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UC-NRLF




ALVMNVS BOOK FVND




Attila, My Attila!



ATTILA, MY ATTILA!



A PLAY BY MICHAEL FIELD







LONDON: ELKIN MATTHEWS

1896





All rights reserved



PREFACE

TRAGEDY is the conflict of man with the indifference
of nature. For all forces of life sweep on their regene-
rating way, and disregard obstruction or break it down ;
yet mortals strive presumptuously to withstand this
impetus, and to subject it to their own thought and need.
Then there is a death-struggle, and the human combatant
disappears, sometimes recognising his schism, sometimes
unconscious of it to the end.

Our interest in each case is due to the very vitality
that a man turns against life when he rights it in vain
with its own weapon, as Prometheus fought Zeus, as
Satan fought Jehovah, as Lear withstood Cordelia, and
Hedda Gabler her own motherhood. What indeed is
necessity but the unfaltering energy of existence to
which even the strongest and most rebellious of living
creatures must bow, so that the triumph of life, and not
the triumph of death, becomes the proper subject of
all tragedy.

When, in spite of his overthrow, a sinner repents,
and in his contrition worships the power he has with-



481082



PREFACE

stood in its own might, then his tragedy has tonic virtue.
If, on the contrary, he remain impenitent and blind,
his fate prostrates us with terror : yet since there are
such tragedies it is well sometimes to face them, and
learn how they came to be so desolate, and why the
sorrow in them has no life.

Little Honoria, whose yielding " to the impulse of
nature" Gibbon chronicles with such sympathy a
sympathy pregnant with the feelings of our age that was
to follow sought to give freedom to her womanhood
by unwomanly audacities ; and although the importunate
desire to be herself was fair and natural, its perversion
was revenged by the blight with which nature curses.

To be vitally stirred, yet go blindly on the way of
death ; to be urged by nature, and yet outrage her
through very obedience is a tragedy of tragedies, and
one not remote ; for Honoria is the New Woman of the
fifth century : and to any who shall read her story in
these pages the author says, as clearly as a certain Pro-
logue when it declared

" This man with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth Moonshine "

that this play presents Irony.

M. F.



OF THE



VALENTINIAN III
THEODOSIUS II

SATYRUS
EUGENIUS

ANTHEMIUS

GALLA PLACIDIA

HONORIA
PULCHERIA

ARCADIA
MARINA

ATHENAIS
MARSA



Emperor of the West
Emperor of the East

(An Armenian, Chamberlain to
I Galla Placidia

| A young Chamberlain of the
Palace, waiting on Honoria

| A young Roman of Consular
I rank

( Empress of the West, Valen-
l tinian's Mother

Valentinian's only Sister

(Empress of the East, Theo-
l dosius' eldest Sister

His younger Sisters

(A Greek Girl under Pulcheria's
I protection

Anthemius' Wife



A Priest, Chamberlains, Courtiers, Women, Slaves,
Soldiers of the Guard

SCENE IN ACTS I, II AND IV, AT Ravenna
IN ACT III AT Byzantium



ACT I



ATTILA, MY ATTILA!



ACT I

SCENE A room of state in the palace at Ravenna, open-
ing through a colonnade on to a terrace with a distant view
of the harbour.

EUGENICS is walking up and down the terrace: he stops

under the boughs of a pomegranate and picks up a bracelet

from the ground. In the room Itself slaves, some fair Goths,

some Africans, are spreading carpets, putting up hangings,

and wreathing the columns.

SATYRUS enters with more slaves, who are bringing in tri-
pods; he points out where they are to place them, then fixes
his eyes on Eugenius.

Satyrus The dog, I loathe him ! fingering some toy
He means to give the princess. Insolence
For him to note her birthday !

(Going up to Eugenius) Chamberlain,
Some gift you would present ?

2 B 2



Attila, My Atilla /

Eugenius That's my affair.

Satyr us Indeed ! But you mistake : nothing that

touches
My princess. . .

Eugenlns Mine Honoria.

Satyrus I say nothing

Touching the honour of my Empress' daughter
Has ever been indifferent to me.

Eugenius (Shrugging his shoulders] She has her pre-
ferences, and does not choose
Her mother's chamberlain for confidant.

Satyrus (To a Gothic lad] Slave, there must be fresh
garlands ; wreathe those pillars.

(In the same voice to Eugenius) Give me that bracelet !

Eugenius Shall we come to blows !
You fool, you think I do not know my place !
This is the princess' bracelet ; I am waiting
To give it back to her : that privilege
Surely belongs to me, her chamberlain.
I must reprove her for her carelessness
In leaving it about.

(He holds it up provokingly before Satyrus)

Satyrus (Sharply) You know the news ?

Eugenius Why naturally there is nothing you
Can tell me, holding office similar
To mine, except some tattle of the court.

Satyrus I beg your pardon, I am higher up
The scale than you Placidia's officer,



Attila, My Attila!

And able therefore to announce her pleasure
To you as to the court.

(Close to him and speaking so that the slaves do

not hear)

Our pretty princess
To-day is made Augusta.
Eugenius What a farce !

Satyrus Her mother is in earnest, and commands
The servants to remember that this title
Removes the princess from all intimate
Connection with them. Do not use reproof.
Why, you have dropped the bangle.

(He moves down the room) Fritigern
Now Pluto catch you, rascal !

(He buffets a slave-boy who has knocked over a tripod)
Eugenius Were she dead
I should be nearer to her !

Satyrus (Coming up to him again) Chamberlain,
I must instruct you : absolute prostration,
You know, before Augusta.

Eugenius (Between his teeth) Damn your eyes !
Satyrus You never must address her ; but in silence,
And with your lids kept on the ground . . .

(Enter HONORIA, dressed very simply in white;
Eugenius looks up at her with a flash of

admiration]

Honor ia Dear hearts,
How grave you look, some point of etiquette



Attila, My Attiia !

Knitting your brows ! On whom will you confer
The place of honour at my feast to-night ?
Meanwhile I am sixteen.

Satyrus And such a beauty,

Venus is doubtless pouting. (To Eugenius) Chamberlain,
Our blessed princess should have kept her room
Till summoned by her mother to receive
The state's congratulations on her birthday.

Honoria But no one greeted me. I sat alone
So long j and then I heard the slaves at work
Unrolling the big tapestries the bustle
Of steps attracted me, and here I am !
Now set me on that throne and talk to me.
Eugenius, help !

Satyrus (Pushing him back) Eugenius must attend
To these instructions.

(He holds out a roll of parchment. EUGENIUS impa-
tiently takes and reads it as he goes out. One by
one the slaves leave^ having finished their pre-
parations)

You must be content,

My sweet chick of an empress, with my homage,
Just for the present ; more will follow soon
The perfect homage of the stiffened back
And lowered eye and more than stiffened tongue.

Honoria O Satyrus, but that is very sad :
I hate formalities so much the banquet,
The stupid faces, all those serious men,



Attila, My Attila !

Who might cheer death a little if his guests,
But do not interest me. How sweet a silk
They have hung up to canopy that chair !
Satyr us Your chair.
Honoria Then I am glad I am sixteen.
Satyr us But hear my counsel : you must be demure
Now you are growing older.

Honoria How delicious
When growing older means that every day
One is a little nearer to one's youth ;
A little nearer oh, I can be solemn !
A little nearer to the grave, but then
What grave ? The grave of one's own wretched child-
hood,

With all the pedagogues and punishments
That make it hateful. Who would be a child ?
The only honest thing that children do
Is to cry out with rage when they are whipt ;
They never wander where they have a mind,
They never eat or drink what they are fond of,
And they are always hearing of their faults.
It is so doleful.

Satyrus, what right
Had you to send Eugenius away ?
He is my chamberlain.

Satyrus (Not heeding) Princess, your mother
Is planning for you on this festival
An unexpected pleasure.



Attila, My Attila !

Honoria Scarcely that
No pleasure that a parent plans can be
An unexpected pleasure, for one knows
So well beforehand what they think will please :
A solid benefit, an empty honour,
More purses in the treasury, but nothing,
Nothing to spend to-day the way we like.
And then my mother is so dismal.

Satyr us (In an alarmed whisper] Hush,
She enters with her train.

(GALL A PLACIDIA advances^ escorted by several mutes
and other attendants. HONORIA receives her
mother with the deepest reverence^ remaining
prostrate till she is on the throne)

Placidia But how is this,
That you are here, unsummoned ? Satyrus
And on this day ! It is a grave offence.

Honoria Mother, it was no fault of his.

Placidia (To Satyrus) Dismissal
Will follow on a second breach of rule.
An eunuch, and not versed in etiquette
What else is there to interest you ?

Satyrus So much !
Empress, your sorrows and your cares.

Placidia Well said !
I was unjust. Honoria, you are weeping,
And why, you foolish girl ?

Honoria It is my birthday,

8



Attila, My Attila !

And, mother, I am waiting for a kiss.

Placidla (To Satyr us and the others) Withdraw a little !
( They go Into the corridors at the side of the room and
Satyrus waits by the door of the audience-chamber
to the right)
Now embrace me, child !

Honoria I cannot. I should wet your robes with tears.
Let me go back into my room again ;
I have displeased you.

Placidia Do not be so headstrong !
Come here, Honoria ; you are now sixteen,
And I must talk with you.

Honoria No, do not, mother !
But there is something that I really want
To talk with you about, if you will listen . . .

( Twisting h er fingers)

For just a little while. I am too frightened
To speak of it to Marsa.

Placidia Well, what is it ?

Honoria I cannot even tell you . . . I am happy,
Yet so intensely wretched. Is it wrong
To feel like this ?

Placidia Quite proper to reserve
This confidence for me.

Honoria (In a /ow y eager voice) Then tell me all !
It seems some god that I am worshipping,
And do not know his name. Night after night
I have been like Europa on the sea



Attila, My Attila !

In spray and storm and utter loneliness,

Save for the sense that I was borne along

Riding in perfect safety and the peril

Was so delicious, for I steered my course

Right through the waves. Mother, in every dream

It was the same.

Placidia What pagan fancies hush !
Your nurse must be reproved for telling tales
Like this one of Europa. I can see
You have been too much with inferiors
They are not to be trusted. From to-day
You will be my companion.

Honoria ( In a high voice) Everywhere ?

Placidia Child, do not shriek like that your father's

habit,
But very vulgar.

Honoria (Irritably) If he did not please you,
Why did you choose my father ?

Placidia You suppose
That in my second marriage I had choice ?
My childless brother gave me to Constantius,
His Roman general and I have lived
As women must to please my family.

Honoria And not to please yourself ? Yet nurse declares
When you were taken prisoner by the Goths
In girlhood, you had lovers two at once.
I want to be a captive and have lovers,
Two at a time, and freely choose at last

10



Attila, My Attila !

The great, barbaric fellow as you chose.
Adolphus was a hero !

Placldia He was king
Before I would consent to marry him,
King of the Goths . . . and yet I will not feign,
I loved him, loved him dearly.

Honoria (Caressing her mother] I forgive
Your coldness to my father.

Placldia (Smiling^ as she returns Honoria 1 s caress)

A romance

Holds you at once ! But did you hear the end ?
I would not speak of it except to save
My daughter from the folly of desiring
A captive's miseries. My hero fell
At Barcelona by a traitor's hands ;
I was once more a prisoner, but this time
I was not wooed or flattered, I was set
To march on foot twelve miles before the horse
Of the assassin. All you know of me
Dates from that day.

Honoria (Afore passionately caressing her) O mother,

this is cruel,
And I so pity you . . .

Placidia (Holding Honoria's hand and looking out fixedly]

I had a son

By that first marriage. I have let the past
Be past ; but in his little, silver coffin
My life is buried. Do not speak to me,

ii



Attila, My Attila !

But keep my hands, I like to feel your fingers
How soft !

You see, there must not be romance,
Child, in your life.

Honorla I do not see it so.

Placidia I want to save you from how many things
That I have borne, that I would rather die
Than bear again.

Honor ia But let me bear them once !

Placidia I would prolong your youth and

(Enter Valentinian)

Honoria Valentinian,
Stolen from his tutor ! Why, how sweet of him !

Placidia But very premature. Congratulations
Must not be offered yet.

Honoria Brother and sister
Must have one kiss. (She embraces him]

Placidia (To Honoria} There is a great surprise
In preparation for you ; such an honour
As you are scarcely fitted to receive
At least in this poor raiment that you could not
Have dreamed, it is so wonderful.

Honoria (Shaking her head) Oh, nothing
Can be more wonderful than what I dream.
Val, are you in the secret ?

Valentinian In the plot
Whew ! I could tell you . . .

Placidia (Angrily) Valentinian !

12



Attila, My Attila !

(In a peremptory tone to Honoria] Dress !
Marsa has full instructions. Keep your room
Until I summon you.

Honoria (Going] What can it be ?

(She leaves the room^ Satyrus lifting the curtain for
her to pass]

Placidia Now, Valentinian, you must understand
The meaning of my action of to-day,
And not defeat it foolishly. I live,
As you must, for the glory of our house,
The Theodosian House : Honoria too
Must live for it. Think of the great example
Her cousin gives her in Byzantium !
Pulcheria, the Augusta, keeps herself
A virgin that her brother may continue
Sole emperor in the East, as in the West
It is my will you should be sole Augustus.
A son-in-law shall never share your throne ;
Yet no one less than emperor may espouse
The daughter of our sacred family.

Valentinian A proud distinction !

Placidia She must think it is,
And will, if you are wise.

(To Satyrus , who approaches at a sign from his mistress]

O Satyrus,

Is she not looking pretty ? All my life
I have been planning how to give her pleasure ;
But she is like her father. When I stooped

'3



Attila, My Attlla !

To give Constantius the imperial title

He held it sixteen months, and all that time

Satyrus Yes, madam, he kept falling off to sleep,
And lost in flesh.

Placidia (To Valentinian^ who is slinking of] No,

Valentinian, stay,

It will be well for you to hear the story,
To know your father's miserable end,
And learn what to avoid.

Satyrus Young gentleman,
Back to your place a little to the right.
Your father was a soldier, and was fond
Of drink, and dice, and swearing : in the purple
He found that he had nothing left to do,
And simply died.

( Earnestly ', as be turns to Placidia] Madam, if I may

speak,

Our little princess is as fresh and hearty
As (Bowing] your late consort ; if we cut her off
From every pleasure, we shall lose her too.

Valentinian Why should you trouble, mother, with

the girl ?
I will take care she does not spoil my life.

Placidia I would not have her wed, even for love,
If that were possible.

Satyrus Indeed, what future
Would you determine for her ?

Placidia None at all ;

H



Attila, My Attila !

Comfort is never with futurity.
Oh, you are far too solemn, all of you.
I want light-hearted children. . . . Nothing deep,
No prying into mysteries ! The young
Should let us take the tragic parts in life,
Us who are older.

(Turning severally to Valentinian^ Satyrus^ and Eugenius ^
who has entered and stands a little apart)

If you all combine
To show Honoria how blest she is
In being made Augusta we are safe.

Valentlnian But she will learn the truth.

Placidia Concerning life
A woman will believe what she is told,
If she is told it soon enough.

Satyrus Oh then,

Since there's no help, we all will do her honour,
Poor, little princess, to her heart's content.

Valentlnian I'll say I wish I had been born a girl.
What sport !

Placidia (To Eugenius) Eugenius, you have had in-
structions ?

Though you are young, you will retain your office ;
You are correct in conduct, and your manners
Formal and full of deference. There will be
But little need of change in your behaviour
Towards the Augusta. Simply emphasise
Her distance from all ordinary life ;



Attila, My Attila !

Treat her with adoration, we may hope
She will become a goddess. Summon her.

(Exit Eugenius)
Good Satyrus, why do you look so grim ?

Satyrus Because that fellow has your confidence,
And can deceive you with his smirks and bows.
If I were in his place

Placidla (Smiling) You would do harm,
And make my child a rebel. No contention !
You must support me at this crisis. See,

(Re-enter Honor ia with Eugenius^ Marsa^ and a

train of girls)

There is a stormy pout upon her lip,
Her father's pout.

Satyrus They enter like two lovers ;
He takes her hand.

Placidia She is not keeping step,
That is the reason ; now he gives the form
Of salutation.

Satyrus Whispering in her ear !

( Honor ia breads away from Eugenius , and stands
forward proudly)

Honor ia But, dear ones, I have seen you all before :
I can do nothing for a second time ;
And now I have put on my birthday-dress
My thoughts are of myself. What can you say
Or do to please me, and, above all things,
What is this wonderful, mysterious gift ?

16



Attila, My Attila !

Placidia I like your carriage. Daughter, ask yourself
What best would minister to your ambition,
Being the grand-child of so great an emperor
As Theodosius. What ?

Honoria To have my will
Like him.

Placidia What is your will ?

Honoria I cannot say,
It stretches out so far.

Placidia Youth has no answer
To any question : therefore Destiny
Summons with beckoning finger and no speech.
She summoned Theodosius from his exile
Among the sheep at Cauca, and to-day
She beckons you, his grand-child, to become
A crowned Augusta.

Honoria This is wonderful :

(Loofyng rapidly at the circle]
And should be joyous, but you all have faces
As after tidings of some great defeat.

Satyrus It is the shock of putting on new manners-
We must not treat you as a little puss
Her very slaves are free to banter with,
But ...

Honoria What ? You cannot change me in a minute,
And I must have some fun !

Placidia You are an empress.

Honoria But while you live and there is Valentinian ;

17 c



Attila, My Attila !

I cannot understand.

(Valentlnlan laughs)

Placidia You will be free
From all the cares of state, free to enjoy
Your dignities.

Honor la But what am I to do ?

Placidia The question of a slave ! Still less to do
The higher up one reaches, and at last,
On the throne, nothing.

Satyrus That is perfect bliss*

Honoria Nothing to do !

Placidia But so much to observe.
You will be present when ambassadors
Return, and smile at them when they depart :
You will accept rich gifts and will be envied
That is a woman's goal be envied, dear,
By other women.

Honoria While I envy them,
Unless you all are jesting.

Valentlnlan I'll begin
To show we are in earnest.

{Kneeling) Sacred one,
I swear to treat you as divinity
Whatever you command.

Honoria O Valentinian,
Dear boy, you must not mock me. It is cruel
To-day when I am serious.

(Petulantly) I refuse

,8



Attila, My Attila!

To be Augusta.

Valentinian (Nodding to Placldia) As I told you, mother.

(To Honor ia) But this has all been settled by the state
Without your intervention : women's business
Has to be settled so.

Honoria (Flashing out) I would not marry
An emperor at your bidding.

Valentinian ( Clapping his hands) Excellent.
O you green girl, you think I want a fellow
To share my throne ! Why, you are made Augusta
To keep you always inaccessible
To any suitor general, count, or king j
Not one of them shall plague you me, I mean.

Placidia Hush, Valentinian, when a girl becomes
A woman, it is usual for her mother
To speak to her of life.

Honoria (Passionately) Then you must tell me
What Valentinian meant.

Placidia Not here ... in private.

Honoria He said you only call me by this title
To keep away my suitors. Is it so ?
Was that his meaning ?

Valentinian (Doggedly) Yes.

Placidia Be dutiful,
And hold your peace.

Honoria He can be silent now.
But am I not to love ?

Placidia You are appointed

19 C 2



Attila, My Attila!

To be the very guardian of the West,
As saintly and in conduct as austere
As ...

Honor ia You ? I never could resemble you,
Not if I wished.

Placidia No, as Pulcheria, child,
Your cousin in the East.

Honor la (With terrified eyes) But she's a nun.

Placidia There you mistake : she simply does not marry
Because in all the world there is no suitor
Whom she could wed without humiliation
Or weakening of the empire.

Honoria All the same

Valentinian She is a virgin.

Honoria Do you think she wishes
Not to be married ?

Placidia She was made Augusta
At the same age as you, and ever since
Has kept her maiden-vow. .

Honoria She felt like that.
I do not ! I would rather drop down dead
Than live on like my cousin.

(With a gesture of despairing appeal) Mother, you
This cannot be your doom ! There is no way
Of blessing any human life except
One bless it at the source. You poison mine !
I should have been content with very little,
A birthday kiss, and then, had you been kind

20



Attila, My Attila !

But you are making winter now forever,
With just a word, betwixt us. From my heart
So much is gone already of the love
That was kept waiting for you. Bring it back j
Remove this curse from me !

Placidia Child, it is wisdom
To bear what fate appoints.

Honoria (Drawing back with a stunned, uncertain

movement^ and leaning on the arm of Ev genius)
If it were fate

It would be easy to endure her tortures :
This misery is something that you choose
To settle on me. It is fate to love,
You cannot alter that fate to be young
For just a little while. What is your hope ?
You cannot change my nature with the burthen
Of your mock title.

Placidia If I married you,
You could not say you would not be a wife :
You are Augusta there is no dispute.
I bore you for the purple, I provide
All that your blood requires ; and presently
I can be patient I shall see you grow
Reserved and haughty and so beautiful
Knowing you are a goddess ; on the coins
You will be graven, and your name inscribed
As Salus Reipublica. Respond
To the great future I have wrought for you,

21



Atttia, My dttila !

And let me pass down to my grave content.

Honoria (Loosing her grasp of Eugenius and advancing

toward her mother)
So this is your proposal : I become
The simple consolation of your age
By having no experience of my own,
No life unlinked from the starved end of yours,
No dreams I dream until they come to pass,
No taste of what I covet, no response !
But what must be must be : the old shall learn
The terror of that maxim. What must be
Must be^ if youth decrees it. You may order
My name graved on the coins and make your idol
Of any clay that mixes. . . .

Placidia In three hours
You will receive the formal recognition
Of your new honour.

(She turns to go^ then says to Satyrus^ who is hurriedly
lifting the curtain at the door)

Gently, Satyr us,
The girl must be rebuked.

(To Honoria) When you are old
You will not waste your time in prophecy ;
You will be in possession of events,
And silently dispose them to your will.
(Exit with Valentinian^ Satyrus^ and train. Honoria^
with a wave of her hand^ dismisses her women. Then,
turning to Marsa^ puts her arms round her neck)

22



Attila, My Attlla !

Honoria O Marsa, I have had one birthday-gift ;
But have you nothing for me, nothing real ?
I am not changed, but you are not yourselves.
I think that I shall die or else go mad
If you desert me, and become my servants.
Can you not spealc to me ?

Marsa We all, dear princess,
Have gifts ; their presentation is reserved.

Honoria Why then, no thanks at all.

(Eugenius goes out quietly)
There is a question
But first, you are my friend ?

Marsa You doubt it, dear ?

Honoria Then tell me, Marsa, you who are a wife,
What is it I am missing ?

Marsa Oh, I cannot !
There is no modesty in such discourse,


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