The Complete Poetical Works, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Oedipus Tyrannus

or

Swellfoot the Tyrant.

A Tragedy in Two Acts

Translated From the Original Doric.

‘Choose Reform or Civil War,

When through thy streets, instead of hare with dogs,

A CONSORT-QUEEN shall hunt a king with hogs,

Riding on the IONIAN MINOTAUR.’

[Begun at the Baths of San Giuliano, near Pisa, August 24, 1819; published anonymously by J. Johnston, Cheapside (imprint C.F. Seyfang), 1820. On a threat of prosecution the publisher surrendered the whole impression, seven copies — the total number sold — excepted. “Oedipus” does not appear in the first edition of the “Poetical Works”, 1839, but it was included by Mrs. Shelley in the second edition of that year. Our text is that of the editio princeps, 1820, save in three places, where the reading of edition 1820 will be found in the notes.]

Table of Contents

Advertisement.

Dramatis Personae.

Act 1.

Act 2.

Note on Oedipus Tyrannus, by Mrs. Shelley.

Advertisement.

This Tragedy is one of a triad, or system of three Plays (an arrangement according to which the Greeks were accustomed to connect their dramatic representations), elucidating the wonderful and appalling fortunes of the SWELLFOOT dynasty. It was evidently written by some LEARNED THEBAN, and, from its characteristic dulness, apparently before the duties on the importation of ATTIC SALT had been repealed by the Boeotarchs. The tenderness with which he treats the PIGS proves him to have been a sus Boeotiae; possibly Epicuri de grege porcus; for, as the poet observes,

‘A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind.’

No liberty has been taken with the translation of this remarkable piece of antiquity, except the suppressing a seditious and blasphemous Chorus of the Pigs and Bulls at the last Act. The work Hoydipouse (or more properly Oedipus) has been rendered literally SWELLFOOT, without its having been conceived necessary to determine whether a swelling of the hind or the fore feet of the Swinish Monarch is particularly indicated.

Should the remaining portions of this Tragedy be found, entitled, “Swellfoot in Angaria”, and “Charite”, the Translator might be tempted to give them to the reading Public.

Dramatis Personae.

TYRANT SWELLFOOT, KING OF THEBES.

IONA TAURINA, HIS QUEEN.

MAMMON, ARCH-PRIEST OF FAMINE.

PURGANAX, DAKRY, LAOCTONOS— WIZARDS, MINISTERS OF SWELLFOOT.

THE GADFLY.

THE LEECH.

THE RAT.

MOSES, THE SOW-GELDER.

SOLOMON, THE PORKMAN.

ZEPHANIAH, PIG-BUTCHER.

THE MINOTAUR.

CHORUS OF THE SWINISH MULTITUDE.

GUARDS, ATTENDANTS, PRIESTS, ETC., ETC.

SCENE. — THEBES.

Act 1.

SCENE 1.1. — A magnificent temple, built of thigh-bones and death’s-heads, and tiled with scalps. Over the altar the statue of Famine, veiled; a number of boars, sows, and sucking-pigs, crowned with thistle, shamrock, and oak, sitting on the steps, and clinging round the altar of the temple.

Enter Swellfoot, in his royal robes, without perceiving the pigs.

SWELLFOOT:

Thou supreme Goddess! by whose power divine

These graceful limbs are clothed in proud array

[HE CONTEMPLATES HIMSELF WITH SATISFACTION.]

Of gold and purple, and this kingly paunch

Swells like a sail before a favouring breeze,

5

And these most sacred nether promontories

Lie satisfied with layers of fat; and these

Boeotian cheeks, like Egypt’s pyramid,

(Nor with less toil were their foundations laid),

Sustain the cone of my untroubled brain,

10

That point, the emblem of a pointless nothing!

Thou to whom Kings and laurelled Emperors,

Radical-butchers, Paper-money-millers,

Bishops and Deacons, and the entire army

Of those fat martyrs to the persecution

15

Of stifling turtle-soup, and brandy-devils,

Offer their secret vows! Thou plenteous Ceres

Of their Eleusis, hail!

SWINE:

Eigh! eigh! eigh! eigh!

SWELLFOOT:

Ha! what are ye,

Who, crowned with leaves devoted to the Furies,

Cling round this sacred shrine?

SWINE:

Aigh! aigh! aigh!

SWELLFOOT:

What! ye that are

20

The very beasts that, offered at her altar

With blood and groans, salt-cake, and fat, and inwards,

Ever propitiate her reluctant will

When taxes are withheld?

SWINE:

Ugh! ugh! ugh!

SWELLFOOT:

What! ye who grub

With filthy snouts my red potatoes up

25

In Allan’s rushy bog? Who eat the oats

Up, from my cavalry in the Hebrides?

Who swill the hog-wash soup my cooks digest

From bones, and rags, and scraps of shoe-leather,

Which should be given to cleaner Pigs than you?

SWINE— SEMICHORUS 1:

30

The same, alas! the same;

Though only now the name

Of Pig remains to me.

SEMICHORUS 2:

If ’twere your kingly will

Us wretched Swine to kill,

35

What should we yield to thee?

SWELLFOOT:

Why, skin and bones, and some few hairs for mortar.

CHORUS OF SWINE:

I have heard your Laureate sing,

That pity was a royal thing;

Under your mighty ancestors, we Pigs

40

Were bless’d as nightingales on myrtle sprigs,

Or grasshoppers that live on noonday dew,

And sung, old annals tell, as sweetly too;

But now our sties are fallen in, we catch

The murrain and the mange, the scab and itch;

45

Sometimes your royal dogs tear down our thatch,

And then we seek the shelter of a ditch;

Hog-wash or grains, or ruta-baga, none

Has yet been ours since your reign begun.

FIRST SOW:

My Pigs, ’tis in vain to tug.

SECOND SOW:

50

I could almost eat my litter.

FIRST PIG:

I suck, but no milk will come from the dug.

SECOND PIG:

Our skin and our bones would be bitter.

THE BOARS:

We fight for this rag of greasy rug,

Though a trough of wash would be fitter.

SEMICHORUS:

55

Happier Swine were they than we,

Drowned in the Gadarean sea —

I wish that pity would drive out the devils,

Which in your royal bosom hold their revels,

And sink us in the waves of thy compassion!

60

Alas! the Pigs are an unhappy nation!

Now if your Majesty would have our bristles

To bind your mortar with, or fill our colons

With rich blood, or make brawn out of our gristles,

In policy — ask else your royal Solons —

65

You ought to give us hog-wash and clean straw,

And sties well thatched; besides it is the law!

SWELLFOOT:

This is sedition, and rank blasphemy!

Ho! there, my guards!

[ENTER A GUARD.]

GUARD:

Your sacred Majesty.

SWELLFOOT:

Call in the Jews, Solomon the court porkman,

70

Moses the sow-gelder, and Zephaniah

The hog-butcher.

GUARD:

They are in waiting, Sire.

[ENTER SOLOMON, MOSES, AND ZEPHANIAH.]

SWELLFOOT:

Out with your knife, old Moses, and spay those Sows

[THE PIGS RUN ABOUT IN CONSTERNATION.]

That load the earth with Pigs; cut close and deep.

Moral restraint I see has no effect,

75

Nor prostitution, nor our own example,

Starvation, typhus-fever, war, nor prison —

This was the art which the arch-priest of Famine

Hinted at in his charge to the Theban clergy —

Cut close and deep, good Moses.

MOSES:

Let your Majesty

Keep the Boars quiet, else —

SWELLFOOT:

80

Zephaniah, cut

That fat Hog’s throat, the brute seems overfed;

Seditious hunks! to whine for want of grains.

ZEPHANIAH:

Your sacred Majesty, he has the dropsy; —

We shall find pints of hydatids in ‘s liver,

85

He has not half an inch of wholesome fat

Upon his carious ribs —

SWELLFOOT:

’Tis all the same,

He’ll serve instead of riot money, when

Our murmuring troops bivouac in Thebes’ streets

And January winds, after a day

90

Of butchering, will make them relish carrion.

Now, Solomon, I’ll sell you in a lump

The whole kit of them.

SOLOMON:

Why, your Majesty,

I could not give —

SWELLFOOT:

Kill them out of the way,

That shall be price enough, and let me hear

95

Their everlasting grunts and whines no more!

[EXEUNT, DRIVING IN THE SWINE.

ENTER MAMM0N, THE ARCH-PRIEST,

AND PURGANAX, CHIEF OF THE COUNCIL OF WIZARDS.]

PURGANAX:

The future looks as black as death, a cloud,

Dark as the frown of Hell, hangs over it —

The troops grow mutinous — the revenue fails —

100

There’s something rotten in us — for the level

Of the State slopes, its very bases topple,

The boldest turn their backs upon themselves!

MAMMON:

Why what’s the matter, my dear fellow, now?

Do the troops mutiny? — decimate some regiments;

Does money fail? — come to my mint — coin paper,

105

Till gold be at a discount, and ashamed

To show his bilious face, go purge himself,

In emulation of her vestal whiteness.

PURGANAX:

Oh, would that this were all! The oracle!!

MAMMON:

Why it was I who spoke that oracle,

110

And whether I was dead drunk or inspired,

I cannot well remember; nor, in truth,

The oracle itself!

PURGANAX:

The words went thus:—

‘Boeotia, choose reform or civil war!

When through the streets, instead of hare with dogs,

115

A Consort Queen shall hunt a King with Hogs,

Riding on the Ionian Minotaur.’

MAMMON:

Now if the oracle had ne’er foretold

This sad alternative, it must arrive,

Or not, and so it must now that it has;

120

And whether I was urged by grace divine

Or Lesbian liquor to declare these words,

Which must, as all words must, he false or true,

It matters not: for the same Power made all,

Oracle, wine, and me and you — or none —

125

’Tis the same thing. If you knew as much

Of oracles as I do —

PURGANAX:

You arch-priests

Believe in nothing; if you were to dream

Of a particular number in the Lottery,

You would not buy the ticket?

MAMMON:

Yet our tickets

130

Are seldom blanks. But what steps have you taken?

For prophecies, when once they get abroad,

Like liars who tell the truth to serve their ends,

Or hypocrites who, from assuming virtue,

Do the same actions that the virtuous do,

135

Contrive their own fulfilment. This Iona —

Well — you know what the chaste Pasiphae did,

Wife to that most religious King of Crete,

And still how popular the tale is here;

And these dull Swine of Thebes boast their descent

140

From the free Minotaur. You know they still

Call themselves Bulls, though thus degenerate,

And everything relating to a Bull

Is popular and respectable in Thebes.

Their arms are seven Bulls in a field gules;

145

They think their strength consists in eating beef —

Now there were danger in the precedent

If Queen Iona —

PURGANAX:

I have taken good care

That shall not be. I struck the crust o’ the earth

With this enchanted rod, and Hell lay bare!

150

And from a cavern full of ugly shapes

I chose a LEECH, a GADFLY, and a RAT.

The Gadfly was the same which Juno sent

To agitate Io, and which Ezekiel mentions

That the Lord whistled for out of the mountains

155

Of utmost Aethiopia, to torment

Mesopotamian Babylon. The beast

Has a loud trumpet like the scarabee,

His crooked tail is barbed with many stings,

Each able to make a thousand wounds, and each

160

Immedicable; from his convex eyes

He sees fair things in many hideous shapes,

And trumpets all his falsehood to the world.

Like other beetles he is fed on dung —

He has eleven feet with which he crawls,

165

Trailing a blistering slime, and this foul beast

Has tracked Iona from the Theban limits,

From isle to isle, from city unto city,

Urging her flight from the far Chersonese

To fabulous Solyma, and the Aetnean Isle,

170

Ortygia, Melite, and Calypso’s Rock,

And the swart tribes of Garamant and Fez,

Aeolia and Elysium, and thy shores,

Parthenope, which now, alas! are free!

And through the fortunate Saturnian land,

Into the darkness of the West.

MAMMON:

175

But if

This Gadfly should drive Iona hither?

PURGANAX:

Gods! what an IF! but there is my gray RAT:

So thin with want, he can crawl in and out

Of any narrow chink and filthy hole,

180

And he shall creep into her dressing-room,

And —

MAMMON:

My dear friend, where are your wits? as if

She does not always toast a piece of cheese

And bait the trap? and rats, when lean enough

To crawl through SUCH chinks —

PURGANAX:

But my LEECH— a leech

185

Fit to suck blood, with lubricous round rings,

Capaciously expatiative, which make

His little body like a red balloon,

As full of blood as that of hydrogen,

Sucked from men’s hearts; insatiably he sucks

190

And clings and pulls — a horse-leech, whose deep maw

The plethoric King Swellfoot could not fill,

And who, till full, will cling for ever.

MAMMON:

This

For Queen Jona would suffice, and less;

But ’tis the Swinish multitude I fear,

And in that fear I have —

PURGANAX:

Done what?

MAMMON:

195

Disinherited

My eldest son Chrysaor, because he

Attended public meetings, and would always

Stand prating there of commerce, public faith,

Economy, and unadulterate coin,

200

And other topics, ultra-radical;

And have entailed my estate, called the Fool’s Paradise,

And funds in fairy-money, bonds, and bills,

Upon my accomplished daughter Banknotina,

And married her to the gallows. [1]

PURGANAX:

A good match!

MAMMON:

205

A high connexion, Purganax. The bridegroom

Is of a very ancient family,

Of Hounslow Heath, Tyburn, and the New Drop,

And has great influence in both Houses; — oh!

He makes the fondest husband; nay, TOO fond —

210

New-married people should not kiss in public;

But the poor souls love one another so!

And then my little grandchildren, the gibbets,

Promising children as you ever saw —

The young playing at hanging, the elder learning

215

How to hold radicals. They are well taught too,

For every gibbet says its catechism

And reads a select chapter in the Bible

Before it goes to play.

[A MOST TREMENDOUS HUMMING IS HEARD.]

PURGANAX:

Ha! what do I hear?

[ENTER THE GADFLY.]

MAMMON:

Your Gadfly, as it seems, is tired of gadding.

GADFLY:

220

Hum! hum! hum!

From the lakes of the Alps, and the cold gray scalps

Of the mountains, I come!

Hum! hum! hum!

From Morocco and Fez, and the high palaces

225

Of golden Byzantium;

From the temples divine of old Palestine,

From Athens and Rome,

With a ha! and a hum!

I come! I come!

230

All inn-doors and windows

Were open to me:

I saw all that sin does,

Which lamps hardly see

That burn in the night by the curtained bed —

235

The impudent lamps! for they blushed not red,

Dinging and singing,

From slumber I rung her,

Loud as the clank of an ironmonger;

Hum! hum! hum!

240

Far, far, far!

With the trump of my lips, and the sting at my hips,

I drove her — afar!

Far, far, far!

From city to city, abandoned of pity,

245

A ship without needle or star; —

Homeless she passed, like a cloud on the blast,

Seeking peace, finding war; —

She is here in her car,

From afar, and afar; —

250

Hum! hum!

I have stung her and wrung her,

The venom is working; —

And if you had hung her

With canting and quirking,

255

She could not be deader than she will be soon; —

I have driven her close to you, under the moon,

Night and day, hum! hum! ha!

I have hummed her and drummed her

From place to place, till at last I have dumbed her,

260

Hum! hum! hum!

[ENTER THE LEECH AND THE RAT.]

LEECH:

I will suck

Blood or muck!

The disease of the state is a plethory,

Who so fit to reduce it as I?

RAT:

265

I’ll slily seize and

Let blood from her weasand —

Creeping through crevice, and chink, and cranny,

With my snaky tail, and my sides so scranny.

PURGANAX:

Aroint ye! thou unprofitable worm!

[TO THE LEECH.]

270

And thou, dull beetle, get thee back to hell!

[TO THE GADFLY.]

To sting the ghosts of Babylonian kings,

And the ox-headed Io —

SWINE (WITHIN):

Ugh, ugh, ugh!

Hail! Iona the divine,

We will be no longer Swine,

But Bulls with horns and dewlaps.

RAT:

275

For,

You know, my lord, the Minotaur —

PURGANAX (FIERCELY):

Be silent! get to hell! or I will call

The cat out of the kitchen. Well, Lord Mammon,

This is a pretty business.

[EXIT THE RAT.]

MAMMON:

I will go

280

And spell some scheme to make it ugly then. —

[EXIT.]

[ENTER SWELLFOOT.]

SWELLFOOT:

She is returned! Taurina is in Thebes,

When Swellfoot wishes that she were in hell!

Oh, Hymen, clothed in yellow jealousy,

And waving o’er the couch of wedded kings

285

The torch of Discord with its fiery hair;

This is thy work, thou patron saint of queens!

Swellfoot is wived! though parted by the sea,

The very name of wife had conjugal rights;

Her cursed image ate, drank, slept with me,

And in the arms of Adiposa oft 290

Her memory has received a husband’s —

[A LOUD TUMULT, AND CRIES OF ‘IONA FOR EVER— NO SWELLFOOT!’]

Hark!

How the Swine cry Iona Taurina;

I suffer the real presence; Purganax,

Off with her head!

PURGANAX:

But I must first impanel

A jury of the Pigs.

SWELLFOOT:

295

Pack them then.

PURGANAX:

Or fattening some few in two separate sties.

And giving them clean straw, tying some bits

Of ribbon round their legs — giving their Sows

Some tawdry lace, and bits of lustre glass,

300

And their young Boars white and red rags, and tails

Of cows, and jay feathers, and sticking cauliflowers

Between the ears of the old ones; and when

They are persuaded, that by the inherent virtue

Of these things, they are all imperial Pigs,

305

Good Lord! they’d rip each other’s bellies up,

Not to say, help us in destroying her.

SWELLFOOT:

This plan might be tried too; — where’s General Laoctonos?

[ENTER LAOCTONOS AND DAKRY.]

It is my royal pleasure

That you, Lord General, bring the head and body,

310

If separate it would please me better, hither

Of Queen Iona.

LAOCTONOS:

That pleasure I well knew,

And made a charge with those battalions bold,

Called, from their dress and grin, the royal apes,

Upon the Swine, who in a hollow square

315

Enclosed her, and received the first attack

Like so many rhinoceroses, and then

Retreating in good order, with bare tusks

And wrinkled snouts presented to the foe,

Bore her in triumph to the public sty.

320

What is still worse, some Sows upon the ground

Have given the ape-guards apples, nuts, and gin,

And they all whisk their tails aloft, and cry,

‘Long live Iona! down with Swellfoot!’

PURGANAX:

Hark!

THE SWINE (WITHOUT):

Long live Iona! down with Swellfoot!

DAKRY:

I

325

Went to the garret of the swineherd’s tower,

Which overlooks the sty, and made a long

Harangue (all words) to the assembled Swine,

Of delicacy mercy, judgement, law,

Morals, and precedents, and purity,

330

Adultery, destitution, and divorce,

Piety, faith, and state necessity,

And how I loved the Queen! — and then I wept

With the pathos of my own eloquence,

And every tear turned to a mill-stone, which

335

Brained many a gaping Pig, and there was made

A slough of blood and brains upon the place,

Greased with the pounded bacon; round and round

The mill-stones rolled, ploughing the pavement up,

And hurling Sucking-Pigs into the air,

With dust and stones. —

[ENTER MAMMON.]

MAMMON:

340

I wonder that gray wizards

Like you should be so beardless in their schemes;

It had been but a point of policy

To keep Iona and the Swine apart.

Divide and rule! but ye have made a junction

345

Between two parties who will govern you

But for my art. — Behold this BAG! it is

The poison BAG of that Green Spider huge,

On which our spies skulked in ovation through

The streets of Thebes, when they were paved with dead:

350

A bane so much the deadlier fills it now

As calumny is worse than death — for here

The Gadfly’s venom, fifty times distilled,

Is mingled with the vomit of the Leech,

In due proportion, and black ratsbane, which

355

That very Rat, who, like the Pontic tyrant,

Nurtures himself on poison, dare not touch; —

All is sealed up with the broad seal of Fraud,

Who is the Devil’s Lord High Chancellor,

And over it the Primate of all Hell

360

Murmured this pious baptism:—‘Be thou called

The GREEN BAG; and this power and grace be thine:

That thy contents, on whomsoever poured,

Turn innocence to guilt, and gentlest looks

To savage, foul, and fierce deformity.

365

Let all baptized by thy infernal dew

Be called adulterer, drunkard, liar, wretch!

No name left out which orthodoxy loves,

Court Journal or legitimate Review! —

Be they called tyrant, beast, fool, glutton, lover

370

Of other wives and husbands than their own —

The heaviest sin on this side of the Alps!

Wither they to a ghastly caricature

Of what was human! — let not man or beast

Behold their face with unaverted eyes!

375

Or hear their names with ears that tingle not

With blood of indignation, rage, and shame!’—

This is a perilous liquor; — good my Lords. —

[SWELLFOOT APPROACHES TO TOUCH THE GREEN BAG.]

Beware! for God’s sake, beware!-if you should break

The seal, and touch the fatal liquor —

PURGANAX:

There,

380

Give it to me. I have been used to handle

All sorts of poisons. His dread Majesty

Only desires to see the colour of it.

MAMMON:

Now, with a little common sense, my Lords,

Only undoing all that has been done

385

(Yet so as it may seem we but confirm it),

Our victory is assured. We must entice

Her Majesty from the sty, and make the Pigs

Believe that the contents of the GREEN BAG

Are the true test of guilt or innocence.

390

And that, if she be guilty, ’twill transform her

To manifest deformity like guilt.

If innocent, she will become transfigured

Into an angel, such as they say she is;

And they will see her flying through the air,

395

So bright that she will dim the noonday sun;

Showering down blessings in the shape of comfits.

This, trust a priest, is just the sort of thing

Swine will believe. I’ll wager you will see them

Climbing upon the thatch of their low sties,

400

With pieces of smoked glass, to watch her sail

Among the clouds, and some will hold the flaps

Of one another’s ears between their teeth,

To catch the coming hail of comfits in.

You, Purganax, who have the gift o’ the gab,

405

Make them a solemn speech to this effect:

I go to put in readiness the feast

Kept to the honour of our goddess Famine,

Where, for more glory, let the ceremony

Take place of the uglification of the Queen.

DAKRY (TO SWELLFOOT):

410

I, as the keeper of your sacred conscience,

Humbly remind your Majesty that the care

Of your high office, as Man-milliner

To red Bellona, should not be deferred.

PURGANAX:

All part, in happier plight to meet again.

[EXEUNT.]

_8 See Universal History for an account of the number of people who died, and the immense consumption of garlic by the wretched Egyptians, who made a sepulchre for the name as well as the bodies of their tyrants. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.])

_59 thy edition 1820; your edition 1839.

_114 the edition 1820; thy cj. Forman; cf. Motto below Title, and II. i, 153-6. ticket? edition 1820; ticket! edition 1839.

_135 their own Mrs. Shelley, later editions; their editions 1820 and 1839.

_153 (Io) The Promethetes Bound of Aeschylus. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.])

_153 (Ezekiel) And the Lord whistled for the gadfly out of Aethiopia, and for the bee of Egypt, etc. — EZEKIEL. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.])

_204 ‘If one should marry a gallows, and beget young gibbets, I never saw one so prone. — CYMBELINE. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.]

_260 Edd. 1820, 1839 have no stage direction after this line.

_373 or edition 1820; nor edition 1839.

End of the Act 1.

Act 2.

SCENE 2.1: THE PUBLIC STY. THE B0ARS IN FULL ASSEMBLY. ENTER PURGANAX.

PURGANAX:

Grant me your patience, Gentlemen and Boars,

Ye, by whose patience under public burthens

The glorious constitution of these sties

Subsists, and shall subsist. The Lean-Pig rates

5

Grow with the growing populace of Swine,

The taxes, that true source of Piggishness

(How can I find a more appropriate term

To include religion, morals, peace, and plenty,

And all that fit Boeotia as a nation

10

To teach the other nations how to live?),

Increase with Piggishness itself; and still

Does the revenue, that great spring of all

The patronage, and pensions, and by-payments,

Which free-born Pigs regard with jealous eyes,

15

Diminish, till at length, by glorious steps,

All the land’s produce will be merged in taxes,

And the revenue will amount to — nothing!

The failure of a foreign market for

Sausages, bristles, and blood-puddings,

20

And such home manufactures, is but partial;

And, that the population of the Pigs,

Instead of hog-wash, has been fed on straw

And water, is a fact which is — you know —

That is — it is a state-necessity —

25

Temporary, of course. Those impious Pigs,

Who, by frequent squeaks, have dared impugn

The settled Swellfoot system, or to make

Irreverent mockery of the genuflexions

Inculcated by the arch-priest, have been whipped

30

Into a loyal and an orthodox whine.

Things being in this happy state, the Queen

Iona —

A LOUD CRY FROM THE PIGS:

She is innocent! most innocent!

PURGANAX:

That is the very thing that I was saying,

Gentlemen Swine; the Queen Iona being

35

Most innocent, no doubt, returns to Thebes,

And the lean Sows and Bears collect about her,

Wishing to make her think that WE believe

(I mean those more substantial Pigs, who swill

Rich hog-wash, while the others mouth damp straw)

40

That she is guilty; thus, the Lean-Pig faction

Seeks to obtain that hog-wash, which has been

Your immemorial right, and which I will

Maintain you in to the last drop of —

A BOAR (INTERRUPTING HIM):

What

Does any one accuse her of?

PURGANAX:

Why, no one

45

Makes ANY positive accusation; — but

There were hints dropped, and so the privy wizards

Conceived that it became them to advise

His Majesty to investigate their truth; —

Not for his own sake; he could be content

50

To let his wife play any pranks she pleased,

If, by that sufferance, HE could please the Pigs;

But then he fears the morals of the Swine,

The Sows especially, and what effect

It might produce upon the purity and

55

Religion of the rising generation

Of Sucking-Pigs, if it could be suspected

That Queen Iona —

[A PAUSE.]

FIRST BOAR:

Well, go on; we long

To hear what she can possibly have done.

PURGANAX:

Why, it is hinted, that a certain Bull —

60

Thus much is KNOWN:— the milk-white Bulls that feed

Beside Clitumnus and the crystal lakes

Of the Cisalpine mountains, in fresh dews

Of lotus-grass and blossoming asphodel

Sleeking their silken hair, and with sweet breath

65

Loading the morning winds until they faint

With living fragrance, are so beautiful! —

Well, _I_ say nothing; — but Europa rode

On such a one from Asia into Crete,

And the enamoured sea grew calm beneath

70

His gliding beauty. And Pasiphae,

Iona’s grandmother — but SHE is innocent!

And that both you and I, and all assert.

FIRST BOAR:

Most innocent!

PURGANAX:

Behold this BAG; a bag —

SECOND BOAR:

Oh! no GREEN BAGS!! Jealousy’s eyes are green,

75

Scorpions are green, and water-snakes, and efts,

And verdigris, and —

PURGANAX:

Honourable Swine,

In Piggish souls can prepossessions reign?

Allow me to remind you, grass is green —

All flesh is grass; — no bacon but is flesh —

80

Ye are but bacon. This divining BAG

(Which is not green, but only bacon colour)

Is filled with liquor, which if sprinkled o’er

A woman guilty of — we all know what —

Makes her so hideous, till she finds one blind

85

She never can commit the like again.

If innocent, she will turn into an angel,

And rain down blessings in the shape of comfits

As she flies up to heaven. Now, my proposal

Is to convert her sacred Majesty

90

Into an angel (as I am sure we shall do),

By pouring on her head this mystic water.

[SHOWING THE BAG.]

I know that she is innocent; I wish

Only to prove her so to all the world.

FIRST BOAR:

Excellent, just, and noble Purganax.

SECOND BOAR:

95

How glorious it will be to see her Majesty

Flying above our heads, her petticoats

Streaming like — like — like —

THIRD BOAR:

Anything.

PURGANAX:

Oh no!

But like a standard of an admiral’s ship,

Or like the banner of a conquering host,

100

Or like a cloud dyed in the dying day,

Unravelled on the blast from a white mountain;

Or like a meteor, or a war-steed’s mane,

Or waterfall from a dizzy precipice

Scattered upon the wind.

FIRST BOAR:

Or a cow’s tail.

SECOND BOAR:

105

Or ANYTHING, as the learned Boar observed.

PURGANAX:

Gentlemen Boars, I move a resolution,

That her most sacred Majesty should be

Invited to attend the feast of Famine,

And to receive upon her chaste white body

110

Dews of Apotheosis from this BAG.

[A GREAT CONFUSION IS HEARD OF THE PIGS OUT OF DOORS, WHICH

COMMUNICATES ITSELF TO THOSE WITHIN. DURING THE FIRST STROPHE, THE

DOORS OF THE STY ARE STAVED IN, AND A NUMBER OF EXCEEDINGLY LEAN PIGS

AND SOWS AND BOARS RUSH IN.]

SEMICHORUS 1:

No! Yes!

SEMICHORUS 2:

Yes! No!

SEMICHORUS 1:

A law!

SEMICHORUS 2:

A flaw!

SEMICHORUS 1:

115

Porkers, we shall lose our wash,

Or must share it with the Lean-Pigs!

FIRST BOAR:

Order! order! be not rash!

Was there ever such a scene, Pigs!

AN OLD SOW (RUSHING IN):

I never saw so fine a dash

120

Since I first began to wean Pigs.

SECOND BOAR (SOLEMNLY):

The Queen will be an angel time enough.

I vote, in form of an amendment, that

Purganax rub a little of that stuff

Upon his face.

PURGANAX [HIS HEART IS SEEN TO BEAT THROUGH HIS WAISTCOAT]:

Gods! What would ye be at?

SEMICHORUS 1:

125

Purganax has plainly shown a

Cloven foot and jackdaw feather.

SEMICHORUS 2:

I vote Swellfoot and Iona

Try the magic test together;

Whenever royal spouses bicker,

130

Both should try the magic liquor.

AN OLD BOAR [ASIDE]:

A miserable state is that of Pigs,

For if their drivers would tear caps and wigs,

The Swine must bite each other’s ear therefore.

AN OLD SOW [ASIDE]:

A wretched lot Jove has assigned to Swine,

135

Squabbling makes Pig-herds hungry, and they dine

On bacon, and whip Sucking-Pigs the more.

CHORUS:

Hog-wash has been ta’en away:

If the Bull-Queen is divested,

We shall be in every way

140

Hunted, stripped, exposed, molested;

Let us do whate’er we may,

That she shall not be arrested.

QUEEN, we entrench you with walls of brawn,

And palisades of tusks, sharp as a bayonet:

145

Place your most sacred person here. We pawn

Our lives that none a finger dare to lay on it.

Those who wrong you, wrong us;

Those who hate you, hate us;

Those who sting you, sting us;

150

Those who bait you, bait us;

The ORACLE is now about to be

Fulfilled by circumvolving destiny;

Which says: ‘Thebes, choose REFORM or CIVIL WAR,

When through your streets, instead of hare with dogs,

155

A CONSORT QUEEN shall hunt a KING with Hogs,

Riding upon the IONIAN MINOTAUR.’

[ENTER IONA TAURINA.]

IONA TAURINA (COMING FORWARD):

Gentlemen Swine, and gentle Lady-Pigs,

The tender heart of every Boar acquits

Their QUEEN, of any act incongruous

160

With native Piggishness, and she, reposing

With confidence upon the grunting nation,

Has thrown herself, her cause, her life, her all,

Her innocence, into their Hoggish arms;

Nor has the expectation been deceived

165

Of finding shelter there. Yet know, great Boars,

(For such whoever lives among you finds you,

And so do I), the innocent are proud!

I have accepted your protection only

In compliment of your kind love and care,

170

Not for necessity. The innocent

Are safest there where trials and dangers wait;

Innocent Queens o’er white-hot ploughshares tread

Unsinged, and ladies, Erin’s laureate sings it,

Decked with rare gems, and beauty rarer still,

175

Walked from Killarney to the Giant’s Causeway,

Through rebels, smugglers, troops of yeomanry,

White-boys and Orange-boys, and constables,

Tithe-proctors, and excise people, uninjured!

Thus I! —

180

Lord Purganax, I do commit myself

Into your custody, and am prepared

To stand the test, whatever it may be!

PURGANAX:

This magnanimity in your sacred Majesty

Must please the Pigs. You cannot fail of being

185

A heavenly angel. Smoke your bits of glass,

Ye loyal Swine, or her transfiguration

Will blind your wondering eyes.

AN OLD BOAR [ASIDE]:

Take care, my Lord,

They do not smoke you first.

PURGANAX:

At the approaching feast

Of Famine, let the expiation be.

SWINE:

Content! content!

IONA TAURINA [ASIDE]:

190

I, most content of all,

Know that my foes even thus prepare their fall!

[EXEUNT OMNES.]

_16 land’s]lands edition 1820.

_154 streets instead edition 1820.

_173 ‘Rich and rare were the gems she wore.’ See Moore’s “Irish Melodies”. — [SHELLEY’S NOTE.])

SCENE 2.2: THE INTERIOR OF THE TEMPLE OF FAMINE. THE STATUE OF THE GODDESS, A SKELETON CLOTHED IN PARTI-COLOURED RAGS, SEATED UPON A HEAP OF SKULLS AND LOAVES INTERMINGLED. A NUMBER OF EXCEEDINGLY FAT PRIESTS IN BLACK GARMENTS ARRAYED ON EACH SIDE, WITH MARROW-BONES AND CLEAVERS IN THEIR HANDS. [SOLOMON, THE COURT PORKMAN.] A FLOURISH OF TRUMPETS.

ENTER MAMMON AS ARCH-PRIEST, SWELLFOOT, DAKRY, PURGANAX, LAOCTONOS, FOLLOWED BY IONA TAURINA GUARDED. ON THE OTHER SIDE ENTER THE SWINE.

CHORUS OF PRIESTS, ACCOMPANIED BY THE COURT PORKMAN ON MARROW-BONES AND CLEAVERS:

GODDESS bare, and gaunt, and pale,

Empress of the world, all hail!

What though Cretans old called thee

City-crested Cybele?

5

We call thee FAMINE!

Goddess of fasts and feasts, starving and cramming!

Through thee, for emperors, kings, and priests and lords,

Who rule by viziers, sceptres, bank-notes, words,

The earth pours forth its plenteous fruits,

10

Corn, wool, linen, flesh, and roots —

Those who consume these fruits through thee grow fat,

Those who produce these fruits through thee grow lean,

Whatever change takes place, oh, stick to that!

And let things be as they have ever been;

15

At least while we remain thy priests,

And proclaim thy fasts and feasts.

Through thee the sacred SWELLF00T dynasty

Is based upon a rock amid that sea

Whose waves are Swine — so let it ever be!

[SWELLFOOT, ETC., SEAT THEMSELVES AT A TABLE MAGNIFICENTLY COVERED AT THE UPPER END OF THE TEMPLE. ATTENDANTS PASS OVER THE STAGE WITH HOG-WASH IN PAILS. A NUMBER OF PIGS, EXCEEDINGLY LEAN, FOLLOW THEM LICKING UP THE WASH.]

MAMMON:

20

I fear your sacred Majesty has lost

The appetite which you were used to have.

Allow me now to recommend this dish —

A simple kickshaw by your Persian cook,

Such as is served at the great King’s second table.

25

The price and pains which its ingredients cost

Might have maintained some dozen families

A winter or two — not more — so plain a dish

Could scarcely disagree. —

SWELLFOOT:

After the trial,

And these fastidious Pigs are gone, perhaps

30

I may recover my lost appetite —

I feel the gout flying about my stomach —

Give me a glass of Maraschino punch.

PURGANAX (FILLING HIS GLASS, AND STANDING UP):

The glorious Constitution of the Pigs!

ALL:

A toast! a toast! stand up, and three times three!

DAKRY:

No heel-taps — darken daylights! —

LAOCTONOS:

35

Claret, somehow,

Puts me in mind of blood, and blood of claret!

SWELLFOOT:

Laoctonos is fishing for a compliment,

But ’tis his due. Yes, you have drunk more wine,

And shed more blood, than any man in Thebes.

[TO PURGANAX.]

40

For God’s sake stop the grunting of those Pigs!

PURGANAX:

We dare not, Sire, ’tis Famine’s privilege.

CHORUS OF SWINE:

Hail to thee, hail to thee, Famine!

Thy throne is on blood, and thy robe is of rags;

Thou devil which livest on damning;

45

Saint of new churches, and cant, and GREEN BAGS,

Till in pity and terror thou risest,

Confounding the schemes of the wisest;

When thou liftest thy skeleton form,

When the loaves and the skulls roll about,

50

We will greet thee-the voice of a storm

Would be lost in our terrible shout!

Then hail to thee, hail to thee, Famine!

Hail to thee, Empress of Earth!

When thou risest, dividing possessions;

55

When thou risest, uprooting oppressions,

In the pride of thy ghastly mirth;

Over palaces, temples, and graves,

We will rush as thy minister-slaves,

Trampling behind in thy train,

60

Till all be made level again!

MAMMON:

I hear a crackling of the giant bones

Of the dread image, and in the black pits

Which once were eyes, I see two livid flames.

These prodigies are oracular, and show

65

The presence of the unseen Deity.

Mighty events are hastening to their doom!

SWELLFOOT:

I only hear the lean and mutinous Swine

Grunting about the temple.

DAKRY:

In a crisis

Of such exceeding delicacy, I think

70

We ought to put her Majesty, the QUEEN,

Upon her trial without delay.

MAMMON:

The bag

Is here.

PURGANAX:

I have rehearsed the entire scene

With an ox-bladder and some ditchwater,

On Lady P—; it cannot fail.

[TAKING UP THE BAG.]

Your Majesty

[TO SWELLFOOT.]

75

In such a filthy business had better

Stand on one side, lest it should sprinkle you.

A spot or two on me would do no harm,

Nay, it might hide the blood, which the sad Genius

Of the Green Isle has fixed, as by a spell,

80

Upon my brow — which would stain all its seas,

But which those seas could never wash away!

IONA TAURINA:

My Lord, I am ready — nay, I am impatient

To undergo the test.

[A GRACEFUL FIGURE IN A SEMI-TRANSPARENT VEIL PASSES UNNOTICED THROUGH

THE TEMPLE; THE WORD “LIBERTY” IS SEEN THROUGH THE VEIL, AS IF IT WERE

WRITTEN IN FIRE UPON ITS FOREHEAD. ITS WORDS ARE ALMOST DROWNED IN THE

FURIOUS GRUNTING OF THE PIGS, AND THE BUSINESS OF THE TRIAL. SHE

KNEELS ON THE STEPS OF THE ALTAR, AND SPEAKS IN TONES AT FIRST FAINT

AND LOW, BUT WHICH EVER BECOME LOUDER AND LOUDER.]

Mighty Empress! Death’s white wife!

85

Ghastly mother-in-law of Life!

By the God who made thee such,

By the magic of thy touch,

By the starving and the cramming

Of fasts and feasts! by thy dread self, O Famine!

90

I charge thee! when thou wake the multitude,

Thou lead them not upon the paths of blood.

The earth did never mean her foison

For those who crown life’s cup with poison

Of fanatic rage and meaningless revenge —

95

But for those radiant spirits, who are still

The standard-bearers in the van of Change.

Be they th’ appointed stewards, to fill

The lap of Pain, and Toil, and Age! —

Remit, O Queen! thy accustomed rage!

100

Be what thou art not! In voice faint and low

FREEDOM calls “Famine” — her eternal foe,

To brief alliance, hollow truce. — Rise now!

[WHILST THE VEILED FIGURE HAS BEEN CHANTING THIS STROPHE, MAMMON,

DAKRY, LAOCTONOS, AND SWELLFOOT, HAVE SURROUNDED IONA TAURINA, WHO,

WITH HER HANDS FOLDED ON HER BREAST, AND HER EYES LIFTED TO HEAVEN,

STANDS, AS WITH SAINT-LIKE RESIGNATION, TO WAIT THE ISSUE OF THE

BUSINESS, IN PERFECT CONFIDENCE OF HER INNOCENCE.]

[PURGANAX, AFTER UNSEALING THE GREEN BAG, IS GRAVELY ABOUT TO POUR THE

LIQUOR UPON HER HEAD, WHEN SUDDENLY THE WHOLE EXPRESSION OF HER FIGURE

AND COUNTENANCE CHANGES; SHE SNATCHES IT FROM HIS HAND WITH A LOUD

LAUGH OF TRIUMPH, AND EMPTIES IT OVER SWELLFOOT AND HIS WHOLE COURT,

WHO ARE INSTANTLY CHANGED INTO A NUMBER OF FILTHY AND UGLY ANIMALS,

AND RUSH OUT OF THE TEMPLE. THE IMAGE OF FAMINE THEN ARISES WITH A

TREMENDOUS SOUND, THE PIGS BEGIN SCRAMBLING FOR THE LOAVES, AND ARE

TRJPPED UP BY THE SKULLS; ALL THOSE WHO EAT THE LOAVES ARE TURNED INTO

BULLS, AND ARRANGE THEMSELVES QUIETLY BEHIND THE ALTAR. THE IMAGE OF

FAMINE SINKS THROUGH A CHASM IN THE EARTH, AND A MINOTAUR RISES.]

MINOTAUR:

I am the Ionian Minotaur, the mightiest

Of all Europa’s taurine progeny —

105

I am the old traditional Man-Bull;

And from my ancestors having been Ionian,

I am called Ion, which, by interpretation,

Is JOHN; in plain Theban, that is to say,

My name’s JOHN BULL; I am a famous hunter,

110

And can leaf any gate in all Boeotia,

Even the palings of the royal park,

Or double ditch about the new enclosures;

And if your Majesty will deign to mount me,

At least till you have hunted down your game,

115

I will not throw you.

IONA TAURINA [DURING THIS SPEECH SHE HAS BEEN PUTTING ON BOOTS AND

SPURS, AND A HUNTING-CAP, BUCKISHLY COCKED ON ONE SIDE, AND TUCKING UP

HER HAIR, SHE LEAPS NIMBLY ON HIS BACK]:

Hoa! hoa! tallyho! tallyho! ho! ho!

Come, let us hunt these ugly badgers down,

These stinking foxes, these devouring otters,

These hares, these wolves, these anything but men.

Hey, for a whipper-in! my loyal Pigs

120

Now let your noses be as keen as beagles’,

Your steps as swift as greyhounds’, and your cries

More dulcet and symphonious than the bells

Of village-towers, on sunshine holiday;

Wake all the dewy woods with jangling music.

125

Give them no law (are they not beasts of blood?)

But such as they gave you. Tallyho! ho!

Through forest, furze, and bog, and den, and desert,

Pursue the ugly beasts! tallyho! ho!

FULL CHORUS OF I0NA AND THE SWINE:

Tallyho! tallyho!

130

Through rain, hail, and snow,

Through brake, gorse, and briar,

Through fen, flood, and mire,

We go! we go!

Tallyho! tallyho!

135

Through pond, ditch, and slough,

Wind them, and find them,

Like the Devil behind them,

Tallyho! tallyho!

[EXEUNT, IN FULL CRY; IONA DRIVING ON THE SWINE, WITH THE EMPTY GEEEN BAG.]

THE END.

Note on Oedipus Tyrannus, by Mrs. Shelley.

In the brief journal I kept in those days, I find recorded, in August, 1820, Shelley ‘begins “Swellfoot the Tyrant”, suggested by the pigs at the fair of San Giuliano.’ This was the period of Queen Caroline’s landing in England, and the struggles made by George IV to get rid of her claims; which failing, Lord Castlereagh placed the “Green Bag” on the table of the House of Commons, demanding in the King’s name that an enquiry should be instituted into his wife’s conduct. These circumstances were the theme of all conversation among the English. We were then at the Baths of San Giuliano. A friend came to visit us on the day when a fair was held in the square, beneath our windows: Shelley read to us his “Ode to Liberty”; and was riotously accompanied by the grunting of a quantity of pigs brought for sale to the fair. He compared it to the ‘chorus of frogs’ in the satiric drama of Aristophanes; and, it being an hour of merriment, and one ludicrous association suggesting another, he imagined a political-satirical drama on the circumstances of the day, to which the pigs would serve as chorus — and “Swellfoot” was begun. When finished, it was transmitted to England, printed, and published anonymously; but stifled at the very dawn of its existence by the Society for the Suppression of Vice, who threatened to prosecute it, if not immediately withdrawn. The friend who had taken the trouble of bringing it out, of course did not think it worth the annoyance and expense of a contest, and it was laid aside.

Hesitation of whether it would do honour to Shelley prevented my publishing it at first. But I cannot bring myself to keep back anything he ever wrote; for each word is fraught with the peculiar views and sentiments which he believed to be beneficial to the human race, and the bright light of poetry irradiates every thought. The world has a right to the entire compositions of such a man; for it does not live and thrive by the outworn lesson of the dullard or the hypocrite, but by the original free thoughts of men of genius, who aspire to pluck bright truth

‘from the pale-faced moon;

Or dive into the bottom of the deep

Where fathom-line would never touch the ground,

And pluck up drowned’

truth. Even those who may dissent from his opinions will consider that he was a man of genius, and that the world will take more interest in his slightest word than in the waters of Lethe which are so eagerly prescribed as medicinal for all its wrongs and woe. This drama, however, must not be judged for more than was meant. It is a mere plaything of the imagination; which even may not excite smiles among many, who will not see wit in those combinations of thought which were full of the ridiculous to the author. But, like everything he wrote, it breathes that deep sympathy for the sorrows of humanity, and indignation against its oppressors, which make it worthy of his name.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/shelley/percy_bysshe/s54cp/volume13.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30