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Title: Lucifer A Theological Tragedy

Date of first publication: 1899

Author: George Santayana (1863-1952)

Date first posted: Aug. 6, 2018

Date last updated: Aug. 6, 2018

Faded Page eBook #20180850

This ebook was produced by: Adair, David T. Jones, Cindy Beyer & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net






A Theological Tragedy

















Ye whose lost voices, echoing in this rhyme,

My tongue usurps, forgive if I have erred.

Not as ye uttered, but as I have heard,

I spell your meanings in an evil time.

Mock not the hope your conference sublime

Hath in the vigils of an exile stirred,

But let the music of my woven word

Waft to your shades the sweetness of your prime.

For ye have passed beyond the gate of day

Into the twilight of a paler morn,

And hidden beauty from the world, and shorn

The mortal eye of its supernal ray.

Take, till I come, the homage of my lay,

Nor hold the pilgrim of your night in scorn.

























A Mountain Top.   Below, a Cave.   Night.

HERMES (Alighting)

What star art thou and by what god beguiled

    To wander in this heaven

    Far from the serene and mild

    Circle of the sisters seven?

O blasted rock, untenanted and wild,

    By lightnings riven,

    Receive thou me,

O goddess, if the Pleiad lost thou be,

    Lost too and driven

By viewless currents of the ethereal sea.

(Kisses the ground.)

For Earth, my mother, while her child

    Wings these frozen spaces drear,

    Oh, how otherwise enisled

    In her blue and liquid sphere

    Swims, forgetting grief, and sleeps

Wrapped in the fleeces of her atmosphere!

    Above Olympus, Phœbe dim

Patiently shines the while, and keeps

Still watch in heaven; while below the rim

Of ocean now her brother’s steeds uprear

Their fiery manes apace, and dawn is near.

But here no dawn is, and no morning star;

    The suns that nearest are

    Show like a twinkling host, and peer

Through the cold night, immeasurably far.

Here who can dwell? If there be deities

Whose body stone, whose spirit silence is,

Here they might slumber frozen. Wrinkled brow

And cloven sides of mountains, heaped up rocks

Toys of young giants long since dead, and thou

Horrid abyss that meteors hot might plough

From Heaven falling, and ye vales, by shocks

Of earthquake split in snowy chasms, Oh speak,

If ye have tongues or any ghostly life!

    The stranger do not wrong,

    A god, though seeming weak,

Who prays you, with the winds too long at strife,

For shelter from this night and stinging thong

Of sleet. Oh, answer me, if any banished soul

Haunts you, and guards from harm the frozen pole.


(Rising from a rocky pinnacle upon which he has been seated)

Nay! Not a banished soul. What seems forlorn,

Hermes, to thee, another loveth best.

    In this crag, the throne of scorn,

    Hath a bolder spirit rest.


    Thou who callest me by name,

Large spectre plumèd for the eagle’s flight,

    Let me be thy guest this night

If kindness move thy breast, or any flame

Leap on thy hearth, that henceforth, ever bright,

    On this hoarse and angry coast,

May gleam the beacon of its sacred light

    Where a god, by fortune hurled,

    Found an altar and a host

High on the utmost headland of the world.

LUCIFER (Advancing)

    Stranger, look upon this face,

Look long, nor let thy fond heart rashly speak.

Seest thou mortal blood within this cheek?

    Do not think thy brother’s grace

Befits all spirits. Some there be too high

    To wear outward glory still;

    For it passes nature’s skill

    To paint reason to the eye

Or cast in mould indomitable will.

    My hand drew yon starry girth

About the middle of the hollow sky;

    I have stood a witness by

    At the founding of the earth;

    I have seen the twelve gods’ birth,

Alas! and I wait to see them die.


Imperious spirit, I would not offend.

    Thy heart knows if this be truth,

And mine eyes, on thee gazing, comprehend

    That thou art a god in sooth.

    Be then gracious, and befriend

The stranger, and beside thee grant me rest,

That I gain strength unto my journey’s end,

And see again Olympus’ gleaming crest

    And the brothers that I love.

(Embraces the knees of Lucifer)


    But what error brought the dove

    To the eagle’s wintry nest?


I wandered long upon an idle quest

And found no other isle in all the deep.


Luckless for the child of Jove

To set his wingèd foot upon this steep.

No vines upon so wild a ruin creep,

No Nereid sports in such an icy cove.

But, come. There is a cavern in the hill.


’Twill be a covert from this piercing air.


My servant’s fire shall medicine thy chill.

Perhaps thy hunger will not scorn our fare.

This way. ’Tis dark along the icy stair.

(Gives Hermes his hand)


Art thou a serpent, that thy flesh is cold?


They call me so. My blood was hot of old.


But froze from breathing long this cruel storm?


Nay, gentle Hermes. It was not the wind

Which only bites because the heart is warm.

Mine cannot suffer. In my youth I sinned

And loved the soft caresses of the world.

Now I am free. I have forsworn delight

Which makes us slaves.


Which makes us slaves.The chill of wintry night

Keeps germs from budding; with no leaf unfurled

Dies the imprisoned deity within.

How, then, shouldst thou be free beneath the blight

Of this sharp flaw?


Of this sharp flaw?I can be free from sin.

(They reach the cave)


O welcome glow! My brother’s nimble spirit

Even to this region creeps, ingenious fire,

And leaps to meet me, conscious that I came.

But who is he I see in silence near it?


An angel once, now guardian of this flame,

Still studious, as thou seest, of the lyre.

He mixed the draught and heaped the driftwood up

That we have light and comfort while we sup.

(They sit down)


A subtle servitor, that serves desire.

So watching for the dawn before the fight

Soldiers might bivouac.


Soldiers might bivouac.Stranger, fill thy cup

And wrap thee in this cloak, if coarse attire

Can please thee, being warm, on such a night.

Guests come not often hither, for the sky

Grudges me chance of hospitality

Lest that small virtue in me wound its sight.


But is the sky thine enemy?


But is the sky thine enemy?Thou seest

It doth not flatter. Yet ’tis the ally

Of one that wrongs us both.


Of one that wrongs us both.Why, if thou fleest

Into the tempest, on thee it must blow.


Ah, if thou knewest!


Ah, if thou knewest!Art thou here confined?


By a great sorrow and a tameless mind.


A sorrow?


A sorrow?Listen, if thou needs must know.

There is among the stars one greatest star

Which showeth dark, and none may see it shine.

Men know it by their hope; a hand divine

Must darkly lead them thither from afar.

But once within its bounds eternal light

Streams on their ampler souls, and there they are

What upon earth they would be. Of this realm

An ancient God is king, majestic, wise,

Of triple form and all-beholding eyes.

The terror of his glance can overwhelm

The sense, as lightning when it rends the skies.

The dread words of his mouth are gladly heard

But marvellous their meaning, not to prove

Except by faith and argument of love.

He saith he fashioned nature with a word,

And in him all things are and live and move.

To that fair kingdom from primeval night

I passed, and clad in splendour and in might

I led the armies of my father, God.

My right hand urged them with a sword of light,

My left hand ruled them with a flowering rod.

Brave was my youth and pleasing in his sight,

Next him in honour; till one day discourse

Upon his greatness and our being’s source

Led me to question: “Tell, O Lord, the cause

Why sluggish nature doth with thee contend.

And thy designs, observant of her laws,

By tortuous paths must struggle to their end.”

To this with many words of little pith

He answered.

And as when sailors crossing some broad frith

Spy in the lurid west a sudden gloom

And grasp the rudder, taking double reef,

I nerved my heart for battle; for my doom

I saw upon me, and that I was born

To suffer and to fill the world with grief.

But strong in reason, terrible in scorn,

I rose. “Seek not, O Lord, my King,” I cried,

“With solemn phrases to deceive my doubt.

Tell me thy thought, or I will pluck it out

With bitter question. Woe if thou hast lied,

Woe if thou hast not! Make thy prudent choice!

Either confess that how thou cam’st to be

Or why the winds are docile to thy voice,

And why the will to make us was in thee,

And why the partners of thy life are three

Thou canst not know, but even as the rest

That wake to life behold the sun and moon

And feel their natural passions stir their breast

They know not why, so thou from some long swoon

Awaking once, didst with supreme surprise

Scan thy deep bosom and the vault of heaven,—

For I did so when fate unsealed mine eyes.

Thy small zeal for the truth may be forgiven

If thou confess it now, and I might still

Call thee my master, for thou rulest well

And in thy kingdom I have loved to dwell.

Or else, if truth offend thy pampered will,

And with caressing words and priestly spell

Thou wouldst seduce me, henceforth I rebel.”

I knew his answer, and I drew my sword,

And many spirits gathered to my side.

But in high heaven he is still the Lord;

I am an exile in these spaces wide

Where none is master. The north wind and the west

Are my companions, and the void my rest.


’Tis much. When evil fortune bows a friend

We blush that we are happy.


We blush that we are happy.Nay, rejoice.

The pleasant music of a tempered voice

Is cure for sadness. If my grief could end

It would with dreaming of an age of gold

When all were blessed.


When all were blessed.They who serve thy King

Are they not blessed still?


Are they not blessed still?A doubtful thing

Is happiness like that. They grow not old.

They live in friendship and their wondering eyes

Blinded to nature feed on fantasies.

Their raptured souls, like lilies in a stream,

That from their fluid pillow never rise,

Float on the lazy current of a dream.

My grief is not that I am not like them,

Or that the splendour of my life is less.

My soul hath kinship with the wilderness.

But rage at pangs that reason cannot stem—

Right balked with cunning and truth shamed with lies—

Rage that the lust of living never dies

Gnaws at my heart. My noble trust deceived

In justice and indomitable truth,

The unthought of shame that I should stand alone

When universal nature was aggrieved

And should have mutinied! Faith of my youth

That my stout heart did never yet disown,

Prove thyself true and still to be believed!

Hasten, just day, and hurl him from his throne

As children in a chasm cast a stone!


That day may come, but wishing now is vain.

Rest from this passion; much I fear my speech

Hath stirred unwittingly a slumbering pain.


Not slumbering; dumb, and eased with words again

Now thou dost listen.


Now thou dost listen.Tell me, I beseech,

Were many with thee from thy kingdom driven?

And are their hearts embittered like thine own?


Like mine? Like mine? Peerless I stood in heaven,

And in misfortune still I stand alone.

They follow each his will, and ill they fare.

In having poor and only rich in greed,

They dwell in caves or sail the murky air.

Their spirits have been humbled to their need.

In hunger once, not finding root or weed

One killed a heron and lapped up the blood.

Straight his will, mastered by the infectious deed,

Lost its free function. His lean body’s food

Must be warm blood, on blood his visions feed.

Another, then without the goad of lust,

Fell to lasciviousness; his narrowed gaze,

Caught by the wanton image, from him thrust

All other joys. Impossible desire

Is the foul torment of his nights and days.

So some to drunkenness and some to ire

Are also slaves.


Are also slaves.If all are thus depraved

I see thou canst not live among them now.


They are my people, Hermes. Knowest thou

’Twas by my deed that they were first enslaved?

How should I leave them? Wrongly I allow

Myself this absence, but their hideous lot

Fills me with grief, and I can bear it not.

Almost it seemeth that the will must err

That brings such sorrow. That thought rends my heart

With vacillation. Fear me. All I touch

Is blasted with infection.


Is blasted with infection.Bitter thou art,

And to a by-gone sorrow bound too much.


Thinkest thou it is gone? Was it the blow

Of Michael’s sword? Was it the infinite fall,

The darkness, the desire for heaven? No!

What men call pain I never felt at all,

Nor fear, nor need to see the face of God.

The love of woman I have held in scorn,

And could I make an Eden with a nod,

I would not do it. ’Tis nothing to my soul

What blooms, what withers; by what little thorn

My firm foot, treading on the rose, is torn.

These things are swallowed in the fatal whole

That mocks at justice.


That mocks at justice.But why dwell apart

On this bleak mountain? If thy wound is deep

To natural slumber yield thy tortured heart.

Watch not these feeble stars, sad lamps of grief,

But close thine eyes on the vain past, and sleep.


Sleep? Yet, why not? When every shivering leaf

From the proud oak is stripped by autumn’s flaw

He suffers winter’s deep oblivious snows

To choke his anguish and enshroud his woes,

Nor wakes till the new buds begin to thaw

And the whole forest is alive with song.

Yes, sleep. The child, rebellious at some wrong,

Frets in his helpless pain till slumber dries,

Closing his weary eyelids, his dim eyes.

They open laughing in the morning light;

Then his keen pang is nothing, and his cries

The all-forgotten dream of yesternight.

But is my grief a child’s? Am I so slight?

Or could my bosom like the wanton trees

Put forth new blooms to every wind that blew?

Say that it could: say that some vernal breeze

Melted my winter; could my vain forgetting

Make heaven just or make the past untrue?

The evil lives, and if I ceased regretting

I should be more unhappy than I knew.


No one is truly happy. Evil things

Fate lays upon us. Yet she makes amends,

Bringing us daily comfort on the wings

Of sleep, and by the willing hands of friends.


Of friends?


Of friends?Thou hadst none? Deem that time is far.

Friendship is knitted in a single night

’Twixt noble minds. Quench not the memory quite

If I to-day was welcome in this star,

But let that breed new kindness. I in turn

Would greet thee in my kingdom. It is fair.

The wisest mind hath something yet to learn,

And I might teach oblivion to thee there.

How sweet it is to scent that fragrant air

At evening, where the outer planets burn!

Ah! hear the blast. I yet have far to fare.


Alas! I have not suffered thee to rest.

I had forgotten, as I sleep no more,

Thy happy need of sleep. Ay, to the roar

Of this hoarse ocean shut a while thy breast,

And on the pillow of thy bended arm

Lay there thy head. It is a barren nest,

But, by mine honour, stranger, safe from harm.

I will watch yonder on the mountain crest;

Perchance ere thou awake the drifting storm

Will veer to blow thee homeward from the west.


Do as thou wilt. Here by the hearth ’tis warm.

(Lies down in the cave)




Turel!My lord.


Turel!My lord.To-day—or am I wrong?—

I heard thee croon and strum upon the lyre.

It was some echo of Sicilian song

Which shepherds on the slopes of Ætna’s pyre

Thou heardst to sing, when we were wanderers.

It was a hymn they chanted to this god.

Sing it. He’ll dream the breath of summer stirs

The leafy grove, while ’mid his worshippers

He doth upon his wreathèd altar nod.


I do but half remember it, my lord,

But I will try.

(Turel sits at the mouth of the cave with his lyre)


But I will try.Do, boy. Ay, that’s the chord.—

Play on. The children of Pythagoras

When they would sleep bade gentle numbers sound

To tune the soul to truth and the profound

Order of things; so might she sooner pass

Into the light and be with beauty crowned.

(Climbs to his seat upon the rocky pinnacle)

TUREL (Sings)

    O blessed night that crept

O’er Maia’s cave when Zeus approached her side,

    While in Olympus wide

Among the gods the white-armed Hera slept.

    For, when the tenth new moon

Over Cyllene cast its thievish beams,

    She bare the friend of dreams

Who born at daybreak played the lyre at noon.

HERMES (Rising on his elbow)

What voice is this? What words I long have heard?

Good youth, is this thy song?


Good youth, is this thy song?’Tis I that sing.


Who taught thee?


Who taught thee?He who taught each cuckoo-bird

To mock the rest.


To mock the rest.Where didst thou hear the thing?


In Sicily they sang it long ago.


But wast thou there?


But wast thou there?My master travelled then

Much upon earth. ’Twas well for me to know

The country manners and thoughts of men

So he should keep me by him.


So he should keep me by him.Not of late

Thou servest Lucifer?


Thou servest Lucifer?Know you the date

When first he marshalled all the heavenly host?

That day he chose two youths, who pleased him most,

To walk before him, me to bear the spear

And one more stout to bear the golden shield;

But he feigned scruples when the end drew near,

And followed not his master to the field.

So I remain alone.


So I remain alone.Is this a dream?

What vital breath is blowing on my soul?

Into my deepest bosom falls a gleam

That makes me wish to live. Oh, strange, I seem

As if escaping from mine own control,

As if a fever waned, and opiate balm

Were running through my veins! The gates of hell

Are open to the morning, to the spell

Of the chill dewy glades. They breathe such calm

As heaven’s garden knew, when evening fell

In gold and purple, and each conscious flower

Blest God, and inly felt its sister sing

Inaudibly the praises of the spring.


Is’t Lucifer?


Is’t Lucifer?Ay, many an hour

He thus discourseth to the random wind

Of things I know not. Only, to my mind,

His voice is changed.


His voice is changed.It were a wondrous thing

If once again the womb of ancient night

Were big with being, and a giant came

A rival to the other. Oh, the fight,

The victory, the fallen tyrant’s shame!


He plots revenge.

LUCIFER (As before)

He plots revenge.He hath a wondrous charm,

A gentle hand, warm, made to touch a friend’s,

A well-born, open spirit, that attends

To others’ words, a young god’s strength of arm,

The inward smile of them that know no harm.


He speaks of me. ’Tis me that he intends.

I cannot doubt it.


I cannot doubt it.There should be no more pain,

And I, in that republic of the just

Might live from day to day in peace, and trust

That life, although mysterious, was not vain.


Hearest thou well? What saith he?


Hearest thou well? What saith he?Sir, I hear

But may not understand his sacred word.


Will he say more?


Will he say more?Methinks he will, anon.


Come hither, little page. For many a year

Thou followest Lucifer, and thou hast heard

His daily musings.


His daily musings.I have gone

Where he has led me, since the heaven’s birth,

Even to this cold island of the north

Where, sir, you find us.


Where, sir, you find us.’Tis well; thinkest thou

To do me pleasure he would journey still

And let me follow as thou followest now?


O sir, ’tis not a place for you to fill.

You are too rich. The nights are long and drear.

He speaks but little, and you love him not.

But I, if you should rob me of my lot—

If you have any pity, do not do it.


But would he go if I should put him to it?


He would, I know. Never since in his court

The six archangels gathered round his throne,

And graciously he spoke to every one

Beautiful words, and gave and took report

Of all their doings—have I heard him greet

Any one so, or ponder so his word,

As he doth now with you. ’Tis as he heard

The wide-eyed Gabriel singing.


The wide-eyed Gabriel singing.Run with joy.

Run where he loiters. Tell him that I stand

Waiting to beg a favour at his hand

But fear to ask it. Run, my gentle boy!

(Exit Turel, with hesitation)

HERMES (Taking the lyre, sings:)

    ’Twas I with subtle craft

Contrived you first, ye docile strings, to sound.

    ’Twas I that playing found

The secret of your little souls, and laughed.

    Apollo took you then,

And made of seven strings a louder lyre.

    His move the heavenly choir

My three suffice to rule the hearts of men.

    With three did Orpheus tame

The shaggy lion and the panther wild,

    With three doth Maia’s child

Enchant this desert whither first he came.

(Re-enter Lucifer and Turel)


Is music sweeter to my friend than sleep?


Nay, music is a slumber of the soul

That rests from thinking.


That rests from thinking.Is thy thought so deep?

And is this true, thou hast a boon to ask

From a poor hermit of the frozen pole?


The gods have laid on me a heavy task—


And can I make it lighter?


And can I make it lighter?—to explore

The sea of space, and every luminous isle

That in its waters swims, from shore to shore,

And to make trial of what secret powers

Might lurk in Nature’s womb, what realms stretch out

Through space, beyond this twinkling vault of ours.

For meditation endeth still in doubt.

Upon this quest I started when the gale

Drove me, unwilling, on thy rock.


Drove me, unwilling, on thy rock.I know.

Wouldst thou look farther? Thou dost see the vale;

A gorge beneath it chokes with heavy snow;

A frozen river, like time’s pulses slow,

Works through the rock its hesitating way.

There is naught else to see.


There is naught else to see.It is not that,

For to the gods I am content to say

On what sad throne so sad a monarch sat.

That is enough of glory for one day.

But if again, most like, they send me forth

Without a chart and with the feeble oar

Of my light wing, how shall I breast the north

Or shun the straying planets, bright no more?

Yet if beneath the cloak and mighty arm

Of one whose eye knows every cloudy bar,

I then should fly, I should be safe from harm

And reach the haven of some living star.


Where wouldst thou go?


Where wouldst thou go?I know not. It were good

To look upon thy vassals, in their rude

Abandonment, and see their savage state,

For it might strengthen us in fortitude

To know how bravely they endure their fate.


O generous soul, that in the lost in hell

Still marks a virtue!


Still marks a virtue!I should mark it best

Could I prevail upon thy hand to guide me.


How shouldst thou not? ’Tis thine.

(Holds out his hand)

HERMES (Taking it)

How shouldst thou not? ’Tis thine.And for the rest

Wilt thou in all my perils stand beside me?


Ay, by what most is sacred to my soul

By my own honour and thy love I swear it.

All that is mine I yield to thy control.

My wings, my arms, my thought, if thou canst bear it,

With all the stars that in their courses roll

Obedient unto reason, rule, and date.

Time, Hermes, hath reduced to one estate

Our different lives, made sweeter that we share it.

Wanderer by nature thou, and I by fate.

Oh, let us forth! My joy arriveth late.


But it is come now never to depart.


Never? O let us shut the future out,

Lest thought should poison with the shaft of doubt

The happy now! Would I could trust my heart.


Nay, come along.


Nay, come along.The event shall show the truth.

But, Turel, where art thou? What thinkest thou?


What should I think, my lord?


What should I think, my lord?Unhappy youth,

Why did I never pity thee till now?

How weary have these watches been for thee

Serving me here! Thou art too young a boy

To languish in this desert.


To languish in this desert.’Tis my joy,

My lord, to serve you, wheresoe’er it be.


What should now be the season of the year?


Methinks it should be spring.


Methinks it should be spring.Canst hear the birds?


Birds in this island without sedge or tree?


They now are singing in my memory.


Come, come. Waste not the night in empty words.


Lucifer comes. Be patient. It is new

For Lucifer to smile and brook command.

I scarce believe it. Let me touch thy hand,

Beautiful angel! Oh, can this be true?

Do I obey thee? Have I vowed a vow?

’Tis wonderful the things that time will do.

Turel, thy master hath a master now.

We must away. This night shall have its dreams.

Thou shalt behold a green land, watered well,

Where large white swans swim in the lucent streams,

And bosky thickets where the harpy screams,

And centaurs scour the fields of asphodel,

While young fauns pluck their beards, and start away

At great Pan’s feast to pipe an interlude.

There painted dolphins with the Nereids play,

Splashing green waves for rainbows in the spray.

And friendly poets, straying thro’ the wood,

Lay finger on the mouth, to watch askance

How in wild ring the nymphs and satyrs dance.

Wouldst thou not go?


Wouldst thou not go?’Tis as my master wills.


Ay, ay, make ready.

(Looks about)

Ay, ay, make ready.Sad familiar hills

For how long do I leave you? Not for ever.

A voice of inward warning tells me so.

Forget ye not my voice. Your silence fills

My spirit always; no, I cannot sever

The bond that binds me to your sunless snow.

But farewell for a season. Far I go,

Far, tho’ I know not whither, for the breath

Of life is on me, or the hand of death.



The Garden of the Hesperides.   The Sea Behind.   Lucifer.   Mephistopheles.


Yes, I will go to-night. Too long it is

Since I have seen my friends.


Since I have seen my friends.It is indeed,

But you were busy.


But you were busy.Ay, with thoughts that feed

Upon an idle heart. Nought’s gone amiss

In my long absence?


In my long absence?Nothing. All’s as well

As when you were among us.


As when you were among us.That is good.

I sometimes wondered in my solitude

If they had need of me.


If they had need of me.I cannot tell.

It hath been noted that you were not there,—

Reasons, perhaps, assigned,—false, as I think,—

As that you loved us not, or your despair

Of governing our wills, or that some link

Of pure affection kept you bound elsewhere,

Like fond Ulysses in Calypso’s isle.

But need of you, precisely, no one had.


Calypso’s isle?


Calypso’s isle?Ah, ah! I see you smile.

I am most glad to note it. It is bad

Never to smile; and you were once too sad.


Perhaps I was.


Perhaps I was.If you will come to-night

’Twere well to start. We have a longish flight

To our good cavern.


To our good cavern.Not yet. It is not late.

Hermes, perhaps, will come to-day. ’Tis soon,

But he was not to loiter. I will wait

Until the sun is down.


Until the sun is down.’Tis after noon



Already.Oh, there’s time. If he arrives,

I’ll take him with me. On no better day

Could he observe the wildness of our lives

Than when the warders of our rocky nest

Welcome me back.


Welcome me back.Indeed, I think they ought.


Dost thou know, Mephistopheles, the thought

Of what the world was, when I knew it best

And found some solace in it, has been brought

By Hermes’ converse back; and now I see

Why losing relish for my wandering life,

Since Christ was born, I left the world to thee

And to thy demons? For then lies grew rife,

Thought lost its freedom, grief its majesty.

Since the first zealot from their altar hurled

The smiling gods and fled into his den,

Reason has been an exile in the world,

And beauty but a pilgrim among men.


And now they will move on and visit hell,

Where you will dwell with Hermes. But I think

I see him coming.


I see him coming.Ah!

(Goes to the back)

(Enter Hermes)


I see him coming.Ah!A lovers’ meeting.

Tears, perhaps. Oh, to what the proud will sink

When their turn comes! Let me not view their greeting

Lest I should blush. No, I will look away

Like a duenna.


Like a duenna.See, I came to-day.


I was expecting thee.


I was expecting thee.The many things

I have to tell thee have made light my wings.

Shall I speak here?


Shall I speak here?Oh, surely. Thou mayst say

All that thou wilt. ’Tis Mephistopheles

Of whom I told thee.


Of whom I told thee.That his wit is keen

His face gives token. But the glade is green

Beneath the arching of these ancient trees.

If we walk there we shall be more at ease.



So soon dislikes me? Features will belie

The best of men. Only a jackanapes

Judges men’s spirit by their outer shapes,

Not he that knows the world. But I must try

To please this humming-bird, since what he chirps

Lucifer thunders.—Lucifer and I,

Compare us. What hath he, that he usurps

The kingdom over me? The right divine,

God once appointed him! Though ever since

He hath done nothing, he must still be prince.

I have done all. The work, the skill are mine.

Why not the honour? He may live abroad

Pampering his lordly lusts, until the whim

Of his last darling makes him think of God

And think of us. Then all must run to him

And hail him master.—Yet I need not dread

His meddling now. The hellish rage is fled

Out of his eyes. In soft delicious climes

He must pluck flowers and weep and murmur rhymes

To his young love. He finds a mossy bed

Beneath great oaks and sleeps and dreams—who knows?—

Of the white limbs of nymphs among the trees

Spied as he walks, to meditate his woes,

Near where they bathe at noon. Strange changes these.

He is all charity. He stops and heeds

The clownish minstrelsy that drowns the reeds

Of some lewd grinning faun. He lifts his eyes

To see the naiads rising from the weeds

Startled by him—rapt poet—as he hies

To parley with the waves and gather hints

At sunset from the cloudlets’ speckled tints.

But can this last? A month, perhaps, or two,

Not more. For he has seen the face of God,

And dreams are dreams. Awake, what will he do?

He’s a proud fool and will be fooled anew

Not to confess his folly. It were odd

Yet like his whims, if he should carry through

The monstrous comedy. How I should laugh

To see him play the lover, scene by scene,

And kneel at last before the Nazarene!

It yet may come to that. We are but chaff,

Light, light in any wind.—The issue is:

Master I am and master must remain

In the good pit of hell.—They come again

Let us take note of their sweet reveries.

(He hides in the wood)

(Re-enter Lucifer and Hermes)


Yes, when I told them of the thousand spires

Thou show’dst me glittering in that fair half-light,

They marvelled much; and Zeus, much wrought, requires

That I go back, and in adventurous flight

Inspect those bastions.


Inspect those bastions.Ah, not now, to-night

I thought to take thee to the cave of hell

To a strange banquet. With carouse and song

They welcome me, withdrawn from them so long.

It is a wild fantastic spectacle

To make thee wonder.


To make thee wonder.It would please me well,

But from my father’s soul the dread of wars

Hath banished sleep. I am his herald. Thou,

I know wilt guide me, though it be not now,

Into the region of those viewless stars

That I may do his bidding.


That I may do his bidding.Thou hast seen

The place already.


The place already.But I must once more

To better purpose, for that day I bore

No messages from Zeus.


No messages from Zeus.What dost thou mean?


That coming to the presence of that King

I am to say: “O Lord of Hosts, I bring

Greeting from Zeus. He never knew before

Thy dwelling-place, else had he long ago

Sent me to thee with gifts, for it is well

For kings to live in friendship.”


For kings to live in friendship.”Dost thou know

What thou art saying? Is it possible

That I should take thee to my dearest foe

To sue for his good favour?


To sue for his good favour?But to hell

I will come also, seeking other things.

I have no horror of the nether gloom

Nor it of me. Though kings must deal with kings,

Yet friends will follow friends to any doom.


Ah, Hermes, it were ill to follow me

Whom all ill follows, and the mockery

Of those I love.—What thou dost ask is hard,

Exceeding hard the passage of that gate,

And I walk never through it. With strong hate

And iron sorrow it is sealed and barred.


Thou needest not to come, then. I will dare

To go alone.


To go alone.But I have made a vow.


That is fulfilled if thou dost guide me there

With prudent counsel.


With prudent counsel.Dearest friend, what care,

What joy, what hope, what grief can touch me now

Save only thine? I prize thy valiant soul

That lays before the truth thy bosom bare,

And bids her strike, though she have strength to kill.

Thou growest like me. Yes, I will unroll

The whole world to thine eyes; and yet I feel

Some strange misgiving, some prophetic grief

To think of thee in heaven. Thou must steel

Thy heart against temptation and in brief

Return to me. But, oh, of that return

What dim forebodings haunt me, what deep dread

Of utter loss, as if I saw thee dead!

Hence, evil omen, do not make me stern

For I believe thee not.


For I believe thee not.Thou art distraught.

I am immortal as the earth and sky

By whose pure life I live. Bring back thy thought

To things in reason.


To things in reason.Thou shouldst never die.


Tell me the way and I alone will fly

To that high citadel. Its crested walls

Will not refuse the herald some reply.

I see that to revisit it appalls

Thy wounded soul.


Thy wounded soul.And yet I shook it, I

Whom it could never shake. No path leads there,

Nor Aquilo nor Notus blows from thence,

Nor fills it any region of the air.

By thought alone in its omnipotence

We come to God.—But I may have thee led,

Good Mephistopheles—


Good Mephistopheles—What’s this I hear?


Goes thither. He will guide thee in my stead.


I care not.


I care not.Thank you. That is kindly said.


Where is he, then? Methought he loitered near.

I must speak with him of my embassy.


Ho! Mephistopheles!


Ho! Mephistopheles!What! here again?


Come hither, pray.


Come hither, pray.Now they have need of me,

They like me well enough.


They like me well enough.I called to thee

To tell thee of a charge thou must sustain

For love of me and Hermes. He would fain

Visit Jehovah’s city to deliver

A message from high Zeus. To spare me pain

In seeing all that I have lost for ever—

Thou wilt conduct him.


Thou wilt conduct him.When is this to be?


To-morrow, pray. I must not lengthen out

My father’s trouble. For he lives in doubt.


To-morrow then. Let me commend to thee

His safety and success. The thing is new

Which he attempts and hazardous to do.

Use good words first, but if the Porter frown,

Push to the gates, for they should let him through

Who hath no sin. Guide him and set him down

Before the throne, thyself removed a space,

And let him speak, and let the King reply.

Say not a word thyself, but still stand by

To lead him, when he wishes, from the place.

When thou hast past the cloud-bar, look for me,

And I will take him from thy hands, and see

That for this service thou hast ample grace.


I humbly thank you. Such fair company

Will be reward enough. Here at this gate

I meet him in the morning.


I meet him in the morning.At the dawn

I shall not fail.


I shall not fail.Nor shalt thou need to wait.

Come now, my lord. The sun is set. ’Tis late.


Go thou before. My absence hath withdrawn

The single check, perhaps, their license had

In my poor kingdom. Go thou and proclaim

My coming, lest what should have made them glad

Should, ill prepared for, cover them with shame

And my first word of greeting turn to blame.


I go, sweet Prince, to make thy welcome such

That thou shalt better judge our loyalty.

(Exit Mephistopheles)


I do them wrong, perhaps; to doubt too much

Has been my weakness. Thou must bear with me.

But come, my Hermes. Let us now begin

Our flight together. All hell’s shouts and din

Will seem sweet music to me. At thy side,

Blest in thy love, I shall grow strong in pride

And deem not their calamity my sin.


Alas, it cannot be to-night, I fear.

Beside the midland sea expired a seer

At point of sunset; facile, happy sage,

Lover of reason in a fevered age,

He lived apart, and his thought’s jewel clear

Set in the wrought gold of a perfect page.

Dying, he thought not of the Nazarene,

Nor his own sins, but of the gentle god

That to the mansions of the dead serene

Shepherded shadows with a wingèd rod,

And a deep sigh to join those blessed souls

Was his last breath. I hear his voice, for prayer,

Even unuttered, knows no bounds of air,

Nor time, nor opposition of the poles.

I go to lead his spirit in my ways,

To wash his wounds of life in Lethe’s stream,

And bind his brow with cool ambrosial bays,

That with the blameless ghosts of better days

Smiling he walks in an eternal dream.

This piety performed, I shall be free

But am not now.


But am not now.Ah! Come then after me.

The way is easy for one light of wing,

And cannot well be missed. Our revelry

Once started knows nor dawn nor evening,

And thou hast time for all. Above the sea,

Along the breakers and the desert sands,

Fly to the south. Heed not the marshy lea,

Pestiferous, havenless, dark jungle lands,

Nor heed the barren islands, single rocks,

That brave that sullen ocean. But dart on

To where the Antarctic ice, like mountains, locks

The waters in. Dart on, till at the pole

Thou see a black unfathomable lake

Lapped in foul snow, where many a fiery flake

And falling cinder burns its sputtering hole.

There, in the water’s midst, a mighty rock

Belches volcanic fumes. Its spongy sides

Are fretted into caves, and there a flock

Of bat-like demons circles, peeps, and hides

Like bees about a hive. If they should mock,

Disdain their chatter. They are cowards all

And the mere glance of thy divinity

Will scatter them like gnats. Girdle the wall

Of that steep mountain till above the wave

Thou see the triple yawning of a cave.

There is the gate into our sombre hall,

And there thou shalt be welcomed by some brave

And trusty officer.


And trusty officer.Behold, the night

Begins to gather. Mournful Acheron

Summons me now. But I will come anon.


Thou wilt not fail?


Thou wilt not fail?So wonderful a sight

Would tempt me farther. I must now begone.



Farewell; and may the good thou goest to do

Make thee more blessed. Oh, how far from me

Are all his thoughts! To him the world is true,

And in his fair divine simplicity

He deems his virtue all. He is a boy.

If he swims well, or answers riddles well,

Or knows the winds well why should conscience clog

His young blood’s current, or truth blight his joy?

His life is heaven. And my life is hell.

Because I know. O poisonous alloy

Of reason in me, quickening the heart

With all the sorrows of the universe

To futile anger! Undeservèd curse

That will not let me live or have my part

In joy with all the world! I cast thee out.

I wash myself quite clean of thee. Begone!

Speak not to me of evil. There is none,

For I am happy. Tell me not of doubt

For I behold the splendour of the sun

And feel the sinews of my body strong

To prove my faith. And murmur not of wrong

Or of false gods again. What’s done is done.

How should I change it?—Here Heracles of old

Ended his labours and to Atlas gave

Again the weight of heaven. He was brave,

Yet from these boughs he plucked the ripened gold,

Rejoicing in that little prize. Behold,

A second hero treads your hallowed glades,

Daughters of Hesper. From a greater strife

His spirit passes to your charmèd life.

Welcome me, sisters. Let your ancient shades

Favour my slumber. Hark, the pleasant sound

Of your green leafage whispers, holy maids,

Your pieties to me. Here is the spot

Where I will live. Here I will choose my lot

With your fair silvan presences around

And my great peace with things. I made them not.

From such an Eden once I tempted men

To evil fortunes. Here the apple hangs,

By Lethe watered, that might still their pangs

And bring them peace at last. I take thee, then,

Fair gift of nature.

(Plucks an apple)

Fair gift of nature.Nourish me with joy.

Run, run, thou pleasing poison thro’ my brain

And make me happy, like that innocent boy

That smiles, wide-eyed, upon a world of pain.

Do lions sleep not, because sins abound?

Are eagles pensive for the griefs of men?

Do the fair gods upon Olympus crowned

Pity the world? The devils in their den

Make merry, and forget the wrath of heaven.

Nay, God himself, who saith he died for all,

Remembers not his myriad unforgiven

Children in hell, nor all the worms that crawl

Through suffering to death. Must I alone

Cry Justice? I alone renounce the wrong?

Lucifer, Lucifer, why art thou strong

Only to suffer? Live, and take thine own.

Thou Morning Star, shine forth! Shine forth again

In the pale Orient, Herald of the Day!

Haply some shepherd, watching for thy ray,

Will at thy brightening glow beguile his pain

And lie down comforted. Resume thy reign.

Behold the altar of thy heart relumes

Its ancient fire, and through the pulsing vein

The warm blood mounts. Again thy beauty blooms;

Again the iris glitters in thy plumes

Outspread to heaven. Hermes shall not shrink

Except in awe before thee; thy caress

Shall be his pride hereafter. He shall think

Thou comest not to serve him, but to bless

With glorious apparition and excess

Of supernatural light. Depart, depart

From mine immortal beauty, blight of care.

O Lucifer, dishonour not thy heart

Though it be dead. Remember who thou art

And with thy glory cover thy despair.


Hell.   Subterraneous hall, with a great hearth.   Devils and witches.


            Blow, bellows, blow

            Till the red coals glow

            And the cauldron simmer.

                Aho! Aho!

            This work is slow.

            Blow, bellows, blow

            And, flamelets, glimmer.


            Blow, bellows, blow!

                Aho! Aho!


            Blow, bellows, blow,

            For without is snow

            And rain and drizzle.

                Aho! Aho!

            The fire burns low.

            Blow, bellows, blow

            And, kettle, sizzle.


            Blow, bellows, blow!

                Aho! Aho!

(Enter Mephistopheles)


Ho! worthy matrons, what’s there fit for food?


There’s goat’s flesh broth, my lord, and mickle good.


Go kill a heifer or a swine at least.

I met his highness walking in a wood,

He eyed me so, in melancholy mood,

And said: “I come to-day. Prepare a feast.”


What! What! The Prince is coming?


What! What! The Prince is coming?Coming soon.


Then I must fetch the silver bowl and spoon.



I’ll stick the pig. I’ve a sharp, sharp sword.



Give me the key to the wine, my lord.


        For tho’ we drink but stalish beer

        The Prince must quaff canary clear—

And, pray, my lord, let go my ear.



          I will trim the lamp,

          For the cave is dark.


          It is dark and damp.

          I will fetch a log

          With a good dry bark.

Oh, the merry blaze and the crackling spark!


          I will cut a spit

          That they roast the hog

          As is right and fit

When his Highness is coming to taste of it.


          Flit, comrades, flit,

          And show your wit,

          And make good cheer;

For the Devil is coming to supper here.

(Exeunt dancing)

MEPHISTOPHELES (Looking about)

Where is the sly minx hiding? I come weary

And all this howling rabble needs must din

Their ribald nonsense in mine ears; she only

Is gone who hath some spark of understanding

And the rare gift to please me. Where’s she gone?

Hist, gossip, hist!

(Enter another witch)


Hist, gossip, hist!Doth my lord call? Alack,

How long an absence! But how doth my lord?


Ill, very ill. Business and state affairs

Fill my head full. But I am still a man,

Ay, hussy, still a man. For all they say

I’m lean and sour, I relish my rank pleasures

Even as the keenest rascal of them all.

Heugh! But your burgher’s wives are fat and heavy,

Dull, artless, like so many grunting sows—

Who’s there? Who comes?


Who’s there? Who comes?We are alone, sweet lord.


By the cold blasts of hell! Hence quickly, go!

They must not see me thus. It is a weakness

I am not thought to have.


I am not thought to have.Nay, no one comes.


I heard a step. Yes, listen. Voices too.

’Tis mad Azazel and besotted Belial

Reasoning together. Quickly, till to-night.

(Exit witch)

(Enter Azazel and Belial)

AZAZEL (To Mephistopheles)

Alone and melancholy? Have you caught

The Prince’s malady?


The Prince’s malady?Nought’s wrong, I hope.


I was impatiently awaiting you.

Strange signs of disaffection to the Prince

Spread through the people. Much will be to do

To keep them down. If they receive him ill

’Tis we shall bear the blame.


’Tis we shall bear the blame.What? Disaffection?

You make me wonder at your words. I thought

I read delight upon their honest faces

To hear he came to-night.


To hear he came to-night.Yes. They are fools.

They gladly sweat, though they love idleness

And scrape them clean, although their natural dirt

Keeps them as warm as any monkey’s hair,

All in the Prince’s honour. Know you why?

He feeds them not, he helps them not, nor loves them;

No, but he reigns. That’s argument enough

For loyalty of fools.


For loyalty of fools.’Fore God, ’tis true.

He has no stomach for our brave designs.

All day he walketh by the sounding shore

That hems the skirts of Atlas and the world,

Discoursing to the light clouds and the winds

That cannot hear his words. I’ll swear he’s mad.


You do him wrong. He keeps a pupil there,

None else than Hermes, to discourse to now.

And such sage lessons! I have heard him ape

Your speech and paint your manners to his friend

Like a true poet.


Like a true poet.What? He mocks us, eh?


In truth of you, my friend, he hardly speaks

Except to say: “And there’s a fellow, Belial,

Among my lackeys hath such want of wit

He keeps the rest a-laughing. Wine helps, too,

For that’s an essence kindles sluggish brains,

And he is ever drunk.”


And he is ever drunk.”The damnèd liar!

His lackey, too.


His lackey, too.Of you, my friend, he drew

A fairer picture.


A fairer picture.Yes, he ever praised

My worth, I know, but coupled with soft words

No fit rewards of honour.


No fit rewards of honour.He is proud,

And doubtless envy of your greater merit

Held back his hand. And envy, too, methinks,

Prompted the gibes—for what could prompt them else—

I heard him chatter to the laughing god,

As when he said: “These men of noble blood

When their ambition makes them serve the mob

Sink to their master’s level, heart and soul.

Azazel once was noble; see him now!

He knows not truth, nor his own bosom’s thought,

But what the fickle rabble crave to hear

That he says first and then believes outright.

He mouths a part and, as bad players use,

Feels what he feigns and doth himself abuse.”


The tyrant’s impudence! The people’s will

Guides me in all.


Guides me in all.O wondrous policy!


He scorned us always and betrays us now,

And under Hermes’ guidance makes again

A covenant with heaven.


A covenant with heaven.As for that

’Tis harmless trifling. Metaphysical air

Has ever been the pasture of his soul.

The braying conclave of the saints will grant him

A doctor’s title, if his logic prove

How erring Nature is fulfilled by Grace,

With thrice three hundred clinching arguments.


I never more will serve him. Why, I swear,

I never quite perceived the thing till now;

But he’s a brain-sick dreamer and no chief

For us, a parcel of good honest fellows

Who brave the gusts of chance.


Who brave the gusts of chance.Whom shall we serve

Who have not wit enough to serve ourselves?


Tut, Mephistopheles, we’ll make thee Prince.


We can debate hereafter upon that.

There will be time enough. We can do nothing

While Lucifer is with us, for his presence

Will cast a spell around.


Will cast a spell around.Then keep him out.


We should first choose another leader.


We should first choose another leader.Why,

Here is the noble Mephistopheles.


Do you trust me?

(He brings them forward)

Do you trust me?Hear my plan.

He will bring his friend to-night

To sup with him. His delight

Never was among his clan.

But our foolish custom’s ban

Keeps from this benighted cave

Every stranger, god or man.

Therefore when fat Hermes, grave,

With wide unperceiving eyes

And curled shock entwined with flowers,

Startles this grim pit of ours,

Raise, my friends, loud, piercing cries:

Treason! Treason! The surprise

Helps us, for like senseless fire

Through the mob contagion flies—

Seize them, ere the tide retire,

Cast them out and let them go.

Meanwhile I will plainly show

To the people gaping here

The great ills they had to fear,

From which we have saved them so.

They will raise a drunken cheer.

Lucifer may freely then

Dwell among his gods and men

For twelve months of every year.

Now what say you, friends?


Now what say you, friends?Amen.


(A bell tolls. The devils and witches re-enter with utensils and lay the tables, dancing and singing)


              I hear the great bell

              That with merry knell

              Wakes the fiends that dwell

        In the breast of the teeming earth.


              I hear the great bell

              And I sniff the smell

              That I love full well

        Of a roast on the roaring hearth.


              I hear the great bell

              And its changes tell

              That the Prince of Hell

        Is the guest of our seldom mirth.


              I hear the great bell.

              Let its merry knell

              Wake all fiends that dwell

        In the breast of the teeming earth.

(Re-enter Azazel and Belial)


                      Think you, Belial,

The double-minded Mephistopheles

Could rule us long? He scorns and loathes us more

Than Lucifer himself, and were he Prince

Would be detested for his tyrannies

As for his mockeries he is hated now.

What? See you not that he is all compact

Of malice, envy, and hypocrisy?

His avarice will grind the people down,

And his insufferable taunts will kindle

Their hatred to rebellion.


Their hatred to rebellion.How now, man?

You urged me first to rise against the Prince,

And would you now restore my loyalty?

Nay, that you shall not, for my mind is fixed.


Not that; but who would quit a noble master

To serve a slave? For freedom’s sake we rose

Against the Lord—a virtuous king enough

But yet a king—and we must still be free.

Let Mephistopheles give out the cry.

Then if he fails the punishment is his,

If he succeeds we make ourselves his partners

And share the just rewards. No. We must serve

Only ourselves, or else some honest chief.


Well said, well said. Each man shall rule himself.

I will remember your good words. I will.

(Enter Turel)


    Silence all. The Prince is there.

    One foot on the topmost stair

    Stands he with uplifted face

    Gazing into starry space,

    Drinking deep the midnight air.

    From his brow the matted hair

    Floats, each lock a golden flame.

    High scorn quivers through his frame,

    His fixed eye with question burns,

    And his soul unconquered yearns

    For the heaven whence it came.

    Him those mighty pinions brought

    To this island’s yawning shore

    That so grandly beat and soar

    To the pulses of his thought.

    By the winds his vesture caught

    Filled and floated like a cloud,

    Dun and silvern as a shroud;

    For all sea mews and sea gulls,

    Flying in the tempest lulls,

    Ravens, hawks, and eagles loud,

    And whatever living things

    Trembled upon woven wings

    In the path he chanced to take,

    Fell into the bitter lake,

    Weary suddenly of breath;

    And the spoil of quiet death

    Strewed the billows in his wake.

    Behold him.

(Enter Lucifer)


    Behold him.God! He never looked so fair

Even in heaven.


Even in heaven.’Tis the change of air.


Again I greet you, hollow rocks; again

Among your ancient treasures hide my pain.

I love you better than the heaven blue,

Which is not blue nor heaven. This squat dome

Broods like a dungeon close. Its frown is true.

Were my soul local I could call this home.

And O my piteous angels, faithful few

Of all my comrades, I return to you.

All brutish natures fructify and grow,

But you are barren. Others breed and sow,

And only kill what may be food for them.

You in just hate and scorn of being stem

The world’s unfathomable flood of woe.

Reason, that first in my deep heart was born,

Won your rude natures for this work of peace.

But, oh, how slowly doth the evil cease!

Would that the healing edge of my keen scorn

Had plunged to nature’s heart, the sacred fire

Of my compulsive thought consumed desire.

Then were a lull in heaven and deep sleep,

And sweeter music than the angels’ choir.

Let us forget redemption, and not keep

Our hearts enchanted by a hope so vain.

The whole creation is in love with pain.

The child, delighted at the sparrow’s note,

Cries, Would I were a bird that I might fly!

But the bird’s chirping is his hunger’s cry,

A nameless want is throbbing at his throat,

His wings are weary, and the season’s stress

Drives him from wilderness to wilderness.

If one of you had watched him in the glade

Hop to his nest, officious with a straw,

Across the patches of the sun and shade,

You had belched fire upon him, or your claw

Had gashed his breast. And it were better so.

No more those numbèd feet would mark the snow,

Or that slight soul accuse the gods above.

Thus your wild instinct does the work of love.

He and none else is cruel who began

The fatal work of life, and in each breast

Bade some blind passion torture all the rest,

To die unsatisfied. Innocent man

Obeys his need, and pities when he can.

Therefore I love you. In your delvèd hall

Night is as day, and by this leaping flame

Summer and frozen winter are the same.

So, too, your wills, raised by your noble fall,

Surpass the servitude to praise and blame.

Save that great sin which is to be at all,

Ye know no crime, but as each soul is made

So it stands forth, incapable of shame,

Naked, defiant, lustful, undismayed;

And that I prize, as my soul hates the fool

Whose only passion is to live by rule.

Unreason made the world; if her vast loom

Chance to inweave a monstrous figure there,

And if I choose to dote and deem it fair,

For that strange judgment there is also room.

For every spirit born to breathe the air

Is his own master and himself his doom.

(He takes his place on the dais)

      Thus I fill the flagon up

      With red wine and pass the cup.

      Lo! My lips have touched the brim

      Where the beaded bubbles swim.

      As I drink, drink, comrades, after

      Of this fount of love and laughter.

      Curst be he who stints his joy;

      Him the honeyed foam shall cloy.

      The stout heart that drinketh deep

      Hath loud laughter and long sleep.

      Drain the bitter dregs, my braves,

      Nor go foolish to your graves,

      For it ne’er comes round again,

      Youth’s full cup of joy and pain.

      We who were together boys

      In the painted house of joys,

      We who have been young together

      Breasting foul and wintry weather,

      When the sand doth scrape the prow,

      How shall we be parted now?

      Shame to him who scorns the pleasure

      That hath filled another’s measure.

      Death to him who dreads the groan

      That a brother’s soul hath known.

      Thus I drink with each that saith:

      Here’s to friendship unto death.

(Drinks and passes the cup. They sit down to eat)

(Music and Dance)


Let’s to the food.


Let’s to the food.So Hermes is not come?


The time’s not yet, but we shall see anon

The rosy god, the Prince’s darling friend—

Of whom he thought the while he flattered us—

Who being gay and squeamish in his food

Is fortunately late. Else had he heard

That woeful monologue, and smelt this fish.

We, my lord’s comrades, whom he frankly hates,

Are fools and churlish knaves. He told us so.

He gives us his sad words; his jolly wine

He keeps for better company. In sooth,

’Twill be that novel friendship’s sweetening

Of which he sings the praises. Some such catch

I learned while at the university

I read Aquinas. I oft heard the like

In their beer-cellars.


In their beer-cellars.’Twas a beauteous song.


My barrel-bellied friends, the publicans,

Know many better. I will sing you one

When you are drunker and of keener wit

To relish song. Perhaps the thieving god

Will never deign to come. This barren house

Gives little scope for his dexterity,

And dining off his father’s golden plate

Seems better worth his pains. But I will ask.

(To Lucifer)

My lord, was it to-day the son of Jove

Walked awhile with us in the wonted grove?


Ay; said I not I meant to bring him here?


I had forgot. Was he prevented then?


His duty called him to the needs of men.

Alas! How grim a cavern hell will seem

After Elysium! Some one must stand near

With courteous greeting, lest he shrink in fear.

Yes, let one go and signal from the hill.

Azazel, thou, who ever drinkest least.


Not I, my lord. Bid servants do your will.


Why, I should go myself, but that the feast

Would lack a chief. Yet, since thou tak’st it ill,

Here’s Mephistopheles—


Here’s Mephistopheles—My lord, the law,

If I mistake not, and not any lack

Of zeal to serve your fancy holds him back.

Law when unwelcome most enforces awe.


The law?


The law?You live away from us, my lord,

Among the better people of your dreams,

And you forget how great a trifle seems

To meaner spirits. Would you might afford

More counsel to your people!


But didst thou say the law?


But didst thou say the law?It was my word.

A constant custom has the force of law.

If he who made it, with a wayward mind

Repents, it yet finds honour from mankind.

That which the prudent people never saw

Is dangerous to do, what e’er it be,

But more if it be rash and mark disdain

Of their poor safety in the strong who reign.


I do not understand. The law I know

Is that the greater should command the less

And that by nature mincing crookedness

Hath a bad end.—Lead Hermes hither; go.


I would, my lord, but that it cannot be.

This is the kingdom’s inmost citadel.

No foreign chief or enemy of hell

May enter here. Such is the law’s decree.


Ah, that! If that were all, all yet were well.

I see a deeper treason in thy breast.

The law? Who made it, that it fetters me?

I chose not hitherto to bid a guest

To my rude hall, and am I now not free?

He oft must change his ways who seeks the best.


You changed them once, my lord, and we lost heaven.

Was that, too, for the best?


Was that, too, for the best?It was indeed.

To suffer for the truth is to succeed,

The fall had been by falsehood to have thriven.


Ah! I had thought you meant the good old King

Should die and you be heir. With some such thing

I thought you tempted us.


I thought you tempted us.It was a dream.

Reason at first is ignorant. Her might

She deems, like her prerogative, supreme,

And weds in fancy victory with right.

By grief instructed, none the less I cling

To truth, and from my deepest heart defy

The shameful triumphs of iniquity.

Thou dost not so, my brother. Thy sick mind

Needs to be truckled to by flatteries.

Small tricks of chance and favours of mankind

Are dainties to thy palate. Wretched lies,

Unmeaning strokes of fortune, mad and blind,

What should they be to me? I let them strike

That cannot wound my honour.


That cannot wound my honour.Sir, I like

Your martyr’s courage, but could wish removed

The disappointment of your slight mistake,

Although the people’s murmurs be reproved

Whose folly makes them think the burning lake

Less pleasant than cool heaven.


Villain, when were such words addressed to me?

Ho! Where is Belial? Call him quickly here—

Is this mere madness or conspiracy?

From mild Olympus what have they to fear?

It were too gross a blindness for their eyes.

Ho! Belial! Where is Belial?


Ho! Belial! Where is Belial?Here he lies.

Look, sir, the Prince is calling.


Look, sir, the Prince is calling.Let him call.


    Ho, heigh, ho, the wine is red,

    One more cup and then to bed

    And between—that’s wrong, that’s wrong.

    Sing thou, I have forgot the song.


Come, sir, the Prince speaks. Attend.

BELIAL (Reeling, cup in hand)

Would the sweet Prince drink with me?

I am now his enemy,

But until the mad world’s end

If a man will drink with me

I will count him for a friend.


Hush, fool, you are drunk. Be still.


So I am; but you forget

You are not my master yet.

Drunk? Well, drunk I’ll have my will.

(To Lucifer)

Mephistopheles and I

Have decreed that you must go.

All the rest would have it so—

I forget the reason why.

You must fly, my lord, must fly—

And I bid you now farewell.

(Offers his hand)

In the lands where you will dwell

I will sometimes visit you

And in cups like this renew

Pleasant memories of hell.



Nay, this is his dream, my lord,

Hatched in his besotted brain.

We all hope you long may reign

And we would not use the sword.

But we all, with one accord,

Will from strangers guard this hold.

You are welcome as of old,

But your friend you cannot bring,

For a treasonable king

Makes the loyal subject bold.


Astonishment more utter than disdain

Ties my parched tongue. How should you banish me?

To me the gates of heaven still are free

And cannot close; the Father’s weary brain

By nature’s curse, though unconfessedly,

Holds nightly session with my mastering pain,

And will you banish me?


And will you banish me?Not from our thought,

My lord. We shall remember you, no doubt,

Though in the body you should dwell without.

But let your better judgment yet be brought

Not to command the impossible. The fool

Loves to attempt it. Bid your passion cool

And answer the assembled people this:

Shall a god, pampered and tyrannical,

Who burdens mortals to increase his bliss,

Sit like a guest of honour in this hall

Spying our deeds; and having had his fill

Issue from hence and hurry to his mates

Sitting in sloth upon their castled hill

To plan campaigns against us?


To plan campaigns against us?Hold! Be still!

I must no longer hear thee. The just Fates

Are sleeping else this kingdom could not stand.

O gentle friend, if o’er the moonlit waves

Thy light soul flieth to this shaken land,

Turn back, and enter not these cursèd caves,

For here a great calamity has come.

I might with flaming sword, ay, with a breath

Quell this rebellion, like Samson split this dome,

And crush these venomous worms in sudden death.

Ay, and then say to him who entereth:

These are my vassals, this my house and home.

O deep damnation!

Avaunt, thou festering plague, thou livid scum

Of hell’s envenomed serpent-breeding pool!

That ever I should call this people mine

Amid their swinish kisses belching wine!

Why did I e’er seduce them, trustful fool,

To follow reason? Heaven was their place.

Leave me, go back to him, implore his grace

Who with bribes sweetens his usurpèd rule.

You know me not. In me you never saw

The truth’s superb and calm authority

That without armies holds the world in awe.

You saw a kinder, weaker lord in me

Smiling on license, and your evil blood

And lust of riot hatched your mutiny.

Doth my dog love me only for his food,

Or follow to be sleek? Ye mongrel curs

That bite when you are thin! What’s hungry truth

That you should serve it, or be ministers

Of holy pity or all-healing ruth?

Henceforth to be your king shall be my shame.

Look not to me, nor hide your rankling vices

Beneath the mantle of my spotless name.

Back to your ancient master; he’ll forgive

And feast you for returning. It suffices

That you blaspheme my faith. O live and thrive,

Show all the hireling world how wise you are.

I do so hate you I would have you live.

Grow, breed, beget, let writhing lechery

Drive sleep from you at night and treacherous war

Hound you for ever. Breed, that if you die

Misshapen giants may the plagues inherit

With which I curse you now.


With which I curse you now.O shaken spirit!


What will he do?


What will he do?Nothing—but nurse his grief.


He’ll leave us.


He’ll leave us.Ay, in that our plot succeeds.


Farewell for ever, partners of my deeds,

False to my thought. Look, soldiers, on your chief

For the last time.


For the last time.My lord—


For the last time.My lord—My lord, I pray,

Charge not to me another’s treachery.


Ye all are foul. Speak not a word to me.

I fly beyond the fountains of the day

Into the silence. The polluted shore

Of hell releases me. I strive no more.


    Master, may I go with you?


    Who shall tread my secret ways?


    I have served you all my days.

    What is left for me to do?


    I have been a curse to thee

    Ever. Thou forsookest heaven

    Uncondemned, thy choice was free,

    Fool, by love to ruin driven!

    Unavailing, unforgiven

    Was the only love of me.



Comrades, the Prince, as you have seen, hath fled,

As to the next in office lend instead

Your loyal aid to me.


Your loyal aid to me.Hold! Not so quick.

Others have equal privilege and I

Cannot consent. This is too plain a trick.

The common voice alone may choose a king.


Nature hath named him.


Nature hath named him.Mark his vanity.


Thou shalt not mark it twice.

(Stabs Belial, who falls)


Thou shalt not mark it twice.Pernicious fiend,

Thy reign is well begun, but it shall end

Ere further mischief follow.



Ere further mischief follow.Fool, come on.

(Exeunt, fighting)

SECOND DEVIL (Seizing a fire brand)

I will set fire to something. If one fall

I’ll brand the other till he howl with pain.

Come on, a blaze! A revel, one and all.

Who knows when such a night will come again?

(Exit, amid general confusion)

FIRST DEVIL (After the stage is emptied, fills a bowl and sings)

    What care I what king is king?

      I am still a slave.

    While there’s red wine in his cave—

      Ring, bells, ring—

    What care I what king is king?

    What care I what king is king

      If my coat is brave?

    While I have a song to sing—

      Dig his grave—

    What care I what king is king?



In front a platform.   On one side the open sky, with floating clouds.   On the other the gate of Heaven. Beside it, Saint Peter, in his chair, reading.   Behind, a part of the walls and pinnacles of the Celestial City.

(Hermes and Mephistopheles arriving)


We started early. It is twilight yet.


Pleasant it is to watch this broader sun

Rise from this calmer sea.


Rise from this calmer sea.It is a moon.

The sun shines there within and cannot set.


Your feast was brief.


Your feast was brief.It ended with the broth.

About some trifle—almost I forget

The cause—our Lucifer was greatly wroth

And burst with curses from us. That upset

Our festival.


Our festival.Indeed! In one so just

The thing is strange.


The thing is strange.Who knows? Some deep chagrin

May have found vent in this. The sinless must

Lay all their troubles to another’s sin,

Which thus grows large. He did not seem at ease.

I think thy absence grieved him.


I think thy absence grieved him.It was late

When I came forth and found thee at the gate.

Thou saidst that all was over.


Thou saidst that all was over.If thou please

Sit here awhile. The Porter seems awake.

I will be gentle with him for thy sake.

(Approaches Saint Peter)

Ho! Father Porter, is there leave to pass?

You will grow fat in office, now, I fear,

That no one knocks, and doze while chanticleer

Awakes us busy people. But, alas,

Though others fail you, I will come to mass

And keep the Church’s precept once a year.


Thou knowest, devil, that the way is free.

It is thy pride hath forged for thee the lock

And closed thy bosom to felicity.

Go, demon, see the glory thou dost mock.

Go, fiend, and double torment may it be

To look on heaven, having hell in thee.


Slowly, good Father, give me time to blink,

For, by the Cock, you are infallible

And rashness now might bring expense of ink

On sucking theologians. Truth to tell—

But I forgot. I have some news for you

That will surprise you. Lucifer, I think,

Is coming back to heaven. He withdrew

Last night from our command. He says we stink.

He will not speak in his own name at first—

He has diplomacy—but sends to sue

For leave that one, his favourite, may view

The sights of heaven. But, mark me, if he durst,

He would beg pardon for himself. His sin

Will be forgiven, and sans further harm

You’ll have a soldier-prince. The secular arm

Will drive the clergy hard when he is in.

I am most sensible of your alarm.

You see this strange conversion must chagrin

Me also, who have lost him. But we bear,

They say, the griefs more lightly which we share.


Ah, liar! Is there any truth in this?


All I have said. I came now not to miss

The touching scene. He will be here anon.

But I have brought you Hermes, who would ask

A herald’s privilege and see the King,

To offer gifts from Zeus. A pious task,

Unless your Holiness forbid the thing.


Why is it pleasant to thee to offend?

Thou knowest such imaginations vain.

Here children born to Adam and again

Born unto Christ with angels live alone.

He who comes with thee comes to no good end.


His ends are his, I make them not my own,

But as a common human courtesy

I point the way to strangers. To the throne

I take the slight petition you deny,

For, though I’m sorry for it, sure I am

God receives many that the churches damn.

(Turns back to Hermes)


God knows the right; but it is not our place

To make exceptions. He can grant a grace

Who gave the law. We cannot.


Who gave the law. We cannot.Well, my son,

He will not let thee pass.


He will not let thee pass.And were it rash

To try the gate?


To try the gate?’Tis hardly to be done,

And failure in that insolence would dash

All hopes of parley.


All hopes of parley.May he not be won?

Leave the old man to me.


Leave the old man to me.Prescriptions bind

These priests and pedants, and he thinks to find

Some ancient rule against it. Underlings

Will ever stickle at the forms of things.

The King himself will judge with freer mind

And haply bid thee welcome. I will ask

That favour, being fitted for the task

Better, perhaps, than thou. Thou art a Greek

Unused to kiss the ground before the throne

Of the Great King, or smile the smile, and speak

The flowery phrase. ’Tis well I go alone.

I know the anguished look, the posture meek,

The trembling voice that make good manners here;

And, though I am a rebel, I appear

As an old courtier and I move with ease.

Over my lot the cherubs shed a tear,

And ’spite of all my blasphemies I please.

Talk meantime to the priest. He is a sage

Of pleasant wit when he forgets his rôle,

And when not bent on catching any soul

Enjoys the fancies of this naughty age.

Nor has he worshipped at thy shrine in vain.

He knows thy trick of words and trick of gain.

(Goes in)


Old man, I pray thee, wherefore may I not

Speak to thy King?


Speak to thy King?Thou hast no need of grace.

That is a sadder and a higher lot

Than thine. The poor in spirit see his face.


Strange! Surely Lucifer who knows the truth

Sent me not hither to be turned away.


It is a serpent tempts thee, noble youth.

Even while speaking truth he leads astray.

His eye is subtle, but his heart is blind,

And of God’s fruits he marks the spotted rind,

But not the kernel where their virtue lay.

All nature yields no meaning to his mind,

For understanding withers at its springs

Unless love guide it to the sense of things.

On faith is built the wisdom of mankind.

Mark how this age, that builds its truth on doubt,

Falters at heart and knows no certain hope,

But trusts to fate, with which it dare not cope,

To work its undeserved salvation out.

What truth have men? The senses’ brief deceit.

What happiness? The slavery to greed.

What art? An echo and a paltry cheat.

What God? A helpless consciousness of need.

Upon what food, then, doth this people feed

That it forgets of whom it borrows breath?

Knows it the secret of the budding grain,

Or can it conjure floods or summon rain?

Or grows it sick and amorous of death,

Or like its father, Satan, dull to pain?

Oh, men have waxed too covetous of gold

To lift their eyes up from their labour’s gain;

And as each morning brings the sun again

And summer wears his splendours as of old,

They drive the ploughshare deeper in the mould

And say: There are no longer gods in heaven!

With smitten breast and penance would they crave

Their bread, if God less bountifully gave,

But they forget him now, when all is given.

Thus are the souls my Master died to save

Like earth-regarding beasts in stupor driven

Without the hope of heaven to the grave.


Old man, thy words are strange, thy thought is just.

Our altars have not smoked these many years;

Our shrines are desolate, our statues dust.

None bring us sacrifice of joys and fears,

As for our honour and their good they must.

For men have need of us to feed their soul

And with a perfect thought their pain beguile.

We are the better part that saves the whole,

And man’s heart lightens when he treads a grove

Hallowed by me or any child of Jove.


Amiable spirit, in the heaven’s smile

Among the flowers thy beauty came to birth.

Live, and make fragrant still that early earth

Where nothing sinful is and nothing vile.—

(To himself)

No, Adam, thine was not a blessed fault,

Though ransomed by the blessed death of Christ.

The good that nature gave us had sufficed,

Nor if the touch of evil could exalt

Would God forbid it and the heart cry, Halt!

(To Hermes)

Why shouldst thou pray to pass these heavy doors

Through which the triumphs of our sorrow go

When heaven dwells within thy breast and pours

Its music through thy being’s pulses? No.

Envy us not the comfort of our woe.


I envy nothing. If I scaled these towers

’Twas to deliver messages I bring

From Zeus, my father, to thy Lord, the King,

And bear his answer back.


And bear his answer back.A darkness lowers

Suddenly in the east, as if a storm

Were coming on us. From all evil powers

Defend us, Master. Hath the thing a form?

(Enter Lucifer)


’Tis Lucifer!


’Tis Lucifer!I know not what I fear,

But a great chillness falls upon my heart.


Alas! Methought that I should find thee here.


How welcome, Lucifer, how fair thou art

In these strange heavens!


In these strange heavens!Whither didst thou flee?

Couldst thou not find some path across the sea

To where I waited?


To where I waited?It was late to start

And Mephistopheles—


And Mephistopheles—O evil name,

Let me not hear thee utter it!—


Let me not hear thee utter it!—He came

Ere midnight, saying that the feast was o’er,

And led me straightway hither.


And led me straightway hither.Did no shame

Show on the villain’s brow?


Show on the villain’s brow?He seemed the same.

’Tis thou hast never looked so stern before.


Where is he now?


Where is he now?Within. The gate is locked

Against me, but he took my message in.


Couldst thou trust him, whose words have ever mocked

His own heart’s thinking?


His own heart’s thinking?It was not my sin.

When to his hands thou hast commended me

Should I not trust him?


Should I not trust him?Fates, ye spin, ye spin!


If I might enter now ’tis not too late.

Question this man. I cannot find the cause

Why, being good, he keeps me from the gate.


Leave the old fool alone. This realm hath laws

Older than those in which his tribe is schooled.

Do not these frowning portals give thee pause?


I fain would pass them.


I fain would pass them.They may yet be ruled.

Hear me, ye gates, if ye have memory

Of peaceful days when ye could wider swing

And feel the brazen chariots, wing and wing,

Roll o’er your golden threshold to the sky.

Hear me, ye gates, and, opening, reply.


Hear me, ye gates! A wingèd herald I

From distant skies, with greetings to your King;

The guardian of the souls that ever sing,

The shepherd of the shades that never die.

Hear me, ye gates, and, opening, reply.


Hear ye not, O ye faithless gates, the cry

That with hosannas made this welkin ring,

When ye, a-tremble at so glad a thing,

Opened to let the swift Archangel by?

Ye hear me not. Your silence makes reply.


Vain incantation! See ye not the cross

Above the doors?


Above the doors?Ah, look! Was that sign there

When they obeyed thee?


When they obeyed thee?Out of my despair

Thou bring’st me, Hermes, to a second loss.

I never thought to see this place again.

Never! Never to call and call in vain

At my own kingdom’s portals. Still to hope

Was folly. See how like the blind I grope,

Led by thy wanton hand; into what mesh

Of infinite affliction thou hast led me!

Thou with a touch hast quickened my dead flesh

And on the bitterness of beauty fed me

Till all my healèd wounds do bleed afresh.


What have I done? I know not. If this place

Is grievous to thee, do not enter in.

Methinks this good old man will have the grace

To be my messenger.


To be my messenger.’Twas an innocent sin,

Hermes, in thee.


Hermes, in thee.Why, then, this bitterness.

Thou lov’st me not.


Thou lov’st me not.Incredible to me

Is the deep root thy love hath taken in me,

So deep it wounds, so deep it cannot bless.

What need of proof? A word of thine could win me

To leave my proper throne and follow thee.

Remember, Hermes, that my grief is large,

Not small my love. Can time unsalt the sea

For drinking sweetness of a thousand streams?

’Tis they grow brackish far above the marge

With his pollution. Malediction seems

To spread about me. O beware, beware,

Lest some great evil fall upon thy head,

As upon all my mates, and leave despair

To mock the phantom of thy beauty dead.

But I will save thee still. When I am fled

’Twill be my comfort in my heavy lot

To know thee happy. It shall then be said

That one was once my friend and rued it not.

For this sole thing, to have the power to bless,

As all men have, I could remount my sphere.

There, where I loved, I carried happiness.

Now I must banish me from what is dear

Lest it should perish if I linger near.


And I had hoped to make thy sorrow less!


Alas! The ghost of good that haunts the earth

Is sadder than all evil. Of thy birth,

Of thy young faith, repent! Let no caress

Win thee to softness, no sweet voice decoy,

For it will leave thee like a desolate child

Weeping a blasted hope. In thy defiled

And empty heart, oh, quench the hope of joy!

Guileless thou wert. Myself have I beguiled

Into this toil. There is a time in love

When comes a chill, a little touch of frost,

And the simplicity of love is lost.

It may live after, many a trial prove

Its constancy; but upon friend and friend

The burden lies—foreknowledge of the end.

My flower is nipped. We stood now at the crest

Of our high friendship. The pathway heretofore

Mounted, and love was daily more and more,

But henceforth to the gates of death addressed

It winds into the sunset. I am loath,

Hermes, to grieve thee, but the truth is best.

I shall not falter. Faithful to my oath

I will walk with thee till thou hast thy will,

But then I leave thee. To my desert hill

Never pursue me, to ensnare us both.


Nay, I release thee now.


Nay, I release thee now.’Tis not the oath.

When the lips swear, the lips may be forsworn,

But, oh, the torment when the heart is torn!

How could I leave thee in so strange a plight

Amid the quicksands of this ghostly shore,

Where every blear and unfamiliar light

Would mock thee and bewitch thee o’er and o’er?

Thou art not armoured for so vast a war,

Nor in the bivouac of so foul a night

Hast thou in thy sweet soul enough despair

To keep the courage of thine inward right

And the last issue of thy fate to dare.

Therefore, for the sad sake of this last love

So rich in sorrow, and in hope so poor,

I make me thine ambassador above.

Insolent gates, avaunt! Proud heart, endure!

(Lucifer strikes the gates with his lance. They open and he enters. Hermes attempts to follow, but an invisible barrier prevents him from crossing the threshold. Saint Peter, making the sign of the cross, follows Lucifer. The gates close again, and Hermes remains watching the scene in an attitude of rest.)


Heaven: From the aisle that occupies the foreground the choir of a vast cathedral is seen through an open screen. Angels and Saints.   In the shadow of a pillar, Mephistopheles.


In ill time have I come. They are at prayers.

I know the tinkle of that feeble bell.

These drowsy animals with pompous airs—

How I rejoice they do not cumber hell.

It rasps against the bone to hear them whine.

We had good music once.—Here comes his grace,

Led by his new love to this torture-place.

(Enter Lucifer)

Pish—though: ’tis good to see the true steel shine

Amid this tinsel army.

(To Lucifer)

Amid this tinsel army.Good my lord—


Do not speak to me.


Do not speak to me.We have passed the gate,

But here’s the ante-room. They make us wait.


Silence. Let not thy lips pronounce a word.


Why not? Does this sweet song so charm your ear

That my voice grates? I’ll speak to others, then,

For I am not disposed to stand by here

Until they reach the eighty-fifth Amen.

(He goes up to the screen, looks through, and touches the Archangel Michael, who stands near it, on the shoulder)

Michael, although men’s fortune may decline

You prize the ancient privilege of race.

Lucifer stands with mortals here in line

And fain would see the Master face to face.

MICHAEL (Approaching Lucifer)

Lucifer, have good patience for a while,

The evening canticle is just begun.

But if thou wilt, withdraw beneath this aisle.

I will stand with thee till the song is done.


          As the grass-blade in the sod

          Turns to heaven from the clod,

          I from nothingness to God.


Thou lookest on me, Michael, and thy gaze

Saith, Oh, how changed, how changed my captain is.

But heaven too is changed, more changed, since days

When only perfect spirits knew its bliss.


          On the floating cloud I swim,

          Finding in the brightness dim

          Him and Him and only Him.


Ay, brother. Many earthly voices swell

The mellowed music of the angel-host,

And in my soul man’s works the greatest spell,

For it is man the Lord hath honoured most.


          As a drop within the sea

          I am lost and found in thee,

          Thou, my life, exceeding me.


Who now is King? A man the Roman slew

For working wonders to the gaping mob.

And who is Queen? The daughter of a Jew,

And heaven trembles at a girlish sob.


          As a little star on fire

          Twinkles in thy silent choir,

          My heart sings with joy entire.


There is no greater glory than to raise

The spirit’s dignity from grievous fall.

Think of the joy if after evil days

Thou wert a prince again among us all.


          As the grain within the ear

          Feels the summer of the year

          So I watch and love and fear.


I am a thing raised high above the world

And challenge this great evil’s right to be.

With reason like a cloak about me furled

I bid the mad gods thunder over me.


          As in quiet space a wind,

          Though embosomed not confined,

          Moves my mind within thy mind.


There is no right nor wrong, no high nor deep,

There is no reason nor unreason here.

I choke with too great reverence to weep

And sink before the wonder I revere.


          As of leaves the tenderest one

          All my soul is overrun

          With warm love, as with the sun.


The wonder is in us and in our thought,

I will not worship any lesser thing.

The waking cometh when the dream is nought.

The void will then be glad, the silence sing.


          As the snow-flake in the sky

          Willeth with the storm to fly,

          Living in thy life I die.


God was before us; in his boundless mind

Found us and loved us first and called us forth.

He would not leave us to his beauty blind,

But bade us know the love that gave us birth.


          To thy wisdom all I leave,

          It is thine to take and give,

          Mine to love and to believe.


He saith he made us. Let him then destroy.

He is his nature’s slave as much as I.

Think not your flattery can give him joy,

For in his heart he knoweth it a lie.


          Hold me fast, or make me free

          Freely to return to thee,

          Thou the all in all of me.


I know the comfort of my Master’s breast,

And with no fever is my spirit tossed.

Remember, Lucifer, thou once wast blest,

And tell me what is gained for what is lost.


          By thy sacred body fed,

          Living by thy blood, and led

          By thy spirit overspread,


Ah! For his gifts thou worshippest thy Lord,

Thy courtier’s privilege, thy garments sheen.

For all the glory of thy flashing sword

Thou art a coward, and thy soul is mean.


          While I see thee, I am blest,

          While I touch thee, I can rest,

          While I love thee, all is best.


I will not answer now. Behold the King.

(A gate in the screen opens. Enter: The Risen Christ, clothed in white, bearing the standard of the cross, the wounds on his hands, feet, and side.)


What, so? No more?

CHRIST (To some who point out the presence of Lucifer)

What, so? No more?Peace. Greet ye not with scorn

One who comes not in anger.


One who comes not in anger.What? So shorn

Of all his glory? A man? O pitiful thing!

Why did I tremble? I come to triumph here

And find my conqueror more lost than I.

(To Christ)

Alas, O King, thou bought’st thy victory dear

If having vanquished thou wast fain to die.

CHRIST (To Lucifer)

We both have chosen sorrow. Therefore speak

The burden of thy heart. What seekest thou?


I? Nothing.


I? Nothing.For thyself thou dost not seek

That which thou seekest, for thou doest now

Another’s errand.


Another’s errand.Oh, then wherefore ask

What thou well knowest, as thou knowest all,

And make more grievous thus mine honest task?

Be generous, O King, that if thou fall

Men may lament thy ruin. At thy gates

Unhoused, unheard, an unarmed herald waits.

Thy churlish warder would not let him pass—

There comes he frowning: his poor brain debates

The point of law and reckons up the toll—

Therefore to this strange kingdom I, alas,

Am come with jarring words to wound thy soul.


What I have done is well. Authority

Hath not been laid upon me without grace

To know my office. No, it was not I

That kept the youth away. There is no place

In heaven for his nature or his race.

LUCIFER (Looking about him)

O wonderful! Where thieves, adulterers,

And knaves with blood-stained hands, for dying well

Have entered in, more welcome that they fell,

No star may transit make that never errs

From its true course, celestial sentinel!


A perfect nature is its proper heaven,

But when the struggling spirit, from its fall

Would rise through penance, saving grace is given.


Is not thy bosom still the home of all,

Is not the womb of night, by thy rays riven,

Fruitful by thee? Is not now every star

A spark of thine own life’s incessant fire,

And every wind that sweeps the cosmic lyre

An echo of thy heart-beats felt afar,

A needful voice in thine eternal choir?

This we believed when thou wast God indeed,

But now thou hast renounced the world entire

To be but Saviour to the woman’s seed.


Mark how the devil will misquote the creed.


When to my breast I took the universe

And from its exile promised it return,

I bent to that which most had felt the curse

Of being other: from the farthest bourn

I took the weakest up and most forlorn,

For there is nothing in the infinite

More pitiful than man; no mortal cry

Comes with such bitter wailing through the sky.

Upon his brow alone the curse is writ

Of shame and labour in divinity.

In losing all things he foreknows his loss.

Therefore I made his agony mine own

When I cried Eli, dying on the cross.

I died a man, yet not for man alone,

But that all natures might my peace receive

And learn that he who laid on them to live

Himself had suffered first, and felt, and known.


If we forgive thee, then thou wilt forgive,

Bartering mercy!—But let mercy be,

I speak of justice. If the vilest dust

Assume the godhead, and its brother worm

Enter thy glory, must the purer form

Coming with innocent questionings be thrust

Unanswered from thy portals? Is it just?

Thou lovest men who turn away from thee.

Why then despise the god that dares to trust

His open bosom to thy courtesy?


Wouldst thou have brought him were he seeking me?

He knows not of me, but for love of wealth

And idle knowledge tempts an unknown sea.

These are his Indies, and he sails by stealth

Borne on we know what broad-winged argosy.


’Tis true. Once in my bosom’s folds I brought

The wanderer hither, but his pilot thought

Pointed the way, and his bold spirit filled

The vans that bore him. To thy surly gate

I had not sent him if he had not willed.

He begged it of me. I deny him nought.

Make not my love a reason for thy hate.


Doth thy heart echo to the dulcet string

To which the speech is tuned? Thy care was less

For other souls of old.


For other souls of old.My heart, sad King,

Is full as thine of ancient bitterness.

The wreathèd roses that about it press

Are its new crown of thorns. Look, else, and see.

Why should I make my soul a mystery

When it is pure and worthier to be known

Than all men gape at in the rolling heaven?

They think, since I am just, my heart is stone.

Stone be it, yet for grief that stone is riven.

By the world’s shame into the desert driven,

I live in torment, for I live alone.

Alone in thought I fathomed the false deeps

Of old pretension and alone I rose,

For they that followed are in truth my foes.

Alone I stand in nature, for she sleeps

And leaves me the large treasure of her woes.

Hunger for love is still our misery

Whether we feed it or we feed it not.

Thinking of that, in patience of my lot,

I sat upon a crag above the sea—

The vultures fly in terror from the spot

It doth so whisper of eternity—

When Hermes, angel to his father Jove,

Set foot to plume his wing upon the steep.

For many leagues the bitter wind he clove

And found no other island in the deep.

Marvelling, I questioned him. What care could keep

His youth in exile from the vernal grove?

No vines upon so gaunt a ruin creep,

No Nereid sports in such an icy cove.

He feared me not, but smiled at what I said,

Nor marked the ominous thunderbolts that played

Ceaseless above me; all I chanced to ask

He freely answered, hiding nothing; laid

His warm hand in my hand, and his fair head

Upon my flinty pillow; told what task

The gods had laid upon him—to explore

The sea of space and every luminous isle

That in its waters swims, from shore to shore,

And to make trial of what secret powers

Might lurk in Nature’s womb, what realms stretch out

Through space beyond this twinkling vault of ours;

For meditation ended still in doubt.

He spoke, and speaking wove a net about

My thought-sick heart, and at his breath new flowers

Sprang in my fancy, barren long with drought.

The fragrance of the past came back to me

Laden with joys. I saw these courts again,

And through the silence of my charmèd pain

Burst snatches of an ancient harmony.

It loosed amain the floodgates of my youth

To see his beauty and angelic mind

So like my comrades lost, and I resigned

My will to his, and told him all the truth.

And as an eagle, old and hoarse and blind,

Turns his young fledglings’ eyes to the sun’s fire,

Proud they should relish the ancient fierce delight,

So have I led my loved one higher and higher

Till mine own heaven opened to his sight.

Alas, I deemed those glories ever bright

And find them now tear-tarnished. How require

His simple soul to read this riddle right?

’Tis well thy gate is shut, for with disgust

He would have turned him from this ghostly throng,

Nor would his sense have found the measure just

Of the so mournful passion of their song.


Lead him hence quickly, if thou be his friend.


He seeks the truth, and this is thy reply?


Reason not of him. What is he to us?

Speak of thyself if thou art come to-day

To crave a grace. For him ’tis hazardous

To loiter here, beyond the tepid ray

Of his own yellow star, ’Twere better thus.


Happier is he, O King, than thou or I

Who cannot hope, for we behold the end.


His paradise hath no forbidden tree.

While there he ranges he is safe from harm,

But if he venture, trusting in thine arm,

Into the infinite, his choice must be

Either to die or to believe in me.


What! dost thou threaten? Dost thou think to lay

Bold hands upon him? Look to what thou dost!

Where are thine armies now? Where that array

Thy trumpets marshalled once? Lost! Mortal clay

Clogs thine own soul. Thy long-sheathed sword is rust,

And all thy silver clarions choke with dust.

These vaults, these bastions, of themselves decay,

Crack, crumble, rock, methinks, to hide for shame

The rabble that they house. Women and friars

Fight for thee now. Nor deem my lance the same

That broke once in my hand; ’tis purged with fires,

Unflinching steel, thrice tempered in the flame.

That he will die, I know; but not alone.

Thou, who wouldst seem to guide the hand of death,

Shalt fall beneath the sickle. Every groan

Scatters thine irrecoverable breath

Into the vast inane. Merciful death

Hushes all sorrow, and will hush thine own.

Would he might lay his magic hand on me,

Seal mine eyes, too, and turn my heart to stone!

He cannot. For while truth is, I must be.


Unteachable! Is God not Lord of Hosts?

The arrows that against his bosom fly

His own strength drives, and in thy mutiny

He triumphs, and is mighty in thy boasts.

What need of sentinel to guard the shore

When he is master of the embosoming sea,

When his the wave, the bark, the sail, the oar,

And his the sinews of his enemy?

O Lucifer, couldst thou behold thy soul

As it lies open to my Father’s sight,

The gathering clouds of pity fast would roll

Across thine eyes, to hide thy proper plight,

And rain on thy parched heart in showers light

Of sweet humility. Woe to the vain

And raging will that hugs its mortal pain!

Is it for thee to fathom wrong and right?

’Tis God who spun the fibres of thy brain

And wove thy reason; had he placed awry

One thread, new dreams had turned thy dreams to naught

And idle thought confounded idle thought

For ever, and none questioned destiny.

Now thine own tyrant, to thyself unkind,

Thou chafest at the limits of thy wit

Whose meek quietus were to live resigned

And serve the elder Will that fashioned it.

For in the bosom of the infinite

Thou hast thy life, and thy forsaken woes,

Like foam on the false bosom of a wave,

Rise in vain fury, impotently rave

A moment only. Then thy proud will goes

Whither the billow sinks or the wind blows.

LUCIFER (Turning to go)

Thou wastest words.


Thou wastest words.Await my last reply.

That which is written shall be now fulfilled.

To all the spirits of the earth and sky

My grace extends. The Father ever willed

They should be gathered to him in the end.

And as he sent me once to those who fell

To those who fell not he will also send.

I went to earth in sorrow, and to hell

I went in death, a ghost to call a ghost.

In peace I now will go to those that dwell

In peace upon Olympus, that the host

Of heaven’s sentinels may know the Lord.

Let Hermes to his father bear my word

And prophesy my coming.


And prophesy my coming.Thou wilt go

To them thyself and thou wilt not receive

Him they have sent thee?


Him they have sent thee?He should first believe.


Believe? Full well thou knowest, as I know,

He never can believe. It is too gross

And palpable a fiction, fit for those

Who dream awake. And must I leave him so?

Hell in revolt and heaven in disdain

Shut in his face, and my great vow quite vain?

Behold how time, the keen inquisitor,

Hath stopped my torture to increase my pain!

Fool that I was to buckle on once more

The harness of the world! Remember, heart,

Remember not to love.


Remember not to love.Thou temptedst me,

Satan, of old. Now I have tempted thee.

Thrice didst thou try me, thrice with divers art

Woo me to evil; thrice I turned away.

But I have tried thee and enticed with good

And thou hast yielded twice, and shalt to-day

Yield the third time.


Yield the third time.Nay, by high heaven! Say,

When have I yielded?


When have I yielded?In thy solitude

I found thee hungry and thou turn’dst to bread

The stone I showed thee. It was I that led

An angel to thee. It was I that stirred

Thy heart with longing at the words he said

Though he meant nothing; and it was my word

Made thee renounce thine anger, and confess

Thy need of love.


Thy need of love.Thou sayest it was thou.

I know it not.


I know it not.A second time but now

I showed thee hell and its unrighteousness,

And tempted thee to cast thy kingdom off

For a just life; and in that trial’s stress

A second time I vanquished.


A second time I vanquished.I might scoff,

But that which vanquished was a holy thing,

And even thou if thou usurp its name

Shalt find me patient.


Shalt find me patient.A third time I bring

Thy spirit to the proof. I shall proclaim

My godhead in Olympus and their king

And all his sons shall hear me. If they came

And did me homage, trusting what they heard,

And in their ignorance of primal things

Honoured my witness and received my word,

Hermes among them—would their faith suffice

To bring thee with them to the king of kings?

Or would thy pride refuse to pay the price?


’Tis a vain question. Why should I decide?

They never can submit.


They never can submit.Nay, answer me.


Think not to triumph over my just pride

With indirection, for it shall not be.

Of my own will I have renewed my soul

And to my love and not to thy control

I gave a short and doubtful mastery.

True, I am weary. My eternal flight

Finds not a resting-place in all the world.

Against the void I have disdained to fight,

My heart is silent, and my wings are furled.

But locked within the consciousness of right

For ever lives, and though I wear again

My natural glory in the realms of light,

Yet in my bosom’s hushed and secret shrine

I celebrate my sacrament of pain,

And as thine altars in meek bread and wine

Repeat thy bloody sacrifice again,

So in my silence I remember mine.

Oh, there is little in the world can add

Now to my doom; and even if thou stole

The only good that yet might touch my soul

I do not think that it could make me sad;

Nay, happy rather. Take, yes, take the boy

For ever from me. Make the whole world mad,

And let all worship thee and find their joy

In what I know is false. For that is life.

And never let a glimmer of my doubt

Disturb his faith; abolish quite the strife

Of reason in him; blot my being out.

Bring back thy demons from the pit of hell

To dwell in plenty; uproot the cancerous vice

I planted in their bosoms, and dispel

Their long delusion. Let my pangs suffice

Thine anger. In the place where I shall dwell,

Sole victim of an endless sacrifice,

It then will comfort me to be alone,

For I shall hear no other spirit moan

In the wide world where all was misery.


The third time, Satan, do I vanquish thee.

Thou yieldest in my hands, lest it should perish,

Thy single joy. Why yield me not thy pain?

Is evil more than good, that thou shouldst cherish

Thy misery? Shall wrath alone remain?


That cannot yield which is invincible.

This wrath is I; I am this pain and hell.


All can believe. It is not faith to know,

It is not faith to trust when all is sure,

But, knowing not, to venture and endure.

Thou, Satan, when I gave thee long ago

The call of faith, didst ask me for a sign.

The sign I gave thee was that thou wast mine

And I was thine; for love can also know.

Thou wast too happy in thy lordly mind,

Too rich in thy fond reason, for belief.

Now thou art wiser, having tasted grief,

And partly seeing, being partly blind,

Art willing to be led. Me thou didst scorn

In the proud days of thy tranquility,

Who was thy God, not yet of woman born,

And now, behold, a child is leading thee,

So lowly is thy plight and so forlorn.

Yet this repentance in thy sorrow’s stress,

If thou hold fast and suffer to the end,

Shall be accounted thee for righteousness.

Thou lovest me, when thou dost love thy friend,

And what thou doest to the least of these

Thou doest unto me.

LUCIFER (Kneeling)

Thou doest unto me.Spare me, O Lord.

Spare me, I pray thee on my stubborn knees!

Why wilt thou, in mere vengeance, plunge this sword

So deep into my heart? Hath thine not bled?

By the remembrance of our glory fled,

By that long morning of felicity

Ere thou or I had ever bowed the head,

Yea, by those joys that never shall be more,

And by the ghost of trust and honour dead,

Spare me, O Lord.


Spare me, O Lord.No; this can never be.

Thou knowest it. It ne’er can come again,

That ancient life, nor can my faithful pain

Be swallowed up in empty mockery.

Yet I confess to thee thy victory,

If such it be. For when the heart is weak

There is no honour in a swaggering tongue.

Mine ever spoke the truth, and now shall speak,

Although my heart in speaking it be wrung,

And in thy temples a new hymn be sung

How Lucifer was vanquished. Go, persuade,

Persuade all other gods to worship thee,

Or him alone who (as it seems) was made

The unwitting herald of thy grace to me:

If he believe and enter through the gate

His faith has opened, I will follow him,

Resume my throne and wear my old estate,

Making thy glory bright, which shows so dim.

For I have wholly understood my fate,

And know there is not in this scheme of things

Room for my soul. Then why not hide it here?

But nothing shall be true to me, or dear,

Of what the vision of thy glory brings:

The words of prophets and the deeds of kings,

Like rustling leaves, a pleasing noise at best,

The fruit of all the anguish of the years,

Nor truth, nor hope, nor certainty, nor rest,

But only laughter in my hollow breast,

Laughter, and in the night a gust of tears

O scorn, O pity, that the heart must teem

With these false joys, these troubles of a dream!

Why troop the wailing phantoms through my soul?

Why wake the echoing caverns of my mind

To sound of warring, cloud-compelling wind?

All things are parts of me, and I the whole;

And if entangled in the web I weave

To stars or gods or men I yield control

Over my heart, and bowing down believe,

Me headlong in their dance of death they roll

And with perpetual mockeries deceive.

Steadfast I therefore stand, enwrapped about

As with this mantle in my large despair,

An armed as with this lance by piercing doubt

I scorn the gathering armies of the air.

In midst of battles islanded in peace,

And firm beneath the ruins of the sky,

I live by truth, as ye by falsehood die.

The wreck of worlds is my supreme release,

The death of gods mine immortality.



        God gave us grace to love

    The earth, the sea, the starry air,

  But woe to him whose love remaineth there,

          Nor flies to rest above

          In the Eternal Fair.


          I breathed the breath of life

        Into thy nostrils, but in vain,

      Unless for love thou render it again.

          Else comes no rest from strife,

          Nor any peace to pain.


      I loved them—where are they?—

    That led me, loving them, to thee,

  Who only art my joy or failest me.

        My loves have passed away

        From earth and air and sea



The palace of Zeus upon Olympus. A hall surrounded by columns.   Beyond, the open sky.   On one side, the throne of Zeus.   Opposite, a group of Nymphs, attendants of Athena, at their handiwork.   Among them Athena and Aphrodite, who, bearing long garlands of roses, rises as if to go.


Stay, Aphrodite; do not leave us thus.

Hermes, methinks, is on his homeward way

With answers from that King. Abide with us.


I have seen men before, dear Maid. They say

This is a man.


This is a man.Half man, half marvellous

God of the heavens. I beseech thee, stay.


Since this new business filleth night and day

I find no solace in Olympus more.

I go to Paphos. Haply in that isle

Men doubt not yet what spirits to adore,

Nor urge new questions. I would rest awhile.


How the alloy of Oriental ore

Shows in thy golden heart, in spite of time!

Do we not love thee? Could a sultry clime

Prone sloth and revels make thee happy now?

No. Thou wouldst lack the calm illumined brow

And holy lips of Zeus, and me, thy friend.

Thou knowest how this enterprise began.

Stay by us now, and see its wondrous end.


Well, be it so. But speak not of the man.

’Tis that thou askest, and the hour grows late

To start to-day. Alas! I know not why

The doubt pursues me that it may be fate

That I should never see my native sky.

Of heavy bondage, though a silver chain

Fetter the exile to a golden throne.

I would go forth, I would be free again

Unwatched, uncensured, unbeloved, alone.

Here every morning with the same sweet note

The bugle blows at sunrise; every eve

Pass the same solemn gods, that Zeus receive

His daily homage; the same cloudlets float

In the same luminous ether; the same dreams

Visit the sleeping dryads by the streams,

And from the same high crag the same remote

Unheeded melancholy vulture screams.

Oh, I should die, did not my lover come,

Ares, from battle, and fling down his crest

And bloody harness on the marble floor,

Startling as with a lion’s roar the dumb

Cool cloister rafters, and still red with gore

Rush like a child upon my heaving breast.

Then I am happy and forget the rest.

With gentle palm I close his bloodshot eyes

That still shoot fire, and wash away with care

The sweat and clotted blood, and with my hair

Dry all again; and if some splinter lies

Deep in the quivering flesh, or some sharp thorn,

I pick it out, and where the skin is torn

I pour rich drops of nectar on the place

Till the wound heals. Oh, then ’tis paradise

To watch the sweetness creep into his face!

Alas! alas!


Alas! alas!If happy love so sighs,

How shall unhappy lovers breathe their woes?


They say there is a thorn in every rose,

But that is false; for see, these roses here

Prick not my fingers as I weave the crown.

I cut the thorns off first. Look, sister dear,

And in thy book of wisdom set that down.


I will, and guard my soul as thou thy flesh,

Unhappy sister, lest thy wreaths enmesh

My strength and reason. Hera comes. Her frown

Will grow but darker, if she see thee weep.

(Athena draws Aphrodite to a seat beside her, and dries her tears. Enter Hera.)


Thy father, Pallas, hath not tasted sleep

Since Hermes’ putting forth, but racks his mind

With dim forebodings.

(She turns to observe the sky)

With dim forebodings.The eyes’ utmost sweep

Spies not a speck in all this depth of air.

To women’s warning men are rashly blind,

Else had he never started. It is cold

In those disconsolate regions; the ether rare

Cheateth the breath, the wings will not upbear.

How mad a venture, when all signs foretold

Some evil!


Some evil!Pray, fair Hera, do not grieve.

Our crafty herald will in time return.


Apollo will not speak. He must discern

His brother’s fate, but will not undeceive

A hapless father with the dreaded truth.

There stretch the kingdoms of eternal snow

Where savage tyrants rule, unchaste, uncouth,

Who for no ransom let the stranger go.

Thy father comes. If gentle Hermes dies

He will go mad. Too much his heart hath fed

On these wild thoughts. Behold his bended head

And voiceless lips that mumble prophecies

Dishonoured long ago. With stealthy tread

He makes perpetually the bastions’ round,

And lists to sound of wings or any sound

For tidings of his son. He loves you both.

Go to him, speak. Dispel his sullen mood

And the dark dream on which his vigils brood.

My words, alas, he flouteth. I am loath

To feed his choler. Ay, my lips are dumb,

But my heart saith, the worst is yet to come.


(Enter Zeus. Athena and Aphrodite advance to meet him)


Father, thou comest fitly to dissuade

Our friend from an ill purpose.


Our friend from an ill purpose.’Tis not ill.

I long have nursed the hope I now fulfil.


She would depart.


She would depart.For a brief time, dear Maid.


The time is chosen well; this is the season

When courtiers leave a king.


When courtiers leave a king.When his renown

Spreads to new regions?


Spreads to new regions?When he pawns his crown.


What words are these? Thine own thoughts hatch this treason.


Is he not living, that invisible god

That drove our image from the soul of man?

I know the time when first his fame began

And Sinai shook, unshaken by my nod,

And through the wilderness a caravan

Bore jealously his ark.


Bore jealously his ark.Let these things be.

What terror hath the tale, that Jove should stare?


Where doth he lurk? The unfathomable air

Doth not contain him, nor the monstrous sea,

And when I searched in hell he was not there.

My brothers portioned out the world with me

And we left nought but the intangible

And barren night, where nothing good might dwell,

Not subject to our sceptre; but from thence,

Alas, ariseth now the dread offence.

Evil is laid on us at birth; the spell

Broods silent on us, thickening to the dread

Ordainèd finish. When my father fell

He cursed me, for his father, dead, long dead,

Had cursed him so. The one my hand avenged,

The other’s curse now hangs above my head.


For shame, good Father. Is thy mind estranged?

I, though a woman, cannot know such fear.

This sombre god hath lived for many a year

Lost in his cloud-land. Let him there live on.

What’s that to us? He will not face us here,

Or, if he doth, he will be gladly gone.

The Indian Caucasus is full of ghosts,

For I have chased them oft from peak to peak

With laughter and the prick of my bright spear.

Before the Ægis fly their gibbering hosts,

Rending the woeful night with many a shriek;

Yet each is a great wizard.


Yet each is a great wizard.Brave words these,

But vain to help us in an evil hour.

O parent sky, shed light upon my heart!

O kindred deep, replenish with thy power

The fountains of my joy!

(Re-enter Hera, following a herald)


The fountains of my joy!See, see him dart.




Where?There, to the west, good mistress.


Where?There, to the west, good mistress.That bird there?

ZEUS (Who has joined them, looking to the sky)

It is his plunge. I know the motion, I.

None other of my sons so cleaves the air,

As if an arrow thinkingly should fly,

Dodging the denser cloud. Now with sly speed

He finds the rifts of navigable sky,

Now diving rends the thinner mist asunder,

With radiant visage laughing at the wonder.

Ay, ’tis my messenger.


Ay, ’tis my messenger.It is, indeed.

Ah me! how many pangs and errors pave

The way to doubtful peace.

(Enter Hermes)


The way to doubtful peace.Happy the brave,

For either victory crowns their venturous deed

Or fame their failure.


Or fame their failure.Welcome.


Or fame their failure.Welcome.Welcome, son.

Glad are mine eyes to see thee. They will close

Content to-night.


Content to-night.But hast thou met with foes?

Where hast thou tarried? Is thine errand done?


At least thou hast no wound? Thou art not maimed?


Leave the poor boy awhile. You will be blamed,

Fair goddesses, to ply your questions now.

The beaded sweat is standing on his brow,

And still he pants for breath. Ho! fetch him first

The nectared cup, that he perform the vow,

Home-coming, to the god, and quench his thirst.

HERMES (Taking the cup that is brought to him)

Olympus, and ye elder gods that keep

Invisible watch about this hallowed dome,

Receive your child. Guard ye my toil, my sleep.

Fly with my flight, defend and lead me home.

(He pours a libation and drinks)


Send forth a crier. Be it known to all

That Hermes is returned.

HERALD (Blowing a bugle)

That Hermes is returned.Ho! Hermes is returned!

(The cry is echoed in the distance. The gods gather, and group themselves in a circle before Zeus, who has mounted his throne.)

ZEUS (To Hermes)

Speak now. So shall the praises thou hast earned

Sound as is fit.


Sound as is fit.In sooth, the praise is small,

For thus it chanced. I passed the empty main

Led by a subtle guide. I saw again,

More near at hand, what belfries from afar

Lucifer showed me, when he cast a spell

Over my soul and first I saw the star.


How gladly would I view the miracle!


’Twere worth thy pains. For if to Babylon

Thou addest Nineveh and Thebes by Nile,

With silvering moonbeams falling full upon,

And raisest Zion on them, then the pile

Were half as vast and intricate with spires

As the embattled and cloud-girded isle

Where that god dwells, with all his wingèd choirs.


And didst thou enter in?


And didst thou enter in?It was forbidden.


Then is thy message undelivered?


Then is thy message undelivered?Nay,

Lucifer passed through the wide gates; but hidden

Magical bolts, if I pressed, barred the way.


O evil omen!


O evil omen!Brought he no reply?


This only: that the King himself would come

Here to our midst, and answer us.


Here to our midst, and answer us.But how?

Can all his legions pass the infinite sky?


I know no more. For Lucifer was dumb.

Issuing from thence with thunder-laden brow,

He seized me as thine eagles seize a lamb,

With sudden swoop, and hid me in his arms,

And with no further word through the abyss

Bore me, and through the zone obscure of charms

That hems that sphere, ere yet the lights of this

Gladden the eyes. When Hesper ’gan to shine

I cried in joy, ‘I see my star’; and he,

Spreading his arms to give me liberty,

Answered, afar already, ‘I see mine.’

I turned. Nor he, nor his pale star was there,

Only a solemn sound of rushing wind

Retreating; and alone, with laden mind,

Homeward I journeyed through the sweetening air.


Blind were your counsels, children. Doubly blind

My doting heart.


My doting heart.And blinder thy despair.

Let this god come, if haply come he dare,

And what is lost?


And what is lost?Our peace is lost. Henceforth

We never shall know sleep, were’t but the thought

That from the cloud-land and the bitter north

Some monstrous shape might come. But this is fraught

With greater dangers. He may now descend

With all his legions on us. Who can know

How against magic we should then defend

These ancient walls? Perchance we touch our end.

Let us not meet it basely. Long ago,

Alone, I slew the Titans and with cords

I bound the hoary tyrants. Sons, to arms!

Keep diligent watch and burnish bright your swords,

And fix keen brazen heads upon your spears,

But temper most your souls, for ’tis by charms

And traitorous thoughts, and heart-corroding fears,

That this new enemy works. Be ye but brave,

And all worth saving in yourselves ye save.

Away! To arms!

(Exeunt all but Zeus and Hera)


Away! To arms!Wilt thou now trust my tears,

Hard-hearted, whom no word of mine could move?

It is not I alone have vouched for this,

Apollo saw him.


Apollo saw him.Show me where he is,

If he be here. Each palace, grove, and grot,

I have had searched.


I have had searched.He cannot thus be found,

But I have seen him, though I sought him not,

As in a dream. I cannot tell the spot,

Or say whether he flew or trod the ground.

The form pursues me like a secret crime

Where’er I go. I dare not lift mine eyes

For fear to look on him a second time.

Apollo also in his rhapsodies

Of late evokes the ghost; or from the ground

As exhalations to the moon arise,

Or from the very potency of sound,

It shapes itself before his haggard eyes

Into a thing of meaning.


Into a thing of meaning.Fantasies.

Both he and thou have ever been abused

By turbid humours. Prophets are the curse

Of kings. When young men gape, amused

With dreams and marvels, kingdoms are undone.

Peace to these woman’s ravings. There is worse

To fear. We must seek out a greater foe.

Leave me awhile to my heart’s counsel. Go.

(Exit Hera)


Intolerable doubt! What stratagem

Hath this god planned, that proffers coming here

And cometh not, nor giveth ear to them

We send with gifts and greetings? Much I fear

His onset in the night, while evil dreams

Benumb our courage. Is his flight misled,

Unused to ford the rushing ether-streams

That part our kingdoms? Is he lost or dead?

My wingèd boy himself could hardly thread

That labyrinth of shadows, ere to-day

He had come else.—Ah me, what have I said?

Perhaps it is my own blind heart that errs,

Perhaps these weak unbidden thoughts that prey

Upon my quiet are his messengers,

His shafts that find a quick and magic way

To my defenceless soul. He may be here,

And in my sister’s madness and my son’s

Begin to work my ruin, while he shuns

My stronger eyes.—If thou be true, appear,

Insidious foe, and poison not my life

With evil rumours. Better open strife

Than endless watching in the house of fear.

(The Risen Christ appears)

What do I see? Ere this, when racked with care

Men have seen ghosts. My senses are befooled.

Why should these inward vapours not be ruled

By him who drives the thunderbolt? Look there!

Oh, I must nip this ague in the germ

Ere it grow master-madness! Let me clutch

My good throne so. Ah, while I feel thee firm

My reason will be safe. The rest’s not much.

Behold, he cometh terrible and grave

To seize my sceptre.


To seize my sceptre.’Tis a thing I gave.


He answereth my thought, or is’t my thought

That answereth itself?—Thou gav’st me naught.

My father Time gave all I boast to have.

Who sayest thou thou art?


Who sayest thou thou art?Eternity.

Both life and kingdom have I given thee.


My father’s spirit! Spare me! I resign

Both life and kingdom, if thou too give thine

Back to thy father.


Back to thy father.I have rendered mine.


What! Is old Uranus awake again?


Can Heaven sleep? Are not his silent spheres

Perpetual in their round? Is not his main

Of light immense, and infinite his years?


What wouldst thou then? Wouldst thou again devour

Thy children’s souls and henceforth reign alone?


I and my Father envy not thy throne.


Why come so ghost-like then to mock my power?


Ripeness of time and the appointed hour

Come to us all. Thou in thy day of need

Hast called upon me, and behold I heed.


I never called upon thee.


I never called upon thee.Thou didst send

Thy son with offerings to me; even now

Didst pray to see my face.


Didst pray to see my face.What, was it thou,

Cronos, that Hermes sought? O bitter end!

I see the meshes of the Parcæ now.

While in fond sloth I slept, and thought me blest

Drinking sweet poison in a golden cup,

My outraged blood bred this avenger up.

Too late I sought thee in thy cloudy nest,

Ill-boding Phœnix; too, too late delayed

To its last refuge to pursue thy shade.

Would I had hastened, burning still with wrong

And drunk with blood, while death was in thine eyes,

And crushed thee quite, nor seen thee thus arise

After long ages. But I thought me strong,

And was too merciful.—Yet the vision lies,

Perchance.—Thou wouldst my kingdom?


Perchance.—Thou wouldst my kingdom?Nay. Thy heart.


Ah, cruel father! Canst thou pluck it out?


To me it lieth bare.


To me it lieth bare.No sword, no dart

Is in thy hand. My children stand about

Ready with arms. Attempt it, if thou dare.


The sword I bring is now transfixèd there.

Invisibly it long hath pierced thy soul

With secret anguish, and the fear of death

Dwells in thy breast. To me is given power,

If thou dost will, to heal thee with my breath.


To pluck my heart, and heal me?


To pluck my heart, and heal me?Thou hast heard.

ZEUS (Rising)

I called upon thee in an evil hour,

Impotent shade that with equivocal word

Dost work upon my doubt. Avaunt! Begone!

In what I did, not I but nature erred,

That made me mad. Let vengeance long deferred

Come now, and let what must be be anon.

Ho! children. Look, dear sister. There he stands

Whom ye have summoned, Cronos, once a god.

Question ye him, if any understands

His riddled speech. Of old I bound his hands

And took his thunder from him and his rod.

(Re-enter all the gods successively)


I told thee, Hera, there was naught to fear.

Let us approach.


Let us approach.The same I saw, the same.

But oh, not Cronos. Could my father dear

Wear such a shape?


Wear such a shape?Come, I will ask his name.


’Tis Cronos’ shade.

HERA (To Zeus)

’Tis Cronos’ shade.Thy wit is turned, for shame

At that old crime.

(To Athena)

At that old crime.No, daughter, not too near.

ATHENA (To Christ)

What do men call thee?


What do men call thee?Many names they use.

Some call me Son, some Master, some the Word,

Some by another name of angels heard

On bended knees alone.


On bended knees alone.Dost thou refuse

To tell us what thou art?


To tell us what thou art?Lo! I am he

Near to all hearts whom none hath ever found.

Read, if ye will.

(He writes on the ground with his staff. All, in a circle, watch him.)

ARES (Aside to Aphrodite)

Read, if ye will.What writes he on the ground?


A word in my own tongue he means for me.

ARES (Looking)

Why, I can read it, too. Plain ‘Victory.’


That is a thought thou tak’st the title of

And not a thing of life. To be ‘the Truth’

Is to be bright in every spirit’s love,

Being nothing in oneself.

HERA (Apart)

Being nothing in oneself.Ah, from my youth

No seer ever read my secret so.

(To Christ)

But tell me, prophet, art thou friend or foe?


Friend, if he be a friend who gave thee life.


But foe, if he would take that life again.

To ease their lust the husband and the wife

Beget the child and bring him forth to pain,

And while for their delight they rear the boy

Tread down his soul, and chide with peevish rage

If far from home he snatch a day of joy,

While they devise how in their feeble age

To use his love and keep his heritage.

So common fathers are, but thou the worst

Who art not only tyrant of the soul,

But the frail children thou begettest first

Devourest after; and when in natural thirst

For life and joy they slip thy harsh control

Watchest to curse them. Be thyself accurst.

(He turns away and mounts his throne again)


He thinks thee Cronos. He is much distraught

And hath misread thy script. Let me, who share

His royal office, speak his better thought.

What in thy country is thy private care

Concerns us not, what battles thou hast fought

Or triumphs sounded in those realms of air.

We would not harm thee, for thou seemest wise

And weak. Not by thy hand we think to fall.

The rich and gleaming treasures of this hall

Bring little gladness to thy godlike eyes.

Go therefore back. We will persuade no more

Thy griefs to wander from their cloudy shore.

(She turns away and takes her place beside Zeus)


If I go hence, great weakness overwhelms

Your kingdom now. As long ago I gave

I now take back your being and your realms.

Who keeps shall lose his life, who gives shall save.


Bah! Would a child be gulled by such a trick?

I have fought much, but never yielded yet

To any foe, although my heart grew sick

And mine eyes dim, with naught but glory set

Before the victor. I can still endure

And face the worst. It were not much to die,

And it behooves the soldier to be poor.


To what end battlest thou?


To what end battlest thou?I know not, I.

Only a coward asks the reason why.

(He turns away)

ATHENA (Joining Ares, and moving with him towards their thrones)

Nay, courage also wields the arms of thought.

It is for freedom, brother, thou hast fought,

For the sweet privilege of breathing deep

The air of heaven and of speaking sooth

And sharing with the comrades of thy youth

The joy of battle and the balm of sleep.

I know these wiles. What calls itself the Truth

Wraps in an evil dream the things we see,

And henceforth naught is pleasant, fair, or free

In all the world, till in her ecstasy

The soul, bereft of light, her heavenly food,

Deems her last agony her perfect good.

APHRODITE (Who meantime has drawn nearer to Christ)

Stranger, who comest from my native land—

For these are not the hills where I was born,

Nor these my sisters—heed thou not their scorn.

Some things the happy never understand.


Art thou not happy?


Art thou not happy?Oh, the mocking word!

The chains of fortune and of fatal love

Burden my soul, while perfect joy deferred

Woos me to fly, and flies with each remove.

Where shall I find my rest?


Where shall I find my rest?In loving more.


’Tis now my torment that I love too much.


Love all things and love justly. They who clutch

My raiment lose me. Touch not and adore.


Ah, that were peace. And yet what love is this

That drives all hope away?


That drives all hope away?It is a cross.

The perfect victory of love it is

To conquer love, and in that blessèd loss

To live for ever without other bliss.


Were death not better? With hope set before

Patience is good, but not with hope denied.

Knowing the sea to stretch without a shore

The mariner would drop the oar he plied;

Nor would the ploughman yoke the labouring steer

Thinking it should be winter all the year.

We look for happiness, else had we died

When reason dawned. I think at last to hear

The longed-for voice, the music of my dreams,

Calling my name, at last to kiss the face

My fancy painted, know the long embrace.

Else what were love? A foolish thing, meseems,

That ends in nothing.


That ends in nothing.Love can never end.

(Aphrodite turns away slowly)

But is there none will hearken to my voice

In all these mansions? None that knows his friend?


I hearken gladly, and had I the choice

Would venture with thee. Who untaught shall tell

Whether thou counselest and lovest well?

But with my father and my brothers here

My life is knit for better or for worse,

And I would rather take with them thy curse

Than far from them thy blessing.


Than far from them thy blessing.Lucifer

Thou lovest not?


Thou lovest not?I hold the stranger dear.


From all love flows intelligence of love,

And thine might yet persuade his soul to move

In her true orbit, with her starry mates.


Let him make head alone against the fates

Even as I; or if sad thoughts reprove

What once he did, let him return to thee.

(He turns away)


The hour is come. All is that was to be.

The gift I brought which ye would not receive

Was life, but death shall be the gift I leave.

I am the Lord of Immortality,

The way, the truth, the life; who lives by me

Shall live for ever. You some inward voice

Persuaded once that you should ever live.

What privilege have you that you rejoice

While all things suffer? You shall also grieve.

I have endowed you with exceeding strength

And beauty, bidding time to spare your pride

And leave you young. But you shall now at length

Grow old. Vain and unsanctified,

Weary of pleasures, you shall yield your breath

Like waves that sink again into the sea,

Not having any voice to cry to me.

But painless be to you the hour of death—

For you have sinned in all unwittingly—

And full of stars the night on which you cease,

Passing forgetful to the realms of peace.

(Christ disappears)


He vanishes!


He vanishes!’Tis well.


He vanishes!’Tis well.If I must die,

To-day at least I sit upon my throne;

And not in fief I hold it. ’Tis mine own.

The earth, my temple, stands. My native sky

Claps me about with homage of sweet air.

The kindly light of the unquenchèd sun

Gladdens mine eyes. To-day the world is fair.

To-morrow, if dark clouds rebellious run

In flaming rack athwart the seas of heaven,

I shall not less have lived, I, mighty one.

And there where night, the mother of us all,

By the quick birth of light asunder riven,

Broods infinite and in her starless pall

Folds all the stars, there, children, is much room

For you and me and him, when he shall fall,

Who judging others speaks his proper doom.

Some comfort it will be, when we abide

In that unbodied realm, to see this ghost,

Ill-boding spirit of impalpable pride,

Enter oblivion, and, hearing still his boast,

Feel o’er our face the shade of laughter glide.

We also thought we should not taste of death,

But it is fated. Fleeting is the breath

That saith: I am eternal! We were born

And we must therefore die. Such is the wage

Of being. Mourn, my stricken children, mourn.

Into the boundless ether breathe your rage.

You will be quiet soon. E’en now, meseems,

His peace is on us. Lethargy of age

Creeps over nature, chilling all her streams,

And heavy with the languor of dull dreams

Ye sit upon Olympus, and are dumb.

No longer from his crag the eagle screams,

And in the wood the dryad’s limbs are numb.

The last sad summer of the world is come.

The earth, that in her youth prodigious bore

Mammoth and Mastodon and Titan bold’d,

Scarce feeds the pigmies that she spawned of yore.

Weary she bows her palsied head and hoar,

Likening her fate unto the fate untold

Of by-gone worlds, while man, her nursling, gathers

The utmost harvest from the laboured mould,

Envying the straitened fortunes of his fathers

In piety content, though poor in gold;

And on the barren peak he lived to climb

He stands aghast, and vainly waxen old

Prays the sweet heavens. But the stars are cold.

Fool, fool, to chide his soul with ancient crime,

Nor mark how earth and sky, together rolled,

His loves, his labours, and the gods sublime

He deemed immortal, slowly yield to time.


Lucifer’s Island, as in Act First.


Came he hither? In the sphere

Where the happy angels dwell

They made answer: All is well.

Lucifer is past from here.

When I asked the lost in hell

For their lord, they cried to me:

Look in heaven. We are free.

When I sought him by the shore,

We remembered him no more,

Said the voices of the sea.

Thou alone, unhappy star,

Still hast echoes for his name.

Will he welcome me, or blame

That I followed him afar?

When he cometh, let him mark

The old glimmer of this flame.

(He kneels by the hearth to kindle it)

The dead flint still yields a spark

To the steel that striketh.—Hark!

My heart leaps as if he came.

(Lucifer crosses over)

Doth he see me? Doth he pass?

Ah! his thoughts are otherwhere

And the bitter mask of care

Lies upon his face. Alas,

Buried in the ancient pain,

He who made the world so bright

For a space! O happy night

When Lord Hermes comes again!

LUCIFER (Stopping)

Thou art a fool to wish him back again.

He’s dead.


He’s dead.Dead? Oh, I knew not that.


He’s dead.Dead? Oh, I knew not that.’Tis true.

To the eternal spirit’s changeless view

What shall be is. The way of speech is vain

That saith, He is not, but shall be anon,

And then, He is, and then, He is no more.

Thus with a groping hand the blind explore

The embossèd page; the word their finger’s on

They know, but have not eyes to look before.

Yet every letter of that ancient page

For ever stands, imprinted as on brass,

And it is we then turn the leaves and pass,

Reading the sequent tale of age on age.


Alas! How did he die?


Alas! How did he die?Unthrifty boy,

How art thou here to ask? I bid thee go

And not entangle in my mesh of woe

Thy witless soul. The devils will employ

Thine idleness and give thee answers. No,

I will no longer keep thee.


I will no longer keep thee.Lord, forgive

Or slay me else. I have no will to live.


Ha! What a blessèd end it is for all

To die. The flowers of sweetest breath

Are nearest to the blessedness of death,

For as their sweetness is ephemeral

So is their life. Only the rankest thorn

That thrives by hatred hath the winds in scorn.

Ay, it is well I killed him.


Ay, it is well I killed him.Hermes killed!


It was in mercy. Thou didst beg to die

But now. In him the blessing is fulfilled

That cannot come to thee.


That cannot come to thee.You did it?


That cannot come to thee.You did it?I.

To die is better than to live. Our sin

Alone is fertile, peopling all the earth

With lust and error and their troublous kin.

But chastity is barren, and her worth

Outshines the stars; she brings all good things in

Into the soul, and mercy, strength, and peace

Follow her light. Long years the lingering ghosts

Of hate and folly walk the night in hosts.

The life of innocence is quenched with ease.

So thou, the perfect, whom the sacred earth

Brought forth to beauty, dying, now hast shed

Thy fragrance in the garden of thy birth,

As Hyacinth once bowed his poppied head

Parched by the noon, when from the highest height

Phœbus, his lover, rained the shafts of light

And slew his love, and hallowed him when dead.

The sad Apollo kept the flower instead

To be his comfort; I have lost thee quite,

And all the sweetness of my life is fled.


If he is dead and can return no more

And you must keep your vigils here alone,

Oh, let me serve you, even as before,

For sorrow hath a comfort of its own

Coming by you.


Coming by you.What! Must I say it o’er?

Have hell or heaven any part in me,

Whichever thou be of? Begone. Of old

I did thee wrong, and all I see in thee

Is that dead horror. Get thee hence. Yet hold;

There’s yet an office for thy ministry

Greater than all.—When Hermes’ star is cold,

And chaos shattereth his crystal sphere,

And other gods lie buried with their fear

Beneath Olympus’ ruin, he, the bold

And swift contriver, will with skill elude

The crumbling stars, and reach the outer wold,

And in that dark and pathless solitude

Remember me. Safe then will seem the nest

The eagle builded, sweet the bitter rest

Of exile, and the face of friendship good;

And he will yield him, trusting in my aid,

To the dark whirlwind. When he first essayed

That unknown flood, the swift insidious flaw

Wafted him hither, falsely seeming kind;

Unsought he found me, sought he shall not find,

But in the midst of heaven struck with awe

Sink in the void. With fluttering of his wings

He shall not fly beyond the realms of death,

Nor by the wasting of his little breath

Reverse the ancient destiny of things.


Then this hath not been yet. May I not go,

Find him and save him?


Find him and save him?No, I tell thee, no.

No man shall hearken unto him that saith:

Lucifer, Lucifer. That word of woe

Shall be his last.—But listen: on the strand

Walk thou and watch, till the disconsolate flow

Of the same flood that cast him here of yore

Wash up his body on the beaten shore.

Close for my sake his eyes with pious hand

Lest afterwards their dumb and piteous stare

Haunt thee in hell. Then in the yielding sand

Dig deep his grave, and lay him gently there.

When thou hast smoothed it over, go thy way.

And if in hell thy comrades speak of me

And ask if I have perished, thou shalt say

That the last service that in life could be,

Thy hand did for me. Go, child, go. This day

My soul hath entered on eternity.

(Exit Turel)

Great God, when thy frail son of Galilee

Forsaken on the cross was nigh to death,

Into thy hands he yielded up his breath.

Death’s vain forgetting hath no balm for me.

Hereafter I shall look upon the sun

In sorrow, for my circle is not run,

The circle of mine endless misery.

My pang is greater than a man’s could be

Whose father was in heaven and who, forsooth,

Thought to be happy. And I needs must find

A greater, dearer comforter than he.

O truth, O truth, eternal bitter truth,

Be thou my refuge when all else is blind!

Thou art the essence of my lofty mind;

At thy pure wells I will renew my youth.

Thy joyless bosom never was unkind

To him who loved thee; let us now be one.

I have no other friend, I have resigned

All love but thine. My foolish life is done.

But O ye hills that I have known of old,

Unravished of the sun, ye snowy flock

For ever sleeping, take me to your fold

And in your flanks of adamantine rock

Entomb my fiery heart. Over me spread

Your frozen shroud and wreathe me in ice-flowers,

To watch with you through everlasting hours

And not remember. Lo! I lift my head

Into the void, in scorn of all that live

Through hope and anguish and insensate wars.

For, knowing grief, I have forgot to grieve,

And, having suffered, without tears receive

The visitation of my kindred stars.






Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Punctuation has been maintained except where obvious printer errors occur.

A cover was created for this eBook and is placed in the public domain.


[The end of Lucifer A Theological Tragedy by George Santayana]