CHILDREN OF LUCIFER

 

ACT ONE

Public square at Dionysia, a town in Asia Minor. At the back a gateway opening on the courtyard of the Prytaneum. On the left, the entrance to the Temple of Bacchus, bordered with sycamore trees. On the right, a Christian basilica surmounted bya cross. It is night.

 

SCENE I

DAMIS and PHRYGIUS enter slowly, on the alert as if trying to distinguish something in the darkness.

PHRYGIUS. Have you seen the Romans?

DAMIS. Not yet.

PHRYGIUS. This is the square?

DAMIS. Yes, the agora with the Prytaneum. It is deserted and dark as though it were afraid to see the dawn break.

(Trumpets sound far off.)

PHRYGIUS. Do you hear that flourish of trumpets?

DAMIS (trembling). It is they! They are coming like thieves before daybreak.

PHRYGIUS. Listen, it is coming nearer. (Another louder flourish.) How mournfully it sounds in the wan dawn of this silent city.

DAMIS. Every one of these harsh notes stifles some virtue in the soul of these cowardly sleepers. The legions of the Emperor of Rome and Byzantium are about to take possession of the citadel. Soon the voice of the imperial trumpet from the summit of the Acropolis will proclaim the entry of the Proconsul into this town. Then the freedom of my ancient city of Dionysia will have breathed its last.

PHRYGIUS. Such is the fate of cities all over the world. For centuries past everything has bowed before Rome; to-day everyone cringes before Caesar deified. My native town is called Dyrapolis, the city of Jupiter the Thunderer. It stands upon an inaccessible mountain. Of old it was the terror of Asia and the overlord of your city. Yes, eight hundred years ago we the proud mountaineers, descendants of the Galatians, we conquered your city by force of arms. We commanded you as masters, your forefathers paid us tribute of gold and of flesh. Dionysia was the port of Dyrapolis and the effeminate children of Bacchus obeyed the sons of Jupiter the Thunder-bearer. I, son of these ancient kings, I can remember all this. Well, when the legions climbed over our walls, we too had to bow our heads. Caesar’s eagles have flown even to the summit of haughty Dyrapolis which had known no other lords than the clouds and the lightning. It is right that soft Dionysia should in her turn abase her body of a Bacchante and her brow of a slave.

DAMIS. Ah! You do not know the soul of my native city, her tragic and sublime destiny. In olden days certainly the noble queen of Ionia, who gave to the world the thyrsus and the lyre, did wear fetters forged by your forefathers. But Alexander the Great, after having subjected the whole world up to the Indus, liberated our town from your yoke, because a Dionysian phalanx of youths had followed this new Achilles, the exultant conqueror of the world, even to the shores of the Indian Ocean. He remembered that Dionysia is the city of Dionysos the Liberator. We worship Bacchus, the divine Spirit, reborn from the earth riven by the thunderbolt; Dionysos mangled by the Titans, but restored to life in the light of heaven. Our god is not an unapproachable and pitiless master; he is a god ever suffering, ever becoming, a god who moves and throbs in our hearts, a god who dies and is born again like ourselves. Our flesh is his body and our blood is the smoke of his dreams; our souls are the tears of his eyes, and if they are immortal, it is because they have been wept by Him! . . . Our city shares the destiny of its god, which is to give birth in suffering. In turn rich or poor, free or enslaved, covered with glory or with shame, she has never ceased, the world over, to wave her torch aflame like Love burning in the chaos of the universe. She is no city of kings or of the mighty ones of the earth, nor yet that of the wise sages; she is the city of inspired revellers, heretics and rebels; but out of her joys are born poets, out of her frenzy pythonesses, out of her tribulation heroes! Do you know what is the noblest glory of Dionysia? It is to have on her Acropolis, facing the temple of the Winged Victory, an altar always wreathed with flowers and dedicated ‘to the last born of the gods’. In our worst misfortunes we always look forward to some god who will be born or to some hero who will arise. That is why of old our youths, our athletes, our virgins, used to lay their torches, their weapons and their locks of hair as firstfruits on the mystical altar of the latest and loveliest of the Immortals. That is why throughout the centuries Dionysia has remained the Temple of Desire and the Land of Hope!

(The dawn is beginning to break.)

PHRYGIUS. Well, to-day it is the statue of the Emperor of Rome and Byzantium which stands on that altar.

DAMIS (bowing his head and dropping his arms). Alas! I know it.

PHRYGIUS. Believe me, there is no other god save Destiny and Caesar.

 

SCENE II

THE SAME, then LYCOPHRON, a bent old man in rags who slowly approaches the two speakers. He is carrying on the end of a chain a bronze lantern with horn panes, which swings in his shaking hand and projects its flickering beam through the grey dawn.

PHRYGIUS. Who is this decrepit old man? By Hercules, one might take him for Charon surveying some river in Hades.

DAMIS. That is Lycophron, a down-at-heel sage. Question him.

PHRYGIUS. What is your trade in this town?

LYCOPHRON. Keeper of a cemetery.

PHRYGIUS. Well, whom are you, like another Diogenes, seeking with your lantern?

LYCOPHRON. I am seeking a living soul in the dead city.

PHRYGIUS. Have you not found one then anywhere?

LYCOPHRON. Nowhere, neither in this town nor in all the wide world. You are all lifeless shadows, larvae without will, fit to people Tartarus, but not free men worthy of the sunshine of Apollo. Were you living souls, you would bear your light within yourselves and would walk by it. But all of you wait to be shown the way before taking a step. You need to be dazzled or else driven with a whip. Shadows of shadows, copies of copies, are you! Ah! These stage-puppets! To act they need the prick of vanity or the lash of fear! Only strip off your masks, you play-actors, so that your monkeys’ or sheep’s faces may be seen.

PHRYGIUS. It is envy and impotence which prompt you to speak so, wretched old man! What have you done, vile Thersites, abortion of humanity, to have the right to insult the noble sons of illustrious cities who would be crowned with glory if the times were propitious?

LYCOPHRON. What have I done? Night and day I seek, I haunt the cross-roads, the threshold of houses, the women’s apartments. I study throughout mankind the thoughts at the back of their minds. I have the gift of perceiving them. Rich, poor, the young, courtesans, old men, matrons, tyrants and demagogues—I know their secret selves. Oh! What hideous monsters lurking under those bald skulls, under those seductive head-dresses! Men and women fear me because I tell the truth. Have you done as much? To dare to tell the truth, is that not enough to merit a place in the sun?

PHRYGIUS. That is a trade a man can scarcely live by.

LYCOPHRON. They say even that one starves at it. Men cover the bearers of lies with gold, but when truth appears to them, they stone it. (Mysteriously.) That is not all . . . behind the thoughts of men . . . I have sought . . . the human soul, the marvellous Virgin who is said to be winged . . . For I have a secret to show me men’s souls within their bodies!

DAMIS. What secret? Reveal that to us.

LYCOPHRON. I make use of this magical lamp. When I focus it suddenly on a man’s eye at the moment when he least expects it and throw the beam into the depth of his dilated eyeball . . . then I can see, like a faint shadow in a dim halo, a portrait of himself, the ethereal nimbus of his soul! Ah! how terrifying these images are! Never an Apollo, always a Marsyas; never a Bacchus, always a Silenus or a Saturn. Oh! What hideous animals’ heads I have seen in human eyes; bulls, goats, tigers, hyenas, boars and worse still . . . . Yes, for more than a century I have been seeking the divine Psyche with the golden wings . . . . (With disgust.) But only screech-owls and bats have come fluttering around my lamp.

PHRYGIUS. Oho! old man with the lantern! This butterfly chase of yours has made you lame and short of breath.

DAMIS (with curiosity). This Psyche, this winged and living soul is perhaps in us two? Have you looked?

LYCOPHRON (slowly raises his lantern to Damis’s eyes and scrutinizes them with an old man’s tenderness). I see a white chrysalis. Inside it has pretty wings with delicate colours. It would like to take flight but cannot, for its prison stops it. When your little soul emerges, beware of the storm which in its passage sweeps poor little butterflies into the ocean!

PHRYGIUS. And I?

LYCOPHRON (quickly puts the lantern to his face). Oh! by Pluto! Yours is a black caterpillar with a spotted and prickly skin. It is venomous. A great death’s-head moth will fly out of it.... Let those beware who touch you! (He turns away in horror.)

PHRYGIUS. You foul old caterpillar, get back to your business! You reek of cemeteries and hovels . . . be off!

(LYCOPHRON moves off softly, without listening, lost in his thoughts.)

LYCOPHRON. Psyche! the Winged Spirit! When shall I find her?

PHRYGIUS (shrugging his shoulders) . A madman!

DAMIS. A seer!

 

SCENE III

DAMIS, PHRYGIUS, the HERALD of the PROCONSUL.

The Roman flourish of trumpets sounds from near by in the court of the Prytaneum. A cluster of the people gathers at the sound of the trumpet. The Herald of the Proconsul comes forward through the gateway with three Lictors bearing the consular fasces surmounted by axes. It is now broad daylight.

DAMIS. The Herald of the Proconsul! Listen!

(Trumpet call.)

THE HERALD. Caesar Augustus the All-powerful, Sovereign of Rome and Byzantium, Father of the Nations, Imperator of the Armies, Master of the Universe, the Great and Divine Constantine—to the illustrious city of Dionysia—Hail!—Caesar Augustus, Protector of the Christians and the Greeks, has resolved to take under his supreme guardianship the ancient city of Dionysos, its churches, its temples, its homes, in order to defend it against its enemies. The legion of Augustus will occupy the citadel. On behalf of Caesar, Harpalus commands Androcles to deliver to him the gates of the city and the insignia of the phratries. Androcles with the Proconsul will ascend the Acropolis and will carry the fire of the Prytaneum before the altar of the latest-born of the gods, where stands the image of Caesar, conqueror of the world. Children of this city, take up your wands, scatter flowers. Ere long Caesar himself will come to celebrate in the Christian basilica his nuptials with the Queen of Ionia. For you he brings revels and games, a thousand wild beasts and five hundred gladiators. All-powerful Caesar to Dionysia: Hail!

(The people cry out ‘ Hail Caesar! ‘, the Herald and the Lictors disappear into the courtyard of the Prytaneum.)

PHRYGIUS. So then, you are delivering to Harpalus the gates of the city, all its powers and the sacred flame of Vesta your protectress? And it is Androcles, the leader of the Dionysian phalanx, who is committing this crime?

DAMIS. Oh! Androcles has a lion’s heart in the body of an athlete. But the Senate is summoning Caesar, and the people applaud him. What can he do? He can only rage and obey.

PHRYGIUS. In his place I should have preferred to perish under the Lictor’s axe.

(The trumpet call and muffled cries of ‘Hail Caesar!’ are heard again.)

DAMIS. Listen to those cries! What can be done with such a people? (A bell rings in the basilica.)

PHRYGIUS. Do you hear that bell? The Christians are greeting the entry of the legions and Caesar who is to protect them.

DAMIS. That is your funeral knell, Oh, Dionysia! In my heart I hear your last sigh. . . . (He bows his head, then raises it with a sudden movement.) And yet you used to live and to speak to me in that unique friend whose presence shone upon my youth. . . . In him whom I loved and have lost for ever! (He hides his face in his hands.)

 

SCENE IV

DAMIS, PHRYGIUS, THEOKLES. The latter wears a purple tunic and a black cloak, on his head a cypress wreath, in his belt a short sword decked with a branch of myrtle. He approaches from behind and puts his hand on Damis’s shoulder.

DAMIS (turning round). Theokles! At this very moment you were in my thoughts! Is it possible? You live? You still breathe? Elder brother of my soul, my unique, my royal friend! (He throws himself on the other’s neck and gazes at him.) In your first glance your whole self comes back to me!

THEOKLES. And you to me. Oh, holy fidelity of men’s friendship, the only balm on earth!

DAMIS. Seven years on your travels, and never a message from you! Do you recall the times when I was sixteen and you twenty-five, when our vagabond spirits would rove through the fields of the Muses? Do you recall how we would go at dawn, wreathed in smilax, to the grove of Daphne where the elms murmured beside the plane tree? Do you recall those divine days when we read Plato, when Truth, Justice and Beauty would walk before us like three goddesses in the deep shade of the trees? . . . Do you recall it all?

THEOKLES. Too many torrents have swept my heart since the days when through it the pure stream of my youth rippled.

DAMIS. You have forgotten me then?

THEOKLES. No; but I have been seeking Truth throughout the world. Two austere divinities have escorted me among mankind: Solitude and Silence. The one has set a barrier about my heart and the other has closed my lips.

DAMIS. Have you found Truth?

THEOKLES (sombre). At certain hours, in the depth of myself. But when shall I prove her before the world?

PHRYGIUS. And do you not recognize me?

THEOKLES. Yes, you are Phrygius of Dyrapolis.

PHRYGIUS. Once we were rivals in the gymnasia.

THEOKLES. Nay, rather competitors.

PHRYGIUS. When you saw that we could not beat one another, you offered me friendship.

THEOKLES. And together, with the Pamphilians, we went to the wars against the Parthians.

PHRYGIUS. My ambition as a soldier was to become a king.

THEOKLES. And mine to find release from the fetters of my own thought.

PHRYGIUS (ironically). And neither of us has succeeded.

DAMIS But what do I see? You wear a black cloak and your forehead is shaded by the cypress. What kinsman do you mourn? A man or a woman?

THEOKLES. Neither man nor woman; I have no longer any kindred.

DAMIS. Why then do you wear mourning?

THEOKLES. For my unrealized desires, for my soul stifled by the universe, for Truth that is for ever veiled.

DAMIS. Why, then, all men ought to wear mourning.

THEOKLES. They have sacrificed even Hope to their thirst for pleasure. Therefore I wear mourning for them, for this enslaved city, for this world that pines under the dark pall of baseness and hatred.

PHRYGIUS. Yet you have seen the greatest nations of the earth.

THEOKLES. I have seen Babylon, Thebes, Alexandria, Athens and Rome. Everywhere the temples are mute, the gods dead, men’s souls empty. Before their idols of gold or iron, men cower like paltry dwarfs. Their god is Caesar . . . and they are worthy of him. Yet my indomitable soul can neither set the world free nor bow to its yoke. Who will foretell me my destiny and that of my country?

PHRYGIUS. Here is Bacchus himself who sends you his train in answer.

DAMIS. Here comes the brilliant Alcetas, with three hetaerae dressed as Bacchantes.

 

SCENE V

THE SAME, then ALCETAS enters with AGLAE, CYTHERIS and MIMALONE. They are clad in tunics of fawn, panther and tiger skins, and wreathed in flowers and foliage. They move towards the altar which stands on the steps to the Temple of Bacchus.

MIMALONE (raising her thyrsus). To thee, divine Bacchus, our offerings!

AGLAE (pouring a libation from a golden cup). Here is the juice of the vine to quicken thy heart!

CYTHERIS (scattering roses from a basket). Here are the sweets of the meadows to freshen thy forehead!

MIMALONE (waving the thyrsus). Here is the thyrsus which summons thee in the dense woodlands. Sweet is thy sleep in death and in ecstasy, 0 god torn asunder by the Titans, and splendid thy awakenings. . . . Grant us for thy birthday a happy day, followed by a night of revelling.

ALCETAS (noticing Theokles). What, it is you, Theokles? Back already from your travels?

THEOKLES. Already? Seven years seem a short time to you?

ALCETAS. Pleasure knows nothing of time. For me the hours, the days, the months, the years all have wings.

THEOKLES. So you are always happy?

ALCETAS. Always. Do you remember that in old days you were my companion? I used to ask only of every day a new passion, of every night a new delight. But you, unhappy one! You would probe even beneath pleasure after the secret of things. In the chaste hymns of maidens, in the sobs of heartbroken sweethearts, in the transports of courtesans . . . ah! I still laugh to think of it . . . you loved . . . what? The Soul of Nature, suffering, dispersed and multiple. . . . You sought . . . who would believe it? . . . the hidden god! But, madman, you found him not . . . and your keenest joys turned into black torments. (He laughs.) Are you still the same?

THEOKLES. To-day my soul is erect in my breast, like a Minerva on guard in her temple, awaiting the hour of battle.

ALCETAS. Politics then? I pity you all the more. You will end badly. Look at these courtesans whom I am taking to the festivals of Bacchus, and come with us. Speak to him, subtle pupils of Aphrodite. Haply he will listen to you.

AGLAE (shows him her goblet). My name is Aglae. I am Desire. If you drink the liquor of this goblet, a delicious fire will run through your veins.

CYTHERIS (offers him her basket). My name is Cytheris. I am Delight. With these roses I quench the terrible flames kindled by Aglae.

MIMALONE (waving her thyrsus). My name is Mimalone. I am Intoxication insatiate in pleasure without end. If you follow my thyrsus, you will see a thousand Bacchantes dancing on the hillside of the god, and you will find them all again in one of my embraces. I am as vast as Life and as deep as Death!

THEOKLES. 0 divine Bacchantes, human blossoms of the eternal Earth, all-powerful in your folly, you who bear scents and pour love charms, you the Graces and the Furies of man, can you quench the thirst which consumes me, can you give me Truth which satisfies, Faith that saves and Action which creates? Can you at least give me Oblivion? If so, I will follow you to the end! . . .

(They consult silently amongst themselves and encircle him as though to cast a spell on him. Aglae holds out her cup, Cytheris strews roses on him, Mimalone waves the thrysus above his head.)

THEOKLES. (He remains motionless, with arms folded and eyes riveted on a distant vision.) Oh, far away from the naked Bacchantes, where art thou, 0 my veiled Muse!

(The three Bacchantes recoil abruptly with a startled and respectful movement.) The Muse!

MIMALONE. We have no power over him.

ALCETAS. Well, you are not coming?

THEOKLES. I cannot.

ALCETAS (aside). He is ambitious. (Aloud.) May For-tune protect you!

THEOKLES. Aphrodite favour you!

(Exit Alcetas. The courtesans follow him. Before they disappear they turn back once, holding each other by the shoulders, to look at Theokles.)

AGLAE. How handsome he is!

CYTHERIS. How pure he is!

MIMALONE. How strong he is!

ALL THREE. Farewell, son of Dionysos!

(Theokles remains sunk in his reverie without hearing or seeing them.)

 

SCENE VI

DAMIS, PHRYGIUS, THEOKLES, the FATHER OF THE DESERT, with the SEVEN VIRGINS, among whom is CLEONICE, veiled.

The bells and the strains of the organ are heard from the basilica.

PHRYGIUS. Again the funeral knell of these Christians!

DAMIS. Here comes the Father of the Desert with the consecrated Virgins.

THE FATHER (to Theokles). My son Theokles, youthful hope of our ancient city, I was aware of your return. For last night I dreamt of you. I beheld you bathed in a dazzling but lurid light; and behind you a voice cried: He will be the glory and the scourge of his city! . . . I know that your soul is upright and courageous. I know your secret thoughts. . . . I know that you are tempted by the Adversary! (Theokles looks at him in astonishment.) I know it and I mean to save you. Come with me to the desert to yield yourself to God. There I promise that you shall find all that you seek: Truth, Strength and Life.

THEOKLES. And to gain that what must I do?

THE FATHER. You must deny yourself, forego all desire, make yourself nothing before Christ, and become no more than an instrument in the hands of God.

THEOKLES. Then my innermost self, the shrine of my nameless longing, this holy flame by which I live and by which I am a living soul—I must renounce all this?

THE FATHER. Yes, for the moment.

THEOKLES. Do you not know, then, that this longing is itself a spark from God, nay, that it is God Himself in all His power?

THE FATHER. Insane arrogance! Do not dare to insult the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, the only God!

THEOKLES. All honour to the greatest of the Sons of God! If Jesus should return to this world, I would go to listen to His words on the Mount and to adore Him on His Calvary. But yield to you and your regulations—never! If I refuse to bow before the gods of Olympus, why should I go and cower beneath a cross? Rather perish for all eternity than win my salvation by starving my soul; because a God has died for me, shall I no longer have the temerity to live? You are wasting your time, old man. You will not intimidate me either by the cord of penitence or by the transports of fear. Learn that I mean to make of the earth an abode of joy, and a temple of beauty for souls that are free!

THE FATHER. Freedom? It is in the divine mystery of sacrifice. You will never know it, I can see that. . . . You bear on your forehead the fatal stigma of Lucifer.

THEOKLES (moves towards the Father with sudden curiosity). Lucifer, who is that?

THE FATHER. The Angel of Revolt.

THEOKLES. Ah, how I would like to know him!

THE FATHER. Wretched man, he has you already! (He steps back with a startled gesture.) Oh horror, a son of Lucifer!

THEOKLES. Tell me, Father, why is that Virgin veiled whilst the others show their faces uncovered?

THE FATHER. That is Cleonice, daughter of the Archon Laodikos, the richest and most illustrious Christian of the city. She dares no longer show her beautiful face to the light, for fear of the outrages of the heathen. She is going with the other Virgins to lay the flame of her spirit and the flower of her flesh at the feet of Christ. Only such a fine spirit, such a noble Virgin might be able to save you by her prayers. . . . (Cleonice, unseen by the Father, moves a few steps towards Theokles.) Pernicious man, fated to upset the world for our misfortune and your own, you have foresworn Christ to yield yourself to Satan!

(Cleonice looks long at Theokles through her veil.)

THEOKLES (aside). Is this some mute divinity who looks at me beneath a veil? This unknown woman has the shape of my destiny. . . . Oh, my vision of the Muse!

(Cleonice turns away with her arms lifted in a gesture of despair, then clasps her hands for prayer and covers her face with them, sobbing.)

THE FATHER (observing Cleonice’s movement, turns to Theokles). Child of the Demon, may God confound thee, and preserve us from thee.

(Exit with Cleonice and the Virgins.)

THEOKLES (gazing after Cleonice). She is still weeping. . . . How beautiful she is under the mysterious folds of her veil, and what magic in her gestures! Dread, prayer, sobs, in her all is sublime. And to think that I shall never see that face and those eyes, perhaps the only ones which have wept and will weep divine tears over me! 0 Almighty God, why is it that in this world the finest souls are veiled and solitary like islands in the deep!

 

SCENE VII

DAMIS, PHRYGIUS, THEOKLES, and soon after ANDROCLES with a few of the PEOPLE.

DAMIS. How wonderful is this Cross that issues from the darkness of basilicas and crypts to the conquest of the world!

PHRYGIUS. The Christians affirm that their Messiah is the only Son of God.

DAMIS. The Children of Israel affirm that the Messiah is not yet come, but that He will come.

THEOKLES. It is right that mankind should still brood darkly over future Messiahs and expect their coming; none knows when the Messengers of the Eternal are to come, and they would never come unless souls athirst for light were to call them and unless the warriors of the spirit kept watch in arms. . . . (He falls into reverie.) But if God has come down to man, why should not man ascend again to God? That is it! There are two Words of the Almighty! The Messiah and Lucifer.

DAMIS (uneasily). What is the matter with you? In your eyes fires are flashing and stars glistening. . . .

THEOKLES (in a kind of trance). We dwell in the terrible kingdom of Desire where all men consume each other in their strife for mastery. But beyond the Kingdom of Desire I perceive the radiant Kingdom of Art which shapes its phantoms in the marble of beauty. Still higher, in the centre of the worlds, I see the shining Kingdom of Love which out of the divine Fire moulds living souls in uncreated Light! Yonder is the sphere of the Immortal Archangels. . . . Oh! to create like them!

PHRYGIUS. Day-dreams! Are you mad? If you want to convince us, speak by acts!

THEOKLES (recovering himself, very calmly). Wait and you will see.

(Loud clamour from behind. A few of the people run in gesticulating.)

A WOMAN. What a scandal!

AN OLD MAN. What audacity!

A YOUNG MAN. It is the beginning of revolt!

THE OLD MAN. It is the end of the city!

(The trumpet call is heard.)

THE YOUNG MAN. There is the Herald of the Proconsul. Let us run to see! Run!

(The crowd runs out noisily.)

DAMIS. Here comes Androcles, the Commandant of the Acropolis.

(Androcles rushes in.)

PHRYGIUS. What is the matter?

ANDROCLES (with intense excitement). A sign! A miracle! A prodigy! which already is spreading through the city and tossing men’s souls hither and thither, like a storm wind that lashes the waves and agitates the ocean! I was ascending the Acropolis with the Proconsul; we were marching in the midst of the Senate of the city, accompanied by the legionaries and followed by the whole populace. I was carrying—much against my will, the Senate had so decided by order of Harpalus—I was carrying the torch lit from the fire of Vesta. We were nearing the altar ‘of the last-born of the gods’, the holiest in the city, the altar which is supposed to pronounce oracles and which now bears the statue of Caesar. The Proconsul steps forward; then he wavers and starts back. He has seen some verses insulting to Caesar written in CHARACTERS on the pedestal. Harpalus in agitation cries out: ‘The altar has been defiled by some blasphemer, the sacrifice interrupted; but before Helios has set, I shall have detected and chastised the culprit!’ I drop my torch, which goes out; but the people press forward to read the daring couplets and scatter to spread them to the four corners of the city. They are calling out that an unknown god has done this miracle and will avenge them on Caesar! They are brandishing wands, palms, swords—while the Romans, spellbound in confusion, stand thunderstruck.

THEOKLES. What are these words which have aroused the sleeping soul of my native city?

ANDROCLES. Here is the Oracle which flames on the altar of the latest-born of the gods:

Ye heroes of our City, ye forebears, blush for shame! Our proud Acropolis this day forfeits its ancient fame;

Poor Dionysia! once called Queen of all Ionian lands,

Lo now! on the gods’ pedestal a pigmy Caesar stands!

PHRYGIUS. Is the author of these verses known?

ANDROCLES. He is a hero surely. They are written in blood and signed: ‘HARMODIUS.’

PHRYGIUS. That Harmodius who of old freed Athens from tyranny?

DAMIS. Sometimes the spirits of the dead speak in blood.

PHRYGIUS. Is he dead or living?

THEOKLES. Living . . . I am ‘Harmodius’!

(Damis, Phrygius and Androcles recoil thunderstruck and draw their swords.)

ALL THREE. He? Theokles!

THEOKLES. Shall I find an ‘Aristogeiton’?

DAMIS (clasping his hand). Here is one.

ANDROCLES. Here are two.

THEOKLES. We are three then. Three together we can dare, we can act, we can put a world on the anvil again.

ANDROCLES. Place the hammer in our hands and we will strike.

THEOKLES (to Androcles and Damis). Are you not the leaders of the two clans disarmed to-day, who used to fight under the emblem of Mars and Apollo?

DAMIS AND ANDROCLES. Yes.

THEOKLES. Drill them in the gymnasia without revealing anything to them. When it is broad daylight, hide them in the underground chambers of the Acropolis. At the first signal of a revolt lead them out and kill the officers of the legion.

ANDROCLES. And then?

THEOKLES. Once free, Dionysia will find allies. (To Phrygius.) Are you not the son of the ancient kings of Dyrapolis? Have you not within you the courage, the pride and the spirit of your race?

PHRYGIUS. Yes, surely.

THEOKLES. Act then when we act. Expel the Romans and set your city free. If you do that you will be king!

PHRYGIUS (aside). King? That is true. . . . I might be then. (He lifts his hand to his breast as if from excess of joy.) (Aloud.) Very well, if Dionysia frees herself, Dyrapolis will follow her example. But the signal—who will give that?

THEOKLES. We three!

DAMIS, ANDROCLES (together). What shall it be?

THEOKLES (walking to the back and pointing to the Curule Chair under the Porch). Stab the Proconsul on his judge’s throne, in the Praetorium, in the sight of the whole city.

DAMIS, ANDROCLES (following Theokles as though fascinated by the vision of the act). Here?

THEOKLES. Here! The revolt will leap from mountain to mountain and from city to city throughout all Ionia.

(All four come forward again.)

DAMIS. And on that day, like you, we shall bedeck our swords with the flower of Harmodius and Aristogiton.

THEOKLES. Let that be our badge of fellowship. As the naked steel flashes out of the green bough, so the creative will issues from the virgin foliage and blossoms of thought; even so will our formidable purpose issue from the sap of our youth and from the fount of undying joy. And just as this scented bough masks an avenging sword, so at the hour of action let a smile of gaiety mask our terrible intent. The freedom of cities is nothing without the freedom of souls. It is for this that we shall fight. And though we were to perish, we and our city, we should leave to the world an example finer than that of an emancipated city—the indissoluble brotherhood of free spirits. Bodies may perish, swords break, ramparts crumble . . . but the Soul is invincible! Let us be free souls—and we shall be the city of the future.

(Damis, Androcles, Phrygius cross their swords on the sword of Theokles.)

ALL THREE TOGETHER. We stand together!

(The Roman trumpet call is heard from the back of the Praetorium. The three conspirators tremble and hastily hide their swords under their cloaks. Theokles alone stands motionless and calmly returns his to his girdle.)

 

SCENE VIII

THE SAME, then the HERALD of the PROCONSUL who moves forward with his three Lictors on the stairway of the Praetorium. A few of the people gather before him. At the same moment the High Priest of Dionysos issues from the temple and halts on the threshold. Opposite him the Christian Bishop comes out of the basilica and remains under the Porch.

THE HERALD. In the name of the Emperor and of the majesty of the Roman people, hear my words! A miscreant has outraged the statue of Caesar. The Proconsul of Asia calls upon every citizen, slave or foreigner to discover and surrender the culprit. Every inhabitant, man or woman, who gives him shelter or food shall be punished with death. Let him be searched out, tracked down and brought bound to the Praetorium to undergo the penalty of blasphemers. By order of the Proconsul, all baths, gymnasia, circuses and spectacles are to be closed. The taxes are tripled until the day when the people shall surrender to their judge the criminal who signs himself ‘HARMODIUS’!

(Murmurs among the crowd.)

THE HIGH PRIEST OF DIONYSOS (under the Porch of the Temple). The enemies of the gods are the enemies of the city. Their heads do not long stand erect above the crowds; they fall stricken by the thunderbolt like mighty trees. Caesar and Destiny are all-powerful gods. Woe to those who defy them! Woe to Harmodius!

THE BISHOP. We render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Blessed be the Emperor who protects the Christians. The enemies of the Emperor are the enemies of Christ. Curses upon the sacrilegious! Woe to Harmodius!

(The Heralds, the High Priest and the Bishop withdraw, and the people in dismay disperse, murmuring.)

THE PEOPLE. Harmodius! Death to him!

DAMIS. If you are detected I will shelter you in my house. You know that it is at your service with all that I possess.

THEOKLES. No, friend; exile is safer.

ANDROCLES. You know whether my heart is on your side. You know that in the day of battle every muscle of this arm would harden into a fibre of steel. But the times are adverse. Flee, your life is at stake.

THEOKLES. The soul of Dionysia, which but now was seething like a hive of bees, has fallen dumb all at once, and over the town lies a silence of death. If such is the power of a Roman Herald with two Lictors, what will be that of the Proconsul himself, and of Caesar with all his legions?

(A man wrapped in a cloak is seen lurking at the back.)

ANDROCLES (to Theokles). Do you see that man? That is the Proconsul’s spy. He is watching us. Beware. Already the shadow of Caesar is hovering over you, and his ever-present hand will close upon you. Your life is in danger, Theokles. Flee! Flee!

(The man in the cloak vanishes.)

THEOKLES. I mean to set you free from this shadow that darkens the universe, from this hand which holds you down.

ANDROCLES. Such an attempt would need more than a man, it would need the voice of a god.

PHRYGIUS. Yes, of a god.

THEOKLES. But were that god ever to speak, you would act?

ANDROCLES AND PHRYGIUS. Yes.

THEOKLES. Then our pact remains indissoluble till the day of the sign from heaven?

ANDROCLES, PHRYGIUS AND DAMIS. It remains.

THEOKLES. Farewell, then, until we meet again.

(Exit Androcles and Phrygius.)

DAMIS. Let me follow you!

THEOKLES. No, you will stay here. Your messages will tell me what is being said in the city. I will see you again before departure. Now leave me. I need to be alone.

(Exit Damis.)

 

SCENE IX

THEOKLES, then LYCOPHRON.

THEOKLES (alone). They are right . . . to think, man is sufficient to himself; but to act he needs the voice of a god. Which is the god who will speak for me? (He meditates with his chin in his hands.)

(Lycophron approaches, with his lantern still alight in the broad daylight, and examines Theokles at close quarters.)

THEOKLES (starting out of his thoughts). What do you want?

LYCOPHRON. Young man in mourning, with flowers on your sword, noble exile, behind you I see hovering a woman with golden hair, wreathed in narcissus, with a strange smile. She holds a dart and a palm leaf and murmurs divine words in your ear. . . . ‘Is it Death or Immortality?’ Perhaps both. (He brings his lantern near Theokles’s eyes.) Yes, you . . . you have a living soul! (He blows out his lantern.) I have no more need of my light; I have found what I have been seeking all my life.

THEOKLES. What do you mean by a living soul?

LYCOPHRON. A soul which acts of itself and not under the pressure of others. Such a soul is unbreakable and may arouse the world.

THEOKLES. If then I am such a soul, why cannot I do it? Give me the centaur’s hoof to master the mountain, and the eagle’s wing to reach its summits, and then my humanity will equal the reach of my desire. . . . But I am not even able to breathe my faith into the heart of a single friend!

LYCOPHRON. That is because you do not yet know the highest force of all. Have you ever heard of Heraklidos, the Hierophant of the Unknown God, who dwells in the wild glades of the Taurus Mountains?

THEOKLES. No.

LYCOPHRON. Go to him. He will make you known to yourself and will unveil to you the secret powers of nature. He alone will make you see the Spirit face to face and commune with the heart of the world.

THEOKLES. How strangely your words vibrate in the depth of my heart! Who are you then?

LYCOPHRON. Grave-digger and seer. I bury the dead and show the way to the living. Go to Heraklidos!

(He goes out softly. Theokles stands still and follows him with his eyes.)

 

Act Two

Children of Lucifer