Lesya Ukrainka

In the Catacombs

Translated from Ukrainian by David Turow

Translation © 2012 by David Turow


Dedicated to my respected blood brother A. Crumsky


Catacombs near Rome. A small community of Christians is assembled in a crypt, poorly lighted with oil lamps and thin wax candles. The Bishop is ending his sermon, while his audience is standing by reverently, silently, and obediently.


The Bishop

Lord Jesus let us praise, my bothers,

who made a place right by his throne

for our martyred brother Harikeus.


The Choir

In heavens glory to Lord Jesus Christ,

who liberates from worldly handcuffs,

who leads us out of the jail of sin

into the kingdom of eternal light.


The Deacon

                        Amen.


The Bishop

Our brother was on earth a mere slave,

and now Jesus is his one and only master.


The Neophyte Slave

He’ll have a master even after death?

You said, there’s neither slave nor master

in Paradise!


The Bishop

                And that’s the gospel truth:

before God all are equal.


The Neophyte Slave

                Even slaves?


The Bishop

God’s slaves, remember, dear brother.

Sweet is my yoke,—Jesus said,—

light is my burden. Do you see?


The Neophyte Slave

(having thought hard)

                            I don’t!

I can’t. I cannot understand this word.


A Female Christian Slave

(suddenly prophesies)

An axe is lying by the tree already!

“I’ll cut it down and will make it burn,”—

the Lord said!… Come, o come, please come,

Lord Jesus, Son of God! Kneeling down,

your wheat is waiting, ready for the sickle…

When will you come, my lord? Look: Rachel’s weeping,

Her kids are gone…

(Nonsensical speech changes to impassioned lament, other women also begin to cry, some of men can bear it no longer either.)


The Bishop (in a commanding, strong voice)

                Away, Satan, begone!

You have no power here!

(Approaches the prophetess, who is convulsing, and places his hand on her head.)

                                        Sister,

may you receive salvation through your faith

from the delusions of the evil spirit.

(The woman gradually quiets down under his steady gaze and helplessly drops into the supporting hands of her girlfriends.)


A Christian Woman

(one of those who are supporting the prophetess. Speaks with a timid voice.)

                                    Father,

her master sold the other day her child

to some Corinthian Greek…


The Bishop

                                Be quiet!

Our great apostle once commanded,

“A woman should be quiet at a meeting”.


(In the meantime, the prophetess is lead out. Silence.)


The Neophyte Slave

(approaches The Bishop. With a desperately polite, trembling from bewilderment voice)

I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand

how any yoke may be sweet or pleasant,

how heavy can be light.


The Bishop

                            My brother,

if of your own will you lower your neck

into Christ’s yoke, then your soul will feel

its sweetness; will a cross feel heavy

to you if willingly you take it up—

no matter how heavy?


The Neophyte Slave

                            But what for

should willingly we harness ourselves

and move around crosses of our own free will,

when we have suffered so much as slaves?

Our necks, our souls are rubbed sore

from those yokes and from those crosses!

I did not come to you to join the church

in search of yokes or in search of crosses.

Oh no, liberty is what I’m looking for,

for it is said, “no lords and no slaves”.


The Bishop

And you’ll enjoy this liberty, my brother,

as soon as you accept the yoke of Christ.

Among themselves, the Lord’s slaves are all equal.

Your burden you will carry through this world,

and will arrive in the realm of our Lord,

that kingdom where God’s the only ruler,

and he is our father. If you didn’t

accept the rule of our God the Father

over yourself, your pride would be, my son,

like Lucifer’s conceit.


The Neophyte Slave

                            O father!

What arrogance, what pride do slaves possess!

All right, all right, let God, our holy father,

rule over us, but when will that reign come?

When will it come, where can we find God’s Kingdom?

One brother said, it’s somewhere in the heavens,

Another said, it’s here.


The Bishop

                          They are both right.


The Neophyte Slave

But where on Earth is it located?


The Bishop

                        Here.


The Neophyte Slave

In Rome?!


The Bishop

                In this church.


The Neophyte Slave

                        Right in the catacombs?


The Bishop

Don’t say, “it’s here” or “it’s over there.”

It is wherever God’s in people’s souls.


The Neophyte Slave

When will he penetrate all people’s souls?


The Bishop

When Jesus, our savior, returns

To earth from Heaven.


The Neophyte Slave (moodily)

                    Someone told me once

that it will take at least a thousand years

until the second coming since the first…


The Bishop

That’s heresy, my brother: no one knows

the day, nor hour…


The Neophyte Slave (continuing with joyous hope)

                    This means that Jesus

can come at any time to rule the world?


The Bishop

Undoubtedly so.


The Neophyte Slave ponders something and becomes sad again.

                You seem troubled, brother.


The Neophyte Slave

I thought you said that here is the Kingdom

of God, among us… But then how come

we’ve got Patricians here, and Plebeians,

and also—slaves?


A Christian Patrician (steps slightly forward)

                You, brother, are perplexed,

for now reason. I am a Patrician,

he is my slave.

(points at an elderly man)

                That’s our public image,—

before God we are brothers, he and I.


The Neophyte Slave (to the old slave)

Your being a slave is just an outward show?


The Old Slave

O no, I’m my master’s loyal servant,

And I obey him with heart’s sincerity

and reverence for God.


The Neophyte Slave

                If you are equal,

then how come you have to serve your master?


The Old Slave

It was God’s will that he was born a lord,

and I—a slave.


The Neophyte Slave

                So in God’s Kingdom, after all,

There’s slaves and masters?


The Old Slave is silent.


The Patrician

                Here we partake

together holy blood and holy body,

so here he is not my slave—I am willing

to wash his feet, in fact.


The Neophyte Slave

                At home, too

you eat with him at the same table?


The Old Slave

No, brother, that would have been wrong.


The Neophyte Slave

But why?


The Old Slave

        It isn’t right… not proper…


The Bishop (to The Neophyte Slave)

Don’t tempt him. He is meek of spirit,

and so close to God’s Holy Kingdom.

For he is happy who is uncomplaining,

he doesn’t care whether in this world

he is a master or a slave.


The Neophyte Slave

                    No, father,

it’s not the same…

(with emotional uplift)

                If you had only seen

how yesterday my poor child was crying,—

a patient, undemanding little baby,—

because she couldn’t get her milk until the evening:

my wife was helping out at an orgy

and had no time to stop by our house

to feed our baby. So now

my child is sick, and even so my wife

can shed no tears, since our master

hates it when pretty slave girls are red-eyed.


The Bishop

There is no need for tears. Even if

your child does die,—she should expect

great happiness in heaven.


The Neophyte Slave

                Same amount

of happiness a master’s child will get

in heaven if he dies while still a baby?


The Bishop (a bit troubled)

Before God, every innocent’s the same.


The Neophyte Slave (with sadness)

So a master’s baby will be doubly happy:

first here on Earth, and after that—in heaven…


The Old Slave

Do not allow envy to destroy you,

to soil your soul’s purity, my brother.

Although you’re harassed by your pagan master

(a Christian never would’ve tormented you so)—

your wholesomeness he cannot destroy

as long as your and your wife souls are pure.


The Neophyte Slave

O, don’t burn me with your words, old man!

Forgive me, you don’t know… I’m ashamed…

Eh, slaves cannot feel shame! I’ll tell you!

What “wholesomeness”, “purity of soul”?

My soul is rotting every time I see

my wife come home sometimes from an orgy,

all flushed with fine, with fire in her eyes

from shameful songs. The flowers in her hair,

still fresh and fragrant, create such a contrast

against the dirt and destitution of our home…

My wife in haste removes her party garments

and puts back on her old slave’s attire

to keep it clean until the next time it is needed,

and oftentimes I saw my wife in tears

as she was changing… Gramps, I simply couldn’t,

I couldn’t help but hit her for these tears,

though I knew that this way our house

would just become to her more hateful…


The Patrician

                Brother,

show your wife the way to our faith,

then she will no longer cry

over the vain world’s luxuries.


The Neophyte Slave

                My lord!—

or should I call you “brother” here?,—you know,

I dare not try teaching to my wife

this new faith’ tenets. Let her keep on crying

over clean garments and our lord’s mansion,

than have to cry over the purity

of soul and of body. Anyways,

she cannot save herself no matter what,

so then what good would be for her to know

of sin and holiness? It’s better if she doesn’t.


The Bishop

He who has sinned unwillingly is clean.


The Neophyte Slave

We on occasion ourselves don’t know

what willingly and what unwillingly we do…

Sin or no sin, the heartache still persists…

It’s hard for me to say this… I’m not sure:

am I the baby’s father? or my lord?

I love the child, yet sometimes I feel hate…


An Old Woman

It is a sin to hate: it’s not the baby’s fault.

(Looks at The Bishop and falls silent.)


The Bishop

Occasionally women, too, make sense.


A young but tired-looking, poorly dressed woman whispers something into the ear of a respectable old widow-deaconess.


The Diaconess

(to The Bishop)

May I say something, most reverend father?


The Bishop

Speak, but be brief.


The Diaconess (pointing at the young woman)

                This sister here wants

to be of service to her poor brother.


The Bishop

In what respect?


The Diaconess

                She’s asking that his wife

drop off the baby on her way for babysitting,

as she is going to serve at your lord’s orgy,—

the sister has a baby of her own,

and can breastfeed them both, no problem,

and take good care of the baby till the evening.


The young woman bows humbly.


The Diaconess

(to The Neophyte Slave)

Please tell your wife to bring the baby

to Deodatus–he’s a carpenter–whose house

is two blocks on the right from the Small Forum,

and leave it with his wife Ancillodeia:

she guarantees the baby will be fine.


Ancillodeia

(the young woman. In a quiet voice to The Neophyte Slave)

Refuse me not this favor, dear brother!


The Neophyte Slave

(defeated)

My deepest thanks!


The Patrician

                And also visit me,

I’ll give you clothes, although not new,

but good enough, from my slave women,

my wife and I have been too generous with them,

so they can share with your wife for sure,

if your lord doesn’t give enough to her.


The Neophyte Slave

(with restraint)

Thank you, my lord.


The Bishop

(correcting him)

My brother.


The Neophyte Slave

(indifferently)

                    Well, whatever.


A Christian Merchant

I think you mentioned that your wife hates dirt,

and that there’s filth inside your home. I will give

you some free soap, just stop by: I guess your lord

does not provide you with it.


The Neophyte Slave

(with a barely disguised irony)

                        Right, you bet!


The Deacon

Perhaps you sometimes go hungry, brother,—

most pagans don’t give enough to eat

to their slaves,—so why don’t you visit us

on Sundays, when we have a weekly feast

(“Agape feast”—a dinner for the poor);

you’ll have a decent and nutritious meal

for body and for spirit also: sometimes,

when dinner’s almost over, The Bishop,

accompanied by elders of the church,

drop in to teach us tenets of the faith,

to let us taste Christ’s body and Christ’s blood,

to wash the feet of their brothers. Come

through the back entrance to my house. I’m an oiler,

name’s Agathophiles, near the Thermi

is where I live. And any of my neighbors

will point you to the dwelling of the “weird

eccentric man who likes to feed the rabble”.

That’s what the pagans say about me.


The Neophyte Slave

(does not respond to the Deacon and stands for a while silently, holding his head in his hands)

What have I come to! Woe is me, indeed!

Though still young, I am like an old beggar!..

Whom can I blame? Should I blame my father,

who sold me into slavery for debts?

Or those debts? Or maybe that rich man,

the merchant of men’s souls? Or the day,

the hour, the minute I was born?


The Bishop

Come down, poor wretch! What are you saying?

Chase, chase away the evil spirit

of pride and bitterness! It is a deadly sin

to curse like that, especially right now,

when brothers offer brotherly assistance

to you so graciously.


The Neophyte Slave

                That brotherly assistance!

It cut me to the quick, right in the heart!

Look at this woman, she is so fatigued (points at Ancillodeia),

she’s like a shadow from Hades, while my wife

is young and healthy, but my poor son

still goes hungry, though not an orphan,—

his choice is to take food out of another’s mouth

or starve to death while waiting for his mother

to be done serving wine and pleasure to the lords.

But that’s not all: I have to beg for clothes

for my poor wife, who’s forced to whore herself,—

I take from slaves old dresses for a slave,

For there is no time for healthy hands to spin,

there’s no time, for every day is holy.

You say it is a sin to curse and to despair,

but is it not a sin to take food from the hungry

and clothes from the naked? And from whom?

My own brothers, laborers and slaves…


The Deacon

The rich, the poor—here all donate.


The Neophyte Slave

O yes, the soap, sorry, I forgot.

I can get soap free from Brother Merchant

to somehow assuage my slavish troubles,

so that they don’t bother so much

my wealthy brethren when we are in Paradise,

or, god forbid, their poor brother will

come once a week to the agape feast

and spread his dirty, smelly clothes

on that same bench where those in white tunics

and in embroidered togas sit.

(to the Patrician)

                    You better thank

your comrade for that soap. After all,

one day you may need to wash my feet

as part of our Christian fraternizing,

and they will be much cleaner and smell better,

if I first wash at home them with soap,

for I feel sorry for patrician hands.


(The Patrician gets red in the face, but gets hold of himself and only looks at The Bishop.)


The Bishop

(still in a soft, conrolled voice, but with a more severe tone)
What evil spirit has possessed your heart?

What are you punishing your brothers for

with biting, hurtful, and heart-wounding words?

What have we done to you to cause you to direct

at us such anger?


The Neophyte Slave

                    Sorrow, not anger,

Great sorrow’s what I feel. I used to be a slave,

a bondman who was sold, his freedom taken,

removed by force,—and now you decided

to also make me, in addition, a panhandler,

to make me willingly extend my hand

and beg for bread. You wanted me to wear,

besides the yoke of slavery, another,

a light, sweet yoke, that somehow,—

You want me to believe, —will make the old one lighter.


The Bishop

We were sincere when we told you this,

and following the word of God.


The Neophyte Slave

I don’t trust

your honesty, nor do I trust your words.

Had your desire to help others been sincere,—

you see that gold and silver on your altar?—

you would’ve spent not on communal feasts,

you would’ve purchased slaves and give them freedom.

(to the Patrician)

You sire, could have set us free with nothing,

and we somehow would’ve gotten by ourselves

both bread and cloths.


The Bishop

                Who do we think we are

to dare challenge will of the Almighty

who is to be a slave, and who is to be free?

What’s your concern? “Man shall not live by bread

alone, but by every word.”—says Jesus,—

“that comes from God”.


The Neophyte Slave

                 It’s not enough for man

to have just bread and words. A man needs freedom,

or he’ll stagnate and suffer, and not live.

That’s my concern, that’s my heartbreaking anguish:

that you, instead of promised blessed life

in God’s eternal, happy kingdom,

give me just food, just clothes, and just words.


The Bishop

Not all words are the same or as important, brother:

the words of God save souls so much better

than any human deeds.


The Neophyte Slave

                What are those words?

“Obedience and patience”—this is all

I heard from you today. So do they really

save human souls? Is it really true

that Christians go for these two words to death

upon the cross, to martyrdom, to torture,

to serve as meals to beasts in the arena?


The Bishop

They go willingly to die for that great Word,

whose powerful meaning cannot be conveyed

by human words.


The Neophyte Slave

                What kind of word is that?


The Bishop

That word is—God. He is alpha and omega,

the end and the beginning. He created

all, and all lives by Him, and there are no other

gods in the world beside this mighty God;

He is the word, he’s power, he’s life.

And all those whom the ignorant called gods,

to whom they sacrificed—are just dumb idols,

or evil spirits, servants of the Prince of Darkness.

So this is why they torture, crucify us:

because we don’t want to serve these idols,

because we don’t worship Satan as our god,

because we walk in light and not in darkness.


The Neophyte Slave

(excitedly)

“Because you walk in light, and not in darkness”,

so throw away obedience and patience,

like a mime’s mask, just rip it off your face,

you don’t want to serve and to obey

him whose dark power your souls no longer

can tolerate, and against whom you must

fight valiantly, as your conscience bids you!

Did I correctly understand you, father?


The Bishop

Yes, that’s correct, but I must add one thing:

we struggle while we’re patient and obedient.


The Neophyte Slave

(in a fallen voice)

Again I don’t understand a thing:

to struggle while obedient—what is that?


The Bishop

We fight against a spirit, and not people.

Obediently we pay all our taxes,

we honor Caesar and the government of Rome,

we don’t rise up against them either in our words

or deeds, and only to the to the Prince of Darkness

do we refuse to sacrifice or bow.


The Neophyte Slave

But what about Caesar and the state?

Do they not serve the servants of that spirit

whom you called Satan, or the Prince of Darkness?


The Bishop

While they are serving idols. Other times

they are our leaders, sent to us by God.


The Neophyte Slave

By god? Which god?


The Bishop

            There is no god but God,

there’s only one, the God who’s Word and Love.

The Trinity: the Son, the Father, Spirit.


The Neophyte Slave

So it was he who gave us Caesar and the state,

the rule of the Praetorians, patricians,

and ownership of slaves by wealthy people?


The Bishop

“There is no authority except

God-sanctioned in the world”. For God is king

and lord over all the earthly rulers.

They are in His hand; He will be the judge

of their evil-doing, and not we.

“Vengeance is mine”, said the Eternal One.


The Neophyte Slave

When will it happen?


The Bishop

                Who hath ever known

Almighty’s mind?


The Neophyte Slave

                Perhaps one has to wait

until the whole world becomes God’s Kingdom,

or till the second coming of the Christ?


The Bishop

Then certainly the Judgment Day will come.


The Neophyte Slave

And then what?


The Bishop

            We’ll become one happy herd,

led by one shepherd.


The Neophyte Slave

            Will this shepherd have

assistants, representatives, or vicars

to help him supervise and lead the people?

And will the people no longer only

be free inside, but really—still slaves?


The Bishop

I don’t know, we don’t have a message

regarding this from Jesus or apostles.


The Neophyte Slave

O really?... As far as I’m concerned,

God’s Kingdom doesn’t have to come!


The Old Slave (with unspeakable fear)

                Lord Jesus!

Save us from sin, o God! What is he saying?

(The entire Christian congregation begins to shout; we cannot hear separate words, but the volume is groing like a wave, gradually filling the crypt and echoing throughout the dark passages of the catacombs.)


The Bishop

(raises his hand. In a powerful voice)

Peace, brethren, unto you!

(to The Neophyte Slave) repent, o sinner!

Take back those reckless words before too late,

or in the next world you will suffer worse

than you’ve been suffering in this one. He who here

does not strive for the world that is to come--

will lose his precious place in God’s own kingdom

and will be plunged into the vicious Hell,

where there is ever-burning fire, cries and whimpers,

where endless torture will consume your heart.


The Neophyte Slave

No, I will not repent. You’re wasting time, old man:

your hell won’t scare me. I live it every day.

Each day, each hour, and every minute

I hear moans, whimpers, lamentations,

and each and every day my heart is tortured.

It was that hell that brought me here to you

in search of truth, of freedom, and of hope.

And what did I discover? Just evasion

and ethereal dreams of afterlife,

presided by a three-personae ruler

who lords it over all your mortal lords,

while letting them be lords over us

from the first coming to the second coming,

and, possibly, beyond. Perhaps, when we have died,

in that celestial god’s kingdom that you promise,

it will forever be the way it’s here:

incorporeal bodies will forever

just suffer, only “struggle while obedient.”

This service spirit (points at the Old Slave)

will keep serving even there,

not just from fear—guided by conscience,

the soul of his highness the patrician,

this one (points at the merchant)

will keep respecting good and evil

and deal out purity, a little at a time,

this one (points at the deacon)

will serve, but only once a week,

a fine spiritual meal to such riff-raff

like me, for instance, while the rabble will

just stand in silence, patient and obedient,

like paupers in the presence of a lord,

and wait: perhaps the priest will give a sign

that we can make a sound, speak a word,

or will command us to sing hymns

of praise to the mighty king of kings

and lord of all the slaves in heaven.

In fact, I don’t know—would I rather

forever suffer in the hell’s eternal fire

or in that hopeless eternal bondage,

from which not even death can set me free.


The Bishop

(having already several times tried to interrupt and having stricken the ground with his cane, shouts over The Neophyte Slave in an angry and threatening voice)

Scram, get thee hence, you foul son of darkness!

Leave us immediately! What brought you here

to tempt our devout congregation?

Go slither back into the hole, child of the Echynda,

from which you came to bring us to perdition!


The Neophyte Slave

No, you’ve got no right to chase me off,

because you are the one who got me here,

me, who believed you so naively,

believed your promises of finding love and peace,

and life eternal. Now you have taken

the very last remainder of my peace,

forever poisoned my last love, and now

I feel my soul’s dying. For I didn’t know

before what sin is, only that I suffered,—

and you have taught me that I am unclean,

a sinner before god. Before I was so certain

that death will put and end to all my pain,—

you told me: an eternal hell awaits

forever, for the smallest of transgressions.

So you have to grant me a defense

against this multitude of hellish deadly sins.

You taught me how I should love my neighbor,

so teach me now how to defend them,

and not to simply helplessly observe

how my brother slaves are tortured and then perish.

All your compassion—nothing but a patch

on rotten rags of miserable living,

and is accentuating daily torment.

Will a wet nurse’s milk provide my child

with mother’s love, with mother’s tender care?

And will my daily violated wife

get pure again from wearing clean clothes?

Will I, among your happy congregation,

be able to forget my sad, dejected home?

It is not bread I want, not words that I desire,—

I yearn for an unadulterated love,

without envy and without dirty doubts,

I’m thirsting for a bright and pure hope,

that I will catch a glimpse of freedom from afar,

or that my child, or grandchild, or descendant

will see the time when slavery will die,

when even the word “slave” will disappear;

The holy force I crave belief in is the one

that will illuminate the darkest minds

and gather all in a community of freedom,

without lords or shepherds-supervisors,

and not a herd with a capricious pastor

and vicious dogs—a herd forever trembling

from noises made by wolves, by lions, jackals,

hyenas—any carnivore in nature.

I’m not the only one with this spiritual thirst,

I’m not the only one whose heart is starving,

There are a lot of us. A friend, another slave,

told me the other day that by the Tiber,

once you have crossed the poisonous Maremma,

there is a secret camp of rebel slaves.

They’ve had enough of always being slaves,

and plan to tear their bonds asunder

and throw off the yoke from their necks.


The Patrician

For how long, you think, they’ll to keep it off?


The Neophyte Slave

A single moment would be worth the trouble!

I used to hoped for eternal freedom

in your community, but you can’t remove,

not even for a second, your “sweet yoke”.

Instead of dreaming of eternal, it is better

to act for temporary that can be achieved,

exchange agape for a bloody orgy.


The Patrician

Or for ingloriously dying on a cross.


The Neophyte Slave

Hey, Christian folk, since when do you consider

an execution an inglorious demise?

You think I should be scared of the cross?

Your Savior didn’t seem to feel ashamed

of dying in the company of bandits

on such a cross.


The Bishop

            But He then made it holy,

and not the bandits. Jesus saved those men,

not the other way around.


The Neophyte Slave

                Are you certain?

What if he owes ruling over Heaven,

what if he owes lordship over souls

to blood that’s spilled by revolutionaries, rebels,

that terrifies all slaves and those “meek of spirit”,

because, perhaps, both “patience and submission”

would have long left this world without a trace,

if we were not scared of a death in vain

by visions of the bloodied outlaws

who have been executed on the crosses.


A Young Christian

He who is patient and submissive fears not

to die upon a cross for Him who suffered

for us his Passions.


The Neophyte Slave

                So did he suffer

for us so that we suffer yet again?

Where is it, that salvation, where’s that redeeming

of sins of the entire world, if once every day

somebody once again must pay the price?


The Bishop

We’ll be redeemed not here, but in Heaven.

Not of this world is our kingdom. Bodies--

let bodies die, as long as souls live.

Christ gave his own flesh, his own blood

to nourish us, while lazy slaves--like you,

for instance, squander this, so precious, present,

so, thanks to you, it perishes for nothing.


The Neophyte Slave

And how many slaves like me have perished,

as bloody victims to unrighteous deities,

and how many are still dying for that king,

who, as you say, has sentenced us to slavery?

Who’s measured the long way, all lined with crosses,

That we, we slaves, for centuries have walked?

Who has appraised the blood that’s yet to fall

upon the heads of torturers, still weighing

upon the kids of executed heroes?

A phalanx of innumerable deities

has walked over that blood—a crimson carpet

rolled out for the triumph of a caesar--

from heaven here. How long will they,

incorporeal tyrants, bloodless ghosts,

these lifeless apparitions, keep on treading

this priceless scarlet way of living blood?

As for my blood—I’ll never give a drop

for blood of Christ. If it indeed is true

that he is God, then, for a change, let God

spill blood for us—that would be quite a first.

I don’t care if there is but one God,

or three, three hundred, or a whole horde.

Not for a single one I want to die:

not for a king who rules somewhere in Eden,

not for the tyrants ruling from Olympus,--

I won’t be a slave to either one,

I’ve had enough of slavery right here!

I will extoll Prometheus the titan,

who did not make his humans to be slaves,

who spread enlightenment with fire, not with word,

who struggled violently and did not surrender,

and suffered for an aeon, not three days,

yet did not call his torturer his father,

but an ignoble tyrant, whom he cursed,

while prophesying death to all the gods.

That’s whom I’ll follow. And if I should die,

it won’t be for him—he doesn’t want it,—

but for the same things that he suffered for.

Let no one be scared of my cross,

for if I feel a holy fire in my heart,

and for an hour, or even for a moment

will live not as a miserable slave,

but as a soverign, unfettered demigod,

then happily shall I face my demise,

and calmly meet my end upon a cross.


(Ancillodeia suddenly starts weeping uncontrollably.)


The Neophyte Slave

What happened, sister? Why are you upset?

Did I say something inadvertently that hurt you?

Believe me, I did not mean to offend you.


Ancillodeia

No, brother... that’s not it... just what a pity...

I’m sorry for your fate... You probably will perish...


The Bishop

Don’t cry. He is not worthy of your tears.

In his recalcitrance, Prometheus he worships,

and that is Satan, the eternal serpent,

who led us into sin, into defiance.

There is no redemption for this slave,

and no forgiveness. He has lost his soul.

Let’s make sign of the cross and leave this sinner,

Let’s distance ourselves from sin and evil.


The Neophyte Slave

And I will go fight against enslavement,

for liberty and truth, against your falsehood!


(The entire community moves out, carrying candles. The Bishop leads. The Neophyte Slave goes by himself into a different tunnel on the other side.)