[The Flaminian Way outside of Rome. Off the road a wooded hillside. In the background loom the walls and the heights of the city. It is evening.]
[CATILINE stands on the hill among the bushes, leaning against a tree.]
Catiline. I must! I must! A voice deep in my soul
Urges me on — and I will heed its call.
Courage I have and strength for something better,
Something far nobler than this present life —
A series of unbridled dissipations —!
No, no; they do not satisfy the yearning soul.
Catiline. I rave and rave — long only to forget.
’Tis past now — all is past! Life has no aim.
Catiline. [After a pause.]
And what became of all my youthful dreams?
Like flitting summer clouds they disappeared,
Left naught behind but sorrow and remorse; —
Each daring hope in turn fate robbed me of.
[He strikes his forehead.]
Catiline. Despise yourself! Catiline, scorn yourself!
You feel exalted powers in your soul; —
And yet what is the goal of all your struggle?
The surfeiting of sensual desires.
Catiline. [More calmly.]
But there are times, such as the present hour,
When secret longings kindle in my breast.
Ah, when I gaze on yonder city, Rome,
The proud, the rich — and when I see that ruin
And wretchedness to which it now is sunk
Loom up before me like the flaming sun —
Then loudly calls a voice within my soul:
Up, Catiline; — awake and be a man!
Catiline. [Abruptly.] Ah, these are but delusions of the night,
Mere dreaming phantoms born of solitude.
At the slightest sound from grim reality —
They flee into the silent depths within.
[The ambassadors of the Allobroges, AMBIORIX and OLLOVICO, with their Escort, come down the highway without noticing CATILINE.]
Ambiorix. Behold our journey’s end! The walls of Rome!
To heaven aspires the lofty Capitol.
Ollovico. So that is Rome? Italy’s overlord,
Germany’s soon — and Gaul’s as well, perchance.
Ambiorix. Ah, yes, alas; — so it may prove betimes;
The sovereign power of Rome is merciless;
It crushes all it conquers, down to earth.
Now shall we see what lot we may expect:
If here be help against the wrongs at home,
And peace and justice for our native land.
Ollovico. It will be granted us.
Ambiorix. So let us hope;
For we know nothing yet with certainty.
Ollovico. You fear somewhat, it seems?
Ambiorix. And with good reason.
Jealous was ever Rome of her great power.
And bear in mind, this proud and haughty realm
Is not by chieftains ruled, as is our land.
At home the wise man or the warrior reigns —
The first in wisdom and in war the foremost;
Him choose we as the leader of our people,
As arbiter and ruler of our tribe.
But here —
Catiline. [Calls down to them.]
— Here might and selfishness hold sway; —
Intrigue and craft are here the keys to power.
Ollovico. Woe to us, brethren, woe! He spies upon us.
Ambiorix. [To CATILINE.]
Is such the practice of the high-born Roman?
A woman’s trick we hold it in our nation.
Catiline. [comes down on the road.]
Ah, have no fear; — spying is not my business;
By chance it was I heard your conversation. —
Come you from Allobrogia far away?
Justice you think to find in Rome? Ah, never!
Turn home again! Here tyranny holds sway,
And rank injustice lords it more than ever.
Republic to be sure it is in name;
And yet all men are slaves who cringe and cower,
Vassals involved in debt, who must acclaim
A venal senate — ruled by greed and power.
Gone is the social consciousness of old,
The magnanimity of former ages; —
Security and life are favors sold,
Which must be bargained for with hire and wages.
Not righteousness, but power here holds sway;
The noble man is lost among the gilded —
Ambiorix. But say — who then are you to tear away
The pillars of the hope on which we builded?
Catiline. A man who burns in freedom’s holy zeal;
An enemy of all unrighteous power;
Friend of the helpless trodden under heel —
Eager to hurl the mighty from their tower.
Ambiorix. The noble race of Rome —? Ah, Roman, speak —
Since we are strangers here you would deceive us?
Is Rome no more the guardian of the weak,
The dread of tyrants — ready to relieve us?
Catiline. [Points towards the city and speaks.]
Behold the mighty Capitol that towers
On yonder heights in haughty majesty.
See, in the glow of evening how it lowers,
Tinged with the last rays of the western sky. —
So too Rome’s evening glow is fast declining,
Her freedom now is thraldom, dark as night. —
Yet in her sky a sun will soon be shining,
Before which darkness quick will take its flight.
[A colonnade in Rome.]
[LENTULUS, STATILIUS, COEPARIUS, and CETHEGUS enter, in eager conversation.]
Coeparius. Yes, you are right; things go from bad to worse;
And what the end will be I do not know.
Cethegus. Bah! I am not concerned about the end.
The fleeting moment I enjoy; each cup
Of pleasure as it comes I empty — letting
All else go on to ruin as it will.
Lentulus. Happy is he who can. I am not blessed
With your indifference, that can outface
The day when nothing shall be left us more,
Nothing with which to pay the final score.
Statilius. And not the faintest glimpse of better things!
Yet it is true: a mode of life like ours —
Cethegus. Enough of that!
Lentulus. Today because of debt
The last of my inheritance was seized.
Cethegus. Enough of sorrow and complaint! Come, friends!
We’ll drown them in a merry drinking bout!
Coeparius. Yes, let us drink. Come, come, my merry comrades!
Lentulus. A moment, friends; I see old Manlius yonder —
Seeking us out, I think, as is his wont.
Manlius. [Enters impetuously.]
Confound the shabby dogs, the paltry scoundrels!
Justice and fairness they no longer know!
Lentulus. Come, what has happened? Wherefore so embittered?
Statilius. Have usurers been plaguing you as well?
Manlius. Something quite different. As you all know,
I served with honor among Sulla’s troops;
A bit of meadow land was my reward.
And when the war was at an end, I lived
Thereon; it furnished me my daily bread.
Now is it taken from me! Laws decree —
State property shall to the state revert
For equal distribution. Theft, I say —
It is rank robbery and nothing else!
Their greed is all they seek to satisfy.
Coeparius. Thus with our rights they sport to please themselves.
The mighty always dare do what they will.
Cethegus. [Gaily.] Hard luck for Manlius! Yet, a worse mishap
Has come to me, as I shall now relate.
Listen — you know my pretty mistress, Livia —
The little wretch has broken faith with me,
Just now when I had squandered for her sake
The slender wealth that still remained to me.
Statilius. Extravagance — the cause of your undoing.
Cethegus. Well, as you please; but I will not forego
My own desires; these, while the day is fair,
To their full measure I will satisfy.
Manlius. And I who fought so bravely for the glory
And might which now the vaunting tyrants boast!
I shall —! If but the brave old band were here,
My comrades of the battlefield! But no;
The greater part of them, alas, is dead;
The rest live scattering in many lands. —
Manlius. Oh, what are you, the younger blood, to them?
You bend and cringe before authority;
You dare not break the chains that bind you fast;
You suffer patiently this life of bondage!
Lentulus. By all the Gods — although indeed he taunts us,
Yet, Romans, is there truth in what he says.
Cethegus. Oh, well — what of it? He is right, we grant,
But where shall we begin? Ay, there’s the rub.
Lentulus. Yes, it is true. Too long have we endured
This great oppression. Now — now is the time
To break the bonds asunder that injustice
And vain ambition have about us forged.
Statilius. Ah, Lentulus, I understand. Yet hold;
For such a thing we need a mighty leader —
With pluck and vision. Where can he be found?
Lentulus. I know a man who has the power to lead us.
Manlius. Ah, you mean Catiline?
Lentulus. The very man.
Cethegus. Yes, Catiline perchance is just the man.
Manlius. I know him well. I was his father’s friend;
Many a battle side by side we fought.
Often his young son went with him to war.
Even his early years were wild and headstrong;
Yet he gave open proof of rare endowments —
His mind was noble, dauntless was his courage.
Lentulus. We’ll find him, as I think, most prompt and willing.
I met him late this evening much depressed;
He meditates in secret some bold plan; —
Some desperate scheme he long has had in mind.
Statilius. No doubt; the consulate he long has sought.
Lentulus. His efforts are in vain; his enemies
Have madly raged against him in the senate; —
He was himself among them; full of wrath
He left the council — brooding on revenge.
Statilius. Then will he surely welcome our proposal.
Lentulus. I hope so. Yet must we in secret weigh
Our enterprise. The time is opportune.
[In the Temple of Vesta in Rome. On an altar in the background burns a lamp with the sacred fire.]
[CATILINE, followed by CURIUS, comes stealing in between the pillars.]
Curius. What, Catiline — you mean to bring me here?
In Vesta’s temple!
Catiline. [Laughing.] Well, yes; so you see!
Curius. Ye gods — what folly! On this very day
Has Cicero denounced you in the council;
And yet you dare —
Catiline. Oh, let that be forgotten!
Curius. You are in danger, and forget it thus —
By rushing blindly into some new peril.
Catiline. [Gaily.] Well, change is my delight. I never knew
Ere now a vestal’s love — forbidden fruit; —
Wherefore I came to try my fortune here.
Curius. What — here, you say? Impossible! A jest!
Catiline. A jest? Why, yes — as all my loving is.
And yet I was in earnest when I spoke.
During the recent games I chanced to see
The priestesses in long and pompous train.
By accident I cast my roving eye
On one of them — and with a hasty glance
She met my gaze. It pierced me to the soul.
Ah, the expression in those midnight eyes
I never saw before in any woman.
Curius. Yes, yes, I know. But speak — what followed
Catiline. A way into the temple I have found,
And more than once I’ve seen and spoken to her.
Oh, what a difference between this woman
And my Aurelia!
Curius. And you love them both
At once? No — that I cannot understand.
Catiline. Yes, strange, indeed; I scarcely understand myself.
And yet — I love them both, as you have said.
But oh, how vastly different is this love!
The one is kind: Aurelia often lulls
With soothing words my soul to peace and rest; —
But Furia —. Come, away; some one approaches.
[They hide themselves among the pillars.]
Furia. [Enters from the opposite side.]
Oh, hated walls — witnesses of my anguish.
Home of the torment I must suffer still!
My hopes and cherished aspirations languish
Within my bosom — now with feverish chill
Pervaded, now with all the heat of passion,
More hot and burning than yon vestal fire.
Furia. Ah, what a fate! And what was my transgression
That chained me to this temple-prison dire —
That robbed my life of every youthful pleasure —
In life’s warm spring each innocent delight?
Furia. Yet tears I shall not shed in undue measure;
Hatred and vengeance shall my heart excite.
Catiline. [Comes forward.]
Not even for me, my Furia, do you cherish
Another feeling — one more mild than this?
Furia. Ye gods! you, reckless man — you here again?
Do you not fear to come —?
Catiline. I know no fear.
’Twas always my delight to mock at danger.
Furia. Oh, splendid! Such is also my delight; —
This peaceful temple here I hate the more,
Because I live in everlasting calm,
And danger never lurks within its walls.
Furia. Oh, this monotonous, inactive life,
A life faint as the flicker of the lamp —!
How cramped a field it is for all my sum
Of fervid longings and far-reaching plans!
Oh, to be crushed between these narrow walls; —
Life here grows stagnant; every hope is quenched;
The day creeps slowly on in drowsiness —
And not one single thought is turned to deeds.
Catiline. O Furia, strange, in truth, is your complaint!
It seems an echo out of my own soul —
As if with flaming script you sought to paint
My every longing towards a worthy goal.
Rancour and hate in my soul likewise flourish;
My heart — as yours — hate tempers into steel;
I too was robbed of hopes I used to nourish;
An aim in life I now no longer feel.
Catiline. In silence still I mask my grief, my want;
And none can guess what smoulders in my breast.
They scoff and sneer at me — these paltry things;
They can not grasp how high my bosom beats
For right and freedom, all the noble thoughts
That ever stirred within a Roman mind.
Furia. I knew it! Ah, your soul, and yours alone,
Is born for me — thus clearly speaks a voice
That never fails and never plays me false.
Then come! Oh, come — and let us heed the call.
Catiline. What do you mean, my sweet enthusiast?
Furia. Come — let us leave this place, flee far away,
And seek a new and better fatherland.
Here is the spirit’s lofty pride repressed;
Here baseness smothers each auspicious spark
Ere it can break into a burning flame.
Come, let us fly; — lo, to the free-born mind
The world’s wide compass is a fatherland!
Catiline. Oh, irresistibly you lure me on —
Furia. Come, let us use the present moment then!
High o’er the hills, beyond the sea’s expanse —
Far, far from Rome we first will stay our journey.
Thousands of friends will follow you outright;
In foreign lands we shall a home design;
There shall we rule; ’twill there be brought to light
That no hearts ever beat as yours and mine.
Catiline. Oh, wonderful! — But flee? Why must we flee?
Here too our love for freedom can be nourished;
Here also is a field for thought and action,
As vast as any that your soul desires.
Furia. Here, do you say? Here, in this paltry Rome,
Where naught exists but thraldom and oppression?
Ah, Lucius, are you likewise one of those
Who can Rome’s past recall without confession
Of shame? Who ruled here then? Who rule today?
Then an heroic race — and now a rabble,
The slaves of other slaves —
Catiline. Mock me you may; —
Yet know — to save Rome’s freedom from this babble,
To see yet once again her vanished splendor,
Gladly I should, like Curtius, throw myself
Into the abyss —
Furia. I trust you, you alone;
Your eyes glow bright; I know you speak the truth.
Yet go; the priestesses will soon appear;
Their wont it is to meet here at this hour.
Catiline. I go; but only to return again.
A magic power binds me to your side; —
So proud a woman have I never seen.
Furia. [With a wild smile.] Then pledge me this; and
swear that you will keep
Whatever you may promise. Will you, Lucius?
Catiline. I will do aught my Furia may require;
Command me — tell me what am I to promise.
Furia. Then listen. Though I dwell a captive here,
I know there lives a man somewhere in Rome
Whom I have sworn deep enmity to death —
And hatred even beyond the gloomy grave.
Catiline. And then —?
Furia. Then swear, my enemy shall be
Your enemy till death. Will you, my Lucius?
Catiline. I swear it here by all the mighty gods!
I swear it by my father’s honored name
And by my mother’s memory —! But, Furia —
What troubles you? Your eyes are wildly flaming —
And white as marble, deathlike, are your cheeks.
Furia. I do not know myself. A fiery stream
Flows through my veins. Swear to the end your oath!
Catiline. Oh, mighty powers, pour out upon this head
Your boundless fury, let your lightning wrath
Annihilate me, if I break my oath;
Aye, like a demon I shall follow him!
Furia. Enough! I trust you. Ah, my heart is eased.
In your hand now indeed rests my revenge.
Catiline. It shall be carried out. But tell me this —
Who is your foe? And what was his transgression?
Furia. Close by the Tiber, far from the city’s tumult,
My cradle stood; it was a quiet home!
A sister much beloved lived with me there,
A chosen vestal from her childhood days. —
Then came a coward to our distant valley; —
He saw the fair, young priestess of the future —
Catiline. [Surprised.] A priestess? Tell me —! Speak —!
Furia. He ravished her.
She sought a grave beneath the Tiber’s stream.
Catiline. [Uneasy.] You know him?
Furia. I have never seen the man.
When first I heard the tidings, all was past.
His name is all I know.
Catiline. Then speak it out!
Furia. Now is it famed. His name is Catiline.
Catiline. [Taken aback.]
What do you say? Oh, horrors! Furia, speak —!
Furia. Calm yourself! What perturbs you? You grow pale.
My Lucius — is this man perhaps your friend?
Catiline. My friend? Ah, Furia, no; — no longer now.
For I have cursed — and sworn eternal hate
Furia. You — you are Catiline?
Catiline. Yes, I am he.
Furia. My Sylvia you disgraced?
Nemesis then indeed has heard my prayer; —
Vengeance you have invoked on your own head!
Woe on you, man of violence! Woe!
Catiline. How blank
The stare is in your eye. Like Sylvia’s shade
You seem to me in this dim candle light.
[He rushes out; the lamp with the sacred fire goes out.]
Furia. [After a pause.] Yes, now I understand it. From my eyes
The veil is fallen — in the dark I see.
Hatred it was that settled in my breast,
When first I spied him in the market-place.
A strange emotion; like a crimson flame!
Ah, he shall know what such a hate as mine,
Constantly brewing, never satisfied,
Can fashion out in ruin and revenge!
A vestal. [Enters.] Go, Furia, go; your watch is at an end;
Therefore I came —. Yet, sacred goddess, here —
Woe unto you! The vestal fire is dead!
Dead, did you say? So bright it never burned; —
’Twill never, never die!
The vestal. Great heavens — what is this?
Furia. The fires of hate are not thus lightly quenched!
Behold, love bursts forth of a sudden — dies
Within the hour; but hate —
The vestal. By all the gods —
This is sheer madness!
The vestal. Come! Oh, help! Come, help!
[VESTALS and temple SERVANTS rush in.]
Some. What is amiss?
Others. The vestal fire is dead!
Furia. But hate burns on; revenge still blazes high!
The vestals. Away with her to trial and punishment!
[They carry her out between them.]
Curius. [Comes forward.]
To prison now they take her. Thence to death. —
No, no, by all the gods, this shall not be!
Must she, most glorious of womankind,
Thus perish in disgrace, entombed alive? —
Oh, never have I felt so strangely moved.
Is this then love? Yes, love it is indeed. —
Then shall I set her free! — But Catiline?
With hate and vengeance will she follow him.
Has he maligners not enough already?
Dare I still others to their number add?
He was to me as were an elder brother;
And gratitude now bids me that I shield him. —
But what of love? Ah, what does it command?
And should he quake, the fearless Catiline,
Before the intrigues of a woman? No; —
Then to the rescue work this very hour!
Wait, Furia; — I shall drag you from your grave
To life again — though at the risk of death!
[He goes away quickly.]
[A room in CATILINE’s house.]
Catiline. [Enters impetuous and uneasy.]
“Nemesis then indeed has heard my prayer,
Vengeance you have invoked on your own head!”
Such were the words from the enchantress’ lips.
Remarkable! Perchance it was a sign —
A warning of what time will bring to me.
Catiline. Now therefore I have pledged myself on oath
The blood avenger of my own misdeed.
Ah, Furia — still I seem to see your eye,
Wildly aflame like that of death’s own goddess!
Your words still echo hollow in my ears; —
The oath I shall remember all my life.
[During the following AURELIA enters and approaches him unnoticed.]
Catiline. Yet, it is folly now to go on brooding
Upon this nonsense; it is nothing else.
Far better things there are to think upon;
A greater work awaits my energies.
The restless age is urgent with its plea;
Toward this I must direct my thought in season;
Of hope and doubt I am a stormy sea —
Aurelia. [Seizes his hand.]
And may not your Aurelia know the reason?
May she not know what moves within your breast,
What stirs therein and rages with such madness?
May she not cheer and soothe your soul to rest,
And banish from your brow its cloud of sadness?
Catiline. [Tenderly.] O, my Aurelia — O, how kind and tender —.
Yet why should I embitter all your life?
Why should I share with you my many sorrows?
For my sake you have borne enough of anguish.
Henceforth upon my own head I shall bear
What ill-designing fate allotted me —
The curse that lies in such a soul as mine,
Full of great spiritual energies,
Of fervent longings for a life of deeds,
Yet dwarfed in all its work by sordid cares. —
Must you, too, sharing in my wretched life,
Bitter with blasted hopes, then with me perish?
Aurelia. To comfort is the role of every wife,
Though dreams of greatness she may never cherish.
When the man, struggling for his lofty dream,
Reaps nothing but adversity and sorrow —
Her words to him then sweet and tender seem,
And give him strength sufficient for the morrow;
And then he sees that even the quiet life
Has pleasures which the most tumultuous lacks.
Catiline. Yes, you are right; I know it all too well.
And yet I cannot tear myself away.
A ceaseless yearning surges in my breast —
Which only life’s great tumult now can quiet.
Aurelia. Though your Aurelia be not all to you —
Though she can never still your restless soul —
Your heart yet open to a gentle word,
A word of comfort from your loving wife.
Though she may never slake your fiery thirst,
Nor follow in their flight your noble thoughts —
Know this, that she can share your every sorrow,
Has strength and fortitude to ease your burden.
Catiline. Then listen, dear Aurelia; you shall hear
What has of late depressed so deep my spirits.
You know, I long have sought the consulate —
Without avail. You know the whole affair —
How to increase the votes for my election,
I have expended —
Aurelia. Catiline, no more;
You torture me —
Catiline. Do you too blame my course?
What better means therefor had I to choose? —
In vain I lavished all that I possessed;
My one reward was mockery and shame.
Now in the senate has my adversary,
The crafty Cicero, trampled me to earth.
His speech was a portrayal of my life,
So glaring that I, even I, must gasp.
In every look I read dismay and fear;
With loathing people speak of Catiline;
To races yet unborn my name will be
A symbol of a low and dreadful union
Of sensuality and wretchedness,
Of scorn and ridicule for what is noble. —
And there will be no deed to purge this name
And crush to earth the lies that have been told!
Each will believe whatever rumor tells —
Aurelia. But I, dear husband, trust no such reports.
Let the whole world condemn you if it will;
And let it heap disgrace upon your head; —
I know you hide within your inmost soul
A seed that still can blossom and bear fruit.
Only it cannot burst forth here in Rome;
Poisonous weeds would quickly prove the stronger.
Let us forsake this degradation’s home; —
What binds you here? Why should we dwell here longer?
Catiline. I should forsake the field — and go away?
I should my greatest dreams in life surrender?
The drowning man still clutches firm and fast
The broken spars — though hope is frail and slender;
And should the wreck be swallowed in the deep,
And the last hope of rescue fail forever —
Still clings he to the lone remaining spar,
And sinks with it in one last vain endeavor.
Aurelia. But should a kindly seacoast smile on him,
With groves all green along the rolling billows,
Hope then awakens in his heart again —
He struggles inward, toward the silvery willows.
There reigns a quiet peace; ’tis beautiful;
There roll the waves, in silence, without number;
His heated brow sweet evening breezes cool,
As weary-limbed he rests himself in slumber;
Each sorrow-laden cloud they drive away;
A restful calm his weary mind assuages; —
There he finds shelter and prolongs his stay
And soon forgets the sorry by-gone ages.
The distant echo of the world’s unrest
Alone can reach his dwelling unfrequented.
It does not break the calm within his breast; —
It makes his soul more happy and contented;
It calls to mind the by-gone time of strife,
Its shattered hopes and its unbridled pleasures;
He finds twice beautiful this quiet life —
And would not change it for the greatest treasures.
Catiline. You speak the truth; and in this very hour
From strife and tumult I could go with you.
But can you name me some such quiet spot,
Where we can live in shelter and in peace?
Aurelia. [Joyful.] You will go, Catiline? What happiness —
Oh, richer than my bosom can contain!
Let it be so, then! Come! This very night
We’ll go away —
Catiline. But whither shall we go?
Name me the spot where I may dare to rest
My head in homely peace!
Aurelia. How can you ask?
Have you forgot our villa in the country,
Wherein I passed my childhood days, where since,
Enraptured during love’s first happy dawn,
We two spent many a blithesome summer day?
Where was the grass indeed so green as there?
Where else the groves so shady and sweet-smelling?
The snow-white villa from its wooded lair
Peeps forth and bids us there to make our dwelling.
There let us flee and dedicate our life
To rural duties and to sweet contentment; —
You will find comfort in a loving wife,
And through her kisses banish all resentment.
Aurelia. And when with all the flowers of the land
You come to me, your sovereign, in my bowers,
Then shall I crown you with the laurel band,
And cry, All hail to you, my king of flowers! —
But why do you grow pale? Wildly you press
My hand — and strangely now your eyes are glowing —
Catiline. Aurelia, alas, past is your happiness; —
There we can never, never think of going.
There we can never go!
Aurelia. You frighten me!
Yet, surely — you are jesting, Catiline?
Catiline. I jest! Would only that it were a jest!
Each word you speak, like the avenging dart
Of Nemesis, pierces my heavy heart,
Which fate will never grant a moment’s rest.
Aurelia. O gods! speak, speak! What do you mean?
Catiline. See here!
Here is your villa — here your future joys!
[He draws out a purse filled with gold and throws it on the table.]
Aurelia. Oh, you have sold —?
Catiline. Yes — all I sold today; —
And to what end? In order to corrupt —
Aurelia. O Catiline, no more! Let us not think
On this affair; sorrow is all it brings.
Catiline. Your quiet-patience wounds me tenfold more
Than would a cry of anguish from your lips!
[An old SOLDIER enters and approaches CATILINE.]
The soldier. Forgive me, master, that thus unannounced
I enter your abode at this late hour.
Ah, be not wroth —
Catiline. What is your errand here?
The soldier. My errand here is but a humble prayer,
Which you will hear. I am a needy man,
One who has sacrificed his strength for Rome.
Now I am feeble, can no longer serve;
Unused my weapons rust away at home.
The hope of my old age was in a son,
Who labored hard and was my one support.
Alas — in prison now he’s held for debt.
And not a ray of hope —. Oh, help me, master!
The soldier. If but a penny! I have gone on foot
From house to house; each door is long since closed.
I know not what to do —
Catiline. The paltry knaves!
A picture this is of the many’s want.
Thus they reward the old brave company.
No longer gratitude is found in Rome!
Time was I might have wished in righteous wrath
To punish them with sword and crimson flames;
But tender words have just been spoken here;
My soul is moved; I do not wish to punish; —
To ease misfortune likewise is a deed. —
Take this, old warrior; — clear with this your debt.
[He hands him the purse with the gold.]
The soldier. [Rising.]
O gracious lord — dare I believe your words?
Catiline. Yes; but be quick, old man; go free your son.
[The SOLDIER goes hurriedly out.]
Catiline. A better use — not so, Aurelia dear? —
Than bribery and purchasing of votes?
Noble it is to crush the tyrant’s might;
Yet quiet solace too has its reward.
Aurelia. [Throws herself in his arms.]
Oh, rich and noble is your spirit still.
Yes — now I know my Catiline again.
[An underground tomb with a freshly walled-in passage high on the rear wall. A lamp burns faintly.]
[FURIA, in long black robes, is standing in the tomb as if listening.]
Furia. A hollow sound. ’Tis thunder rolls above.
I hear its rumble even in the tomb.
Yet is the tomb itself so still — so still!
Am I forever damned to drowsy rest?
Never again am I to wander forth
By winding paths, as ever was my wish?
Furia. [After a pause.]
A strange, strange life it was; — as strange a fate.
Meteor-like all came — and disappeared.
He met me. A mysterious magic force,
An inner harmony, together drew us.
I was his Nemesis; — and he my victim; —
Yet punishment soon followed the avenger.
Furia. [Another pause.]
Now daylight rules the earth. — Am I perchance
To slip — unknowing — from the realm of light?
’Tis well, if so it be — if this delay
Within the tomb be nothing but a flight
Upon the wings of lightning into Hades —
If I be nearing even now the Styx!
There roll the leaden billows on the shore;
There silently old Charon plies his boat.
Soon am I there! Then shall I seat myself
Beside the ferry — question every spirit,
Each fleeting shadow from the land of life,
As light of foot he nears the river of death —
Shall ask each one in turn how Catiline
Fares now among the mortals of the earth —
Shall ask each one how he has kept his oath.
I shall illumine with blue sulphur light
Each spectral countenance and hollow eye —
To ascertain if it be Catiline.
And when he comes, then shall I follow him; —
Together we shall make the journey hence,
Together enter Pluto’s silent hall.
I too a shadow shall his shade pursue; —
Where Catiline is, must Furia also be!
Furia. [After a pause, more faintly.]
The air is growing close and clammy here —
And every breath in turn more difficult. —
Thus am I drawing near the gloomy swamps,
Where creep the rivers of the underworld.
Furia. [She listens; a dull noise is heard.]
A muffled sound? ’Tis like the stroke of oars.
It is the ferryman of shades who comes
To take me hence. No, here — here will I wait!
[The stones in the freshly walled-in passage are broken asunder. CURIUS comes into view on the outside; he beckons to her.]
Furia. Ah, greetings, Charon! Are you ready now
To lead me hence, a guest among the spirits?
Here will I wait!
Curius. [Whispering.] I come to set you free!
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10