The Cup

Act I

Scene II

Alfred Tennyson

A Room in the Tetrarch’s House.

Frescoed figures on the walls. Moonlight outside. A couch with cushions on it. A small table with a flagon of wine, cups, plate of grapes, etc., also the cup of Scene I. A chair with drapery on it.

CAMMA enters, and opens curtains of window.

        No Sinnatus yet—and there the rising moon.

[Takes up a cithern and sits on court.
Plays and sings.

Moon on the field and the foam,
    Moon on the waste and the wold,
Moon bring him home, bring him home
    Safe from the dark and the cold,
Home, sweet moon, bring him home,
    Home with the flock to the fold—
Safe from the wolf——

(Listening.) Is he coming? I thought I heard
A footstep. No not yet. They say that Rome
Sprang from a wolf. I fear my dear lord mixt
With some conspiracy against the wolf.
This mountain shepherd never dream’d of Rome.
(Sings.) Safe from the wolf to the fold——
And that great break of precipice that runs
Thro’ all the wood, where twenty years ago
Huntsman, and hound, and deer were all neck-broken!
Nay, here he comes.

Enter SINNATUS followed by, SYNORIX.

    SINNATUS (angrily).
I tell thee, my good fellow,
My arrow struck the stag.

                                But was it so?
Nay, you were further off: besides the wind
Went with my arrow.

                I am sure I struck him.

        And I am just as sure, my lord, I struck him.
(Aside.) And I may strike your game when you are gone.

        Come, come, we will not quarrel about the stag.
I have had a weary day in watching you.
Yours must have been a wearier. Sit and eat,
And take a hunter’s vengeance on the meats.

        No, no—we have eaten—we are heated. Wine!

Who is our guest?

                Strato he calls himself.

[CAMMA offers wine to SYNORIX, while SINNATUS helps himself

        I pledge you, Strato.


                And I you, my lord.


    SINNATUS (seeing the cup sent to Camma).
What’s here?

        A strange gift sent to me to-day.
A sacred cup saved from a blazing shrine
Of our great Goddess, in some city where
Antonius past. I had believed that Rome
Made war upon the peoples not the Gods.

Most like the city rose against Antonius,
Whereon he fired it, and the sacred shrine
By chance was burnt along with it.

                                Had you then
No message with the cup?

                        Why, yes, see here.

[Gives him the scroll.

    SINNATUS (reads).
‘To the admired Camma,—beheld you afar off—loved you—sends you this cup—the cup we use in our marriages—cannot at present write himself other than


Serving by force! Were there no boughs to hang on,
Rivers to drown in? Serve by force? No force
Could make me serve by force.

                How then, my lord?
The Roman is encampt without your city—
The force of Rome a thousand-fold our own.
Must all Galatia hang or drown herself?
And you a Prince and Tetrarch in this province—


                Well, well, they call it so in Rome.

    SINNATUS (angrily).

A noble anger! but Antonius
To-morrow will demand your tribute—you,
Can you make war? Have you alliances?
Bithynia, Pontus, Paphlagonia?
We have had our leagues of old with Eastern kings.
There is my hand—if such a league there be.
What will you do?

                Not set myself abroach
And run my mind out to a random guest
Who join’d me in the hunt. You saw my hounds
True to the scent; and we have two-legg’d dogs
Among us who can smell a true occasion,
And when to bark and how.

                My good Lord Sinnatus,
I once was at the hunting of a lion.
Roused by the clamour of the chase he woke,
Came to the front of the wood—his monarch mane
Bristled about his quick ears—he stood there
Staring upon the hunter. A score of dogs
Gnaw’d at his ankles: at the last he felt
The trouble of his feet, put forth one paw,
Slew four, and knew it not, and so remain’d
Staring upon the hunter: and this Rome
Will crush you if you wrestle with her; then
Save for some slight report in her own Senate
Scarce know what she has done.
        (Aside.) Would I could move him,
Provoke him any way! (Aloud.) The Lady Camma,
Wise I am sure as she is beautiful,
Will close with me that to submit at once
Is better than a wholly-hopeless war,
Our gallant citizens murder’d all in vain,
Son, husband, brother gash’d to death in
And the small state more cruelly trampled on
Than had she never moved.

                                Sir, I had once
A boy who died a babe; but were he living
And grown to man and Sinnatus will’d it, I
Would set him in the front rank of the fight
With scarce a pang. (Rises.) Sir, if a state submit
At once, she may be blotted out at once
And swallow’d in the conqueror’s chronicle.
Whereas in wars of freedom and defence
The glory and grief of battle won or lost
Solders a race together—yea—tho’ they fail,
The names of those who fought and fell are like
A bank’d-up fire that flashes out again
From century to century, and at last
May lead them on to victory—I hope so—
Like phantoms of the Gods.

                Well spoken, wife.

    SYNORIX (bowing).
Madam, so well I yield.

                I should not wonder
If Synorix, who has dwelt three years in Rome
And wrought his worst against his native land,
Returns with this Antonius.

                        What is Synorix?

        Galatian, and not know? This Synorix
Was Tetrarch here, and tyrant also—did
Dishonour to our wives.

                Perhaps you judge him
With feeble charity: being as you tell me
Tetrarch, there might be willing wives enough
To feel dishonour, honour.

                                Do not say so.
I know of no such wives in all Galatia.
There may be courtesans for aught I know
Whose life is one dishonour.


    ATTENDANT (aside).
        My lord, the men!

    SINNATUS (aside).
                Our anti-Roman faction?

    ATTENDANT (aside).
                        Ay, my lord.

    SYNORIX (overhearing). (Aside.)
I have enough—their anti-Roman faction.

    SINNATUS (aloud).
Some friends of mine would speak with me without.
You, Strato, make good cheer till I return.


I have much to say, no time to say it in.
First, lady, know myself am that Galatian
Who sent the cup.

        I thank you from my heart.

            Then that I serve with
Rome to serve Galatia.
That is my secret: keep it, or you sell me
To torment and to death.        [Coming closer.
                                For your ear only—
I love you—for your love to the great Goddess.
The Romans sent me here a spy upon you,
To draw you and your husband to your doom.
I’d sooner die than do it.

[Takes out paper given him by Antonius.
This paper sign’d
Antonius—will you take it, read it? there!

        (Reads.) ‘You are to seize on Sinnatus,—if——’

    SYNORIX (Snatches paper.)
No more.
What follows is for no wife’s eyes. O Camma,
Rome has a glimpse of this conspiracy;
Rome never yet hath spar’d conspirator.
Horrible! flaying, scourging, crucifying——

        I am tender enough. Why do you practise on me?

Why should I practise on you? How you wrong me!
I am sure of being every way malign’d.
And if you should betray me to your husband——

Will you betray him by this order?

I tear it all to pieces, never dream’d
Of acting on it.                    [Tears the paper.

I owe you thanks for ever.

Hath Sinnatus never told you of this plot?

What plot?

                        A child’s sandcastle on the beach
For the next wave—all seen,—all calculated,
All known by Rome. No chance for Sinnatus.

Why said you not as much to my brave Sinnatus?

Brave—ay—too brave, too over-confident,
Too like to ruin himself, and you, and me!
Who else, with this black thunderbolt of Rome
Above him, would have chased the stag to-day
In the full face of all the Roman camp?
A miracle that they let him home again,
Not caught, maim’d, blinded him.

[CAMMA shudders.
(Aside.) I have made her tremble.
(Aloud.) I know they mean to torture him to death.
I dare not tell him how I came to know it;
I durst not trust him with—my serving Rome
To serve Galatia: you heard him on the letter.
Not say as much? I all but said as much.
I am sure I told him that his plot was folly.
I say it to you—you are wiser—Rome knows all,
But you know not the savagery of Rome.

O—have you power with Rome? use it for him!

Alas! I have no such power with Rome. All that
Lies with Antonius.

[As if struck by, a sudden thought.
Comes over to her
He will pass to-morrow
In the gray dawn before the Temple doors.
You have beauty,—O great beauty,—and Antonius,
So gracious toward women, never yet
Flung back a woman’s prayer. Plead to him,
I am sure you will prevail.

                        Still—I should tell
My husband.

Will he let you plead for him
To a Roman?

                I fear not.

                    Then do not tell him.
Or tell him, if you will, when you return,
When you have charm’d our general into mercy,
And all is safe again. O dearest lady,

[Murmurs of ‘Synorix! Synorix!’ heard outside.
Think,—torture,—death,—and come.

                                I will, I will.
And I will not betray you.

    SYNORIX (aside). (As SINNATUS enters.)
                                    Stand apart.


        Thou art that Synorix!
                One whom thou hast wrong’d
Without there, knew thee with Antonius.
They howl for thee, to rend thee head from limb.

I am much malign’d. I thought to serve Galatia.

    Serve thyself first, villain! They shall not harm
My guest within my house. There! (points to door) there! this door
Opens upon the forest! Out, begone
Henceforth I am thy mortal enemy.

However I thank thee (draws his sword); thou hast saved my life.


    SINNATUS. (To Attendant.)
Return and tell them Synorix is not here.

[Exit Attendant.

What did that villain Synorix say to you?

Is hethat—Synorix?

                Wherefore should you doubt it?
One of the men there knew him.

                                        Only one,
And he perhaps mistaken in the face.

        Come, come, could he deny it? What did he say?

What should he say?

                What should he say, my wife!
He should say this, that being Tetrarch once
His own true people cast him from their doors
Like a base coin.

                    Not kindly to them?

O the most kindly Prince in all the world!
Would clap his honest citizens on the back,
Bandy their own rude jests with them, be curious
About the welfare of their babes, their wives,
O ay—their wives—their wives. What should he say?
He should say nothing to my wife if I
Were by to throttle him! he steep’d himself
In all the lust of Rome. How should you guess
What manner of beast it is?

                Yet he seem’d kindly,
And said he loathed the cruelties that Rome
Wrought on her vassals.

                        Did he, honest man?

            And you, that seldom brook the stranger here,
Have let him hunt the stag with you to-day.

I warrant you now, he said he struck the stag.

Why no, he never touch’d upon the stag.

Why so I said, my arrow. Well, to sleep.

[Goes to close door.

Nay, close not yet the door upon a night
That looks half day.

True; and my friends may spy him
And slay him as he runs.

                        He is gone already.
Oh look,—yon grove upon the mountain,—white
In the sweet moon as with a lovelier snow!
But what a blotch of blackness underneath!
Sinnatus, you remember—yea, you must,
That there three years ago—the vast vine-bowers
Ran to the summit of the trees, and dropt
Their streamers earthward, which a breeze of May
Took ever and anon, and open’d out
The purple zone of hill and heaven; there
You told your love; and like the swaying vines—
Yea,—with our eyes,—our hearts, our prophet hopes
Let in the happy distance, and that all
But cloudless heaven which we have found together
In our three married years! You kiss’d me there
For the first time. Sinnatus, kiss me now.

First kiss. (Kisses her.) There then. You talk almost as if it
Might be the last.

        Will you not eat a little?

No, no, we found a goatherd’s hut and shared
His fruits and milk. Liar! You will believe
Now that he never struck the stag—a brave one
Which you shall see to-morrow.

                                I rise to-morrow
In the gray dawn, and take this holy cup
To lodge it in the shrine of Artemis.


                        If I be not back in half an hour,
Come after me.

What! is there danger?

None that I know: ’tis but a step from here
To the Temple.

All my brain is full of sleep.
Wake me before you go, I’ll after you—
After me now!            [Closes door and exit.

    CAMMA (drawing curtains).
Your shadow. Synorix—
His face was not malignant, and he said
That men malign’d him. Shall I go? Shall I go?
Death, torture—
‘He never yet flung back a woman’s prayer’—
I go, but I will have my dagger with me.


The Cup - Contents    |     Act I - Scene III

Back    |    Words Home    |    Tennyson Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback