh you souls, bound by a Gordian knot! As an Orestes I shall never abandon my two Pylades.
JOHN You are too spendthrift of your life, Narcissus. First you need to bring a friend into Christ’s camp. Perhaps Cethegus will crave to be sprinkled with holy water. Perhaps the north wind’s rage will lop four roses.
NARC. I’ll go.
PAUL May heaven favor your endeavor. (Exeunt the brothers.)
Narcissus invites Cethegus, fired with enthusiasm for the military life, to join the camp of Christ. At first he resists, then he pretends to surrender.
NARC. I am waiting for a favorable opportunity to speak. (Enter Cethegus.) It’s well, he’s voluntarily entering into my nets. Do you like Christ’s camp yet?
CETH. A deer will entrust itself to a lion’s claws before my incense-box will worship a carpenter.
NARC. Christ, the carpenter Who made the stars, also created you, Cethegus. He adorned the sky’s garment with stars, He hung this balanced globe in the air, by creating the shoreline He imposed laws on the bounding main, He, a flower of the field Himself, enriched Chloris’ bosom with flowers.
CETH. You are trying to sow wheat on sand, Narcissus. With my incense-box I worship the august godhead of Jove, he who alone causes the citadels of heaven to quake, who governs the world with a lift of his fearsome eyebrow.
NARC. Who does not know of Jove’s peccadilloes? Even if I were to keep my silence, Danae’s brazen prison and the swan with its feigned Spartan plumage speak of the wanton god’s life.
CETH. Whoever is nailed to the frame of an infamous cross pays penalties worthy of a bandit.
NARC. Better to worship a man nailed to a cross than a block of cornel wood. You have no idea of the virtue of the cross, Cethegus. The fruit of this tree is God.
CETH. Love your gallows, I prefer to follow well-tried standards. The noble dust of Mars, the gleam of helmets, rivaling the brightness of the sun with its own, delight my eyes. The sound of the trumpet fires my mind, my steel is eager to harvest the iron crop of Mars. I imagine myself giving rein to my ardent horses, borne along in my chariot. [To his servant.] Hand me my shield, boy. (He gives him a white shield.) My hands gain strength from this shield. Soon its rim will grow red with scarlet blood.
NARC. Take care, Cethegus. Perhaps it will drink your own blood.
CETH. Fortune, that blind goddess, dreads stout battle-captains, but tramples down cowards with a disdainful foot.
NARC. And yet what good did Vulcan’s weaponry do Achilles, or Thetis, queen of the blue sea? The breastplate made by the god of Lemnos was unable to ward off the darts of death. His virtue, heedless of cypress, merely disdained the powers of the Fates’ cruel distaff.
CETH. I would rather escape the funeral pyre. What should I do?
NARC. If Christ’s water had sprinkled your brow, you could scorn the water of the Styx, you could live out royal days, being greater than the hateful pyre, having no share in old age, a citizen of the stars.
CETH. If Christ’s water will make me a candidate for heaven, perhaps I shall make my atonement at the sacred font. And yet, my host, lest my mind enter a road as twisting as Daedalus’ Labyrinth, I shall weigh your words on a fair scales.
NARC. May God tip its balance! (Exit Narcissus.)
Cethegus tells his father how he has deceived Narcissus. They decide to invite him to a dinner.
CETH. So he trusts me? Oh, the child! Nuts, a reed, amulets and apples befit Narcissus. But here’s Father. Smooth your brow, Father, you may completely relax your mind in joy.
TER. Tell me, son, you sweet glory of your father. The swarm of Hymettus does not feed on thyme with as much delight as Cethegus’ flowery tongue pleases his father with its springtime.
CETH. He hates the sound of trumpet and bugle worse than a snake, he dislikes the sword’s brightness, and he bids me join him in disdaining the exercise of the bloodthirsty god.
TER. Oh the deceitful heart! Is he pouring his poison into my Cethegus? My son, you are too incautious in opening your ear to his Siren words. So, though you are in the flourishing springtime of your youth, Cethegus of the white shield, do you idly waste the green days of your life in your father’s household? Let cowardly Narcissus languish, captivated by his own image, let the glassy water deceive him, and in the mirror of a fountain let him arrange the locks on his idle brow. Let the laurels of the father of this colossal world fire my son with a martial torch, Cethegus.
CETH. Why admonish me about things already done, father? No day will ever see me degenerate, if fostering Fortune favors my undertakings.
TER. But when will you reap a harvest of rejoicing? You keep me in great suspense.
CETH. The final touch has not yet been put on my fabric’s weaving. Let me continue. He recommended Christ’s cowardly camp. I immediately put on a false face and claimed to prefer the thorns of his gloomy God to Venus’ roses, like a new Hercules standing at the crossroads. False faith in Christ stood on my face, but my heart’s altar burned with the love of Jove.
TER. Oh my son, your father’s grace, strength, power, joy and illumination, you may use your arms to cling to my neck more tightly than Bacchus embraces the elm with his vine. Now my Cethegus pleases me. No more welcome day has ever dawned for Terentianus. Clever at assuming Proteus’ shifting appearance, you must put on a thousand faces, let a thousand Minerva-clever schemes come a-tumbling from your head, as long as Christ’s offspring take a fall. But come, so that deceptive ash may better conceal your embers, you must laud the hanging god’s divinity to the stars. Then invite Narcissus to Bacchus’ feast, let the inmost recesses of our house be thrown open. I myself, Hell’s butler, will pour him wine, and perhaps Narcissus tears will serve to spice our banquet.
CETH. Let us both tear apart the foolish beast, our nets our spread for this donkey. (Exeunt.)
Having appointed Christ as their heir, John and Paul rejoice for happiness. Julian commands their beheading. Terentianus gladly undertakes to perform this bloody task.
JOHN Good. Being poor, we will follow our God, Who is poverty-stricken and clad in rags. Christ, You cover the naked, and naked, the wealthy may his atonement himself. Oh how you please my inner being, poverty! You are a jewel more valuable than the sands of the tawny Tagus, heaven is purchased by this jewel. How how happy the man who desires nothing!
PAUL From a glittering jewel let the greedy thirst of kings drink poison, concealed in treacherous wine. We prefer to drink the water of plashing fountains out of our hollowed-out hands. Let others harvest the Lucrine Lake, the meager meals of the forest feed us, apples sate our hunger. Why should we loiter here? Our leafy home beckons. See how Chloris opens wide her welcoming bosom. I like the idea of enjoying the peace of the forest until the storm blows itself out.
JOHN May that bane keep far away from our family! The struggle of virtue summons us. It behooves Romans to do great things, and suffer yet greater.
PAUL I’ll gladly follow my brother across the inhospitable crags of the Caucasus. Let’s go, and enter the gates of the royal palace. (Enter Julian with Libanius and Maximus.)
JOHN Your approach is welcome. We are looking for you, Julian. The great weight of our Lydian gold is enriching paupers’ hovels, you are seeking to slake your gaping hunger with your jaws unfed.
JUL. Should I, whose empire is served by both homes of Phoebus, hunt after your money-chests? That river which was a friend to Midas, rich in gold, pays me tribute, and the horned Iber also submits his masterful urn. I am not incited by hunger for money, but rather I am troubled by the darkness of your mind and your headlong fury.
PAUL Why did you behead that glory of Gallic war-heroes, that light of the world, to whom Rome had given fasces conjoined to yours, if you had no thirst for the gold of the Tagus in your burning heart?
JUL. The world bears sufficient witness to my mercy. I have often gladly performed its offices, but always unwillingly those of severity. Yet overly stubborn men provoke me.
MAX. You should wield your thunderbolt against traitors, Caesar. Let this tongue pay a fearful price for its wantonness. If you spare them, who trample on the gods with their wanton feet, you insult Jove.
LIB. Let Themis govern the sacred protection of the empire, the gods’ honor demands it. Let this unspeakable spawn of the Styx perish, lest this dire bane spread abroad. (Terentianus comes forward.).
TER.. We’re all ruined! Jupiter is sweating! His holy temple is reeling!
JUL. It’s sweating? The hideous crime! (Melander bursts in.)
MEL. Oh bitter fate! What land will offer me a grave? Or what Rhadamanthus will put my soul on trial? Lachesis’ threads are summoning me.
JUL. Meleander, what is it? Is the vast, sky-scraping house on the Capitoline in a state of collapse?
MEL. Alas! The king of Olympus, that pillar and great glory of the Capitoline, has fallen to the ground headlong, and cannot stand upright in its place unless these stubborn brothers die. Thus, Caesar, the entrails warn.
JUL. I have withheld my lightning-bolt too long. Let them die. Let a double victim be sacrificed to Jove. Let their rebellious blood appease the angry god. Let Terentianus, that leading light of Romulus’ tract, cut down those toadstools.
TER. The autumnal incense of Sheba is not as pleasing to Jove as are Christians when torn limb from limb.
JOHN Oh day, thrice sought for! Rise with better light, sun, and sprinkle me with roses as I come.
PAUL Oh wedding-day! At last I shall enjoy you, Christ.
JUL. So that raging Jove’s anger might grow mild, let a hundred victims fall at the altar. (Exeunt.)
Narcissus, thinking that Cethegus is about to enlist for Christ, is invited to a dinner by him. He is soon haled off to prison by command of Terentianus.
NARC. The north wind, that savage inhabitant of the Caucasus, the comrade of frost, is waging war against Chloris’ rosebeds, binding the flowers with his dire chain. But Cethegus is a plant that rises up with his flower still free. How eager he is to be watered by the rain of his own blood! Dyed with this, he will reach up to heaven with his lofty head. I hope he is destined to be Narcissus’ companion in heaven’s flowerbed. We both crave soon to be stricken by Boreas’ iron scourges. I shall visit this champion’s home. But see, he comes out. [Enter Cethegus.] Do you still like Christ’s sweet yoke?
CETH. I prefer its sweet weight to the badge worn on a royal brow.
NARC. Would you be willing to attest your faith with your blood?
CETH. Adorned with my own purple, I shall scorn the proud robes of the Caesars.
NARC. But aren’t you afraid of the tyrant’s fiery sports?
CETH. A salamander lives happily amidst flames.
NARC. And the gift of the Tagus shines with a brighter gleam after being heated in a furnace. But why that axe? It perhaps makes me fearful.
CETH. Why? My hand, groaning because of an axe-wound, will be more magnificent, triumphing over its disasters.
NARC. You like this path, bristling with thorns?
CETH. I take pleasure in these thorns, being destined to gain heaven’s bright roses.
NARC. But death?
CETH. The Phoenix grows youthful thanks to its noble death.
NARC. Come into my embrace.
CETH. I’ll gladly die in your embrace, you indomitable solder, but now, having traversed his daily routes, Phoebus is bathing his yoked horses in the water, since they have done their duty, and it befits us too, weary from our labors, to banish hunger with a dinner. Let the doors be opened. (He addresses servants offstage. When the curtain is drawn, the martyrs’ heads are visible, sitting on platters. Terentianus sits at the table.) A banquet worthy of heaven!
NARC. A banquet worthy of the Cimmerian darkness of the Styx.
TER. If the moon should see this dinner, she would steer her course hither.
CETH. If the moon should see this dinner, she would sink her terrified car in the ocean.
TER. Have a seat. I desire to be soldier serving under the standard of your carpenter. I am imitating the example of heaven.
CETH. Once morbid Narcissus was ruined by a fountain’s deception, as now he is by that of an unfounded illusion.
NARC. Soon, perhaps, I shall better mock this man when he’s a plant in heaven’s gardens.
TER. Let us toast our trophies with wine. Let this fellow serve as our Coan lyre. [They temporarily exit.]
NARC. Would that my weeping would soften your adamantine hearts. To my unhappiness, I rushed through deceitful fires hidden under untrustworthy ash. Oh his lying tongue! I believed that Cethegus was a rose of heaven, but he has nothing in common with a rose save for the barbed thorns with which he bloodies me. He showed the appearance of a flower, but a serpent lurked beneath his bud. Let this Sinon persevere, let him weave the threads of his own downfall. In the meantime let him mix tears with his bloody wine, one stream with another. A double spear of death pierces his vitals. Alas. how one’s manner of life often begets death for him while he lives! But to whom should my lyre pay its first tribute? To you, Paul? Ah no, rather to you both. But my tongue is seized by a sad chill, albeit no iciness stops up my flowing eyes, which will water these two roses with their constant dew. Let my tear be eloquent, if my tongue knows not how. (The heads on the platter speak.)
JOHN Let punishment overwhelm Cethegus, moving at no limping pace.
PAUL Let avenging Justice whet her thunderbolt.
NARC. Spare him, let the blood of Narcissus redeem Cethegus. (Enter Terentianus and Cethegus.)
TER. Soldier, take this hateful plague away to his ruin. Let him enter a dungeon worse than the Inferno’s cave.
NARC. A prison is heaven to me, as long as Christ is present.
CETH. Once more the hand of Hercules overcomes the three-headed Geryon.
TER. Let the infamous wood of the cross yield to the sword.
CETH. And Christ to Jove. (Exeunt.)
Julian is conscience-stricken that the brothers have wrongly been beheaded. He enters with a drawn sword but without his breastplate, wearing slippers as if he has just got out of bed.
JUL. What’s this? Will a sleepless vulture oppress my ever-renewed marrow? Will my liver always be rent by its hideous claw? At night the shepherd rests his head on grassy turf and binds his limbs with sweet sleep. In the deep of night the rustic withdraws his eyes from harsh labor. So does peace alight on the humble cottage roof, and fear grips only a ruler in its pallid embrace? The entombed throng of Dis sets up housekeeping in my bedchamber. I flee, and yet with her scourge the thundering Fury pursues me in my flight. [To his servant.] Torches, boy. (He brings torches, and Julian peers in every direction.) It’s nothing. A guilty man manufactures visions for himself. A mind teeming with guilt is its own tormenter. My Hell is here. With its fiery flood the spilt blood surrounds the heart of Julian, the criminal brothers set his guts a-burning. Who will affix light wings to my shoulders so that in my wretchedness I may escape? Alas, with an unwilling eye I perceive my crime. Alas, I perceive my crime, which the moon shudders to behold with her eyesight. She checks her reins, amazed. And so shall I, the master of the world and terror of Christ, fear boys? And so will the lion flee from helpless deer? Even if Tartarus spews forth the fire-breathing Chimaera once more, once more it will return to the court of dark Phlegethon. My rage is afire. Continue, my wrath, continue. Let the pallid shades learn what an angry Julian can accomplish. (Enter the martyrs, one wielding a javelin, the other a thunderbolt. The servant takes to his heels.)
JOHN You will soon learn what an angry King of Heaven can accomplish.
JUL. (The sword falls from his hands.) A horrible, fearful thing to say!
JOHN This spear bears your destruction.
JUL. Drop that avenging dart from your hand, I pray. (He attempts to flee.)
PAUL Cease. Do you see these death-dealing beams, you snake? My winged fire will open the secret recesses of your wicked heart. (Exeunt.)
JUL. You conquer, carpenter. You conquer, man of Galillee. What am I saying? Do I, alive, dwell in the home of the silent? Has my blade deserted my hand? I’ll pick it up once more. My sword and my courage return. Let the one hurl his ash-wood spear, and let the other wield Jove’s fire, my adamantine heart will resist. Even if the Nazarene carpenter Himself lends his athletes a helping hand, I’ll best them in a fight. My blade, swimming in slaughters, cannot grow dry, let it be wet and while wet still thirst for blood. Let its thirst grow by killing. Let this steel send Christ’s criminal offscourings to deepest Tartarus, I’ll follow them as they fall. (Exit.)
Terentianus fends off Cethegus, driven out of his mind by God’s just vengeance. Hiero undertakes to cure the disease.
TER. (Alone.) Whatever shipwrecked man sits aboard a narrow plank, his wares consumed by the sea’s greedy maw, and whoever traverses the torrid tracts of Libya, surrounded by lionesses, and whoever dreads the band of Furies with their twisty locks of snakes, and also the gaping of the three-throated dog, should look at Terentianus, a unique target for retribution, and learn to love his punishments, he will consider his pains to be sweet. Oh my son, once your father’s life, why have you now built him his funeral pyre? Why weigh down his laureled locks with the foliage of the cypress? Your madness invites your father’s death. (Enter Cethegus, bearing in his hand a thunderbolt made out of straw.) But behold, his father’s unhappy source of sorrow, and likewise the object of his love, comes out. The father cannot bear to behold his son’s madness. (Exit.)
CETH. Many rulers is not a good thing.
Let there be one lord, a single king. (He points at himself.)
Kings o’er their flocks the scepter wield;
E’en kings beneath Jove’s scepter bow:
Victor in giant battle-field,
He moves all nature with his brow.
Shh, shh, do you hear?
Oh, can it be
A sweet deceiving ecstasy?
If Jove and Heav’n my just desires deny,
Hell shall the pow’r of Heav’n and Jove supply.
Squalid Charon, lord of Avernus, summons me. His beard is stiff with icicles. Look at his skiff. The boat of Dis is groaning beneath his feet, (He leaps as if into Charon’s skiff), it’s drinking in the pallid water (He picks up his feet.) Reef your sail, we’re sinking. Ho, ho, ho, ho. It’s capsizing because of the wrath of the Stygian north wind. The boat is beached on the sands of Elysium. (Enter Terentianus.)
TER. My son, let your couch receive your diseased limbs. Honeyed sleep will pour itself over your eyes, conquered by its want.
CETH. Fleet-footed Achilles spoke up and replied,
Mulciber stood against Troy, Apollo took its side.
He points at himself, then he points at his father.
TER. What mighty god of plants will direct your hand, Cethegus?
CETH. (He waves his straw thunderbolt.) Worship this lightning, Mulciber, forged by the hand of Brontes and Steropes.
For lo! the Sire of heaven on high,
By whose fierce bolts the clouds are riven,
To-day through an unclouded sky
His thundering steeds and car has driven.
TER. Dark night envelops his mind in shadows.
CETH. Ha, ha, ha.
Nor had I cared that dusky he to view:
Dusky the hyacinth’s, the violet’s hue.
“Adieu!”he wept and cried, “a long adieu!”
TER. Phoebus, if health presides over Paean’s gardens, let him rescue the sole pillar of our tottering house. (Enter Hiero.)
You are addressing a helpless god, Terentianus. Only He who lodged the barbed shaft in your inmost being can pluck it out.
TER. Who has injured my inmost being?
HIERO When the innocent blood of those heroes stained your hands.
TER. And I confess that Cethegus, who is as dear to me as my own vitals, has also received a bloody blow. Would that the steel which left this wound in my heart would remove it, like the spear of Achilles!
HIERO This will come to pass. When Phoebus’ art is dumbstruck, bested by a disease, then Christ raises up the ailing with His healing arm. [Displaying a glass amulet.] Do you see these bones of the heroes, which are dear to the Saints? This ash, the remains of the brothers’ pyre, is contained within this crystal sphere, great monuments are enclosed in a small piece of glass. You behold the cure for this disease. Like a new Castor and Pollux, these brothers will wash away the rabid foamings of wild Cethegus, those who stained your hand with their willing blood.
TER. If they calm his frenzy’s savage rage, I shall gladly serve under Christ’s standard.
HIERO The Saints will sound a cheer on their golden trumpet, if you advance your standards against those of Dis. But come, let this amulet enrich your son’s bosom, hanging from his neck.
TER. Beware, he’s approaching. (Enter Cethegus, balancing a huge book on his head.)
CETH. Little book, go without me – I don’t begrudge it – to the city.
No white bosses, “horns” to your dark “brow.”
The fox and the Crocodile,
Both freshly blooming, both of Arcady.
nor may you wear white horns on your black front. The fox and the crocodile, both in the flower of their youth, both citizens of Arcady.
HIERO Unequal to the weight, his head is bowed. Put down that great tome. Slowly. (Cethegus starts to throw down the book violently, then he sets it down gently and sits on it.)
CETH. Hiero, Christ’s priest! How are you doing, sweetest of heroes? Give me your hand to clasp. Give it to me, you rascal.
HIERO Be silent. (Cethegus gets up and dances around the book.) Be still. (He puts the reliquary around Cethegus’ neck and sets him in a chair.) You see this cushion? Sit. The languid sleep-god’s wand will overcome Cethegus’ wakeful eyes. His straying mind will return, and now his uncontrollable frenzy will abate itself.
TER. In the meantime Ceres and Bacchus will refresh our wearied strength. You will sit as a guest at my table.
HIERO Go, and I shall follow as you lead the way.
THE FINAL SCENE
Cethegus returns to sanity. His father rejoices. Freed from his chains, Narcissus puts the finishing touch on the happiness of them both. The father and the son acknowledge that God is the true God. While music is sung, John and Paul enter and use the reliquary to make the sign of the cross on Cethegus’ forehead. When they depart he speaks.
CETH. Are those lords of heaven so quickly taking to the shining highways of the stars? Are Cethegus’ joys flying away so swiftly? Stop your hurrying chariots, I pray you. Cethegus will surmount the stars on his winged car, a companion of the heavenly hosts. What amulet is hanging from a twisted chain on my breast? I recognize that it is a pledge belonging to the supernal beings, I acknowledge that it something left behind by heaven. Hail, shipwreck’s plank, cynosure for my wandering mind. With the return of Phoebus’ countenance you have banished night’s dark shroud, thanks to you the day shines again all the better. (Enter Terentianus.)
TER. Oh son!
CETH. Oh father!
TER. Does my son enjoy an unclouded mind?
CETH. The clouds have fled far away, clear days are gliding by. (He kneels.) Father, forgive me in my impiety. If my pain or blind frenzy has said anything, I would wish it were unsaid.
TER. Rise up, my son, the star of your shipwrecked father. Headstrong madness would thirst to gain sovereign power, with reason banished, but with its effusions it is unable to sully the snow-white purity of your noble mind. But, Cethegus, what sun has clad the shapeless chaos of your dark mind with new light?
CETH. My crystal sun binds those watery [...] within a small compass, but it casts forth its beams even if they are concealed beneath its glassy cloud. The steel you carry sank them both in a sea of blood, and yet, made all the more beautiful by their purple stains, they shine amidst the blessed choirs of the Saints. With their golden arrows of light they have driven off the dark veils of my mind, just as Lucifer, that wakeful captain of the starry legion, puts the astonished night’s dark camps to rout. (Enter Hiero.)
TER. Hiero also applied his healing hand. It was he who decorated your bosom with the tawny gold. (He addresses Hiero.) You see the happy fruits of your harsh labor. His clouds are banished, his fierce commotions have subsided, the increase of his passion is broken. Cethegus is enjoying a tranquil mind.
HIERO It is well. (He strokes Cethegus’ head. Narcissus enters.)
NARC. Cethegus, the cedar of Lebanon does not fill the air with its scent, nor is the grove of Sheba so fragrant with balsam, so much as nard suffuses my chamber. Whoever loves Christ considers his dungeon to be heaven.
TER. Narcissus, this guilty person’s heart is exposed, let a fatal spear pierce my bowels. I confess that until now a remote cavern in the earth has been confining an innocent man. And this steel has been mowing down his comrades. Yet henceforth it shall gladly be at Your service, Christ.
CETH. Sooner will Aetna give birth to frost than the ardor of my heart will experience a sluggish winter in its love. Christ’s beauty, all too fleeting for Cethegus’ eyes, ravages my heart with its harmless fire. Narcissus also pierces my inmost being with his sweet shaft. Reputation’s trumpet will never sing that Cethegus is two-tongued, henceforth you will perceive a single sound coming from his heart and tongue.
NARC. My honest heart rejoices. Nor will this talkative trumpet call me an ingrate.
HIERO Join hands. [Terentianus, Cethegus and Narcissus do so.] I like this triple knot. Now let Parian marble cover the remains of these heroes.
TER. They shall endure, untouched by the years’ consuming flight. The passage of time destroys marble, but books live on. I shall write of these champions’ glory on enduring cedar. (Exeunt.)