THE FATAL FORCE.1

1899.

“She
In the habilments of the goddess Isis
That day appeared.” — Anthony and Cleopatra, iii, 6, 16

“Stoop not down, for a precipice lieth beneath the earth, reached by a descending ladder which hath Seven Steps, and therein is established the throne of an evil and fatal force.” — ZOROASTER. {col. start below}

 

PEOPLE.

RATOUM, Queen of Egypt.

THE LEPER, her divorced husband.

KHOMSU, their son (dead).

S’AFI, son of KHOMSU and RATOUM.

THE KING OF SYRIA.

AMENHATEP, High Priest.

Chorus of Priests.

Soldiers of Egypt.

Syrian Troops.

 

S’AFI.

WHY is thy back made stiff, unrighteous priest,

Thy knee reluctant? Thine old eyes, grown blind,

Stare into silence, and behold no god

Longer. Thy forehead knows no reverence

Nor sign of worship. Or sits mutiny

Blasphemous on thy brows? For in thine eyes

I see full knowledge, and some glittering fire

Lurks in the rheumy corners; yea, some fire

Malignant, terrible — nay, pitiable,

Thou poor fool stricken with senility,

How spurred to passion? Yet behold thy god, {141A}

Horus, lest anger take benignancy

From his left hand and smite thee with his strength.

Thou hearest? Nay, thou pitiful old man,

For I have loved thee. yet my godhead must

Get Worship. Anger not the god, but stoop,

My faithful priest, and worship at my feet.

 

AMENHATEP.

I am most miserable. But truth must leap

In this tremendous moment from my lips,

Its long-shut barrier. For I pity thee

With my old heart’s whole pity. Thou art young,

And beautiful, and proud, and dear to me,

Whom I have served thy life through. Now that love

Demands a deadlier service — to speak truth.

Thou art not Horus, but a man as I.

 

CHORUS.

Thou art not Horus, but a man. Thy life

Is not of the immortals, but, as ours,

Stands at the summons of the hooded death. {141B}

 

S’AFI.

Speak! I have this much of a god in me —

I am not shaken at your cries; my lips

Are silent at your blasphemy; my ears

Are strong to hear if there be truth at all

In your mixed murmurs: I command you, speak!

 

AMENHATEP.

The burden of the madness of the Queen

Lies on the land: the Syrian is near;

And she, believing that her godhead guards

Her people, sleeps. The altars are thrown down;

The people murmur. She hath done thee wrong,

But be thou mighty to avenge!

 

S’AFI.

To-day

I, Horus, shall become Osiris. Yea,

Strange secret dreams of some mysterious fate

Godlike have come upon me, and the throne

Totters for your disloyalty.

 

AMENHATEP.

Beware!

How died thy father?

 

S’AFI.

That amazing god

Incarnate in him chose a nobler form,

And in my mother’s body sought his home,

Whose double incarnation is divine

Beyond the old stories. Yes, I am a god.

 

AMENHATEP.

Beware the fatal magic of her heart!

For she is great and evil, and her voice

Howls blasphemy against yet living gods.

Thou knowest not the story of thy birth,

The truth. {142A}

 

S’AFI.

Then speak the truth, if so a priest

May tune his tongue to anything but lies.

 

AMENHATEP.

Sixteen strange seasons mingle gold and grey

Since in this very temple she, the Queen,

Spake, and threw open to our reverent gaze

A royal womb made pregnant with that seed

Of which thou art the harvest. She spake thus:

“Princes, and people of the Egyptian land,

And broken priests of broken deities

Discrowned this hour, look up, behold your god!

For I am pregnant with my own son’s child,

The fruit of my desire’s desire. Most pure,

The single spirit of my godhead yearned

From death to reap dominion, and from birth

To pluck the blossom of its fruitful love,

And be the sun to ripen and the rain

To water it. My soul became the bride

To its own body, and my body leapt

With passion from mine own imperial loins

Begotten, and made strong from my own soul

To answer it. I hail thee, son of mine,

Thou royal offspring of a kingly sire,

Less kingly for the single flower of love!

I hail thee, son, the secret spouse of me,

King of my body and this realm to-day!

For lo! the child leapt up within my womb,

Hailing me mother, and my spirit leapt,

Hailing him brother! Son and spouse and king,

Exulting father of the royal soul

That lies here, loving me, assume thy crown

And sit beside me, equal to thy queen.

For look ye to the burning south, and see

The sun grown amorous, and behold his fire

Leap to my godhead. For without a man

I single, I the mother, have conceived

Of my own loins, and made me no less god

Than all your gods! Ye people and ye priests,

Behold the burden of my life, and fear, {142B}

And know me Isis. Worship me, and praise

The goodliest ruler of the world, the queen

Of all the white immeasurable seas,

And that vast river of our sowing-time,

And of your Sun. Behold me made a god

Of my own godhead, and adore the sun

Of my queen’s face, and worship ye the fount

And fertile river of my life. Bow down,

Ye people and ye priests, and worship me,

And him co-equal. I am very god!”

So spake the Queen; but I arose and said:

“Queen and our lord, we worship! Let the smoke

Of this divinest incense be a smell

Sweet to thy nostrils! For three times I cast

Its faint dust in the tripod, and three times

The smoke of adoration has gone up

To greet our gods; for the old gods are dead.”

Then there came forth a leper in the hall,

In the most holy temple. So amazed

All shrank. And he made prophecy and said:

“The child that shall be born of thee is called

Fear.2 He shall save a people from their sin;

For the old gods indeed go down to death,

But the new gods arise from rottenness.”

Then said the goddess: “I indeed am pure

In my impurity; immaculate

In misconception; maiden in my whoredom;

Chaste in my incest, being made a god

Through my own strength.” The leper with smooth words

Turned, and went laughingly towards the west,

And took of his own leprosy and threw

Its foul flakes in the censer. So he passed,

Laughing, and on the altar the flame fell,

Till a great darkness was upon the room,

And only the Queen’s eyes blazed out. So all {143A}

Silently went, and left her naked there,

Crowned, sceptred, and exultant, till a chant

Rolled from her moving lips; and great fear fell

Upon us, and the flame lept, and we fled,

Worshipping. but the mood passed, and we see

A lecherous woman whose magician power

Is broken, and the balance of her mind

Made one with the fool’s bauble, and her wand,

That was of steel and fire, like a reed, snapped!

 

S’AFI.

So lived my father. Tell me of his death.

 

AMENHATEP.

At thy first breath the gods were patient still,

Till the abomination filled its cup,

And hatred took her heart. She slew thy sire,

And made his body the banquet of her sin

In the infernal temple. “So,” she said,

“I reap the incarnation of the god.”

So, gloomy and hideous, she would prowl about

Seeking fresh human feasts, and bloody rites

Stained the white altar of the world. And yet

Her power is gone, and we behold her go,

Haggard and weary, through the palace courts

And through the temple, lusting for strange loves

And horrible things, and thirsting for new steam

Of thickening blood upon her altar steps.

Her body wearies of desire, and fails

To satisfy the fury of her spirit;

The blood-feasts sicken her and yield no strength;

She is made one with hell, and violent force

Slips and is weakness, and extreme desire

Spends supple. {143B}

 

S’AFI.

I have heard you as a god

Immutable.

 

CHORUS.

Thou art as proud and calm

As statued Memnon. Thou art more than god

And less than man. Thine eyelids tremble not.

 

S’AFI.

I shall avenge it as a god. The land

Shall be made free.

 

AMENHATEP.

And the old gods have sway,

Re-born from incorruption.

 

S’AFI.

The old gods!

I must muse deeply. Keep your ancient ways

A little. I must play the part through so.

 

CHORUS.

In the ways of the North and the South

Whence the dark and the dayspring are drawn,

We pass with the song of the mouth

Of the notable Lord of the Dawn.

Unto Ra, the desire of the East, let the clamour of singing proclaim

The fire of his name!

In the ways of the East and the West

Whence the night and the day are discrowned,

We pass with the beat of his breast,

And the breath of his crying is bound.

Unto Toum, the low Lord of the West, let the noise of our chant be the breath

Proclaiming him Death! {144A}

In the ways of the depth and the height,

Where the multitude stars are at ease,

There is music and terrible light,

And the violent song of the seas.

Unto Mou, the most powerful Lord of the South, let our worship declare

Him Lord of the Air!

In the mutable fields that are sown

Of a seed that is whiter than noon,

Whose harvest is beaten and blown

By the magical rays of the moon,

In the caverns and wharves of the wind, in the desolate seas of the air,

Revolveth our prayer!

In the sands and the desert of death,

In the horrible flowerless lands,

In the fields that the rain and the breath

Of the sun make as gold as the sands

With ripening wheat, in the earth, in the infinite realm of its seed,

The hearts of us bleed!

In the wonderful flowers of the foam,

Blue billows and breakers grown grey,

When the storm sweeps triumphantly home

From the bed of the violate day,

In the furious waves of the sea, wild world of tempestuous night,

Our song is as light!

In the tumult of manifold fire,

Multitudinous mutable feet

That dance to an infinite lyre

On the heart of the world as they beat,

In the flowers of the bride of the flame, in the warrior Lord of the Fire,

There burns our desire!

 

AMENHATEP.

Cry now, bewail the broken house, bewail

The ruin of the land; cry out on Fate! {144B}

 

CHORUS.

Slow wheels of unbegotten hate

And changeless circles of desire,

Formless creations uncreate,

Swift fountains of ungathered fire,

The misty counterpoise of time,

Dim winds of ocean and sublime

Pyramids of forgotten foam

Whirling, vague cones of shapeless sleep

And infinite dreams, and stars that roam,

And comets moving through the deep

Unfathomable skies,

Darker for moonlight, and the glow-worm eyes

Of dusky women that were stars,

And paler curves of the immutable bars

That line the universe with light,

Great eagle-flights of mystic moons

That dip, while the dull midnight swoons

About the skirts of Night:

These bowed and shaped themselves and said:

“It shall be thus!”

And the intolerable luminous

Death that is god bent down his head

And answered: “Thus immutably,

Above all days and deeds, shall be!”

And the great Light that is above all gods

Lifted his calm brow, spake, and all the seas,

And all the air, and all the periods

Of seasons and of stars gave ear, and these

Vaults of heaven heard

The great white Light that shaped its secrecies

Into one holy terrible word,

Higher than all words spoken; for He said:

“Death is made change, and only change is dead.”

For the most holy spirit of a man

Burns through the limit of the wheels that ran

Through all the unrelenting skies

When Icarus died,

And leaps, the flight of wise omnipotent eyes,

When Daedalus espied

An holy habitation for the shrine

Solitary, ‘mid the night of broken brine {145A}

That foamed like starlight round the desolate shore.3

So to the mine of that crystalline ore

Golden, the electric spark of man is drawn

Deep in the bosom of the world, to soar

New-fledged, an eagle to the dazzling dawn

With lidless eyes undazzled, to arise,

Son of the morning, to the Southern skies;

And fling its wild chant higher at the fall

Of even, and of bright Hyperion;

To mix its fire with dew, to call

The spirit of the limitless air, made one

In the amazing essence of all light.

Limitless, emanation of the might

Of the great Light above all gods, the fire

Of our supreme desire,

So out of grievous labyrinths of the mind

The soul’s desire may find

Some passionate thread, the clear note of a bird,

To make the dark ways of the gods as light,

And bring forth music from slow chants unheard,

And visions from the fathomless night.

So is the spirit of the loftier man

Made holy and most strong against his fate;

So is the desolate visage of the wan

Lord of Amenti4 covered, and the gate

Of Ra made perfect. So the waters flow

Over the earth, throughout the sea,

Till all its deserts glow,

And all its salt springs vanish, and night flee

The pinions of the day wide-spread, and pure

Fresh fountains of sweet water that endure

Assume the crown of the wide world, and lend

A star of many summits to his head

That rules his fate and compasses his end.

And seeks the holy mountain of the dead

To draw dead fire, and breathe, and give it life!

But thou, be strong for strife,

And, as a god, cry out, and let there be

The mark of many footsteps on the sea {145B}

Of angels hastening to fulfil

Thy supreme, single will!

Alone, intense, unmoved, not made for change,

Let thy one godhead rise

To move like morning, and like day to range,

A furnace for the skies,

That all men cry: “The uncreated God!

Formless, ineffable, just, whose period

Is as his name, Eternity!” So bear

The sceptre of the air!

So mayest thou avenge, all-seeing, blind,

The wrath of this consuming fire, that licks

The rafters and the portals of the house,

The gateways of the kingdom, where behind

Lurk ruinous fates and consequence; where fix

Their fangs the scorpions; where hide their brows

The shamed protectors of the Egyptian land.

Go forth avenging; men shall understand

And worship, seeing justice as a spouse

Lean on thine iron hand.

For Murder walks by night, and hides her face,

But righteous Wrath in the light, and knows his place;

For hate of a mother is ill, and the lightning flashes

But foil a harlot’s will, burn the earth to ashes,

Cleanse the incestuous sty of a whore’s desire,

Scatter the dung to the sky, and burn her with fire!

So the avenging master shall cleanse his fate of shame,

Set his seal of disaster, a royal seal to his name.

 

[Exeunt.

 

S’AFI.

I am not Horus, but I shall be King.

 

Enter THE LEPER.

 

THE LEPER.

I am a leper, but I am the king. {146A}

 

S’AFI.

Monstrous illegible horror, let thy mouth

Frame from its charnel-house some pregnant word

Intelligible.

 

THE LEPER.

I am the king; thy mother’s limbs

Clung fast to mine when I begot thy father.

 

S’AFI.

He died in battle; thou art not the king.

 

THE LEPER.

I did not fall in battle; but my queen

Saw on my breast the livid mark of sin

That was the leprosy of her own soul,

And drove me forth to compass by disgrace

With infamies ineffable.

 

S’AFI.

I shall avenge. The old gods come again.

 

THE LEPER.

Nay! I have lived through all these barren years,

Discrowned, diseased, abominable, cast out,

And meditating on the event of life,

And that initiated Hope that we,

Royal, inherit, of the final life,

Nor newer incarnation, and possessed

Of strange powers, who have moved about this court

Loathed, and unrecognised, and shunned, have thought

That the old bondage was as terrible

As thine incestuous mother’s iron hand,

Rending the entrails of her growing realm

To seek her bloody fate, whose violence

Even now makes the abyss of wrath divine

Boil in the deep. Thou mayest be that great

Osiris, bidding man’s high soul be free,

Justified in its own higher self, made pure

And perfect in its own eyes, being a god. {146B}

Destroy this priestcraft! We are priests indeed,

Highest among the secret ones; and we —

See where our heritage is made; I, king,

A leper, and thyself, the hideous fruit

Of what strange poisons? But in mine own self

I am the king and chief of all the priests;

And thou, in thine own eyes, art a young god,

Strong, beautiful, and lithe, a leaping fawn

Upon the mountains.

 

S’AFI.

Yea, I am a god.

I am fire against the fountain of my birth,

The storm upon the earth that nurtured me!5

Leave me: we twain have no more words to speak.

 

THE LEPER.

Neither in heaven nor in hell. I go,

The dead king, worshipping the living man.

 

[Exit.

 

S’AFI.

I have been a god so long, my thoughts run halt

From many contemplations. Like the flow

Of a slow river deep and beautiful,

My even life moved onward to full scope,

The ocean of profounder deity,

And — suddenly — the cataract! My soul,

Centered eternally upon itself,

Comprehends hardly all this violence

Of wayward men intemperate. I am calm,

And contemplate, without a muscle moved

Or nerve set shrieking, all these ruinous deeds

And dissolution of the royal house.

I see this grey unnatural mother of mine

Now, as she is, disrobed of deity,

And like some reeling procuress grown wolf

By infamous bewitchment, haunt the stairs, {147A}

And pluck the young men by the robe, and take

The maidens for her sacrifice, and burn

With great unquenchable dead lustrous eyes

Toward impossible things grown possible

In Egypt. I will cleanse the land of this.

Let me remember I am yet a god!

 

Re-enter THE LEPER.

 

THE LEPER.

Thou must be brought before her presently

Borne in a coffin. See thou fill it not,

But take the lion’s mask and play his part

Before the throne. Be ready, and be strong.

 

S’AFI.

I shall do so. Come, let us go together

In hateful love and sacrilegious hate,

Disease and godhead. I am still the god.

 

[Exeunt.

 

Enter RATOUM.

 

RATOUM.

I stood upon the desert, and my eyes

Beheld the splendid and supernal dawn

Flame underneath the single star that burns

Within the gateway of the golden East

To rule my fate; but I have conquered Fate

Thus far, that I am perfect in myself,

The absolute unity and triple power

Engrafted. For the foolish people see

An old grey woman, wicked, not divine,

Who6 shall this hour assume the royal self

And the old godhead, and the lithe strong limbs

And supple loins and splendid bosom bare

Full of bright milk, the breast of all the world.

This lesser mastery I have made mine-own

By strange devices, by unheard-of-ways

Of wisdom, by strong sins, and magical

Rituals made righteous of their own excess

Of horror; but I have not made myself {147B}

So absolute as I shall do to-day

In this new infamy. For I must pass

Desolate into the dusk of things again,

Having risen so far to fall to the abyss,

Deeper for exaltation; I must go

Wailing and naked into the inane

Cavernous shrineless place of misery,

Forgetful, hateful, impotent, except

The last initiation seize my soul,

And fling me into Isis' very self,

The immortal, mortal. Let me know this night

Whether my place is found among the stars

That wander in the deep, or made secure

As the high throne of her that dwells in heaven,

Fruitful for life and death, Wisdom her name!

This hour the foolish ones shall see their souls

Shrink at my manifest deity. This night

My spirit on my spirit shall beget

Myself for my own child. Behold! they come,

Fantastically moving through the dance,

The many mourners, and the fatal bier

Looms in the dimness of the anteroom.

It is enough. My hour is at hand!

 

CHORUS enter and circumambulate.

Even as the traitor's breath

Goeth forth, he perisheth

By the secret sibilant word that is spoken unto death.

Even as the profane hand

Reacheth to the sacred sand,

Fire consumes him that his name be forgotten in the land.

even as the wicked eye

Seeks he mysteries to spy,

So the blindness of the gods takes his spirit: he shall die.

Even as the evil priest,

Poisoned by the sacred feast,

Changes by its seven powers to the misbegotten beast: {148A}

Even as the powers of ill,

Broken by the wanded will,

Shriek about the holy place, vain and vague and terrible:

Even as the lords of hell,

Chained in fires before the spell,

Strain upon the sightless steel, break not fetters nor compel:

So be distant, O profane!

Children of the hurricane!

Lest the sword of fire destroy, lest the ways of death be pain!

So depart, and so be wise,

Lest your perishable eyes

Look upon the formless fire, see the maiden sacrifice!

So depart, and secret flame

Burn upon the stone of shame,

That the holy ones may hear music of the sleepless Name!

Now the sacred and obscene

Kiss, the pure and the unclean

Mingle in the incense steaming up before the goddess queen.

Holy, holy, holy spouse

Of the sun-engirdled house,

With the secret symbol burning on thy multiscient brows!

Hear, O hear the mystic song

Of the serpent-moving throng,

Isis mother, Isis maiden, Isis beautiful and strong!

Even as the traitor’s breath

Goeth forth, he perisheth

By the secret sibilant word that is spoken unto death.

 

RATOUM.

The hour is given unto death. Bring in

Dead Horus, for the night is shed above.

 

[Coffin brought in. {148B}

 

CHORUS.

The noise of the wind of the winter; the sound

Of the wings of the charioted night;

The song of the sons of the seas profound;

The thunder of death; the might

Of the eloquent silence of black light!

 

RATOUM.

The noise of many planets fallen far!

 

CHORUS.

Death listens for the voice of life; night waits

The dawn of wisdom: winter seeks the spring!

 

RATOUM.

The music of all stars arisen; the breath

Of God upon the valley of the dead!

 

CHORUS.

The silence of the awaiting soul asleep!

 

RATOUM.

The murmur of the fountain of my life!

 

CHORUS.

The whole dead universe awaits the Word.

 

RATOUM.

Now is the hour of life; my voice leaps up

In the dim halls of death, and kindling flame

Roars like the tempest through forgetfulness.

This is my son, whose father is my son,

From my own womb complete and absolute,

And in this strong perfection of myself

Stands the triumphant power of my desire,

Manifest over self, and man, and god!

For in the sacred coffin lies his corpse

Who shall arise at the enormous word

Of my creating deity; his life

Shall quicken in him, and the dead man rise, {149A}

Osiris; and all power be manifest

In our supreme reunion; let the priest

Cast incense on the fire, upon the ground

Let water of the fertilising Nile

Be spilt, because these dark maternal breasts

That gave their milk to that divinest child

Are not yet full of the transcending stream

That knows its fountain in my deity.

The incense fumes before me: I am come,

Isis, within this body that ye know,

Transmuting! Look upon me, ye blind eyes!

Behold, dull souls and ignorant desires!

See if I be not altogether god!

 

[She assumes the appearance of her mature beauty, standing before them with the wand upraised.

 

Wonder and worship! Sing to me the song

Of the extreme spring! Rejoice in my great strength

And infinite youth and new fertility,

And lave your foreheads in this holy milk

That springs, the fountain of humanity,

Luminous in the temple! Raise the hymn.

 

CHORUS.

Through fields of foam ungarnered sweeps

The fury of the wind of dawn;

Through fiery desolation creeps

The water of the wind withdrawn.

With fire and water consecrate

The foam and fire are recreate.

With air uniting fire and water,

The springtide’s unbegotten daughter

Blossoms in oceans of blue air,

Flowers of new spring to bear.

The sorrowful twin fishes glide

Silent and sacred into sleep;

The joyful Ram exalts his pride,

Seeing the forehead of the deep

Glow from his palace, as the sun

Leaps to the spring, whose coursers run

Flaming before their golden master,

As death and winter and disaster

Fall from the Archer’s bitter kiss

Fast to their mute abyss. {149B}

The pale sweet blooms of lotus burn;

The scent of spring is in the soul;

Men’s spirits to the loftiest turn;

Light is extended and made whole.

The waters of the whispering Nile

Lisp of their loves a little while,

Then break, like songsters, into sighing,

Because the lazy days are dying;

And swift and tawny streams must rise

World’s world to fertilise.

The lotus is afire for love,

Its yearnings are immortal still;

But in its bosom, fed thereof,

Lust, like a child, will have his will.

Immortal fervour, strangely blent

With mystic sensual sacrament,

Fills up its cup; its petals tremble

With faint desires that dissemble

The fierce intention to be wed

One with the spring sun’s head.

The fountains of the river yearn

Toward the sacred temple-walls,

They foam upon the sands that burn

With spring’s delirious festivals.

They flash upon the gleaming ways,

They cry, they chant aloud the praise

Of Isis, and our temple kisses

Their flowery water-wildernesses,

Whose foamheads nestle to the stones

With slumberous antiphones.

All birds and beasts and fish are fain

To mingle passion with the hope

All creatures hold, that cycled pain

May make its stream the wider scope

Of many lives and changing law,

Till to the sacred fountains draw

Essences of dim being, mated

With lofty substance uncreated,

Concluding the full period

That makes all being God.

 

S’AFI (disguised in the mask of a lion).

I lift the censer. Hail, immortal queen,

From the vast hall of death! Dead Horus cries {150A}

Towards the dawn. Bid me awake, O mother!

O mother! from the darkness of the tomb,

That live Osiris may cry back to thee,

O spouse! O sister! from the halls of life,

The profound lake, the immeasurable depth,

The sea of the three Loves! O mother, mother!

Isis, the voice that even Amenti hears,

Speak, that I rise from chaos, from the world

Of shapeless and illusionary forms,

Of dead men's husks, and unsubstantial things.

O mother, mother, mother! I arise!

 

RATOUM.

Horus, dread godhead, child of me, arise!

Arise Osiris, to the sacred rites

And marriage-bed of fuller deity.

Now, at the serpent-motion of this wand,

Rise from the dead! Arise, dead Horus, rise

To be Osiris. Isis speaks! Arise!

 

[The coffin is opened. THE LEPER is raised out of it swathed in bandages.

Our of the sleep of ages wake and live!

 

[The wrappings fall off.

 

THE LEPER.

I am the resurrection and the death!

[RATOUM falls back shrieking. The priests raise a chant to stifle the sound.

 

S’AFI (tearing off his mask).

I am the hideous poison of thy veins

And foulest fruit of thy incestuous womb.

 

RATOUM.

I am thy mother! I have nurtured thee

With woman’s tenderness and godhead’s strength.

 

S’AFI.

I am the avenger of my own false birth. {150B}

 

RATOUM.

I have loved thee ever; I have made thee god.

 

S’AFI.

I hate myself, and therefore I hate thee.

 

RATOUM.

I am still goddess, still desire thy love.

That leper lies: thou art indeed a god.

 

S’AFI.

I am a god to execute my will.

 

[Threatens her with his dagger.

 

RATOUM.

Mercy! Thou canst not strike a woman down!

 

S’AFI.

So! The thin casing of the godhead rots,

Mere mummy-cloth: the rotten corpse within,

Dust and corruption! I am still the god,

And gods slay women: therefore I slay thee.

 

RATOUM.

Then thou shalt seem me once again a god!

 

[By a tremendous effort she towers before him. Silently they gaze at one another for a while, he vainly endeavouring to force himself to strike. At last she collapses into the throne; he springs forward and drives his knife into her.

 

THE LEPER.

It is finished! The sacrament is made! The god

Has flamed within the altar-cake: 'tis done!

 

[Silence: presently THE LEPER breaks into a horrible, silent, smooth laughter. Again silence. {151A}

 

S’AFI.

I am done with godhead: let me be a man.

 

CHORUS.

Hail, S'Afi, king of Egypt and the Nile!

Hail, S'Afi, Lord of the two lands,7 all hail!

 

S’AFI.

King of himself and lord of life and death,

No lesser throne! I have borne me as a god,

Avenging on my nearest blood the sin

That brought me shameful to the shameless light.

I have not faltered nor turned back at all,

Nor moved my purpose for a moment’s thought.

Nor will I now. The god is gone from me,

And as a man I feel the living shame

of my existence, and the biting brand

Of murder set upon me, and the sting

Of my discrowned forehead. I shall die

Having this proof of my own nobleness

To soothe the rancour of my stricken soul

In the abodes of night, that I have dared,

With the first knowledge to make good my spirit

Against its fate, to steel my flinching heart

Against all men, dominions, shapes, and powers,

Seen and unseen, to justice and to truth,

Sought out by desolate ways of hateful deeds,

And so set free myself from my own fate,

Whom I will smite to end the coil of things

Here, to begin — what life? For Life I know

Stands like a living sentinel behind

The rugged barrier of death, the gates

Where the rude valley narrows, and man hears

The steep and terrible cataract of time

Break, and lose shape and substance in the foam

And spray of an eternity of air!

My death, and not my life, may crown me king! {151B}

So let me not be buried in that state

Due to the hateful rank that I abjure

By this proud act, but let my monument

Say to succeeding peoples and dim tribes

Unthought of: “This was born a living man

Bound, and he cut the chain of circumstance,

And spat on Fate.” And all the priests shall say

And all the people: “Verily and Amen.”

 

[Stabs himself.

 

CHORUS.

Spirit of the Gods! O single,

Sacred, secret, let the length

East and west, the depth and height,

North and south, with music tingle,

Ring with battled clarion choirs of the far-resounding light!

Let the might of

Osirian sacrifice

Dwell upon the self-slain king!

Spirit of the Gods! Unite

Streams of sacramental light

In the soul, thrice purified,

Consecrated thrice,

Till Osiris justified

In the supreme sacrifice

Take his kingdom. Hear the cry

That the wailing vultures make,

Circling in the blackening sky

Over the abysmal lake.

Spirit, for our spirit’s sake

Give the token of thy fire

Trident in the lambent air,

Till our spirits unaware

Worship and aspire!

Hear, beyond all periods,

Timeless, formless, multiform,

Thou, supreme above the storm,

Spirit of the Holy Ones, Spirit of the Gods!

 

Enter MESSENGER.

 

MESSENGER.

The battle rages: even now the shock

Of hostile spears makes the loud earth resound,

The wide sky tremble. {152A}

 

AMENHATEP

Here lies Horus dead,

There Isis slain. We have no leader left.

 

MESSENGER.

The fight is doubtful. We may conquer still.

 

AMENHATEP.

By this shed blood and desecrated shrine

And horrible hour of madness, may it be

That all the evil fortune of the land,

Created of these dead iniquities,

Burn its foul flame out. Are ye not appeased,

Even ye, O powers of Evil, at this shame

And sacrilege? And ye, Great Powers of Good,

Hath not enough of misery been wrought,

Enough of expiation? We have sinned,

But our iniquity he purged away,

Who as avenger hath denied his life,

To be made one with ye. O by his blood

And strong desire of holiness, and might

And justice, let him mediate between

And mitigate your anger, that the name

Of Egypt may not perish utterly.

Make, make and end!

 

THE LEPER.

All things must work themselves

To their own end. Created sin grown strong

Must claim its guerdon. Ye abase yourselves

Well for repentance; but ye shall not ward

With tears and prayers the ruin ye have made,

Nor banish the enormous deities

Of judgment so invoked by any prayers,

Or perfumes or libations. What must be

Will be. Material succour ye demand

In vain. But ye may purify yourselves.

 

AMENHATEP.

Knows then thy prophecy of our final doom? {152B}

 

THE LEPER.

Inquire not of your fate! Myself do know,

Mayhap. Ye shall know. I await the event.

 

AMENHATEP.

We shall be patient, and we shall be strong.

 

THE LEPER.

The noise of rushing feet! The corridor

Rings with their scurrying fear. This is the end.

 

[Enter a flying soldier, crying aloud, and seeks a hiding-place.

 

Speak not, thou trembling slave: we understand!

 

[The soldier slips on the marble floor, and lies groaning.

 

AMENHATEP

See that due silence greets catastrophe!

No word from now without command of mine.

 

[Silence. Then grows a noise of men fighting, & c.; above this after a while rises a shrill laughter, terrifying to hear. Then cries of victory and the triumphant laugh of a great conqueror. His heavy step, and that of his staff, & c., is next heard coming masterfully down the corridor. The soldier gives a shriek.

 

THE LEPER.

The Syrian must not see a cur like this

Cower at death. For Egypt’s honour, then! {153A}

Give me that spear. [Aside.] That royalty's own hand

Should send this thing to his long misery!

 

[Taking a spear, he runs through the soldier.

 

The KING OF SYRIA, attended, enters.

 

KING OF SYRIA.

Your armies beaten back before my face,

Your weapons broken, I am come to take

The crown from her pale brows that sitteth there.

 

THE LEPER.

The Queen is dead: I am the King of Egypt.

To-day I saved the house from its own shame

By strange ways: I will strike one blow to save

The land from its invaders. In the name

Of all our gods, I here invoke on thee

The spirit of my leprosy. Have at you!

 

[Springs at the KING OF SYRIA, only to be transfixed on his drawn sword; but he succeeds in clasping the king, who staggers. His soldiers, with a shout, rush forward, drag down THE LEPER and attack the priests. All are slain. Silence: then a shield drops, clanging on the ground.

 

KING OF SYRIA (assuming crown and sitting on throne).

Salute the conqueror of the Egyptian land!

 

[The soldiers salute and cheer.

 

I am a leper: get ye hence!

 

[Exeunt soldiers.

 

Unclean!

 

[Silence.

 

This was the hour that my ambitious hopes

Centered upon; and now I grasp the hour —

So fares mortality.

 

[Silence.

 

Unclean! unclean! {153B}

 

{full page below}

CURTAIN. {153}

 

1. This play deals with the effect of shattering all the solid bases of a young man's mind. Here we find him strong enough to win through. In the “Mother’s Tragedy” is a similar case with a weaker nature. It is well to note that in the former play the mother is evil; in the latter good. Hence also in part the tragedy. For a good mother is an affliction against which none by the strongest may strive. It is fortunately rare.

2. S'AFI is the Egyptian for fear.

3. See Vergil, Aen. vi. II. 14-19.

4. The West: the Egyptian Land of the Dead.

5. Fire and Water, Air and Earth, are the antagonisms of the elements.

6. This antithetical use of the relative is uncommon.

7. Upper and Lower Egypt.

 

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