The Cup

Act I

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

Distant View of a City of Galatia.

As the curtain rises, Priestesses are heard singing in the Temple. Boy discovered on a pathway among Rocks, picking grapes. A party of Roman Soldiers, guarding a prisoner in chains, come down the pathway and exeunt.

Enter SYNORIX (looking round). Singing ceases.

Pine, beech and plane, oak, walnut, apricot,
Vine, cypress, poplar, myrtle, bowering-in
The city where she dwells. She past me here
Three years ago when I was flying from
My Tetrarchy to Rome. I almost touch’d her—
A maiden slowly moving on to music
Among her maidens to this Temple—O Gods
She is my fate—else wherefore has my fate
Brought me again to her own city?—married
Since—married Sinnatus, the Tetrarch here—
But if he be conspirator, Rome will chain,
Or slay him. I may trust to gain her then
When I shall have my tetrarchy restored
By Rome, our mistress, grateful that I show’d her
The weakness and the dissonance of our clans,
And how to crush them easily. Wretched race!
And once I wish’d to scourge them to the bones.
But in this narrow breathing-time of life
Is vengeance for its own sake worth the while,
If once our ends are gain’d? and now this cup—
I never felt such passion for a woman.

[Brings out a cup and scroll from under his cloak.
What have I written to her?
[Reading the scroll.

‘To the admired Camma, wife of Sinnatus, the Tetrarch, one who years ago, himself an adorer of our great goddess, Artemis, beheld you afar off worshipping in her Temple, and loved you for it, sends you this cup rescued from the burning of one of her shrines in a city thro’ which he past with the Roman army: it is the cup we use in our marriages. Receive it from one who cannot at present write himself other than

[Turns and looks up to Boy.
Boy, dost thou know the house of Sinnatus?

These grapes are for the house of Sinnatus—
Close to the Temple.



    SYNORIX (aside).
                                        That I
With all my range of women should yet shun
To meet her face to face at once! My boy,

[Boy comes down rocks to him.
Take thou this letter and this cup to Camma,
The wife of Sinnatus.

                        Going or gone to-day
To hunt with Sinnatus.

                            That matters not.
Take thou this cup and leave it at her doors.

[Gives the cup and scroll to the Boy.

I will, my lord.

[Takes his basket of grapes and exit.


    ANTONIUS (meeting the Boy as he goes out).
Why, whither runs the boy?
Is that the cup you rescued from the fire?

I send it to the wife of Sinnatus,
One half besotted in religious rites.
You come here with your soldiers to enforce
The long-withholden tribute: you suspect
This Sinnatus of playing patriotism,
Which in your sense is treason. You have yet
No proof against him: now this pious cup
Is passport to their house, and open arms
To him who gave it; and once there I warrant
I worm thro’ all their windings.

                                If you prosper,
Our Senate, wearied of their tetrarchies,
Their quarrels with themselves, their spites at Rome,
Is like enough to cancel them, and throne
One king above them all, who shall be true
To the Roman: and from what I heard in Rome,
This tributary crown may fall to you.

The king, the crown! their talk in Rome? is it so?

Well—I shall serve Galatia taking it,
And save her from herself, and be to Rome
More faithful than a Roman.
[Turns and sees CAMMA coming.
                                        Stand aside,
Stand aside; here she comes
[Watching CAMMA as she enters with her Maid.

    CAMMA (to Maid).
Where is he, girl?

                You know the waterfall
That in the summer keeps the mountain side,
But after rain o’erleaps a jutting rock
And shoots three hundred feet.

                        The stag is there?

        Seen in the thicket at the bottom there
But yester-even.

                Good then, we will climb
The mountain opposite and watch the chase.

[They descend the rocks and exeunt.

    SYNORIX (watching her). (Aside.)
The bust of Juno and the brows and eyes
Of Venus; face and form unmatchable!

Why do you look at her so lingeringly?

To see if years have changed her.

    ANTONIUS (sarcastically).
Love her, do you?

I envied Sinnatus when he married her.

She knows it? Ha

She—no, nor ev’n my face.

        Nor Sinnatus either?

                        No, nor Sinnatus.

        Hot-blooded! I have heard them say in Rome,
That your own people cast you from their bounds,
For some unprincely violence to a woman,
As Rome did Tarquin.

                        Well, if this were so
I here return like Tarquin—for a crown.

        And may be foil’d like
Tarquin, if you follow
Not the dry light of Rome’s straight-going policy,
But the fool-fire of love or lust, which well
May make you lose yourself, may even drown you
In the good regard of Rome.

                        Tut-fear me not;
I ever had my victories among women.
I am most true to Rome.

    ANTONIUS (aside).
                            I hate the man
What filthy tools our Senate works with! Still
I must obey them. (Aloud.) Fare you well.                        [Going.


    ANTONIUS (stopping).
A moment! If you track this Sinnatus
In any treason, I give you here an order                [Produces a paper.
To seize upon him. Let me sign it.
(Signs it.) There
‘Antonius leader of the Roman Legion.’

[Hands the paper to Synorix. Goes up pathway and exit.

Woman again!—but I am wiser now.
No rushing on the game—the net,—the net.

[Shouts of ‘Sinnatus! Sinnatus!’ Then horn.
Looking off stage.] He comes, a rough, bluff, simple-looking fellow.
If we may judge the kernel by the husk,
Not one to keep a woman’s fealty when
Assailed by Craft and Love. I’ll join with him
I may reap something from him—come upon her
Again, perhaps, to-day—her. Who are with him?
I see no face that knows me. Shall I risk it?
I am a Roman now, they dare not touch me.
I will.
[Enter SINNATUS, HUNTSMEN and hounds.
                        Fair Sir, a happy day to you!
You reck but little of the Roman here,
While you can take your pastime in the woods.

Ay, ay, why not? What would you with me, man?

I am a life-long lover of the chase,
And tho’ a stranger fain would be allow’d
To join the hunt.

                Your name?

                        Strato, my name.

        No Roman name?

A Greek, my lord; you know
That we Galatians are both Greek and Gaul.

[Shouts and horns in the distant

Hillo, the stag! (To SYNORIX.)
What, you are all unfurnish’d?
Give him a bow and arrows—follow—follow.

[Exit, followed by Huntsmen.

Slowly but surely—till I see my way.
It is the one step in the dark beyond
Our expectation, that amazes us.

[Distant shouts and horns.
Hillo! Hillo!
[Exit Synorix. Shouts and horns.

The Cup - Contents    |     Act I - Scene II

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