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ACT II, SCENE i
Impatient at their laziness, Crispus rails at the huntsmen. Marcellus gives St. Alban a kindly welcome. When the hunt is finished, he vows their quarries’ spoils to Diana. St/ Alban overturns the statue of Sylvanu, and generously administers to the neediness of some paupers.
CRISPUS, MARCELLUS, ST. ALBAN, PROTEUS, FOUR HUNTSMEN, THREE BEGGARS
CRISP. When will my arrow taste the blood of a full-racked stag? When will I, a new Meleager, bring back the excellent spoils of a foam-flecked boar? We our delay is excessive.
MARC. Crispus! You have not yet grown to full strength, this sport requires sturdy fellows.
CRISP. My knees are not wearing out, my horse will relieve you of this anxiety.
MARC. At least beware of a close encounter, lest my Adonis falls, gored by curved boars’ tusks.
CRISP. I’ll strike at a distance, father. Protected by my father’s shadow I’ll shoot fearsome boars from afar. (Enter Agatho and whispers in Marcellus’ ear.)
MARC. Has Alban come? Good! Let him be led inside. (Exit Agatho.) Today’s titan is yoking the team to his chariot. (Enter Alban.) Am I looking at Alban, that glory of the Britons? Hurry into my embrace. Let your breast touch my breast, your hands my hands, your mind my mind. Without you Delia’s grove is tedious.
ALB. I’ll gladly protect Marcellus’ sweet body even at the cost of interposing my own, and I’ll purchase Crispus’ life at the cost of my death.
CRISP. As long as the fates grant you many days, I’ll cheerfully die twice over. Come, the forest summons us. Long ago we should have been routing our quarry from their lairs.
MARC. I like this woodsy sport all the more since reflections of warfare shine forth in our play. Let us ply our weapons at close quarters when a stag, the leader of his herd, raises up his branching horns. Again, if he turns tail in flight let us lay the runaway low from afar. Traps and snares betoken treachery, weaponry bespeaks virtue. Moreover the earth, now hoary with white frost, now parched with arid thirst, hardens youth for Mars’ heavy exertions. (A horn sounds and the huntsmen enter.)
CRISP. Oh music of the gods! See how Melampus shivers, his ears perked up!
MARC. Let’s go. Chaste sister of Phoebus, if you be with us I dedicate the spoils of our prey to you. Now our spoils will hang from your consecratede chapel. Let the the woods echo with the tune of our curved horn, and their resounding rocks redouble its sound. (A horn is blown. Enter a hunter with hounds.) Boy, unleash pugnacious Melampus. Lycisca, be quick in foillowing his lead.
CRISP. Tiger, ah Tiger is getting the better of them both.
PROT. My Aello is passing them all. Aello!
HUNTSMAN 1 Put your nose down, Lacon, and investigate their lairs.
HUNT. 2 Into the thickets, Laelaps.
HUNT. 3 Hylactor, shake the rocks with your barking.
HUNT. 4 Look there. Quarry! Quarry! Quarry!
HUNT. 1 What quarry?
HUNT. 4 A stag is dashing down the mountain.
HUNT. 1 That’s an ass, ha, ha!
HUNT. 4 I see a pair of protrusions on its forehead.
HUNT 1 You’re looking at the two ears of large donkey.
MARC. A doe’s flying along the crags. Pamphagus. Catch the runaway.
ALB. (Entering.) I like another form of hunting. (He points at the Sylvanus.) Behold what a pretty god the Britons worship! He is the guardian of the forest. What majesty perches on his snow-white brow! His color smacks of antiquity. Look out, he gores with an angry horn. You stump, damned to hellfire. Go feed the fires of Hell. (He overthrows the statue.) Fall down, you two-horned monstrosity, your horns shattered. Mourn your downfall. (The curtains are drawn. Enter the beggars.)
GURGES Whoever you are, look with a friendly face upon my snow-white hair and swarthy visage.
ARTOTROGUS Lend a hand to an armless man.
OFFA Boy dear to heaven, be moved by the legs of a lame soldier, stricken by the wrath of cruel Mars.
ALB. I love the needy since Christ once preferred a hovel to heaven, a stable to a royal court. (He gives each of them coins.)
GURG. Let your days go by bright and cloudless.
ART. Wherever you go may your roads be balsam-sweet.
OFFA May heaven repay you witha hundredfold interest. (Exit Albanus. Exeunt the beggars.)
ACT II, SCENE ii.
While Marcellus discharges his vow tgo Diana he is troubled no little by Alban’s absence. Capnodes suspects that he is a Christian, and when Sylvanus’ mistreated statue is discovered he yet more confirmed in his s uspicion. Marcellus commands Capnodes and Proteus to look more closely into the matter.
MARCELLUS, CAPNODES, PROTEUS, CRISPUS
MARC. You, the person closest to the gods, you who preside over our rites, pay the goddess of the forest her due honors, let my votive offerings attest to my mind. (He kneels before Diana’s altar.)
CAP. the chaste sister of Thymbraeus, the quiver-bearing virtin and protectress of the mountains, for whom Ortygia was bound to Gyaros for having disdained the south wind’s threats, whom Cynthius’ gladsome mountains by bowing down their peaks, for whose benefit the Eurotas waters the laurel grove with its submissive stream, Whatever the woods hold within their leafy bosom is only at your service. Pray be the goal of our exertions and our effort. I pray you accept with a kindly countenance the fawnskins I humbly lay at your feet. Thus for your benefit let our weaponry be shot true, and thus may mottled lynx-skins drape our shoulders. (He hangs up the spoils of their quarry next to the altar.)
MARC. Well done, the goddess’ rites have been performed. Where has Alban gone with such haste?
MARC. Perhaps he’s still worrying the caverns with those Spartan hounds of his.
MARC. Go and retrace the twisting paths, until they return the guest we have entrusted to them. (Exit Proteus with Agatho and his soldiers.) Perhaps Alban is laid low, gored by the tusk of a wild boar.
CAP. Dismiss this concern. I suspect —
CAP. — that he has quit our rites as a defector.
MARC. Don’t prophesy such an evil.
CAP. Would that I were a vain augur! Whoever follows Christ as his leader scorns Diana’s rites.
CRISP. He can’t disentangle himself from the forest. (Enter Proteus.)
MARC. My limbs are icy-stiff.
MARC. Has Alban suffered a fall?
MARC. A greater personage has fallen down.
MARC. Who’s that?
MARC. Sylvanus, who presides over ancient darkness, is prostrate, his face ruined, bereft of his horns, and with his arms and hands broken off.
CAP. Didn’t I just now issue oracles from my truth-telling tripod? What’s your opinion? Alban holds the gods in contempt. Alban contrived this brutal crime. Can you behold this with calm eyes?
MARC. Soldiers, I want to have a look at this afflicted god’s face. (Exit Proteus and Agatho with the soldiers.) Does Alban dare so great a sin? Is this how he repays my affection in his mad frenzy?
CRISP. Perhaps the north wind’s anger laid the god low.
CAP. Long in his years, until today Sylvanus stood protected by a canopy of oak branches, and he would still be standing if he had not crashed to the ground thanks to Alban’s handiwork. (They enter with the idol.)
MARC. What madness has ruined you, Sylvanus? You are entirely reduced to a stump. See how the sap flows through y ourlumbs. Take away this sight with its tragic nature. Venerable priest of Trivia, it is incumbent on you to restore the blessed features of his ancient face. Whoever it was who with his murderous foot trampled on this statue, our sweet Palladium, will make a blood-atonement for his crime. Even if he were Alban, I will make him experience the fearsome lightning-stroke of my arm. The critical importance of this matter requires a double helping of wit, this business calls for two brothers. And yet it is up to you to act with care les a man innocent of so great a felony be convicted of deceit. This is your task.
MARC. With my keen nose I’ll hunt down our Jewish quarry. (Exeunt the praetor, Capnodes and Proteus.)
ACT II, SCENE iii.
Proteus battens on Alban as he is intentionally wandering about the forest so as to avoid participation in the impious rites, disguising his attitude. He pretends to be deeply offended by the offerings given to Diana and prefers Christ to such vain gods. St. Alban likewise professes to be a Christian.
CAPNODES, PROTEUS, ALBAN
CAP. Now you must act the part of Proteus the shape-shifter. Are you able to pretend?
PROT. In my case Proteis is no empty name. My character is prone to deception. Do you want to behold the marks of virtue printed on my face while in my hart lurk the two-faced arts of Ulysses? Behold. (He puts a pious expression on his face.) My forehead, my cheeks, the very beard on my chin are expressive of piety.
CAP. Virtue’s the best of masks. Hidden behind it, you can worm your way into the naive boy’s heart. Call Venus, Diana, Cynthius, Bacchus, Jove and the rest of that crew of gods Furies and plagues come forth from Hell. Let Christ alone be to your liking. Let him be the world’s creator, let him set the sun’s golden glow alight, let him walk aloft higher than the north wind’s wings, let him dangle the earth’s globe from three of his fingers.
PROT. I understand.
CAP. Let our sails be filled with a following wind.
PROT. A great matter is afoot. If one manages the business cleverly whatever Alban’s house holds in its happy bosom is his. Add to that the fertility of his reliable acres. His lands are aglow, partly covered with ruddy wheat, and partially where they proudly abound with sheep-bearing uplands. His flocks crop it where its soil cannot be worked by the plow. Soon his fine land will know a new master. But in what remote cave is Alban hiding himself?
ALB. (In the forest.) With what voice are the deep dales resounding?
PROT. The forest is echoing me.
ALB. What’s this sound?
PROT. Our quarry will fall into ou r well-set traps.
ALB. (Emerging from the forest). Who is calling Alban’s name?
PROT, Through marshes made wild by thornbrakes, and rocks all but impassible I by myself am following Alban.
ALB. Running swifter than an arrow and the north winds as it trusted in its flight drew Alban’s flying feet as it traversed the plain. It scarcely harmed the blades of grass and soon entered the forest’s recesses. I followed hot-foot until the dense foliage of a stand of oaks forbade my entry. The beast was snatched away from my sight, and the hart escaped my hounds, barking to no good purpose. While I carelessly investigated the impassible pathways my steps became more and more confused. But in what shade are my comrades concealing themselvles?
PROT. Not long ago Marcellus has triumphantly quit the woods and just now has hung up the hide of the captured hind in Diana’s shrine.
ALB. Did the goddess look favorably on his offerings?
PROT. Whether she’s a goddess remains to be seen. A divinity hand-carved by a woodworker is by no means to my liking. Whoever get drunk for us display their sinfulness by their bacchic frenzy. They wave their tankards because Bacchus drains dry their cuos. Whoever finds the time for unclean love cites Venus as his precedent, and thus the gods’ shadow gives cover for any manner of misbehavior. I prefer the chaste teachings of the Christians’ god.
ALB. Thus you spew your Lernaean poison, you disgrace? Are you waging war against\the gods while I am present and bearing witness?
PROT. You want to retaliate? My breast is bared. Come, plunge your sword in up to the hilt. It is more glorious to die on Christ’s behalf than to ride over the ruins of an enslaved world bringing the spoils to Tarpeian Jove.
ALB. Accept an embrace which would be a source of envy even to Theseus and his comrade. Fire puts the Pactolus’ ore to the test, and a friend’s faithfulness is seen in hard times. I like your fearless character. Even an angry Alban does not shake you. I belong to the same camp as yourself.
PROT. Please, please allow me to kiss your holy hands. Christ has enlightened you too. Phoebus, arise, your head crowned with better gold, let the Britons’ stars rejoice at their new bringer of light. Perhaps that crazy patron of the forest has experienced Alban’s pious thunderbolt?
ALB. That chunk of wood has fallen to earth thanks to my thundering.
PROT. Oh well done! Would that whatever of those gods this happy island possesses was floating in the British Sea! I would like to heap joys atop my joys. My soul is guilty of a long-standing sin. What man will grant me to put aside the old man in the holy font, as the eagle renews its youth in living water? My heart labors under the weight of a Mt. Etna. If heaven were to send me a priest, it would relieve it of a burden worthy of an Atlas.
ALB. At home I have a holy priest who knows how to remove a huge weight with a light sprinkling of water.
PROT. I beg for the waters of that wholesome font, for I suffer thirst.
ALB. Learn first the ABCs of our teaching. (Shows him a little book.) Heaven lies hidden in this little book. Follow this guide to living, this teacher of morality.
PROT. I worship this token of your love. (Kisses the book.) With a thirst ear I shall imbibe whatever it has to say, but now I shall go home riding in a triumphal chariot. I have entrusted myself to you, Alban, and you must supply me with your silent fidelity.
ALB. Whatever you commit to a safe hearing remains hidden in your heart.
ACT II, SCENE iv
Proteus takes off his mask and betrays the transaction to Marcellus, who immediately sends for Alban. Crispus strives to free St. Alban.
PROTEUS, MARCELLUS, CRISPUS, FAUSTULUS
PROT. My boy, do you trust Proteus? Whoever trusts me can place his trust in Charybdis. I am not Proteus unless I can be slippery by shifting into a thousand appearances, unless I can conceal the arts of a Sinon behind a facade of virtue. Whatever man cannot hide the secrets of his heart by adopting misrepresentation cannot ascend to the pinnacle of honor. Then too, that little book he left me as a token of his love and I shall carry it in my pocket. These are your Sibyl leaves, Alban, for they predict your fate. Now on swift feet I am heading to Marcellus’ shelter.
MARC. (In the forest.) When will he come back?
PROT. The grove resounds with Marcellus’ plaintive voice he is seeking his Alban throughout the forest. He’s groaning and tears will follow. I am coming, I come on steps which will make him grieve. And see, he is sharing his sorrows with Crispus. (Enter Marcellus with Crispus.)
MARC. When will Proteus bless my ears with his swift report.
PROT. He doesn’t know that Proteus is drawing near. (Shows himself.) I’m bringing swift news, but not the news you wished.
MARC. Has that deserter Alban forsaken our gods?
PROT. He has, and he worships a god nailed to a tree.
MARC. And with his wanton foot has he kicked over our ancient divinity?
PROT. He has. Do you want a witness? Alban himself condemns Alban and admits that he is guilty.
MARC. Under the cover of what artifice did you worm your way into his heart?
PROT. He’s the same as glass, in fact more transparent than glass. For as soon as I credited the government of heaven and earth to Christ, the boy lost his self-control. He immediately revealed the secrets of heart most lavishly.
MARC. Whoever betrays the gods cannot stand faithfully by his oath to Caesar.
CRISP. Father, the minds of young men are like wax, easily molded.
MARC. Quiet, chatterbox.
CRISP. If I have unbridled my over-bold tongue, it is up to you to silence it.
MARC. Go. I have no time to bandy words with a boy.
CRISP. I’m going. (Aside.) But I shall drink in everything you say with ears wide o pen.
MARC. Proteus, I place you in command of my cohort. Let the soldiers surround Alban’s house on every side lest the common folk take up arms, since it more easily set in motion than a light wave of water. My courtroom is looking forward to this guilty fellow.
PROT. There’s also a little priest serving Circe’s cups to the lad.
MARC. Let them both be placed under arrest.
PROT. Even if they sink their persons down lower than Hell, I’ll drag them in. (Exit)
MARC. What god, or rather what comet laden with ruination, death and tombstones has stricken your high towers with its bloody tail, oh land of Britain. Has Lycaon brought his wolves, once so well banished? What man mighty with his Cytaean herbs has torn this friend from my side? What a hard matter! Unless my sword runs red with Alban’s blood, Caesar’s swordpoint will be red with mine. Whatever you have touched with your fingernail becomes an ulcer. Alban is dear, but my own security is more important. (Exit Marcellus, enter Crispus.)
CRISP. Weave lying nets in your mind, this little scrap of paper will unweave them. (He stamps his foot.) Faustulus! Do you know Alban’s house?
FAUST. I have to know that divine home, always open to the needy.
CRISP. Take his letter to him quicker than I can say these words. (Gives it to him). Perhaps this gold will take the lead out of your feet.
FAUST. Atlas’ grandson will not outrun me. This handwriting will be concealed in my bosom. (Exit.)
CRISP. Alban, let my father threaten you. Let him thunder, let him gnash his teeth and rage, Crispus promises and cherishes a loyal heart. (Exit.)
Go to Act III