IN TWO SCENES.
SEMELE, Princess of Thebes.
SCENE–The Palace of Cadmus at Thebes.
JUNO. (Descending from her chariot, enveloped in a cloud.)
Away, ye peacocks, with my winged car!
Upon Cithaeron’s cloud-capped summit wait!
[The chariot and cloud vanish.
Hail, hail, thou house of my undying anger!
A fearful hail to thee, thou hostile roof,
Ye hated walls!–This, this, then, is the place
Where Jupiter pollutes his marriage-bed
Even before the face of modest day!
‘Tis here, then, that a woman, a frail mortal,
A dust-created being, dares to lure
The mighty Thunderer from out mine arms,
And hold him prisoner against her lips!
Juno! Juno! thought of madness!
Thou all lonely and in sadness,
Standest now on heaven’s bright throne!
Though the votive smoke ascendeth,
Though each knee in homage bendeth,
What are they when love has flown?
To humble, alas, each too-haughty emotion
That swelled my proud breast, from the foam of the ocean
Fair Venus arose, to enchant gods and men!
And the Fates my still deeper abasement decreeing,
Her offspring Hermione brought into being,
And the bliss once mine own can ne’er glad me again!
Amongst the gods do I not reign the queen?
Am I not sister of the Thunderer?
Am I not wife of Zeus, the lord of all?
Groans not the mighty axis of the heavens
At my command? Gleams not Olympus’ crown
Upon my head? Ha! now I feel myself!
In my immortal veins is Kronos’ blood,
Right royally now swells my godlike heart.
Shall she unpunished ridicule my might?
Unpunished, discord roll amongst the gods,
Inviting Eris to invade the courts,
The joyous courts of heaven? Vain, thoughtless one!
Perish, and learn upon the Stygian stream
The difference ‘twixt divine and earthly dust!
The giant-armor, may it weigh thee down–
Thy passion for a god to atoms crush thee!
Armed with revenge, as with a coat of mail,
I have descended from Olympus’ heights,
Devising sweet, ensnaring, flattering words;
But in those words, death and destruction lurk.
Hark! ’tis her footstep! she approaches now–
Approaches ruin and a certain death!
Veil thyself, goddess, in a mortal form! [Exit.
SEMELE. (Calling behind the scenes.)
The sun is fast declining! Maidens, haste,
Scatter ambrosial fragrance through the hall,
Strew roses and narcissus flowers around,
Forgetting not the gold-embroidered pillow.
He comes not yet–the sun is fast declining–
JUNO. (hastily entering in the form of an old woman.)
Praised be the deities, my dearest daughter!
Ha! Do I dream? Am I awake? Gods! Beroe!
Is’t possible that Semele can e’er
Forget her nurse?
SEMELE. ‘Tis Beroe! By Zeus!
Oh, let thy daughter clasp thee to her heart!
Thou livest still? What can have brought thee here
From Epidaurus? Tell me all thy tale!
Thou art my mother as of old?
JUNO. Thy mother!
Time was thou call’dst me so.
SEMELE. Thou art so still,
And wilt remain so, till I drink full deep
Of Lethe’s maddening draught.
JUNO. Soon Beroe
Will drink oblivion from the waves of Lethe;
But Cadmus’ daughter ne’er will taste that draught.
How, my good nurse? Thy language ne’er was wont
To be mysterious or of hidden meaning;
The spirit of gray hairs ’tis speaks in thee;
Thou sayest I ne’er shall taste of Lethe’s draught?