FOURTH MOVEMENT — SECOND ACT
(B) Presto Stridevole
At last Quint recovers from his terrified surprise and sets the sirens going, wailing in the air like moaning banshees. The lighters jump out of their great vessels and the earth trembles with the rullando, rolling sounds of heavy wheels and rattling, clanking, harnessed men and with the duramente sounds of harsh and stern commands and roughly blaring bugles and the exciting calls of silver-toned trumpets. Though their numbers are small compared with the countless hordes of the underworlds, such a mighty army has never been seen on earth before; but victory standeth not in the multitude of an host; nay! strength cometh from God alone!
And Mars, with voice of thunder, marshalled his legions and approved of them, and rightly so, for they formed a goodly army, justly proud of their powers and heavenly fame; heroes who find fair delight in their valour. And from the great Comet ships there still disembarked countless troops of men and horses, eager for the coming fray. And Mars, the heavy-clubbed and dauntless warrior, is joined by Neptune, the raiser of the Trident; by ashen-faced Saturn; by Jupiter, the red-locked God of Good Fortune and Success; by swift Mercury and Venus-Lucifer, the bright-eyed wielder of the Torch whose golden flames lit up the scene, full of noise, tintamarre, hubbub, above which sounds the tintement tinkling of the horsemen's spurs like jingling little bells. Once more the silver trumpets sound, and sudden silence falls upon the vast assembly. And, in answer to that clear-voiced challenge of the bright procellas, there sounds from within the castle, and from its walls, which suddenly are thronged with demon soldiers, the curved Roman trumpet, the Lituus, and the stecca, choked, constrained, dull bellow of the hoarse Buccina, the bended Roman horn, apt war and rallying cries of the crookéd denizens of the Pit, smanioso, frantically, wildly, passionately defying the aerial armies.
And suddenly the main gates are forcibly thrown open, hinges screaming, and, preceded by a group of evil-looking priests, swaying smoking incense vessels, Iambus comes forward, surrounded by his Ministers. He is guarded on one side by Zoppo, and on the other by a six-footed Hexameter, a truly poetical monster, but twisted out of shape grotesquely! With guttural voices the priests intone a black enchantment, the words of which are indistinguishable, as they consist wholly of consonants, rapidly uttered. The rombardo, droning voice of Rotondo, a veritable General Bass, is heard as if it were the foundation, or Basso ostinato, to the lugubrious rendering of the tenebrae, the gloom, the darkness, conjured up by the black song of the priests, humming their blood-encurdling carol like choristers of death. Fierce, bold Iambus shouts in harsh, durate voice, and there is silence.
IAMBUS (haughtily addressing the group of Planetary Lords): What is the meaning of this uncalled for visit? Have you seen at last the errors of your ways and come to offer me allegiance, as you should have done long ago?
MARS (robusto): Presumptuous Prince—thy reign is over; we have come to destroy thee and thy blusterous brood.
IAMBUS: What!! Pompous Ass! Do you really think that with your mere handful of jackanapes you can overcome ME? Iambus? Behold! The walls of my castle are thick with the troopings of hosted Barbarians, dressed in leopard-skins and tigers' that great multitude, strong in valour, with Rotondo, my Supreme Commander, like grim Fate—the Pilot—at the helm! Retire before it is too late, for I still remember that you are my Brothers—but may forget it soon!
MARS: That was a useless boast, Iambus, oh, thou coward fox; but thy cunning shall not avail thee any more, for no man or demon can best the might of the Gods . . . thou Outcast!! We shall teach your jongleurs and wandering minstrels with the cat and rabbit skins such a tale of heroism and romance as even you could not invent. Pity neither you nor they will live to profit by its lesson! And they will need all the courage you can give them amidst the terrors to be unloosened against them soon!
IAMBUS: You underestimate my gallant soldiers, and as to their uniforms (sneeringly): you have little to be proud of either! You are a fine-looking crew yourselves, with your idiotic panoply of war, dressed up like a lot of pimps! But surely, there is one of you missing here? For where is that milk-sop Yahveh-twin of mine? Why is he not here to fight his own battles for supremacy on earth? Is he skulking in his vapid 'Paradise' of watery bliss as usual? Let him come down, I say, and fight it out with ME in single combat!
(Mercury laughs loudly, while the others mutter angrily amongst themselves.)
JUPITER (Maestoso): You are raving, my Brother! This is not a case of complaint from one alone, but for all the Lords of the Cosmos . . . for you have betrayed us all and we are here at the behest of our Father—the Ever-Concealed Grand Logos, Sublime in His mysterious Majesty.
IAMBUS: If it is a case for all—then, where is Yahveh, the jealous, the angry, the 'God of Vengeance' as he is called by some fools? Bah!
MARS: It is for that very reason, 'liberal', 'soft-hearted' and 'benevolent' Brother, that our Father bade him refrain from joining us—so that he may pray for you in a last attempt to wean you yet from Sin.
IAMBUS: I do not want his hypocritical 'prayers', and I deny the lot of you, and your 'Unknown' Sire!!! Dost catch my meaning . . . Knaves?!! There is but one Father I acknowledge—and HIM I know!!
(At that moment is heard again that awful hissing sound, and the Planetary Lords grasp their weapons with a firmer hand and half draw or raise them.)
IAMBUS: That startles you, eh? You have heard his divine utterance, full of dreadful power; a warning to you to be gone before He says: It is too late'. Hence now, and that quickly, for my Lord's forbearance does not last for ever!!
MARS: We do not fear the Breath of Death, we, who are established in everlasting Life by the Will of our Father.
VENUS-LUCIFER: Yes, and let me advise your popinjays, or so-called 'priests' to stop their stupid mumbling (for since Iambus' last speech they have started again, though sotto voce) and compose for you a Dumka, dirge or lament, molto doloroso, a monodia, or plaintive song, con disperazione, a coronach or requiem, to be intoned by their ghosts when you're deficiendo, or dying gradually, or a caoinan, a funeral song, such as they sing in Ireland, lamentabile, funèbre, or a tombeau or elegy in your memory, for you will need them all, or any, soon. Our Father—known or not—will not suffer the sinner, unrepentant, to triumph in the end.
IAMBUS: Be quiet, babbler, I like neither your pretty face nor your putrid speech . . . thou runnion reptile!
MARS (impatiently interrupting): There has been too much talk here (he takes off his mailed gauntlet and flings it in the face of Iambus): defend yourself if you can! The time for action has come; blasphemer!!
IAMBUS (screaming with fury): I take your challenge, and utter destruction shall fall upon you all!
(He and his entourage withdraw into the castle, the gates of which are shut with tremendous noise.)
From within the castle is heard the voice of:
IAMBUS: To the attack!!
MARS: Ay! (with a loud voice): Storm that nest of vipers and spare them not! To the attack!!
And the brute multitudes upon the walls who had watched the Planetary Lords in grim silence during the parley, waiting for the word of command, let loose a cloud of arrows upon the group of War-Lords, but they fell short, impotent to penetrate their ring of unseen protection, and the Lords of the Planets dispersed to their various stations in the assault which now commenced. And soft-winged arrows of the aerial hosts found their stealthy marks that slunk in vain between the shadows of the night. And the voice of Mars was heard, saying:
MARS: Now let the dancing sparks cascade . . . STRIKE!!!
JUPITER: Let's hammer Evil on the anvil of Truth and forge it into Goodness!
And there were heavy cannonades, and red billows of flame rolled in the darkness, half obscured by broken veils of rancid smoke. Colossal fountains of fire rose up in dreadful jets. And by means of signs the heavenly divisions were directed by their generals under Mars, and they fell upon Iambus' castle with its ghastly crew like an inundation and a cataract with deafening tumult. And the soldiers scaled the walls and slew upon their right and left as well as forward, ever driving back their enemies, until at last a party reached the gates from within and threw them open. The very walls were stricken down by the might of the bellowing guns, and into the breech streamed Mars and all the rest, ever driving on their enemies, destroying the great castle as they went forward, and descending after the demon hordes into deep after deep, until the very floor of the great abyss was reached.
And Rotondo's aerial fleets tried in vain to rise above the attackers, for no sooner did those flying ships appear than they were shot down, until not one remained. And in the castle and below, no quarter was asked or given—for this was a covenant of victory or death.
And every part of the walls and gates, and all the secret places, were pulled down and cast into the depths in ruins; and all the inner chambers were razed and levelled, as if continuous blasts of lightning struck in every direction with unbelievable speed and power. So they fought and took the whole of those domains by force, sudden and bewildering, except to the victors.
And the aerial soldiers fought with the songs of the shining stars issuing forth from between their smiling lips, and earth trembled beneath the might of that onslaught.
No longer lapped in ease, or roused to merciless lust for torture, the demons had to accept the steely gage of utter War—not a one-sided fight after their own foul hearts this time! Their wandering wits were befooled by the valour of those starry, joyful fighting men. The red men of Mars slew with their iron maces, those of Venus with spears of copper, warding off the devilish arrows with their shields of bronze. The swift runners of Mercury swept round their enemies like a tornado, and the slowly following Saturnians crept up from behind and struck terrifying blows with mallets of lead; while Jupiter himself—in golden armour—hurled thunderbolts and urged his regiments to ever grimmer efforts, and they fell upon the gruesome demon bands like lions . . . roaring for prey. And all that brood shrank from the warriors in terror, and Iambus was sorely troubled in mind amidst that ever swelling gale of conflict, raving con fuoco and furiosamente up and down the grim gamut of that wild rhapsody of destruction.
And now the troopers of the thundercloud came storming on with pounding gallopings like gusty gales, goaded onward by the deep-toned bellowings of Jupiter, the mighty lightning God. With bronze-hooved fury they galloped along and ripped and tore the screaming clods beneath them, while rocks and stones, and earth and sand soared up in dusty clouds and fell like flinty showers of calcined pebbles upon their maddening route.
And, howling with amazing terror, the demon remnants fled before that fierce-flanked might of horse and men, bent upon their errand of god-like slaughter. And as the bronze-armoured riders struck fire from the rocks with their sun-bright swords, tumultuoso, con tutta forza and with vigorous verve, their fulgent blades rebounded upwards unexpectedly, and heads rolled on the gory sand and dust with every lightning stroke, rhythmic—like the tactus or the baton-beat of a masterly conductor, beating perfect time in a symphony of horror, but bright and brilliant in execution; and the demons' ensanguined locks twisted and turned like infuriated adders, bent on escape, as their evil heads were severed by the neck.
The Gods are swifter than the swiftest sprite, and like a nest of startled wasps, the demons' fears swooped forth from mind to mind, slancio, fierce and vehement, and the impetuosity of the riders wrought great butchery, ever pressando and stringendo until the fastest Presto Prestissimo had been attained with harsh and jarring rattle, sudden jerks, saccade, grimly accentuated; thus the horsemen burst into the ranks of their wavering, faltering foes with the rabbia of fiery rage and frenzy.
And Crotchet and Rotondo, yea! even cowering Even Tenor, tasted final death at last, and all the others fled in vain with dolendo, plaintive, doleful sounds of mourning and of lamentation as the proud lords of the horses, pounding along on their fire-striking steeds, struck in all directions; and they gave way before that truly Cosmic onslaught and perished in strange manners, while their Lord stood by helplessly, like one turned into rock, his evil heart the prey of unheard inner torments, muted when he beheld that great naufragio—fiasco and disaster, as the grim scales of Justice descended against him at last. And his wintry heart was stiff with fear when he realised that this was the Dusk of his Godhood of Evil, and that he was forsaken by all . . . for even the Great Breath of Evil was stifled, damped by the Master Note of the grandioso, bright Sospiro of the Supreme Deity, Whose slightest sigh is like an Anthem . . . noble, con grandezza.
And all the while the fight went on, like a dextrous Moto Perpetuo in tempo doppio, and from the long-fanged jaws of the remainder of Iambus' brood resounded endless lamentations in wide-ranging wails of despair. Here was pronounced the unearthly doom of soul-spoiled entities, undreamed of even by their erstwhile Master: yet divinely just that fate. And the warriors pursued them and sought them out in every nook and corner—for nothing of Hell could hurt them, as they were under the protection of the Highest God, and nothing could ensnare their valour, maestria, full of skill and address, nor could it be diverted from its way by piangendo, plaintive, weeping sobs for undeservéd mercy from the tearful, coward myrmidons of Erebus, who, cancrizans, or crab-like, made abortive attempts to escape from the ringing tam-tams of the sweeping swords.
At last the sounds of conflict were lost in the far distant deeps of Hell; a gradual perdendosi, and only the voices of the victorious warriors resounded in the desolated halls of Satan's Paradise, forsaken now, and dissolving slowly in a rain of dust and ashes, falling soundlessly, as if a giant Mummy, spiced, but desiccated centuries ago, now wept its final powdery tears of agony; slowly perishing in ultimate decay. And all that was left of that once great Empire of Sin was Iambus, standing in the ruined entrance of his castle with a small group of miserable priests around him. Thus was the turmoil of their festivals turned into mourning, and their melodies of exultation into those of lamentation. The slavery of sin dissolved in slimy ooze and smoking mists, dispersed across the wide-spread fields of un-commenced Eternities—asleep in the frozen dark bosom of Timelessness . . . inconceivable.
And Mars and Jupiter, and all the other Gods, now entered once again upon the stage and confronted sternly their defeated Brother. And Iambus was smitten with the immovable steel of complete paralysis when he beheld his judges, who never spoke a single word. And there he stood—erect like a dark pillar, and only his eyes were alight with the red fires of hatred and rolling with impotent rage. The merciless, proud slayer was now about to be destroyed himself, to bide with those he slew of yore, for ever.
And they took Iambus, yea! his own brothers took him, for none other might touch his god-hood and endure, and they threw him into unbreakable fetters and bound him forcibly with iron bands; and great Mars lifted him high above his head—Iambus cursing silently—and carried him to the awful abyss, and cast him down into its unending depths. And as he fell, there was heard for the last time on earth that dreadful hiss of the Evil Breath, and great clouds of dust and smoke rose up from the deeps, and in the middle of those clouds was seen a flash as of lightning, but falling rapidly, and it shone for a fraction of time like unto a glorious star . . . and then went out. And as he fell, the very earth shuddered with the sound of his cries of despair, and even the Moon wept great tears of pity, which fell from her in the shape of white birds that flew about in the night-sky, gleaming like silver swans and albatrosses and stirring the wandering winds of night, with the might of their amazing pinions, until the whole of Æther resounded with the anguish of terrible sighs, like those of souls tormented beyond belief.
And so perished the god-like Soul of the rebellious Son of God Supreme—Iambus—and scattered were its principal atoms to every part of the Universal Vaults . . . to be re-assembled at some future time perchance, if God so wills it.
And the terrible cry of Iambus found an echo in the highest Realms of Heaven, where dwelt the sweet, adorable counterpart of him, now condemned to be alone without her Mate for Aeons of Eternities through the wilfulness of her other half, who, though now shattered in the Deeps of Time, was still bound to her by the unbreakable bonds of true affinity. And only in that lay his chance of resurrection; for man and woman, both alike, are threefold, like their Maker: Body, Mind and Soul—ever the same in every Realm of Being. And each of these three parts but half complete in themselves. Though worlds away in Time and Space, in thought and action and every other circumstance of life eternal: they must rejoin some time . . . to be completed and perfected in the end and blended into one great God.
And now there rang the high-pitched wails of the last handful of keeners, mourning the death of their Lord in misguided—yet noble—sense of fidelity. And then a final waft of twanging bolts . . . and they melted away in slimy heaps, inchoate, and all was still . . . and only the Night that covereth Earth knew henceforth the secret of the last destruction of Iambus and his vassals—save one, whom we shall meet again.
Then was sounded the Recheat, the aerial huntsmen's signal to recall their hounds of war, the triumphant trumpets ringing with jubilant impromptus of silvery, giocoso lilt and swinging, deft pulsation—but leggiero, lightly. And after the toils and strivings of battle there was much rejoicing, and the great armies re-embarked upon their ships at the command of their Leaders and sailed away into the sky, shedding huge lights at first, but fading slowly until they resembled tiny stars that went out one by one as they rose into the interstellar heights, the echoes, roused by their precipitate speed, reduced to a soft humming, buzzing, that softened to sedate, posato mormoroso, gently dying away in the regions of the upper sky: mancante.
And there lay the ruins of the ancient castle—silently beneath the Moon, just as they appeared at the beginning of this symphony, beneath the Eye of Ra. And under the broken staircase are seen the small forms of Dolce and Farni, sleeping peacefully upon their cosy bed of Adder's Tongue ferns. And as the moonbeams gleam gently upon the hoary ruins, lo! they look as if they were so many jewels. There shines the yellow topaz and the pink, partaking of both Jupiter's and Venus' warmth and strength; and the amethyst that always cures inebriation; the coral that keeps at bay old age and aids the mental faculties; transparent rock-crystal, a safeguard against deception if worn by the pure in heart and mind; the wisdom-giving emerald; the ruby, filled with love and peace and comfort—dispeller of grief; the mystic turquoise—link between the soul of man and God; the sapphire, reviver of hopes, the cure for doubt and sad despondency; red garnets, messengers of inspiration; carbuncles, filled with animal vitality; the chrysolite and amber, children of the Sun; the diamond, symbol of darkness transmuted into Light, which only should be worn by god-like men . . . for it is the symbol of the higher life of the spirit; and jasper and chalcedony, sardonix and sardius, beryl and jacinth, and all the others that adorn the City of John's Revelation: there they were—scintillating in the argent light, as Madelon and Sebastiano appear once again from between the trees.
MADELON (con tenerezza): Poor Iambus! Lost in the Deeps of his self-created sin, together with all the genera of which he was the erring Genius. His Bergamasc and proud Pavane of which he was the Figured Bass are over and played out, together with all his trills and mordents as well as all the other ornaments; his great crescendo, now an almost everlasting diminuendo. How sad it is; we must always pray that the All-Father may one day lead him back to Light.
SEBASTIANO: He took the measure of the Gods, his Brothers, but forgot his own diminished size! He might just as well have fought the clouds. He thought too much of his powers—tanto—whereas in reality he was tantino: very little.
(He looks at Madelon, she—like a flower, fit to blossom in the Gardens of the Blest; he—qualified to take his proper place amongst the heroes; both pure, and undefiled by ignorance, both worthy of the honour of driving a chariot in Heaven, carrying the Gods on their glorious errands.)
MADELON (looking at the sky): We must return to our little charges over there (pointing at the sleeping children), and merge again with their sweet innocence, my Farni . . . !
SEBASTIANO: My Dolce; my sweet . . . !
Both walk up to the children, stand over them for a moment in an attitude of blessing, and merge slowly into their sleeping forms. Their esoteric melody has been resolved into the common chord of humanity once more!
The Moon sinks slowly, and it becomes light.
NEXT — FOURTH MOVEMENT — FINAL ACT
(C) Coda Pacatamente
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