Part 27 out of 32
Which by the Israelites is called the Sabbath,
And in a temple on Mount Gerizim
Without a name, they offered sacrifice.
Now we, who are Sidonians, beseech thee,
Who art our benefactor and our savior,
Not to confound us with these wicked Jews,
But to give royal order and injunction
To Apollonius in Samaria.
Thy governor, and likewise to Nicanor,
Thy procurator, no more to molest us;
And let our nameless temple now be named
The Temple of Jupiter Hellenius."
This shall be done. Full well it pleaseth me
Ye are not Jews, or are no longer Jews,
But Greeks; if not by birth, yet Greeks by custom.
Your nameless temple shall receive the name
Of Jupiter Hellenius. Ye may go!
SCENE III. -- ANTIOCHUS; JASON.
My task is easier than I dreamed. These people
Meet me half-way. Jason, didst thou take note
How these Samaritans of Sichem said
They were not Jews? that they were Medes and Persians,
They were Sidonians, anything but Jews?
'T is of good augury. The rest will follow
Till the whole land is Hellenized.
These are Samaritans. The tribe of Judah
Is of a different temper, and the task
Will be more difficult.
Dost thou gainsay me?
I know the stubborn nature of the Jew.
Yesterday, Eleazer, an old man,
Being fourscore years and ten, chose rather death
By torture than to eat the flesh of swine.
The life is in the blood, and the whole nation
Shall bleed to death, or it shall change its faith!
Hundreds have fled already to the mountains
Of Ephraim, where Judas Maccabaeus
Hath raised the standard of revolt against thee.
I will burn down their city, and will make it
Waste as a wilderness. Its thoroughfares
Shall be but furrows in a field of ashes.
It shall be sown with salt as Sodom is!
This hundred and fifty-third Olympiad
Shall have a broad and blood-red sea upon it,
Stamped with the awful letters of my name,
Antiochus the God, Epiphanes!--
Where are those Seven Sons?
My Lord, they wait
Thy royal pleasure.
They shall wait no longer!
The Dungeons in the Citadel.
SCENE I. -- THE MOTHER of the SEVEN SONS alone, listening.
Be strong, my heart!
Break not till they are dead,
All, all my Seven Sons; then burst asunder,
And let this tortured and tormented soul
Leap and rush out like water through the shards
Of earthen vessels broken at a well.
O my dear children, mine in life and death,
I know not how ye came into my womb;
I neither gave you breath, nor gave you life,
And neither was it I that formed the members
Of every one of you. But the Creator,
Who made the world, and made the heavens above us,
Who formed the generation of mankind,
And found out the beginning of all things,
He gave you breath and life, and will again
Of his own mercy, as ye now regard
Not your own selves, but his eternal law.
I do not murmur, nay, I thank thee, God,
That I and mine have not been deemed unworthy
To suffer for thy sake, and for thy law,
And for the many sins of Israel.
Hark! I can hear within the sound of scourges!
I feel them more than ye do, O my sons!
But cannot come to you. I, who was wont
To wake at night at the least cry ye made,
To whom ye ran at every slightest hurt,
I cannot take you now into my lap
And soothe your pain, but God will take you all
Into his pitying arms, and comfort you,
And give you rest.
A VOICE (within).
What wouldst thou ask of us?
Ready are we to die, but we will never
Transgress the law and customs of our fathers.
It is the Voice of my first-born! O brave
And noble boy! Thou hast the privilege
Of dying first, as thou wast born the first.
THE SAME VOICE (within).
God looketh on us, and hath comfort in us;
As Moses in his song of old declared,
He in his servants shall be comforted.
I knew thou wouldst not fail!--He speaks no more,
He is beyond all pain!
If thou eat not
Thou shalt be tortured throughout all the members
Of thy whole body. Wilt thou eat then?
SECOND VOICE. (within).
It is Adaiah's voice. I tremble for him.
I know his nature, devious as the wind,
And swift to change, gentle and yielding always.
Be steadfast, O my son!
THE SAME VOICE (within).
Thou, like a fury,
Takest us from this present life, but God,
Who rules the world, shall raise us up again
Into life everlasting.
God, I thank thee
That thou hast breathed into that timid heart
Courage to die for thee. O my Adaiah,
Witness of God! if thou for whom I feared
Canst thus encounter death, I need not fear;
The others will not shrink.
THIRD VOICE (within).
Behold these hands
Held out to thee, O King Antiochus,
Not to implore thy mercy, but to show
That I despise them. He who gave them to me
Will give them back again.
It is thy voice. For the last time I hear it;
For the last time on earth, but not the last.
To death it bids defiance and to torture.
It sounds to me as from another world,
And makes the petty miseries of this
Seem unto me as naught, and less than naught.
Farewell, my Avilan; nay, I should say
Welcome, my Avilan; for I am dead
Before thee. I am waiting for the others.
Why do they linger?
FOURTH VOICE (within).
It is good, O King,
Being put to death by men, to look for hope
From God, to be raised up again by him.
But thou--no resurrection shalt thou have
To life hereafter.
Four! already four!
Three are still living; nay, they all are living,
Half here, half there. Make haste, Antiochus,
To reunite us; for the sword that cleaves
These miserable bodies makes a door
Through which our souls, impatient of release,
Rush to each other's arms.
FIFTH VOICE (within).
Thou hast the power;
Thou doest what thou wilt. Abide awhile,
And thou shalt see the power of God, and how
He will torment thee and thy seed.
Why dost thou pause? Thou who hast slain already
So many Hebrew women, and hast hung
Their murdered infants round their necks, slay me,
For I too am a woman, and these boys
Are mine. Make haste to slay us all,
And hang my lifeless babes about my neck.
SIXTH VOICE (within).
Antiochus, that takest in hand
To strive against the God of Israel,
Thou shalt escape unpunished, for his wrath
Shall overtake thee and thy bloody house.
One more, my Sirion, and then all is ended.
Having put all to bed, then in my turn
I will lie down and sleep as sound as they.
My Sirion, my youngest, best beloved!
And those bright golden locks, that I so oft
Have curled about these fingers, even now
Are foul with blood and dust, like a lamb's fleece,
Slain in the shambles.--Not a sound I hear.
This silence is more terrible to me
Than any sound, than any cry of pain,
That might escape the lips of one who dies.
Doth his heart fail him? Doth he fall away
In the last hour from God? O Sirion, Sirion,
Art thou afraid? I do not hear thy voice.
Die as thy brothers died. Thou must not live!
SCENE II. -- THE MOTHER; ANTIOCHUS; SIRION,
Are they all dead?
Of all thy Seven Sons
One only lives. Behold them where they lie
How dost thou like this picture?
God in heaven!
Can a man do such deeds, and yet not die
By the recoil of his own wickedness?
Ye murdered, bleeding, mutilated bodies
That were my children once, and still are mine,
I cannot watch o'er you as Rispah watched
In sackcloth o'er the seven sons of Saul,
Till water drop upon you out of heaven
And wash this blood away! I cannot mourn
As she, the daughter of Aiah, mourned the dead,
From the beginning of the barley-harvest
Until the autumn rains, and suffered not
The birds of air to rest on them by day,
Nor the wild beasts by night. For ye have died
A better death, a death so full of life
That I ought rather to rejoice than mourn.--
Wherefore art thou not dead, O Sirion?
Wherefore art thou the only living thing
Among thy brothers dead? Art thou afraid?
O woman, I have spared him for thy sake,
For he is fair to look upon and comely;
And I have sworn to him by all the gods
That I would crown his life with joy and honor,
Heap treasures on him, luxuries, delights,
Make him my friend and keeper of my secrets,
If he would turn from your Mosaic Law
And be as we are; but he will not listen.
My noble Sirion!
Therefore I beseech thee,
Who art his mother, thou wouldst speak with him,
And wouldst persuade him. I am sick of blood.
Yea, I will speak with him and will persuade him.
O Sirion, my son! have pity on me,
On me that bare thee, and that gave thee suck,
And fed and nourished thee, and brought thee up
With the dear trouble of a mother's care
Unto this age. Look on the heavens above thee,
And on the earth and all that is therein;
Consider that God made them out of things
That were not; and that likewise in this manner
Mankind was made. Then fear not this tormentor
But, being worthy of thy brethren, take
Thy death as they did, that I may receive thee
Again in mercy with them.
I am mocked,
Yea, I am laughed to scorn.
Whom wait ye for?
Never will I obey the King's commandment,
But the commandment of the ancient Law,
That was by Moses given unto our fathers.
And thou, O godless man, that of all others
Art the most wicked, be not lifted up,
Nor puffed up with uncertain hopes, uplifting
Thy hand against the servants of the Lord,
For thou hast not escaped the righteous judgment
Of the Almighty God, who seeth all things!
He is no God of mine; I fear him not.
My brothers, who have suffered a brief pain,
Are dead; but thou, Antiochus, shalt suffer
The punishment of pride. I offer up
My body and my life, beseeching God
That he would speedily be merciful
Unto our nation, and that thou by plagues
Mysterious and by torments mayest confess
That he alone is God.
Ye both shall perish
By torments worse than any that your God,
Here or hereafter, hath in store for me.
My Sirion, I am proud of thee!
Go to thy bed of torture in yon chamber,
Where lie so many sleepers, heartless mother!
Thy footsteps will not wake them, nor thy voice,
Nor wilt thou hear, amid thy troubled dreams,
Thy children crying for thee in the night!
O Death, that stretchest thy white hands to me,
I fear them not, but press them to my lips,
That are as white as thine; for I am Death,
Nay, am the Mother of Death, seeing these sons
All lying lifeless.--Kiss me, Sirion.
The Battle-field of Beth-horon.
SCENE I. -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS in armor before his tent.
The trumpets sound; the echoes of the mountains
Answer them, as the Sabbath morning breaks
Over Beth-horon and its battle-field,
Where the great captain of the hosts of God,
A slave brought up in the brick-fields of Egypt,
O'ercame the Amorites. There was no day
Like that, before or after it, nor shall be.
The sun stood still; the hammers of the hail
Beat on their harness; and the captains set
Their weary feet upon the necks of kings,
As I will upon thine, Antiochus,
Thou man of blood!--Behold the rising sun
Strikes on the golden letters of my banner,
Be Elohim Yehovah! Who is like
To thee, O Lord, among the gods!--Alas!
I am not Joshua, I cannot say,
"Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon, and thou Moon,
In Ajalon!" Nor am I one who wastes
The fateful time in useless lamentation;
But one who bears his life upon his hand
To lose it or to save it, as may best
Serve the designs of Him who giveth life.
SCENE II -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS; JEWISH FUGITIVES.
Who and what are ye, that with furtive steps
Steal in among our tents?
Outcasts are we, and fugitives as thou art,
Jews of Jerusalem, that have escaped
From the polluted city, and from death.
None can escape from death. Say that ye come
To die for Israel, and ye are welcome.
What tidings bring ye?
Tidings of despair.
The Temple is laid waste; the precious vessels,
Censers of gold, vials and veils and crowns,
And golden ornaments, and hidden treasures,
Have all been taken from it, and the Gentiles
With revelling and with riot fill its courts,
And dally with harlots in the holy places.
All this I knew before.
Upon the altar
Are things profane, things by the law forbidden;
Nor can we keep our Sabbaths or our Feasts,
But on the festivals of Dionysus
Must walk in their processions, bearing ivy
To crown a drunken god.
This too I know.
But tell me of the Jews. How fare the Jews?
The coming of this mischief hath been sore
And grievous to the people. All the land
Is full of lamentation and of mourning.
The Princes and the Elders weep and wail;
The young men and the maidens are made feeble;
The beauty of the women hath been changed.
And are there none to die for Israel?
'T is not enough to mourn. Breastplate and harness
Are better things than sackcloth. Let the women
Lament for Israel; the men should die.
Both men and women die; old men and young:
Old Eleazer died: and Mahala
With all her Seven Sons.
At every step thou takest there is left
A bloody footprint in the street, by which
The avenging wrath of God will track thee out!
It is enough. Go to the sutler's tents;
Those of you who are men, put on such armor
As ye may find; those of you who are women,
Buckle that armor on; and for a watchword
Whisper, or cry aloud, "The Help of God."
SCENE III. -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS; NICANOR.
Hail, Judas Maccabaeus!
Hail!--Who art thou
That comest here in this mysterious guise
Into our camp unheralded?
Sent from Nicanor.
Heralds come not thus.
Armed with thy shirt of mail from head to heel,
Thou glidest like a serpent silently
Into my presence. Wherefore dost thou turn
Thy face from me? A herald speaks his errand
With forehead unabashed. Thou art a spy sent by Nicanor.
No disguise avails!
Behold my face; I am Nicanor's self.
Thou art indeed Nicanor. I salute thee.
What brings thee hither to this hostile camp
Confidence in thee.
Thou hast the nobler virtues of thy race,
Without the failings that attend those virtues.
Thou canst be strong, and yet not tyrannous,
Canst righteous be and not intolerant.
Let there be peace between us.
What is peace?
Is it to bow in silence to our victors?
Is it to see our cities sacked and pillaged,
Our people slain, or sold as slaves, or fleeing
At night-time by the blaze of burning towns;
Jerusalem laid waste; the Holy Temple
Polluted with strange gods? Are these things peace?
These are the dire necessities that wait
On war, whose loud and bloody enginery
I seek to stay. Let there be peace between
Antiochus and thee.
What is Antiochus, that he should prate
Of peace to me, who am a fugitive?
To-day he shall be lifted up; to-morrow
Shall not be found, because he is returned
Unto his dust; his thought has come to nothing.
There is no peace between us, nor can be,
Until this banner floats upon the walls
Of our Jerusalem.
Between that city
And thee there lies a waving wall of tents,
Held by a host of forty thousand foot,
And horsemen seven thousand. What hast thou
To bring against all these?
The power of God,
Whose breath shall scatter your white tents abroad,
As flakes of snow.
Your Mighty One in heaven
Will not do battle on the Seventh Day;
It is his day of rest.
Go to thy tents.
Shall it be war or peace?
War, war, and only war. Go to thy tents
That shall be scattered, as by you were scattered
The torn and trampled pages of the Law,
Blown through the windy streets.
Farewell, brave foe!
Ho, there, my captains! Have safe-conduct given
Unto Nicanor's herald through the camp,
And come yourselves to me.--Farewell, Nicanor!
SCENE IV. -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS; CAPTAINS AND SOLDIERS.
The hour is come. Gather the host together
For battle. Lo, with trumpets and with songs
The army of Nicanor comes against us.
Go forth to meet them, praying in your hearts,
And fighting with your hands.
Look forth and see!
The morning sun is shining on their shields
Of gold and brass; the mountains glisten with them,
And shine like lamps. And we who are so few
And poorly armed, and ready to faint with fasting,
How shall we fight against this multitude?
The victory of a battle standeth not
In multitudes, but in the strength that cometh
From heaven above. The Lord forbid that I
Should do this thing, and flee away from them.
Nay, if our hour be come, then let us die;
Let us not stain our honor.
'T is the Sabbath.
Wilt thou fight on the Sabbath, Maccabaeus?
Ay; when I fight the battles of the Lord,
I fight them on his day, as on all others.
Have ye forgotten certain fugitives
That fled once to these hills, and hid themselves
In caves? How their pursuers camped against them
Upon the Seventh Day, and challenged them?
And how they answered not, nor cast a stone,
Nor stopped the places where they lay concealed,
But meekly perished with their wives and children,
Even to the number of a thousand souls?
We who are fighting for our laws and lives
Will not so perish.
Lead us to the battle!
And let our watchword be, "The Help of God!"
Last night I dreamed a dream; and in my vision
Beheld Onias, our High-Priest of old,
Who holding up his hands prayed for the Jews.
This done, in the like manner there appeared
An old man, and exceeding glorious,
With hoary hair, and of a wonderful
And excellent majesty. And Onias said:
"This is a lover of the Jews, who prayeth
Much for the people and the Holy City,--
God's prophet Jeremias." And the prophet
Held forth his right hand and gave unto me
A sword of gold; and giving it he said:
"Take thou this holy sword, a gift from God,
And with it thou shalt wound thine adversaries."
The Lord is with us!
Hark! I hear the trumpets
Sound from Beth-horon; from the battle-field
Of Joshua, where he smote the Amorites,
Smote the Five Kings of Eglon and of Jarmuth,
Of Hebron, Lachish, and Jerusalem,
As we to-day will smite Nicanor's hosts
And leave a memory of great deeds behind us.
CAPTAINS and SOLDIERS.
The Help of God!
Be Elohim Yehovah!
Lord, thou didst send thine Angel in the time
Of Esekias, King of Israel,
And in the armies of Sennacherib
Didst slay a hundred fourscore and five thousand.
Wherefore, O Lord of heaven, now also send
Before us a good angel for a fear,
And through the might of thy right arm let those
Be stricken with terror that have come this day
Against thy holy people to blaspheme!
The outer Courts of the Temple at Jerusalem.
SCENE I. -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS; CAPTAINS; JEWS.
Behold, our enemies are discomfited.
Jerusalem is fallen; and our banners
Float from her battlements, and o'er her gates
Nicanor's severed head, a sign of terror,
Blackens in wind and sun.
The citadel of Antiochus, wherein
The Mother with her Seven Sons was murdered,
Is still defiant.
Its hateful aspect
Insults us with the bitter memories
Of other days.
Wait; it shall disappear
And vanish as a cloud. First let us cleanse
The Sanctuary. See, it is become
Waste like a wilderness. Its golden gates
Wrenched from their hinges and consumed by fire;
Shrubs growing in its courts as in a forest;
Upon its altars hideous and strange idols;
And strewn about its pavement at my feet
Its Sacred Books, half burned and painted o'er
With images of heathen gods.
Our beauty and our glory are laid waste!
The Gentiles have profaned our holy p]aces!
(Lamentation and alarm of trumpets.)
This sound of trumpets, and this lamentation,
The heart-cry of a people toward the heavens,
Stir me to wrath and vengeance. Go, my captains;
I hold you back no longer. Batter down
The citadel of Antiochus, while here
We sweep away his altars and his gods.
SCENE II. -- JUDAS MACCABAEUS; JASON; JEWS,
Lurking among the ruins of the Temple,
Deep in its inner courts, we found this man,
Clad as High-Priest.
I ask not who thou art.
I know thy face, writ over with deceit
As are these tattered volumes of the Law
With heathen images. A priest of God
Wast thou in other days, but thou art now
A priest of Satan. Traitor, thou art Jason.
I am thy prisoner, Judas Maccabaeus,
And it would ill become me to conceal
My name or office.
Over yonder gate
There hangs the head of one who was a Greek.
What should prevent me now, thou man of sin,
From hanging at its side the head of one
Who born a Jew hath made himself a Greek?
Justice prevents thee.
Justice? Thou art stained
With every crime against which the Decalogue
Thunders with all its thunder.
If not Justice,
Then Mercy, her handmaiden.
When hast thou
At any time, to any man or woman,
Or even to any little child, shown mercy?
I have but done what King Antiochus
True, thou hast been the weapon
With which he struck; but hast been such a weapon,
So flexible, so fitted to his hand,
It tempted him to strike. So thou hast urged him
To double wickedness, thine own and his.
Where is this King? Is he in Antioch
Among his women still, and from his windows
Throwing down gold by handfuls, for the rabble
To scramble for?
Nay, he is gone from there,
Gone with an army into the far East.
And wherefore gone?
I know not. For the space
Of forty days almost were horsemen seen
Running in air, in cloth of gold, and armed
With lances, like a band of soldiery;
It was a sign of triumph.
Or of death.
Wherefore art thou not with him?
I was left
For service in the Temple.
To pollute it,
And to corrupt the Jews; for there are men
Whose presence is corruption; to be with them
Degrades us and deforms the things we do.
I never made a boast, as some men do,
Of my superior virtue, nor denied
The weakness of my nature, that hath made me
Subservient to the will of other men.
Upon this day, the five and twentieth day
Of the month Caslan, was the Temple here
Profaned by strangers,--by Antiochus
And thee, his instrument. Upon this day
Shall it be cleansed. Thou, who didst lend thyself
Unto this profanation, canst not be
A witness of these solemn services.
There can be nothing clean where thou art present.
The people put to death Callisthenes,
Who burned the Temple gates; and if they find thee
Will surely slay thee. I will spare thy life
To punish thee the longer. Thou shalt wander
Among strange nations. Thou, that hast cast out
So many from their native land, shalt perish
In a strange land. Thou, that hast left so many
Unburied, shalt have none to mourn for thee,
Nor any solemn funerals at all,
Nor sepulchre with thy fathers.--Get thee hence!
(Music. Procession of Priests and people,
with citherns, harps, and cymbals. JUDAS
MACCABAEUS puts himself at their
head, and they go into the inner courts.)
SCENE III. -- JASON, alone.
Through the Gate Beautiful I see them come
With branches and green boughs and leaves of palm,
And pass into the inner courts. Alas!
I should be with them, should be one of them,
But in an evil hour, an hour of weakness,
That cometh unto all, I fell away
From the old faith, and did not clutch the new,
Only an outward semblance of belief;
For the new faith I cannot make mine own,
Not being born to it. It hath no root
Within me. I am neither Jew nor Greek,
But stand between them both, a renegade
To each in turn; having no longer faith
In gods or men. Then what mysterious charm,
What fascination is it chains my feet,
And keeps me gazing like a curious child
Into the holy places, where the priests
Have raised their altar?--Striking stones together,
They take fire out of them, and light the lamps
In the great candlestick. They spread the veils,
And set the loaves of showbread on the table.
The incense burns; the well-remembered odor
Comes wafted unto me, and takes me back
To other days. I see myself among them
As I was then; and the old superstition
Creeps over me again!--A childish fancy!--
And hark! they sing with citherns and with cymbals,
And all the people fall upon their faces,
Praying and worshipping!--I will away
Into the East, to meet Antiochus
Upon his homeward journey, crowned with triumph.
Alas! to-day I would give everything
To see a friend's face, or to hear a voice
That had the slightest tone of comfort in it!
The Mountains of Ecbatana.
SCENE I. -- ANTIOCHUS; PHILIP; ATTENDANTS.
Here let us rest awhile. Where are we, Philip?
What place is this?
Ecbatana, my Lord;
And yonder mountain range is the Orontes.
The Orontes is my river at Antioch.
Why did I leave it? Why have I been tempted
By coverings of gold and shields and breastplates
To plunder Elymais, and be driven
From out its gates, as by a fiery blast
Out of a furnace?
These are fortune's changes.
What a defeat it was! The Persian horsemen
Came like a mighty wind, the wind Khamaseen,
And melted us away, and scattered us
As if we were dead leaves, or desert sand.
Be comforted, my Lord; for thou hast lost
But what thou hadst not.
I, who made the Jews
Skip like the grasshoppers, am made myself
To skip among these stones.
Be not discouraged.
Thy realm of Syria remains to thee;
That is not lost nor marred.
O, where are now
The splendors of my court, my baths and banquets?
Where are my players and my dancing women?
Where are my sweet musicians with their pipes,
That made me merry in the olden time?
I am a laughing-stock to man and brute.
The very camels, with their ugly faces,
Mock me and laugh at me.
Alas! my Lord,
It is not so. If thou wouldst sleep awhile,
All would be well.
Sleep from mine eyes is gone,
And my heart faileth me for very care.
Dost thou remember, Philip, the old fable
Told us when we were boys, in which the bear
Going for honey overturns the hive,
And is stung blind by bees? I am that beast,
Stung by the Persian swarms of Elymais.
When thou art come again to Antioch
These thoughts will be as covered and forgotten
As are the tracks of Pharaoh's chariot-wheels
In the Egyptian sands.
Ah! when I come
Again to Antioch! When will that be?
SCENE II -- ANTIOCHUS; PHILIP; A MESSENGER
May the King live forever!
Who art thou, and whence comest thou?
I am a messenger from Antioch,
Sent here by Lysias.
A strange foreboding
Of something evil overshadows me.
I am no reader of the Jewish Scriptures;
I know not Hebrew; but my High-Priest Jason,
As I remember, told me of a Prophet
Who saw a little cloud rise from the sea
Like a man's hand and soon the heaven was black
With clouds and rain. Here, Philip, read; I cannot;
I see that cloud. It makes the letters dim
Before mine eyes.
"To King Antiochus,
The God, Epiphanes."
Even Lysias laughs at me!--Go on, go on.
"We pray thee hasten thy return. The realm
Is falling from thee. Since thou hast gone from us
The victories of Judas Maccabaeus
Form all our annals. First he overthrew
Thy forces at Beth-horon, and passed on,
And took Jerusalem, the Holy City.
And then Emmaus fell; and then Bethsura;
Ephron and all the towns of Galaad,
And Maccabaeus marched to Carnion."
Enough, enough! Go call my chariot-men;
We will drive forward, forward, without ceasing,
Until we come to Antioch. My captains,
My Lysias, Gorgias, Seron, and Nicanor,
Are babes in battle, and this dreadful Jew
Will rob me of my kingdom and my crown.
My elephants shall trample him to dust;
I will wipe out his nation, and will make
Jerusalem a common burying-place,
And every home within its walls a tomb!
(Throws up his hands, and sinks into the
arms of attendants, who lay him upon
Antiochus! Antiochus! Alas,
The King is ill! What is it, O my Lord?
Nothing. A sudden and sharp spasm of pain,
As if the lightning struck me, or the knife
Of an assassin smote me to the heart.
'T is passed, even as it came. Let us set forward.
See that the chariots be in readiness
We will depart forthwith.
A moment more.
I cannot stand. I am become at once
Weak as an infant. Ye will have to lead me.
Jove, or Jehovah, or whatever name
Thou wouldst be named,--it is alike to me,--
If I knew how to pray, I would entreat
To live a little longer.
O my Lord,
Thou shalt not die; we will not let thee die!
How canst thou help it, Philip? O the pain!
Stab after stab. Thou hast no shield against
This unseen weapon. God of Israel,
Since all the other gods abandon me,
Help me. I will release the Holy City.
Garnish with goodly gifts the Holy Temple.
Thy people, whom I judged to be unworthy
To be so much as buried, shall be equal
Unto the citizens of Antioch.
I will become a Jew, and will declare
Through all the world that is inhabited
The power of God!
He faints. It is like death.
Bring here the royal litter. We will bear him
In to the camp, while yet he lives.
Into what tribulation am I come!
Alas! I now remember all the evil
That I have done the Jews; and for this cause
These troubles are upon me, and behold
I perish through great grief in a strange land.
Antiochus! my King!
Nay, King no longer.
Take thou my royal robes, my signet-ring,
My crown and sceptre, and deliver them
Unto my son, Antiochus Eupator;
And unto the good Jews, my citizens,
In all my towns, say that their dying monarch
Wisheth them joy, prosperity, and health.
I who, puffed up with pride and arrogance,
Thought all the kingdoms of the earth mine own,
If I would but outstretch my hand and take them,
Meet face to face a greater potentate,
King Death--Epiphanes--the Illustrious!
Michel, piu che mortal, Angel divino. -- ARIOSTO.
Similamente operando all' artista
ch' a l'abito dell' arte e man che trema. -- DANTE, Par. xiii.,
Nothing that is shall perish utterly,
But perish only to revive again
In other forms, as clouds restore in rain
The exhalations of the land and sea.
Men build their houses from the masonry
Of ruined tombs; the passion and the pain
Of hearts, that long have ceased to beat, remain
To throb in hearts that are, or are to be.
So from old chronicles, where sleep in dust
Names that once filled the world with trumpet tones,
I build this verse; and flowers of song have thrust
Their roots among the loose disjointed stones,
Which to this end I fashion as I must.
Quickened are they that touch the Prophet's bones.
PROLOGUE AT ISCHIA
The Castle Terrace. VITTORIA COLONNA, and JULIA GONZAGA.
Will you then leave me, Julia, and so soon,
To pace alone this terrace like a ghost?
Do not say to-morrow.
A whole month of to-morrows were too soon.
You must not go. You are a part of me.
I must return to Fondi.
The old castle
Needs not your presence. No one waits for you.
Stay one day longer with me. They who go
Feel not the pain of parting; it is they
Who stay behind that suffer. I was thinking
But yesterday how like and how unlike
Have been, and are, our destinies. Your husband,
The good Vespasian, an old man, who seemed
A father to you rather than a husband,
Died in your arms; but mine, in all the flower
And promise of his youth, was taken from me
As by a rushing wind. The breath of battle
Breathed on him, and I saw his face no more,
Save as in dreams it haunts me. As our love
Was for these men, so is our sorrow for them.
Yours a child's sorrow, smiling through its tears;
But mine the grief of an impassioned woman,
Who drank her life up in one draught of love.
Behold this locket. This is the white hair
Of my Vespasian. This is the flower-of-love,
This amaranth, and beneath it the device
Non moritura. Thus my heart remains
True to his memory; and the ancient castle,
Where we have lived together, where he died,
Is dear to me as Ischia is to you.
I did not mean to chide you.
Let your heart
Find, if it can, some poor apology
For one who is too young, and feels too keenly
The joy of life, to give up all her days
To sorrow for the dead. While I am true
To the remembrance of the man I loved
And mourn for still, I do not make a show
Of all the grief I feel, nor live secluded
And, like Veronica da Gambara,
Drape my whole house in mourning, and drive forth
In coach of sable drawn by sable horses,
As if I were a corpse. Ah, one to-day
Is worth for me a thousand yesterdays.
Dear Julia! Friendship has its jealousies
As well as love. Who waits for you at Fondi?
A friend of mine and yours; a friend and friar.
You have at Naples your Fra Bernadino;
And I at Fondi have my Fra Bastiano,
The famous artist, who has come from Rome
To paint my portrait. That is not a sin.
Only a vanity.
He painted yours.
Do not call up to me those days departed
When I was young, and all was bright about me,
And the vicissitudes of life were things
But to be read of in old histories,
Though as pertaining unto me or mine
Impossible. Ah, then I dreamed your dreams,
And now, grown older, I look back and see
They were illusions.
Yet without illusions
What would our lives become, what we ourselves?
Dreams or illusions, call them what you will,
They lift us from the commonplace of life
To better things.
Are there no brighter dreams,
No higher aspirations, than the wish
To please and to be pleased?
For you there are;
I am no saint; I feel the world we live in
Comes before that which is to be here after,
And must be dealt with first.
But in what way?
Let the soft wind that wafts to us the odor
Of orange blossoms, let the laughing sea
And the bright sunshine bathing all the world,
Answer the question.
And for whom is meant
This portrait that you speak of?
For my friend
The Cardinal Ippolito.
Yes, for Ippolito the Magnificent.
'T is always flattering to a woman's pride
To be admired by one whom all admire.
Ah, Julia, she that makes herself a dove
Is eaten by the hawk. Be on your guard,
He is a Cardinal; and his adoration
Should be elsewhere directed.
The horror of that night, when Barbarossa,
The Moorish corsair, landed on our coast
To seize me for the Sultan Soliman;
How in the dead of night, when all were sleeping,
He scaled the castle wall; how I escaped,
And in my night-dress, mounting a swift steed,
Fled to the mountains, and took refuge there
Among the brigands. Then of all my friends
The Cardinal Ippolito was first
To come with his retainers to my rescue.
Could I refuse the only boon he asked
At such a time, my portrait?
I have heard
Strange stories of the splendors of his palace,
And how, apparelled like a Spanish Prince,
He rides through Rome with a long retinue
Of Ethiopians and Numidians
And Turks and Tartars, in fantastic dresses,
Making a gallant show. Is this the way
A Cardinal should live?
He is so young;
Hardly of age, or little more than that;
Beautiful, generous, fond of arts and letters,
A poet, a musician, and a scholar;
Master of many languages, and a player
On many instruments. In Rome, his palace
Is the asylum of all men distinguished
In art or science, and all Florentines
Escaping from the tyranny of his cousin,
I have seen his portrait,
Painted by Titian. You have painted it
In brighter colors.
And my Cardinal,
At Itri, in the courtyard of his palace,
Keeps a tame lion!
And so counterfeits
St. Mark, the Evangelist!
Ah, your tame lion
Is Michael Angelo.
You speak a name
That always thrills me with a noble sound,
As of a trumpet! Michael Angelo!
A lion all men fear and none can tame;
A man that all men honor, and the model
That all should follow; one who works and prays,
For work is prayer, and consecrates his life
To the sublime ideal of his art,
Till art and life are one; a man who holds
Such place in all men's thoughts, that when they speak
Of great things done, or to be done, his name
Is ever on their lips.
You too can paint
The portrait of your hero, and in colors
Brighter than Titian's; I might warn you also
Against the dangers that beset your path;
But I forbear.
If I were made of marble,
Of Fior di Persico or Pavonazzo,
He might admire me: being but flesh and blood,
I am no more to him than other women;
That is, am nothing.
Does he ride through Rome
Upon his little mule, as he was wont,
With his slouched hat, and boots of Cordovan,
As when I saw him last?
Pray do not jest.
I cannot couple with his noble name
A trivial word! Look, how the setting sun
Lights up Castel-a-mare and Sorrento,
And changes Capri to a purple cloud!
And there Vesuvius with its plume of smoke,
And the great city stretched upon the shore
As in a dream!
Parthenope the Siren!
And yon long line of lights, those sunlit windows
Blaze like the torches carried in procession
To do her honor! It is beautiful!
I have no heart to feel the beauty of it!
My feet are weary, pacing up and down
These level flags, and wearier still my thoughts
Treading the broken pavement of the Past,
It is too sad. I will go in and rest,
And make me ready for to-morrow's journey.
I will go with you; for I would not lose
One hour of your dear presence. 'T is enough
Only to be in the same room with you.
I need not speak to you, nor hear you speak;
If I but see you, I am satisfied.
[They go in.
MONOLOGUE: THE LAST JUDGMENT
MICHAEL ANGELO's Studio. He is at work on the cartoon of the
Why did the Pope and his ten Cardinals
Come here to lay this heavy task upon me?
Were not the paintings on the Sistine ceiling
Enough for them? They saw the Hebrew leader
Waiting, and clutching his tempestuous beard,
But heeded not. The bones of Julius
Shook in their sepulchre. I heard the sound;
They only heard the sound of their own voices.
Are there no other artists here in Rome
To do this work, that they must needs seek me?
Fra Bastian, my Era Bastian, might have done it;
But he is lost to art. The Papal Seals,
Like leaden weights upon a dead man's eyes,
Press down his lids; and so the burden falls
On Michael Angelo, Chief Architect
And Painter of the Apostolic Palace.
That is the title they cajole me with,
To make me do their work and leave my own;
But having once begun, I turn not back.
Blow, ye bright angels, on your golden trumpets
To the four corners of the earth, and wake
The dead to judgment! Ye recording angels,
Open your books and read? Ye dead awake!
Rise from your graves, drowsy and drugged with death,
As men who suddenly aroused from sleep
Look round amazed, and know not where they are!
In happy hours, when the imagination
Wakes like a wind at midnight, and the soul
Trembles in all its leaves, it is a joy
To be uplifted on its wings, and listen
To the prophetic voices in the air
That call us onward. Then the work we do
Is a delight, and the obedient hand
Never grows weary. But how different is it
En the disconsolate, discouraged hours,
When all the wisdom of the world appears
As trivial as the gossip of a nurse
In a sick-room, and all our work seems useless,
What is it guides my hand, what thoughts possess me,
That I have drawn her face among the angels,
Where she will be hereafter? O sweet dreams,
That through the vacant chambers of my heart
Walk in the silence, as familiar phantoms
Frequent an ancient house, what will ye with me?
'T is said that Emperors write their names in green
When under age, but when of age in purple.
So Love, the greatest Emperor of them all,
Writes his in green at first, but afterwards
In the imperial purple of our blood.
First love or last love,--which of these two passions
Is more omnipotent? Which is more fair,
The star of morning or the evening star?
The sunrise or the sunset of the heart?
The hour when we look forth to the unknown,
And the advancing day consumes the shadows,
Or that when all the landscape of our lives
Lies stretched behind us, and familiar places
Gleam in the distance, and sweet memories
Rise like a tender haze, and magnify
The objects we behold, that soon must vanish?
What matters it to me, whose countenance
Is like the Laocoon's, full of pain; whose forehead
Is a ploughed harvest-field, where three-score years
Have sown in sorrow and have reaped in anguish;
To me, the artisan, to whom all women
Have been as if they were not, or at most
A sudden rush of pigeons in the air,
A flutter of wings, a sound, and then a silence?
I am too old for love; I am too old
To flatter and delude myself with visions
Of never-ending friendship with fair women,
Imaginations, fantasies, illusions,
In which the things that cannot be take shape,
And seem to be, and for the moment are.
[Convent bells ring.
Distant and near and low and loud the bells,
Dominican, Benedictine, and Franciscan,
Jangle and wrangle in their airy towers,
Discordant as the brotherhoods themselves
In their dim cloisters. The descending sun
Seems to caress the city that he loves,
And crowns it with the aureole of a saint.
I will go forth and breathe the air a while.
A Chapel in the Church of San Silvestra on Monte Cavallo.
VITTORIA COLONNA, CLAUDIO TOLOMMEI, and others.
Here let us rest a while, until the crowd
Has left the church. I have already sent
For Michael Angelo to join us here.
After Fra Bernardino's wise discourse
On the Pauline Epistles, certainly
Some words of Michael Angelo on Art
Were not amiss, to bring us back to earth.
MICHAEL ANGELO, at the door.
How like a Saint or Goddess she appears;
Diana or Madonna, which I know not!
In attitude and aspect formed to be
At once the artist's worship and despair!
Welcome, Maestro. We were waiting for you.
I met your messenger upon the way,
And hastened hither.
It is kind of you
To come to us, who linger here like gossips
Wasting the afternoon in idle talk.
These are all friends of mine and friends of yours.
If friends of yours, then are they friends of mine.
Pardon me, gentlemen. But when I entered
I saw but the Marchesa.
Take this seat
Between me and Ser Claudio Tolommei,
Who still maintains that our Italian tongue
Should be called Tuscan. But for that offence
We will not quarrel with him.
Ser Claudio has banished Eccellenza
And all such titles from the Tuscan tongue.
'T is the abuse of them and not the use
The use or the abuse
It matters not. Let them all go together,
As empty phrases and frivolities,
And common as gold-lace upon the collar
Of an obsequious lackey.
That may be,
But something of politeness would go with them;
We should lose something of the stately manners
Of the old school.
Is not what occupies my thoughts at present,
Nor why I sent for you, Messer Michele.
It was to counsel me. His Holiness
Has granted me permission, long desired,
To build a convent in this neighborhood,
Where the old tower is standing, from whose top
Nero looked down upon the burning city.
It is an inspiration!
I am doubtful
How I shall build; how large to make the convent,
And which way fronting.
Ah, to build, to build!
That is the noblest art of all the arts.
Painting and sculpture are but images,
Are merely shadows cast by outward things
On stone or canvas, having in themselves
No separate existence. Architecture,
Existing in itself, and not in seeming
A something it is not, surpasses them
As substance shadow. Long, long years ago,
Standing one morning near the Baths of Titus,
I saw the statue of Laocoon
Rise from its grave of centuries, like a ghost
Writhing in pain; and as it tore away
The knotted serpents from its limbs, I heard,
Or seemed to hear, the cry of agony
From its white, parted lips. And still I marvel
At the three Rhodian artists, by whose hands
This miracle was wrought. Yet he beholds
Far nobler works who looks upon the ruins
Of temples in the Forum here in Rome.
If God should give me power in my old age
To build for Him a temple half as grand
As those were in their glory, I should count
My age more excellent than youth itself,
And all that I have hitherto accomplished
As only vanity.
I understand you.
Art is the gift of God, and must be used
Unto His glory. That in art is highest
Which aims at this. When St. Hilarion blessed
The horses of Italicus, they won
The race at Gaza, for his benediction
O'erpowered all magic; and the people shouted
That Christ had conquered Marnas. So that art
Which bears the consecration and the seal
Of holiness upon it will prevail
Over all others. Those few words of yours
Inspire me with new confidence to build.
What think you? The old walls might serve, perhaps,
Some purpose still. The tower can hold the bells.
If strong enough.
If not, it can be strengthened.
I see no bar nor drawback to this building,
And on our homeward way, if it shall please you,
We may together view the site.
I thank you.
I did not venture to request so much.
Let us now go to the old walls you spake of,
What, again, Maestro?
Pardon me, Messer Claudio, if once more
I use the ancient courtesies of speech.
I am too old to change.
A richly furnished apartment in the Palace of CARDINAL IPPOLITO.
JACOPO NARDI, an old man, alone.
I am bewildered. These Numidian slaves,
In strange attire; these endless ante-chambers;
This lighted hall, with all its golden splendors,
Pictures, and statues! Can this be the dwelling
Of a disciple of that lowly Man
Who had not where to lay his head? These statues
Are not of Saints; nor is this a Madonna,
This lovely face, that with such tender eyes
Looks down upon me from the painted canvas.
My heart begins to fail me. What can he
Who lives in boundless luxury at Rome
Care for the imperilled liberties of Florence,
Her people, her Republic? Ah, the rich
Feel not the pangs of banishment. All doors
Are open to them, and all hands extended,
The poor alone are outcasts; they who risked
All they possessed for liberty, and lost;
And wander through the world without a friend,
Sick, comfortless, distressed, unknown, uncared for.
Enter CARDINAL HIPPOLITO, in Spanish cloak and slouched hat.
I pray you pardon me that I have kept you
Waiting so long alone.
I wait to see
I am the Cardinal.
You are welcome
I was expecting you. Philippo Strozzi
Had told me of your coming.
'T was his son
That brought me to your door.
Pray you, be seated.
You seem astonished at the garb I wear,
But at my time of life, and with my habits,
The petticoats of a Cardinal would be--
Troublesome; I could neither ride nor walk,
Nor do a thousand things, if I were dressed
Like an old dowager. It were putting wine
Young as the young Astyanax into goblets
As old as Priam.
Oh, your Eminence
Knows best what you should wear.
Dear Messer Nardi,
You are no stranger to me. I have read
Your excellent translation of the books
Of Titus Livius, the historian
Of Rome, and model of all historians
That shall come after him. It does you honor;
But greater honor still the love you bear
To Florence, our dear country, and whose annals
I hope your hand will write, in happier days
Than we now see.
Your Eminence will pardon
The lateness of the hour.
The hours I count not
As a sun-dial; but am like a clock,
That tells the time as well by night as day.
So no excuse. I know what brings you here.
You come to speak of Florence.
And her woes.
The Duke, my cousin, the black Alessandro,
Whose mother was a Moorish slave, that fed
The sheep upon Lorenzo's farm, still lives
Alas, that such a scourge
Should fall on such a city!
When he dies,
The Wild Boar in the gardens of Lorenzo,
The beast obscene, should be the monument
Of this bad man.
He walks the streets at night
With revellers, insulting honest men.
No house is sacred from his lusts. The convents
Are turned by him to brothels, and the honor
Of women and all ancient pious customs
Are quite forgotten now. The offices
Of the Priori and Gonfalonieri
Have been abolished. All the magistrates
Are now his creatures. Liberty is dead.
The very memory of all honest living
Is wiped away, and even our Tuscan tongue
Corrupted to a Lombard dialect.
And worst of all his impious hand has broken
The Martinella,--our great battle bell,
That, sounding through three centuries, has led
The Florentines to victory,--lest its voice
Should waken in their souls some memory
Of far-off times of glory.
What a change
Ten little years have made! We all remember
Those better days, when Niccola Capponi,
The Gonfaloniere, from the windows
Of the Old Palace, with the blast of trumpets,
Proclaimed to the inhabitants that Christ
Was chosen King of Florence; and already
Christ is dethroned, and slain, and in his stead
Reigns Lucifer! Alas, alas, for Florence!
Lilies with lilies, said Savonarola;
Florence and France! But I say Florence only,
Or only with the Emperor's hand to help us
In sweeping out the rubbish.
Of help is there from him. He has betrothed
His daughter Margaret to this shameless Duke.
What hope have we from such an Emperor?
Baccio Valori and Philippo Strozzi,
Once the Duke's friends and intimates are with us,
And Cardinals Salvati and Ridolfi.
We shall soon see, then, as Valori says,
Whether the Duke can best spare honest men,
Or honest men the Duke.
We have determined
To send ambassadors to Spain, and lay
Our griefs before the Emperor, though I fear
More than I hope.
The Emperor is busy
With this new war against the Algerines,
And has no time to listen to complaints
From our ambassadors; nor will I trust them,
But go myself. All is in readiness
For my departure, and to-morrow morning
I shall go down to Itri, where I meet
Dante da Castiglione and some others,
Republicans and fugitives from Florence,
And then take ship at Gaeta, and go
To join the Emperor in his new crusade
Against the Turk. I shall have time enough
And opportunity to plead our cause.
It is an inspiration, and I hail it
As of good omen. May the power that sends it
Bless our beloved country, and restore
Its banished citizens. The soul of Florence
Is now outside its gates. What lies within
Is but a corpse, corrupted and corrupting.
Heaven help us all, I will not tarry longer,
For you have need of rest. Good-night.
Enter FRA SEBASTIANO; Turkish attendants.
Fra Bastiano, how your portly presence
Contrasts with that of the spare Florentine
Who has just left me!
As we passed each other,
I saw that he was weeping.
Poor old man!
Who is he?
Jacopo Nardi. A brave soul;
One of the Fuoruseiti, and the best
And noblest of them all; but he has made me
Sad with his sadness. As I look on you
My heart grows lighter. I behold a man
Who lives in an ideal world, apart
From all the rude collisions of our life,
In a calm atmosphere.
Is surely jesting. If you knew the life
Of artists as I know it, you might think
But wherefore should I jest?
The world of art is an ideal world,--
The world I love, and that I fain would live in;
So speak to me of artists and of art,
Of all the painters, sculptors, and musicians
That now illustrate Rome.
Of the musicians,
I know but Goudimel, the brave maestro
And chapel-master of his Holiness,
Who trains the Papal choir.
In church this morning,
I listened to a mass of Goudimel,
Divinely chanted. In the Incarnatus,
In lieu of Latin words, the tenor sang
With infinite tenderness, in plain Italian,
A Neapolitan love-song.
You amaze me.
Was it a wanton song?
Not a divine one.
I am not over-scrupulous, as you know,
In word or deed, yet such a song as that.
Sung by the tenor of the Papal choir,
And in a Papal mass, seemed out of place;
There's something wrong in it.
There's something wrong
In everything. We cannot make the world
Go right. 'T is not my business to reform
The Papal choir.
Nor mine, thank Heaven.
Then tell me of the artists.
I name them all; for there is only one.
His name is Messer Michael Angelo.
All art and artists of the present day
Centre in him.
You count yourself as nothing!
Or less than nothing, since I am at best
Only a portrait-painter; one who draws
With greater or less skill, as best he may,
The features of a face.
And you have had
The honor, nay, the glory, of portraying
Julia Gonzaga! Do you count as nothing
A privilege like that? See there the portrait
Rebuking you with its divine expression.
Are you not penitent? He whose skilful hand
Painted that lovely picture has not right
To vilipend the art of portrait-painting.
But what of Michael Angelo?
Strolling together down the crowded Corso,
We stopped, well pleased, to see your Eminence
Pass on an Arab steed, a noble creature,
Which Michael Angelo, who is a lover
Of all things beautiful, especially
When they are Arab horses, much admired,
And could not praise enough.
IPPOLITO, to an attendant.
When I am gone, but not till I am gone,--
Be careful about that,--take Barbarossa
To Messer Michael Angelo, the sculptor,
Who lives there at Macello dei Corvi,
Near to the Capitol; and take besides
Some ten mule-loads of provender, and say
Your master sends them to him as a present.
A princely gift. Though Michael Angelo
Refuses presents from his Holiness,
Yours he will not refuse.
You think him like
Thymoetes, who received the wooden horse
Into the walls of Troy. That book of Virgil
Have I translated in Italian verse,
And shall, some day, when we have leisure for it,
Be pleased to read you. When I speak of Troy
I am reminded of another town
And of a lovelier Helen, our dear Countess
Julia Gonzaga. You remember, surely,
The adventure with the corsair Barbarossa,
And all that followed?
A most strange adventure;
A tale as marvellous and full of wonder
As any in Boccaccio or Sacchetti;