Adagio con Afflizione
THE UNDERGROUND TORTURE CHAMBER
Madelon and Sebastiano are shackled to two posts whence they will behold the torturers at work in order to obtain a realization of what is awaiting them, if they insist on refusing to accept the offer of Iambus. They face each other from each side of the stage, and the posts are half-way between the footlights and the background. At the back of the stage is placed a magnificent throne with several seats at each side. Iambus is seated on the throne, accompanied by Rotondo, Crotchet, Even Tenor and several male and female demons. Quasi stands behind him, holding up a great umbrella of State above the head of Iambus. Instruments of torture, bellows, stakes, faggots, etc., are placed in various spots, and the two torturers are busy arranging everything, aided by their attendants, one of whom is Quaver, who is in the habit of trembling violently from time to time, so much so that at every step he takes he leaves upon the sand with which the floor is bestrewed modal figures, such as can be seen on a vibrating disk. Quaver is a very frightened devil who really should not be in Hell at all; and the more he sees the victims tortured, the more he trembles. From beams and pillars are suspended Pterodactyls, snakes, great bats, and other monsters, whose eyes gleam redly with anticipation, for they know that after the victims are slain they will receive their share of them. While the attendants, etc., are busy, going to and fro to make final adjustments, Madelon and Sebastiano smile at one another.
IAMBUS: Fermato, Fermato! Where is that lazy devil now? Resting somewhere, or asleep again, I suppose!
(From the midst of a bundle of faggots arises a sleepy-looking demon.)
FERMATO: Yes, my Lord, at your service. (Yawns) Always ready to serve my Master (stretches himself).
IAMBUS: Go to, you lazy slug! Dost think I have taken thee into my service for a rest cure?
FERMATO: All right, all right, Sir; coming now.
(He struggles to get out of the faggots, scattering them in all directions.)
RABBIA: What the . . . (He looks in alarm at Iambus).
IAMBUS: Go on! Finish your sentence thou imitation Padishah, and you will be the first to burn to-night like Nero's frolicsome candles. I'll let Quaver attend to you; he is sure to make a mess of it and prolong the melting agony.
(Rabbia slinks away, while Quaver trembles violently.)
IAMBUS (to Fermato): Come HERE!!! You lazy dog!
(Fermato ambles leisurely to the throne.)
FERMATO: At your service, great Prince! (He yawns.)
IAMBUS: Shake yourself and come to life, narcotic knave; go and see what keeps us waiting for the victims.
(Fermato dawdles off.)
IAMBUS (to Crotchet): This is a promising beginning of your 'spectacle', I swear! Where is everybody?
(From both sides of the stage enters a double procession of hooded figures. They are the Pilgrims of the Serpent, who have arrived from the nether regions to attend the spectacle. They pass in front of the throne, and, crossing the stage in opposite directions take up their positions at each side. As they enter they sing until their proper stations are reached.)
Song of the Pilgrims of the Serpent
In the Deeps of Eternal Night we heard the Great Breath's Whisper,
We took up our staffs and followed its sibilant command.
We passed through the place of endless weeping,
But the Song of the River of Tears was drowned by the Whisper's call.
The Pavilions of the Shadow were empty—but for it's mystic Mandate.
The black fields o'er which sails the darkling moon, hiding her light,
Were filled with that compelling Whisper.
In the Regions of Sulphur Light, there, loudest of all,
Was the clamour of that hissing Spell.
And now, at the court of Iambus, the Black Flambeau,
The Whisper calls forward no more.
We have heard and obeyed and are here:
Though the 'Word' was uttered so softly, my Lord!
(From behind the scenes is heard the sound of groans, loud sighs and crying. A crowd of miserable human beings enters, guarded by the soldiers of Rotondo; they wring their hands and sob despairingly.)
IAMBUS (to Crotchet): What rubbish have we here?
CROCHET: This is the 'hors d'oeuvre' which precedes the main dish, my Lord. A tasty tit-bit to tickle the palate and give an appetite for more.
IAMBUS: Those scarecrows make me sick instead, you fool. What are they, and why have you brought them here?
CROCHET (prodding some of the wretches with a long fork): Just a few poisoners, who saw their victims die in agony without turning a hair.
IAMBUS: Tear out their bowels . . . slowly.
(They are taken by the attendants and handed over to the torturers.)
CROCHET (prodding a few others): Here are a few who sold their country to the enemy.
IAMBUS: Into the boiling vats with them; heat the sulphur at your leisure.
(They are handed over.)
CROCHET: These are misers.
IAMBUS: Drown them in molten gold.
CROCHET: These are food profiteers.
IAMBUS: Rip out their tongues and blind them; then knock out their teeth with red-hot hammers and skin them alive.
CROCHET: These are blackmailers.
IAMBUS: Saw off their limbs, one by one and bit by bit with blunt saws.
CROCHET: These sweet ladies are writers of slanderous and dirty postcards.
IAMBUS: Tear off their nails, chop off their fingers and scalp them.
CROCHET: This lot did . . .
IAMBUS: Oh, shut up! Must I fill my hungry belly with those empty husks? Have you nothing more appetising? This is all stale stuff! Burn the lot and done with. What comes next?
(Meanwhile, Rabbia and Tortum are playfully torturing their victims and a serrant stringendo of pain issues forth from their agonized throats in a sostenuto of utter terror).
ROTONDO: It is now my turn to serve the next course, my Lord. Here comes the soup in the form of a toothsome broth of demons that have proved themselves too weak in evil—thus being unworthy to dwell with us in honour. (To the soldiers): Now give the signal and blow the sacred trumpets; the Keranim and Keren (these are ram's horns).
(The soldiers obey and a fresh troop of chained demons enters. They cry unto Iambus, tearfully, hands stretched out in plaintive pantomimes, molto lacrimendo, while the sounds of dreadful shrieks rise higher and higher in the scale of agony; a true anabasis of vocalised anguish).
IAMBUS (while there is a momentary pause): Oh, stop this racket; take that crew away and finish the job elsewhere.
(The voices of the 'weak in evil' are now heard as the rest are dragged away, pleading with insinuating intonations, all at the same time crying):
THE WEAK IN EVIL: Mercy! forgiveness, great Lord; send us back to earth again and we shall not fail you any more; mercy, have pity, pardon.
IAMBUS: Silence, there! (In a rage): What do I hear? (Turning to the accused demons): Hah! you scabby, scurvy, scaly toads!! You dross of Hell, unable to appreciate the honour done to you when WE sent you forth to earth on special missions of destruction! (To Rotondo): Lead them out of my sight, the ungrateful wretches; have them hanged up by the heels over a slow fire and let them roast gradually; see it lasts for three months at least. That'll bring the rest into line and put more zest into our lazy mob.
(Rabbia and Tortum re-enter.)
IAMBUS: Halt! Take half of them and cut their throats in honour of our Lord, The Great Breath. (To the Pilgrims): Note this well, my friends from the Deeps, and make report of our little ceremony in the right quarters. (They bow and murmur).
RABBIA: The trenches and the ditches have been dug, my Lord, they are very thirsty for the hot blood of sacrifice.
IAMBUS (to the condemned demons): You will soon be in a state of pleasant nullibility, my children, neither here nor there, but nowhere. Rejoice! your troubles are nearly over!
MADELON: Why are all these demons to be destroyed so ruthlessly?
IAMBUS: Ah! So even the female Angels of Heaven can be just as curious as their sisters on earth? But I'll satisfy your longing for information, sweet child; perhaps it is a sign that you are beginning to take an intelligent interest in our proceedings, after all. These feeble fools have failed in their missions, and I have no use for failures here.
MADELON: I do not understand.
IAMBUS: Know then, fair Cousin of mine, that this is a Hell of Righteousness. There comes to me at times the remnant of a human blunderer, who shows some signs of originality in sin and is of exceptional promise. Such a one is given the chance of promotion, and when the time is ripe I send him back to earth in human shape to play his proper role within the teeming world of men. There he arrives with great inherent powers of what you would call Evil, powers with which I have entrusted him. But should he fail to make a proper use of these and do his work half-heartedly, in other words: not making the right use of his talents, or even trying to turn to the other way—thus hoping to escape from my wrath—suffering, perhaps, from a devotion-complex, or one of occasional tenderness or compassion, then he has failed miserably, becomes 'weak-in-evil' and is unworthy of being honoured here. And then my servants lure him back and cut once more his thread of earthly life, and then he is wiped out for good—after paying dearly for his treachery to ME; for I have a proper use only for the 'Strong-in-Evil'!!
MADELON: How may such a being be recognised on earth?
IAMBUS: In many ways! Coming from my Realm, he is full of the correct ideas of Righteousness and may perform his task under the guise of a religious fanatic or a pernicious sort of 'mystic'; a man or woman who is so 'good and pure' that all the worlds above him shudder with dismay. He is a tight-lipped, hard-eyed bigot, priceless to me, ever spreading scandal and casting doubt upon the really good, who are forever beyond my grasp. He perverts all truth and persecutes the lover, poet, artist and many such-like with bitter and unrelenting hatred and whispered malice, persuading the inefficient ones that those who are thus inspired by love and beauty are evil—because they differ from the common herd.
Some of these vassals of mine are given great positions in various walks of life, and they may be found among unscrupulous merchants, financiers, yea, among the very heads of churches, dictators and other parasites. They have forgotten all about ME for a while and do not know that all their fame and power will only last as long as I shall choose. They hear my whisper in the night and put their inspirations down to their own cleverness or intuition—forsooth—and become filled with an evanescent, but deadly pride.
And thus I wish it, for if they felt that I am master, it might make them waver even then. . . . . being only human puppets, dancing at the end of my jerking-string. They impress others to deeds of hatred too, thus bringing fuel to my ever hungry cauldrons here. They may be found amongst the lowly mob as agitators, squint-eyed with scarlet greed, hiding in secret lairs, while their silly dupes start revolutions and foster strife, of which my servants pluck the easy fruits. All bear my brand upon their ugly brows; but only the wise may see it there. And being wise, they remain silent—for it is well known to them that only blood and tears may educate the unevolved to higher things. Thus, I am a Benefactor in reality; a true Educator who deserves rich praise instead of curses—for I am Justice, which corrects and elevates, instead of Mercy, which corrupts and weakens Man into a shoddy Angel with moth-eaten wings and a mouldy harp on which he twangs his everlasting Alleluias. Lo! I am great and mighty and the ruthless Saviour of detested Man, the illegitimate Candidate for 'Heaven'; the misbegotten offspring of my coward brothers, those foul, carousing, craven Sons of Light, while I—being utterly pure and spotless—dwell in my velvet darkness, which is a greater luminosity than all the vaunted nacreous Æther—pavonine and irisated only to the purblind lodgers of the rainbow-spangled firmaments 'above'!
MADELON: Thou foul and scheming, lying beast!
IAMBUS (indifferently): As you will, my Cousin; your opinions carry little weight, or none at all. (To the Soldiers): Now sound the rogue's march as a final token of my esteem for all stupid wretches.
(Fanfare of discords as the Weak-in-Evil are taken off.)
IAMBUS (to Crotchet): Now then! I'm getting indigestion with all these fallals; proceed at once to the main dish. What is it?
CROCHET: Something rare and scrumptious, my Lord . . . (Impressively); Three actual saints who have fallen by the wayside, as't were.
IAMBUS: What have they done or left undone?
CROCHET: Little saintly peccadilloes, great one! One fell for a sweet little nymph in India, whom I sent to cozen him away from his devotions. The next thought himself so holy, that he became filled with great, unlawful pride, and the last one stole the sacrifice and ate it, for he had been fasting overlong and could hold out no more.
IAMBUS: Ah! They need a little correction, I think. Bring them in.
(The soldiers give a trumpet blast, and three men, loaded with chains are brought in. One is a Hindu Ascetic who carries a sanctoral; one a Christian Hermit who has a missal in his hands, and the third an emaciated-looking savage. They behold Madelon and Sebastiano and bow to them.)
IAMBUS (in a rage): What is this!!! (To the soldiers): Give another blast on the Yabal (a Hebrew trumpet), so that I shall know whether I'm awake or asleep. This is blasphemy and insolence of the first order and shall be punished most heavily! (To the Saints): You shall be extinguished in a brilliant manner to the sound of music in a very 'remote' key. It will be a fine spectacle—a ravishing revue! I suppose you think that to inquire into the sanctity of 'Saints' is sacrilege—do you not? Hah! This will be better sacrifice to our unseen Lord than that inept crew downstairs; better sacrifice than a hundred bulls and a thousand rams or ten-thousand sacred goats! You are fond of 'religion', eh? We'll produce a delicate little Kyrielle for you, a lingering Litany of pain with many pleasant abbelimenti, or ornaments; and then you will cease to be . . . like an interrupted cadenza, played con mano sinistra on the Barbary Lyre. We shall elevate each one of you to the rank of truly sublime martyr. We shall have no pity on you!
HERMIT: The soul without pity—whoever he be—is overwhelmed in the end by his self-created evil!
IAMBUS: Hah! Thou wouldst argue here and teach ME a lesson? Why not pray to me instead, so that, perchance, thy present pain be turned to pleasure?
HERMIT: We know, Satan, that the wise will aye find happiness wherever God (Iambus winces) is pleased to lead his feet. The Sage who would be content to rule from a golden throne should be just as pleased to obey the behest of lackeys in a stable, and he will find deliverance even in the deeps of the Pit when bound to the stake, as we shall be here and now.
(From beyond the scenes sound awful shrieks.)
IAMBUS: Listen to the jubilant song of my 'guests'; art still content to be here?
ASCETIC: The very Fates—spinning deftly the thread of Destiny—recoil with horror when they behold thine evil deeds; and one day . . . soon . . . thy thread will snap, and thou wilt be no more!
(The savage gives a great yell.)
IAMBUS (to the Savage): Hah! I could find a use for thee, good man. (To Tortum, who has just returned with Rabbia when the prisoners were brought in): Test him a little, to see what he is made of.
(Tortum leads him to a stake to which he is bound, struggling furiously.) (Chorus of shrieks from off-stage.)
MADELON (To the Savage): Peace and strength to thee, poor soul! (To Iambus): And thou shalt vanish like a ship of the air that passes behind an endless cloud!
Iambus (ironically): Indeed! And is it so? Behold—he now shall learn to read the scarabed spells and bardic runes of agony.
SEBASTIANO (to the Savage): Fear not! Though thou a Savage, there is a good place for thee, too.
IAMBUS: Silence you two! You are here to see, and we have no wish to hear you. (To Tortum): Nip him a little, or flog him.
(Tortum applies the thongs to the Savage, who stands immovable and silent under the lashes, his eyeballs rolling.)
IAMBUS: Hum! Not too bad; leave him alone. (To the Hermit): And what have you been up to, friend 'Saint', to come to this pass?
HERMIT: I sat me down in the Field of Ardath, in the silence, and supped of its flowers—and my soul was filled with sweetness for a while. But all things of the earth are transient, and soon a restlessness of mind did fall upon me, and forth I went again from that blossomed meadowland. And I entered a great city, and it was full of seduction and glamour, so that my flesh leapt on its course to lawless pride: for they worshipped me there in their ignorance . . . and I was damned because of my revelry of self righteousness. Yet was that lesson worth the learning, though now I pay the fee with tears of agony and shame . . . yet am I wiser in humility than e'er before . . .
MADELON: Each tear thus shed becomes a Blessing from the hands of God, my brother. Hold high thy Faith, fear not, nor let thy heart be affrighted. Who that has once been nursed on the sweet milk of the Holy Spirit can ever forget the bosom upon which he rested in Peace that blissful time? Nor will that great Father-Mother forget it's nurslings of the past.
IAMBUS: Hah! We shall see! We shall examine him with the terrors of torture; we shall test the strength of his patience and repentance, and see where his 'holiness' will lead him!
HERMIT: My fortitude shall be rooted in wisdom, and though the winds of adversity may shake me I shall not be rooted out—for I am in the hands of God the Father and God the Mother.
IAMBUS: Those two stand helpless before my portals, fool, and here their vaunted might is like the strength of an ant that would uproot an ancient oak.
MADELON: Thou art envious of God, foolish Serpent; but the envious have no fellowship with Faith and Wisdom; which is God's eternal Love and Mercy, while envy is a hot flame that will consume its own substance in time.
IAMBUS: I am beyond all time—and space as well.
MADELON: Poor ignorant boaster!
SEBASTIANO: The Eagle of the Mind and the Scorpion of the Flesh are One; yet, each seeks to slay the other. Thus it is decreed by God, who alone can grant the mind its Victory!
IAMBUS: Cease thy babbling there and lead not astray yet further this misguided Saint. There is no God but ME!!! In Tobit's Book you may read that if the heart and liver of a fish be burned by a man troubled by an evil spirit, he will be delivered. He should place the heart and liver upon the ashes of some burning incense. Why not try a little of this magic on behalf of your friends? It might work, you know, and then he would be free from ME! Hah! Hah! Hah!!! Thuswise may you see, perhaps, if there is a God who can act against me!
ASCETIC: He that heareth not the man or fiend who says: 'There is no God, no after-life', remarks the slightest sigh of true repentance and puts His Seal upon that Soul!
IAMBUS: Thou blasphemer; thou ignorant wight!
ASCETIC: The Lord Vishnu hath lit a belated candle of Wisdom in my heart . . . and I KNOW—thou evil spirit! Behold!! The day of tribulation, of darkness and obscurity, draws nigh unto thee. Thy nations shall be shattered amidst great noise and anguish, affliction and fear! But the Lord Vishnu will take us hence and set us in a place of safety and everlasting heavenly bliss—and we shall laugh you to scorn!
HERMIT: Oh! Let me ascend to the top of the flowery hill and proclaim the greatness of God!!
IAMBUS: Thy wishes are in vain; here thou art and here thou stayest until thou shall learn the secrets of the seen and unseen in my realm. That is to say: if thou wilt, and if thou canst persuade my two cousins at the stake to keep thee company! For their very existence now depends upon thy willingness—nay! eagerness!—to forswear that false, impotent God of thine, powerless to release thee from my grip. So choose:—martyrdom and external extinction—or Power and Glory under ME. I will make thee my trusted minister and load thee with riches and happiness; those gifts are mine to bestow. (And his voice was keyed in a supreme consonance of flattery, caressing, lusingando.)
But the cunning speech of Satan was confounded by triumphant Truth when the Hermit answered:
HERMIT: Nay, Satan! Thou can'st not trick me, for the Lord God is merciful and good and will deliver him who is truly repentant in the end! But as for thee! The valleys shall be filled with the tears of thy weeping when the day of real Justice arrives. The airy Pavilions of Æther shall resound with the cries of thy lamentations. And every mountain shall tremble at the rewards of thy iniquities, and the rivers of thy torments shall rise and inundate the lands with the waters of thy Doom—oh, Son of God!—fallen so deeply into the Hell of thy own making, and lost for all eternity . . . unless thou repentest!
But we shall dwell anon in the shadows of the resinous arbours of Paradise, and our hearts shall be filled with the Light of God's Joy, Glory and Love. And there we shall pray for thee, yea, even for THEE . . . Satan!!
IAMBUS: Vain prattler! I will show unto thee the true gods and give thee one more chance. (To Fermato, who is lying half-asleep at the foot of the throne). Quickly, run to the High Priest and tell him I want a demonstration. Go swiftly, and swerve not from my commands, thou leaden-footed slave!
(Fermato slouches away.)
IAMBUS (to the Hermit): Ye shall be condemned to the eternal darkness for ever . . . unless you all accept!
SEBASTIANO: Stand fast brethren, and have no fear whate'er betides. The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his Face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his Countenance upon thee, and give thee Peace.
MADELON: And Strength and Patience, and Faith!
(From off scene is heard the sound of war-pipes and uillean pipes, battling with each other; yelling in strident, ironic alts, or bellowing on dreary drones—most bellicosamente—war-like. Now enter the forms of ancient, Pagan priests, with idols of silver and gold, wood and ivory, fantastically carved, borne upon the shoulders of their slaves. With polished tongues the priests worship and cry unto their false gods, who dwell in the dust of Sheol and answer not, for they cannot speak—having no sense.)
Oh, Spirits of the velvet Night—
Holy, Holy, Holy, is thy Might;
Oh, Vehuiah and Jeliel,
Sitael and Elemiah,
Lehales and Mahasiah,
Achaiah and Cahethel:
Swiftly, swiftly runs thy Flood,
Crimsoned with thy victim's blood.
Oh, Haziel and Jezalel,
Lauviah and Hahaiah,
Hariel and Hakamaiah,
Aladiah and Mebahel,
Flash forth in majesty
With flame and smoke,
And lightning stroke,
Oh, cleave the darkling nether regions—
Thou mighty gods—and slay
The unbelievers with dismay,
When they behold thy glorious legions!
(And as the priests sing their invocation to the genii of the night, they anoint themselves with blood, and light incense, which splutters and goes out . . . and nothing happens!)
THE HIGH PRIEST: Ah! Alas, the gods are offended, because there are heretics here.
IAMBUS (enraged): What gods are these?! You have put me to shame, inefficient monster; what will the Pilgrims of the Serpent say when they make report to our invisible Master! And would ye praise your gods when I am here, to whom alone all praise is due? Swallow your verbal worship pills—and may they choke you! Is this the way to impress my prisoners? Why burn incense? Burn bran before your idiot idols . . . fit food for their rabbit souls! (The priests throw up their hands in horror). A couple of scarecrows in a field of onions are more useful than your asinine deities, for they at least would scare away the birds, for their own good . . . lest they dissolve in tears in the strong scent of such a garden plot. Hence with your tripe! Nay! . . . Stay yet awhile and call up the brutes from the Deeps. Rend all the veils of Terror now if you would save yourselves from my wrath, and send the captives crazed with glimpses of our direst secrets!
(The priests take hold of a slave and cut his throat, and as the blood streams forth they mutter amongst themselves, and out of the spilt blood rise up great monsters that swarm about the prisoners like ants. And from between the wings come forth vile beasts with glowing eyes, their hides sparkling with fire. The priests and their attendants howl and scream and make passes in the air, but the prisoners stand unmoved amidst the turmoil. Out of the depths of distant times come forth Jurassic prodigies. Here are fantastic Iguanodons and Dinosaurs; Eurypterids, green or brown like nightmare crabs; Eryops from the carboniferous ages; green Dimetrodons with sail-like crests; the ferocious nose-homed Ceratosaurus with its many-fanged jaws; King-Tyrant Lizards, utterly cruel; the six-horned Uintatheres and the mighty Arinoitherium, as well as a troop of Titanotheriums like giant buffaloes, all huge, menacing and terrible, bellowing and screaming like fiends. And the bats and other monsters on the beams and pillars flap their wings and screech in answer to the bellowing beasts.)
IAMBUS (in a voice of thunder): SILENCE!!!!!
(All are frozen in their places and positions.)
MADELON: What cavalcade of monstrous forms is this?
SEBASTIANO (Sarcastically): Oh, just a few of our Prince's lap-dogs with which he thinks to frighten us.
IAMBUS (to the Martyrs): Now, then, my stiff-necked friends, this is but a small sample of my might and magic here! Art thou impressed?
SEBASTIANO: That boasted magic of thine is truly small beer, little princeling; we are not impressed by the vanity of those illusions.
(Iambus gives a sign to the Priests who lead the monsters away gradually.)
ASCETIC: The merest neophyte knows how to overcome such shades.
HERMIT: Is this thy wonderous power, Satan? Fie! It scares us not.
(At that moment the Savage bursts his bonds and flies at the throat of the High Priest who is superintending the removal of the beasts. Rabbia and Tortum, with their attendants, soon overpower him and fasten him to the stake with chains. As soon as calm is restored):
IAMBUS (ominously): Thou art close-fisted with thy praise, my friends! (He sighs): A pity thou dost not know how to expend applause more freely to thine ultimate profit, knowing no regret for giving me my due, which I could return to thee with abundant favours. (In sudden rage): Now make hot the fires, Rabbia, with tow and tallow, rosin and pitch and quantities of wood. Make rise the flames until they scorch our roof and bring comfort to our offerings. (To the Saints): The fangs of the Cimmerii shall reach out from the scuds of the clouds of burning. You shall behold the dance of Erebus' ghostly spirits during your tortures, before I cast you into the void of Acheron's gloom.
SEBASTIANO: Thou art in error, Iambus! Only for the empty is there a void, but for the full there is Wisdom; therefore: each man according to his qualities of mind and understanding. (To the Saints): Fill thy hearts with the good things of the spirit, dear friends, that thou mayest be comforted in the Light of God's Wisdom.
HERMIT: May thy prayers be heard, my children, and answered . . . and thy memories of us be ever sweet.
IAMBUS: To the stakes with these two other fools (pointing at the Ascetic and the Hermit).
(Both are taken and chained to the stakes; wood is set around them and all made ready for the sacrifice.)
IAMBUS: Now watch, dear cousins, and you will behold a most amusing scene. We shall melt their valour until it resembles ditch-water, but thick, with the stench of rotting corpses. Ah! wouldst defy ME? Now learn what is in store for you as well!
(As Iambus speaks the last words the roof of the torture chamber seems to dissolve, and a black sky is seen, with glaring, angry stars and a dull, murky and rusty moon, veiled in weird transparencies. The Bats and Pterodactyls drop from the roof as it disappears and fly away into the night sky.)
ASCETIC (from the stake to which he is now bound): I prophesy in the hour of the second death, and my words shall come true. I see a host of mighty dragons flying through the Æther. They are filled with vengeance and shout like Asuras with voices of thunder . . . the tumult is very dreadful . . . they come to destroy thee, Iambus!
Hermit (also from the stake): And the Angelic Hosts will gather themselves together and banish thy name; but we who cry unto God shall be delivered from evil!
ASCETIC: And Earth, then full of smiles, shall know thee no more—for the day of Brahmâ draws to its close and the time of testing is done.
HERMIT: Thou shalt be athirst, Satan, but the water will be like unto fire when thou drinkest.
ASCETIC: And voices shall come out of the trees, and the flowers and the rocks, and they shall accuse thee! Yea!—the whole world shall pronounce thy doom . . . speaking with voices like gods.
HERMIT: Gloria Patri!
ASCETIC: And from the mouth of the dragon cometh forth a great flame, and his eyes are on fire; the tempest rises where'er he treads, and the smoke and the dust shall choke thy brood—and thou, helpless to prevent. And great rocks shall fall from Heaven to crush thee—yea! great rocks and hills and mountains shall descend from out of the skies with fearful speed!
HERMIT: Gloria in excelsis Deo!
ASCETIC: And thou shalt behold the destruction of thine empire—and be the last of all to perish . . . except for a few that will wail and die.
HERMIT: Dies Irae!
ASCETIC: But the might of Brahmâ shall raise us up!
HERMIT: Et vitam ventura!
ASCETIC: For we worship Him and all His works, and we shall keep faith with him for ever—and thus reach Paradise.
HERMIT: Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy upon us; and incline our hearts to keep this law.
ASCETIC: And before thou are destroyed, thy kingdom shall be rooted up and it will be unto thee as an unthinkable wilderness!
HERMIT: Te Deum Laudamus; we praise Thee, oh God.
ASCETIC: And the spirits of the unseen shall vanish from the illusions above and within the earth . . . and there shall be Peace.
HERMIT: Dona nobis pacem.
Iambus (ironically): What a charming duet, most gracefully sung! No doubt, my cousins approve heartily. But the time has come to change thy tune, dear Saints! Let's hear thee sing the Song of the Flames. We have heard it oft, but never has it given us so much pleasure as it will do now! (To the Torturers): Apply the brands and let the hot chorus commence!
(They do so, and the flames leap up around the martyrs, while thick smoke surrounds them and blots out that part of the stage. The music of a Tuba Mirum resounds, with its undercurrent of tympanies, while the demons, etc., rush in and out of the smoke, inhaling it with gusto. Iambus has descended from his throne and stalks about exultantly, but vainly listening for the first shrieks of the victims. The demons howl with laughter and dance like mad. The smoke now drifts away and the martyrs are seen, unhurt, each in the company of a heavenly spirit which blesses them and sprinkles holy water upon them. Iambus retreats in horror, while the demons and all the rest rush away—terror stricken.)
HERMIT: Gratias agimus; we give thanks to thee, O Lord!
MADELON and SEBASTIANO: Blessed be the Name of God, full of Mercy and Compassion!
HERMIT: And behold! I see a flock of mighty Eagles descending from the sky, and in their talons are the weapons that shall uproot thee and thy kingdom—Satan! They are many-headed vultures, each with twelve great wings that span the firmament with POWER! Oh, amazing sight and glorious spectacle! And thou shalt know FEAR! Such Terror as is unthinkable to thee in thy pride. I pity thee, poor Prince, And I pray for thee. . . though 'tis in vain.
IAMBUS (screamingly): SLAY the wretch! Hey!! Rabbia, Tortum, Fermato, Priests!! Where art thou all?!! Crotchet, Rotondo! Come quickly! Shout, yell and scream! This idle chatter annoys me; ME—Iambus! used as I am to similar cant from previous 'Saints'. The Hypocrites!! Put him out, I say! Where are you . . . scum!
SEBASTIANO: Art tasting fear already, Iambus? What!—so soon? Why not slay them or put them out yourself? But you dare not approach them now, since they are already in the hands of God!
IAMBUS: I'll make an end of them . . .
HERMIT: Thine end is coming instead, black Lord; I have no fear of thee—but thou hast cause for terror and dread when thinking of thy ghastly end! The Lords of Power are swift in vengeance, and thy vaunted strength will be as water against His immovable Rock when God rebukes thee at last. Thus does the voice of the most High speak through me—a Sinner!
(There is a gradual calando of the fires until the jaded flames fade out, wearied with exhaustion. The heavenly spirits bend over the victims, who are now sagging in their bonds, and each Spirit whispers in the ear of one of the Saints. The latter suddenly stand upright again, look upwards as if amazed, and collapse completely. They have died the 'second death'. The spirits touch their bonds which fall on the floor, releasing the dead bodies of the Saints, which sink to the ground and disappear out of sight. The Spirits walk up to Madelon and Sebastiano, holding out their hands to them. But Madelon and Sebastiano shake their heads, while Iambus leans dejectedly against one of the stakes.)
SEBASTIANO: Nay, brothers, we thank thee, but we shall stay a while to see what next befalls. That impotent Cousin of ours has no power over us—look at him over there, leaning against that stake like a love-smitten moon-calf, whose heifer has failed him at the tryst.
THE THREE SPIRITS: Dominus Vobiscum—God be with you!
(At that moment the heavens open and the three Saints are seen amidst the Blessed, who are dressed in robes of gold and mantles of every colour. The stage has darkened and Iambus hides his face from the scene in the sky, which is flooded with light and shows a lovely landscape, with trees and flowers which glitter with dew. The scene fades out quickly, the stage is dimly lighted, the three Spirits are gone, and only Madelon and Sebastiano remain, still bound to the stakes, while Iambus cowers at his post, in an attitude of utter despair.)
NEXT — THIRD MOVEMENT
The Great Festival Hall of Iambus
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