SCENE 7

Constantinople. Some CITIZENS loitering in the market. In the centre, the Patriarch’s palace, to the right a convent, to the left a grove. ADAM as TANCRED in the prime of manhood, with other knights, at the head of a troop of CRUSADERS returning from. Asia. They wave flags and heat drums. LUCIFER is his esquire. Evening. Later night.

FIRST CITIZEN
Here they come - a fresh host of barbarians!
Let’s run and bar the entrances against them
in case they feel like robbing us again.

SECOND CITIZEN
Away with the women: these rough guttersnipes
Are familiar with the pleasures of the harem.

FIRST CITIZEN
As our girls are with rights of conquerors.

ADAM
Stop right there. Why are you running away;
Can’t you see we bear the holy standard
Which unites us all, like brothers, in one cause?
We took our light of faith, the creed of love,
To Asia, that her savage hordes, where once
The holy cradle rocked to save us all,
Might feel its blessing. And would you now refuse
Your love to us?

FIRST CITIZEN
      We’ve heard this speech before:
Our houses were soon blazing all the same.
They hurry away

ADAM to the knights
Here you may see the cursed fruit of evil;
This is what happens when so many brigands
With base motives come waving the sacred flag
And slyly pander to the people’s passions,
Proclaiming themselves their unappointed leaders.
My fellow knights! While our swords testify
To spotless virtue, to praise of God’s great glory,
To womankind’s defence and chivalry,
We are committed to restrain this monster -
To lead him counter to his own desires
That he may labour to more noble ends.

LUCIFER
Fine words, Tancred, but what happens when
The people begin to doubt your leadership…

ADAM
Where spirit lodges victory does too.
I’ll crush them. -

LUCIFER
      And if they have their own spirit
Will you descend to meet it?

ADAM
      Why descend?
Is it not nobler to raise the creatures up?
To resign the field for lack of a few comrades
Is as contemptible as to refuse
The friendship of a man because one covets
His own share of the spoils.

LUCIFER
      Alas, alas,
Your great ideals are all reduced to this.
It was for this, the bloodshed in the Circus,
For this franchisement of the individual?
A wondrous species of fraternity!

ADAM
Don’t mock or think I fail to comprehend
The holy doctrines, the passion of my life.
Anyone who bears the sacred spark
And strives to join us - as he could and should -
Is heartily welcome, we will elevate him
To our ranks with one touch of the sword.
But we must guard the treasures of the order
Against the present all-engulfing chaos.
If only it would come, the day would come,
When barriers fall and all the world is pure,
Our redemption until then is incomplete.
But I would doubt the coming of that day
Had not the wheel been set in motion by
Our great and holy God Himself, in Person.
My friends, look round and see how you’re received,
Alone in the great bustle of the city.
There’s nothing for it, we must pitch our tents
In the nearest grove, as we have often done
Among the pagans. No doubt things will improve.
Begin the preparations. I will follow.
Each knight will answer for his soldiers’ conduct.
The CRUSADERS set up their camp

LUCIFER
What a shame that all your fine ideas
Should bear only that old proverbial apple,
Sweet blushes outside, rotten inside. -

ADAM
      Stop!
Have you no faith in nobler things?

LUCIFER
And what use if I had when your kind lacks it?
This Order of Chivalry which you set up
For beacon in the midst of a wild sea
Will one day be snuffed out, and half-collapsed,
Prove more a hazard to brave travellers
Than simple rocks which never served for light.
Everything that lives, that sheds a blessing,
Must die sometime; the spirit leaves the body
Which remains behind like a corrupted corpse
Infecting the new world that grows around it
With its poisonous miasma. This is all
The great and glorious past bequeaths to us.

ADAM
It may be by the time our Order falls
Its sacred doctrines might have penetrated
The masses and diverted all the danger.

LUCIFER
The sacred doctrines! The very things that damn you
Each blessed time you stumble on them, since
You chop them so fine, sharpen them so neatly,
Refine them, twist them, that they drive you mad
Or turn to fetters. The human mind cannot
Sustain precise ideas - yet, in your pride,
It is precisely such that you are seeking -
And you destroy yourselves in search of it.
Examine this sword - a hair’s breadth more or less
Will hardly change the nature of the weapon,
And so we could go on, reducing, adding:
At what precise point does the change occur?
Your senses will alert you in an instant
To alterations on a larger scale.
Why should I waste my breath to tell you this?
Just look around you. You need not look far.
A few CITIZENS return

ADAM
Dear friends, my men are tired and they need shelter
And surely here, within the capital
Of Christendom, they do not ask in vain. -

THIRD CITIZEN
The question is, are you a heretic?
That’s worse than being a pagan.

FOURTH CITIZEN
      Do you believe
In Homousion or Homousion?

ADAM
I don’t understand.

LUCIFER
      Refuse to tell them which.
It happens to be a burning issue here.

FOURTH CITIZEN
He hesitates. A heretic all right.

MORE CITIZENS
Have nothing to do with them, Let’s lock our houses.
A curse on anyone who gives them shelter.
They depart. The PATRIARCH appears in full ceremonial dress, accompanied by his retinue from the palace. They are followed by a band of FRIARS escorting a chained group of HERETICS. Soldiers and citizens bring up the rear

ADAM
Astonishing. But who is that great prince
Approaching us, who looks so proud and arrogant?

LUCIFER
The Patriarch. The heir of the apostles.

ADAM
And that ugly bare-foot tribe of underlings
Who wear a false cloak of humility
And seem to take such pleasure in pursuing
The group in chains?

LUCIFER
      They’re Christian cynics - friars.

ADAM
I’ve never seen their like among the hills
Back home.

LUCIFER
      Later you’ll see more. You know
How slowly leprosy travels. Best be careful
Not to offend such absolutely virtuous
And therefore arrogant people.

ADAM
      But what virtue
Could such a rabble possibly lay claim to?

LUCIFER
A virtue born of pain and self abasement,
As commanded by your Master on the Cross.

ADAM
But he employed them for the world’s redemption -
These cowards here are committing blasphemy.
Like rebels they disdain the good Lord’s grace.
It might be brave to shoot bears with a gun
But to take one to a gnat is idiotic.

LUCIFER
But if the gnat appears a bear to them
Are they not justified? And are they not
Right, in this heroic mood, to hound
Those who enjoy themselves - to hell if need be?

ADAM
I am like Thomas: I see but can’t believe.
I shall confront these wonders face to face.
He approaches the PATRIARCH
We are Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, O Father,
Exhausted by our journey we need rest
But no one in the city will accept us,
You who have authority could help us.

PATRIARCH
My son, I fear I have no time to deal
With petty things. God’s Glory and my flock
Require my services. I must pass judgment
On heretics like these who sow their poison
And spread like weeds. With fire and sword we prune them
But hell returns them to us every time
With greater strength. If you are truly soldiers
Of Christ why seek the distant Saracen?
Here you’ll find more fearsome foes. Arise then,
Assault their strongholds, root them out, destroy
The old, the women, every girl and boy.

ADAM
Those harmless ones? You cannot wish that, Father.

PATRIARCH
The snake is harmless too while it is young
And then again once it has lost its fangs -
But would you spare it?

ADAM
      It must be a vile sin
Indeed to rouse such passionate anger in
The Church of Love.

PATRIARCH
      My son, love is not that
Which panders to the body, but that which guides
The spirit home, by fire or sword if need be,
To Him who said: I came not to bring peace
But war unto the world. These wicked infidels
Proclaim the idea of Homoiusion
In the mystic doctrine of the Trinity,
Although the True Church has declared the doctrine
Of Homousion an article of faith.

FRIARS
The fire is burning, to the stake with them!

ADAM
My friends, concede that single letter, “i”
And you can make a nobler sacrifice
Crusading for the Holy Sepulchre.

AN OLD HERETIC
O lead us not into temptation, Satan.
We bleed, as God ordained, for the true faith.
FRIAR
Impertinence! To boast of the true faith.

[FRIAR]

OLD HERETIC
Is not the synod of Rimini with us,
And countless others?

FRIAR
      They were all misled.
Did not Nicea and other orthodox
Synods take our part?

OLD HERETIC
      Those apostates!
Impertinence indeed to try their strength
Against ours. What Fathers of the Church
Have you to match our Arius and both
Eusebiuses?

FRIAR
      Could you produce a single
Athanasius?

OLD HERETIC
Where are your martyrs?

FRIAR
We have more than you!

OLD HERETIC
      Oh yes, fine martyrs!
Lured to their deaths by visions of the devil.
I say to you, you are great Babylon,
That whore described by St John in his book,
Who’ll perish in the full sight of the world.

FRIAR
The seven-headed Beast, the Antichrist!
St John knew all about you, what you are -
You curs and frauds, companions of the devil!

OLD HERETIC
You thieves, you snakes, you profligates, you gluttons…

PATRIARCH
Away with them, away. Don’t waste your time.
Glory to God and to the stake with them.

OLD HERETIC
Glory to God! Well said, you foul corruption.
The sacrifice indeed is to God’s glory.
You have the power and do as you desire,
But Heaven will judge whether your deeds are sound.
Already the hours of folly have been counted.
From our spilt blood fresh warriors will rise,
The idea survive, and that fierce flame which leaps
About us will shed light for centuries
To come. My friends, arise to death and glory!

HERETICS singing in chorus
l. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2. O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3. But thou art holy… (Psalm 22)

FRIARS interrupting with their own chorus
1. Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
2. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.
3. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me… (Psalm 35)
In the meantime the PATRIARCH and the procession move on. A few FRIARS carrying tracts mingle with the CRUSADERS

LUCIFER
Why stand so silently? Why are you trembling?
You think this is a tragedy. Regard it
As comedy instead: it will amuse you.

ADAM
O do not joke about it! That one can die
So resolutely for the letter “i”.
What then can we call sublime or noble?

LUCIFER
Whatever seems ridiculous to others.
The thickness of a hair divides the two -
Only some inner voice can judge between them,
And this close magistrate is sympathy
Which sanctifies or murders with its mockery.

ADAM
Why did I live to see such wickedness,
This skirmish in the proud domain of knowledge,
This deadly poison, masterfully extracted
From the freshest and most brilliant of flowers?
I Knew it once when it was in full beauty,
At the testing time, when faith was persecuted.
What miscreant has wasted it and ruined it?

LUCIFER
It’s victory herself that is to blame,
Breeding division, serving a hundred interests.
Defeat unites and propagates her martyrs
And gives such heretics their fortitude.

ADAM
I think I’d sooner throw away my sword
And go back to my homeland in the North
Where in the shadow of the ancient forests
A plain simplicity and manly honour
Might still defy this smooth age and its poison.
It only an inner voice did not keep whispering
That I would have to recreate that age.

LUCIFER
A vain endeavour. You can never set
The individual soul against the age.
Time is a stream that bears or covers you:
A man may swim in it but not direct it.
Those whom the historians call great
Are those who understood their century
And never entertained original thought.
Dawn does not come because the cocks are crowing:
The dawn comes first, then cocks begin to crow.
Those people there in chains, who hasten on
To martyrdom while insults rain on them,
See but one set of footprints leading onward;
It’s from their ranks that new ideas arise;
They die for thoughts which their descendants breathe
Freely in with the common air. Enough.
Look at your camp - why are those scurvy friars
Tramping round it, trading, speechifying,
With weird outlandish gestures? Let us hear them.

FRIARS surrounded by jostling CRUSADERS
Come buy, Crusaders, buy the saving doctrines
Of repentance, the answer to all questions.
It tells how long the murderer, the lecher,
The temple desecrator, and false witness
Are doomed to suffer in the fires of hell.
It also teaches how the rich may gain
A year’s remittance through the payment of
Twenty solidi, while the poor pay three,
And those who lack the means may earn their pardon
By enduring a thousand lashes of the whip.
Who’ll make a purchase of this splendid book?
Come buy!

CRUSADERS
      One here. - And one here, holy father.

ADAM
The merchant’s bad, the customers are worse.
Come, draw your swords and break up this foul market!

LUCIFER in apparent confusion
I beg your pardon, this friar is an old friend.
And I have little quarrel with his kind,
As the Lord’s stock has risen so has mine.
I fear you have not quite kept pace with us.
EVE as ISAURA and HELENA, her maid, rush screaming to ADAM pursued by a few CRUSADERS who back off when they see him

EVE collapsing
Save me, conqueror! -

ADAM assisting her
      Peace now, noble lady,
You are safe here. Raise those lovely eyes.
How captivating! - Tell me what has happened.

HELENA
We had gone out in sheer delight of nature -
Seated in the deep shade of our garden,
Without a thought among the fragrant grasses
And hearing nothing but the nightingale,
When suddenly we saw two burning eyes
Maddened with lust, within a nearby thicket.
Frightened, we ran, pursued by four crusaders
Panting and pounding after us, who almost reached us,
And would have done so had we not found you.

ADAM
I don’t know that I’d wish to wake you up.
What if you should leave me, like a dream?
How can the flesh be so transformed to spirit,
So noble and so fit for adoration?

LUCIFER
The flesh transformed to spirit! Could fate devise
A fitter punishment for foolish love
Than to realize the very qualities
Bestowed on the beloved by the lover?

ADAM
Some instinct tells me we have met before
And stood together at the throne of God.

LUCIFER
I beg you never to forget that love,
Which may be quite amusing as a duet,
Is inevitably tedious to third parties.

ADAM
She looks up - smiles. O bless you, merciful heavens.

EVE
You have saved me, Knight, how shall I thank you?

ADAM
Are not your words reward enough for me?

LUCIFER to HELENA
Not even such a poor reward for me?

HELENA
What debt of gratitude do I owe you?

LUCIFER
Do you imagine that this noble knight
Intended to save you too? What vanity!
If a knight happens to rescue a fair lady
The squire is deemed to have saved the lady’s maid.

HELENA
So what have I gained? Either I am grateful
And end up in the same spot as before,
Or ungrateful, and facing equal danger.
Those four crusaders weren’t at all bad looking.

ADAM
O lady, command me. Where shall I escort you?

EVE
The convent doors are directly before us.

ADAM
The convent, you say? Surely its doors cannot
Debar me from my hope, O say they cannot!
Give me some favour to wear upon my cross
So that when I defend the faith in battle
I may remember this delightful vision
And never tire of waiting through long years
Until my race is won and the prize gained.

EVE
Take this ribbon. -

ADAM
      Darker than night itself?
O lady, give me hope, give hope, not sorrow.

EVE
This is my favour - I can give no other.
Hope is not bred behind the doors of convents.

ADAM
Neither is love. And how could there not be love
Where you are, lady! What you are wearing shows
That you have not yet taken the veil.

EVE
Do not torment me further with your questions -
It hurts me so to see you suffering.

LUCIFER
Will you too be immured within those walls?

HELENA
Yes, but the key has not been thrown away.

LUCIFER
What a shame! I could have penned so sweet
An elegy for such a sad occasion.

HELENA
Get away with you, you sly deceiver!

LUCIFER
But why? Is it not grand to think of me
Scouring the sea-bed in search of your lost key?

HELENA
I would not trouble you so far.

LUCIFER
      I’m going -
The monsters of the deep gape wide for me.

HELENA
Come back, come back, I fear for you so greatly -
Pick up the key at my windowsill instead.

ADAM
At least tell me your name, that in my prayers
I’ll know for whom to plead, that I may call
Some blessing down on you, since you refuse
To let me share the sadness of your fate.

EVE
My name? Isaura. What is yours, sir knight?
A cloistered virgin is more used to prayer.

ADAM
Tancred is my name.

EVE
      Farewell then, Tancred.

ADAM
Isaura, do not leave me quite so soon
Or you will make me curse the very name
I learned but now when you bade me farewell. -
A minute was too short for such a dream -
How can I continue to dream if you
Remain a mystery, if your fate yields
No golden thread to spin it out.

EVE
      Then hear it.
My father, like you, was himself a knight
In the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
One night they were surprised with fire and sword
And shouts of barbarians within the camp.
No hope remained of flight, and so he swore
To the Blessed Virgin that if he should escape
He’d offer me - a mere child then - to her,
He has returned and I, to keep his oath,
Have taken the sacrament.

ADAM
      O blessed mother!
Embodiment of love at its most pure,
Did you not turn affronted from this scene
Of blasphemy, this stain upon your virtue,
Which turns the grace of Heaven to a curse?

HELENA to LUCIFER
And don’t you want to know my history?

LUCIFER
I know already: she loved, was cheated, then
Became deceiver when she loved again.
Once more she loved, but soon her lover bored her;
And now her vacant heart wants a new boarder.

HELENA
How uncanny! Are you friend to the devil?
I wouldn’t have imagined you so modest
As to think my heart was short of a new guest.

LUCIFER to ADAM
My lord, do hurry. You can’t say farewell
And I cannot avoid making a conquest.

ADAM
Isaura, every word you speak is like
A sting in my heart. Sweeten the poison, lady,
With a kiss.

EVE
      You heard my vow, knight, what can I do?

ADAM
But that cannot prevent me loving you!

EVE
Then you are happy, but how can I forget you?
O Tancred, I am weakening, I must go.
God be with you - we will meet in heaven.

ADAM
God go with you! I won’t forget this day.
EVE enters the convent

HELENA aside
And you, you coward - must I do everything?
aloud
The key is not in the ocean, you will find it
At my window.
She follows EVE

ADAM recovering
      We had better go.

LUCIFER
It’s too late now, and there’s an end to it.
You see the foolishness of all your kind
Who regard a woman merely as an object
Of passion, and brush the bloom of poetry
From her brow with horny hands, and rob yourself
Of love’s most tender and enchanting blossom;
Then raise her, like a goddess, on an altar
And bleed for her and struggle pointlessly
While her kisses languish in sterility. -
Why not respect and honour her as a woman
Within the appointed sphere of womanhood?
In the meantime it has grown quite dark and the moon has risen. EVE and HELENA are seen at the window

EVE
How longingly he looked at me and trembled,
This mighty hero trembled there before me,
But my maiden honour and my faith command me
And so I’m bound to suffer here like any
Sacrificial lamb.

HELENA
      The madness of our sex
Amazes me! For once we break the chains
Of prejudice we set off in pursuit
Of bestial pleasures, stripping off our masks
Of dignity, and roll about in mud
With wild abandon. If we leave the chains
Intact we go in fear of our own shadows
And allow our fairest charms to fade away,
Depriving us and others of their pleasure. -
Is there no middle way? I cannot see
What harm there can be in some brief encounter
Discreetly managed, a little love affair.
A woman, after all, is not a spirit.

EVE
Oh, Helena, look out, is he still waiting?
How could he have departed quite so lightly.
If only I could hear him speak again.

ADAM to LUCIFER
Look back - is she not standing at the window,
Oh, will she not look out at me once more?
If only I could see her slender shape
Again - Isaura, forgive me waiting here.

EVE
Better for both of us for you to go.
A broken heart is quickly enough mended,
But broken again the pain is more intense. -

ADAM
Aren’t you afraid when you look up at the night,
So silent and yet beating like a heart
For love that is forbidden us alone?
Aren’t you afraid of falling under its spell?

EVE
All this exists in me like a faint dream
Come down from heaven to haunt me on the earth;
Waves of sweet music are flooding through the air,
I see a host of guardian angels smiling
Behind each bough with kisses on their lips.
But they no longer speak to us, dear Tancred.

ADAM
And why, oh why should this foul wall divide us?
So often have I breached the pagan ramparts,
Why should I not breach these walls just as well? -

LUCIFER
The spirit of the age defends these walls
And it is stronger than you, that is why.

ADAM
      Who says so?
A torch flares up in the background

CHORUS OF HERETICS in the distance
20. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the
dog.
21. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns
of the unicorns.
22. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the
congregation will I praise thee. (Psalm 22)

EVE
O Lord have mercy on their sinful souls! -

ADAM
shrinking away
A dreadful hymn!

LUCIFER
      It is your wedding march.

ADAM
So let it be, but I am not afraid.
For you, my love, I would dare anything.

CHORUS OF FRIARS in the distance
26. …let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
27. Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. (Psalm 35)
At the commencement of the above Psalm, ADAM, who had advanced to the gate of the convent, stops again. An owl screeches from the tower, the air is filled with flying witches, and before the door a SKELETON rises from the ground and threatens ADAM

EVE slamming the window
God save us all!

SKELETON
      Back from this hallowed porch!

ADAM
Who are you monster?

SKELETON
      One who is sure to be
Present at all your kisses and embraces.

WITCHES cackling
Sweet the sowing, sour the fruit,
Breed dove with serpent, we call out
Isaura!

ADAM
      Ah, what dreadful shapes are these?
Have you transformed yourselves or is it I?
I knew you when you smiled and hoped to please.
What is dream here, what reality?
Your spell has bound my arms, I cannot move. -

LUCIFER
I have stumbled on congenial company.
I’ve waited long enough for luck like this,
Such seemly and attractive troupes of witches
Who far outbrazen any naked hussy,
And my terrifying old companion, death,
That twisted image of frigid virtue who
Will serve to repel the children of the earth.
All welcome! I regret I have no time
To while away the night with you in chatter.
The phantoms disappear
Arise, Tancred, arise! Your paramour
Has slammed the window; why should we stand here
All night? The wind blows cold, you’ll catch a chill.
Helena’s on her way, what should I do?
Should the devil go canoodling with a wench
He’d never live it down as long as he lived,
And he himself would dissipate his power.
It’s strange how men with passion in their hearts
Will long and languish constantly for love
And reap mere pain. The devil’s heart of ice
Escapes it only in the nick of time.

ADAM
Lead on, lead on to new life, Lucifer!
I took to arms for great ideals but found
Their application wicked and accursed,
Man sacrificed to satisfy God’s honour,
And men sunk too low to achieve my goals.
I wanted to ennoble all our pleasures
But man has branded sweet delight with shame.
The sword of chivalry I held aloft
Has broken in my heart. To new terrain -
My value has been amply demonstrated,
I know now how to strive and to resign,
Can leave the field without disgrace. Let nothing
Henceforth set my soul on fire, the world
May go about its business as it pleases,
I shan’t attempt to change its course again
But shall gaze with equanimity upon
Its foibles. I’m exhausted. I need rest.

LUCIFER
Rest then. But I hardly dare believe
That your spirit with its restless energy
Will let you rest for long. Follow me, Adam!


VisszaKezd§lapEl§re