Laughing because he was or was not like
Some wench. . . .
Why, Delphis, in the name of Zeus
How come you here ?
C YD ILL A
What can have happened, Delphis ?
Be brief for pity !
Nothing, mother, nothing
That has not happened time on time before
To thee, to Damon, when the life ye thought
With pride and pleasure yours, has proved a dream.
They strike down on us from the top of heaven,
Bear us up in their talons, up and up,
Drop us : we fall, are crippled, maimed for life.
" Our dreams " ? nay, we are theirs for sport, for prey,
And life is the King Eagle,
The strongest, highest flyer, from whose clutch
The fall is fatal always.
Good Damon had been making me so happy
By telling. . . .
How he watched me near the zenith ?
Three years back
That dream pounced on me and began to soar ;
Having been sick, my heart had found new lies ;
The only thoughts I then had ears for were
Healthy, virtuous, sweet :
A country setting was the sole could take me
Three years back.
Damon might have guessed
From such a dizzy height
What fall was coming.
Ah, my boy, my boy !
Sit down, be patient, let us hear and aid,
Has aught befallen Amyntas ?
Would he were dead !
Would that I had been brute enough to slay him !-
Great Zeus, Hipparchus had so turned his head,
His every smile and word
As we sat by our fire, stung my fool's heart.
" How we laughed to see him curtsey,
Fidget strings about his waist,
Giggle, his beard caught in the chlamys' hem
Drawing it tight about his neck, just like
Our Baucis." Could not sleep
For thinking of the life they lead in towns ;
He said so : when, at last,
He sighed from dreamland, thoughts
I had been day-long brooding
Broke into vision.
A child, a girl,
Beautiful, nay more than others beautiful,
Not meant for marriage, not for one man meant,
You know what she will be ;
At six years old or seven her life is round her ;
A company all ages, old men, young men,
Whose vices she must prey on.
And the bent crone she will be is there too,
Patting her head and chuckling prophecies.
O cherry lips, O wild bird eyes,
gay invulnerable setter-at-nought
Of will, of virtue,
Thou art as constant a cause as is the sea,
As is the sun, as are the winds, as night,
Of opportunities not only but events ;
The unalterable past
Is full of thy contrivance,
Goddess of ruin !
No girl ; nay, nay,
Amyntas is young,
Has beauty and health, and yet
In his sleep I have seen him smile
And known that his dream was vile ;
Those eyes which brimmed over with glee
Till my life flowed as fresh as the sea
Those eyes, gloved each in a warm live lid,
May be glad that their visions are hid.
1 taught myself to rhyme ; the trick will cling.
Ah, Damon, day-lit vision is more dread
Than those which suddenly replace the dark !
When the dawn filtered through our tent of boughs
I saw him closely wrapped in his grey cloak,
His head upon a pile of caked thin leaves
Whose life had dried up full two years ago.
Their flakes shook in the breath from those moist lips ;
The vow his kiss would seal must prove, I knew
As friable as that pale ashen fritter ;
It had more body than reason dare expect
From that so beautiful creature's best intent.
He waking found me no more there ; so wanders
Through ^Etna's woods to-day
Calling at times, or questioning charcoal burners,
Till he shall strike a road shall lead him home :
Yet all his life must be spent as he spends
This day in whistling, wondering, singing, chatting,
In the great wood, vacant and amiable.
Can it be possible that thou desertest
Thy love, thy ward, the work of three long years,
Because chance, on an April holiday
Has filled this boy's talk with another man,
And wonder at another way of life ?
Worse than a woman's is such jealousy ;
The lad must live !
Live, live ! to be sure, he must live !
I have lived, am a fool for my pains !
And yet, and yet,
This heart has ached to play the god for him :
Mine eye for his had sifted visible things ;
Speech had been filtered ere it reached his ear ;
Not in the world should he have lived, but breathed
Humanity's distilled quintessences ;
The indiscriminate multitude sorted should yield him
Acquaintance and friend discerned, chosen by me :
By me, who failed, wrecked my youth's prime, and
More wonderful than his gifts in the mire !
Yet if experience could not teach and save
Others from ignorance, why, towns would be
Ruins, and civil men like outlaws thieve,
Stab, riot, ere two generations passed.
Where is the Athens that Pericles loved ?
Where are the youths that were Socrates' friends ?
There was a town where all learnt
What the wisest had taught !
Why had crude Sparta such treasonous force ?
Could Philip of Macedon
Breed a true Greek of his son ?
What honour to conquer a world
Where Alcibiades failed,
Lead half-drilled highland hordes
Whose lust would inherit the wise ?
There is nothing art's industry shaped
But their idleness praising it mocked.
Thus Fate re-assumed her command
And laughed at experienced law.
What ails man to love with such pains ?
Why toil to create in the mind
Of those who shall close in his grave
The best that he is and has hoped ?
The longer permission he has,
The nobler the structure so raised,
The greater its downfall. Fools, fools,
Where is a town such as Pericles ruled ?
Where youths to replace those whom Socrates loved ?
Wise Damon, thou art silent ; Mother, thou
Hast only arms to cling about thy son.
Who can descry the purpose of a god
With eyes wide-open ? shut them, every fool
Can conjure up a world arriving somewhere,
Resulting in what he may call perfection.
Evil must soon or late succeed to good.
There well may once have been a golden age :
Why should we treat it as a poet's tale ?
Yet, in those hills that hung o'er Arcady,
Some roving inebriate Daimon
Begat him fair children
On nymphs of the vineyard,
On nymphs of the rock :
And in the heart of the forest
Lay bound in white arms,
In action creative a father
Without a thought for his child ;
A purposeless god,
The forebear of men
To corrupt, ape, inherit, and spoil
That fine race beforehand with doom !
No, Damon, what's an answer worth to one
Whose mind has been flung open ?
Only last night,
The gates of my spirit gave entrance
Unto the great light ;
And I saw how virtue seduceth,
Not ended to-day or to-morrow
Like the passion for love,
Like the passion for life
But perennial pain
And age-long effort
Dead deeds are the teeth that shine
In the mouth that repeateth praise,
That spurs men to do high things
Since their fathers did higher before
To give more than they hope to receive,
To slave and to die in a secular cause !
The mouth that smiles over-praise
Eats out the heart of each fool
To feed the great dream of a race.
Yet wearied peoples each in turn awake
From virtue, as a man from his brief love,
And, roughly shaken, face the useless truth :
No answer to brute fact has ere been found.
Slaves of your slaves, caged in your furnished rooms,
Ushered to meals when reft of appetite,
Though hungry, bound to wait a stated hour,
Your dearest contemplation broken off
By the appointed summons to your bath ;
Racked with more thought for those whom you may flog
Than for those dear ; obsessed by your possessions
With a dull round of stale anxieties ;
Soon maintenance grows the extreme reach of hope
For those held in respect, as in a vice,
By citizens of whom they are the pick.
Of men the least bond is the roving seaman
Who hires himself to merchantman or pirate
For single voyages, stays where he may please,
Lives his purse empty in a dozen ports,
And ne'er obeys the ghost of what once was !
His laugh chimes readily ; his kiss, no symbol
Of aught to come, but cordial, eager, hot,
Leaves his to-morrow free. With him for comrade
Each day shall be enough, and what is good
Enjoyed, and what is evil borne or cursed.
I go, because I will not have a home,
Or here prefer to there, or near to far.
I go, because I will not have a friend
Lay claim upon my leisure this day week.
I will be melted by each smile that takes me ;
What though a hundred lips should meet with mine
A vagabond I shall be as the moon is.
The sun, the waves, the winds, all birds, all beasts,
Are ever on the move, and take what comes :
They are not parasites like plants and men
Rooted in that which fed them yesterday.
Not even memory shall follow Delphis,
For I will yield to all impulse save hers,
Therein alone subject to prescient rigour ;
Lest she should lure me back among the dying
Pilfer the present for the beggar past.
Free minds must bargain with each greedy moment
And seize the most that lies to hand at once.
Ye are too old to understand my words ;
I yet have youth enough, and can escape
From that which sucks each individual man
Into the common dream.
Stay, Delphis, hear what Damon has to say !
He is mad !
Mad yes mad as cruelty !
Poor, poor Cydilla ! was it then to this
That all my tale was prologue ?
Think of Amyntas, think of that poor boy,
Bereaved as we are both bereaved ! Come, come,
Find him, and say that Love himself has sent us
To offer our poor service in his stead.
Good Damon, help me find my wool ; my eyes
Are blind with tears ; then I will come at once !
We must be doing something, for I feel
We both shall drown our hearts with time to spare.
TEN YEARS LATER
Through the vine trellis we should see the stars,
Were fewer lamps alight. Amyntas thinks
It time we women bade Kyniska come
And in the bedroom be prepared for him.
Old, I lose teeth and mumble, yet men loved
To hear me once. Amyntas dear, thou art
Mine by adoption, brother and heir to Delphis ;
So I may claim thy patience even though
Thy bride must wait. Gnatho the halt ship-master
Three years since now, averred his eyes had seen
Lank, fever-racked, and stretched on filthy straw
My poor lost son, despaired of and untended
In a dark tavern on the Corinth quays.
And, though we later heard he had become
A ragged follower of Pythagoras,
We could not find the man had met with him,
But ever this one thought some other said. . . .
While, should he yet be living, laws assert
Forfeit his every right, unmarried still
At forty-six, without a son, without
The piety to feed his friends with news,
His mother's heart with hope. Wicked or mad
He must be, there's an end.
But thou art staid,
Pious and seemly more than most young men ;
And thou didst love my Delphis and dost owe
To him thy first of training, taste for wisdom ;
And, grateful, thou hast vowed before our hearth
To tend it ever food and drink and prayer
For Delphis and his sires to offer daily
Where it yet never wanted. We have raised
His cenotaph hard by the other tombs ;
If, dead, he wanders in some foreign port
Terror to sailors and low inn-keepers
We cannot take the blame. Thy father's hale :
Ere he shall die thou well may'st have a son
Could feed the mountain hearth he keeps alive.
That thou, his heir, be my son's, he consents.
With sweet Kyniska thou receiv'st moreover
A fitting portion. Enjoy thy wealth, be happy
Nor deem me weak when yet once more I plead,
If Delphis, not as known and loved, but ah !
If worse than dead he should come back, I gone,
Let him have healing welcome, bounteous comfort
And freedom though he waste it in mere shame.
Dear heart, dear heart, these tears are out of place.
I swear, by those dread rites to-day performed
A first time at this hearth, to always be
Thy son, and love my brother, if he live.
Why, there he is !
Dead or alive
He stood between those pillars staring hard.
Quick, Damon, fetch him in.
I too will plead.
Affront not a dead man, thou wilt take harm.
O stay, Amyntas, take me with thee ! Wait !
Help me safeguard him from the dead man's glance.
Ah, my poor son, must he come home while I
Am giving all his substance to another. . . .
I'll after them to add my prayers to theirs.
rto to to to to to to to to
f f f f f f f f f
Who art thou ?
Hush, we are not out of ear-shot.
Amyntas, say, what kind of fool is he ?
But Delphis, hast thou heard thy mother's words ?
Yes, first and last ; but answer me, this bridegroom ?
What kind of fool may he be ? Lose no time.
Nay, come thou in. Fill thou Cydilla's arms ;
Her heart will flood its brim : Amyntas longs
To show thee to his bride, his bride to thee.
Less loud ! less loud, I would not spoil their feast.
Delphis is here ! Amyntas, here ; this way !
The old fool's drunk.
Hold him, stop him, help !
How dark it is I fear to fall !
Stand still, sweet love, till I return to thee.
Ai, ai, my foot is hurt !
Good Damon, help her ; 1 must follow him.
Amyntas, I'm in pain !
Where is my son ?
Amyntas, run ! O turn not back to us !
Haste ! he will get away !
Come, let us aid our pretty bride to rise.
I'll help thee lead her in. Courage, take heart !
?to> to> to> ^ fe ^ tov to to>
Well, that's no great hurt there's no wound at all.
How now, Amyntas, art thou back alone?
It is too dark to run. Not a leaf stirred
And not a foot-fall sounded from the lanes.
I called : none answered.
Ah, it was a shade.
All we have done appease and yield him rest !
Yet if he live, I'm thankful he heard all.
Art hurt, sweet love ?
'Tis better now.
A very little bruise to squeal about !
Girls like to have an ache or see their blood ;
Cut fingers breed them friends : but we in age
Thank Zeus if pain will sometimes let us smile
Or can be borne in silence. Come in, child,
We must confide thee to thy husband's bed ;
He'll give thee better cause for screams belike
Which thou wilt doubtless smother better ; come !
Think' st thou it was his double, not himself?
A shade ? Nonsense ! He seized my wrist, his gripe
Was like a vice, and proved him sound of flesh.
Had he his perfect mind ?
He spoke in scorn ;
But terse and clear.
Would I had followed him !
Thank Zeus that they can think it was his ghost.
I wonder how he lives ?
I thought him poorly clad.
Strange that he would not enter his own home !
HOLOFERNES, general of Nebuchadnezzar's army.
TWO CAPTAINS in the same.
BAGOAS, an eunuch, chief of Holofernes' servants.
ADONIKAM, boy slave to Holofernes.
JUDITH, a lady-patriot from Bethulia.
MIRA. her maid.
[Before HOLOFERNES' tent : after sundown. Canvas
tent-skirts block the whole stage : a curtained porch
occupies its centre. Thence to the right wing all is in a
glare as though many torches were congregated at some
distance, on the other side all is lost in shadow.
BAGOAS and a BOY enter from the right]
Last week I hired thee with pippins ; two days since
A comb of honey we agreed upon ;
This time here is a melon.
Give it me.
Nay, first, thou little glutton, sweat for it :
I buy an hour's work.
No ! not so long !
It may take less ; for even a pulpy child
Shall not need sweat.
When I fan him an hour
My arms will ache, in half an hour they ache.
'Tis harder work than wave the peacock fan.
'Tis far more varied, therefore wearies less.
If it does tire me as much wilt thou
Give me besides the melon something else ?
It will not ; so go in and make all clean.
He did eat dates and spat the stones about.
And there are stalks of grapes
Perchance not all stripped bare ;
About it, sharp ; go in !
[The child draws a tinder box from just within the tent on
the left of the entrance, and prepares to strike flint and
light a torch, while BAGOAS squats on the right of the
entrance, laying the melon down beside him.]
Mind, I shall search thee ere thou leave the tent.
I never steal jewels and may take the grapes.
Thou mayst ; but I shall search thee !
You want to tickle me and slap and pinch me.
What if I do, what if I do ? thou'rt fat !
BOY [rising with the lighted torch and bobbing it at
Ha, ha! I'll see thee called a fool, Bagoas.
I'll slip from out my shirt and run away.
Then will Hol'fernes question thee and say
" Adonikam steals nothing from me,/oo/\ "
Begone, thou monkey ; win thy wage with work.
[The BOY enters the tent]
BAGOAS [sits silent gazing out at the glare and then
Mine eyes are dim ; if they were all on fire
'Twould look as now they feasting look to me.
The thing we wot not of is ever near.
[He dozes off. A great shout within on the left.]
BAGOAS [waking and stumbling to his feet]
Ha ! how ? it is ! the awning is on fire !
'Twill fall upon . . . Boy, come hither ; boy !
[Enter the BOY from the tent.]
Is the great awning there on fire?
BOY [laughing roguishly]
Canst thou not see ?
Mine eyes are dim : I dozed.
What is that light which has shot up so high ?
Torches they hold into the air ; the woman
That came down from Bethulia means to dance.
The Hebrew sorceress?
Canst see how she is dressed ?
Of course, I am not blind.
How ? my eyes are much too dim to see so far.
Like when she came, in all her things.
Art sure ?
Has she not laid aside a single veil ?
She has no veil on now.
Doth she dance fast ?
No, she just walks and bows and bows and walks
And holds her hands about.
Her bosom, is it bare?
No, but her arms are bare.
She is both wise and beautiful ; a fool
Had been half naked by this time to dance.
She feels hers is too sweet a body to starve.
She gave me half a yellow fig.
While she was talking to Hol'fernes once,
What were they speaking of ?
About how all her people in the hills
Would make their god so angry he'ld be sure
To help us take their towns away from them.
She thought she would do better for herself
By coming here to tell her prophecies
Before they were fulfilled and the towns taken.
Hol'fernes' eye devours her inch by inch ;
She's hooked him like a fish ; he'll make her rich.
They're very silent suddenly.
Because she sings.
What doth she sing ?
I think we hear them.
Of course we do.
And they sound low and sweet.
BOY [picking up the melon while BAGOAS gazes,
absorbed in listening, out towards the glare]
My lord is a great fool.
BOY [slinking off round the tent to the left]
[JUDITH'S voice afar off
' A time shall come
When peace shall reign
And each wide plain
With gladness hum.']
It minds me of the time when I was young
And thought to wed our pleasant neighbour's child.
She sang such songs.
[JUDITH'S voice as before
' A man shall hear
His children sing
Till drowned the sting
Of long-lost fear : ']
I pleased the eye as this plump child will do ;
They'll make an eunuch of him very like.
[JUDITH'S voice as before
' Wife loveth man ;
Man loveth wife ;
Each adds to life
The best they can.']
'Tis in the hills she means ; 'tis in the hills :
My home was in the hills ; the folk are good
They're kindlier-natured creatures in the hills.
She sings no more. Boy, boy ! Adonikam !
The dance will end soon, so make haste, make haste ;
Hast thou smoothed all the rucks out of the bed ?
[He totters towards the door of the tent]
Hast finished, boy ? Thou hast not set that straight . . .
[He enters the tent]
I told thee last time that it should be straight,
The pillow should be straight and beaten up.
Where art thou ? The limb's gone ; he's slipped away !
[He comes out from the tent.]
The melon ? Devilled imp !
The paunched child hath sneaked away with it.
What, want to fight and steal his wage half-earned !
Thou make a soldier, pulp without a pod !
Ah, I must work ! and if some jewel's gone,
They'll torture me : I had but slapped his hams.
He's nicer than a kitten pulled about
Because he laughs, and laughing shakes his fat.
Now I must stoop and bend my dreadful back :
How I shall ache ! but he likes to be slapped,
There's where it is ; youth likes so many things :
How little comforts when a man is old !
He's pleased to think he filched it ; grins at me ;
The melon tastes the better, I'll be bound.
His cunning tickles him ; but at my age
If one may not sit still 'tis best to die.
Alack, they come ! the lights are moving here ;
And nothing done !
[He hurries into the tent]
[Two BLACK SLAVES enter from the right, bearing
silver lamps, and take up positions on either side of
the entrance to the tent. Then HOLOFERNES enters
leading by the hand JUDITH, who is followed by her
maid MIRA ; four more BLACK SLAVES walking
Receive thine handmaid's thanks, O mighty captain.
Dear prophet-dancer, whom my soul doth cherish . . .
Thou right arm of that Nebuchadnezzar, who
Out of his mouth concluded the afflicting
Of the whole earth ; giving command which thou
Accomplishest, my life is magnified
By praises wherewith thou hast honoured me.
So now I bless thee, taking leave of thee.
Nay, quit me not ; by the great king, I deem
That every stalwart man will have his mock
If we part so. Thy tent is small and poor,
But mine is vast and filled with light and ease.
Thou hold'st thine handmaid vow-bound, deeply
Rise and go forth before the stars shall wane
And wash herself in the cold valley spring,
That purified she may plead with her God,
Who with his enemies conversed all day.
Trust hunger, dame, to cow thy fellow-townsmen,
And let me free thee from a troublous vow
Let not men say, Judith, Merari's daughter,
Weakened thee with her beauty, braided hair
And garments of gladness.
Tut ! learn we to-night
All our warm hearts can teach us.
What ! mighty Captain !
Pendant gold ornaments and loose lawn sleeves,
Have these sufficed to warp thy seasoned purpose,
And dim with fondness those determined eyes ?
Each day hast thou urged this ; but leisure me
And opportunity distract with gibes
That men will whisper if I let thee go.
As Nebuchadnezzar, who to thee is god,
Lives, and hath sent thee that no thing draw breath,
Beast, fowl, or man, save by his pleasure, let
Thine handmaid fail to rise, bathe, pray ;
God will refuse sure knowledge to her heart
Of whether the starved townsmen on yon bluff
Have tasted food unclean and earned the doom
Which thou, then as his rod, must wreak on them.
Nay, thou must pray the god of yonder hills,
For they are rude and difficult and barren :
Waste men and time I shall if he help not.
Wise is thy stern heart, Holofernes, now
As ever when thine handmaiden hath spoken
Of what concerns the will of thy great king.
Call me not stern, who am thy beauty's host
And gentle and abounding to thy needs.
" Stern ; " for thy great king bade thee to be stern
And with his hosts afflict the wide-spread earth.
"Stern," yes, on his behalf; on mine, on thine,
Gracious, free-handed. Thy beauty hates our prudence ;
Thine amorous eyes are wittier than thy counsels :
There ! come thou in and give me company
From this till midnight, when thou shalt be called,
Go forth and wash and, being clean, shalt pray.
Now till my last day, it shall be my joy