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- Early Plays - 6/50 -

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 Against myself.

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!

FURIA. [Bewildered.] 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!

[Calls out.]

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,

Early Plays - 6/50

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