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Title: Hypolympia - Or, The Gods in the Island, an Ironic Fantasy
Author: Gosse, Edmund, 1849-1928
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  _Verse by the Same Author_

    ON VIOL AND FLUTE
    KING ERIK
    FERDAUSI IN EXILE
    IN RUSSET AND SILVER



HYPOLYMPIA

Or

The Gods in the Island

_An Ironic Fantasy_

by

EDMUND GOSSE



London
William Heinemann
1901



PREFACE


_The scene of this fantasy is an island, hitherto inhabited by
Lutherans, in a remote but temperate province of Northern Europe.
The persons are the Gods of Ancient Greece. The time is early in
the Twentieth Century._



I


[_A terrace high above the sea, which is seen far below, through
    vast masses of woodland. Steps lead down towards the water, from
    the centre of the scene. To the left, a large, low country-house,
    of unpretentious character, in the style of the late eighteenth
    century. Gardens belonging to the same period, and now somewhat
    neglected and overgrown, stretch on either side. The edge of the
    terrace is marked by a stone balustrade, with a stone seat running
    round it within. At the top of steps, ascending, appear_ APHRODITE
    _and_ EROS.]

APHRODITE.

A moment, Eros. Let us sit here. What can this flutter at my girdle
be? I breathe with difficulty. Oh! Eros, can this be death?

EROS.

Death? Ah! no; you have roses in your cheeks, mother. Your lips are
like blood.

APHRODITE.

It must be weariness. Ever these new sensations, these odd,
exciting apprehensions! This must be mortality. I never breathed
the faster as I rose from terrace to terrace in Cythera.

EROS.

Yet this is like Cythera--a little like it. [_Looking round._] It
is not the least like it. These round billowy woods, that grey
strip of sea far below, the long smooth land with square yellow
fields and pointed brown fields, and the wild grey sky above. No;
it would be impossible for anything to be less like Cythera.

APHRODITE.

Yet it is like it. [_Gazing round._] How strange ... to be where
everything is not azure and gold and white--white land, gold houses
and blue sky and sea. What are these woods, Eros?

EROS.

Are they beech-woods?

APHRODITE.

I did not think that I could ever be happy again. I am not _happy_.
But I am not miserable. Now that my heart is quiet again, I am not
miserable. Oh! that sick tossing on the black sea, the nausea, the
aching, the dulness; that I, who sprang from the waves, could come
to hate them so. We will never venture on the sea, again?

EROS.

Then must we stay for ever here, since this is an island.

APHRODITE.

Yes, here for ever. For ever? We have no "for ever" now, Eros.

    [_Enter, from the house_, CYDIPPE.]

APHRODITE.

Is all prepared for us, Cydippe?

CYDIPPE.

I have done my best. The barbarian people are kind and clean. They
have blue eyes. There is one, with marigold curls and a crisp
beard, who has brought up water and logs of wood. There are two
maidens, with hair like a wheat-field and rough red fingers. There
are others.... I know not. All seem civil and frightened. But your
Majesty will be wretched.

APHRODITE.

No, Cydippe, I think I shall be happy.

EROS [_walking to the parapet, and looking down_].

Our white ship still lies there, mother. Shall we start again?

APHRODITE.

On that leaden water, with the little cruel breakers like coriander
seeds? Never. And whither should we go, Eros? We have lost our
golden home, our only home. We have lost the old white world of
empire; any grey corner of the world of stillness is good enough
for us. I will eat, and lie down, and rest without that long,
awful heave of the intolerable ocean. Which way, Cydippe?

    [APHRODITE _and_ CYDIPPE _enter the house_.]

EROS [_alone_].

This little milk-white flower, with the drop of wine in it.... It
is like the grass that grows on the slopes of Parnassus. It is the
only home-like thing here. Can that be grey wool that hangs in the
sky, and droops like a curtain over the opposite hills? How cold
the air is! Ah! it is raining over in the other island, and the
brown fields grow like the yellow fields, melt into a mere white
mist behind the slate-coloured sea. Here is one of the barbarians.

    [POSEIDON _slowly appears at the top of the steps_.]

POSEIDON.

Ah, you here alone, Eros?

EROS [_aside_].

It is Poseidon! How old and bluff he looks! [_To_ POSEIDON.] My
mother is within. [_Smiling._] She was angry with you, Poseidon,
but her anger is fallen.

POSEIDON.

Adversity brings us all together. It was once I who burned with
anger against her. Why was she angry?

EROS.

The cruelty of your sea; it shook and sickened her.

POSEIDON.

It once was her sea, too. Now it is not even mine.... Rebellion
everywhere, everywhere the servant risen against the master,
everywhere our spells and portents broken. I rule the sea still,
but it is as a man holds in a wild horse with a hard rein: it obeys
with hatred, it would obey not one moment after the master's hand
was withdrawn.

EROS.

How cold it is. But I am not disconsolate. Nor should you be,
Poseidon, for you will have the sea to occupy your thoughts.
Hephæstus will help you to break it in. He at least should be
consoled, for in our fallen estate his magical ingenuity will
employ his brain.

POSEIDON.

We have never needed to be ingenious. It has been enough for us
to command, to wield the elements like weapons, to say it shall
be and to see it is.

EROS.

To see it is not, and yet to make it be, perhaps this may be a joy
in store for us. For Hephæstus, certainly; for you, if you are
wise; but for me, ah! what will there be? My arrows break against
old hearts, and now we all are old.

    [PALLAS ATHENE _comes rapidly down the steps from the house
        and speaks while still behind_ EROS.]

PALLAS.

I have brought with me the box which Epimetheus made for Pandora.

EROS [_turning suddenly_].

Ah! Pallas! What, you have brought that ivory box with you? Why
did you burden your hands with that?

PALLAS.

I snatched it from the burning palace. There is something strange at
the bottom of it--something like an opal, with a violet flame in it.

EROS.

Alas! we have no great need of jewels here. This shining beech-leaf
is the treasure you should wear, Pallas. See, a little bough of it,
bent just above the white enamel of your forehead. It will be as
green as a beryl to-day, and red like copper to-morrow, and perhaps
you will need no third adornment.

PALLAS.

There is something in the carven box which the shrieking oracle
commended to me. "Take this," it said, "take this, and it will turn
the blackness of exile into living light."

EROS.

Poor oracle, it became mad before it became dumb.

PALLAS.

I was the only one of us all, Eros, who anticipated this change.
High up above the glaciers of Olympus, where the warm crystal shone
like ice, and the faint cumuli rained jasmine on us, and the blue
light was like the cold acid of a fruit, in the midst of our
incomparable felicity I pondered on the vicissitude of things.

EROS.

You only, I remember, ever heeded the foolish screaming oracle
that moaned for mortals. You always had something of the mortal
temperament, Pallas. It jarred upon my mother that you seem to
shudder even at the voluptuous turmoil of the senses. She said
you always looked old. You look younger now than she does,
Pallas.

PALLAS.

I am neither old nor young. I know not what I am. But this grey
colour and those blowing woods are not unpleasing to me. I can
be _myself_, even here, on a beech-wood peak in the cold sea.

    [_Enter up the steps_ ZEUS, _leaning heavily on_ GANYMEDE,
        _and attended by many other Gods_.]

EROS, POSEIDON, _and_ PALLAS.

Hail! father and king!

ZEUS.

I can push on no farther. Why have I brought you here? [_Gazing
round._] Nay, it is you who have brought me here. [_He moves up the
scene._] I have a demon in my legs, that swells them, breaks them,
crushes me down. [_To_ GANYMEDE.] You are careless; stiffen your
shoulder, it slopes like a woman's. I have lost my thunderbolt, I
have lost everything. Shall I be _bound_ upon this muddy, slippery
rock? What is that horror in the sky?

POSEIDON.

It is some dark bird of the north; it seeks a prey in the
woodlands.

ZEUS.

I think it is a vulture. My eagle fled from me when the rebel
whistled to it. It perched beside him, and smoothed its crest
against his elbow. All have left me, even my eagle.

PALLAS.

Father, we have not left you. We are about you here. One by one the
alleys of the beech-wood will open, and one after one we shall all
gather here, all your children, all the Olympians.

ZEUS.

But where is Olympus? I hardly know you. [_Gazing blankly about
him._] Are you my children? You [_to_ PALLAS] gaze at me with eyes
like those I hated most.

EROS.

Whose eyes, father and king?

ZEUS.

I will not say. Are you sure [_to_ POSEIDON] that is not a vulture?
I am torn, see, here under my beard, by a thorn. I can feel pain at
last, _I_, who could only inflict it.

EROS.

Pallas has something in a box----

ZEUS [_vehemently_].

There is nothing in any box, there is nothing in any island, there
is nothing in all the empty caskets of this world which can give
me any happiness. Is it in this shanty that we must live? Lead me
on, Ganymede, lead me on into it, that I may sink down and sleep.
Walk slowly and walk steadily, wretched boy.

    [_He passes into the house, followed by all the others._]



II


[_The terrace as before. Early morning, with warm sunshine. Enter_
    CIRCE, _very carefully helping_ KRONOS _down the steps of the
    house_. RHEA _follows, leaning on a staff_. CIRCE _places_ KRONOS
    _in one throne, and sees_ RHEA _comfortably settled in another.
    Then she sits on the ground between them, at_ RHEA'S _knees_.]

CIRCE.

There! We are all comfortable now. How did Kronos sleep, Rhea?

RHEA.

He has not complained this morning. [_Raising her voice._] Did
you sleep, Kronos?

KRONOS [_vaguely_].

Yes, oh yes! I always sleep. Why should I not sleep?

CIRCE.

These new arrangements--I was afraid they might disturb you.

RHEA [_to_ CIRCE].

He notices very little. I do not think he recollects that there has
been any change. Already he forgets Olympus. [_After a pause._] It
is very thoughtful of you, Circe, to take so much trouble about us.

CIRCE.

I have been anxious about you both. All the rest of us ought to be
able to console ourselves, but I am afraid that you will find it
very difficult to live in the new way.

RHEA.

Kronos will soon have forgotten that there was an old way; and as
for me, Circe, I have seen so much and wandered in so many places,
that one is as another to me.

KRONOS.

Is it Zeus who has driven us forth?

CIRCE.

Oh no! Zeus has led us hither. It was he who was attacked, it was
against him that the rage of the enemy was directed.

KRONOS [_to himself_].

He let me stay where I was. We were not driven forth before, Rhea,
were we? When I saw that it was hopeless, I did not struggle; I
rose and took you by the hand....

RHEA.

Yes; and we went half-way down the steps of the throne together....

KRONOS [_very excitedly_].

And we bowed to Zeus....

RHEA.

And he walked forward as if he did not see us....

KRONOS.

And then we came down, and I [_all his excitement falls from him_]
I cannot quite remember. Did he strike us, Rhea?

RHEA.

Oh! no, no! He swept straight on, and did not so much as seem to
see us, and in a moment he was up in the throne, and all the gods,
the new and the old, were bowing to him with acclamation.

CIRCE [_looking up at_ RHEA, _with eager sympathy_].

What did _you_ do, you poor dears?

RHEA [_after a pause_].

We did nothing.

KRONOS.

Zeus let us stay then. Why has he driven us out now?

RHEA [_aside_].

He does not understand, Circe. It is very sweet of you to be so
kind to us, but you must go back now to your young companions.
Who is here?

CIRCE.

I think we are all here, or nearly all. I have not seen Iris, but
surely all the rest are here.

RHEA.

Is Zeus very much disturbed? On the ship I heard Æolus say that
it was impossible to go near him, he was so unreasonably angry.

CIRCE.

Yes, he thought that our miseries were all the fault of Poseidon
and Æolus. But mortality will make a great change in Zeus; I think
perhaps a greater change than in any of us. He has eaten a very
substantial breakfast. Æsculapius says that as Zeus has hitherto
considered the quality of his food so much, it is probable that
in these lower conditions it may prove to be quantity which will
interest him most. He was greatly pleased with a curious kind of
aromatic tube which Hermes invented for him this morning.

RHEA.

Does Zeus blow down it?

CIRCE.

No; he puts fire to one end of it, and draws in the vapour. He is
delighted. How clever Hermes is, is he not, Rhea? What shall you
do here?

RHEA.

I must look after Kronos, of course. But he gives me no trouble.
And I do not need to do much more. I am very tired, Circe. I was
tired in my immortality. When Kronos and I were young, things were
so very different in Olympus.

CIRCE.

How were they different? Do tell me what happened. I have always
longed to know, but it was not considered quite nice, quite
respectful to Zeus, for us to ask questions about the Golden Age.
But now it cannot matter; can it, Rhea?

RHEA [_after a pause_].

The fact is that when I look back, I cannot see very plainly any
longer. Do you know, Circe, that after the younger Gods invaded
Heaven, although Zeus was very good-natured to us, and let us go
on as deities, something of our god-head passed away?

KRONOS [_aloud, to himself_].

I said to him, "If I am unwelcome, I can go." And he answered,
"Pray don't discommode yourself." Just like that; very politely,
"Don't discommode yourself." And now he drives us away after all.

CIRCE [_flinging herself over to_ KRONOS' _knees_].

Oh! Kronos, he does not drive you away! It is not he. It is our
new enemies, not of our own race, that have driven us. And we are
all here--Pallas, Ares, Phoebus--we are all here. You like Hermes,
do you not, Kronos? Well, Hermes is here, and he will amuse you.

KRONOS.

I thought that Zeus had forgiven us. But never mind, never mind!

RHEA.

We are tired, Circe. And what does the new life matter to us now?
The old life had run low, and we had long been prepared for
mortality by the poverty of our immortality.

    [_Enter_ HERMES _running_.]

HERMES [_in reply to a gesture of_ CIRCE].

I cannot stay. I am trying to rouse Demeter from her dreadful state
of depression. She sits in the palace heaving deep sighs, and doing
absolutely nothing else. It will affect her heart, Æsculapius say.

CIRCE.

She has always been so closely wedded to the study of agriculture,
and now....

HERMES.

Precisely. And it has occurred to me that the way to rouse her
will be to send Persephone to her in a little country cart I have
discovered. I have two mouse-coloured ponies already caught and
harnessed--such little beauties. The only thing left to do is to
search for Persephone.

CIRCE.

I will find her in a moment. [_Exit._]

RHEA.

We hear that you have already invented a means of amusing Zeus,
Hermes? Is he prepared to forget his thunderbolt?

HERMES.

He has mentioned it only twice this morning, and I have set
Hephæstus to work to make him another, of yew-tree wood. It will
be less incommodious, more fitted to this place, and in a very
short time Zeus will forget the original.

KRONOS [_loudly, to himself_].

Zeus gave me an orb and sceptre to console me. I used to play cup
and ball with them behind his throne.

RHEA [_in a solicitous aside to_ HERMES].

Oh! it is not true. Kronos' mind now wanders so strangely. He
thinks that it is Zeus who has turned him out of Olympus.

HERMES [_in the same tone_].

Do not distress him, Rhea, by contradiction and explanation. I will
find modes of amusing him a little every day, and, for the rest,
let him doze in the sunshine. His mind is worn so smooth that it
fails any longer to catch in ideas as they flit against it. They
pass off, glide away. It is useless, Rhea, to torment Kronos.

RHEA.

I shall watch him, all day long. For I, too, am weary. Do not
propose to me, with your restless energy, any fresh interests. Let
me sit, with my cold hands folded in my lap, and look at Kronos,
nodding, nodding. It is very kind of Circe, but we are too old for
love; and of you, but we are too old for amusement. Let us rest,
Hermes, rest and sleep; perhaps dream a little, dream of the
far-away past.

    [CIRCE _and_ PERSEPHONE _enter from the left_.]

PERSEPHONE [_to_ HERMES].

My mother requires so much activity of mind and body. You must not
believe that I was neglecting her. But I went forth in despair this
morning to see what I could invent, adapt, discover, as a means
of rousing her. I am stupid, I could think of nothing. I wandered
through the woods, down the glen, along the sea-shore, up the side
of the tarn and of the marsh, but I could think of nothing.

CIRCE.

And when I found Persephone she was lying, flung out among the
flowers, with bees and butterflies leaping round her in the
sunshine, and the beech-leaves singing their faint song of peace.
It was beautiful, it was like Enna--with, ah! such a difference.

PERSEPHONE.

Circe does not tell you that I was so foolish as to be in tears.
But now it seems that you have invented an occupation for Ceres?
You are so divinely ingenious.

HERMES.

I hope it may be successful.

PERSEPHONE.

Tell me what it is.

HERMES.

I have found at the back of the palace a small rural waggon, and
I have caught two ponies, with coats like grey velvet, and great
antelopes' eyes--dear little creatures. I have harnessed them, and
now I want you to sit in this cart, while I am dressed like some
herdsman of these barbarians, and lead the ponies, and we will go
together to coax Demeter out into the fields.

PERSEPHONE.

Oh! Hermes, how splendid of you. Let us fly to carry out your plan.
Circe, will you not come with us?

CIRCE.

Or shall I not rather go to prepare the mind of Demeter for an
agreeable surprise? Shall you be happy by yourselves, Kronos and
Rhea?

RHEA.

Quite happy, for we desire to sleep.

    [_Exit_ CIRCE _to right_, HERMES _and_ PERSEPHONE _to left_.]



III


[_A ring of turf, in a hollow of the slope, surrounded by beech-trees,
    except on one side, where a marsh descends to a small tarn. Over
    the latter is rising the harvest moon._ PHOEBUS APOLLO _alone;
    he watches the luminary for a long time in silence_.]

PHOEBUS.

  Selene! sister!--since that tawny shell,
  Stained by thy tears and hollowed by thy sighs,
  Recalls thee still to mind--dost thou regard,
  From some tumultuous covert of this woodland,
  Thy whilom sphere and palace? Nun of the skies,
  In coy virginity of pulse, thy hands
  Repelled me when I sought to win thy lair,
  Fraternal, with no thoughts but humorous ones;
  And in thy chill revulsion, through thy skies,
  At my advance thy crystal home would fade,
  A ghost, a shadow, a film, a papery dream.
  Thou and thy moon were one. What is it now,
  Thy phantom paradise of gorgeous pearl,
  With sibilant streams and palmy tier on tier
  Of wind-bewhitened foliage? Still it floats,
  As when thy congregated harps and viols
  Beat slow harmonious progress, light on light,
  Across our stainless canopy of heaven.
  Ah! but how changed, Selene! If thy form
  Crouches among these harsher herbs, O turn
  Thy withering face away, and press thine eyes
  To darkness in the strings of dusty heather,
  Since that loose globe of orange pallor totters,
  Racked with the fires of anarchy, and sheds
  The embers of thy glory; and the cradles
  Of thy imperial maidenhood are foul
  With sulphur and the craterous ash of hell.
  O gaze not, sister, on the loathsome wreck
  Of what was once thy moon. Yet, if thou must
  With tear-fed eyes visit thine ancient realm,
  Bend down until the fringe of thy faint lids
  Hides all save what is in this tarn reflected--
  Cold, pallid, swimming in the lustrous pool,
  There only worthy of thy clear regard,
  A vision purified in woe.

    [_The reeds in the tarn are stirred, and there is audible a faint
        shriek and a ripple of laughter. A shrouded figure rises from
        the marsh, and, hastening by_ PHOEBUS _through the darkness,
        is lost in the woods. It is followed closely by_ PAN, _who,
        observing_ PHOEBUS, _pauses in embarrassment_.]

PHOEBUS.

I thought I was alone.

PAN.

And so did we, sire.

PHOEBUS.

Am I to congratulate you on your distractions?

PAN.

I have a natural inclination to marshy places.

PHOEBUS.

This is a ghastly night, Pan.

PAN.

I had not observed it, sire. Yes, doubtless a ghastly night.
But I was occupied, and I am no naturalist. This glen curiously
reminded me of rushy Ladon. I am a great student of reeds, and
I was agreeably surprised to find some very striking specimens
here--worthy of the Arcadian watercourses, as I am a deity. I
should say, _was_ a deity.

PHOEBUS.

They will help, perhaps, to reconcile you to mortality. You can
add them to your collection.

PAN.

That, sire, is my hope. The stems are particularly full and smooth,
and the heads of the best of them rustle back with a profusion of
flaxen flowerage, remarkably agreeable to the touch. I broke one as
your Highness approached. But the wind, or some goblin, bore it
from me. This curious place seems full of earth-spirits.

PHOEBUS.

You must study them, too, Pan. That will supply you with another
object.

PAN.

But the marsh water has a property unknown to the Olympian springs.
I suspect it of being poisoned. After standing long in it, I found
myself troubled with aching in the shank, from knee to hoof. If
this is repeated, my studies of reed-life will be made dolorously
difficult.

PHOEBUS.

It must now be part of your pleasure to husband your enjoyments.
You have always rolled in the twinkle of the vine-leaves, hot
enough and not too hot, with grapes--immense musky clusters--just
within your reach. If you think of it philosophically----

PAN.

How, sire?

PHOEBUS.

Philosophically.... Well, if you think of it sensibly, you will
see that there was a certain dreariness in this uniformity of
satisfaction. Rather amusing, surely, to find the cluster
occasionally spring up out of reach, to find the polished waist
of the reed slip from your hands? Occasionally, of course; just
enough to give a zest to pursuit.

PAN.

Ah! there was pursuit in Ladon, but it was pursuit which always
closed easily in capture. What I am afraid of is that here capture
may prove the exception. Your Highness ... but a slight family
connection and our adversities are making me strangely familiar....

PHOEBUS.

Speak on, my good Pan.

PAN.

Your Highness was once something of a botanist?

PHOEBUS.

A botanist? Ah, scarcely! A little arboriculture, the laurel; a
little horticulture, the sun-flower. Those varieties seem entirely
absent here, and I have no thought of replacing them.

PAN.

The last thing I should dream of suggesting would be a _hortus
siccus_....

PHOEBUS.

And I was never a consistent collector. There are reeds everywhere,
you fortunate goat-foot, but even in Olympus I was the creature of
a fastidious selection.

PAN.

The current of the thick and punctual blood never left me liable
to the distractions of choice.

PHOEBUS.

I congratulate you, Pan, upon your temperament, and I recommend
to you a further pursuit of the attainable.

    [PAN _makes a profound obeisance and disappears in the woodland_.
        PHOEBUS _watches him depart, and then turns to the moon_.]

PHOEBUS [_alone_].

His familiarity was not distasteful to me. It reminded me of days
out hunting, when I have come suddenly upon him at the edge of the
watercourse, and have shared his melons and his conversation. I
anticipate for him some not unagreeable experiences. The lower
order of divinities will probably adapt themselves with ease
to our new conditions. They despaired the most suddenly, with
wringing of hands as we raced to the sea, with interminable
babblings and low moans and screams, as they clustered on the deck
of that extraordinary vessel. But the science of our new life must
be to forget or to remember. We must live in the past or forego
the past. For Pan and his likes I conceive that it will largely
resolve itself into a question of temperature--of temperature and
of appetite. That orb is of a sinister appearance, but to do it
justice it looks heated. My sister had a passion for coldness; she
would never permit me to lend her any of my warmth. I cannot say
that it is chilly here to-night. I am agreeably surprised.

    [_The veiled figure flits across again, and_ PAN _once more
        crosses in close pursuit_.]

PHOEBUS [_as they vanish_].

What an amiable vivacity! Yes; the lower order of divinities will
be happy, for they will forget. We, on the contrary, have the
privilege of remembering. It is only the mediocre spirits, that
cannot quite forget nor clearly remember, which will have neither
the support of instinct nor the solace of a vivid recollection.

    [_He seats himself. A noise of laughter rises from the marsh,
        and dies away. In the silence a bird sings._]

PHOEBUS.

Not the Daulian nightingale, of course, but quite a personable
substitute: less prolongation of the triumph, less insistence upon
the agony. How curiously the note breaks off! Some pleasant little
northern bird, no doubt. I experience a strange and quite
unprecedented appetite for moderation. The absence of the thrill,
the shaft, the torrent is not disagreeable. The actual Phocian
frenzy would be disturbing here, out of place, out of time. I must
congratulate this little, doubtless brown, bird on a very
considerable skill in warbling. But the moon--what is happening
to _it_? It is not merely climbing higher, but it is manifestly
clarifying its light. When I came, it was copper-coloured, now it
is honey-coloured, the horn of it is almost white like milk. This
little bird's incantation has, without question, produced this
fortunate effect. This little bird, halfway on the road between
the nightingale and the cicada, is doubtless an enchanter, and one
whose art possesses a more than respectable property. My sister's
attention should be drawn to this highly interesting circumstance.
Selene! Selene!

    [_He calls and waits. From the upper woods_ SELENE _slowly
        descends, wrapped in long white garments_.]

PHOEBUS.

Sister, behold the throne that once was thine.

SELENE.

And now, a rocking cinder, fouls the skies.

PHOEBUS.

A magian sweeps its filthy ash away.

SELENE.

There is no magic in the bankrupt world.

PHOEBUS.

Nay, did'st thou hear this twittering peal of song?

SELENE.

Some noise I heard; this glen is full of sounds.

PHOEBUS.

Fling back thy veil, and staunch thy tears, and gaze.

SELENE.

At thee, my brother, not at my darkened orb.

PHOEBUS.

Gaze then at me. What seest thou in mine eyes?

SELENE.

Foul ruddy gleams from what was lately pure.

PHOEBUS.

Nay, but thou gazest not. Look up, look at me!

SELENE.

But on thy sacred eyeballs fume turns fire.

PHOEBUS.

Nay, then, turn once and see thy very moon.

SELENE [_turning round_].

Ah! wonder! the volcanic glare is gone.

PHOEBUS.

The wizard bird has sung the fumes away.

SELENE.

Empty it seems, and vain; but foul no more.

PHOEBUS [_approaching her, and in a confidential tone_].

I will not disguise from you, Selene, my apprehension that the
hideous colour may return. Your moon is divorced from yourself,
and can but be desecrated and forlorn. But at least it should
be a matter of interest to you--yes, even of gratification, my
sister--that this little bird, if it be a bird, has an enchanting
power of temporarily relieving it and raising it.

    [SELENE, _manifestly more cheerful, ascends to the wood on
        the left_. PHOEBUS, _turning again to the moon_,]

I have observed that this species of mysterious agency has a very
salutary effect upon the more melancholy of our female divinities.
They are satisfied if they have the felicity of waiting for
something which they cannot be certain of realising, and which they
attribute to a cause impossible to investigate. [_To_ SELENE,
_raising his voice_.] Whither do you go, my sister?

SELENE.

I am searching for this little bird. I propose to discuss with
it the nature of its extraordinary, and I am ready to admit its
gratifying, control over the moon. I think it possible that I may
concoct with it some scheme for our return. You shall, in that
case, Phoebus, be no longer excluded from my domain.

PHOEBUS.

Let me urge you to do no such thing. The action of this little
bird upon your unfortunate luminary is sympathetic, but surely
very obscure. It would be a pity to inquire into it so closely
as to comprehend it.

    [SELENE, _without listening to him, passes up into the woods,
        and exit_.]

PHOEBUS [_alone_].

To comprehend it might even be to discover that it does not exist.
Whereas to come here night after night, in the fragrant darkness,
to see the unhallowed lump of fire creep out of the lake, to
listen for the first clucks and shakes of the sweet little
purifying song, and to watch the orb growing steadily more hyaline
and lucent under its sway, how delicious! The absolute harmony and
concord of nature would be then patent and recurrent before us.
My poor sister! However, it is consoling to reflect that she is
almost certain not to be able to find that bird.



IV


[_The same glen._ ÆSCULAPIUS _alone, busily arranging a great
    cluster of herbs which he has collected. He sits on a large
    stone, with his treasures around him_.]

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Yew--an excellent styptic. Tansy, rosemary. Spurge and marsh
mallow. The best pellitory I ever plucked out of a wall. The herbs
of this glen are admirable. They surpass those of the gorges of
Cyllene. Is this lavender? The scent seems more acrid.

    [_Enter_ PALLAS _and_ EUTERPE.]

PALLAS.

You look enviably animated, Æsculapius. Your countenance is so
fresh beneath that long white beard of yours, that the barbarians
will suppose you to be some mad boy, masquerading.

EUTERPE.

What will you do with these plants?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

These are my simples. As we shot through the Iberian narrows on our
frantic voyage hither, my entire store was blown out of my hands
and away to sea. The rarest sorts were flung about on rocks where
nothing more valetudinarian than a baboon could possibly taste
them. My earliest care on arriving here was to search these woods
for fresh specimens, and my success has been beyond all hope. See,
this comes from the wet lands on the hither side of the tarn----

EUTERPE.

Where Selene is now searching for the wizard who draws the smoke
away from the moon's face at night.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

This from the beck where it rushes down between the stems of
mountain-ash, this from beneath the vast ancestral elm below the
palace, this from the sea-shore. Marvellous! And I am eager to
descend again; I have not explored the cliff which breaks the
descent of the torrent, nor the thicket in the gully. There must
be marchantia under the spray of the one, and possibly dittany in
the peat of the other.

PALLAS.

We must not detain you, Æsculapius. But tell us how you propose
to adapt yourself to our new life. It seems to me that you are
determined not to find it irksome.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Does it not occur to you, Pallas, that--although I should never
have had the courage to adopt it--thus forced upon us it offers
me the most dazzling anticipations? Hitherto my existence has been
all theory. What there is to know about the principles of health as
applied to the fluctuations of mortality, I may suppose is known to
me. You might be troubled, Pallas, with every conceivable malady,
from elephantiasis to earache, and I should be in a position to
analyse and to deal with each in turn. You might be obscured by
ophthalmia, crippled by gout or consumed to a spectre by phthisis,
and I should be able, without haste, without anxiety, to unravel
the coil, to reduce the nodosities, to make the fleshy instrument
respond in melody to all your needs.

PALLAS.

But you have never done this. We knew that you _could_ do it, and
that has been enough for us.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

It has never been enough for me. The impenetrable immortality of
all our bodies has been a constant source of exasperation to me.

PALLAS.

Is it not much to know?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Yes; but it is more to _do_. The most perfect theory carries a
monotony and an emptiness about with it, if it is never renovated
by practice. In Olympus the unbroken health of all the inmates,
which we have accepted as a matter of course, has been more
advantageous to them than it has been to me.

PALLAS.

I quite see that it has made your position a more academic one than
you could wish.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

It has made it purely academic, and indeed, Pallas, if you will
reflect upon it, the very existence of a physician in a social
system which is eternally protected against every species of bodily
disturbance borders upon the ridiculous.

PALLAS.

It would interest me to know whether in our old home you were
conscious of this incongruity, of this lack of harmony between your
science and your occasions of using it.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

No; I think not. I was satisfied in the possession of exact
knowledge, and not directly aware of the charm of application. It
is the result, no doubt, of this resignation of immortality which
has startled and alarmed us all so much----

PALLAS.

Me, Æsculapius, it has neither alarmed nor startled.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

I mean that while we were beyond the dread of any attack, the
pleasure of rebutting such attack was unknown to us. I have
divined, since our misfortunes, that disease itself may bring an
excitement with it not all unallied to pleasure.... You smile,
Euterpe, but I mean even for the sufferer. There is more in
disease than the mere pang and languishment. There is the sense
of alleviation, the cessation of the throb, the resuming glitter
in the eye, the restoration of cheerfulness and appetite. These,
Pallas, are qualities which are indissolubly identified with pain
and decay, and which therefore--if we rightly consider--were wholly
excluded from our experience. In Olympus we never brightened, for
we never flagged; we never waited for a pang to subside, nor felt
it throbbing less and less poignantly, nor, as if we were watching
an enemy from a distance, hugged ourselves in a breathless ecstasy
as it faded altogether; this exquisite experience was unknown to
us, for we never endured the pang.

EUTERPE.

You make me eager for an illness. What shall it be? Prescribe one
for me. I am ignorant even of the names of the principal maladies.
Let it be a not unbecoming one.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Ah! no, Euterpe. Your mind still runs in the channel of your lost
impermeability. Till now, you might fling yourself from the crags
of Tartarus, or float, like a trail of water-plants, on the long,
blown flood of the altar-flame, and yet take no hurt, being
imperishable. But now, part of your hourly occupation, part of your
faith, your hope, your duty, must be to preserve your body against
the inroads of decay.

EUTERPE.

You present us with a tedious conception of our new existence,
surely.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Why should it be tedious? There was tedium, rather, in the
possession of bodies as durable as metal, as renewable as wax,
as insensitive as water. In the fiercest onset of the passions,
prolonged to satiety, there was always an element of the unreal.
What is pleasure, if the strain of it is followed by no fatigue;
what the delicacy of taste, if we can eat like caverns and drink
like conduits without being vexed by the slightest inconvenience?
You will discover that one of the acutest enjoyments of the mortal
state will be found to consist in guarding against suffering. If
you are provided with balloons attached to all your members, you
float upon the sea with indifference. It is the certainty that you
will drown if you do not swim which gives zest to the exercise. I
climb along yonder jutting cornice of the cliff with eagerness,
and pluck my simples with a hand that trembles more from joy than
fear, precisely because the strain of balancing the nerves, and
the certainty of suffering as the result of carelessness, knit
my sensations together into an exaltation which is not exactly
pleasure, perhaps, but which is not to be distinguished from it
in its exciting properties.

PALLAS.

Is life, then, to resolve itself for us into a chain of
exhilarating pangs?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Life will now be for you, for all of us, a perpetual combat with a
brine that half supports, half drags us under; a continual creeping
and balancing on a chamois path around the forehead of a precipice.
A headache will be the breaking of a twig, a fever a stone that
gives way beneath your foot, to lose the use of an organ will be
to let the alpenstock slip out of your starting fingers. And the
excitement, and be sure the happiness, of existence will be to
protract the struggle as long as possible, to push as far as you
can along the dwindling path, to keep the supports and the
alleviations of your labour about you as skilfully as you can,
and in the fuss and business of the little momentary episodes of
climbing to forget as long and as fully as may be the final and
absolutely unavoidable plunge. [_A pause, during which_ EUTERPE
_sinks upon the green sward_.]

ÆSCULAPIUS.

I have unfolded before you a scheme of philosophical activity. Are
you not gratified?

PALLAS.

Euterpe will learn to be gratified, Æsculapius, but she had not
reflected upon the plunge. If she will take my counsel, she will
continue to avoid doing so. [EUTERPE _rises, and approaches_
PALLAS, _who continues, to_ ÆSCULAPIUS.] I am with you in
recommending to her a constant consideration of the momentary
episodes of health. And now let us detain you no longer from the
marchanteas.

EUTERPE.

But pray recollect that they grow where the rocks are both slippery
and shelving.

    [_Exit_ ÆSCULAPIUS. EUTERPE _sinks again upon the grass, with her
        face in her hands, and lies there motionless_. PALLAS _walks
        up and down, in growing emotion, and at length breaks forth
        in soliloquy_.]

PALLAS.

  Higher than this dull circle of the sense--
  Shrewd though its pulsing sharp reminders be,
  With ceaseless fairy blows that ring and wake
  The anvil of the brain--I rather choose
  To lift mine eyes and pierce
  The long transparent bar that floats above,
  And hides, or feigns to hide, the choiring stars,
  And dulls, or faintly dulls, the fiery sun,
  And lacquers all the glassy sky with gold.
  For so the strain that makes this mortal life
  Irksome or squalid, chains that bind us down,
  Rust on those chains which soils the reddening skin,
  Passes; and in that concentrated calm,
  And in that pure concinnity of soul,
  And in that heart that almost fails to beat,
  I read a faint beatitude, and dream
  I walk once more upon the roof of Heaven,
  And feel all knowledge, all capacity
  For sovereign thought, all intellectual joy,
  Blow on me, like fluttering and like dancing winds.
  We are fallen, fallen!...
  And yet a nameless mirth, flooding my veins,
  And yet a sense of limpid happiness
  And buoyancy and anxious fond desire
  Quicken my being. It is much to see
  The perfected geography of thought
  Spread out before the gorged intelligence,
  A map from further detail long absolved.
  But ah! when we have tasted the delight
  Of toilsome apprehension, how return
  To that satiety of mental ease
  Where all is known because it merely is?
  Nay, here the joy will be to learn and learn,
  To learn in error and correct in pain,
  To learn through effort and with ease forget,
  Building of rough and slippery stones a House,
  Long schemed, and falling from us, and at the last
  Imperfect. Knowledge not the aim, so much
  As pleasure in the toil that leads to knowledge,
  We shall build, although the house before our eyes
  Crumble, and we shall gladden in the toil
  Although it never leads to habitation--
  Building our goal, though never a fabric rise.



V


[_The glen, down which a limpid and murmuring brook descends, with
    numerous tiny cascades and pools. Beside one of the latter,
    underneath a great beech-tree, and sitting on the root of it_,
    APHRODITE, _alone. Enter from below, concealed at first by the
    undergrowth_, ARES. _It is mid-day._]

APHRODITE [_to herself_].

Here he comes at last, and from the opposite direction.... No!
that cannot be Phoebus.... Ah! it is you, then!

ARES.

Is it possible? Your Majesty--and alone!

APHRODITE.

Phoebus offered me the rustic entertainment of gathering wild
raspberries. We found some at length, and regaled ourselves. I
wished for more, and Phoebus, with his usual gallantry, wandered
dreamily away into the forest on the quest. He has evidently lost
his way. I sat me down on this tree and waited.

ARES.

Surely it is the first time that you were ever abroad unattended.
I am amazed at the carelessness of Phoebus. Aphrodite--without an
attendant!

APHRODITE.

That is rather a fatuous remark, and from you of all people in
the world. My most agreeable reminiscences are, without exception,
connected with occasions on which I had escaped from my body-guard
of nymphs. At the present moment you would do well to face the
fact, Ares, that I have but a single maid, and that she has
collapsed under the burdens of novelty and exile.

ARES.

Is that my poor friend Cydippe?

APHRODITE.

You have so many friends, Ares. Poor Cydippe, then, broke down this
morning in moaning hysterics after having borne up just long enough
to do my hair. I really came out on this rather mad adventure after
the raspberries to escape the dolours of her countenance, and
the last thing I saw was her chlamys flung wildly over her head
as she dived down upon the floor in misery. Such consolations as
this island has to give me will not proceed from what you call my
attendant. You do not look well, Ares.

ARES.

I am always well. I am still incensed.

APHRODITE.

Ah, you are oppressed by our misfortunes?

ARES.

I can think of nothing else.

APHRODITE.

You do not, I hope, give way to the most foolish of the emotions,
and endure the silly torture of self-reproach?

ARES.

I have nothing to reproach myself with. Our forces had never been
in smarter trim, public spirit in Olympus never more patriotic
and national; and as to the personal bravery of our forces, it was
simply a portent of moral splendour.

APHRODITE.

And your discipline?

ARES.

It was perfect. I had led the troops up to the point of cheerfully
marching and counter-marching until they were ready to drop with
exhaustion, on the eve of each engagement; and at the ends of all
our practising-grounds brick walls had been set up, at which every
officer made it a point of honour to tilt head-foremost once a day.
There was no refinement preserved from the good old wars of
chivalry which was not familiar to our gallant fellows, and I had
expressly forbidden every species of cerebral exercise. Nothing,
I have always said, is so hurtful to the temper of an army as for
the rank and file to suspect that they are led by men of brains.

APHRODITE.

There every one must do you justice, Ares. I never heard even the
voice of prejudice raised to accuse you.

ARES.

No; I do not think any one could have the effrontery to charge me
with encouraging that mental effort which is so disastrous to the
work of a soldier. The same old practices which led our forefathers
to glory--the courage of tigers; the firm belief that if any one
tried to be crafty it must be because he is a coward; a bull-front
set straight at every obstacle, whatever its nature; a proper
contempt for any plan or discovery made since the days of Father
Uranus--these are the principles in which I disciplined our troops,
and I will not admit that I can have anything to reproach myself
with. The circumstances which we were unexpectedly called upon to
face were such as could never have been anticipated.

APHRODITE.

I do not see that you could have done otherwise than, as you did,
to refuse with dignity to anticipate anything so revolutionary.

ARES.

There are certain things which one seems to condone by merely
acknowledging their existence. That employment of mobile
mechanisms, for instance----

APHRODITE.

Do not speak of it! I could never have believed that the semblance
of the military could be made so excessively distasteful to me.

ARES.

Can I imagine myself admitting the necessity of guarding against
such an ungentlemanlike form of attack?

APHRODITE.

Your friends are all aware, Ares, that if the conditions were
to return, you would never demean yourself and them by guarding
against anything of the kind. But I advise you not to brood upon
the past. Your figure will suffer. You must keep up your character
for solid and agile exercises.

ARES.

It will not be easy for me to occupy myself here. I am accustomed,
as you know, to hunting and slaying. I thought I might have enjoyed
some sport with the barbarian islanders, and I selected one for the
purpose. But Zeus intervened, with that authority which even here,
in our shattered estate, we know not how to resist.

APHRODITE.

Did he give any reason for preventing the combat?

ARES.

Yes; and his reasons (I was bound to admit) carried some weight
with them. He said, first, that it was wrong to kill those who had
received us with so generous a hospitality; and secondly, that, as
I am no longer immortal, this brawny savage, with hair so curiously
coiled and matted over his brain-pan, might kill me; and thirdly,
that the whole affair might indirectly lead to his, Zeus', personal
inconvenience. Here then is enjoyment by one door quite shut out
from me.

APHRODITE.

Are there not deer in these woods, and perhaps wolves and boars?
There must be wild duck on the firth, and buzzards in the rocks.
Instead of challenging the barbarians to a foolish trial of
strength, why not make them your companions, and learn their
accomplishments?

ARES.

It is possible that I shall do so. But for the present, anger
gushes like an intermittent spring of bitter water in my bosom. I
forget for a moment, and the fountain falls; and then, with a rush,
memory leaps up in me, a column of poison. I say to myself, It cannot
be, it shall not be; but I grow calm again and find that it is.

APHRODITE.

The worst of the old immortality was the carelessness of it. We
were utterly unprepared for anything bordering on catastrophe, and
behold, without warning, we are swept away in a complete cataclysm
of our fortunes. I see, Ares, that it will be long before you can
recover serenity, or take advantage of the capabilities of our new
existence. They will appeal to you more slowly than to the rest
of us, and you will respond more unwillingly, because of your
lack--your voluntary and boasted lack--of all intellectual
suppleness.

ARES.

It is not the business of a soldier to be supple.

APHRODITE.

So it appears. And you will suffer for it. For, stiff and blank as
you may determine to be, circumstances will overpower you. Under
their influences you will not be able to avoid becoming softer and
more redundant. But you will resist the process, I see, and you
will make it as painful as you can.

ARES.

You discuss my case with a cheerful candour, Aphrodite. Are you
sure of being happier yourself?

APHRODITE.

Not _sure_; but I have a reasonable confidence that I shall be
fairly contented. For I, at least, am supple, and I court the
influences which you think it a point of gallantry to resist.

ARES.

You will continue, I suppose, to make your main business the
stimulating and the guiding of the affections? Here I admit that
suppleness, as you call it, is in place.

APHRODITE.

Unfortunately, even here, immortality was no convenient prelude
to our present state. We did not, indeed, neglect the heart----

ARES.

If I forget all else, there must be events----

APHRODITE.

Alas! we loved so briefly and with so facile a susceptibility, that
I am tempted to ask myself whether in Olympus we really loved at all.

ARES [_with ardour_].

There, at least, memory supplies me with no sort of doubt----

APHRODITE [_coldly_].

Let us keep to generalities. Looking broadly at our experience, I
should say that the misfortune of the gods, as a preparation for
their mortality, was that in their deathless state the affections
fell at the foot of the tree, like these withered leaves. We should
have fastened the branches of life together in long elastic wires
of the thin-drawn gold of perdurable sentiment.

ARES.

The rapture, the violence, the hammering pulse, the bursting
heart,--I see no resemblance between these and the leaves that
flutter at our feet.

APHRODITE.

These leaves had their moment of vitality, when the sap rushed
through their veins, when their tissue was like a ripple of
sparkling emerald on the face of the smiling sky. But they could
not preserve their glow, and they are the more hopelessly dead
now, because they burned in their green fire so fiercely.

ARES.

We felt no shadow of coming disability strike across our pleasures.

APHRODITE.

No; but that was precisely what made our immortality such an ill
preparation for a brief existence on this island. In Olympus the
sentiment of yesterday was forgotten, and we realised the passion
of to-day as little as the caprice of to-morrow. Perhaps this
fragmentary tenderness was the real chastisement of our implacable
prosperity.

ARES [_in a very low voice_].

Can we not resume in this our exile, and with more prospect of
continuity, the emotions which were so agreeable in our former
state? So agreeable--although, as you justly say, too ephemeral
[_coming a little closer_]. Can you not teach us to moderate and
to prolong the rapture?

APHRODITE [_rising to her feet_].

It may be. We shall see, Ares. But one thing I have already
perceived. In this mortal sphere, the heart needs solitude, it
needs silence. It must have its questionings and its despairs. The
triumphant supremacy of the old emotions cannot be repeated here.
For we have a new enemy to contend with. Even if love should
prosecute its conquests here in all the serenity of success, it
will not be able to escape from an infliction worse than any which
we dreamed of when we were immortals.

ARES.

And what is that, Aphrodite?

APHRODITE.

The blight of indifference.



VI


[APHRODITE _and_ CIRCE _are seated on the grass in a little dell
    surrounded by beechwoods. Far away a bell is heard._]

CIRCE.

What is that curious distant sound? Is it a bird?

APHRODITE.

Cydippe tells me that there is a temple on the hill beyond these
woods. I wonder to whom amongst us it is dedicated?

CIRCE.

I think it must be to you, Aphrodite, for now it is explained that
on coming hither I met a throng of men and maidens, sauntering
slowly along in twos, exactly as they used to do at Paphos.

APHRODITE.

Were they walking apart, or wound together by garlands?

CIRCE.

They were wound together by the arm of the boy coiled about the
waist of the girl, or resting upon it, a symbol, no doubt, of your
cestus.

APHRODITE [_eagerly_].

With any animation of gesture, Circe?

CIRCE.

With absolutely none. The maidens were dressed--but not all of
them--in robes of that very distressing electric blue that bites
into the eye, that blue which never was on sky or sea, and which
was absolutely banished from every colour-combination in Olympus.
It was employed in Hades as a form of punishment, if you recollect.

APHRODITE.

No doubt, then, this procession was a penitential one, and its
object to appease my offended deity. But what a mistake, poor
things! No one ever regained my favour by making a frump of herself.

CIRCE.

After these couples, came, in a very slow but formless moving
group, figures of a sombre and spectral kind, draped, both males
and females, in dull black, with little ornaments of gold in their
hands. It was with the utmost amazement that, on their coming
closer, I recognised some of the faces as those of the ruddy,
gentle barbarians to whom we owe our existence here. You cannot
think how painful it was to see them thus travestied. In their
well-fitting daily dress they look very attractive in a rustic
mode; there is one large one that labours in the barn, who
reminds me, when his sleeves are turned up, of Ulysses. But, oh!
Aphrodite, you must contrive to let them know that you pardon
their shortcomings, and relieve them from the horrors of this
remorseful costume. I know not which is more depressing to
the heart, the blue of the young or the black of the aged.

APHRODITE.

I expect that at this distance from the centre of things, all
manner of misconception has crept into my ritual. Of course, I
cannot now demand any rites, and that the dear good people should
pay them at all is very touching.

CIRCE.

Don't you think that it would be delightful to introduce here a
purer form of liturgy? It is very sad to see your spirit so little
understood.

APHRODITE.

Well, I hardly know. It is kind of you, Circe, to suggest such a
thing. No doubt it would be very pleasant. But I feel, of course,
the hollowness of the whole concern. We must be careful not to
deceive the barbarians.

CIRCE.

Certainly ... oh! yes, certainly. But ... I am sure it would be so
good for them to have a ritual to follow. We should not absolutely
assert to them that you still exist as an immortal, but I do not
see why we should insist on tearing every illusion away from them.
Suppose I could persuade them that you were no longer displeased
with them, and that you were quite willing to let them wear pink
and white robes again, and plenty of flowers in their hair; and
suppose I encouraged them to sacrifice turtle-doves on your altar,
and arrange garlands of wild roses in the proper way, don't you
think you could bring yourself to make a concession?

APHRODITE.

What do you mean by a "concession"?

CIRCE.

Well, for instance, when they were all assembled in the temple, and
had sung a hymn, and the priest had gone up to the altar, could you
not suddenly make an appearance, voluminous and splendid, and smile
upon them? Could you not shower a few champak-blossoms over the
congregation?

APHRODITE.

It is very ingenious of you to think of these things. But I suppose
it would not be right to attempt to do it. In the first place it
would encourage them to believe in my immortality----

CIRCE.

Oh! but to _believe_ is such a salutary discipline to the lower
classes. That is the whole principle of religion, surely,
Aphrodite? It is not for people like ourselves. You know how
indolent Dionysus is, but he always attended the temple when he
was hunting upon Nysa.

APHRODITE.

There is a great deal in that argument, no doubt. Only, what will
be the result when they discover that it is all a mistake, and
that I am a mortal like themselves?

CIRCE.

You never can be a mortal like the barbarians, for you have been a
force ruling the sea, and the flowers, and the winds, and twisting
the blood of man and woman in your fingers like a living skein of
soft red silk. They will always worship you. It may not be in
temples any longer, not with a studied liturgy, but wherever the
sap rises in a flower, or the joy of life swims up in the morning
through the broken film of dreams, or a young man perceives for
the first time that the girl he meets is comely, you will be
worshipped, Aphrodite, for the essence of your immortality is the
cumulative glow of its recurrent mortality.

HERMES [_entering abruptly_].

You will be disappointed----

CIRCE.

Ah! you followed the youths and maidens to the little temple of
our friend. Is it not beautiful?

HERMES.

It is hideous.

CIRCE.

Are you sure that it is a temple at all?

HERMES.

I confess that I was for a long time uncertain, but on the whole
I believe that it is.

APHRODITE.

But is it dedicated to me?

HERMES.

That is the disappointment.... It is best to tell you at once
that I see no evidence whatever that it is.

CIRCE.

I am very much disappointed.

APHRODITE.

I am very much relieved. But could you not gather from the
decoration of the interior to whom of us it is inscribed?

HERMES.

It is not decorated at all: whitewashed walls, wooden benches,
naked floors.

CIRCE.

But what is the nature of the sculpture?

HERMES.

I could see no sculpture, except a sort of black tablet, with
names upon it, and at the sides two of the youthful attendants of
Eros--those that have wings, indeed, but cannot rest. These were
exceedingly ill-carven in a kind of limestone. And I hardly like
to tell you what I found behind the altar----

APHRODITE.

I am not easily shocked. My poor worshippers sometimes demand a
very considerable indulgence.

CIRCE.

Nothing very ugly, I hope?

HERMES.

Yes; very ugly, and still more incomprehensible. But nothing that
could spring out of any misconception of the ritual of our friend.
No; I hardly like to tell you. Well, a gaunt painted figure, with
spines about the bleeding forehead----

APHRODITE.

Was it fastened to any symbol? Did you notice anything that
explained the horror of it?

HERMES.

No. I did not observe it very closely. As I was glancing at it,
the celebration or ritual, or whatever we are to call it, began,
and I withdrew to the door, not knowing what frenzy might seize
upon the worshippers.

APHRODITE.

There was a cannibal altar in Arcadia to Phoebus, so I have
heard. He instantly destroyed it, and scattered the ignorant
savages who had raised it.

HERMES.

There was a touch of desolate majesty about this figure. I fear
that it portrays some blighting Power of suffering or of grief.
[_He shudders._]

APHRODITE.

There are certainly deities of whom we knew nothing in Olympus.
Perhaps this is the temple of some Unknown God.

HERMES.

I admit that I thought, with this picture, and with their sinister
garments of black and of blue, and with the bareness and harshness
of the temple, that something might be combined which it would
give me no satisfaction to witness. I placed myself near the door,
where, in a moment, I could have regained the exquisite forest, and
the odour of this carpet of woodruff, and your enchanting society.
But nothing occurred to disconcert me. After genuflexions and
liftings of the voice----

APHRODITE.

What was the object of these?

HERMES.

I absolutely failed to determine. Well, the priest--if I can so
describe a man without apparent dedication, robed without charm,
and exalted by no visible act of sacrifice--ascended a species of
open box, and spoke to the audience from the upturned lid of it.

CIRCE.

What did he say? Did he explain the religion of his people?

HERMES.

To tell you the truth, Circe, although I listened with what
attention I could, and although the actual language was perfectly
clear to me--you know I am rather an accomplished linguist--I
formed no idea of what he said. I could not find the starting-point
of his experience.

CIRCE.

To whom can this temple be possibly dedicated?

APHRODITE.

Depend upon it, it is not a temple at all. What Hermes was present
at was unquestionably some gathering of local politicians. Poor
these barbarians may be, but they could not excuse by poverty such
a neglect of the decencies as he describes. No flowers, no bright
robes, no music of stringed instruments, no sacrifice--it is quite
impossible that the meanest of sentient beings should worship in
such a manner. And as for the picture which you saw behind what you
took to be the altar, I question not that it is used to keep in
memory some ancestor who suffered from the tyranny of his masters.
In the belief that he was assisting at a process of rustic worship,
our poor Hermes has doubtless attended a revolutionary meeting.

CIRCE.

Dreadful! But may its conflicts long keep outside the arcades of
this delightful woodland!

HERMES.

And still we know not to which of us the mild barbarians pray!



VII


    [_The same scene, but no one present. A butterfly flits across
        from the left, makes several pirouettes and exit to the
        right._ HERA _enters quickly from the left_.]

HERA.

Could I be mistaken? What is this overpowering perfume? Is it
conceivable that in this new world odours take corporeal shape?
Anything is conceivable, except that I was mistaken in thinking
that I saw it fly across this meadow. It can only have been
beckoning me. [_The butterfly re-enters from the right, and, after
towering upwards, and wheeling in every direction, settles on a
cluster of meadow-sweet. It is followed from the right by_ EROS.
_He and_ HERA _look at one another in silence_.]

HERA.

You are occupied, Eros. I will not detain you.

EROS.

I propose to stay here for a little while. Are you moving on?
[_Each of them fixes eyes on the insect._]

HERA.

I must beg you to leave me, or to remain perfectly motionless. I
am excessively agitated.

EROS.

I followed the being which is hanging downwards from that spray
of blossom. Does it recall some one to you?

HERA.

Not in its present position. But I will not pretend, Eros, that
it is not the source of my agitation. Look at it now, as it flings
itself round the stalk, and opens and waves its fans. Do you still
not comprehend?

EROS.

I see nothing in it now. I am disappointed.

HERA.

But those great coloured eyes, waxing and waning! Those moons of
pearl! The copper that turns to crimson, the turquoise that turns
to violet, the greenish, pointed head that swings and rolls its
yoke of slender plumage! Ah! Eros, is it possible that you do not
perceive that it is a symbol of my peacock, my bird translated
into the language of this narrow and suppressed existence of ours?
What a strange and exquisite messenger! My poor peacock, with a
strident shriek of terror, fled from me on that awful morning, the
flames singeing its dishevelled train, its wings helplessly
flapping in the torrents of conflagration. It bade me no adieu, its
clangour of despair rang forth, an additional note of discord, from
the inner courts of my palace. And out of its agony, of its horror,
it has contrived to send me this adorable renovation of itself, all
its grace and all its splendour reincarnated in this tiny creature.
But alas! how am I to capture, how to communicate with it?

EROS.

I hesitate to disturb your illusion, Hera. But you are singularly
mistaken. I have a far greater interest in this messenger than you
can have; and if you dream its presence to be a tribute to your
pride, I am much more tenderly certain that it is a reproach to my
affections. See, those needlessly gaudy wings,--a mere disguise to
bring it through the multitude of its enemies--are closed now, and
it resumes its pendulous attitude, as aërial as an evening cloud,
as graceful as sorrow itself, sable as the shadow of a leaf in the
moonlight.

HERA.

Whom do you suppose it to represent, Eros?

EROS.

"Represent" is an inadequate word. I know it to be, in some
transubstantiation, the exact nature of which I shall have to
investigate, my adored and injured Psyche. You never appreciated
her, Hera.

HERA.

It was necessary in such a society as ours to preserve the
hierarchical distinctions. She was a charming little creature, and
I never allowed myself to indulge in the violent prejudice of your
mother. When you presented her at last, I do not think that you
had any reason to reproach me with want of civility.

    [_The butterfly dances off._]

HERA _and_ EROS _together_.

It is gone.

        [_A pause._]

HERA.

We are in a curious dilemma. Unless we are to conceive that two
of the lesser Olympians have been able to combine in adopting a
symbolic disguise, either you or I have been deceived. That
tantalising visitant can scarcely have been at the same time Psyche
and my peacock.

EROS.

I know not why; and for my part am perfectly willing to recognise
its spots and moons to your satisfaction, if you will permit me to
recognise my own favourite in the garb of grief.

HERA.

My bird was ever a masquerader--it may be so.

EROS.

Psyche, also, was not unaccustomed to disguises.

HERA.

You take the recollection coolly, Eros.

EROS.

Would you have me shriek and moan? Would you have me throw myself
in convulsive ecstasy upon that ambiguous insect? You are not the
first, Hera, who has gravely misunderstood my character. I am
not, I have never been, a victim of the impulsive passions. The
only serious misunderstandings which I have ever had with my
illustrious mother have resulted from her lack of comprehension
of this fact. _She_ is impulsive, if you will! Her existence has
been a succession of centrifugal adventures, in which her sole
idea has been to hurl herself outward from the solitude of her
individuality. I, on the other hand, leave very rarely, and with
peculiar reluctance, the rock-crystal tower from which I watch
the world, myself unavoidable and unattainable. My arrows
penetrate every disguise, every species of physical and spiritual
armour, but they are not turned against my own heart. I have
always been graceful and inconspicuous in my attitudes. The image
of Eros, with contorted shoulders and projected elbows, aiming a
shaft at himself, is one which the Muse of Sculpture would
shudder to contemplate.

HERA.

Then what was the meaning of your apparent infatuation for Psyche?

EROS.

O do not call it "apparent." It was genuine and it was
all-absorbing. But it was absolutely exceptional. Looking back, it
seems to me that I must have been gazing at myself in a mirror, and
have dismissed an arrow before I realised who was the quarry. It is
not necessary to remind you of the circumstances----

HERA.

You would, I suppose, describe them as exceptional?

EROS.

As wholly exceptional. And could I be expected to prolong an
ardour so foreign to my nature? The victim of passion cannot be
a contemplator at the same moment, and I may frankly admit to you,
Hera, that during the period of my infatuation for Psyche, there
were complaints from every province of the universe. It was said
that unless my attention could be in a measure diverted from that
admirable girl, there would be something like a stagnation of
general vitality. Phoebus remarked one day, that if the ploughman
became the plough the cessation of harvests would be inevitable.

HERA.

It was at that moment, I suppose, that you besought Zeus so
passionately to confer upon Psyche the rank of a goddess?

EROS.

You took that, no doubt, for an evidence of my intenser
infatuation. An error; it was a proof that the arguments of the
family were beginning to produce their effect upon me. I perceived
my responsibility, and I recognised that it was not the place of
the immortal organiser of languishment to be sighing himself. To
deify my lovely Psyche was to recognise her claim, and--and----

HERA.

To give you a convenient excuse for neglecting her?

EROS.

It is that crudity of yours, Hera, which has before now made your
position in Olympus so untenable. You lack the art of elegant
insinuation.

HERA.

Am I then to believe that you were playing a part when you seemed
a little while ago so anxious to recognise Psyche in the drooping
butterfly?

EROS.

Oh! far from it. The sentiment of recognition was wholly genuine
and almost rapturously pleasurable. It is true that in the
confusion of our flight I had not been able to give a thought to
our friend, who was, unless I am much mistaken, absent from her
palace. Nor will I be so absurd as to pretend that I have, for a
long while past, felt at all keenly the desire for her company. She
has very little conversation. There are certain peculiarities of
manner, which----

HERA.

I know exactly what you mean. My peacock has a very peculiar voice,
and----

EROS [_impatiently_].

You must permit me to protest against any comparison between Psyche
and your worthy bird. But I was going to say that the moment I
saw the brilliant little discrepancy which led us both to this
spot--and to which I hesitate to give a more definite name--I
was instantly and most pleasantly reminded of certain delightful
episodes, of a really charming interlude, if I may so call it.
I cannot be perfectly certain what connection our ebullient
high-flyer has with the goddess whose adorer I was and whose
friend I shall ever be. But the symbol--if it be no more than a
symbol--has been sufficient to awaken in me all that was most
enjoyable in our relations. I shall often wander in these woods,
among the cloud-like masses of odorous blossom, in this windless
harbour of sunlight and the murmur of leaves, in the hope of
finding the little visitant here. She will never fail to remind me,
but without disturbance, of all that was happiest in a series of
relations which grew at last not so wholly felicitous as they once
had been. One of the pleasures this condition of mortality offers
us, I foresee, is the perpetual recollection of what was delightful
in the one serious liaison of my life, and of nothing else.

HERA.

Aphrodite would charge you with cynicism, Eros.

EROS.

It would not be the first time that she has mistaken my philosophy
for petulance.



VIII


[_On the terrace beside the house are seated_ PERSEPHONE, MAIA,
    _and_ CHLORIS. _The afternoon is rapidly waning, and lights are
    seen to twinkle on the farther shore of the sea. As the twilight
    deepens, from just out of sight a man's voice is heard singing
    as follows_:]

  _As I lay on the grass, with the sun in the west,
  A woman went by me, a babe at her breast;
      She kissed it and pressed it,
      She cooed, she caressed it,
  Then rocked it to sleep in her elbow-nest._

  _She rocked it to rest with a sad little song,
  How the days were grown short, and the nights grown long;
      How love was a rover,
      How summer was over,
  How the winds of winter were shrill and strong._

  _We must haste, she sang, while the sky is bright,
  While the paths are plain and the town's in sight,
      Lest the shadows that watch us
      Should creep up and catch us,
  For the dead walk here in the grass at night._

    [_The voice withdraws farther down the woods, but from a lower
    distance, in the clear evening, the last stanza is heard repeated.
    The_ GODDESSES _continue silent, until the voice has died away_.]

CHLORIS.

Rude words set to rude music; but they seem to penetrate to the
very core of the heart.

MAIA.

Are you sad to-night, Chloris?

CHLORIS.

Not sad, precisely; but anxious, feverish, a little excited.

PERSEPHONE.

Hark! the song begins again.

    [_They listen, and from far away the words come faintly back:_

_For the dead walk here in the grass at night._]

MAIA.

The dead! Shall we see them?

CHLORIS.

Why not? These barbarians appear to avoid them with an invincible
terror, but why should we do so?

MAIA.

I do not feel that it would be possible for the dead to "catch" me,
since I should be instantly and keenly watching for them, and much
more eager to secure their presence than they could be to secure
mine.

CHLORIS.

We do not know of what we speak, for it may very well be that the
barbarians have some experience of these beings. Their influence
may be not merely malign, but disgusting.

MAIA.

How ignorant we are!

CHLORIS.

Surely, Persephone, you must be able to give us some idea of the
dead. Were they not the sole occupants of your pale dominions?

PERSEPHONE.

It is very absurd of me, but really I do not seem to recollect
anything about them.

MAIA.

I suppose you disliked living in Hades very much?

PERSEPHONE.

Well, I spent six months there every year, to please my husband.
But a great deal of my time was taken up in corresponding with my
mother. She was always nervous if she did not hear regularly from
me. I really feel quite ashamed of my inattention.

MAIA.

You don't even recall what the inhabitants of the country were
like?

PERSEPHONE.

I recollect that they seemed dreadfully wanting in vitality. They
came in troops when I held a reception; they swept by.... I cannot
remember what they were like----

CHLORIS.

It must have been dreary for you there, Persephone.

PERSEPHONE.

Well, we had our own interests. I believe I did my duty. It seemed
to me that I must be there if Pluto wished it, and I was pleased
to be with him. But--if you can understand me--there was a sort of
a dimness over everything, and I never entered into the political
life of the place. As to the social life, you can imagine that
they were not people that one cared to know. At the same time,
of course, I feel now how ridiculous it was of me to hold that
position and not take more interest.

MAIA.

Demeter, of course, never encouraged you to make any observation of
the manners and customs of Hades.

PERSEPHONE.

Oh, no! that was just it. She always said: "Pray don't let me hear
the least thing about the horrid place." You remember that she very
strongly disapproved of my going there at all----

CHLORIS.

Yes; I remember that Arethusa, when she brought me back my
daffodils, told me how angry Demeter was----

PERSEPHONE.

And yet she was quite nice to my husband when once Zeus had decided
that I had better go.

    [_There is a pause._ MAIA _rises and leans on the parapet, over the
        woods, now drowned in twilight, to the sea, which still faintly
        glitters. She turns and comes back to the other two, standing
        above them._]

MAIA.

I, too, might have observed something as I went sailing over the
purpureal ocean. But I was always talking to my sisters. The fact
is we all of us neglected to learn anything about death.

CHLORIS.

We thought of it as of something happening in that world of Hades
which could never become of the slightest importance to us. Who
could have imagined that we should have to take it into practical
account?

MAIA.

Well, now we shall have to accept it, to be prepared for its
tremendous approach.

CHLORIS [_after a pause_].

Perhaps this famous "death" may prove after all to be only another
kind of life. [_Rising and approaching_ MAIA.] Don't you think this
is indicated even by the song of these barbarians? Besides, our
stay here must be the ante-chamber to something wholly different.

MAIA.

We can hardly suppose that it can lead to nothing.

CHLORIS.

No; surely we shall put off more or less leisurely, with dignity or
without it, the garments of our sensuous existence, and discover
something underneath all these textures of the body?

PERSEPHONE.

One of our priests in Hades, I do remember, sang that silence was
a voice, and declared that even in the deserts of immensity the soul
was stunned and deafened by the chorus and anti-chorus of nature.

CHLORIS.

What did he mean? What is the soul?

MAIA.

I must confess that in this our humility, our corporeal
degradation, instead of feeling crushed, I am curiously conscious
of a wider range of sensibility. Perhaps that is the soul? Perhaps,
in the suppression of our immortality, something metallic,
something hermetical, has been broken down, and already we stand
more easily exposed to the influences of the spirit?

CHLORIS.

In that case, to slough the sheaths of the body, one by one, ought
to be to come nearer to the final freedom, and the last coronation
and consecration of existence may prove to be this very "death" we
dread so much.

PERSEPHONE.

I can fancy that such conjectures as these may prove to be one of
the chief sources of satisfaction in this new mortality of ours:
the variegated play of light and shadow thrown upon it. Well, the
less we know and see, the more exciting it ought to be to guess
and to peer.

MAIA.

And some of us, depend upon it, will be able to persuade ourselves
that we alone can use our eyesight in the pitch profundity of
darkness, and these will find a peculiar pleasure in tormenting
the others who have less confidence in their imagination.

    [_They seat themselves, and are silent. Far away is once more
        faintly heard the song, and then it dies away. A long
        silence. Then, a confused hum of cries and voices is heard,
        and approaches the terrace from below. The Goddesses start
        to their feet. From the left appear_ SILVANUS, ALCYONE _and_
        FAUNA, _bearing the body of_ CYDIPPE, _which they place very
        carefully on the grass in front of the scene_.]

CHLORIS [_in an excited whisper_].

Is this our first experience of the mystery?

FAUNA _and_ ALCYONE.

She is dead! She is dead!

MAIA.

The first of the immortals to succumb to the burden of mortality!

SILVANUS.

Where is Æsculapius? Call him, call him!

MAIA.

He cannot bring back the dead.

PERSEPHONE.

What has happened? Cydippe is livid, her limbs are stark, her
eyes are wide open, and motionless, and unnaturally brilliant.

SILVANUS [_to_ CHLORIS].

She was gathering a little posy of your wild flowers--eyebright,
and crane's bills and small blue pansies, when----

FAUNA.

There glided out of the intertwisted fibres of the blue-berries
a serpent----

ALCYONE.

Grey, with black arrows down the spine, and a flat, diabolical
head----

FAUNA.

And Cydippe never saw it, and stretched out her hand again,
and--see----

SILVANUS.

The viper fixed his fangs here, in the blue division of the vein,
here in her translucent wrist. See, it swells, it darkens!

FAUNA.

And with a scream she fell, and swooned away, and died, turning
backwards, so that her hair caught in the springy herbage, and her
head rolled a little in her pain, so that her hair was loosened and
tightened, and look, there are still little tufts of blue-berry
leaves in her hair.

SILVANUS.

But here comes Æsculapius.

    [_They all greet_ ÆSCULAPIUS, _who enters from the left, with
        his basket of remedies_.]

PERSEPHONE.

Ah! sage master of simples, this is a problem beyond thy solution,
a case beyond thy cure.

ÆSCULAPIUS [_to the goddesses_].

You think that Cydippe is dead?

MAIA.

Unquestionably. The savage viper has slain her.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Then prepare to behold what should seem a greater miracle to you
than to me. But, first, Silvanus, bind a strip of clothing very
tightly round the upper part of her arm, for no more than we can
help of those treasonable messengers must fly posting from the
wound to Cydippe's heart.

PERSEPHONE [_sententiously_].

It can receive no more such messages.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

I think you are mistaken. And now, Fauna, a few drops of water
in this cup from the trickling spring yonder. That is well. Stand
farther away from Cydippe, all of you.

PERSEPHONE.

What are those pure white needles you drop into the water? How
quickly they dissolve. Ah! he lays the mixture to Cydippe's wound.
She sighs; her eyelids close; her heart is beating. What is this
magic, Æsculapius?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Do not tell your husband, Persephone, or he will complain to Zeus
that I am depriving him of his population. But if there is magic
in this, there is no miracle. [_To the others._] Take her softly
into the house and lay her down. She will take a long sleep, and
will wake at the end of it with no trace of the poison or
recollection of her suffering.

    [_They carry_ CYDIPPE _forth_. PERSEPHONE, MAIA, _and_
        ÆSCULAPIUS _remain_.]

MAIA.

Then--she was not dead?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

No; it was but the poison-swoon, which precedes death, if it be
not arrested.

MAIA.

How rejoiced I am!

PERSEPHONE.

One would say your joy had disappointed you.

MAIA.

No, indeed, for I am attached to Cydippe, but oh! Persephone, it
is strange to be at the very threshold of the mystery----

PERSEPHONE.

And to have the opening door shut in our faces? Perhaps ... next
time ... they may not be able to find Æsculapius.



IX


[_The terrace, as in the first scene_; ZEUS _enters from the house,
    conducted by_ HEBE _and several of the lesser divinities_.]

HEBE.

Will your Majesty be pleased to descend to the lower boskage?

ZEUS.

No! Place my throne here, out of the wind, in the sun, which seems
to have very little fire left in it, but some pleasant light still.
The sea down there is bright again to-day; the carrying of our
unfortunate person upon its surface was probably the source of
immense alarm to it. It quaked and blackened continuously. Now we
are removed, it regains something of its normal quiescence. I trust
that the land hereabouts is dowered with a less painful
susceptibility.

GANYMEDE.

A priest, sire, the only one who saved his musical instrument
through our calamities, stands within. Is your Majesty disposed to
be sung to?

ZEUS.

No, certainly not. Which is he? [_The_ PRIEST _is pointed out_.]
What an odd-looking person! Yes, he may give me a specimen of his
art--a short one.

    [_The_ PRIEST _comes forward; he is dressed in wild Thessalian
        raiment. He approaches with uncouth gestures, and a mixture
        of servility and self-consciousness. On receiving a nod
        from_ ZEUS, _he tunes his instrument and sings as follows_:]

      _Wild swans winging
        Through the blue,
      Spiders springing
        To a clue,
    Till the sparkling drops renew
      All that ever
      Youth's endeavour
    Had determined to undo.
  White and blue are hoards of treasure,
  For the panting hands of pleasure
  To go dropping, dropping, dropping,
        Without measure
      Through and through._

ZEUS.

Very pretty, I must say. Would you repeat it again?

[PRIEST _repeats it again_.]

ZEUS.

What does it ... exactly _mean_? I think it quite pretty, you
understand.

PRIEST.

Does your Majesty receive any impression from it?

ZEUS.

Well, I don't know that I could precisely parse it. But it is very
pretty. Yes, I think I gain a certain impression from it.

PRIEST.

Do you not feel, sire, a peculiar sense of flush, of spring-tide--a
direct juvenile ebullience?

ZEUS.

Ah, no doubt, no doubt. And a kind of nostalgia, or harking-back to
happier days, a sense of their rapid passage, and their
irrecoverability. Is that right?

PRIEST.

It is a positive divination!

ZEUS.

I am conscious of the agreeable recollection of an incident----

PRIEST [_with rapture_].

Ah!----

ZEUS.

A little event?----

PRIEST.

You make my heart beat so high, sire, that I can hardly speak.
Deign, sire, to recall that incident.

ZEUS [_with extreme affability_].

It was hardly an incident.... I merely happened, while you were
reciting your song, to remember an occasion on which--on which
Iris, at the rampart of our golden wall, bending back, was caught
by the wind, and--and the contours were delicious.

PRIEST.

Oh! the word, the word!

ZEUS [_with slight hauteur_].

I do not follow you. Her rainbow----

PRIEST.

Ah! yes, sire, the rainbow, the rainbow! O what an art of
incontestable divination!

ZEUS [_much animated_].

But you did not say anything about a rainbow, nor describe one,
nor ever mention the elements of such a bow.

PRIEST.

Ah! no, sire. That is the art of the New Poetry. It names nothing,
it describes nothing. All that it designs to do is to place the
mind of the listener--of the august and perspicacious listener--in
such an attitude as that the unnamed, the undescribed object rises
full in vision. The poet flings forth his melody, and to the gross
ear it seems a mere tinkle of inanity. That is simply because the
crowd who worship at the shrine of the Sminthean Apollo have been
accustomed by an old-fashioned and ridiculously incompetent
priesthood to look for an instant and mechanical relation between
sound and sense. I would not exaggerate, sire; but the kind of
poetry lately cultivated, not only at Delphi, but in Delos also,
is simply obsolete.

ZEUS [_suspiciously_].

Again I am not sure that I quite follow you.

PRIEST.

To your Majesty, at least, the New Poetry opens its casket as
widely as the rose-bud does to the zephyr.

ZEUS.

I can follow that--but it rather reminds me of the Old Poetry.

PRIEST.

It was intended to do so. What promptitude of mind! What divine
penetration!

ZEUS [_affably_].

I have always believed that if I had enjoyed leisure from public
life, I should have excelled in my judgment of the fine arts. [_To
the_ PRIEST, _with gravity_.] You are a gifted young man. Be sure
that you employ your talents with discretion. Such an intellect as
yours carries responsibility with it. I shall be quite pleased to
permit you to recite "The Rainbow" to me again. [_The_ PRIEST
_prepares to recite it_.]

ZEUS.

Oh, not now! Some other time! [_Graciously dismisses the_ PRIEST.]

ZEUS [_after a long pause_].

The attitude of my family, in these ambiguous circumstances,
is everything that could be desired. My original feeling of
irritability has passed away. I should have supposed it to be
what Pallas calls "fatigue," a confusion or discord of the
nerve-centres, which she tells me is incident to mortality.
What Pallas can possibly know about it is more than I can guess,
especially, as there were not infrequent occasions on Olympus
itself on which my Supreme Godhead was disturbed by flashes of
what I should be forced to describe as exasperation, states of
mind in which I formed--and indeed executed--the sudden project
of breaking something. These were, I believe, simply the result
of an excessive sense of responsibility. I am not one of those
who conceive that the duty of deity is to sit passive beside the
cup of nectar. Here on this island, in the permanent absence of
that refreshment, I reflect (I perceive that I shall have very
frequent opportunities for reflection) that I was perhaps only
too anxious to preserve the harmony of heaven. My sense of
decorum--may it not have been excessive? From below, as I
imagine, from the stations occupied--I will not say by the
inanimate or half-animate creation, such as insects, or men, or
minerals--but by the demi-gods, I take it that the dignity and
orbic beauty of our court appeared sublimely immaculate. In the
inner circle, alas! no one knows better than I do that there
were--well, dissensions. I will go further, in candour to myself,
and admit that these occasionally led to excesses. I cannot
charge my recollection with my having done anything to excuse
or encourage these. The personal conduct of the Sovereign
was always, I cannot but believe, above reproach. But the
eccentricities--if I may style them so--of certain of my children
were sometimes regrettable. I wonder that they did not age me;
they would do so immediately in my present condition. But in this
island, where we are to swarm like animalcules in a drop of
water, I shall be relieved of all responsibility. Where there
is no one to notice that errors are committed, no errors _are_
committed. As the person of most experience in the whole world,
I do not mind stating my ripe opinion that a fault which has no
effect upon political conditions is in no sensible degree a fault
at all. Pallas would contend the point, I suppose, but I am at
ease. I shall not allow the conduct of my children, except as it
shall regard myself, to affect my good-humour in the slightest
degree.

    [PHOEBUS _enters, slowly pacing across the terrace_.]

ZEUS.

Your planet seems to have recovered something of its tone,
Phoebus.

PHOEBUS.

If, father, you regard--as you have every right to do--your
venerable person as the centre of my interests, I rejoice to allow
that this seems to be the case.

ZEUS [_with a touch of reserve_].

I meant that the sun shows a tendency to return to its forgotten
orbit. It is quite warm here out of the wind. [_More genially._]
But as to myself, I admit a great recovery in my spirits. I have
given up fretting for Iris, who was certainly lost on our way here,
and Pallas has been showing me a curious little jewel she brought
with her, which has created in me a kind of wistful cheeriness. I
do not remember to have experienced anything of the kind before.

PHOEBUS.

I declare I believe that you will adapt yourself as well as the
rest of us to this anomalous existence.

ZEUS.

We shall see; and I shall have so much time now, that I may
even--what I am sure ought to gratify you, Phoebus,--be able to
give my attention to the fine arts. A fallen monarch can always
defy adversity by forming a collection of curiosities.

PHOEBUS.

If you make the gem of which Pallas is so proud the nucleus of
your cabinet, I feel convinced that it will give you lasting
satisfaction. And we are so poor now that it can never be complete,
and therefore never become tiresome. But what was it that the
oracle of Nemea amused and puzzled us by saying, "To form a
collection is well, yet to take a walk is better"? I will attend
your Majesty to your apartments, and then wander in these extensive
woods.

            [_Exeunt._



X


    [_A dell below the house, with a white poplar-tree growing
        alone. Under it_ HERACLES _sits, in an attitude of deep
        dejection, his club fallen at his feet, a horn empty at
        his side. To him enters_ EROS.]

EROS.

I have been congratulating our friends on their surpassing
cheerfulness. Even Zeus is displaying a marvellous longanimity in
his adverse state, and Pallas is positively frivolous. We must have
disembarked, however, upon the island of Paradox, for everything
goes by contraries; here I find you, Heracles, commonly so serene
and uplifted, sunken in the pit of depression. You should squeeze
the breath out of your melancholy, as you did out of Hera's snakes
so long ago.

HERACLES.

That was a foolish tale. Do you not recollect that I am not as the
rest of you?

EROS.

Come, man, brighten up! You look as sulky as you did when I broke
your bow and arrows, and set Aphrodite laughing at you. But I have
learned manners, and the goddesses only smile now. Cheer up! How is
your destiny a whit different from ours?

HERACLES.

That rude old story about Alcmena, Eros--it is impossible that you
can be the dupe of that? When I hunted lions on Cithaeron--that
really _was_ a gentlemanlike sport, my friend--when I hunted lions
I was not a god. Gods don't hunt lions, Eros; I have not gone
a-hunting since that curious affair on Mount OEta. You remember it?

EROS.

I have preferred to forget it.

HERACLES.

Only an immortal can afford wilfully to forget, and I--well, you
know as well as I do that I am only a mortal canonised. I never
understood the incident, I confess. I lay down among the ferns
to sleep, after an unusually heavy day's bag of monsters. It was
sultry weather; I woke to an oppressive sense of singeing, I found
myself enveloped in a blaze of leaves and brushwood.... But I bore
you, and what does it matter now? What does anything matter?

EROS.

No, no; pray continue! I am excessively interested. You throw a
light on something that has always puzzled me, something that----

HERACLES.

A dense black smoke blinded and numbed me. The next moment, as it
seemed--perhaps it was the next day--I was hustled up through the
æther to Olympus, and dumped down at the foot of Zeus' throne.
Perhaps you remember?

EROS.

Yes, for I was there.

HERACLES.

All of you were there. And Zeus came down and took me by the
wrist. Olympus rang with shouts and the clapping of hands. I was
hailed with unanimity as an immortal; the ambrosia melted between
my charred lips; I rose up amongst you all, immaculate and fresh.
But when, or how, or wherefore I have never known. And now I shall
never care to know.

EROS.

You are a strange mixture, Heracles; strangely contradictory. You
never quailed before any scaly horror, you never spared a truculent
robber or a noisome beast, nor avoided a laborious act----

HERACLES.

These might be quoted, I should have thought, as instances of my
consistency.

EROS.

Yes, but then (you must really forgive me) your weakness in the
matter of Omphale did seem, to those who knew you not, like want
of self-respect. I have the reputation of shrinking, in the pursuit
of pleasure, from no fantastic disguise, but I never sat spinning
in the garments of a servant-maid. You must have looked a strange
daughter of the plough, Heracles. I blush for you to think of it.

HERACLES.

It was odd, certainly. Yet if _you_ cannot comprehend it, Eros, I
despair of explaining it to anybody. I should never do it again.
You must admit I showed no want of firmness afterwards in dealing
with Hebe, but then, she never interested me. Is she here? But do
not reply, I am not anxious to learn.

EROS.

Your dejection passes beyond all bounds. You cannot have been
shown the singularly cheerful little jewel which Pallas has brought
with her? It raises every one's spirits.

HERACLES.

It will not raise mine; for all of you, Eros, have been immortals
from the beginning, and your mortality is a new and pungent flavour
on the moral palate. But the taste of it was known of old to me,
and I am not its dupe. It simply carries me back to the ancient
weary round of ceaseless struggle, unending battle, incessant
renascence of the sprouting heads of Hydra; to all that from which
the windless Olympus was a refuge. Hope is presented--to one who
has tasted it and who knows that it is futile--without reawakening,
under such new conditions as we have here, any zest of adventure.
The jewel of Pandora may be exhilarating to fallen immortality;
it has no lustre whatever for a backsliding mortal.

    [_Sounds of laughter are heard, and steps ascending from the
        shore._]

EROS [_to_ HERACLES].

Draw your lion's skin about you less negligently, Heracles; I hear
visitants approaching. You are not in the woodways of OEta.

    [_The_ OCEANIDES _rush in from the lower woodlands. They are
        carrying torches, and arrive in a condition of the highest
        exhilaration._ EROS _proceeds a step or two to meet them, with
        a smile and a mock reverence_. HERACLES, _brooding over his
        knees, does not even raise his eyes at their clamorous entry_.]

EROS.

Are you proceeding to set our Father Zeus on fire, or do you intend
to repeat on our unwilling Heracles the rites of canonisation?
Have a care with those absurd flambeaux; you will put all the
underwood aflame. What are you doing with torches?

AMPHITRITE.

It was Hephæstus who gave them to us to hold. He is in a cave down
there by the sea, making the most ingenious things in the darkness.
He called us in to hold these lights----

DORIS.

And oh, Eros, we had such fun, teasing him----

PITHO.

He was quite angry at last----

AMPHITRITE.

And threatened to nail us to the cliff----

PITHO.

And off we ran, and left him in the dark.

DORIS.

He is coming after us. I never felt so frightened.

AMPHITRITE.

I never enjoyed myself anywhere so much.

PITHO.

Come away, come away! If he is going to pursue, let us give him
a long chase, and leave him panting at last!

    [_The_ OCEANIDES _escape, in a tumult of laughter, through the
        upper woods, as_ HEPHÆSTUS, _limping heavily, and much out
        of breath, appears from below_.]

HEPHÆSTUS

The rogues, the rogues!

EROS.

What a cataract of animal spirits! I am afraid, Hephæstus, that
you do not escape, even here, from the echoes of the laughter of
heaven.

HERACLES [_savagely_].

Follow them, and strike them down. Take my club, Hephæstus, if
you have lost your hammer.

HEPHÆSTUS.

Strike them! Strike the darling rogues? I would as soon wrap your
too-celebrated tunic about a little playful marmozet. What is the
matter with you, Heracles?

HERACLES.

What change, indeed, has come over _you_, you sulky artificer?
Time was when your pincers would have met in the flesh of maid or
man who disturbed you in your work. Have you left your forge to
cool for the mere pleasure of clambering after these ridiculous
children! Go back to it, Hephæstus, go back and be ashamed.

HEPHÆSTUS.

You do not seem deeply engaged yourself. You look sourer and idler
than the lion's head that dangles at your shoulder. The days are
long here, though not too long. My handicraft will spare me for
half an hour to sport with these exquisite and affable fragilities.
I rather enjoy being laughed at. On Olympus I was rarely troubled
by such teasing attentions. The little ones seem to enjoy
themselves in their exile, and, to say true, so do I. My work
was carried on, I admit, much more smoothly and surely than it
can be here, and my hand, I am afraid, in crossing the sea, has
lost much of its infallible cunning. But I enjoy the exercise,
and I look onward to the art as I never did before, and I seem
to have more leisure. Can you explain it, Eros?

EROS.

I do not attempt to do so, but I feel a similar and equally
surprising serenity. Heracles is insensible to it, it seems, and
he gives me a sort of reason.

HEPHÆSTUS.

What is it?

EROS.

Well ... I am not sure that.... Perhaps I ought to leave him to
explain it.

HERACLES.

You would not be able to comprehend me. I am not sure that I
myself----

    [_Two of the_ OCEANIDES _re-enter, much more seriously than
        before, and with an eager importance of gesture_.]

AMPHITRITE.

We are not playing now. We have a message from Zeus, Hephæstus. He
says that he is waiting impatiently for the sceptre you are making
for him.

DORIS.

Yes, you must hurry back to your cave. And we are longing to see
what ornament you are putting on the sceptre. Let us come with
you. We will hold the torches for you as steadily as if we were
made of marble.

HEPHÆSTUS.

Come, then, come. Let us descend together. I hope that my science
has not quitted me. We will see whether even on this rugged shore
and with these uncouth instruments, I cannot prove to Zeus that I
am still an artist. Come, I am in a hurry to begin. Give me your
hands, Amphitrite and Doris.

            [_Exeunt._



XI


[_The glen, through which the stream, slightly flooded by a night's
    rain, runs faintly turbid._ DIONYSUS, _earnestly engaged in
    angling, does not hear the approach of_ ÆSCULAPIUS.]

ÆSCULAPIUS [_in a high, voluble key_].

It is not to me but to you, O ruddy son of Semele, that the crowds
of invalids will throng, if you cultivate this piscatory art so
eagerly, since to do nothing, serenely, in the open air, without
becoming fatigued, is to storm the very citadel of ill-health,
and----

DIONYSUS [_testily, without turning round_].

Hush! hush!... I felt a nibble.

ÆSCULAPIUS [_in a whisper, flinging himself upon the grass_].

It was in such a secluded spot as this that Apollo heard the trout
at Aroanius sing like thrushes.

DIONYSUS.

How these poets exaggerate! The trout sang, I suppose, like the
missel-thrush.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

What song has the missel-thrush?

DIONYSUS.

It does not sing at all. Nor do trout.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

You are sententious, Dionysus.

DIONYSUS.

No, but closely occupied. I am intent on the subtle movements of my
rod, round which my thoughts and fancies wind and blossom till they
have made a thyrsus of it. Now, however, I shall certainly catch no
more fish, and so I may rest and talk to you. Are you searching for
simples in this glen?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

To tell you the plain truth, I am waiting for Nike. She has given
me an appointment here.

DIONYSUS.

I have not seen her since we arrived on this island.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

You have seen her, but you have not recognised her. She goes about
in a perpetual incognito. Poor thing, in our flight from Olympus
she lost all her attributes--her wings dropped off, her laurel was
burned, she flung her armour away, and her palm-tree obstinately
refused to up-root itself.

DIONYSUS.

No doubt at this moment it is obsequiously rustling over the odious
usurper.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

It was always rather a poor palm-tree. What Nike misses most are
her wings. She was excessively dejected when we first arrived, but
Pallas very kindly allowed her to take care of the jewel for half
an hour. Nike--if still hardly recognisable--is no longer to be
taken for Niobe.

DIONYSUS [_rising to his feet_].

I shall do well, however, to go before she comes.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

By no means. I should prefer your staying. Nike will prefer it,
too. In the old days she always liked you to be her harbinger.

DIONYSUS.

Not always; sometimes my panthers turned and bit her. But my
panthers and my vines are gone to keep her laurels and her
palm-tree company. I think I will not stay, Æsculapius. But what
does Nike want with you?

    [_Slowly and pensively descending from the upper woods_, NIKE
        _enters_.]

DIONYSUS.

I was excusing myself, Nike, to our learned friend here for not
having paid my addresses to you earlier. You must have thought me
negligent?

NIKE.

Oh! Dionysus, I assure you it is not so. Your temperament is one of
violent extremes--you are either sparkling with miraculous rapidity
of apprehension, or you are sunken in a heavy doze. These have
doubtless been some of your sleepy days. And I ... oh! I am very
deeply changed.

DIONYSUS.

No, not at all. Hardly at all. [_He scarcely glances at her, but
turns to_ ÆSCULAPIUS.] But farewell to both of you, for I am going
down to the sea-board to watch for dolphins. That long melancholy
plunge of the black snout thrills me with pleasure. It always did,
and the coast-line here curiously reminds me of Naxos. Be kind to
Æsculapius, Nike.

    [_He descends along the water-course, and exit._ NIKE _smiles
        sadly, and half holds out her arms towards_ ÆSCULAPIUS.]

NIKE.

It is for you, O brother of Hermes, to be kind to _me_. How altered
we all are! Dionysus is not himself.... As I came here, I passed
below the little grey precipice of limestone----

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Where the marchantias grow? Yes?

NIKE.

And three girls in white dresses, with wreaths of flowers on their
shoulders, were laughing and chatting there in the shade of the
great yew-tree. Who do you suppose they were, these laughing girls
in white?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Perhaps three of the Oceanides, bright as the pure foam of the wave?

NIKE.

Æsculapius, they were not girls. They were the terrible and ancient
Eumenides, black with the curdled blood of Uranus. They were the
inexorable Furies, who were wont to fawn about my feet, with the
adders quivering in their tresses, tormenting me for the spoils
of victory. What does it mean? Why are they in white? As we came
hither in the dreadful vessel, they were huddled together at the
prow, and their long black raiment hung overboard and touched the
brine. They were mumbling and crooning hate-songs, and pointing
with skinny fingers to the portents in the sky. What is it that has
changed their mood? What is it that can have turned the robes of
the Eumenides white, and enamelled their wrinkled flesh with youth?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Is it not because a like strange metamorphosis has invaded your own
nature that you have come to meet me here?

NIKE [_after a pause_].

I am bewildered, but I am not unhappy. I come because the secrets
of life are known to you. I come because it was you whom Zeus sent
to watch over Cadmus and Harmonia when their dread and comfortable
change came over them. They were weary with grief and defeat, tired
of being for ever overwhelmed by the ever-mounting wave of mortal
fate. I am weary----

ÆSCULAPIUS [_slowly_].

Of what, Nike? Be true to yourself. Of what are you weary?

NIKE.

I come to you that you may tell. I know no better than the snake
knows when his skin withers and bloats. I feel distress,
apprehension, no pain, a little fear.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

You speak of Cadmus and Harmonia; but is not your case the opposite
of theirs? They were saved from defeat; is it not your unspoken hope
to be saved from victory, saved from what was your essential self?

NIKE.

Can it be so? I find, it is true, that I look back upon my rush
and blaze of battle with no real regret. What a vain thing it was,
the perpetual clash and resonance of a victory that no one could
withstand; the mockery that conquest must be to an immortal whom no
one can ever really oppose;--no veritable difficulty to overcome,
no genuine resistance to meet, nothing positively tussled with and
thrown, nothing but ghostly armies shrinking and melting a little
way in front of my advancing eagles! That can never happen again,
and even through the pang of losing my laurel and my wings, I did
not genuinely deplore it. Nothing but the sheer intoxication of my
immortality had kept me at the pitch. And now that it is gone, oh
wisest of the gods, it is for you to tell me how, in this mortal
state, I can remain happy and yet be _me_.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

You are on the high road to happiness; you see its towers over
the dust, for you dare to know yourself.

NIKE.

Myself, Æsculapius?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Yes; you have that signal, that culminating courage.

NIKE.

But it is because I do _not_ know my way that I come to you.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

To recognise the way is one thing, it is much; but to recognise
yourself is infinitely more, and includes the way.

NIKE.

Ah! I see. I think I partly see. The element of real victory was
absent where no defeat could be.

ÆSCULAPIUS [_eagerly_].

Dismal, sooty, raven-coloured robes of the Eumenides!

NIKE.

And it may be present even where no final conquest can ensue?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

Ah! how white they grow! How the serpents drop out of their
tresses.

NIKE.

I am feeling forward with my finger-tips, like a blind woman
searching.... And the real splendour of victory may consist in the
helpless mortal state; may blossom there, while it only budded in
our immortality?

ÆSCULAPIUS.

May consist, really, of the effort, the desire, the act of
gathering up the will to make the plunge. This will be victory
now, it will be the drawing of the bow-string and not the mere
cessation of the arrow-flight.



XII


    [_The main terrace, soon after dawn. In the centre_ ZEUS _sits
        alone, throned and silent. One by one the Gods come out of
        the house, and arrange themselves in a semicircle, to the
        left and right, each as he passes making obeisance to_ ZEUS.
        _It is a perfectly still morning, and a dense white mist
        hangs over the woods, completely hiding the sea and the
        farther shore. When all are seated._]

ZEUS [_in a very slow voice_].

My children, since we came here I have not been visited until
to-night by even a shadow of those forebodings which, in the form
of divine prescience, illuminated my plans and your fortunes in
Olympus. [_A pause, while the gods lean towards him in deepest
attention._] But a dream came close to my pillow last night and
whispered to me strange, disquieting words.... I have no longer the
art of clairvoyance, but I find I am not wholly dark. Still can I
faintly divine the forms of the future, as we may all divine the
roll of the woods before us, and the cleft which leads down to the
shore, although this impalpable vapour shrouds our world.... And,
from the dream, or from my faint perceptions, I am made aware that
another mighty change is approaching us.

        [_A silence._]

HERACLES.

Can you indicate to us the nature of this change? [_Looking round
the semicircle._] If it is permitted to us to do so we would
repudiate it. [_The gods in silence signify their assent._]

ZEUS [_not replying to_ HERACLES].

When we fled hither from the consuming malignity of the traitor,
it was communicated to me that this island on the very uttermost
border of the world was left us as a home from which we should
never be dislodged. Here we were to dwell in peace, and here ... to
grow old, and ... die. Here, in the meantime, new interests, humble
wishes, cheerful curiosities have already twined about us, and we
have gazed upon Pandora's jewel, and are no more the same.

PERSEPHONE.

Are we to be driven hence still farther towards the confines of
immensity, father?

ZEUS.

I know not.

KRONOS.

More journeys, more weary, weary journeys?

ZEUS.

I know but what I tell you ... that I foresee a change. [_A
silence._] How breathless is the air. Not the outline of a leaf is
shaken against the sky.

PHOEBUS.

But the mist grows thinner, and high up in it I see a faint
blueness.

ZEUS.

I do not--nothing but the bewildering woolly whiteness, that chills
my eyeballs.... [_With a sudden vivacity._] Ah! yes ... it is the
sea! Is Poseidon here?

POSEIDON.

I went down to the shore very early indeed this morning, before
there was an atom of mist in the air. I called upon the glassy,
oily sea, and I could not but fancy that, although there was little
motion in the wave, it did roll faintly to my foot, and fawn at me
in its reply. To me also, father, it seemed as though my element
was burdened with a secret which it knew not how to convey to me.

[_A silence._]

APHRODITE [_aside to_ PALLAS].

If we must be driven forth again, let us at least cling to such
new gifts as we have secured here.

PALLAS [_in an eager whisper_].

I should like to know what you consider them to be. Do you hold
introspection as one of them?

APHRODITE.

I certainly do. The analysis of one's own feelings, and the sense
of watching the fluctuating symptoms of one's individuality, form
one of the principal consolations of our mortal state.

PALLAS.

I think I should give it another name.

HERMES [_who has come up behind them, and bending forward has
    overheard the conversation_].

My name for it would be the indulgence of personal vanity.

APHRODITE [_speaks louder, while the conversation becomes general,
    except that_ ZEUS _takes no part in it_].

You may call it so, if you please, but it is a source of genuine
pleasure to us.

PHOEBUS.

Ignorance is doubtless another of these consolations--ignorance
chemically modified by a few drops of the desire for knowledge....
[_Enthusiastically._] And all the chastened forms of recollection,
how delightful they are, and how they add to our satisfaction here!

NIKE.

It would be interesting to me to understand what you mean by
chastened forms of recollection. I don't think that is my
experience.

PALLAS.

I conceive memory as a pure, unbiased emotion, an image of past
life cast upon an unflawed mirror. Why do you say "chastened"?

PHOEBUS.

That memory which is nothing but a plain reproduction on the mirror
of the mind is a tame concern, Pallas. It transfers, without
modification, all that is dull, and squalid, and unessential. The
only memory which is worthy of those who have tasted immortality is
that which has in some degree been fortified. To recollect with
enjoyment is to select certain salient facts from an experience and
to be oblivious of the rest; or else it is to heighten the exciting
elements of an event out of all proportion with historic fact; or
it even is to place what should be in the seat of what precisely
was.... But this must be done firmly, logically, with no timidity
in reminiscence, so that the mind shall rest in a perfectly
artistic conviction that what it recollects is all the truth and
nothing but the truth. This is chastened, or, if you prefer it,
civilised memory. But Zeus is about to speak.

    [_The Gods resume their seats in silence._ ZEUS _rises from his
        throne, and the Gods perceive that the mist has now almost
        entirely evaporated around them, and that the entire scene
        is luminous with morning radiance. All the Gods lean forward
        to gaze on_ ZEUS, _who gazes over and beyond them to the sea_.]

ZEUS.

The whole bay heaves in one vast wave of unbroken pearl.... And in
the east something flashes ... something moves ... approaches.

    [_All the Gods, except_ KRONOS _and_ RHEA, _rise and follow with
        their gaze the extended hand of_ ZEUS. POSEIDON _steps forward
        to the front of the scene and shouts_.]

POSEIDON.

See! Three huge white ships are coming out of the east, and the
waves glide away at their wake in widening glassy hues. How they
speed! How they speed, without oar or sail!

KRONOS.

No rest, no sleep for us. Leave us here behind you, Zeus. We never
have any rest.

RHEA.

Yes; do not drag us farther in the wearisome train of your
misfortunes.

ZEUS [_benignly, turning to them._]

Be not afraid, Rhea and Kronos. But we must not abandon you. For
the old sakes' sake we will hold together to the end.

ARES.

Shall we not collect our forces in unison, mortal as they are,
and die together in resisting this invasion?

DIONYSUS.

The kind barbarians are with us. They will fight at our side.

HEPHÆSTUS.

Yes, let us fight and die.

ZEUS.

You have no forces to collect, my sons. We cannot take toll of the
blood of the barbarians. We cannot resist, we can but submit and
withdraw.... The ships fleet closer. They are like monstrous fishes
of living silver. I confess this is not what I anticipated. This
is not what my faint dream seemed to indicate. What inspires the
implacable destroyer to pursue us, and with this imposing and
miraculous navy, to the shore of that harmless exile in which we
were endeavouring to forget his existence, I know not. But let us
at least preserve that dignity which has survived our deity.
Whatever may be now in store for us--if the worst of all things
be now hurrying to complete our annihilation--let us meet it with
simplicity. Let us meet it with an even mind.

CIRCE.

Oh, see! what are those filaments of blue and violet and grassy
green which flutter in the cordage of the three ships?

PHOEBUS.

They leap forward, though no wind is blowing.

CIRCE.

They are arranged in order, and they bend upwards and now outwards.

HERA.

The colours of them are those which adorn my bird.

PALLAS.

Ah! wonder of wonders! These have joined one another, see, and now
they shoot forward together in a vibrating ribband of delicious
lustre, and now it is arched to our shore, and descends at the
lowest of these our woodland stairs.

ZEUS.

A vast rainbow from the three white vessels to this island!... And
behold, a figure steps from it. She is robed to the feet in palest
watchet blue, and her face is like a rosy star, and she waves her
violet wings in the incommunicable speed of her ascent. My
children, it is Iris, our lost daughter, our ineffable messenger.
Let us await in silence the tidings which she brings.

    [ZEUS _seats himself, and the Gods take their places as before.
        The air is now translucent, the sky cloudless, while the
        beechwoods flash with the lustre of dew, and the sea beyond
        the white ships is like a floor of turquoise._ IRIS _is seen
        to rise from the shore, through the gorge in the woods. She
        approaches, half flying, half climbing, with incredible
        velocity. She appears, in her splendour, at the top of the
        stairs, and looks round upon the Gods. Without exception, in
        the magnificence of her presence they look grey and old and
        dim. She hesitates a moment, and then kneels before the
        throne of_ ZEUS.]

IRIS.

Father and lawgiver! Imperial Master of Heaven! The rebellion in
Olympus is over. The usurper has fallen under the weight of his
own presumption, lower than the lowest chasms of Hades, chained for
all eternity by the fetters of his own insolence and madness. It
is not needful for you, Zeus, to punish or to be clement. Under
the inevitable rebound of his impious frenzy, himself has sealed
his doom for ever and ever. It is now for the Father of Heaven, and
these his children, to resume their immortality and to regain their
incomparable abodes. Be it my reward for the joyous labour of
bringing the good news, to be the first to kiss these awful and
eternal feet.

    [IRIS _flings herself before_ ZEUS _in adoration, and folds her
        wings about her face. As she touches him, his deity blazes
        forth from him. When_ IRIS _rises again, she glances round
        at the Gods with gratified astonishment, for all of them
        have become brilliant and young_.]

ZEUS.

Lead the way, Iris. This is no longer a place for us. Lead on and
we will follow. Lead on, that we may resume our immortality.

    [IRIS _flies down to the sea, and_ ZEUS _descends the steps.
        He is followed by all the other deities._]

CIRCE.

Were we really happy among these trees? I can scarcely credit it,
they seem so common and so frail.

NIKE.

Ha, my palm and my laurel and my wings. How can I have breathed
without them for an hour?

APHRODITE [_to_ EROS].

Shall we recollect this little episode when we walk up the golden
street presently to our houses?

EROS.

I cannot think so, mother. That refinement of memory of which
Phoebus was speaking will seem the most ridiculous of illusions
there.

PHOEBUS.

Yes; to cultivate illusion, to live in the past, to resuscitate
experience, may be the amusements of mortality, but they mean
nothing now to us. When Selene re-enters her orb, she will not
disquiet herself about the disorders of its interregnum.

PALLAS [_hastily reascending_].

I have left Pandora's jewel behind me. I must fetch it.

HERMES [_the last to descend_].

Let me confess that I took it from you. One of the barbarians was
weeping, and I wished, I cannot tell why, to see her smile. I gave
your jewel to her.

PALLAS.

It is of no moment. It would be an inconspicuous ornament in that
blaze of the heart's beauty to which the white ships are about to
carry us.

HERMES.

Come, then, Pallas, and let us linger here no more.

    [_They descend and disappear._]



            THE END.



Printed by
BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
London & Edinburgh



      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's Note

Variant spellings in this ebook have been retained to match the
original document.

The use of an ae-ligature in the name 'Hephæstus' has been
regularized. The oe-ligature is represented by 'oe' in the text
version of this ebook, and retains the oe-ligature in the HTML
version. Ellipses have been regularized.

The original text contained duplicate headers for Acts; these
duplications have been omitted in this ebook.

The following typographical corrections were made to this text:

   Page 16: Added missing period (EROS.)

   Page 16: Changed em-dash to long dash to match style of text

   Page 16: Changed casket to caskets (all the empty caskets)

   Page 28: Added missing comma (he answered, "Pray don't)

  Page 101: Changed 'o' to 'of' (It is kind of)

  Page 132: Added missing period (CHLORIS.)

  Page 140: Changed 'o' to 'of' (degradation, instead of)





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