[A room in CATILINE’s house with a colonnade in the rear; a lamp lights up the room.]
[CATILINE paces the floor back and forth; LENTULUS and CETHEGUS are with him.]
CATILINE. No, no! I say, you do not understand Yourselves what you demand of me. Should I Turn traitor and incite a civil war,— Besmear my hand with Roman blood? No, no! I’ll never do it! Let the entire state Condemn me if—
LENTULUS. You will not, Catiline?
LENTULUS. Tell me,—have you nothing to avenge? No insult? No one here you fain would strike?
CATILINE. Let him who will avenge; I shall not stir. Yet silent scorn is likewise a revenge;— And that alone shall be enough.
CETHEGUS. Aha,— Our visit was, I see, inopportune. Yet doubtless will the morrow bring you back To other thoughts.
CATILINE. But why the morrow?
CETHEGUS. There are mysterious rumors in the air. A vestal recently was led to death—
CATILINE. [Surprised.] A vestal,—say you? Ah, what do you mean?
LENTULUS. Why, yes, a vestal. Many people murmur—
CATILINE. What do they murmur?
CETHEGUS. That in this dark affair You are not altogether innocent.
CATILINE. This they believe of me?
LENTULUS. Such is the rumor; Of course,—to us, to all your good old friends, Such talk is trifling and of no account;— The world, however, judges more severely.
CATILINE. [Deep in thought.] And is she dead?
CETHEGUS. Undoubtedly she is. An hour’s confinement in the convict tomb Is quite enough—
LENTULUS. That is not our affair. It was not therefore that we spoke of her. But hear me, Catiline! Bethink yourself. You sought the consulate; and all your welfare Hung on that single fragile thread of hope. Now is it sundered; everything is lost.
CATILINE. [Still deep in thought.] “Vengeance you have invoked on your own head!”
CETHEGUS. Shake off these useless thoughts; they profit naught; Act like a man; still can this fight be won; A bold resolve now—; you have friends enough; Speak but the word, and we shall follow you.— You are not tempted? Answer!
CATILINE. No, I say! And why are you so eager to conspire? Be honest! Are you driven by thirst for freedom? Is it in order to renew Rome’s splendor That you would ruin all?
LENTULUS. Indeed, ’tis not; Yet surely is the hope of personal greatness Sufficient motive for our enterprise!
CETHEGUS. And means enough to taste the joys of life Are not, in truth, to be so lightly scorned. That is my motive;—I am not ambitious.
CATILINE. I knew it. Only mean and paltry motives, The hope of private vantage, urge you on. No, no, my friends; I aimed at nobler things! True, I have sought with bribes and promises To seize ere now the consulate, and yet My plan was greater and comprised much more Than means like these would point to. Civic freedom, The welfare of the state,—these were my aims. Men have misjudged, appearances belied me; My fate has willed it so. It must so be!
CETHEGUS. True; but the thought of all your many friends Whom you can save from ruin and disgrace—? You know, we shall ere long be driven to take The beggars’ staff because of our wild living.
CATILINE. Then stop in season; that is my resolve.
LENTULUS. What, Catiline,—now you intend to change Your mode of life? Ha, ha! you surely jest?
CATILINE. I am in earnest,—by the mighty gods!
CETHEGUS. Then there is nothing we can do with him. Come, Lentulus, the others we’ll inform What answer he has given. We shall find The merry company with Bibulus.
CATILINE. With Bibulus? How many a merry night We have caroused at Bibulus’ table! Now is the tempest of my wild life ended; Ere dawns the day I shall have left the city.
LENTULUS. What is all this?
CETHEGUS. You mean to go away?
CATILINE. This very night my wife and I together Shall bid farewell to Rome forevermore. In quiet Gaul we two shall found a home;— The land I cultivate shall nourish us.
CETHEGUS. You will forsake the city, Catiline?
CATILINE. I will; I must! Disgrace here weighs me down. Courage I have to bear my poverty, But in each Roman face to read disdain And frank contempt—! No, no; that is too much! In Gaul I’ll live in quiet solitude; There shall I soon forget my former self, Dull all my longings for the greater things, And as the vaguest dream recall the past.
LENTULUS. Then fare you well; may fortune follow you!
CETHEGUS. Remember us with kindness, Catiline, As we shall you remember! To our brothers We will relate this new and strange resolve.
CATILINE. Then give them all a brother’s hearty greeting!
[LENTULUS and CETHEGUS leave.]
[AURELIA has entered from the side, hut-stops frightened at the sight of those who are leaving; when they are gone she approaches CATILINE.]
AURELIA. [Gently reprimanding.] Again these stormy comrades in your house? O Catiline—!
CATILINE. This was their final visit. I bade them all farewell. Now every bond Forevermore is broken that bound me fast And fettered me to Rome.
AURELIA. I’ve gathered up Our bit of property. Not much perhaps;— Yet, Catiline, enough for our contentment.
CATILINE. [Engrossed in thought.] More than enough for me who squandered all.
AURELIA. Oh, brood no more on things we can not change;— Forget what—
CATILINE. Happy he who could forget,— Who could the memory tear from out his soul, The many hopes, the goal of all desires. Ah, time is needed ere I reach that state; But I shall struggle—
AURELIA. I shall help you strive; You shall be comforted for all your loss. Yet we must leave as soon as possible. Here life calls to you with a tempter’s voice. Is it not so,—we go this very night?
CATILINE. Yes, yes,—we leave this very night, Aurelia!
AURELIA. The little money left I’ve gathered up; And for the journey it will be enough.
CATILINE. Good! I shall sell my sword and buy a spade. What value henceforth is a sword to me?
AURELIA. You clear the land, and I shall till the soil. Around our home will grow in floral splendor A hedge of roses, sweet forget-me-nots, The silent tokens of a chastened soul, When as some youthful comrade you can greet Each memory recurrent of the past.
CATILINE. That time, Aurelia? Ah, beloved, I fear— That hour lies in a distant future’s keeping.
CATILINE. [In a milder tone.] But go, dear wife, and, while you may, repose. Soon after midnight we shall start our journey. The city then is lapped in deepest slumber, And none shall guess our hidden destination. The first glow in the morning sky shall find us Far—far away; there in the laurel grove We’ll rest ourselves upon the velvet grass.
AURELIA. A new life opens up before us both— Richer in happiness than this that’s ended. Now will I go. An hour’s quiet rest Will give me strength—. Good-night, my Catiline!
[She embraces him and goes out.]
CATILINE. [Gazes after her.] Now is she gone! And I—what a relief! Now can I cast away this wearisome Hypocrisy, this show of cheerfulness, Which least of all is found within my heart. She is my better spirit. She would grieve Were she to sense my doubt. I must dissemble. Yet shall I consecrate this silent hour To contemplation of my wasted life.— This lamp,—ah, it disturbs my very thoughts;— Dark it must be here,—dark as is my soul!
[He puts out the light; the moon shines through the pillars in the rear.]
CATILINE. Too light,—yes, still too light! And yet, no matter;— The pallid moonlight here does well befit The twilight and the gloom that shroud my soul,— Have ever shrouded all my earthly ways.
CATILINE. Hm, Catiline, then is this day your last; Tomorrow morning you will be no longer The Catiline you hitherto have been. Distant in barren Gaul my life shall run Its course, unknown as is a forest stream.— Now am I wakened from those many visions Of power, of greatness, of a life of deeds;— They vanished like the dew; in my dark soul They struggled long and died,—unseen of men.
CATILINE. Ah, it is not this dull and drowsy life, Far from all mundane tumult, that affrights me. If only for a moment I could shine, And blaze in splendor like a shooting star,— If only by a glorious deed I could Immortalize the name of Catiline With everlasting glory and renown,— Then gladly should I, in the hour of triumph, Forsake all things,—flee to a foreign strand;— I’d plunge the dagger in my exiled heart, Die free and happy; for I should have lived!
CATILINE. But oh,—to die without first having lived. Can that be possible? Shall I so die?
[With uplifted hands.]
CATILINE. A hint, oh angry powers,—that it is My fate to disappear from life forgotten, Without a trace!
FURIA. [Outside behind the pillars.] It is not, Catiline!
CATILINE. [Taken aback.] Who speaks? What warning voice is this I hear? A spirit voice from out the underworld!
FURIA. [Comes forward in the moonlight.] I am your shadow.
CATILINE. [Terrified.] What,—the vestal’s ghost!
FURIA. Deep must your soul have sunk if you recoil From me!
CATILINE. Speak! Have you risen from the grave With hatred and with vengeance to pursue me?
FURIA. Pursue you,—did you say? I am your shadow. I must be with you wheresoe’er you go.
[She comes nearer.]
CATILINE. She lives! O gods,—then it is she,—no other, No disembodied ghost.
FURIA. Or ghost or not,— It matters little; I must follow you.
CATILINE. With mortal hate!
FURIA. Hate ceases in the grave, As love and all the passions do that flourish Within an earthly soul. One thing alone In life and death remains unchangeable.
CATILINE. And what? Say forth!
FURIA. Your fate, my Catiline!
CATILINE. Only the gods of wisdom know my fate,— No human being.
FURIA. Yet I know your fate. I am your shadow;—strange, mysterious ties Bind us together.
CATILINE. Bonds of hatred.
FURIA. No! Rose ever spirit from the dankest grave For hate and vengeance? Listen, Catiline! The rivers of the underworld have quenched Each earthly flame that raged within my breast. As you behold me here, I am no longer The stormy Furia,—wild and passionate,— Whom once you loved—
CATILINE. You do not hate me then?
FURIA. Ah, now no more. When in the tomb I stood,— And faltered on the path that separates This life from death, at any moment ready To greet the underworld,—lo, seized me then An eerie shuddering; I know not what—; I felt in me a mystic transformation;— Away flowed hate, revenge, my very soul; Each memory vanished and each earthly longing;— Only the name of “Catiline” remains Written in fiery letters on my heart.
CATILINE. Ah, wonderful! No matter who you are,— A human form, a shadow from the dead,— There lies withal a dreadful fascination In your dark eyes, in every word you speak.
FURIA. Your mind is strong as mine; yet you give up, Disheartened and irresolute, each hope Of triumph and dominion. You forsake The battlefield, where all your inmost plans Could grow and blossom forth into achievement.
CATILINE. I must! Inexorable fate decrees it!
FURIA. Your fate? Why were you given a hero’s strength,— If not to struggle with what you call fate?
CATILINE. Oh, I have fought enough! Was not my life A constant battle? What are my rewards? Disgrace and scorn—!
FURIA. Ah, you are fallen low! You struggle towards a high and daring goal, Are eager to attain it; yet you fear Each trifling hindrance.
CATILINE. Fear is not the reason. The goal I sought is unattainable;— The whole was but a fleeting dream of youth.
FURIA. Now you deceive yourself, my Catiline! You hover still about that single project;— Your soul is noble,—worthy of a ruler,— And you have friends—. Ah, wherefore hesitate?
CATILINE. [Meditating.] I shall—? What do you mean—? With civil blood—?
FURIA. Are you a man,—yet lack a woman’s courage? Have you forgot that nimble dame of Rome, Who sought the throne straight over a father’s corpse? I feel myself a Tullia now; but you—? Scorn and despise yourself, O Catiline!
CATILINE. Must I despise myself because my soul No longer harbors selfish aspirations?
FURIA. You stand here at a cross-road in your life; Yonder a dull, inactive course awaits you,— A half-way something, neither sleep nor death;— Before you, on the other hand, you see A sovereign’s throne. Then choose, my Catiline!
CATILINE. You tempt me and allure me to destruction.
FURIA. Cast but the die,—and in your hand is placed Forevermore the welfare of proud Rome. Glory and might your silent fate conceals, And yet you falter,—dare not lift a hand! You journey yonder to the forests, where Each longing that you cherished will be quenched. Ah, tell me, Catiline, is there no trace Of thirst for glory left within your heart? And must this princely soul, for triumphs born, Vanish unknown in yonder nameless desert? Hence, then! But know that thus you lose forever What here you could by daring deeds attain.
CATILINE. Go on, go on!
FURIA. With trembling and with fear The future generations will recall Your fate. Your life was all a daring game;— Yet in the lustre of atonement it would shine, Known to all men, if with a mighty hand You fought your way straight through this surging throng,— If the dark night of thraldom through your rule Gave way before a new-born day of freedom,— If at some time you—
CATILINE. Hold! Ah, you have touched The string that quivers deepest in my soul. Your every word sounds like a ringing echo Of what my heart has whispered day and night.
FURIA. Now, Catiline, I know you once again!
CATILINE. I shall not go! You have recalled to life My youthful zeal, my manhood’s full-grown longings. Yes, I shall be a light to fallen Rome,— Daze them with fear like some erratic star! You haughty wretches,—you shall soon discover You have not humbled me, though for a time I weakened in the heat of battle!
FURIA. Listen! Whatever be the will of fate,—whatever The mighty gods decree, we must obey. Just so! My hate is gone;—fate thus decreed, And so it had to be! Give me your hand In solemn compact!—Ah, you hesitate? You will not?
CATILINE. Will—? I gaze upon your eyes: They flash,—like lightning in the gloom of night. Now did you smile! Just so I’ve often pictured Nemesis—
FURIA. What? Herself you wish to see,— Then look within. Have you forgot your oath?
CATILINE. No, I remember;—yet you seem to me A Nemesis—
FURIA. I am an image born From your own soul.
CATILINE. [Meditating.] What is all this you say? I sense but vaguely what I fail to grasp; I glimpse mysterious, strangely clouded visions,— But can not understand. I grope in darkness!
FURIA. It must be dark here. Darkness is our realm;— In darkness is our rule. Give me your hand In solemn pledge!
CATILINE. [Wildly.] O lovely Nemesis,— My shadow,—image of my very soul,— Here is my hand in everlasting compact.
[He seizes her hand violently; she looks at him with a stern smile.]
FURIA. Now we can never part!
CATILINE. Ah, like a stream Of fire your touch went coursing through my veins! ‘Tis blood no more that flows, but fiery flames;— My breast now cabins and confines my heart; My sight grows dull. Soon shall a flaming sea Illumine with its light the Roman state!
[He draws his sword and brandishes it.]
CATILINE. My sword! My sword! Do you see how it flashes? Soon will it redden in their tepid blood!— What change is this in me? My brow burns hot; A multitude of visions flit before me.— Vengeance it is,—triumph for all those dreams Of greatness, regal power, and lasting fame. My watch-word shall be: livid flames and death! The capitol! Now first I am myself!
[He rushes out; FURIA follows him.]
[The inside of a dimly illumined tavern.]
[STATILIUS, GABINIUS, COEPARIUS, and other young ROMANS enter.]
STATILIUS. Here, comrades, we can while away the night; Here we are safe; no one will overhear us.
GABINIUS. Ah, yes; now let us drink, carouse, enjoy! Who knows how long it will be granted us?
STATILIUS. No, let us first await whatever tidings Lentulus and Cethegus have for us.
GABINIUS. Bah, let them bring whatever news they will! Meanwhile the wine is here; come, let us taste. Quick, brothers, quick,—let’s have a merry song!
[SERVANTS bring in wine and glasses.]
THE ASSEMBLED FRIENDS. (Sing.)
Bacchus, all praise to thee! Joyful we raise to thee Brimful the beaker! Hail to thee, hail! Wine, red and glowing, Merrily flowing, Drink of the wine-god,— This be our song. Gracious and friendly Smiles father Liber; Drunkenness waits us; Clear is the wine. Come, do not tarry! Wine will make merry, Joyful and airy, Body and soul. Thou above all the Glittering bubbles, Sparkling Falernian, Glorious drink! Courage and power, These are your dower. Gladsome the gift you Bring to the soul. Bacchus, all praise to thee! Joyful we raise to thee Brimful the beaker! Hail to thee, hail! Wine, red and glowing, Merrily flowing, Drink of the wine-god,— This be our song.
[LENTULUS and CETHEGUS enter.]
LENTULUS. Cease all your song and merriment!
STATILIUS. What now? Is Catiline not in your company?
GABINIUS. Surely he was quite willing?
COEPARIUS. Come, say forth! What was his answer?
CETHEGUS. Ah, quite otherwise Than we expected was his answer.
LENTULUS. Well, all of our proposals he declined;— He would not even hearken to our counsels.
STATILIUS. Is this the truth?
COEPARIUS. And wherefore would he not?
LENTULUS. In short, he will not. He forsakes his friends,— Abandons us,—and leaves the city.
STATILIUS. What? He leaves, you say?
CETHEGUS. ‘Tis true;—he goes away This very night. Yet,—blamed he can not be; His ground was valid—
LENTULUS. Fear was his excuse! In danger he forsakes us faithlessly.
GABINIUS. That is the friendship of our Catiline!
COEPARIUS. Never was Catiline faithless or afraid!
LENTULUS. And yet he leaves us now.
STATILIUS. Our hopes go with him. Where’s now the man to take the leadership?
COEPARIUS. He’ll not be found; our plan we must forego.
LENTULUS. Not yet, not yet, my friends! First you shall hear What I will say. Now what have we resolved? That we should win at last by force of arms What an unrighteous destiny denied. Tyrants oppress us;—yet we wish to rule. We suffer want;—yet wealth is our desire.
MANY VOICES. Yes, wealth and power! Wealth and power we want!
LENTULUS. Yes, yes; we chose a comrade as our chief, On whom there was no doubt we could rely. Our trust he fails and turns his back to danger. Ah, brothers,—be not daunted. He shall learn We can succeed without him. What we need Is some one man, fearless and resolute, To take the lead—
SOME. Well, name us such a man!
LENTULUS. And should I name him, and should he comeforth,— Will you then straightway choose him as your leader?
SOME. Yes, we will choose him!
OTHERS. Yes, we will, we will!
STATILIUS. Then name him, friend!
LENTULUS. Suppose it were myself?
COEPARIUS. You, Lentulus—!
SEVERAL. [In doubt.] You wish to lead us?
LENTULUS. I do.
CETHEGUS. But can you? Such a task requires The strength and courage of a Catiline.
LENTULUS. I do not lack the courage, nor the strength. Each to his task! Or will you now turn back, Now when the moment seems most opportune? ‘Tis now or never! All things prophesy Success for us—
STATILIUS. Good;—we will follow you!
OTHERS. We’ll follow you!
GABINIUS. Well, now that Catiline Forsakes our cause, you are no doubt the man To lead us in our enterprise.
LENTULUS. Then hear What plan of action I have outlined. First—
[CATILINE enters hastily.]
CATILINE. Here, comrades, here I am!
LENTULUS. He? Oh, damned—
CATILINE. Speak out,—what do you ask of me? Yet stay; I know already what it is. I’ll lead you on. Say—will you follow me?
ALL (EXCEPT LENTULUS). Yes, Catiline,—we follow if you lead!
STATILIUS. They have deceived us—
GABINIUS. —and belied your name!
COEPARIUS. They said you did intend to leave the city And wash your hands completely of our cause.
CATILINE. Yes, so I did. Yet now no more; henceforth Only for this great purpose do I live.
LENTULUS. What is this mighty purpose you proclaim?
CATILINE. My purpose here is higher than you think— Perhaps than any thinks. Ah, hear me, friends! First will I win to us each citizen Who prizes liberty and values most The public honor and his country’s weal. The spirit of ancient Rome is yet alive;— The last faint spark is not yet wholly dead. Now into brilliant flames it shall be fanned, More glorious than ever flames before! Alas, too long the stifling gloom of thraldom, Dark as the night, lay blanketed on Rome. Behold,—this realm—though proud and powerful It seems—totters upon the edge of doom. Therefore the stoutest hand must seize the helm. Rome must be cleansed,—cleansed to the very roots; The sluggish we must waken from their slumber,— And crush to earth the power of these wretches Who sow their poison in the mind and stifle The slightest promise of a better life. Look you,—’tis civic freedom I would further,— The civic spirit that in former times Was regnant here. Friends, I shall conjure back The golden age, when Romans gladly gave Their lives to guard the honor of the nation, And all their riches for the public weal!
LENTULUS. Ah, Catiline, you rave! Nothing of this Had we in mind.
GABINIUS. What will it profit us To conjure up again those ancient days With all their dull simplicity?
SOME. No, no! Might we demand—
OTHERS. —and means enough to live A gay and carefree life!
MANY VOICES. That is our aim!
COEPARIUS. Is it for others’ happiness and freedom We stake our lives upon a throw of dice?
THE WHOLE GROUP. We want the spoils of victory!
CATILINE. Paltry race! Are you the offspring of those ancient fathers? To heap dishonor on your country’s name,— In such a way you would preserve its lustre!
LENTULUS. And you dare taunt us,—you who long since were A terrifying token—
CATILINE. True, I was; I was a terror to the good; and yet, So paltry as you are was never I.
LENTULUS. Restrain your tongue; we brook no ridicule.
MANY. No, no,—we will not—
CATILINE. [Calmly.] So? You timid brood,— You dare to think of doing something,—you?
LENTULUS. Ah, down with him!
MANY VOICES. Yes, down with Catiline!
[They draw their daggers and rush in on him; CATILINE calmly removes the cloak from his breast and regards them with a cold, scornful smile; they lower their daggers.]
CATILINE. Thrust! Thrust! You dare not? Oh, my friends, my friends,— I should respect you, if you plunged your daggers In this uncovered bosom, as you threaten. Is there no spark of courage in your souls?
SOME. He means our weal!
OTHERS. His taunts we have deserved.
CATILINE. You have, indeed.—Yet, see,—the hour is come When you can wash away the blot of shame. All that is of the past we will forget;— A new existence is in store for us.
CATILINE. [With bitterness.] Fool that I am! To stake success on you! Burns any zeal within this craven mob?
CATILINE. [Carried away.] Time was my dreams were glorious; great visions Rushed through my mind or swept before my gaze. I dreamed that, winged like Icarus of old, I flew aloft beneath the vault of heaven; I dreamed the gods endued my hands with strength Of giants, offered me the lightning flash. And this hand seized the lightning in its flight And hurled it at the city far beneath. And when the crimson flames lapped all, and rose As Rome fell crumbling in a heap of ruins,— Then called I with a loud and mighty voice, And conjured Cato’s comrades from the grave; Thousands of spirits heard my call and came,— Took life again—raised Rome from out her ashes.
[He breaks off.]
CATILINE. These were but dreams! Gods do not conjure up The by-gone past into the light of day,— And parted spirits never leave the grave.
CATILINE. [Wildly.] Is now this hand unable to restore The ancient Rome, our Rome it shall destroy. Where marble colonnades now towering stand, Pillars of smoke through crackling flames shall whirl; Then shall the Capitol crumble from its heights, And palaces and temples sink to ruin!
CATILINE. Swear, comrades, that you dedicate your lives To this great purpose! I shall take the lead. Say,—will you follow me?
STATILIUS. We’ll follow you!
[Several seem to be in doubt, and speak in whispers to one another. CATILINE regards them with a scornful smile.]
LENTULUS. [In an undertone.] ‘Tis best we follow him. In sunken ruins We’re likeliest to realize our goal.
ALL. [Shouting.] Yes, Catiline; we’ll all—all follow you!
CATILINE. Swear to me by the gods of our great sires That you will heed my every nod!
THE WHOLE GROUP. [With uplifted hands.] Yes, yes; We swear in all things blindly to obey!
CATILINE. Then singly steal your way, by different paths, Into my house. Weapons you there will find. I shall come later; you shall then discover What plan of action I propose. Now go!
[They all go out.]
LENTULUS. [Detains CATILINE.] A word! Know you the Allobrogian tribes Have to the Senate sent ambassadors With grievances and charges?
CATILINE. Yes, I know. They came today into the city.
LENTULUS. Good. What if we should attune them to our plans? With them all Gaul will rise up in revolt; And stir up strife against our enemies.
CATILINE. [Reluctant.] Ah, we should seek barbarian allies?
LENTULUS. But such a league is a necessity. With our own strength alone the fight is lost; Help from without—
CATILINE. [With a bitter smile.] Ah, Rome is fallen low! Her walls no longer harbor men with strength Enough to overthrow a tottering ruin!
[They go out.]
[A garden to the rear of CATILINE’s house, which is visible through the trees. To the left a side-building.]
[CURIUS, CETHEGUS, and OTHER CONSPIRATORS enter cautiously from the right in whispered conversation.]
CURIUS. But is it really true what you relate?
CETHEGUS. Yes, every word is true. A moment since It was decided.
CURIUS. He takes charge of all?
CETHEGUS. Of everything. Just speak with him yourself.
[All, except CURIUS, enter the house.]
CURIUS. An eerie night! How all my thoughts are tossed About in circles! Did I dream perchance? Ah, real or fancied,—now I am awake,— Whichever way I turn I see her form.
[CATILINE enters from the right.]
CATILINE. [Goes toward him.] You here, my Curius? I have missed you much.— My visit with the vestal took a turn Quite unexpected—
CURIUS. [Confused.] So? Yes, you are right!
CATILINE. I shall no longer think of this affair. It was a visit fraught with fate for me.
CATILINE. [Meditating.] The furies, we are told, return at times From the dark underworld to follow us Through life forever.—Ah, if it were so!
CURIUS. [Uneasy.] What? Have you seen her—?
CATILINE. She was here tonight.— Yet let this be forgotten. Curius, listen,— A weighty undertaking is on foot—
CURIUS. I know it all. Cethegus told me here—
CATILINE. Who knows what issue for this work the gods Have set? Perchance it is my destiny To perish now, crushed by malignant forces,— And never reach my goal. Well, be it so! But you, dear Curius, you whom I have loved Since childhood,—you shall not be drawn within This fateful maelstrom. Promise me,—remain Within the city if I elsewhere choose To open my attack,—which is quite likely; Nor aid us till success has crowned our work.
CURIUS. [Moved.] Oh, what a friend and father! All this care—!
CATILINE. You promise this? Then here we say farewell; Wait but a moment; I shall soon return.
[He goes into the house.]
CURIUS. [Gazing after him.] He loves me still. Of naught is he distrustful.
[LENTULUS and OTHER CONSPIRATORS enter from the right.]
LENTULUS. Ah, Curius, did not Catiline just now Pass through the garden?
CURIUS. Yes, he is within.
[They go into the house.]
CURIUS. [Paces about uneasy.] How shall I curb this longing in my soul? There is a restless turmoil in my blood. Ah, Furia,—what a strange, mysterious woman! Where are you? When shall I see your face again?
CURIUS. Where has she fled? Ah, shadow-like she slipped Away, when I had freed her from the grave. And those mysterious, prophetic words,— And more, her eyes, gleaming at once and dimmed—! What if it were but madness? Has the grave With all its terror darkened—?
FURIA. [Behind him among the trees.] No, pale youth!
CURIUS. [With a cry.] My Furia! You—?
FURIA. [Comes nearer.] Here dwells Catiline. Where he is,—there must Furia also be.
CURIUS. Oh, come with me, beloved. I shall lead You into safety. Think—if some one saw you!
FURIA. The dead need have no fear. Have you forgotten— You took my corpse and brought it from the grave?
CURIUS. Again those terrifying words! Oh, hear me;— Come to your senses,—come with me away!
[He tries to seize her hand.]
FURIA. [Thrusts him wildly back.] You reckless fool,—do you not shrink with fear Before this child of death, but risen up A fleeting moment from the underworld?
CURIUS. Before you now I fear. And yet this fear, This strange, mysterious dread, is my delight.
FURIA. What would you me? In vain is all your pleading. I’m of the grave, and yonder is my home;— With dawn’s approach I must again be speeding Back to the vale of shadows whence I come. You doubt me,—do not think that I have sat Among the pallid shades in Pluto’s hall? I tell you, I was even now below,— Beyond the river and the gloomy marshes.
CURIUS. Then lead me there!
CURIUS. I shall gladly follow, Though you should lead me through the jaws of death!
FURIA. It cannot be! On earth we two must part;— Yonder the dead and living dare not meet.—
FURIA. Why do you rob me of my fleeting moments? I’ve but the hours of night in which to work; My task is of the night; I am its herald. But where is Catiline?
CURIUS. Ah, him you seek?
FURIA. Yes, him I seek.
CURIUS. Then him you still pursue?
FURIA. Why rose I from the spirit underworld Tonight, if not because of Catiline?
CURIUS. Alas, this fury that has seized your soul—! Yet you are lovely even in your madness. Oh, Furia, think no more of Catiline! Come, flee with me! Command me,—I shall serve you!
[He prostrates himself before her.]
CURIUS. A prostrate slave I here entreat of you One single look. Oh, hear me, Furia, hear me! I love but you! A sweet and lethal fire Consumes my soul, and you—ah, you alone— Can ease my suffering.—
FURIA. [Looks towards the house.] Yonder there’s a light— And many men. What now is going on Within the house of Catiline?
CURIUS. [Jumps up.] Again This name! Around him hover all your thoughts. Oh, I could hate him—!
FURIA. Has he then resolved To launch at last the daring enterprise He long has cherished?
CURIUS. Then you know—?
FURIA. Yes, all.
CURIUS. Ah, then you doubtless know, too, he himself Is foremost in this daring enterprise? Yet, I adjure you, beg you, think no more Of Catiline!
FURIA. Answer me this alone; ‘Tis all I ask of you. Do you go with him?
CURIUS. He is to me a tender father—
FURIA. [Smiling.] He? My Catiline?
FURIA. He,—round whom my thoughts Course without rest?
CURIUS. My brain is in a tumult— I hate this man—! Oh, I could murder him!
FURIA. Did you not lately swear you were prepared To do my bidding?
CURIUS. Ask me what you will; In everything I serve you and obey! I only beg,—forget this Catiline.
FURIA. I shall forget him first—when he has stepped Into his grave.
CURIUS. [Draws back.] Ah, you demand that I—?
FURIA. You need not use the steel; you can betray His enterprise—
CURIUS. Murder and treachery At once! Remember, Furia, he is still My foster-father and—
FURIA. —My aim in life! Ah, timid fool,—so you dare speak of love,— Who lack the fortitude to strike him down That stands across your path? Away from me!
[She turns her back on him.]
CURIUS. [Holding her back.] No;—do not leave me! I am in all things willing! A shudder chills me as I look on you; And yet I cannot break this net asunder Wherein you trapped my soul.
FURIA. Then you are willing?
CURIUS. Why do you mock me with such questioning? If I am willing? Have I any will? Your gaze is like the serpent’s when ’tis fixed With magic power upon the bird, that circles Wildly about in terror-stricken awe, Drawn ever nearer to the dreadful fangs.
FURIA. Then to your task!
CURIUS. And when I’ve sacrificed My friendship to my love for you,—what then?
FURIA. I shall forget that Catiline existed. Then will my task be ended. Ask no more!
CURIUS. For this reward I should—?
FURIA. You hesitate? Is then your hope so faint that you forget What gifts a grateful woman can bestow, When first the time—?
CURIUS. By all the powers of night,— I’ll not delay! He only stands between us. Then let him perish! Quenched is every spark Of feeling for him; every bond is sundered!— Who are you, lovely vision of the night? Near you I’m turned to marble, burned to ashes. My longing chills me,—terror fires the soul; My love is blended hate and sorcery. Who am I now? I know myself no more; One thing I know; I am not he I was, Ere you I saw. I’ll plunge into the deep To follow you! Doomed—doomed is Catiline! I’ll to the Capitol. This very night The senate is assembled. Then farewell! A written note betrays his enterprise.
[He goes out hastily.]
FURIA. [To herself.] The heavens grow dark; soon will the lightning play. The end is fast approaching, Catiline;— With measured steps you journey to your grave!
[The Allobrogian ambassadors, AMBIORIX and OLLOVICO, come out of the house without noticing FURIA, who stands half concealed in the shade between the trees.]
AMBIORIX. So then it is decided! Venturesome It was to enter into such a compact.
OLLOVICO. True; Yet their refusal of each righteous claim Opens no other way to liberty. The prize of victory,—should our friends succeed,— Outweighs indeed the perils of the conflict That now awaits us.
AMBIORIX. Brother, so it is!
OLLOVICO. Emancipation from the rule of Rome,— Freedom long lost is surely worth a struggle.
AMBIORIX. Now we must hasten homeward with all speed, Kindling through Gaul the flames of insurrection. It will be easy to persuade the tribes To ‘rise up in revolt; they’ll follow us And join the partisans of Catiline.
OLLOVICO. Hard will the fight be; mighty still is Rome.
AMBIORIX. It must be risked. Come, Ollovico, come!
FURIA. [Calls warningly to them.] Woe unto you!
AMBIORIX. [Startled.] By all the gods!
OLLOVICO. [Terrified.] Ah, hear! A voice cries warning to us in the dark!
FURIA. Woe to your people!
OLLOVICO. Yonder stands she, brother,— The pale and ill-foreboding shadow. See!
FURIA. Woe unto all who follow Catiline!
AMBIORIX. Home, home! Away! We’ll break all promises!
OLLOVICO. A voice has warned us, and we shall obey.
[They go out hurriedly to the right.]
[CATILINE comes out of the house in the background.]
CATILINE. Ah, desperate hope—to think of crushing Rome With such a host of cowards and poltroons! What spurs them on? With frankness they confess— Their only motive is their want and greed. Is it then worth the trouble for such aims To shed men’s blood? And what have I to win? What can I gain?
FURIA. [Invisible among the trees.] Revenge, my Catiline!
CATILINE. [Startled.] Who speaks! Who wakes the spirit of revenge From slumber? Came this voice then from the deep Within my soul? Revenge? Yes, that’s the word,— My watch-word and my battle-cry. Revenge! Revenge for all the hopes and all the dreams Which ever a vindictive fate destroyed! Revenge for all my years of wasted life!
[The CONSPIRATORS come armed out of the house.]
LENTULUS. Still rest the shades of darkness on the city. Now is it time to break away.
SEVERAL. [Whispering.] Away!
[AURELIA comes out of the side-building without noticing the CONSPIRATORS.]
AURELIA. Beloved,—are you here?
CATILINE. [With a cry.] Aurelia!
AURELIA. Say,— Have you been waiting for me?
[She becomes aware of the Conspirators and rushes to him.]
AURELIA. Gracious gods!
CATILINE. [Thrusts her aside.] Woman, away from me!
AURELIA. Speak, Catiline! These many men in arms—? And you as well—? Oh, you will go—
CATILINE. [Wildly.] Yes, by the spirits of night,— A merry journey! See—this flashing sword! It thirsts for blood! I go—to quench its thirst.
AURELIA. My hope,—my dream! Ah, blissful was my dream! Thus am I wakened from my dreaming—
CATILINE. Silence! Stay here,—or follow! But my heart is cold To tears and lamentations.—Friends, behold How bright the full moon in the west declines! When next that full moon in its orient shines, An avalanche of fire shall sweep the state And all its golden glory terminate. A thousand years from now, when it shall light Mere crumbling ruins in the desert night,— One pillar in the dust of yonder dome Shall tell the weary wanderer: Here stood Rome!
[He rushes out to the right; all follow him.]