Proserpine and Midas : two unpublished Mythological Dramas, by Mary Shelley

Midas.

A Drama in Two Acts.

Dramatis Personae.

Immortals.
APOLLO.
BACCHUS.
PAN.
SILENUS.
TMOLUS, God of a Hill.
FAUNS, &c.

Mortals.
MIDAS, King of Phrygia.
ZOPYRION, his Prime-Minister.
ASPHALION, LACON, Courtiers.
COURTIERS, Attendants, Priests, &c.

Scene, Phrygia.

Act I.

Scene; a rural spot; on one side, a bare Hill, on the other
an Ilex wood; a stream with reeds on its banks.

The Curtain rises and discovers Tmolus seated on a throne
of turf, on his right hand Apollo with his lyre, attended
by the Muses; on the left, Pan, fauns, &c.

Enter Midas and Zopyrion.

Midas. The Hours have oped the palace of the dawn
And through the Eastern gates of Heaven, Aurora
Comes charioted on light, her wind-swift steeds,
Winged with roseate clouds, strain up the steep.
She loosely holds the reins, her golden hair,
Its strings outspread by the sweet morning breeze[,]
Blinds the pale stars. Our rural tasks begin;
The young lambs bleat pent up within the fold,
The herds low in their stalls, & the blithe cock
Halloos most loudly to his distant mates.
But who are these we see? these are not men,
Divine of form & sple[n]didly arrayed,
They sit in solemn conclave. Is that Pan, [36]
Our Country God, surrounded by his Fauns?
And who is he whose crown of gold & harp
Are attributes of high Apollo?

Zopyr. Best
Your majesty retire; we may offend.

Midas. Aye, and at the base thought the coward blood
Deserts your trembling lips; but follow me.
Oh Gods! for such your bearing is, & sure
No mortal ever yet possessed the gold
That glitters on your silken robes; may one,
Who, though a king, can boast of no descent
More noble than Deucalion’s stone-formed men[,]
May I demand the cause for which you deign
To print upon this worthless Phrygian earth
The vestige of your gold-inwoven sandals,
Or why that old white-headed man sits there
Upon that grassy throne, & looks as he
Were stationed umpire to some weighty cause[?]

Tmolus. God Pan with his blithe pipe which the Fauns love
Has challenged Phoebus of the golden lyre[,]
Saying his Syrinx can give sweeter notes
Than the stringed instrument Apollo boasts.
I judge between the parties. Welcome, King,
I am old Tmolus, God of that bare Hill, [37]
You may remain and hear th’ Immortals sing.

Mid. [aside ] My judgement is made up before I hear;
Pan is my guardian God, old-horned Pan,
The Phrygian’s God who watches o’er our flocks;
No harmony can equal his blithe pipe.

Apollo (sings). (Shelley.)
The sleepless Hours who watch me as I lie,
Curtained with star-enwoven tapestries,
From the broad moonlight of the sky,
Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes
Waken me when their Mother, the grey Dawn,
Tells them that dreams & that the moon is gone.

Then I arise, and climbing Heaven’s blue dome,
I walk over the mountains & the waves,
Leaving my robe upon the Ocean foam,—
My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves
Are filled with my bright presence & the air
Leaves the green Earth to my embraces bare.

The sunbeams are my shafts with which I kill
Deceit, that loves the night & fears the day;
All men who do, or even imagine ill
Fly me, and from the glory of my ray
Good minds and open actions take new might
Until diminished by the reign of night.

I feed the clouds, the rainbows & the flowers [38]
With their etherial colours; the moon’s globe
And the pure stars in their eternal bowers
Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;
Whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine
Are portions of one power, which is mine.

I stand at noon upon the peak of heaven,
Then with unwilling steps I wander down
Into the clouds of the Atlantic even —
For grief that I depart they weep & frown [;]
What look is more delightful than the smile
With which I soothe them from the western isle [?]

I am the eye with which the Universe
Beholds itself & knows it is divine.
All harmony of instrument or verse,
All prophecy, all medecine is mine;
All light of art or nature;— to my song
Victory and praise, in its own right, belong.

Pan (sings). (Shelley.)
From the forests and highlands
We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands
W[h]ere loud waves are dumb,
Listening my sweet pipings;
The wind in the reeds & the rushes, [39]
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes[,]
The cicale above in the lime[,]
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was
Listening my sweet pipings.

Liquid Peneus was flowing,
And all dark Tempe lay
In Pelion’s shadow, outgrowing
The light of the dying day
Speeded by my sweet pipings.
The Sileni, & Sylvans, & Fauns
And the nymphs of the woods & the waves
To the edge of the moist river-lawns,
And the brink of the dewy caves[,]
And all that did then attend & follow
Were silent with love, as you now, Apollo!
With envy of my sweet pipings.

I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the daedal Earth ——
And of heaven —& the giant wars —
And Love, & death, [&] birth,
And then I changed my pipings, [40]
Singing how down the vale of Menalus,
I pursued a maiden & clasped a reed,
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
It breaks in our bosom & then we bleed!
All wept, as I think both ye now would
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

Tmol. Phoebus, the palm is thine. The Fauns may dance
To the blithe tune of ever merry Pan;
But wisdom, beauty, & the power divine
Of highest poesy lives within thy strain.
Named by the Gods the King of melody,
Receive from my weak hands a second crown.

Pan. Old Grey-beard, you say false! you think by this
To win Apollo with his sultry beams
To thaw your snowy head, & to renew
The worn out soil of your bare, ugly hill.
I do appeal to Phrygian Midas here;
Let him decide, he is no partial judge.

Mid. Immortal Pan, to my poor, mortal ears
Your sprightly song in melody outweighs
His drowsy tune; he put me fast asleep,
As my prime minister, Zopyrion, knows;
But your gay notes awoke me, & to you, [41]
If I were Tmolus, would I give the prize.

Apol. And who art thou who dar’st among the Gods
Mingle thy mortal voice? Insensate fool!
Does not the doom of Marsyas fill with dread
Thy impious soul? or would’st thou also be
Another victim to my justest wrath?
But fear no more;— thy punishment shall be
But as a symbol of thy blunted sense.
Have asses’ ears! and thus to the whole world
Wear thou the marks of what thou art,
Let Pan himself blush at such a judge. 50

(Exeunt all except Midas & Zopyrion. )

Mid. What said he? is it true, Zopyrion?
Yet if it be; you must not look on me,
But shut your eyes, nor dare behold my shame.
Ah! here they are! two long, smooth asses[’] ears!
They stick upright! Ah, I am sick with shame!

Zopyr. I cannot tell your Majesty my grief,
Or how my soul’s oppressed with the sad change
That has, alas! befallen your royal ears.

Mid. A truce to your fine speeches now, Zopyrion;
To you it appertains to find some mode
Of hiding my sad chance, if not you die.

Zopyr. Great King, alas! my thoughts are dull & slow[;]
Pardon my folly, might they not be cut, [42]
Rounded off handsomely, like human ears [?]

Mid. (feeling his ears )
They’re long & thick; I fear ‘twould give me pain;
And then if vengeful Phoebus should command
Another pair to grow — that will not do.

Zopyr. You wear a little crown of carved gold,
Which just appears to tell you are a king;
If that were large and had a cowl of silk,
Studded with gems, which none would dare gainsay,
Then might you —

Mid. Now you have it! friend,
I will reward you with some princely gift.
But, hark! Zopyrion, not a word of this;
If to a single soul you tell my shame
You die. I’ll to the palace the back way
And manufacture my new diadem,
The which all other kings shall imitate
As if they also had my asses[’] ears.

(Exit. )

Zopyr. (watching Midas off )
He cannot hear me now, and I may laugh!
I should have burst had he staid longer here.
Two long, smooth asses’ ears that stick upright;
Oh, that Apollo had but made him bray!
I’ll to the palace; there I’ll laugh my fill
With — hold! What were the last words that Midas said? [43]
I may not speak — not to my friends disclose
The strangest tale? ha! ha! and when I laugh
I must not tell the cause? none know the truth?
None know King Midas has — but who comes here?
It is Asphalion: he knows not this change;
I must look grave & sad; for now a smile
If Midas knows it may prove capital.
Yet when I think of those — oh! I shall die,
In either way, by silence or by speech.

Enter Asphalion.

Asphal. Know you, Zopyrion?—

Zopyr. What[!] you know it too?
Then I may laugh;— oh, what relief is this!
How does he look, the courtiers gathering round?
Does he hang down his head, & his ears too?
Oh, I shall die! (laughs. )

Asph. He is a queer old dog,
Yet not so laughable. ’Tis true, he’s drunk,
And sings and reels under the broad, green leaves,
And hanging clusters of his crown of grapes.—

Zopyr. A crown of grapes! but can that hide his ears[?]

Asph. His ears!— Oh, no! they stick upright between.
When Midas saw him —

Zopyr. Whom then do you mean?
Did you not say — [44]

Asph. I spoke of old Silenus;
Who having missed his way in these wild woods,
And lost his tipsey company — was found
Sucking the juicy clusters of the vines
That sprung where’er he trod:— and reeling on
Some shepherds found him in yon ilex wood.
They brought him to the king, who honouring him
For Bacchus’ sake, has gladly welcomed him,
And will conduct him with solemnity
To the disconsolate Fauns from whom he’s strayed.
But have you seen the new-fashioned diadem 51
That Midas wears?—

Zopyr. Ha! he has got it on!—
Know you the secret cause why with such care
He hides his royal head? you have not seen —

Asph. Seen what?

Zopyr. Ah! then, no matter:— (turns away agitated. )
I dare not sneak or stay[;]
If I remain I shall discover all.

Asp. I see the king has trusted to your care
Some great state secret which you fain would hide.
I am your friend, trust my fidelity,
If you’re in doubt I’ll be your counsellor. [45]

Zopyr. (with great importance. )
Secret, Asphalion! How came you to know?
If my great master (which I do not say)
Should think me a fit friend in whom to pour
The weighty secrets of his royal heart,
Shall I betray his trust? It is not so;—
I am a poor despised slave.— No more!
Join we the festal band which will conduct
Silenus to his woods again?

Asph. My friend,
Wherefore mistrust a faithful heart? Confide
The whole to me;— I will be still as death.

Zopyr. As death! you know not what you say; farewell[!]
A little will I commune with my soul,
And then I’ll join you at the palace-gate.

Asph. Will you then tell me?—

Zopyr. Cease to vex, my friend,
Your soul and mine with false suspicion, (aside ) Oh!
I am choked! I’d give full ten years of my life
To tell, to laugh —& yet I dare not speak.

Asph. Zopyrion, remember that you hurt [46]
The trusting bosom of a faithful friend
By your unjust concealment. (Exit. )

Zopyr. Oh, he’s gone!
To him I dare not speak, nor yet to Lacon;
No human ears may hear what must be told.
I cannot keep it in, assuredly;
I shall some night discuss it in my sleep.
It will not keep! Oh! greenest reeds that sway
And nod your feathered heads beneath the sun,
Be you depositaries of my soul,
Be you my friends in this extremity[:]
I shall not risk my head when I tell you
The fatal truth, the heart oppressing fact,

(stooping down & whispering )

(Enter Midas, Silenus & others, who fall back during
the scene; Midas is always anxious about his crown, &
Zopyrion gets behind him & tries to smother his laughter.
)

Silen. (very drunk ) Again I find you, Bacchus, runaway!
Welcome, my glorious boy! Another time
Stray not; or leave your poor old foster-father
In the wild mazes of a wood, in which
I might have wandered many hundred years,
Had not some merry fellows helped me out,
And had not this king kindly welcomed me,
I might have fared more ill than you erewhile
In Pentheus’ prisons, that death fated rogue.

Bac. (to Midas. ) To you I owe great thanks & will reward
Your hospitality. Tell me your name
And what this country is.

Midas. My name is Midas —

The Reeds (nodding their heads ).
Midas, the king, has the ears of an ass. [49]

Midas. (turning round & seizing Zopyrion ).
Villain, you lie! he dies who shall repeat
Those traitrous words. Seize on Zopyrion!

The Reeds. Midas, the king, has the ears of an ass.

Mid. Search through the crowd; it is a woman’s voice
That dares belie her king, & makes her life
A forfeit to his fury.

Asph. There is no woman here.

Bac. Calm yourself, Midas; none believe the tale,
Some impious man or gamesome faun dares feign
In vile contempt of your most royal ears.
Off with your crown, & shew the world the lie!

Mid. (holding his crown tight )
Never! What[!] shall a vile calumnious slave
Dictate the actions of a crowned king?
Zopyrion, this lie springs from you — you perish!

Zopy. I, say that Midas has got asses’ ears?
May great Apollo strike me with his shaft
If to a single soul I ever told
So false, so foul a calumny!

Bac. Midas! [50]

The Reeds. Midas, the king, has the ears of an ass.

Bac. Silence! or by my Godhead I strike dead
Who shall again insult the noble king.
Midas, you are my friend, for you have saved
And hospitably welcomed my old faun;
Choose your reward, for here I swear your wish,
Whatever it may be, shall be fulfilled.

Zopyr. (aside) Sure he will wish his asses’ ears in Styx.

Midas. What[!] may I choose from out the deep, rich mine
Of human fancy, & the wildest thoughts
That passed till now unheeded through my brain,
A wish, a hope, to be fulfilled by you?
Nature shall bend her laws at my command,
And I possess as my reward one thing
That I have longed for with unceasing care.

Bac. Pause, noble king, ere you express this wish[.]
Let not an error or rash folly spoil
My benefaction; pause and then declare,
For what you ask shall be, as I have sworn.

Mid. Let all I touch be gold, most glorious gold!
Let me be rich! and where I stretch my hands, [51]
(That like Orion I could touch the stars!)
Be radiant gold! God Bacchus, you have sworn,
I claim your word,— my ears are quite forgot!

The Reeds. Midas, the king, has the ears of an ass.

Mid. You lie, & yet I care not —

Zopyr. (aside to Midas ) Yet might I
But have advised your Majesty, I would
Have made one God undo the other’s work —

Midas. (aside to Zopyr ).
Advise yourself, my friend, or you may grow
Shorter by a head ere night.— I am blessed,
Happier than ever earthly man could boast.
Do you fulfil your words?

Bac. Yes, thoughtless man!
And much I fear if you have not the ears
You have the judgement of an ass. Farewel!
I found you rich & happy; & I leave you,
Though you know it not, miserably poor.
Your boon is granted,— touch! make gold! Some here
Help carry old Silenus off, who sleeps
The divine sleep of heavy wine. Farewel!

Mid. Bacchus, divine, how shall I pay my thanks[?]

(Exeunt. )

50 A syllable here, a whole foot in the previous line,
appear to be missing.

51 Another halting line. Cf. again, p. 47 , 1. 3; p. 55 , 1. 11; p. 59 , 1.1; p. [61], 1. 1; p. [64], 1. 14.

Act II.

Scene; a splendid apartment in the Palace of Midas.

Enter Midas
(with a golden rose in his hand).

Mid. Gold! glorious gold! I am made up of gold!
I pluck a rose, a silly, fading rose,
Its soft, pink petals change to yellow gold;
Its stem, its leaves are gold — and what before
Was fit for a poor peasant’s festal dress
May now adorn a Queen. I lift a stone,
A heavy, useless mass, a slave would spurn,
What is more valueless? ’Tis solid gold!
A king might war on me to win the same.
And as I pass my hand thus through the air,
A little shower of sightless dust falls down
A shower of gold. O, now I am a king!
I’ve spread my hands against my palace walls,
I’ve set high ladders up, that I may touch
Each crevice and each cornice with my hands,
And it will all be gold:— a golden palace,
Surrounded by a wood of golden trees,
Which will bear golden fruits.— The very ground
My naked foot treads on is yellow gold,
Invaluable gold! my dress is gold! [53]
Now I am great! Innumerable armies
Wait till my gold collects them round my throne;
I see my standard made of woven gold.
Waving o’er Asia’s utmost Citadels,
Guarded by myriads invincible.
Or if the toil of war grows wearisome,
I can buy Empires:— India shall be mine,
Its blooming beauties, gold-encrusted baths,
Its aromatic groves and palaces,
All will be mine! Oh, Midas, ass-eared king!
I love thee more than any words can tell,
That thus thy touch, thou man akin to Gods,
Can change all earth to heaven,— Olympian gold!
For what makes heaven different from earth!
Look how my courtiers come! Magnificent!
None shall dare wait on me but those who bear
An empire on their backs in sheets of gold.
Oh, what a slave I was! my flocks & kine,
My vineyards & my corn were all my wealth
And men esteemed me rich; but now Great Jove
Transcends me but by lightning, and who knows
If my gold win not the Cyclopean Powers,
And Vulcan, who must hate his father’s rule,
To forge me bolts?— and then — but hush! they come. [54]

Enter Zopyrion, Asphalion, & Lacon.

Lac. Pardon us, mighty king —

Mid. What would ye, slaves?
Oh! I could buy you all with one slight touch
Of my gold-making hand!

Asph. Royal Midas,
We humbly would petition for relief.

Mid. Relief I Bring me your copper coin, your brass,
Or what ye will — ye’ll speedily be rich.

Zopyr. ’Tis not for gold, but to be rid of gold,
That we intrude upon your Majesty.
I fear that you will suffer by this gift,
As we do now. Look at our backs bent down
With the huge weight of the great cloaks of gold.
Permit us to put on our shabby dress,
Our poor despised garments of light wool:—
We walk as porters underneath a load.
Pity, great king, our human weaknesses,
Nor force us to expire —

Mid. Begone, ye slaves!
Go clothe your wretched limbs in ragged skins!
Take an old carpet to wrap round your legs,
A broad leaf for your feet — ye shall not wear [55]
That dress — those golden sandals — monarch like.

Asph. If you would have us walk a mile a day
We cannot thus — already we are tired
With the huge weight of soles of solid gold.

Mid. Pitiful wretches! Earth-born, groveling dolts!
Begone! nor dare reply to my just wrath!
Never behold me more! or if you stay
Let not a sigh, a shrug, a stoop betray
What poor, weak, miserable men you are.
Not as I— I am a God! Look, dunce!
I tread or leap beneath this load of gold!

(Jumps & stops suddenly. )

I’ve hurt my back:— this cloak is wondrous hard!
No more of this! my appetite would say
The hour is come for my noon-day repast.

Lac. It comes borne in by twenty lusty slaves,
Who scarce can lift the mass of solid gold,
That lately was a table of light wood.
Here is the heavy golden ewer & bowl,
In which, before you eat, you wash your hands.

Mid. (lifting up the ewer )
This is to be a king! to touch pure gold!
Would that by touching thee, Zopyrion, [56]
I could transmute thee to a golden man;
A crowd of golden slaves to wait on me!

(Pours the water on his hands. )

But how is this? the water that I touch
Falls down a stream of yellow liquid gold,
And hardens as it falls. I cannot wash —
Pray Bacchus, I may drink! and the soft towel
With which I’d wipe my hands transmutes itself
Into a sheet of heavy gold.— No more!
I’ll sit and eat:— I have not tasted food
For many hours, I have been so wrapt
In golden dreams of all that I possess,
I had not time to eat; now hunger calls
And makes me feel, though not remote in power
From the immortal Gods, that I need food,
The only remnant of mortality!

(In vain attempts to eat of several dishes. )

Alas! my fate! ’tis gold! this peach is gold!
This bread, these grapes & all I touch! this meat
Which by its scent quickened my appetite
Has lost its scent, its taste,—’tis useless gold.

Zopyr. (aside ) He’d better now have followed my advice.
He starves by gold yet keeps his asses’ ears. [57]

Mid. Asphalion, put that apple to my mouth;
If my hands touch it not perhaps I eat.
Alas! I cannot bite! as it approached
I felt its fragrance, thought it would be mine,
But by the touch of my life-killing lips
’Tis changed from a sweet fruit to tasteless gold,
Bacchus will not refresh me by his gifts,
The liquid wine congeals and flies my taste.
Go, miserable slaves! Oh, wretched king!
Away with food! Its sight now makes me sick.
Bring in my couch! I will sleep off my care,
And when I wake I’ll coin some remedy.
I dare not bathe this sultry day, for fear
I be enclosed in gold. Begone!
I will to rest:— oh, miserable king!

(Exeunt all but Midas. He lies down, turns restlessly
for some time & then rises.
)

Oh! fool! to wish to change all things to gold!
Blind Ideot that I was! This bed is gold;
And this hard, weighty pillow, late so soft,
That of itself invited me to rest,
Is a hard lump, that if I sleep and turn
I may beat out my brains against its sides. [58]
Oh! what a wretched thing I am! how blind!
I cannot eat, for all my food is gold;
Drink flies my parched lips, and my hard couch
Is worse than rock to my poor bruised sides.
I cannot walk; the weight of my gold soles
Pulls me to earth:— my back is broke beneath
These gorgeous garments —(throws off his cloak )
Lie there, golden cloak!
There on thy kindred earth, lie there and rot!
I dare not touch my forehead with my palm
For fear my very flesh should turn to gold.
Oh! let me curse thee, vilest, yellow dirt!
Here, on my knees, thy martyr lifts his voice,
A poor, starved wretch who can touch nought but thee[,]
Wilt thou refresh me in the heat of noon?
Canst thou be kindled for me when I’m cold?
May all men, & the immortal Gods,
Hate & spurn thee as wretched I do now.

(Kicks the couch, & tries to throw down the pillow
but cannot lift it.
)

I’d dash, thee to the earth, but that thy weight
Preserves thee, abhorred, Tartarian Gold! [59]
Bacchus, O pity, pardon, and restore me!
Who waits?

Enter Lacon.

Go bid the priests that they prepare
Most solemn song and richest sacrifise;—
Which I may not dare touch, lest it should turn
To most unholy gold.

Lacon. Pardon me, oh King,
But perhaps the God may give that you may eat,
And yet your touch be magic.

Mid. No more, thou slave!
Gold is my fear, my bane, my death! I hate
Its yellow glare, its aspect hard and cold.
I would be rid of all.— Go bid them haste.

(Exit Lacon. )

Oh, Bacchus I be propitious to their prayer!
Make me a hind, clothe me in ragged skins —
And let my food be bread, unsavoury roots,
But take from me the frightful curse of gold.
Am I not poor? Alas! how I am changed!
Poorer than meanest slaves, my piles of wealth
Cannot buy for me one poor, wretched dish:—
In summer heat I cannot bathe, nor wear
A linen dress; the heavy, dull, hard metal
Clings to me till I pray for poverty.

Enter Zopyrion, Asphalion & Lacon. [60]

Zopyr. The sacrifice is made, & the great God,
Pitying your ills, oh King, accepted it,
Whilst his great oracle gave forth these words.
“Let poor king Midas bathe in the clear stream
“Of swift Pactolus, & to those waves tran[s]fer
“The gold-transmuting power, which he repents.”

Mid. Oh joy! Oh Bacchus, thanks for this to thee
Will I each year offer three sucking lambs —
Games will I institute — nor Pan himself
Shall have more honour than thy deity.
Haste to the stream,— I long to feel the cool
And liquid touch of its divinest waves.

(Exeunt all except Zopyrion and Asphalion. )

Asph. Off with our golden sandals and our cloaks!
Oh, I shall ever hate the sight of gold!
Poor, wealthy Midas runs as if from death
To rid him quick of this meta[l]lic curse.

Zopyr. (aside ) I wonder if his asses[’] ears are gold;
What would I give to let the secret out?
Gold! that is trash, we have too much of it,—
But I would give ten new born lambs to tell
This most portentous truth — but I must choke.

Asph. Now we shall tend our flocks and reap our corn
As we were wont, and not be killed by gold.
Golden fleeces threatened our poor sheep, [61]
The very showers as they fell from heaven
Could not refresh the earth; the wind blew gold,
And as we walked 52
the thick sharp-pointed atoms
Wounded our faces — the navies would have sunk —

Zopyr. All strangers would have fled our gold-cursed shore,
Till we had bound our wealthy king, that he
Might leave the green and fertile earth unchanged;—
Then in deep misery he would have shook
His golden chains & starved.

Enter Lacon.

Lacon. Sluggards, how now I
Have you not been to gaze upon the sight?
To see the noble king cast off the gift
Which he erewhile so earnestly did crave[?]

Asph. I am so tired with the weight of gold
I bore today I could not budge a foot
To see the finest sight Jove could display.
But tell us, Lacon, what he did and said.

Lac. Although he’d fain have run[,] his golden dress
And heavy sandals made the poor king limp
As leaning upon mine and the high priest’s arm,
He hastened to Pactolus. When he saw
The stream —“Thanks to the Gods!” he cried aloud
In joy; then having cast aside his robes
He leaped into the waves, and with his palm
Throwing the waters high —“This is not gold,” [62]
He cried, “I’m free, I have got rid of gold.”
And then he drank, and seizing with delight
A little leaf that floated down the stream,
“Thou art not gold,” he said —

Zopyr. But all this time —
Did you behold?— Did he take off his crown?—

Lacon. No:— It was strange to see him as he plunged
Hold tight his crown with his left hand the while.

Zopyr. (aside ) Alas, my fate! I thought they had been seen.

Lac. He ordered garments to the river side
Of coarsest texture;— those that erst he wore
He would not touch, for they were trimmed with gold.

Zopyr. And yet he did not throw away his crown?

Lac. He ever held it tight as if he thought
Some charm attached to its remaining there.
Perhaps he is right;— know you, Zopyrion,
If that strange voice this morning spoke the truth?

Zopyr. Nay guess;— think of what passed & you can judge.
I dare not — I know nothing of his ears.

Lac. I am resolved some night when he sleeps sound
To get a peep.— No more,’tis he that comes.
He has now lost the boon that Bacchus gave,
Having bestowed it on the limpid waves.
Now over golden sands Pactolus runs, [63]
And as it flows creates a mine of wealth.

Enter Midas, (with grapes in his hand).

Mid. I see again the trees and smell the flowers
With colours lovelier than the rainbow’s self;
I see the gifts of rich-haired Ceres piled
And eat. (holding up the grapes )
This is not yellow, dirty gold,
But blooms with precious tints, purple and green.
I hate this palace and its golden floor,
Its cornices and rafters all of gold:—
I’ll build a little bower of freshest green,
Canopied o’er with leaves & floored with moss:—
I’ll dress in skins;— I’ll drink from wooden cups
And eat on wooden platters — sleep on flock;
None but poor men shall dare attend on me.
All that is gold I’ll banish from my court,
Gilding shall be high treason to my state,
The very name of gold shall be crime capital[.]

Zopyr. May we not keep our coin?

Mid. No, Zopyrion,
None but the meanest peasants shall have gold.
It is a sordid, base and dirty thing:—
Look at the grass, the sky, the trees, the flowers,
These are Joves treasures & they are not gold:— [64]
Now they are mine, I am no longer cursed.—
The hapless river hates its golden sands,
As it rolls over them, having my gift;—
Poor harmless shores! they now are dirty gold.
How I detest it! Do not the Gods hate gold?
Nature displays the treasures that she loves,
She hides gold deep in the earth & piles above
Mountains & rocks to keep the monster down.

Asph. They say Apollo’s sunny car is gold.

Mid. Aye, so it is for Gold belongs to him:—
But Phoebus is my bitterest enemy,
And what pertains to him he makes my bane.

Zopyr. What [!] will your Majesty tell the world?—

Mid. Peace, vile gossip! Asphalion, come you here.
Look at those golden columns; those inlaid walls;
The ground, the trees, the flowers & precious food
That in my madness I did turn to gold:—
Pull it all down, I hate its sight and touch;
Heap up my cars & waggons with the load
And yoke my kine to drag it to the sea:
Then crowned with flowers, ivy & Bacchic vine,
And singing hymns to the immortal Gods,
We will ascend ships freighted with the gold, [65]
And where no plummet’s line can sound the depth
Of greedy Ocean, we will throw it in,
All, all this frightful heap of yellow dirt.
Down through the dark, blue waters it will sink,
Frightening the green-haired Nereids from their sport
And the strange Tritons — the waves will close above
And I, thank Bacchus, ne’er shall see it more!
And we will make all echoing heaven ring
With our loud hymns of thanks, & joyous pour
Libations in the deep, and reach the land,
Rich, happy, free & great, that we have lost
Man’s curse, heart-bartering, soul-enchaining gold.

52 MS. as he walked.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:46:07 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.