Libretto list

The Rape of Lucretia Libretto

ACT I


Scene I

(The generals' tent in the camp outside Rome.
House curtain rises showing Male Chorus and
Female Chorus, reading from books)

MALE CHORUS
Rome is now ruled by the Etruscan upstart:
Tarquinius Superbus, the proud, King.
But once servant to the late monarch servius.
How did Tarquinius reach the throne?
By making his own virtues and his will bend
to the purpose of determined evil.
In quiet humility he bid his pride; and running to agree
with every faction divided the Roman court till each
part sought him as an ally; and those he murdered,
He would mourn as though a friend had died.
If piety impeded him, he'd pray with it; if greed,
he'd bribe it; and always he'd pay his way with the
prodigious liberality of self-coined obsequious flattery.
So he climbed and married the king's own daughter
whom he murdered; then married her sister, the
self-seeking, self-appointed widow who'd poisoned
her first husband, the heir.
Once joined in holy wedlock they throttled the king;
and now rule Rome by force
and govern by sheer terror.
Whilst their son, Tarquinius Sextus of whom you
shall hear, leads Roman youth to Etruscan war and
treats the proud city as if it were his whore.

FEMALE CHORUS
It is an axiom among kings,
to use a foreign threat to hide a local evil.
So here the grumbling Romans march from Rome
to fight the Greeks who also march from home.
Both armies fretting under their own generals.

(Female Chorus closes her book)

How slowly time here moves towards the date;
This Rome has still five hundred years to wait
before Christ's birth and death from which
time fled to you with hands across its eyes.
But here other wounds are made, yet still his
blood is shed.

MALE AND FEMALE CHORUS
While we as two observers stand between
This present audience and that scene.
We'll view these human passions and these years
through eyes which once have wept with
Christ's own tears.

(Front cloth rises. The scene is a camp outside
Rome, with the generals' tent in foreground)

MALE CHORUS
Here the thirsty evening has drunk the wine of light.
Sated, the sun falls through the horizon,
the air sits on their backs like a heavy bear.
Only the noise of crickets alleviates
the weight of this silent evening.
Horses sensing thunder stamp in their stables
bull-frogs brag on their persistent note,
centurions curse their men,
the men curse their luck,
as they look towards Rome's distant lights,
which, bent in the Tiber, beckon through the night.

(The tent is opened from the inside. Collatinus,
Junius and Tarquinius are seated, drinking)

COLLATINUS
Who reaches heaven first is the best philosopher.
Bacchus jumps there with a cup,
reason climbs there later.

COLLATINUS, JUNIUS, TARQUINIUS
(in the tent)
Oh, the only cup worth filling is this! Is this!

MALE CHORUS
They drink for their time is flowing with the night,
and life is dark except where wine sheds light.
But the officers are not generally drunk so early.

JUNIUS
Who reaches heaven last
is the worst philosopher.
Logic limps there on a rule,
Cupid flies there sooner.

COLLATINUS, JUNIUS, TARQUINIUS
Oh, the only girl worth having is wine!
Is wine! Is wine!

MALE CHORUS
The night is weeping with its tears of stars
but these men laugh
For what is sad is folly.
And so they drink to drown their melancholy.

TARQUINIUS
Who drowns in women's eyes and then drinks lips
of pleasure sucks all heaven in a kiss, then thirsts
in hell for ever!

COLLATINUS, JUNIUS, TARQUINIUS
Oh, the only wine worth having is love!
Is love! Is love!

JUNIUS
Love, like wine, spills easily as blood...

TARQUINIUS
And husbands are the broken bottles.

MALE CHORUS
Last night some generals rode back to Rome
to see if their wives stayed chaste at home.

JUNIUS
Maria was unmasked at a masked ball.

TARQUINIUS
Celia was not found at all,
Flavius is still searching for her!

JUNIUS
And Maximus found his wife Donata
had been served by some Sicilian actor!

TARQUINIUS
Sophia's silver chastity belt was worn
by her coachman as a collar!

JUNIUS
There Leda lay after a midnight bout,
too drunk to give a clear account.

TARQUINIUS
Patricia lay naked with a negro.
She told Junius she'd been having massage!

COLLATINUS
You were fools to go at all!
Fools to set the honour
of your wives against a drunken bet!
I warned you not to go.

TARQUINIUS
Why should you complain?
We found Lucretia safe at home.

JUNIUS
The only wife who stood the test.

TARQUINIUS
And Collatinus has won the bet.
And Junius is a cuckold a cuckold's a cock
without a crow and Junius is a cuckold!

JUNIUS
(angrily)
So are you, too, Tarquinius since you have made
the whole of Rome your brothel.
My wife's untrue, but so is yours.
For you unmarried can only know
the constancy of whores.

TARQUINIUS
(rising)
You forget I am the Prince of Rome!

JUNIUS
But I at least am Roman!

TARQUINIUS
With a negro deputy in bed,
it's better to be Etruscan!

(They brawl)

JUNIUS
Spendthrift!

TARQUINIUS
Usurer!

JUNIUS
Lecher!

TARQUINIUS
Eunuch!

JUNIUS
Climber!

TARQUINIUS
Upstart!

JUNIUS
Rake!

TARQUINIUS
Rat!

JUNIUS
You young sot!

TARQUINIUS
You old man!

JUNIUS
Lewd licentious lout!

TARQUINIUS
Pagan dyspeptic pig!

JUNIUS
Ram reared!

TARQUINIUS
Wolf weaned!

COLLATINUS
(parting them)
Peace! Peace!
Save your swords till we meet the Greeks.
Let us drink, Prince Tarquinius, a toast!

TARQUINIUS
To the chaste Lucretia!
To the lovely Lucretia!

COLLATINUS, JUNIUS, TARQUINIUS
Lucretia!

(Junius rushes from the tent, closing the flap
behind him)

JUNIUS
Lucretia! Lucretia!
I'm sick of that name.
Her virtue is the measure of my shame.
Now all of Rome will laugh at me,
or what is worse will pity me.

MALE CHORUS
Oh, it is plain that nothing pleases your friends so
much as your dishonour, for now they can indulge
in chatter and patronise you with their patter, and
if by chance you lose your temper, they say they
tease in all good humour.

JUNIUS
Tomorrow the city urchins will sing my name to school
and call each other "Junius" instead of "Fool".
Collatinus will gain my fame with the Roman mob,
not because of battles he has won but because
Lucretia's chaste and the Romans being wanton
worship chastity. Lucretia!

MALE CHORUS
Collatinus is politically astute
to choose a virtuous wife.
Collatinus shines brighter from Lucretia's fame.
Collatinus is lucky, very lucky...
Oh, my God with what agility does jealousy jump
into a small heart, and fit till it fills it, then breaks  

JUNIUS
(with venom)
Lucretia!...

COLLATINUS
(Enter from tent)
How bitter of you,
how venomous to vent your rage on her!
Why be so vicious why so jealous?
You're blinded by grief at Patricia's unfaithfulness.

JUNIUS
The wound in my heart, Collatinus,
will drive me to despair.
I ask your forgiveness for being malicious
when you are so proud of Lucretia's virtue

(aside)  

Or good luck!

(Collatinus offers Junius his hand)

COLLATINUS
Dear friend!

JUNIUS
Collatinus!

(They embrace)

COLLATINUS
Those who love create fetters which liberate.
Those who love destroy their solitude.
Their love is only joy those who love defeat time,
which is death's deceit.
Those who love defy death's slow revenge.
Their love is all despair.

(Tarquinius reels out of the tent)

TARQUINIUS
Oh, the only girl worth having is wine!
Is wine! Is wine!
And Junius is a...

COLLATINUS
(stopping him)
Enough, Tarquinius!

TARQUINIUS
A cuckold, a cuckold, a cuckold!

JUNIUS
For God's sake, stop!

COLLATINUS
You disgrace your rank by brawling like
a common peasant.

JUNIUS
He's drunk.

COLLATINUS
That's enough, Junius! Leave quarrelling to those
with less important tasks ahead.

JUNIUS
I'm ready to forget.
Give me your hand, Tarquinius.

COLLATINUS
With you two arm in arm again, Rome can sleep secure.
Good night!

(Collatinus goes off towards his tent)

TARQUINIUS
Good night!

JUNIUS
Good night!

TARQUINIUS
There goes a happy man!

JUNIUS
There goes a lucky man!

TARQUINIUS
His fortune is worth more than my Etruscan crown.

JUNIUS
But he is subject to your crown!

TARQUINIUS
And I am subject to Lucretia.

JUNIUS
What makes the Nubian disturb his heavy mountain?
Why does he ravish the rock's austerity
and powder it to dust to find its secret lust
till in his hand he holds the cruel jewel?
Is this all his hands were seeking?

TARQUINIUS
What drives the Roman beyond his river Tiber?
Why do Egyptians dare the shark's ferocity
and grovel in the deep to rake its dream
of sleep till to his Queen he gives the royal pearl?
Is this what his eyes were

TARQUINIUS, JUNIUS
If men were honest they would all admit
that all their life was one long search.
A pilgrimage to a pair of eyes,
in which there lies a reflection greater
than the a perfection which is love's brief

JUNIUS
It seems we agree.

TARQUINIUS
But are not of the same opinion!

JUNIUS
What do you mean?

TARQUINIUS
I am honest and admit as a woman's my beginning,
woman's the end I'm seeking.

JUNIUS
Well...?

TARQUINIUS
But as ambition is your beginning,
power's the end you're seeking.

JUNIUS
That's not true! But don't let's quarrel.
We're both unfortunate:
I, with my unfruitful, faithless wife, you...

TARQUINIUS
With my barren bevy of listless whores.
Oh, I am tired of willing women!
It's all habit with no difficulty or achievement to it.

JUNIUS
But Collatinus has Lucretia...

TARQUINIUS
But Lucretia's virtuous.

JUNIUS
Virtue in women is a lack of opportunity.

TARQUINIUS
Lucretia's chaste as she is beautiful.

JUNIUS
Women are chaste when they are not tempted.
Lucretia's beautiful but she's not chaste.
Women are all whores by nature.

TARQUINIUS
No, not Lucretia!

JUNIUS
What?...
Already jealous of her honour?
Men defend a woman's honour
when they would lay siege to it themselves.

TARQUINIUS
I'll prove Lucretia chaste.

JUNIUS
No, that you will not dare! That you will not dare...
Good night, Tarquinius.

(Junius goes off to his tent; Tarquinius paces
slowly up and down)

MALE CHORUS
Tarquinius does not dare,
when Tarquinius does not desire;
but I am the Prince of Rome
and Lucretia's eyes my Empire.
It is not far to Rome...
Oh, go to bed, Tarquinius...
The lights of Rome are beckoning...
The city sleeps. Collatinus sleeps.
Lucretia! Lucretia!

TARQUINIUS
My horse! My horse!

(Front cloth falls as Tarquinius goes off with
sudden resolution)

Interlude

MALE CHORUS
Tarquinius does not wait
for his servant to wake,
or his groom to saddle;
he snatches a bridle
and forcing the iron bit
through the beast's bared white teeth,
runs him out of the stable
mounts without curb or saddle
the stallion's short straight back
and with heel and with knees
clicks his tongue, flicks his whip,
throws the brute into mad gallop.

Impetuous the powered flanks,
and reckless the rider
now the Prince and Arab steed
bend as one for both are speed.

Hear the hoofs punish the earth!
Muscles strain, tendons taut,
tail held high, head thrust back,
all's compact, nothing's slack.

See, the horse takes the bit
between his teeth, now no rein
can impede or stop him,
yet the Prince still whips him.

Now who rides? Who's ridden?
Tarquinius, the stallion?
Or the beast, Tarquinius?
In both blood furious

with desire impetuous
burns for its quietus
with speed aflame through sweat and dust
the arrow flies straight as lust.

But here they cannot cross.
Turn back, Tarquinius;
do not tempt the Tiber
try to swim this river!

Stallion rears, hoofs paw the stars
the Prince desires, so he dares!
Now stallion and rider
wake the sleep of water

disturbing its cool dream
with hot flank and shoulder.
Tarquinius knows no fear!
He is across! He's heading here!
Lucretia!

Scene II

(A room in Lucretia's house in Rome, the same
evening. Front cloth rises, showing the hall of
Lucretia's home. Lucretia is sewing, while Bianca
and Lucia work at their spinning wheels)

FEMALE CHORUS
Their spinning wheel unwinds dreams
which desire has spun!
Turning and turning twisting the shreds
of their hearts over and over.

LUCRETIA
Till in one word all is wound.
Collatinus! Collatinus!
Whenever we are made to part we live
within each other's heart, both waiting, each wanting.

FEMALE CHORUS
Their humming wheel reminds
age of its loss of youth;
Spinning and spinning
teasing the fleece of their time
restless, so restless.

BIANCA
Till like an old ewe I'm shorn
Of beauty! of beauty!
Though I have never been a mother,
Lucretia is my daughter
when dreaming, when dreaming.

FEMALE CHORUS
Their restless wheel describes
woman's delirium;
Searching and searching
seeking the threads of their dreams
finding and losing.

LUCIA
Till somebody loves her
from passion or pity.
Meanwhile the chaste
Lucretia gives
life to her Lucia who lives
her shadow and echo.

FEMALE CHORUS
Their little wheel revolves, time spins a fragile thread;
turning and turning, they spin and then they are spun,
endless, so endless

LUCRETIA, BIANCA, LUCIA
Till our fabric's woven
and our hearts are broken
death is woman's final lover
in whose arms we lie forever
with our hearts all broken.

(Lucretia stops the spinning with a gesture)

LUCRETIA
Listen! I heard a knock. Somebody is at the gate.
Lucia, run and see; perhaps it is a messenger.
Run, Lucia!

(Lucia runs to the door)

BIANCA
Come and sit down again my child;
it is far too late for a messenger.
Besides, you have already had two letters
from Lord Collatinus today.

LUCRETIA
Oh, if it were he come home again! These months
we spend apart is time thrown in the grave.
Perhaps the war is won or lost.
What matters if it's finished?

BIANCA
My child, to hope tempts disappointment.

LUCRETIA
But did you not hear anything?

(Lucia returns)

Who was it?

LUCIA
There was no one there, Madam.

LUCRETIA
I was sure I heard something.

BIANCA
It was your heart you heard.

LUCRETIA
Yes, it runs after him with steady beat like
a lost child with tireless feet.

BIANCA
It is better to desire and not to have than not to desire
at all. Have patience, Madam.

LUCRETIA
How cruel men are to teach us love!
They wake us from the sleep of youth into the dream
of passion, then ride away while we still yearn.
How cruel men are to teach us love!

BIANCA
Madam is tired, it is getting very late.

LUCIA
Shall I put these wheels away, Madam?

LUCRETIA
Yes, and then we'll fold this linen.

(Lucia and Bianca begin folding the linen)

LUCIA, BIANCA
Ah!

FEMALE CHORUS
Time treads upon the hands of women.
Whatever happens, they must tidy it away.
Their fingers punctuate each day with infinite detail,
putting this here, that there, and washing all away.
Before the marriage they prepare the feast.
At birth or death their hands must fold clean linen.
Whatever their hearts hold, their hands must fold clean
linen. Their frail fingers are love's strong vehicle,
and in their routine is a home designed.
Home is what man leaves to seek.
What is home but women? Time carries men,
but time treads upon the tired feet of women.

LUCRETIA
How quiet it is tonight. Even the street is silent.

BIANCA
It is. I can almost hear myself thinking.

LUCRETIA
And what are you thinking?

BIANCA
That it must be men who make the noise.

(Men Chorus stirs uneasily)

And that Madam must be tired and should go to bed
and leave this linen to Lucia and me.

LUCRETIA
Oh I am not tired enough.
It is better to do something than lie awake and worry.
But let us light the candles and go to bed.

(They light candies and prepare to go to bed)

FEMALE CHORUS
The oatmeal slippers of sleep
creep through the city and drag
the sable shadows of night
over the limbs of light.

MALE CHORUS
Now still night to sound adds
separate cold echo
as hoof strikes hard stone
on worn way, road to Rome.

FEMALE CHORUS
The restless river now flows
out with the falling tide.
And petals of stars fall out
on to its back and float.

MALE CHORUS
Dogs at heel race and bark,
sleeping cocks wake and crow,
drunken whores going home
turn to curse the Prince of Rome.

FEMALE CHORUS
This city busy with dreams
weaves on the loom of night
a satin curtain which falls
over its ancient walls.

MALE CHORUS
Now he's through the city walls!
The black beast's white with sweat,
blood's pouring from its hocks,
the Prince dismounts; and now he...

(Knocking. In the following scene the
characters mime the actions described by the
Male chorus or Female chorus)

FEMALE CHORUS
None of the women move.
It is too late for a messenger,
the knock is too loud for a friend.

(Loud knock repeated)

Lucia runs to the door,
hoping that Apollo's called for her.
Anxiety's cold hand grips Lucretia's throat.
She pales with an unspoken fear.

TARQUINIUS
(off)
Open, in the name of the Prince of Rome!

FEMALE CHORUS
Lucia unbolts the door with excited haste.

MALE CHORUS
Tarquinius enters Lucretia's home.

FEMALE CHORUS
The women curtsey.
He is Prince of Rome.

MALE CHORUS
The Prince bows over Lucretia's hand.
His unruly eyes run to her breast
and there with more thirst than manners rest.

FEMALE CHORUS
Lucretia asks for the news; whether her Lord Collatinus
is well, or ill whether the army's put to flight.
And what brings His Highness here with haste at night?

MALE CHORUS
Tarquinius laughs her fears away
and asks her for some wine.

FEMALE CHORUS
With much relief she pours it.

MALE CHORUS
He claims Lucretia's hospitality.
He says his horse is lame.

BIANCA
(aside)
What brings the Prince Tarquinius
here at this hour of the night?

LUCIA
(aside)
How can he dare to seek for shelter from Lucretia?

BIANCA
(aside)
Oh, where is Lord Collatinus?
He should be here to greet Tarquinius.
His coming threatens danger to us.

FEMALE CHORUS
The Etruscan palace stands only across the city;
but etiquette compels what discretion would refuse,
so Lucretia leads Prince Tarquinius to his chamber,
and with decorum wishes him...

LUCRETIA
Good night, your Highness.

FEMALE CHORUS
Then Bianca with that rude politeness
at which a servant can excel, curtseys and says:

BIANCA
Good night, your Highness.

FEMALE CHORUS
Whilst Lucia, standing tip-toe in her eyes,
curtseys lower than the rest,
and shyly bids the Prince:

LUCIA
Good night, your Highness.

MALE CHORUS
And Tarquinius, with true Etruscan grace,
bows over Lucretia's hand, then lifts it with
slow deliberation to his lips...

TARQUINIUS
Good night, Lucretia.

FEMALE AND MALE CHORUS
And then all, with due formality,
wish each other a final:

LUCRETIA, LUCIA, BIANCA
Good night, your Highness

TARQUINIUS
Good night, Lucretia.

(The house curtain slowly falls as the characters
leave the stage and the Choruses pick up their
books and continue reading)

 

 

 

ACT II - SCENE I

Female Chorus

She sleeps as a rose upon the night.
And light as a lily that floats on a lake
Her eyelids lie over her dreaming eyes
as they rake the shallows and drag the deep
for the sunken treasures of heavy sleep.
Thus, sleeps Lucretia.

Male Chorus

When Tarquinius desires,
then Tarquinius will dare.

The shadows of the night conspire
to blind his conscience and assist desire.
Panther agile and panther virile,
the Prince steals through the silent hall.

And with all the alacrity of thought
he crosses the unlit gallery.

Where a bust of Collatinus
stares at him with impotent blind eyes.

Now he is passing Bianca’s door.
Wake up old woman! Warn your mistress!

See how lust hides itself.
It stands like a sentinel,
then moves with stealth. 
The pity is that sin has so much grace
it moves like virtue. Back Tarquinius!

Female Chorus

Thus sleeps Lucretia...

Tarquinius

Within this frail crucible of light
like a chrysalis contained
within its silk oblivion.
How lucky is this little light,
it knows her nakedness
and when it’s extinguished
it envelops her as darkness
then lies with her as night.
Loveliness like this is never chaste;
if not enjoyed, it is just waste!
Wake up, Lucretia!

Female Chorus

No! Sleep and outrace Tarquinius’ horse
and be with your Lord Collatinus.
Sleep on, Lucretia! Sleep on, Lucretia!

Tarquinius

As blood red rubies
set in ebony
her lips illumine
the black lake of night.
To wake Lucretia with a kiss
would put Tarquinius asleep awhile.

Female Chorus

Her lips receive Tarquinius
she dreaming of Collatinus.
And desiring him draws down Tarquinius
and wakes to kiss again and...

Tarquinius

Lucretia!

Lucretia

What do you want?

Tarquinius

You!

Lucretia

What do you want from me?

Tarquinius

Me! What do you fear?

Lucretia

You!
In the forest of my dreams
you have always been the Tiger.

Tarquinius

Give me your lips
then let my eyes
see their first element
which is your eyes.

Lucretia

No!

Tarquinius

Give me your lips
then let me rise
to my first sepulchre,
which is your thighs.

Lucretia

No! Never!

Tarquinius

Give me your lips
then let me rest
on the oblivion
which is your breast.

Lucretia

No!

Tarquinius

Give me!

Lucretia

No! What you have taken
never can you be given!

Tarquinius

Would you have given?

Lucretia

How could I give, Tarquinius,
since I have given to Collatinus,
in whom I am, wholly;
with whom I am, only;
and without whom I am, lonely?

Tarquinius

Yet the linnet in your eyes
lifts with desire,
and the cherries of your lips
are wet with wanting.
Can you deny your blood’s dumb pleading?

Lucretia

Yes, I deny.

Tarquinius

Through April eyes
your young blood sighs;
and denies refusal
and denial of your lips’ frail lies.

Lucretia

No, you lie!

Tarquinius

Can you refuse your blood’s desiring?

Lucretia

Yes, I refuse!

Tarquinius

Lucretia!

Lucretia

I refuse!

Tarquinius

Can you deny?

Lucretia

I deny!

Tarquinius

Your blood denies!

Lucretia

You lie, you lie!

Tarquinius

Lucretia!

Lucretia

Oh, my beloved Collatinus,
you have loved so well
you have tuned my body
to the chaste note of a silver lute
and thus you have made my blood
keep the same measure
as your love’s own purity.
For pity’s sake, please go!

Tarquinius

Loveliness like this
cannot be chaste
unless all men are blind!
Too late, Lucretia, too late!
Easier stem the Tiber’s flood
than to calm my angry blood
which coursing to the ocean of your eyes
rages for the quietus of your thighs.

Lucretia

Is this the Prince of Rome?

Tarquinius

I am your Prince!

Lucretia

Passion’s a slave and not a Prince!

Tarquinius

Then release me!

Lucretia

What peace can passion find?

Tarquinius

Lucretia! Lucretia!

Lucretia

Though I am in your arms I am beyond your reach!

Male and Female Chorus

Go, Tarquinius!

Male Chorus

Go, Tarquinius,
before the cool fruit of her breasts
burns your hand
and consumes your heart with that fire
which is only quenched by more desire.
Go, Tarquinius! Go!

Female Chorus

Go, Tarquinius,
before your nearness
tempts Lucretia to yield
to your strong maleness.

Tarquinius

Beauty is all in life!
It has the peace of death.

Lucretia

If beauty leads to this,
beauty is sin.

Tarquinius

Though my blood’s dumb it speaks.
Thongh my blood’s blind it finds.

Lucretia

I am his, not yours.

Tarquinius

Beauty so pure is cruel.
Throngh your eyes’ tears I weep.
For your lips’ fire I thirst.
For your breast’s peace I fight.

Lucretia

Love’s indivisible, love’s indivisible!

Male and Female Chorus

Go! Tarquinius,
whilst passion is still proud
and before your lust is spent
humbled with heavy shame.
If you do not repent
time itself cannot
erase this moment from your name.

Tarquinius

I hold the knife but bleed.
Though I have won I’m lost.
Give me my soul again;
in your veins’ sleep my rest.

Lucretia

No!

Tarquinius

Give me my birth again
out of your loins of pain!
Thongh I must give I take.

Lucretia

For pity’s sake, Tarquinius, Go!

Tarquinius

Poised like a dart.

Lucretia

At the heart of woman.

Male Chorus

Man climbs towards his God,

Female Chorus

Then falls to his lonely hell.

All

See how the rampant centaur mounts the sky
and serves the sun with all its seed of stars.
Now the great river underneath the ground
flows through Lucretia and Tarquinius is drowned.

Female Chorus and Male Chorus

Here in this scene you see
virtue assailed by sin
with strength triumphing
all this is endless
sorrow andpain for Him.

Nothing impure survives,
all passion perishes,
virtue has one desire
to let its blood flow
back to the wounds of Christ.

She whom the world denies,
Mary, Mother of God,
help us to lift this sin
which is our nature
and is the Cross to Him.

She whom the world denies
Mary most chaste and pure,
help us to find your love
which is His Spirit
flowing to us from Him.

 

ACT II - SCENE II

Lucia, Bianca

Oh! What a lovely day!

Lucia

Look how the energetic sun
drags the sluggard dawn from bed,
and flings the windows wide upon the world.

Lucia, Bianca

Oh! What a lovely morning!

Bianca

And how light the soft mulberry mist
lifts and floats over the silver Tiber.
It’s going to be hot, unbearably hot,
and by evening it will thunder.

Lucia, Bianca

Oh! What a lovely day!

Lucia

Listen how the larks spill
their song and let it fall
over the city like a waterfall.
Oh! This is the day I’ve grown to.

Lucia

Our Lady Lucretia is sleeping heavily this
lovely morning. Shall I wake her?

Bianca

No, don’t disturb her.
It isn’t often she sleeps so well
forever fretting for Collatinus.

Lucia

I often wonder whether Lucretia’s love
is the flower of her beauty,
or whether her loveliness
is the flower of her love.
For in her both love and beauty
are transformed to grace.

Bianca

Hush! Here she comes.

Lucia, Bianca

Good morning, my lady.

Bianca

I hope you had happy dreams.

Lucretia

If it were all a dream
then waking would be less a nightmare.

Bianca

Did you sleep well?

Lucretia

As heavily as death.

Lucia

Look, what a lovely day it is,
and see how wonderful are all these flowers.

Lucretia

Yes, what a lovely day it is.
And how wonderful are all these flowers.
You have arranged them prettily.

Bianca

But we have left his lordship’s favourite
flowers for you to do.

Lucretia

How kind of you.
where are they?

Bianca

Here, my lady.
The most perfect orchids I have ever seen.

Lucretia

How hideous!
Take them away!

Bianca

But, my lady, they are such lovely flowers!
These are the orchids you have grown.

Lucretia

Take them away, I tell you!
Oh! Monstrous flower!
Oh! Hideous hour!
Lucia, go send a messenger to my Lord Collatinus.
What are you waiting for, girl? Go!

Lucia

What message, Madam,
shall I give the messenger
to take to Lord Collatinus?

Lucretia

Give him this orchid.
Tell him I find its purity apt; 
and that its petals contain
woman’s pleasure and woman’s pain,
and all of Lucretia’s shame.
Give him this orchid
and tell him a Roman harlot sent it.
And tell him to ride straight to her.
TelI him to come home. Go!
No! Wait, tell the messenger to take my love.
Yes, give my love to the messenger,
give my love to the stable boy,
and to the coachman, too.
And hurry, hurry, for all men love
the chaste Lucretia.

Bianca

Shall I throw the rest away, Madam?

Lucretia

No, I will arrange them.

Bianca

Here are the flowers.

Lucretia

Flowers bring to every year
the same perfection;
even their root and leaf keep
solemn vow in pretty detail.
Flowers alone are chaste
for their beauty is so brief
Years are their love
and time’s their thief.
Women bring to every man
the same defection;
even their love’s debauched
by vanity or flattery.
Flowers alone are chaste.
Let their pureness show my grief
to hide my shame
and be my wreath.

Bianca

My child, you have made a wreath.

Lucretia

That is how you taught me as a child
to weave the wild flowers together.
Do you remember yesterday
that was a hundred years ago?
Do you remember?

Bianca

Yes, I remember!
I remember when her hair
fell like a waterfall of night
over her white shoulders.
And when her ivory breasts
first leaned from her ivory tree.
And I remember how
she ran down the garden of her eyes
to meet Collatinus.
Yes, I remember, I remember...

Lucia

You were right. Tarquinius took one of the horses.

Bianca

What did you tell the messenger?

Lucia

Lord Collatinus to come immediately.

Bianca

He must not come. Words can do more harm than good.
Only time can heal. Has the messenger gone?

Lucia

Not yet.

Bianca

Then go and stop him. Quick, do as I say.

Lucia

But Lucretia said...

Bianca

Do as I say, quick! Hurry!

Bianca

Sometimes a good servant
should forget an order
and royalty should disobey.
Sometimes a servant
knows better than her mistress,
when she is servant to her heart’s distress.
Did you stop him?

Lucia

It was too late.

Bianca

Too late?

Lucia

Lord Collatinus is here.

Bianca

Collatinus? Alone?

Lucia

No, Junius rode with him.

Bianca

Oh God, why should he come now?

Collatinus

Where is Lucretia?
Tell me, where is your Lady Lucretia?

Bianca

She is well.

Collatinus

Then why was the messenger sent to me?

Bianca

No messenger left here.

Collatinus

You’re lying.

Junius

Where is Lucretia?

Bianca

Asleep. She had a restless night

Collatinus

Why did you not come to greet us at the gate?

Junius

Perhaps they were frightened that Tarquinius had come back.


Collatinus

Has Tarquinius been here?
Answer me!

Bianca

Oh, do not ask, my Lord.

Collatinus

Tarquinius here?

Junius

Last night I heard him gallop from the camp
and I watched for his return, fearing his jealousy
of you. He came back at dawn with his horse
foundered, so I came to warn you.

Collatinus

Too late, Junius, too late, too late.

Collatinus

Lucretia! Lucretia!
O, never again must we two dare to part.
For we are of one another
and between us there is one heart.

Lucretia

To love as we loved
was to be never but as moiety;
to love as we loved
was to die, daily with anxiety;

Lucretia, Collatinus

to love as we loved was to live, on the edge of tragedy.

Lucretia

Now there is no sea deep enough
to drown my shame;
now there is no earth heavy enough
to hide my shame;
now there is no sun strong enough
to lift this shadow;
now there is no night dark enough
to hide this shadow.
Dear heart, look into my eyes,
can you not see the shadow?

Collatinus

In your eyes I see
only the image of eternity
and a tear which has no shadow.

Lucretia

Then turn away, for I must tell
though telling will
turn your tender eyes to stone
and rake your heart and bring the bones
of grief through the rags of sorrow.
Last night Tarquinius ravished me
and took his peace from me,
and tore the fabric of our love.
What we had woven
Tarquinius has broken.
What I have spoken
never can be forgotten.
Oh, my love, our love was too rare
for life to tolerate or fate forbear from soiling.
For me this shame, for you this sorrow.

Collatinus

If spirit’s not given, there is no need of shame.
Lust is all taking – in that there’s shame.
What Tarquinius has taken
can be forgotten;
What Lucretia has given
can be forgiven.

Lucretia

Even great love’s too frail
to bear the weight of shadows.
Now I’ll be forever chaste,
with only death to ravish me.
See, how my wanton blood
washes my shame away!

Collatinus

This dead hand lets fall
all that my heart held when full
when it played like a fountain, prodigal
with love liberal,
wasteful.
So brief is beauty.
Is this it all? It is all!

Junius

Romans arise! See what the Etruscans have done!
Here lies the chaste Lucretia, dead,
and by Tarquinius ravished.
Now let her body be
borne through our city.
Destroyed by beauty
their throne will fall. I will rule!

Lucia, Bianca

She lived with too much grace to be
of our crude humanity.
For even our shame’s refined
by her purity of mind.
Now place the wreath about her head
and let the sentinels of the dead
guard the grave where our Lucretia lies.
So brief is beauty.
Why was it begun? It is done!

Female Chorus

Beauty is the hoof of an unbroken filly
which thundering up to the hazel hedge
leaps into the sun,
and is gone.
So brief is beauty.
Why was it begun? It is done!

Male Chorus

They have no need of life to live;
they have no need of lips to love;
they have no need of death to die
in their love all’s dissolved
in their love all’s resolved.
O, what is there but love?
Love is the whole. It is all!

All

How is it possible that she
being so pure should die!
How is it possible that we
grieving for her should live?
So brief is beauty.
Is this it all? It is all! It is all!

 

EPILOGUE

Female Chorus

Is it all? Is all this suffering and pain
is this in vain?
Does this old world grow old
in sin alone?
Can we attain nothing
but wider oceans of our own tears?
And it, can it gain nothing
but drier deserts of forgotten years?
For this did I see 
with my undying eye
his warm blood spill upon that hill
and dry upon that Cross?
Is this all loss?
Are we lost?
Answer us
or let us die 
in our wilderness. 
Is it all?
Is this it all?

Male Chorus

It is not all. 
Though our nature’s still as frail
and we still fall
and that great crowd’s no less
Along that road
endless and uphill;
for now
He bears our sin and does not fall
and He, carrying all
turns round stoned with our doubt 
and then forgives us all.
For us did He live with such humility;
For us did He die 
that we might live, and He forgive
wounds that we make
and scars that we are.
In His Passion is our hope
Jesus Christ, Saviour. 
He is all! He is all!

Male and Female Chorus

Since Time commenced or Life began
great Love has been defiled by Fate or Man.
Now with worn words 
and these brief notes we try
to harness song to human tragedy.