SCENE 5

Athens. A public square with a tribune in the centre. On one side, in the foreground, the open porch of a temple with statues of gods, garlands and an altar. EVE as LUCIA, wife of MILTIADES the general (ADAM), with her son KIMON, is accompanied by a few slaves bearing objects for sacrifice. She approaches the temple. A sunny morning. Ragged people are moving to and fro.

EVE
This way, dear son, this way. Now look out there -
Your father’s nimble craft took just that course,
Bound for a war beyond our own frontiers.
Barbarians live there, a reckless people,
Threatening our country’s liberty.
Pray, pray, my son, that heaven defend our cause
And bring your noble father safely home.

KIMON
But why should father travel all that way
To defend such cowardly and ragged people,
Leaving you, dear mother, to pine at home?

EVE
Hush! You must not judge your virtuous father -
The curse of heaven lies on such a child.
Only a doting woman has the right
To rue the greater actions of her husband
Which, were he to neglect, might bring disgrace.
Your father acted as becomes a man.

KIMON
You fear he’s weak, and might be beaten, mother?

EVE
Oh no, my son, your father’s brave, he’ll triumph.
There’s only one thing that I am afraid of,
That he may fail to conquer himself.

KIMON
      But how?

EVE
In the human soul there dwells a powerful voice -
Ambition is its name. In slaves it’s dormant
Or else, for lack of scope, turns criminal.
But liberty enriches it with blood,
And it expands, attains to civic virtue
Which in its turn gives birth to all things sweet
And noble. Grown overweening though it turns
Against its mother, until one or the other
Bleeds to death. Should this voice strengthen in him
So he betrayed his sacred home, then I,
Yes, even I would curse him. Pray, my son.
They enter the temple. More people collect in the precinct

FIRST MAN
We never hear exciting news these days,
It seems our troops have failed to find the enemy.

SECOND MAN
And here at home the world has grown so sleepy,
Old habits of intrigue are quite neglected -
To put one into execution would
Give people’s throats at least some exercise.
All morning I’ve been up and down the agora
But nobody has tried to buy my vote.

FIRST MAN
A dull old life, but what are we to do?

THIRD MAN
A little stirring would not come amiss.
EVE in the meantime has lit the altar fire, washed her hands, and prepared her sacrifice. Her attendants begin a chant which, verse by verse, blends into the next scene. The place is now filled with people. Two DEMAGOGUES contest the podium

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
Get off. This pitch is mine. If I don’t speak.
Our country’s threatened and might well be lost.
The people roar approval

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
It’s Lost each time you do. Get off, you hireling!
The people laugh and applaud

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
But you’re no hireling - nobody would hire you!
Dear citizens, it is with pain I speak,
Because it hurts a noble heart to bring
The mighty down to earth; and I must now
Drag one such man from his triumphal car
To face your judgment.

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
      Well begun, you schemer.
Yes, deck the sacrificial beast with garlands
Before you lead him to the block.

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
      Get off!

THE PEOPLE
Why should we listen to this renegade?
They begin to tug at the SECOND DEMAGOGUE

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
However it may hurt me, I must speak,
Because, O noble and all-powerful people
I prize you above any general.

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
This treacherous and undernourished rabble,
These dogs who Lick scraps from their master’s table?
You craven coward, I don’t envy your taste.

THE PEOPLE
Down with him, the traitor, down with him.
They treat him even more roughly. EVE sacrifices two doves and throws incense on the altar

EVE
O Holy Aphrodite, please accept
This smoke of sacrifice and hear my prayer.
I do not plead for laurel leaves to bless
My husband’s brow, but that his conquering breast
Might feel the warmth of homely tenderness.
A smiling EROS appears in the smoke of the sacrifice, surrounded by GRACES who cast rose petals over him. The group stands in deep devotion

ATTENDANTS
O hear her prayer!

EROS
      A pure heart’s benediction
o you, woman.

GRACES
And the protection of the Graces.

ATTENDANTS
All hail, Aphrodite!

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
      Hear my charge,
O people! Great Miltiades betrays
The country.

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
      He is lying! He is lying!
Hear me out now, or later bear the shame
Of your remorse.

FIRST MAN
      Get down from there, you scoundrel!
He is swept away into the crowd

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
The flower of our youth is in his hands.
Lemnos he took at one fell swoop, but now
He loiters at Pharos. He has been bought off.

THIRD MAN
He must be killed!

FIRST CITIZEN
      That’s right, let’s hear your voice
Or else be off with you, and off my payroll.
The sacrifice is over, the gods are gone

EVE rising
What is that noise outside? Let’s see, my son.

KIMON
It is a traitor they’re condemning, mother.

EVE moving to the top of the steps
My heart quakes when I see a hungry people
Passing judgment on the high and mighty.
When the illustrious are dragged through mud
The mob looks on and gloats maliciously,
As if this somehow justified their filth.

SECOND MAN
My lord, I’d like to shout, but I am hoarse.

SECOND CITIZEN
Here you are, go lubricate your throat.

SECOND MAN
What should I cry?

SECOND CITIZEN
      Demand the fellow’s death.

THE PEOPLE
Kill him! Kill him!

EVE
      Who are they baying for?

SECOND DEMAGOGUE moving to her
Who else but him who towers a head above
His fellow men - something they can’t bear.

EVE
Miltiades? Great heavens! And you too,
Old Crispus, you who were a slave until
My husband freed you, you call for his death?

CRIUSPUS
Forgive me, lady, only one of us
May live. My paymaster helps to maintain
My children; three of them.

EVE
      Alas, poor Crispus,
That fate should so degrade you. If you’re starving
I forgive you. But as for you, Thersites,
And for the rest of you who snoozed away
Your comfortable lives, without a care,
While he, my husband, beat back enemies
Outside the gate. - Oh, you ungrateful people!

THERSITES
It is indeed a bitter blow, my lady,
But what can we do in the current mood:
And who would dare to stake his whole estate
Against such scum, so hot with agitation!

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
I now pronounce the judgment of the people.
LUCIFER runs on in the guise of a terrified soldier

LUCIFER
I bring you news of danger. The enemy
Is at the gates!

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
      Impossible! Is not
Our victorious commander at the head?

LUCIFER
Yes, the foe himself. He heard you plotting,
And in his heart there rose a righteous anger.
It’s the fire and the sword for you this time.

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
You traitors, you have brought all this on us!

THE PEOPLE
Destroy them now - hurrah for the commander!
God help us all, let’s run wherever we can.
The end is here!

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
      No. Get before the gates
And render him homage!

EVE
      Now, by all the gods!
The judgment hurt me when I lost you through it,
But though this reunites us, my dear husband,
How much the worse to know it was deserved.

FIRST MAN
Take the man’s wife: if the city comes to harm
We’ll execute the pair, both child and mother.

EVE
I’d be happy enough to die for you, dear husband,
But let the child escape this country’s curse.

KIMON
Have no fear for me, mother, come with me.
This holy place will shield us from assault.
They step into the temple where two nymphs lower rose garlands behind them to keep the people out, who immediately withdraw. Off stage the sound of trumpets, People scatter screaming. The nymphs too disappear

LUCIFER cackling and rubbing his hands
A delicious joke. Pure intellect finds all
Scenes of heartbreak immensely comical.
Facing the temple
If only the sight of this eternally
Refreshed and youthful beauty did not shake me,
Oh what a chill this strange power wakes in me
That lends a naked body modesty,
Ennobles sin and renders fate sublime
Covering it with roses and sweet kisses
Of simplicity. But why this long delay
Before my world with all its monstrous forms,
Of terror and uncertainty, can come
Into its own and frighten off this mirage,
Which reawakens humankind each time
I sense the victory at hand. But wait,
And we shall see when death in all its horror
Makes its appearance in a little while
Whether this poor shadow play has run
Its course and finally rung down the curtain.
He blends into the crowd. ADAM, in the guise of wounded MILTIADES, leads an armed company into the forum. The DEMAGOGUES and the crowd go pleading before him

THE PEOPLE
Long live the leader! Pardon us, my lord!

ADAM
What have you done that you should beg my pardon?
What can the strong require from the weak?
But where’s my wife to greet me, and my child -
Surely no harm can have befallen them?

EVE
O why return at all, Miltiades,
If I can take no pleasure in your coming?
My son, support your mother or she faints…
He leaves you nothing, not even his honour!

ADAM
What is this? I don’t understand. The people
Crawl before me, my own wife curses me
And all the while my wounds bleed for my country.

EVE
Your country and my heart both bleed the more.
Why come trailing battalions behind you?

ADAM
Is this so unbefitting to my rank?
I come because a serious wound prevents me
From exercising all my usual duties.
I come to lay my power before the feet
Of my commissioners, the mighty people,
To render up to them my true account.
You are discharged, my honourable fellows,
You’ve earned the sanctuary of hearth and home.
And as for me, I dedicate to thee,
Pallas Athene, my sword upon thine altar.
He is helped into the temple. His troops disperse

EVE embracing him
Miltiades, you great and noble man,
Show me a happier woman than your wife!
Look, look - your son, how he resembles you,
How tall he is, how handsome!

ADAM
      Ah, my dears!

KIMON
Of course I knew whatever father did
Was sure to be done well. -

EVE
      Oh do not shame me,
I should have known it better, being his wife.

ADAM
My son, present your father’s sword for him.

KIMON hanging up the sword
Take charge, O Goddess, of this precious sword
Until the time when I return for it.

EVE
This double sacrifice may I, as mother,
Strew with incense. Observe it, O Athene.
She sprinkles incense

FIRST DEMAGOGUE on the rostrum
Was I not right to say he was a traitor?
That Darius bribed him? The wound was a mere sham.
He simply does not wish to fight in battle.

THE PEOPLE
Then he must die!

ADAM
      What is that noise outside?

EVE
Such dreadful words, Miltiades. The mob -
They still insist on calling you a traitor.

ADAM
Ridiculous! That I who gained the victory
At Marathon should now be called a traitor.

EVE
How true! The world has grown so wicked in your
Absence.

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
Why wait? Take him!
The people crowd before the temple, LUCIFER among them

EVE
      Miltiades !
This sanctuary will shield us, stay in there. -
Oh, why did you dispense with all your troops?
And why did you not sack this den of vice?
These guttersnipes are only fit for shackles;
They realize that you were born to rule them,
Are nobler than the lot of them together,
And that is why they’d sooner murder you
Than worship at your feet.

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
      You hear her words?
A traitor’s wife!

EVE
      It is a woman’s right
To shield her husband even if he is guilty,
Then how much more when he is innocent
As my lord is, and his foes as foul as you.

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
O mighty populace! Why let yourself
Be so insulted by her?

FIRST MAN
      Perhaps she’s right.

FIRST CITIZEN
Whoever speaks for them is suspect. Bawl
Your filthy lungs out or you’ll starve like beasts.

THE PEOPLE
Kill him! Kill him!

ADAM
      Shield the boy, don’t let him
See my blood. Don’t cling to my breast, woman.
The lightning that’s about to strike the rock
Must not strike you. Now let me die alone -
Why strive to live when the idea of freedom
For which I always fought appears so senseless.

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
Why hesitate?

THE PEOPLE
      Let’s kill him. Kill him now!

ADAM
I cannot bring myself to curse this rabble,
They’re not to blame, they were created craven.
Sheer misery has marked them down as slaves,
And slavery degrades them to this level -
The bloody tools of puffed-up demagogues.
And only I was fool enough to think
That people such as this would welcome freedom.

LUCIFER aside
The perfect epitaph! And it will do
For the tombs of many great men after you.

ADAM
Take me away. I make no further claim
Upon this sanctuary.
He allows himself to be taken away down the stairs, giving EVE tenderly over to the care of her attendants
      I am ready now.

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
Defend yourself. Not everything is lost.

ADAM
This injury would cry out if I spoke
In my defence.

SECOND DEMAGOGUE
      But speak. These very people
Grovelled before you just a while ago.

ADAM
That is why it’s useless. They won’t forgive
The victim of their own depravity.

LUCIFER
Then you are disillusioned?

ADAM
      Yes, immensely.

LUCIFER
And you admit you were a nobler master
To foolish crowds like this than they to you?

ADAM
Quite possibly, but both are damnable:
The names have changed, the outcome is the same.
How vain to fight against it. From now on
I shall not even try, since after all
What is there for fervent hearts to strive for?
No, let them live entirely for pleasure
And fill their thimbleful of life with it,
Then they can stagger drunkenly to Hades.
Show me a new path, Lucifer. Lead on,
And I will shake with laughter at all virtue
And all suffering. Give me the sensual life.
And you, O woman, you, who I recall
Once conjured me a bower in the desert,
If you bring up my son a citizen
As honest mothers do, then you are mad.
The painted girl who sits in the bordello
With puckered lips, her passions roused by wine,
Is right to mock you. Laugh - deny your virtue.
And now the bloody scaffold for my sins,
Though not for petty crime but something graver,
For inspiration by a noble cause.
In the meantime a block is brought before the temple steps. LUCIFER stands beside it with an axe. ADAM bows his head

FIRST DEMAGOGUE
Deliver the blow, and long live our great country!

LUCIFER whispering to ADAM
A pretty farewell, don’t you think? And now
My noble sir, do you not feel the chill,
The shudder as that ugly creature Death
Blows ever nearer with his icy breath?

EVE
Pallas, you did not hear my prayer! -
From the temple issues the GENIUS OF DEATH in the guise of a mild looking youth. He approaches ADAM with a flaming torch held upside down, and a wreath

ADAM
      She heard, -
Athene listened. Heaven will protect you.
Now suddenly my heart is calm, Lucia.

LUCIFER
A curse on you, O world of vain illusions,
Once again you’ve ruined my finest moment.

EVE
I curse this nation, a cold and common crew!
For happiness unfitted by demeanour,
Her fresh blossoms lie withered at your feet,
Although your freedom may seem sweet to you,
The bitterness for me is much the keener.


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