The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926
The Syracusans — Act III, Scene 2. — Scene:
Act III, Scene 2.
A public place in the heart of Syracuse. In background view of city wall. To R. a temple of Artemis. Absolute darkness. Enter Dion, dressed in goatskins.
[Exit. [Enter priestesses, revellers, votaries of Artemis, with torches, among them Phoebe and Arsinoe.],Arsinoe: Cast fire upon black night! Spit forth your joy Upon the sullen face of heaven! Fierce Is the delight that blazes in our limbs. Up, torches! Women: Io! Arsinoe: Marvellous is the night— Wild and majestic; and the torches spin On its black cloth edges bizarre and strange, Patterns of hazard. There's a wind that comes Out of the breast of morn, and stirs my hair: Fawn-footed and swift-handed, we are grown Things of the wild, beings that on the dark Ride forth untamed, play with the mane of night, Filled with a spirit impetuous as the stars That shoot from heaven to ocean—uncontrolled, One with the wind of dawn. A Woman: Torch of the feasting, gay Arsinoe, That flarest through pillar and shadow, and we laugh And follow, follow! Arsinoe: Never an arm at rest! No foot be silent, and no voice be dumb! O for the passion that bears sense away, And fills the soul like a tempestuous river, Too high with autumn floods, that carries down The oaken pillars of its banks: the clouds Unite with it, and all dumb nature cries Wildly articulate, in one symphony Of thunderous fall and clamour! Like an elm Caught in the yielding banks, my spirit bends To its absorption in the proud-eyed night, That sobs with passion. I am hurled and tossed Down through a stream of fierce delight; I am No more Arsinoe, no more myself— A thing, an element, a fire!—Great gods, I am no more in Syracuse: no more See chiselled marbles; I am sunk within An element of air and flame, that swims Throughout my body. Ho for ecstasy! page break page 33 Women:
[Dance and sing—red chiaroscuro.]
Leap and lower, thou spirit of fire!
Turn and twist ere the breath of the morn!
Passion unspeakable, swell thou higher
Wild with the night ere it dies in dawn!
Spirit that dwelleth
In moving airs;
Spirit that quelleth
The flame of cares:
Laugh as the woods in the riot of sun!
Toss as the wave ere its life be run!
Green things moving o'er meadow and lea
Bend their brows to the spirit of Pan:
One with the soul of the world are we
That filled the wilds since the earth began.
Of storm-ridden wave: Wind-wove clangour
Of thunderous cave: Woo and work in the heart of thy maid,
Filled with the god till the stars be stayed!
[During the above the sole light is the torches, flashing and passing in movement.]Arsinoe: O star of dawn, lock fast thy impetuous feet! Sun, sink in the ocean till our torch flare out!
[A red light flares on the walls in distance.]Phoebe: Sun, hast thou risen in wrath to blast our pride? [A tumult of bugles and drums.] Artemis, help us!
"[Cries without. Enter Dion.]Dion: Help! help! The Romans! Fly!
[Tumult continues. Exit Phoebe. Many votaries, among them Arsinoe, fly to the portico of the temple of Artemis.]Arsinoe! Arsinoe: What, Dion, and a goatherd? Dion: Where's Phoebe? Arsinoe: Gone! flown like a frightened swallow. Dion: Come!—seek her out! Arsinoe: I'll lock my feet to the flags Of Artemis's porch! Dion: I'll seek her out or die.
[Enter Diomed and Terpander as from the feast.]Diomed: Fly! to your doors! and every man to arms; page 34 Terpander: Coarse war that welters in the feasting flowers! Diomed: Put on the man, and fight like furies! Cleon (enters): Myrto! Diomed!—home, and put thine armour on, Or thou'lt not live a breath's while. Diomed: I'll be rent Like beggar's rags, but I'll not stir from hence. They shall not conquer!
[Shouts and alarum. Enter fugitives. Diomed, Terpanter, and Cleon are forced out.]A woman with a child: Help! help! Marcellus! Arsinoe Stand behind me, woman.
[Shouts. Enter Valerius Flaccus, Marcus Ager, and others, with drawn swords. Bright, unsteady light.]Ager: Fire to their palaces! Death to the Greek! Valerius: On, Romans! Bite, dogs of battle! Arsinoe
[Steps forward with upraised torch: the woman and child behind her: Valerius with sword drawn.]I charge you, by the name of Artemis, Her whom ye call Diana, down with the sword! On this her sacred day would ye come hither And dare the anger of the gods? Back, thou, Or I will curse thee for the sacrilege! Thou waverest, centurion? Ager: On, stout hearts!
[Arsinoe flinches.]Woman: Pity, sweet lady, though I am in rags! O proud patrician! gay Arsinoe, Wilt be a butterfly in death, and save Thy noble blood while the poor is butchered! Ager: Witch! Let me through! [Seizes her.] Arsinoe: Curse upon thee if thou touch The clear sweet life of Greece. Barbarous Roman!
[Enter Myrto and Diomed, the latter armed.]Diomed: Where is my wife? Ager (stabs Arsinoe): There, proud Greek! Arsinoe: Fly, woman, fly! (Falls.)
[Exit woman with child.]Ager: Rome looks not where she treads, but still fares on, Haughty and high. Valerius: Thou hast done badly. Ager: On! Set fire to Syracuse!
[Exit with others.]page 35 Myrto (By body of Arsinoe): O had'st thou lived Even as thou'st died! Diomed: A thrust for Syracuse! The pride of life is on my sword, and grace. Valerius: Purpose on mine!
[Exeunt fighting. Enter Dion.]Dion: Myrto!—Arsinoe!— Myrto: Where is Phoebe, man?
[Stage lighted from burning city.]Dion: Syracuse burns, and all her revellers Fly tattered, stained with blood, wild with confusion. Diomed (Without): Stand! stand together! Myrto (Looking in wings,): Ah, Diomed! Diomed (Enters wounded, bedraggled, and bleeding): O! I am stricken! Romans know war at least. My sword is broken. We fight in groups, bravely and separately— Bring them together, Dion! (Falls.) Dion: Diomed! Diomed: Leave me—' tis nothing—' tis the blood in my throat. I ne'er was hurt before—it is but slight. I will not die! by Zeus, I will not die! The wound was quick—Why art thou silent, Dion? Dion: What can I say? Diomed: How dim are all the streets! I scarce can speak. Tell me I will not die! It were too much to lose all life at once. [It grows lighter.] Let me stand. (Dion and Myrto assist him.) I will fight death step by step. Why do the gods make life so glorious. The world so lovable, if they give us death? ' Twas never willed men should die young. Ah, Phoebe! (Sings): Helen went forth upon the towers, The wind was in her braided hair— Send Cleon forth to Aethiopia, Where spices blow, and people are so fair They never die—O, gods!—Eternal youth Lives in a fountain there—and Scythia, Where griffins with one-eyed Arimaspians feast, That guard the desert gold—I'll sail with him! Hold me, my limbs are stiff—with fighting. Zeus, But I will speak! I will not die! Sweet Phoebe— (Sings): And Hector's foe beyond the walls, And all the plain of sounding Troy Cried loudly: "Fair the doom that falls For such a beauty, and such joy!" The sun! the sun! Thou art my minstrel, Dion.
[Dies. Sunshine bursts through the flames.]