[CATILINE’s camp in a wooded field in Etruria. To the right is seen CATILINE’s tent and close by it an old oak tree. A camp fire is burning outside the tent; similar fires are to be seen among the trees in the background. It is night. At intervals the moon breaks through the clouds.]
[STATILIUS lies stretched out asleep by the camp fire. MANLIUS paces back and forth in front of the tent.]
Manlius. Such is the way of young and buoyant souls.
They slumber on as peaceful and secure
As though embosomed in their mothers’ arms,
Instead of in a forest wilderness.
They rest as though they dream some merry game
Were held in store for them when they awake,
Instead of battle — the last one, perchance,
That will be theirs to fight.
Statilius. [Awakes and rises.] Still standing guard?
You must be weary? I’ll relieve you now.
Manlius. Go rest yourself instead. Youth needs his sleep;
His untamed passions tax his native strength.
’Tis otherwise when once the hair turns gray,
When in our veins the blood flows lazily,
And age weighs heavily upon our shoulders.
Statilius. Yes, you are right. Thus I too shall in time,
An old and hardened warrior —
Manlius. Are you sure
The fates decreed you such a destiny?
Statilius. And pray, why not? Why all these apprehensions?
Has some misfortune chanced?
Manlius. You think no doubt
That we have naught to fear, foolhardy youth?
Statilius. Our troops are strongly reenforced —
Manlius. Indeed —
With fugitive slaves and gladiators —
Statilius. Well —
Grant that they are; together they may prove
No little aid, and all the tribes of Gaul
Will send us help —
Manlius. — Which has not yet arrived.
Statilius. You doubt that the Allobroges will keep
Their promised word?
Manlius. I know these people well
From days gone by. However, let that pass.
The day that dawns will doubtless bring to light
What destinies the gods have set for us.
Manlius. But go the rounds, my friend, and ascertain
If all the guards perform their proper tasks.
For we must fend against a night attack;
We know not where the enemy makes his stand.
[STATILIUS goes into the forest.]
Manlius. [Alone by the camp fire.]
The clouds begin to gather thick and fast;
It is a dark and storm-presaging night; —
A misty fog hangs heavy on my breast,
As though foreboding mishap to us all.
Where is it now, that easy carefree spirit
With which in former times I went to war?
Ah, can it be the weight of years alone
That now I feel? Strange — strange, indeed — last night
Even the young seemed sorely out of heart.
Manlius. [After a pause.]
The gods shall know revenge was not the aim
For which I joined and followed Catiline.
My wrath flared up within me for a space
When first I felt I had been wronged, insulted; —
The old blood is not yet entirely cold;
Now and again it courses warmly through my veins.
But the humiliation is forgotten.
I followed Catiline for his own sake;
And I shall watch o’er him with zealous care.
Here stands he all alone amidst these hosts
Of paltry knaves and dissolute companions.
They cannot comprehend him — he in turn
Is far too proud to wish to fathom them.
[He throws some branches on the fire and remains standing in silence. CATILINE comes out of the tent.]
Catiline. [To himself.]
Midnight approaches. Everything is hushed; —
Only to my poor eyes sleep fails to come.
Cold is the night wind; ’twill refresh my soul
And give me strength anew —. I sorely need it!
[He becomes aware of MANLIUS.]
Catiline. ’Tis you, old Manlius? And do you stand guard
Alone on such a night?
Manlius. Oft have I stood
Guard over you in childhood’s early days.
Say, do you not recall?
Catiline. Those days are gone;
With them, my peace; wherever now I go,
I’m haunted by a multitude of visions.
All things find shelter in my bosom, Manlius; —
Save peace alone. That — that is far away.
Manlius. Cast off these gloomy thoughts and take your rest!
Remember that the morrow may require
Your utmost strength for our deliverance.
Catiline. I cannot rest. If I but close my eyes
One fleeting moment in forgetful slumber,
I’m tossed about in strange, fantastic dreams.
Here on my couch I lay now, half asleep,
When these same visions reappeared again,
More strange than ever — more mysterious
And puzzling —. Ah, if I could only know
What this forebodes! But no —
Manlius. Confide your dream
To me. Perhaps I can expound its meaning.
Catiline. [After a pause.]
If I slept or if I waked, scarcely can I say;
Visions fast pursued each other in a mad array.
Soon a deepening twilight settles over everything;
And a night swoops down upon me on her wide-spread wing,
Terrible and dark, unpierced, save by the lightning’s flare;
I am in a grave-like dungeon, filled with clammy air.
Lofty is the ceiling and with thunderclouds o’ercast;
Multitudes of shadow forms go racing wildly past,
Whirl around in roaring eddies, as the ocean wave
Draws the raging storm and breaks against a rocky cave.
Yet amid this frenzied tumult children often come,
Decked in flowers, singing of a half-forgotten home.
Soon the darkness round them changes to a vivid glare —
Dimly in the center I descry a lonely pair;
Ah, two women — stern the one and gloomy as the night —
And the other gentle, like the evening in its flight.
How familiar to my eyes the two lone figures seemed!
With her smiling countenance the one upon me beamed;
Like the zigzag lightning flashed the other’s piercing eye;
Terror seized my soul — yet on I gazed in ecstasy.
Proudly upright stands the one, the other leans in weariness
On the solitary table, where they play a game of chess.
Pawns they barter, or they move them now from place to place; —
Then the game is lost and won — she fades away in space —
She who radiantly smiled, ah, she who lost the game;
Instantly the bands of children vanish whence they came.
Tumult rises; darkness deepens; but from out the night
Two eyes fix upon me, in a victor’s gloating right;
Then my brain reels; I see nothing but those baleful eyes.
But what else I dreamed of in that frenzied slumber lies
Far within me hidden, buried deep beyond recall.
Could I but remember. Gone forever is it all.
Manlius. Remarkable, indeed, my Catiline,
Is this your dream.
Catiline. [Meditating.] If I could but remember —
But no; my memory fails me —
Manlius. Brood no longer
Upon these thoughts. For what are dreams, indeed,
But pale chimeras only, darkling visions,
On nothing founded, and by naught explained?
Catiline. Yes, you are right; I will no longer brood; —
Already I am calm. But go your way;
You need some rest. The meanwhile I shall walk
In privacy and meditate my plans.
[MANLIUS goes into the forest.]
Catiline. [Paces for some time back and forth by the
camp fire, which is about to go out; then he stops and
speaks thoughtfully.] If I could only —. Ah, it is unmanly
To brood and be distressed by thoughts like these.
And yet — here in the stillness of the night,
This lonely solitude, again I see
Rising before me life-like all I dreamed.
[A SHADOW, attired like an old warrior in armor and toga, stems to rise from the earth among the trees a short distance from him.]
Catiline. [Recoils before THE SHADOW.]
Great powers of heaven —!
The shadow. Greetings, Catiline!
Catiline. What will you have? Who are you, pallid shade?
The shadow. One moment! It is here my right to question —
And you shall answer. Do you no longer know
This voice from ages long since passed away?
Catiline. Methinks I do; yet certain I am not —.
But speak, whom seek you at this midnight hour?
The shadow. ’Tis you I seek. Know that this hour alone
Is granted me as respite here on earth.
Catiline. By all the gods! Who are you? Speak!
The shadow. Be calm!
Hither I come to call you to account.
Why do you envy me the peace of death?
Why do you drive me from my earthy dwelling?
Why do you mar my rest with memories,
That I must seek you, whisper menaces,
To guard the honor I so dearly bought?
Catiline. Alas! this voice —! Somehow I seem to know —
The shadow. What is there left of my imperial power?
A shadow like myself; yes, scarcely that.
Both sank into the grave — and came to naught.
’Twas dearly bought; dear, dear was it attained.
For it I sacrificed all peace in life,
And waived all claims to peace beyond the grave.
And now you come and want to wrest from me
With daring hands what little I have left.
Are there not paths enough to noble deeds?
Why must you choose the one that I have chosen?
I gave up everything in life to power;
My name — so dreamed I— should forever stand,
Not beaming like a star with friendly lustre —
No, like a flash against the midnight sky!
I did not covet fame, the goal of hundreds,
For magnanimity and noble deeds;
Nor admiration; — far too many share
That fate already: so will many more
Until the end of time. Of blood and horror
I wished to build me my renown and fame.
With silent dread, as on some meteor
That now appears in mystery and is gone
Again — men should gaze back upon my life,
And look askance on me, whom no one ever,
Before or since then, dared to emulate.
Yes, thus I dreamed and dreamed — and was deceived.
Why did I not surmise, when you stood near me,
The secret thoughts then growing in your soul.
Yet, Catiline, beware; know that I see
Beyond the veil that hides from you the future.
Written among the stars — I read your fate!
Catiline. You read my fate? Expound it then to me!
The shadow. No, first beyond death’s gloomy gate
Shall fade away the mists that hide
The gruesome and the nobly great,
Borne ever on by time and tide.
This from thy book of fate alone
A liberated soul may tell thee:
Perish thou shalt by deed thine own,
And yet a stranger’s hand shall fell thee.
[THE SHADOW glides away as in a mist.]
Catiline. [After a pause.]
Ah, he has vanished. Was it but a dream?
No, no; even here he stood; the moonbeams played
Upon his sallow visage. Yes, I knew him!
It was the man of blood, the old dictator,
Who sallied from his grave to frighten me.
He feared lest he should lose the victor’s crown —
Not the reward of honor, but the terror
Whereby his memory lives. Are bloodless shades
Spurred onward also by the thought of glory?
[Paces to and fro uneasily.]
Catiline. All things storm in upon me. Now Aurelia
In gentle admonition speaks — and now
In me reëchoes Furia’s warning cry.
Nay, more than that; — out of the grave appear
The pallid shadows of a by-gone age.
They threaten me. I should now stop and pause?
I should turn back? No. I shall venture on
Unfaltering; — the victory soon is mine!
[CURIUS comes through the forest in great agitation.]
Curius. O Catiline —!
Catiline. [Surprised.] What, you — you here, my friend!
Curius. I had to —
Catiline. Wherefore staid you not in town?
Curius. Fear prompted me; I had to seek you here.
Catiline. You rush for my sake blindly into danger.
You thoughtless lad! Yet, come into my arms!
[Moves to embrace him.]
Curius. [Draws back.]
No! Do not touch me! Do not even come near me!
Catiline. What ails you, my dear Curius?
Curius. Up! Break camp!
Flee, if you can, even this very hour!
On every highway come the enemy troops;
Your camp is being surrounded.
Catiline. Calm yourself;
You rave. Speak, has the journey shaken you —?
Curius. Oh no; but save yourself while there is time!
You are betrayed —
[Prostrates himself before him.]
Catiline. [Starts back.] Betrayed! What are you saying?
Curius. Betrayed by one in friendly guise!
Catiline. You err;
These stormy friends are loyal even as you.
Curius. Then woe to you for all their loyalty!
Catiline. Compose yourself! It is your love for me,
Your interest in my safety, that has wakened
Imaginary dangers in your mind.
Curius. Oh, do you know these words do murder me?
But flee! I do entreat you earnestly —
Catiline. Be calm and speak your mind. Why should I flee?
The enemy knows not where I make my stand.
Curius. Indeed he does — he knows your every plan!
Catiline. What, are you mad? He knows —? Impossible!
Curius. Oh, were it so! But use the hour remaining;
Still you may save yourself perhaps in flight!
Catiline. Betrayed? No — ten times no; impossible!
Curius. [Seizes his dagger and holds it out to him.]
Catiline, plunge this dagger in my bosom; —
Straight through the heart! ’Twas I betrayed your plans!
Catiline. You? What madness!
Curius. Yes, it was in madness!
Ask not the reason; scarce I know myself;
I say — I have revealed your every counsel.
Catiline. [In bitter grief.]
Now have you killed my faith in sacred friendship!
Curius. Oh, send the dagger home, and torture me
No longer with forbearance —!
Catiline. [Kindly.] Live, my Curius!
Arise! You erred; — but I forgive you all.
O Catiline, my heart is crushed with grief —!
But hasten; flee! There is no time to tarry.
Soon will the Roman troops invade your camp;
They’re under way; on every side they come.
Catiline. Our comrades in the city —?
Curius. They are captured; —
Some were imprisoned, most of them were killed!
Catiline. [To himself.] What fate — what fate!
Curius. [Again holds out the dagger to him.]
Then plunge it in my heart!
Catiline. [Looks at him calmly.] No, you were but a tool.
You acted well —
Curius. Oh, let me die and expiate my sin!
Catiline. I have forgiven you.
Catiline. [As he goes.] But one thing now
Is there to choose!
Curius. [Jumps up.] Yes, flight!
Catiline. Heroic death!
[He goes away through the forest.]
Curius. ’Tis all in vain! Ruin awaits him here.
This mildness is a tenfold punishment!
I’ll follow him; one thing I shall be granted:—
To perish fighting by the hero’s side!
[He rushes out. LENTULUS and TWO GLADIATORS come stealing among the trees.]
Lentulus. [Softly.] Some one was speaking —
One of the gladiators. Aye, but now all’s quiet.
The other gladiator. Perchance it was the sentinel relieved
Lentulus. That may be. This is the place;
Here shall you wait. Are both your weapons sharp,
Ground for their purpose?
The first gladiator. Bright as is the lightning!
The second gladiator.
Mine, too, cuts well. In the last Roman games
Two gladiators died beneath this sword.
Lentulus. Then stand you ready in this thicket here.
And when a man, whom I shall designate,
Goes toward the tent, then shall you rush out quick
And strike him from behind.
The first gladiator. It shall be done!
[Both GLADIATORS conceal themselves; LENTULUS goes spying around.]
Lentulus. [To himself.]
It is a daring game I here attempt; —
Yet must it be performed this very night,
If done at all. — If Catiline should fall,
No one can lead them on except myself;
I’ll purchase them with golden promises,
And march without delay upon the city,
Where still the senate, struck with panic fear,
Neglects to arm itself against the danger.
[He goes in among the trees.]
The first gladiator. [Softly to the other.]
Who is this stranger we must fall upon?
The second gladiator. What matters it to us who he may be?
Lentulus pays our hire; the blame is his:
He must himself defend the act we do.
Lentulus. [Returns quickly.]
Stand ready now; the man we wait is coming!
[LENTULUS and the GLADIATORS lie in wait among the bushes.]
[Soon after, CATILINE comes through the forest and goes toward the tent.]
Out! Fall upon him! Strike him from behind!
[All three rush on CATILINE.]
Catiline. [Draws his sword and defends himself.]
Ah, scoundrels — do you dare to —?
Lentulus. [To the GLADIATORS.] Cut him down!
Catiline. [Recognizes him.]
You, Lentulus, would murder Catiline?
The first gladiator. [Terrified.] He it is!
The second gladiator. [Draws back.] Catiline! I’ll never use
The sword on him. Come flee!
[Both GLADIATORS make their escape.]
Lentulus. Then die by mine!
[They fight; CATILINE strikes the sword from the hand of Lentulus; the latter tries to escape, but CATILINE holds him fast.]
Catiline. Murderer! Traitor!
Lentulus. [Entreating.] Mercy, Catiline!
Catiline. I spell your plans upon your countenance.
You wished to murder me, and put yourself
Into the chieftain’s place. Was it not so?
Lentulus. Yes, Catiline, it was even so!
Catiline. [Looks at him with repressed scorn.] What then?
If ’tis the power you want — so let it be!
Lentulus. Explain — what do you mean?
Catiline. I shall resign;
And you may lead the army —
Lentulus. [Surprised.] You resign?
Catiline. I shall. But be prepared for all events;
Know this — our undertaking is revealed:
The senate is informed of every plan;
Its troops hem us about —
Lentulus. What do you say?
Catiline. Now shall I call a council of our friends;
Do you come too — announce your leadership;
I shall resign.
Lentulus. [Detains him.] One moment, Catiline!
Catiline. Your time is precious; ere the dawn of day
You may expect an onslaught —
Lentulus. [Anxiously.] Hear me, friend!
Surely you jest? It is impossible —
Catiline. Our project, I have told you, is betrayed.
Show now your firmness and sagacity!
Lentulus. Betrayed? Then woe to us!
Catiline. [Smiles scornfully.] You paltry coward!
You tremble now; — yet you would murder me;
You think a man like you is called to rule?
Lentulus. Forgive me, Catiline!
Catiline. Make your escape
By hurried flight, if still it can be done.
Lentulus. Ah, you permit me then —?
Catiline. And did you think
It was my purpose to forsake this post
In such an hour as this? You little know me.
Lentulus. O, Catiline —!
Catiline. [Coldly.] Waste not your moments here!
Seek your own safety; — I know how to die.
[He turns away from him.]
Lentulus. [To himself.]
I thank you for these tidings, Catiline; —
I shall make use of them to serve my end.
’Twill stand me in good stead now that I know
This region well; I’ll seek the hostile army
And guide it hitherward by secret paths,
To your destruction and to my salvation. —
The serpent that you trample in the dust
So arrogantly still retains its sting!
Catiline. [After a pause.]
This is the trust I built my hopes upon!
Thus one by one they leave me. Oh ye gods!
Treason and cowardice alone stir up
The sullen currents of their slavish souls.
Oh, what a fool am I with all my hopes!
I would destroy yon viper’s nest, that Rome —
Which is long since a heap of sunken ruins.
[The sound of arms is heard approaching; he listens.]
Catiline. They come, they come! Still are there valiant men
Among them. Ah, the joyous clang of steel!
The merry clash of shields against each other!
Anew the fire kindles in my breast;
The reckoning is near — the mighty hour
That settles every doubt. I hail the day!
[MANLIUS, STATILIUS, GABINIUS, and many OTHER CONSPIRATORS come through the forest.]
Manlius. Here, Catiline, come your friends and comrades true;
In camp I spread the alarm, as you commanded —
Catiline. And have you told them —?
Manlius. Yes — they know our plight.
Statilius. We know it well, and we shall follow you
With sword in hand to fight for life and death.
Catiline. I thank you all, my comrades brave in arms!
But do not think, my friends, that life or death
Is ours to choose; — our only choice is this:
Death in heroic battle with the foe,
Or death by torture when like savage beasts
We shall be hounded down relentlessly.
Ah, which do you prefer? To risk in flight
A wretched life prolonged in misery,
Or like your proud and worthy sires of old
To perish nobly on the battlefield?
Gabinius. We choose to fight and die!
Many voices. Lead us to death!
Catiline. Then let us be off! Through death we shall achieve
The glorious life of immortality.
Our fall, our name, through distant generations
Shall be proclaimed with lofty pride —
Furia. [Calls out behind him among the trees.] — O terror!
Some voices. Behold — a woman —!
Catiline. [Startled.] Furia! You — you here?
What brought you here?
Furia. Ah, I must lead you on
To your great goal.
Catiline. Where is my goal, then? Speak!
Furia. Each mortal seeks his goal in his own way.
And you seek yours through ever hopeless strife;
The struggle yields defeat and certain death.
Catiline. Yet also honor and immortal fame!
Go, woman! Great and noble is this hour!
My heart is closed against your raucous cries.
[AURELIA appears in the door of the tent.]
Aurelia. My Catiline —!
[She stops, terrified at the sight of the throng.]
Catiline. [Painfully.] Aurelia — oh, Aurelia!
Aurelia. What is the trouble? All this stir in camp —
What is on foot here?
Catiline. You I could forget!
What will your fate be now —?
Furia. [Whispers scornfully, unnoticed by AURELIA.]
Already wavering in your high resolve?
Is this your death defiance?
Catiline. [Flaring up.] No, by the gods!
Aurelia. [Comes nearer.]
Oh, speak, beloved! Keep me in doubt no longer —
Furia. [In an undertone behind him.]
Flee with your wife — the while your comrades die!
Manlius. Tarry no longer; lead us out to battle —
Catiline. Oh, what a choice! And yet — here is no choice; —
I must go on — I dare not stop midway.
Catiline. [Calls out.] Then follow me to battle on the plain!
Aurelia. [Throws herself in his arms.]
Catiline — do not leave me — take me with you!
Catiline. No, stay, Aurelia!
Furia. [As before.] Take her, Catiline!
Worthy your death will be, as was your life,
When you are vanquished — in a woman’s arms!
Catiline. [Thrusts AURELIA aside.]
Away, you who would rob me of my fame!
Death shall o’ertake me in the midst of men.
I have a life to atone, a name to clear —
Furia. Just so; just so, my gallant Catiline!
Catiline. All things I will uproot from out my soul
That bind me to my life of empty dreams!
All that is of the past shall henceforth be
As if ’twere not —
Aurelia. Oh, cast me not away!
By all the love I bear you, Catiline —
I beg you, I adjure — let us not part!
Catiline. My heart is dead, my sight is blind to love.
From life’s great mockery I turn my eyes;
And gaze but on the dim, yet mighty star
Of fame that is to be!
Aurelia. O gods of mercy!
[She leans faint against the tree outside the tent.]
Catiline. [To the Warriors.] And now away!
Manlius. The din of arms I hear!
Several voices. They come, they come.
Catiline. Good! We will heed their warning.
Long was our night of shame; our dawn is near —.
To battle in the crimson sky of morning!
By Roman sword, with Roman fortitude,
The last of Romans perish in their blood!
[They rush out through the forest; a great alarm, rent with battle-cries, is heard from within the camp.]
Furia. He is gone forever. My great task in life is done.
Cold and rigid we shall find him in the morning sun.
In his passion-glutted bosom then should love no longer dwell?
Was it nothing but a dream? His angry words I heard full well.
Furia. Hark, the weapons clash; already at the brink
of death he stands;
Soon a noiseless shadow he will hasten toward the spirit
Who are you, prophetic voice, that yonder comes to me,
Like the night-owl’s cry of warning from some far-off tree!
Are you from the clammy underworld of spirits come
Hence to lead my Catiline into your gloomy home?
Furia. Home is ay the journey’s goal, and all his wanderings lay
Through the reeking swamps of life —
Aurelia. But only for a day.
Free and noble was his heart, his spirit strong and true,
Till around it serpent-like a poisoned seedling grew.
So the plane-tree, too, keeps fresh and green its leafy dress,
Till its trunk is smothered in a clinging vine’s caress.
Now did you betray your source. For time and time again
Echoed from the lips of Catiline this one refrain.
You the serpent are, who poisoned all my joy in life,
Steeled his heart against my kindness through your deadly strife.
From those waking night-dreams well I know your infamy,
Like a threat I see you stand between my love and me.
With my husband at my side I cherished in my breast
Longings for a tranquil life, a home of peace and rest.
Ah, a garden-bed I planted in his weary heart;
As its fairest ornament our love I hedged apart.
Flower and all have you uprooted with malignant hand;
In the dust it lies where thriving it did lately stand.
Furia. Foolish weakling; you would guide the steps of Catiline?
Do you not perceive his heart was never wholly thine?
Think you that in such a soil your flower can survive?
In the sunny springtime only violets can thrive,
While the henbane grows in strength beneath a clouded grey;
And his soul was long ago a clouded autumn day.
All is lost to you. Soon dies the spark within his breast;
As a victim of revenge he shall go to his rest.
Aurelia. [With increasing vehemence.]
Thus he shall not perish; no, by all the gods of day!
To his weary heart my tears will somehow force a way.
If I find him pale and gory on the battlefield,
I shall throw my arms about him and his bosom shield,
Breathe upon his speechless lips the love within my soul,
Ease the pain within him and his suffering mind console.
Herald of revenge, your victim from you I shall wrest,
Bind him to the land of sunshine, to a home of rest;
If his eyes be dimmed already, stilled his beating heart,
Linked together arm in arm we shall this life depart.
Grant me, gods of mercy, in return for what I gave,
By the side of him I love, the stillness of the grave.
Furia. [Gazes after her.]
Seek him, deluded soul; — I have no fear;
I hold the victory safe within my hands.
Furia. The roar of battle grows; its rumble blends
With death-cries and the crash of broken shields.
Is he perchance now dying? Still alive?
Oh, blessed is this hour! The sinking moon
Secludes herself in massive thunderclouds.
One moment more it will be night anew
Ere comes the day; — and with the coming day
All will be over. In the dark he dies,
As in the dark he lived. O blessed hour!
Furia. Now sweeps the wind by, like an autumn gust,
And lapses slowly in the far-off distance.
The ponderous armies slowly sweep the plain.
Like angry ocean billows on they roll,
Unyielding, trampling down the fallen dead.
Out yonder I hear whines and moans and sighs —
The final lullaby — wherewith they lull
Themselves to rest and all their pallid brothers.
Now speaks the night-owl forth to welcome them
Into the kingdom of the gloomy shadows.
Furia. [After a pause.]
How still it is. Now is he mine at last —
Aye, mine alone, and mine forevermore.
Now we can journey toward the river Lethe —
And far beyond where never dawns the day.
Yet first I’ll seek his bleeding body yonder,
And freely glut my eyes upon those features,
Hated and yet so fair, ere they be marred
By rising sunshine and by watchful vultures.
[She starts to go, but is suddenly startled at something.]
Furia. What is that gliding o’er the meadow yonder?
Is it the misty vapors of the moor
That form a picture in the morning chill?
Now it draws near. — The shade of Catiline!
His spectre —! I can see his misty eye,
His broken shield, his sword bereft of blade.
Ah, he is surely dead; one thing alone —
Remarkable — his wound I do not see.
[CATILINE comes through the forest, pale and weary, with drooping head and troubled countenance.]
Catiline. [To himself.] “Perish thou shalt by deed thine own,
And yet a stranger’s hand shall fell thee.”
Such was his prophecy. Now am I fallen —
Though struck by no one. Who will solve the riddle?
Furia. I greet you after battle, Catiline!
Catiline. Ah, who are you?
Furia. I am a shadow’s shadow.
Catiline. You, Furia — you it is! You welcome me?
Furia. Welcome at last into our common home!
Now we can go — two shades — to Charon’s bark.
Yet first — accept the wreath of victory.
[She picks some flowers, which she weaves into a wreath during the following.]
Catiline. What make you there?
Furia. Your brow I shall adorn.
But wherefore come you hither all alone?
A chieftain’s ghost ten thousand dead should follow.
Then where are all your comrades, Catiline?
Catiline. They slumber, Furia!
Furia. Ah, they slumber still?
Catiline. They slumber still — and they will slumber long.
They slumber all. Steal softly through the forest,
Peer out across the plain — disturb them not!
There will you find them in extended ranks.
They fell asleep lulled by the clang of steel;
They fell asleep — and wakened not, as I did,
When in the distant hills the echoes died.
A shadow now you called me. True, I am
A shadow of myself. But do not think
Their slumber yonder is so undisturbed
And void of dreams. Oh, do not think so!
What may your comrades dream?
Catiline. Ah, you shall hear. —
I led the battle with despairing heart,
And sought my death beneath the play of swords.
To right and left I saw my comrades fall;
Statilius first — then one by one the rest;
My Curius fell trying to shield my breast;
All perished there beneath Rome’s flaming sword —
The sword that me alone passed by untouched.
Yes, Catiline was spared by the sword of Rome.
Half-stunned I stood there with my broken shield,
Aware of nothing as the waves of battle
Swept o’er me. I recovered first my senses
When all grew still again, and I looked up
And saw the struggle seething — far behind me!
How long I stood there? Only this I know —
I stood alone among my fallen comrades.
But there was life within those misty eyes;
The corners of their mouths betrayed a smile;
And they addressed their smile and gaze to me,
Who stood alone erect among the dead —
Who had for ages fought for them and Rome —
Who stood there lonely and disgraced, untouched
By Roman sword. Then perished Catiline.
Furia. False have you read your fallen comrades’ dreams;
False have you judged the reason of your fall.
Their smiles and glances were but invitations
To sleep with them —
Catiline. Yes, if I only could!
Furia. Have courage — spectre of a former hero;
Your hour of rest is near. Come, bend your head; —
I shall adorn you with the victor’s crown.
[She offers the wreath to him.]
Catiline. Bah — what is that? A poppy-wreath —!
Furia. [With wild glee.] Well, yes;
Are not such poppies pretty? They will glow
Around your forehead like a fringe of blood.
Catiline. No, cast the wreath away! I hate this crimson.
Furia. [Laughs aloud.]
Ah, you prefer the pale and feeble shades?
Good! I shall bring the garland of green rushes
That Sylvia carried in her dripping locks,
The day she came afloat upon the Tiber?
Catiline. Alas, what visions —!
Furia. Shall I bring you rather
The thorny brambles from the market-place,
With crimson-spots, the stain of civic blood,
That flowed at your behest, my Catiline?
Furia. Or would you like a crown of leaves
From the old winter oak near mother’s home,
That withered when a young dishonored woman
With piercing cries distraught leaped in the river?
Catiline. Pour out at once your measures of revenge
Upon my head —
Furia. I am your very eye —
Your very memory, your very doom.
Catiline. But wherefore now?
Furia. His goal at length attained,
The traveller spent looks back from whence he came.
Catiline. Have I then reached my goal? Is this the goal?
I am no longer living — nor yet buried.
Where lies the goal?
Furia. In sight — if you but will.
Catiline. A will I have no longer; my will perished
When all the things I willed once, came to naught.
Catiline. [Waves his arms.]
Away — away from me, ye sallow shades!
What claim you here of me, ye men and women?
I cannot give you —! Oh, this multitude —!
Furia. To earth your spirit still is closely bound!
These thousand-threaded nets asunder tear!
Come, let me press this wreath upon your locks —
’Tis gifted with a strong and soothing virtue;
It kills the memory, lulls the soul to rest!
It kills the memory? Dare I trust your word?
Then press your poison-wreath upon my forehead.
Furia. [Puts the wreath on his head.]
Now it is yours! Thus decked you shall appear
Before the prince of darkness, Catiline!
Catiline. Away! away! I yearn to go below; —
I long to pass into the spirit lands.
Let us together go! What holds me here?
What stays my steps? Behind me here I feel
Upon the morning sky a misty star; —
It holds me in the land of living men;
It draws me as the moon attracts the sea.
Furia. Away! Away!
Catiline. It beckons and it twinkles.
I cannot follow you until this light
Is quenched entirely, or by clouds obscured —
I see it clearly now; ’tis not a star;
It is a human heart, throbbing and warm;
It binds me here; it fascinates and draws me
As draws the evening star the eye of children.
Furia. Then stop this beating heart!
Catiline. What do you mean?
Furia. The dagger in your belt —. A single thrust —
The star will vanish and the heart will die
That stand between us like an enemy.
Catiline. Ah, I should —? Sharp and shining is the
Catiline. [With a cry.]
Aurelia! O Aurelia, where — where are you?
Were you but here —! No, no — I will not see you!
And yet methinks all would be well again,
And peace would come, if I could lay my head
Upon your bosom and repent — repent!
Furia. And what would you repent?
Catiline. Oh, everything!
That I have been, that I have ever lived.
Furia. ’Tis now too late — too late! Whence now you stand
No path leads back again. — Go try it, fool!
Now am I going home. Place you your head
Upon her breast and see if there you find
The blessed peace your weary soul desires.
Furia. [With increasing wildness.]
Soon will the thousand dead rise up again;
Dishonored women will their numbers join;
And all — aye, they will all demand of you
The life, the blood, the honor you destroyed.
In terror you will flee into the night —
Will roam about the earth on every strand,
Like old Actean, hounded by his dogs —
A shadow hounded by a thousand shades!
Catiline. I see it, Furia. Here I have no peace.
I am an exile in the world of light!
I’ll go with you into the spirit realms; —
The bond that binds me I will tear asunder.
Furia. Why grope you with the dagger?
Catiline. She shall die.
[The lightning strikes and the thunder rolls.]
Furia. The mighty powers rejoice at your resolve! —
See, Catiline — see, yonder comes your wife.
[AURELIA comes through the forest in an anxious search.]
Aurelia. Where shall I find him? Where — where can he be!
I’ve searched in vain among the dead —
Aurelia. Great heavens —
[She rushes toward him.]
Catiline. [Bewildered.] Speak not that name again!
Aurelia. You are alive?
[Is about to throw herself in his arms.]
Catiline. [Thrusting her aside.] Away! I’m not alive.
Aurelia. Oh, hear me, dearest —!
Catiline. No, I will not hear!
I hate you. I see through your cunning wiles.
You wish to chain me to a living death.
Cease staring at me! Ah, your eyes torment me —
They pierce like daggers through my very soul!
Ah, yes, the dagger! Die! Come, close your eyes —
[He draws the dagger and seizes her by the hand.]
Aurelia. Keep guard, oh gracious gods, o’er him and me!
Catiline. Quick, close your eyes; close them, I say; — in them
I see the starlight and the morning sky —.
Now shall I quench the heavenly star of dawn!
[The thunder rolls again.]
Catiline. Your heart; your blood! Now speak the gods of life
Their last farewell to you and Catiline!
[He lifts the dagger toward her bosom; she escapes into the tent; he pursues her.]
Furia. [Listens.] She stretches out her hand imploringly.
She pleads with him for life. He hears her not.
He strikes her down! She reels in her own blood!
[CATILINE comes slowly out of the tent with the dagger in his hand.]
Catiline. Now am I free. Soon I shall cease to be.
Now sinks my soul in vague oblivion.
My eyes are growing dim, my hearing faint,
As if through rushing waters. Ah, do you know
What I have slain with this my little dagger?
Not her alone — but all the hearts on earth —
All living things, all things that grow and bloom; —
The starlight have I dimmed, the crescent moon,
The flaming sun. Ah, see — it fails to rise;
’Twill never rise again; the sun is dead.
Now is the whole wide realm of earth transformed
Into a huge and clammy sepulchre,
Its vault of leaden grey; — beneath this vault
Stand you and I, bereft of light and darkness,
Of death and life — two restless exiled shadows.
Furia. Now stand we, Catiline, before our goal!
Catiline. No, one step more — before I reach my goal.
Relieve me of my burden! Do you not see,
I bend beneath the corpse of Catiline?
A dagger through the corpse of Catiline!
[He shows her the dagger.]
Catiline. Come, Furia, set me free! Come, take this dagger; —
On it the star of morning I impaled; —
Take it — and plunge it straightway through the corpse;
Then it will loose its hold, and I am free.
Furia. [Takes the dagger.]
Your will be done, whom I have loved in hate!
Shake off your dust and come with me to rest.
[She buries the dagger deep in his heart; he sinks down at the foot of the tree.]
Catiline. [After a moment comes to consciousness
again, passes his hand across his forehead, and speaks
faintly.] Now, mysterious voice, your prophecy I understand!
I shall perish by my own, yet by a stranger’s hand.
Nemesis has wrought her end. Shroud me, gloom of night!
Raise your billows, murky Styx, roll on in all your might!
Ferry me across in safety; speed the vessel on
Toward the silent prince’s realm, the land of shadows wan.
Two roads there are running yonder; I shall journey dumb
Toward the left —
Aurelia. [From the tent, pale and faltering, her
bosom bloody.] — no, toward the right! Oh, toward Elysium!
How this bright and lurid picture fills my soul with dread!
She herself it is! Aurelia, speak — are you not dead?
Aurelia. [Kneels before him.]
No, I live that I may still your agonizing cry —
Live that I may lean my bosom on your breast and die.
Catiline. Oh, you live!
Aurelia. I did but swoon; though my two eyes grew blurred,
Dimly yet I followed you and heard your every word.
And my love a spouse’s strength again unto me gave; —
Breast to breast, my Catiline, we go into the grave!
Catiline. Oh, how gladly would I go! Yet all in vain you sigh.
We must part. Revenge compels me with a hollow cry.
You can hasten, free and blithesome, forth to peace and light;
I must cross the river Lethe down into the night.
[The day dawns in the background.]
Aurelia. [Points toward the increasing light.]
No, the terrors and the gloom of death love scatters far.
See, the storm-clouds vanish; faintly gleams the morning star.
Aurelia. [With uplifted arms.]
Light is victor! Grand and full of freshness dawns the day!
Follow me, then! Death already speeds me on his way.
[She sinks down over him.]
Catiline. [Presses her to himself and speaks with his last
strength.] Oh, how sweet! Now I remember my forgotten dream,
How the darkness was dispersed before a radiant beam,
How the song of children ushered in the new-born day.
Ah, my eye grows dim, my strength is fading fast away;
But my mind is clearer now than ever it has been:
All the wanderings of my life loom plainly up within.
Yes, my life a tempest was beneath the lightning blaze;
But my death is like the morning’s rosy-tinted haze.
[Bends over her.]
You have driven the gloom away; peace dwells within my breast.
I shall seek with you the dwelling place of light and rest!
Catiline. [He tears the dagger quickly out of his breast and
speaks with dying voice.]
The gods of dawn are smiling in atonement from above;
All the powers of darkness you have conquered with your love!
[During the last scene FURIA has withdrawn farther and farther into the background and disappears at last among the trees. CATILINE’s head sinks down on AURELIA’s breast; they die.]
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56