‘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.]
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THEBAN, and, from its characteristic dulness, apparently before the duties on the importation of ATTIC SALT had been repealed by the Boeotarchs.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.
TYRANT SWELLFOOT, KING OF THEBES.
IONA TAURINA, HIS QUEEN.
MAMMON, ARCH-PRIEST OF FAMINE.
PURGANAX, DAKRY, LAOCTONOS— WIZARDS, MINISTERS OF SWELLFOOT.
MOSES, THE SOW-GELDER.
SOLOMON, THE PORKMAN.
CHORUS OF THE SWINISH MULTITUDE.
GUARDS, ATTENDANTS, PRIESTS, ETC., ETC.
SCENE. — THEBES.
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.
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,
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,
That point, the emblem of a pointless nothing!
Thou to whom Kings and laurelled Emperors,
Bishops and Deacons, and the entire army
Of those fat martyrs to the persecution
Of stifling turtle-soup, and brandy-devils,
Offer their secret vows! Thou plenteous Ceres
Of their Eleusis, hail!
Eigh! eigh! eigh! eigh!
Ha! what are ye,
Who, crowned with leaves devoted to the Furies,
Cling round this sacred shrine?
Aigh! aigh! aigh!
What! ye that are
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?
Ugh! ugh! ugh!
What! ye who grub
With filthy snouts my red potatoes up
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:
The same, alas! the same;
Though only now the name
Of Pig remains to me.
If ’twere your kingly will
Us wretched Swine to kill,
What should we yield to thee?
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
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;
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.
My Pigs, ’tis in vain to tug.
I could almost eat my litter.
I suck, but no milk will come from the dug.
Our skin and our bones would be bitter.
We fight for this rag of greasy rug,
Though a trough of wash would be fitter.
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!
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 —
You ought to give us hog-wash and clean straw,
And sties well thatched; besides it is the law!
This is sedition, and rank blasphemy!
Ho! there, my guards!
[ENTER A GUARD.]
Your sacred Majesty.
Call in the Jews, Solomon the court porkman,
Moses the sow-gelder, and Zephaniah
They are in waiting, Sire.
[ENTER SOLOMON, MOSES, AND ZEPHANIAH.]
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,
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.
Let your Majesty
Keep the Boars quiet, else —
That fat Hog’s throat, the brute seems overfed;
Seditious hunks! to whine for want of grains.
Your sacred Majesty, he has the dropsy; —
We shall find pints of hydatids in ‘s liver,
He has not half an inch of wholesome fat
Upon his carious ribs —
’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
Of butchering, will make them relish carrion.
Now, Solomon, I’ll sell you in a lump
The whole kit of them.
Why, your Majesty,
I could not give —
Kill them out of the way,
That shall be price enough, and let me hear
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.]
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 —
There’s something rotten in us — for the level
Of the State slopes, its very bases topple,
The boldest turn their backs upon themselves!
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,
Till gold be at a discount, and ashamed
To show his bilious face, go purge himself,
In emulation of her vestal whiteness.
Oh, would that this were all! The oracle!!
Why it was I who spoke that oracle,
And whether I was dead drunk or inspired,
I cannot well remember; nor, in truth,
The oracle itself!
The words went thus:—
‘Boeotia, choose reform or civil war!
When through the streets, instead of hare with dogs,
A Consort Queen shall hunt a King with Hogs,
Riding on the Ionian Minotaur.’
Now if the oracle had ne’er foretold
This sad alternative, it must arrive,
Or not, and so it must now that it has;
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 —
’Tis the same thing. If you knew as much
Of oracles as I do —
Believe in nothing; if you were to dream
Of a particular number in the Lottery,
You would not buy the ticket?
Yet our tickets
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,
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
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;
They think their strength consists in eating beef —
Now there were danger in the precedent
If Queen Iona —
I have taken good care
That shall not be. I struck the crust o’ the earth
With this enchanted rod, and Hell lay bare!
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
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
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,
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,
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.
This Gadfly should drive Iona hither?
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,
And he shall creep into her dressing-room,
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 —
But my LEECH— a leech
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
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.
For Queen Jona would suffice, and less;
But ’tis the Swinish multitude I fear,
And in that fear I have —
My eldest son Chrysaor, because he
Attended public meetings, and would always
Stand prating there of commerce, public faith,
Economy, and unadulterate coin,
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. 
A good match!
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 —
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
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.]
Ha! what do I hear?
[ENTER THE GADFLY.]
Your Gadfly, as it seems, is tired of gadding.
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
Of golden Byzantium;
From the temples divine of old Palestine,
From Athens and Rome,
With a ha! and a hum!
I come! I come!
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 —
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!
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,
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; —
I have stung her and wrung her,
The venom is working; —
And if you had hung her
With canting and quirking,
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,
Hum! hum! hum!
[ENTER THE LEECH AND THE RAT.]
I will suck
Blood or muck!
The disease of the state is a plethory,
Who so fit to reduce it as I?
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.
Aroint ye! thou unprofitable worm!
[TO THE LEECH.]
And thou, dull beetle, get thee back to hell!
[TO THE GADFLY.]
To sting the ghosts of Babylonian kings,
And the ox-headed Io —
Ugh, ugh, ugh!
Hail! Iona the divine,
We will be no longer Swine,
But Bulls with horns and dewlaps.
You know, my lord, the Minotaur —
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.]
I will go
And spell some scheme to make it ugly then. —
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
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!’]
How the Swine cry Iona Taurina;
I suffer the real presence; Purganax,
Off with her head!
But I must first impanel
A jury of the Pigs.
Pack them then.
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,
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,
Good Lord! they’d rip each other’s bellies up,
Not to say, help us in destroying her.
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,
If separate it would please me better, hither
Of Queen Iona.
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
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.
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!’
THE SWINE (WITHOUT):
Long live Iona! down with Swellfoot!
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,
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
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. —
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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!
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 —
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.
Now, with a little common sense, my Lords,
Only undoing all that has been done
(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.
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,
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,
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,
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):
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.
All part, in happier plight to meet again.
_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.
SCENE 2.1: THE PUBLIC STY. THE B0ARS IN FULL ASSEMBLY. ENTER 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
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
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,
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,
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 —
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
Into a loyal and an orthodox whine.
Things being in this happy state, the Queen
A LOUD CRY FROM THE PIGS:
She is innocent! most innocent!
That is the very thing that I was saying,
Gentlemen Swine; the Queen Iona being
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)
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):
Does any one accuse her of?
Why, no one
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
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
Religion of the rising generation
Of Sucking-Pigs, if it could be suspected
That Queen Iona —
Well, go on; we long
To hear what she can possibly have done.
Why, it is hinted, that a certain Bull —
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
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
His gliding beauty. And Pasiphae,
Iona’s grandmother — but SHE is innocent!
And that both you and I, and all assert.
Behold this BAG; a bag —
Oh! no GREEN BAGS!! Jealousy’s eyes are green,
Scorpions are green, and water-snakes, and efts,
And verdigris, and —
In Piggish souls can prepossessions reign?
Allow me to remind you, grass is green —
All flesh is grass; — no bacon but is flesh —
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
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
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.
Excellent, just, and noble Purganax.
How glorious it will be to see her Majesty
Flying above our heads, her petticoats
Streaming like — like — like —
But like a standard of an admiral’s ship,
Or like the banner of a conquering host,
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.
Or a cow’s tail.
Or ANYTHING, as the learned Boar observed.
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
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.]
Porkers, we shall lose our wash,
Or must share it with the Lean-Pigs!
Order! order! be not rash!
Was there ever such a scene, Pigs!
AN OLD SOW (RUSHING IN):
I never saw so fine a dash
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?
Purganax has plainly shown a
Cloven foot and jackdaw feather.
I vote Swellfoot and Iona
Try the magic test together;
Whenever royal spouses bicker,
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,
Squabbling makes Pig-herds hungry, and they dine
On bacon, and whip Sucking-Pigs the more.
Hog-wash has been ta’en away:
If the Bull-Queen is divested,
We shall be in every way
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:
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;
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,
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
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
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,
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,
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! —
Lord Purganax, I do commit myself
Into your custody, and am prepared
To stand the test, whatever it may be!
This magnanimity in your sacred Majesty
Must please the Pigs. You cannot fail of being
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.
At the approaching feast
Of Famine, let the expiation be.
IONA TAURINA [ASIDE]:
I, most content of all,
Know that my foes even thus prepare their fall!
_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
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,
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;
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.]
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.
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. —
After the trial,
And these fastidious Pigs are gone, perhaps
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!
A toast! a toast! stand up, and three times three!
No heel-taps — darken daylights! —
Puts me in mind of blood, and blood of claret!
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.
For God’s sake stop the grunting of those Pigs!
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;
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,
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;
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,
Till all be made level again!
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
The presence of the unseen Deity.
Mighty events are hastening to their doom!
I only hear the lean and mutinous Swine
Grunting about the temple.
In a crisis
Of such exceeding delicacy, I think
We ought to put her Majesty, the QUEEN,
Upon her trial without delay.
I have rehearsed the entire scene
With an ox-bladder and some ditchwater,
On Lady P—; it cannot fail.
[TAKING UP THE BAG.]
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,
Upon my brow — which would stain all its seas,
But which those seas could never wash away!
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!
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!
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 —
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!
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.]
I am the Ionian Minotaur, the mightiest
Of all Europa’s taurine progeny —
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,
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,
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
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.
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:
Through rain, hail, and snow,
Through brake, gorse, and briar,
Through fen, flood, and mire,
We go! we go!
Through pond, ditch, and slough,
Wind them, and find them,
Like the Devil behind them,
[EXEUNT, IN FULL CRY; IONA DRIVING ON THE SWINE, WITH THE EMPTY GEEEN BAG.]
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.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13