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Full text of "Attila, a tragedy in four acts;"

ATT 1 LA 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/attilatragedyinfOObiny 



ATTILA 



ATTI L A 

A TRAGEDY IN FOUR ACTS 
BY LAURENCE BINYON 



LONDON: JOHN MURRAY 

ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 

1907 



Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty 






TO 

C. S. R. 



?3u23? 



ATTI LA 



CHARACTERS 

Attila, King of the Huns. 

Hernak, a boy, Attila's youngest son. 

Onegesius, a Greek, Attila's favourite counsellor. 

SiGiSMUND, a Burgundian, foster-brother of Ildico. 

Messalla, ^ „ ^ 

}■ Roman Envoys. 
Laetus, J 

RORIK, > 

Burba, J- Huns of Attila's bodyguard. 

ESLA, J 

An Egyptian Soothsayer. 
Chabas, a Greek Refugee. 

' > Subject Kings of the Goths and Gepids. 
Valamir, j 

Zercon, a Moorish Dwarf. 

Huns, Burgundians, etc. 

Kerka, Wife of Attila. 

Ildico, a Burgundian Princess. 

Cunegonde, Gisla, and other women attendant on Ildico. 

Time : 453 .\.D. 

Place: A city of the Burgundians, conquered by Attila, 
in the valley of the Upper Danube. 



ATTILA 

ACT I 

SCENE 

Part of a toimi of the Biirgundians^ occupied by 
ATTILA. A gatcy left, in a wall, abutting on 
which, at the back, is the front of the house of 
iLDico. At the right the colonnade of a large 
building, attila's headquarters. Beyond it 
an open rampart. 

Dawn. A comet in the sky, fading as the light 
increases. Within the colonnade esla aiid a 
group of armed huns ; in the space beyond a 
feii) MEN and women, cloaked against the cold 
air, come and go, with terrified glances at the 
comet. siGiSMUND leans against one of the 
further pillars. chabas lurks in the back- 
ground. On the 7'ampart a stationary figure, 
the SOOTHSAYER, wmtclies the sky. 

Enter from the left rorik and burba, imth 
two other huns. 

Esla 
All night it has so streamed, like a great torch 
Blown by the wind. 



4 ATTILA 

Burba 

And now outglares the dawn. 
Rorik, I like it not. 

RORIK 

Quake in your flesh ! 
It shall not fright me from my appetite. 
These prodigies perturb a hungry soul. 
Eat, eat and drink ! 

{The HUNS sit down to drink and dice, chabas 
comes forward, cringing.^ 

Chabas 

Speak for me to the King, 
Sirs ! I have lent him moneys. I am lost. 
The King forgets a poor man has his needs. 

Rorik 
Here 's pay for you ! [Strikes him.\ 

Burba 
And usury too. Out, rat ! 
[chabas, driven off", goes toivard sigismund.] 

Rorik 
[lifting his cup to the comet] 
To Attila's splendour ! 



ATTILA 5 

Burba 

{/lolding rorik's arm] 

No, you drink our doom. 

Chabas 
Ten talents ! Listen, my lord Sigismund ! 

SlGISMUND 

[turning his back] 
Ten talents ! Will that buy back liberty 
For my lost land ? 

RORIK 

Is that a mortal man 
Or rooted effigy that stands and stares 
On this dishevelled star? 

Burba 

A man, but who 
I know not. 

ESLA 

'Tis the Egyptian. 

Burba 

The Soothsayer? 
The master of magicians? 



6 ATTILA 

ESLA 

Half the night 
He has watched this witch-fire burning, motionless. 
Look now, he turns. 

RORIK 

Come, let us question him. — 
O man of dreams and auguries, who read 
Fate's crooked signs and characters, pronounce 
This apparition's meaning. 

Huns 

Ay, what means it? 



Famine, I fear. 



Burba 

RORIK 

Some prodigy of luck. 

ESLA 

For Attila what means it? Good or ill? 

Soothsayer 
Is not great Attila King over kings? 

EsLA 
But this hangs over Attila. Speak out. 



ATTILA 7 

Soothsayer 
You men of war, why seek to deal with powers 
Who forge their ends behind the enacted scene? 
Play your hot parts out ; strike, slay and be slain ! 
To question blurits the sword, palsies the arm, 
Curdles the blood : oppose her as you will, 
Calamity will come 

All 

Calamity ! 

Soothsayer 
Hastes not for terror, tarries not for hope.* 

Onegesius 
[zvho has entered from the right during the 
last ivords] 
Who talks of terror and calamity? 
For whom ? 

Soothsayer 
For some. 

Onegesius 

Ay, surely at this hour 
The Roman streets throng with night-watchers 

pale. 
Who cower and cry that this means Attila, 
The terror and calamity of Rome. 



Hear Onegesius ! 



ATTILA 
Huns 

Burba 
Over us it hangs. 



ESLA 

Yes, over us, and over Attila. 

Onegesius 
Fools ! whom should Heaven give sign to but to 

him 
Whom long ago it chose and certified 
A meteor among men, a captain star, 
The master of the warriors of the world ? 
Have you forgot the sword 

Huns 

Attila's sword ! 

Onegesius 
The miracle, the sword God flung from Heaven 
There on the Scythian steppe : have you forgot 
How when the Hunnish host stood in amaze 
And terror as you stand now, Attila 
Caught up the sword as 'twere God's thunderbolt 
Of everlasting wrath ? Have you forgot. 
Who have seen it blaze in Attila's right hand 
And armies quail before it? While the sword 



ATTILA 

Is with him, mortal cannot harm him. Now 

This second sign, this glory out of night, 

This plume, this flower, this fount of golden seed, 

Attila takes to be his crest, a gift 

From Heaven, a blazon of God's own device, 

A brand to burn upon the battle's van 

Lighting to victory. 

RORIK 

Ay, if battle came ! 
But Attila is changed ; we rust in peace. 

ESLA 

How glib the Greek is ! 

Burba 

Now, Egyptian, speak. 

Soothsayer 
Fear, fear : 'tis wiser. 

Onegesius 

Still do you pretend 
That Attila is menaced ? 

Soothsayer 
Attila 
Himself may override the wave of doom. 
I read not yet who shall be lost in it — 



lo ATTILA 

A man may own a dearer thing to wound 
Than his own body. Attila has sons. 

Onegesius 
This man talks treason. Seize him and keep close 
In guard at the King's will. Away with him ! 
[Two HUNS arrest and take away the sooth- 
sayer.] 
There let the raven croak to the blank walls. 
But you, I charge you, if your tongues report 
Or private conversation entertain 
This madness, 'tis at peril of your life. 

RoRn<: 
Spare threats. Sir Counsellor, you waste your 

words. 
See, the thing's quenched, and the sun's up in 
heaven. 

[onegesius parts the curtains of ildico's 
house, but is stopped on the threshold by 
cunegonde.] 

Cunegonde 
The Princess sleeps yet. 

Onegesius 

Let her be awakened ; 
She is summoned by the King. I shall return. 

\Exit onegesius. cunegonde retires. \ 



ATTILA II 

RORIK 

[pointing to ildico's house] 
There is the portent you should look to, Huns ! 
No fiery mare's tail hung across the dark, 
But one that wears a body, walks daylight, 
A mischief with a woman's shape and eyes. 
Plague strike and end all women ! 

[burba touches rorik as hernak comes out, 
right, ] 

Ah, my prince ! 
Now may my curse fall fortunate for him ! 

Hernak 
I have a new bow, Rorik. 

Rorik 

Let me try it. 
A sweet note ! But for those young arms 'tis 
tough. 

Hernak 
Give it me back. See, I can bend it full. 

Rorik 
Come soon the day when I shall see your shaft 
Dive to the feathers home in Roman flesh. 
Are you for hunting? Shall I go with you? 



12 ATTILA 

Hernak 
I go alone. Rorik, tell not my mother, 
For she forgets I grow to be a man, 
And a King's son, whose word tall men obey. 

Rorik 

There speaks your father's spirit ! Good hunting, 

Prince ! 
Be wary ; the King's son is a great mark, 
And discontented dogs of every tribe 
Infest this place, to snap what gain they can. 

Hernak 
I have my bow, my new bow, and sharp arrows. 

Burba 
A Hun of the Huns ! 

Rorik 

Why was he born the last? 

Chabas 
[interceptmg hernak as he is going oiit^ left] 

my young lord, a boon before you go ! 
Speak favourably to the King for me. 

1 have waited month on month, and am not 

paid. 
The King has many cares, and he forgets. 



ATTILA 13 

Hernak 
Speak to the Queen, my mother ; she will hear. 

Chabas 
My lord, I do beseech you ! 

Hernak 

Let me go ! 
[hernak shakes him off and goes out. burba 
and the other huns sit doivn to dice, rorik 
paces up and down. ] 

Rorik 

Why was he not the first? 
His brothers are but fit to follow him. 
He captains them by nature. 

ESLA 

EUak and Gengis, 
Where are they gone? 

Rorik 

On foray, — quarrelling 
As ever, which shall have the best of spoils. 
Be it cattle or woman. 

Burba 

Hernak for me ! But come, 
A hazard, Rorik. 



14 ATTILA 

RORIK 

Pest upon all women ! 

Burba 

Why, what's the matter? 

RORIK 

Witchcraft ! Attila 
Wavers, not strikes, stoops and not soars. And we. 
That overstormed all Europe, Scythia, Thrace, 
Sarmatia, Illyria, lands on lands 
From Caucasus to Ocean, must we halt 
Content as puddle-blooded citizens. 
While Rome, that still defies us, is unwon ? 

ESLA 

There 's thunder on the King's brow ; when it 
breaks 

Burba 
Old Rome will tremble. Ay, he has deep 

thoughts. — 
The luck 's all yours. 

RORIK 

'Tis witchcraft. Here we sit 
With all the plains before us, cornered, cooped. 
Stabled like oxen. O my soul is sick 
Of being roofed and walled ! Air ! Bring a torch, 



ATTILA 15 

I say, and let these pale Burgundians burn 

With the proud girl that rules them. Slaves to a 

woman ! 
That ever Attila cast eyes — O gods, 
This should be the Alps, and yonder Italy, 
Vines, towers clashing all their bells in fear. 
Rich cities quaking, walls to leap, and Rome. 

Burba 

The dice are dull toys. 

ESLA 

Hark to Rorik ! 

RORIK 

Then 
We rode like wind, we leapt like rattling hail ; 
Danube in flood-time could not race with us. 
But now we must make platters of our shields, 
And see our royal eagle witched and tamed, 
A strutting pigeon in a castle-court 
That coasts about the housetops and alights 
To preen and coo. Lightning wither them all, 
Pinch their lips cold, and mildew their soft cheeks. 
All women, all, but specially this one, 
This Ildico, who wastes our Attila ! 

ESLA 

Is she the star with the long golden hair 
That threatens all our heads? 



i6 ATTILA 

Burba 

She has a bloom, 
And there 's a fiery warning in her eye 
Would tempt a man to tame her. 

ESLA 

They are proud, 
These same Burgundians. 

RORIK 

I will find a way. 

ESLA 

Yonder 's her foster-brother, Sigismund, 
Dogging her door ; he too 's her slave. 

Burba 

He 's pricked. 
You have stirred him, Rorik. 

RORIK 

Were it not for her. 
We should be feasting in imperial Rome. 

Sigismund 
Never will that be ! 

Rorik 

Never ! that 's a word 
We know not. Will your lordship say us nay? 



Remember Alaric. 



ATTILA 17 

SiGISMUND 
RORIK 

He sacked Rome. 



SiGISMUND 
RORIK 



And died. 



Alaric was not Attila. 

SiGISMUND 

Rome is Rome ! 
Your day is over, Huns ; your King is staled 
With conquest, he has lost the joy of it ; 
The terror of his end has come on him. 
Three sons at odds, and you without a king ; 
Three sons at odds, and none to lead you. Laugh ! 
But you have seen the sign. [Poifitmg to the sky.] 

Burba 
[starting up] 

Stop the fool's mouth, 



Or I will. 



RORIK 

[stopping liim] 
Not yet. I 've a use for him. 
B 



i8 ATTILA 

SiGISMUND 

You have seen the sign. Up, Huns, and save 

yourselves ! 
Seize what is yours. Attila scorns you. Up, 
You are many ! Wield a purpose of your own. 
Let Attila beware then ! 

RORIK 

I say too, 
Let Attila beware. 

ESLA 

Look, the Queen comes ! 
KERKA enters from the right. 

Chabas 
[throwing himself at kerka's/^^^] 
Favour, O Queen, favour a wronged poor man 
Who cannot reach the King's ear. Plead for me. 
I ask no more than justice. Hear, I pray. 

Kerka 
Better thy fortune with the fortunate ! 

ESLA 

Enough of whining, fellow ; out of the way ! 

Kerka 
Where is Prince Hernak ? Have you seen my son? 



ATTILA 19 

Burba 
We saw him, — he was here some minutes since. 

Kerka 
I thank you. Is the King abroad ? 

RORIK 

Not yet. 
[She goes to the rampart and gazes out, then 
returns. The huns resume their dice.] 

Chabas 
That boy shall be my vengeance. The lion's cub 
Shall pay me ransom. [He goes out, left.] 

Kerka 
[addressing the huns] 
Am I not Queen among you? Did I not 
Ride with you, hunger with you, thirst with you ? 
Do I lose honour, or are you Huns no more? 
O that the wide plains were about us still 
Of our own East ! Then Huns were Huns indeed. 
And Kerka wanted not for loyalty. 

Rorik 
[respectfully] 
Mother of Hernak 

Kerka 

Thank you for that word I 



20 ATTILA 

RORIK 

We suffer change, being mortal ; there 's no help, 
But we must bear the thing we cannot shun. 

Kerka 
Rorik, have Hernak in your care. 



RORIK 



Burba 

The setting sun ! 



I will. 

[Exit KERKA.] 



Pale in the sunrise. 



ESLA 

Rather the moon that hangs 

Rorik 

Burba, here 's a thought. 

Burba 



Let's hear it. 



Rorik 
This Burgundian serves our turn. 
With such a spur shall Attila be pricked. 
I '11 take this Frank, heap fuel on his flame. 
Breathe discontent and wrongs so desperate 
As stick at nothing ; then, a midnight plot. 



ATTILA 21 

Swords out, and tumult ! Attila once roused, 
If we strike not the old fire from his soul, 
Call me a fool. 

Burba 
For a fight or for a feast 



I am your man. 



ESLA 

And the Burgundian ? 



RORIK 

Why, 

We take him in the act. Kill, kill them all ! 
Come now, and drink to warlike days again ! 

{Exeunt all but sigismund.] 
[iLDico appears at the door of her house, 
followed by cunegonde.] 

Sigismund 
Ildico ! 

Ildico 
Attila summons me. 



Sigismund 

Ildico 
Speak then, but quickly. 



Princess ! 



22 ATTILA 

SiGISMUND 

The hour is come to act. 
I have watched. I have planned. I have mingled 

with the Huns ; 
I know their thoughts. This streaming fire in 

heaven 
Affrights them ; they arc muttering at their King, 
Bated of prey and rapine. — Listen still. 
I have men, I have swords. 

Ildico 

See! 

SiGISMUND 

[as ONEGESius enters^ righ/^ 

Onegesius ! 

Onegesius 
[to ildico] 
The King commands your presence. He com- 
mands 
That you this day, with all your women, quit 
This house, and enter his house. 

SiGISMUND 

O shame ! Shame ! 
Back to your tyrant ! 

Ildico 

Silence, Sigismund ! 
I speak, and for myself. — Sir, I refuse. 



ATTILA 23 

Onegesius 
That is your answer? Attila shall hear it. 

[jExt^, right.] 

SiGISMUND 

Ah, now you understand him, Ildico ! 
The Hun must die. This comet beacons us 
To the fulfilment of that fear it writes 
Already on these savage hearts. Not ours 
But Fate 's the deed. We want but Ildico 
To lead us. 

Ildico 
No more, Sigismund, of this. 
Do I not know what it befits me do? 
Stir not till I give word. 

Sigismund 

I wait the word. 
Yet send it quickly. O, you cannot choose 
But strike with us. Princess, my life is yours. 
Fear not. If need be, I will strike alone. [Exit.\ 

Ildico 
O, put your arms about me, Cunegonde ! 
I want a friend. 

Cunegonde 
You have one. 



24 A T T I L A 

Ildico 



I have you. 



CUNEGONDE 



And Sigismund. 



Ildico 

Yes, Sigismund. But he 
Would use me ; and I '11 be no instrument 
Of his or any man's. He plots and schemes. 
Fool, fool, to match himself with Attila ! 

CUNEGONDE 

Together, not divided, you were strong. 

Ildico 
We were playmates together, girl and boy, 
And dear remembrance knots our youth ; but now 
We are not children, playing harmless games. 
But face to face with terrible men. I count 
The cost, and know sweet ties may break ; but 

this 
Is chosen and determined. I will meet 
This our great enemy. 

CUNEGONDE 

He never spares. 
You have defied him ; think what power is his ! 
O rather flee. 



ATTILA 25 

Ildico 
Whither ? 

CUNEGONDE 

With Sigismund. 

Ildico 
111 counsel, Cunegonde, to a king's daughter ! 
Nothing is ever wise that is not brave. 
All then were lost. 

Cunegonde 

But Attila — you know 
That you have stirred his passion. If already 
He has not snatched and taken you by force 
And slain us all, it is that he will show 
More surely now the savage Hun he is. 

Ildico 
He has spared till now. You wrong him, Cune- 
gonde. 
Can one man rule a sea of raging men — 
Have power to kindle them and calm at will — 
By being brute as they are? Attila 
Is greater than ten thousand of his Huns. 
By his greatness, or his weakness, I will move him, 
Pleading for all of us. Go, Cunegonde, 
Seek Sigismund. Forbid him stir a hand 
Till I command it. This must be. Go, now ! 



26 ATTILA 

CUNEGONDE 

And must I leave you? Will you stay alone 
For Attila? 

Ildico 
Alone. Fear not so much. 
If I be driven to the uttermost, 
If he should deem me like those Tartar women, 
The only women of whose ways he knows, 
Servile in blood and custom, that take pride 
To be no more than a just-tasted cup, 
A fortnight's fondling, a staled sweet, the last 
Addition to his pleasure — if he think this. 
Let me be accurst or he shall surely know 
My difference. Sooner than a mouth of shame 
He shall kiss death ! 

CUNEGONDE 

What have you said? To kill 
The master of the world ! No man of all 
The thousands hating him has lifted hand 
To dare a thing so terrible. 

Ildico 

'Tis true. 
When some divine and more than mortal deed 
Is to be done, the strong, the wise forbear, 
And when a greatness through weak heart and 
hand 



ATTILA 27 

Stammers into the splendour of a deed, 
Pronounce it madness. — Go, seek Sigismund ! 

\Exit CUNEGONDE.] 

ATTILA enters, right. 



So ; I am defied ! 
The word is yours. 



Attila 



Ildico 



Attila 
A woman ! Never man 



Yet challenged Attila and lived : but now 

A woman dares to brave him. — What are you? 

A witch's incarnation, without use 

Of bodily senses or the taste of pain ? 

No, flesh and blood, I swear ! Bethink you 

then, 
If I but lift a finger, you are crushed 
Into what doom I choose. — Look in my face. 
You are quailing in your heart, — confess to it. 

Ildico 
What if I be? O, I can feel and fear. 
No magic art defends me, no, nor hope 
Of help ; my flesh fears, but not yet my soul. 
Put chains upon my body. Do all your will. 
I am not, shall not, cannot be your slave. 



28 ATTILA 

Attila 
So proud ? 

Ildico 
What would you have of me ? Hate, hate ? 
Such an immortal hate 



Attila 

Have I struck fire ? 
Flame, then ! A woman's hate — I never knew 
A woman kindle 

Ildico 

No, you never knew 
A woman not a slave ; but we, but we 
Women of the West are of another mould. 
You smite in me a people. 

Attila 

Conquered ! 

Ildico 

No, 

You tread on fire. 

Attila 
My heel can stamp it out. 

Ildico 
But it will smoulder till it burst afresh. 



ATTILA 29 

Attila 
What's this? What do you speak of? Tell me 

more. 
What seek you of me ? 

Ildico 
Attila's glory ! O, 
Listen ! Within these sheltering walls a child, 
That from these towers eyed often the vast plains, 
The hills, and Danube rushing to the East, 
Grew up ; and, ere she was a woman, heard 
The rumour of the name of Attila 
Come rolling like a thunder from afar. 
She pictured him most royal ; she was born 
Of generous free blood ; she saw him stride 
A demi-god, a god, a destiny. 
That plucked up kings like thistles : cities burned 
To be his torches ; he was born to exceed 
All measures of men's thought. — She was a child. 
But now 

Attila 
But now? 

Ildico 

She is a woman now, 
And she has known what madness in men's blood 
Blinds them like hunger ; tasted the sharp breath 
Of suffering, and beheld the different world 



30 ATTILA 

Dark under cold heavens, deaf to anguished 

cries 
That pierced into her heart. And yet sometimes 
She listens to her old thoughts asking her 
Will Attila be less than she had dreamed? 
Will he, even he, be nothing but the storm 
That yesterday crashed on our roofs, and now 
Where is it? None knows. O, you burn and 

waste ; 
But blackened earth teems richer for her loss 
When all your Huns are past. — Speak, Attila ! 
I have told my heart out, I am in your hand. 
Take me, and bind me, and kill me — what you 

will — 
But let my people free ! I plead for them, 
As I will answer for them. 

Attila 
[after a pause] 

You are free. 
[Then with passion.] Ildico ! — 

[iLDico has disappeared into her house without 
looking back.] 

ONEGESius enters, right. 

Onegesius 

Is she humbled as befits? 



ATTILA 31 

Attila 
She is humbled as the hawk is when he mounts, 
, Or Honess that's hunted from her mate ; 
A mother-mould of stormy-hearted men ! 

Onegesius 
Better to take and to forget her, King. 

Attila 
I 'II have her soul, not only her body, mine ; 
And surely as the heart beats at my ribs 
Mine shall she be. To touch resistance, feel 
Within my fingers the proud, delicate flower, 
And not to harm what I could crush at will 
In an instant — there 's an edge and zest in this 
Those women of the East, of my own race, 
Never provoked. But I shall tame her. Well? 

Onegesius 
This soothsayer 

Attila 
I have heard an oracle 
Speak from a woman. Onegesius, what say you? 
Shall the Hun plant his spear in the old earth 
And strike a root, to branch abroad, and end 
His wanderings? 

Onegesius 
The Hun's blood can never rest. 



32 ATTILA 

Attila 
Rome mocks me, mocks me with her thousand 

years. 
My spear should be the king-post of a house 
Deep-founded and enduring. 

Onegesius 

This soothsayer, 

Attila 
What mischief has he told ? 

Onegesius 

Your soldiers fear 

That nightly portent streaming past the stars. 

And this man threatens. 

Attila 
Me? God's sword is mine. 

Onegesius 
'Tis not yourself he hints of peril to. 

Attila 
What then ? 

Onegesius 
Your line 

Attila 

My line? 

Onegesius 



Your sons. 



ATTILA 23 

Attila 

My sons ! 
I 'II see him ! Were that true? Now I remember 
'Twas prophesied before. At Danube's passage 
A witch croaked thus. I '11 see this soothsayer. 
Bid him prepare : furnish him all his art 
Has need of: he shall question Fate. My sons ! 
I must have sons ; I am maimed without a son. 
I melt and crumble like the summer ice 
With all my empire, if I have no son ; 
But I will be eternal as this Rome, 
So I have sons. 

Onegesius 
When shall the man await your majesty? 

Attila 
Fear knocks upon my heart, lest this be true. 
— To-night, to-night ! 



Silence is safest. 



Onegesius 

Shall the Egyptian die? 



Attila 
No, I fear him not. 
Whatever secret the locked lips of Fate 
Yield to his art, be it good or ill, I '11 know it. 

[£xU ONEGESIUS. 

c 



34 



ATTILA 



Dust ! to be ended and extinguished here 
In my own body ! All of me that goes 
Riding to conquer Time, lost, overthrown ! 
And Rome remaining, Rome remaining ! 

HERNAK enters, left. 

Hernak 



Father ! 



Attila 
There 's blood upon you, boy ! 

Hernak 

Father ! 

Attila 

Blood ! 
Does it begin already? — You are pale, you tremble. 
Where are your brothers ? Is there news of them ? 
You are hurt, boy. Speak ! 

Hernak 

I am not trembling, father. 
'Tis not my blood. I killed him ! 

Attila 

Tell me again. 
— Could Chance, could Fate in fleshly form appear, 
That were a thing to kill. 



ATTILA 35 

Hernak 

I am your son. 
I killed him ; he is dead. 

Attila 

Who dead? How dead? Was there no stroke 
from Heaven ? 

Hernak 
It was a Greek who supplicated me 
When I was going out ; I would not hear, 
And he came after me, and in the hollow 
Down by the postern met me suddenly. 
He had a horse and caught me to his saddle, 
Swearing you should pay ransom for your son, 
And spurred away. But I was not afraid. 

Attila 
No, Hernak. 

Hernak 
And my knife was in my belt. 
I caught him by the throat and stabbed him. 

Attila 

How ? 

Hernak 
The Hun's way, so ! 



36 A T T I L A 

Attila 
[kissing him\ 
Brave Hernak ! That 's my boy ! 

Hernak 
I am a man now, father, am I not? 
I would be like my father and hear men say 
' He is Attila's own son.' 

Attila 
[putting him away] 

More terrible 
Than Attila, I hoped . . . 

[With sudden suspicion,] Where is your mother? 
Speak, boy ! 

Hernak 
What changes and what angers you ? 
Why do I vex you? 

Attila 
Did she set you on. 
Smeared with false blood and tricked with a false 

tale, 
To play upon the father's pride in me ? 

Hernak 
I told the truth. You never taught me lies. 



ATTILA 37 

Attila 
Go wash that blood off. [hernak withdraws.] 

Whence fell that shadow? *Tis but shadow, yet 
How strangely colours as in fatal hues 
What is mere accident ! The boy 's unhurt. 
Why should Fate play these tricks, make mouths 

at me 
Behind a horrible mask, to snatch it off 
And smile — and smile ! 
[With sudden change.] Hernak ! Son ! My son ! 



My father 



Hernak 

[nmning back] 



Attila 
We 're not taken, spite of Fate 
And all her gins ; we '11 make her omens laugh. 
You and I, boy. You shall surpass me yet, 
And we will war down everlasting Rome — 
The weak can never wait, but I am patience — 
Your son's son shall inhabit Caesar's house. 
The ships on all the seas shall be his ships : 
Far into Time I see them . . . sons ! My sons ! 



CURTAIN 



38 ATTILA 



ACT II 



SCENE I 



A vaulted room. A door at the back, left, another 
small one at the right, near which the sooth- 
sayer stands with eyes fixed on a small stone 
altar on ivhich aflame burns. 

ATTILA enters, followed by onegesius. 

Attila 
What has the fierce star written ? What is hid 
In heaven against me? Tell me of my sons. — 
Onegesius, leave us. Wait without the door. 

[onegesius goes out, closing tlie door. ] 

\To the soothsayer after a silence.\ 
Thou art in my hand ! 

Soothsayer 

And thou, O Attila? . . . 

Attila 
Find me the means to satisfy my soul ! 
If holy or unholy arts have power, 
If by persuasion or by force thou canst 



A T T I L A 39 

Ravish from Time his secret, drag it forth ! — 
I hear you famed beyond the common tribe 
Of soothsayers ; magicians call you master. 
Prove it ! Whence got you this so potent lore? 

Soothsayer 
Chaldean sages taught me in their towers 
That watch the stars ; in Egypt I was born ; 
Their art is patient to conjure and charm 
Out of their time the face of hours unborn. 

Attila 
Summon them up. 

Soothsayer 
What I can do, I shall. 
But boast not more. 

Behold, we walk our little hour of light 
Toward this great dark that fronts us like a wall. 
All Ave shall do is there, and all we fear. 

Attila 
Thrust and break in : seize Fate and force her 
speak. 

Soothsayer 
Beware lest from her ambush, ere thou knowest, 
She leap out at thee. 



40 ATTILA 

Attila 

What 's the peril ? Where ? 

Soothsayer 
Thou art threatened. 

Attila 
Ah! 

Soothsayer 

This meteor that makes pale 
The natural lights of heaven 

Attila 

Speak ! what of this? 

Soothsayer 
O Attila, a power stands over thee 
Poising, but whether to strike out thy doom 
Or to enrich thee, hangs uncertain yet. 
The time awaits thy grapple ; thou shalt know 
When Fate makes of thy hands her implements 
And thou the accomplice bring her deed to birth. 

Attila 
What power is this whose menace I must fear? 

Soothsayer 
If my ancestral art have rightly spelled, 
A woman. 



ATTILA 41 



Attila 
Of my race ? 

Soothsayer 

Nay, strange to thee. 

Attila 
Her name? 

Soothsayer 
Sign tells not : this is not revealed. 
Yet of her blood she is born thine enemy. 

Attila 
Enemy born, yet may be turned to boon 

Soothsayer 
Her destiny and thine are interlocked. 

Attila 
And nothing of the event? 

Soothsayer 

I read no more. 

Attila 
Is this thy boasted art and magic skill ? 
Thou bat, thou owl, that chatterest in the dark 
What every eye but thine sees plain by day ! 
Thou keep'st the secret back. 



42 ATTILA 

Soothsayer 

Patience, O King. 

Attila 
Bethink thee of some engine to extort 
Fate's meaning, or I swear 

Soothsayer 

Patience, O King ! 
Thyself must question ; thou art in the plot. 
The agent and conniving will : to thee 
Fate will speak clear what is to others dark. 
My office is to show thee how. 

Attila 

Begin ! 

Soothsayer 
All is prepared. Behold this altar-stone 



Attila 
What is the flame that burns so still on it? 

Soothsayer 
Thy destiny ! — Take in thy hand this dust 
Compounded of all secret roots that mean 
All manner of untimeliness to man, 
Plucked at conjunction of disastrous stars. 
And sprinkle it upon the fire. 



ATTILA 43 

Attila 

What then ? 

Soothsayer 

If destiny, which is the flame, be bright, 
'Twill be consumed, the fire will feed on it ; 
But if the doom be short, the flame will die. 

Attila 
So. 

Soothsayer 
Seek thy fate then. 

Attila 

My fate? What of that? 
My doom is dated somewhere in the book. 
But I am girded with the sword of God 
Which is the fate, part of whose will I am ; 
No, but the after-days and after-doom, 
My empire and succession's heritage — 
This troubles me : a wild witch long ago 
Predicted me misfortune in my sons. 
I would learn their fate. 

Soothsayer 

Nothing of thine own ? 

Attila 
Do as I bid thee ! 



44 A T T I L A 

Soothsayer 
Sprinkle then the dust, 
Pronounce thy sons' names each in turn, and hold 
His image in thy heart, nought else, the while. 

Attila 
[taking the dust in his hand] 
This then for thee, Ellak, my eldest born ! 
The first that called me father — this for thee ! 
Thy mother bore thee on the Tartar plain. 
Ah, wild and headstrong then I rode and fought. 
Not yet a king, and wild and headstrong thou. 
Ambition went not to thy getting, boy ! 
I would not have thee rule, save in such sort 
As now, some subject tribe ; thou art a hand 
But not a brain — Yet, this for thee. 

{He casts the dust on the flame, which goes out 
at once. ] 

So sudden ? 
A straw would have burnt longer. 

Soothsayer 

Fate so wills. 

[He rekindles the flame. \ 

Attila 
[taking another handful of dust] 
Gengis, my second, this for thee. Is thine 
As short a date ? Thou hast a subtle brain 



ATTILA 45 

And goest about with eyes upon the ground, 
Getting thy ends ; but no, thou art not loved. 
Destiny will not choose thee. 

{^He casts the dust again^ imth the same result. ] 

Gone ! thou too. 
Drive me to the outpost, I am not subdued ; 
But one remains, but one, yet he the best. 
My Hernak ! Fortune ! if thou choose not him. 
If thou use not this precious-metalled ore 
To mould and to refine thy masterpiece, 
But blindly waste it, then I '11 call thee all 
That men have cursed thee for, convict indeed 
Thy crooked and capricious purposes 
In their proclaimed futility. Why then, 
The world were chaos. Destiny no more 
Than a giant idiot with a random hand 
Stumbling and striking. 'Tis impossible ! 

\He is about to cast the dust, then hesitates. ] 
If it should be? Hernak, my Hernak, brave. 
Wise past his years, courteous, contained, beloved. 
Flesh of my flesh, will of my will — all prayers 
I ever prayed are in this hand ! 

\He casts the dust on the flame, ivhich leaps 
a moment then goes out.] 

[To the soothsayer] 'Tis false. 
Thou vile pretender ! Thou hast been suborned. 
Confess ! I '11 tear the life out of thy limbs. 
Cut shrieking into pieces ! I '11 have all 



46 A T T I L A 

Thy tribe of sorcerers suddenly put out 
As these brief fires ! 



Soothsayer 
Perform thy threats ; 'tis vain : 
The Gods bear witness. 

Attila 

Tush ! — 'tis true, 'tis true. 
\He begins to pace up mid doztm.] 
The badge of blood was on him for a sign, 
And I would not believe ! My boy, my boy ! 
I thought to shoot an arrow fast and far : 
It falls before my feet. . . . 
When he was sucking at his mother's breast 
My hope was big in him ; but now — but now — 
Must I be balked of all my soul begot? 
I stamp upon the ground, and armies spring. 
Thou shalt not have him, Death, or if thou dost. 
By all the fiends and furies that rush in 
To make their hell-home in the heart of man, 
I swear that for each pang I suffer now 
I will exact a thousand from the world, 
I will spare nothing : Italy shall be 
My vineyard, and the wine of it be blood — 
Red spirting blood beneath my dancers' feet ; 
And Rome, Rome, Rome, out of her orphaned 
mouths, 



ATTILA 47 

Out of the cinders of her burning streets 
Feast me with curses ! Did I dream of peace ? 
'Tis blown to air. I '11 fix me on no throne, 
But harry, scourge, be vengeance, storm, and 

plague ; 
And I will laugh as Fate now laughs at me, 
Robbed of my lion's whelp. 

[Turning suddenly on the soothsayer.] 
Get hence before I slay thee, mouth of evil ! 
Thy work is done, my work begins ! 

Soothsayer 

O King, 
Remember yet the woman ! {Exit, left.\ 

Attila 

Ildico, 
Ildico, Ildico? You gods ! is this 
Your meaning? Is her beauty the fell star 
That strikes and blasts my sons? The sacrifice? 
Now terrible and clear the omens read. 
'Tis so, 'tis she. It must be. — Fate is Fate, 
But Attila is Attila. So be it. 
Let all behind be tossed into the waste, 
My agony with it, all former hope 
Razed out, life springs, life shoots and bursts 

anew ! 
She should bear royal children. 



48 ATTILA 

KERKA enters liurriedly^ and throws herself 
at his feet. 

Kerka ! 

Kerka 

Woe, 

Woe to our house ! 

Attila 
Speak ! 

Kerka 

Our two elder sons ! 
News comes that on a foray quarrelling 

Attila 
You talk of ghosts that wander the wild air ! 

Kerka 
They are dead ? You know it ? 

Attila 

Dead! 

Kerka 

If it be true 
That miserably they have slain each other, 
Still we have Hernak. 

Attila 
We? 



ATTILA 49 

Kerka 

O Attila, 
Thank we the Gods still for our best-beloved ! 

Attila 

Ha, ha ! 

Kerka 
Why do you laugh so dreadfully? 

Attila 
The hounds are yelping at the quarry's heel ; 
Their fangs grin ; Death hallooes. The boy is 

down. 
Gather your wailing-women, make the grave! 
He is dead ! 

Kerka 
He lives ! 

Attila 

A moment, and no more. 

Kerka 
You rave! Remember how you prayed for him, — 
The youngest, yet you swi^e he was the best. 
Since on your knee he sat and with small hand 
Drew your great sword a little from its sheath, 
And looked into your eyes. 

D 



50 A T T I L A 

Attila 

No more of that ! 
Out, grief, out of my bosom ! Say no more. 
I have put this all behind me. 



Attila ! 



Kerka 

Attila 
The oracle has doomed him. 

Kerka 

It is false ! 
If it were true, my heart would know it first. 
The heart beneath the breast that suckled him. — 
Will you not use one fond word to your wife 
That bore him you ? 

Attila 
I loved you. 

Kerka 

Loved, loved, loved ! 
O bitterest of words to her that loves ! 

Attila 
You should have borne another. It is too late. 
Better to have been barren from the first 
Than breed such hope, to blast it in the flower. 
A malediction lies upon that womb ! 



ATTILA 51 

Kerka 
Ah ! it is Ildico, not me, you love. 

Attila 
I say, that you are wife of mine no more. 

Kerka 

She ! she ! Yet Hernak lives. I know he lives ! 

[Af^er a pause.] 
I am my lord's. I must bow even to this. 
Heaven is just. Heaven will hearken. In that day 
Remember me. You love out of your race, 
Out of your blood. Think you that Ildico 
Will be as Kerka? She will love, may be. 
But with exactions, with suspicions, proud 
In contraries to try you ; something always, 
As Western women in their nature use. 
You '11 not possess, some citadel apart ; 
She '11 never give you of her very soul 
As I you cast away. 

Attila 
Farewell. 

Kerka 

My sons ! 
[kerka goes out as onegesius enters.] 



52 ATTILA 

Onegesius 
What said the Egyptian? Ellak, Gengis slain? 
What of the oracle? 

Attila 

Sponge out the dead ! 
The wound is here, but the hot iron put to it. 
From now my soul despises to be hurt. 
Fate strikes me to enrich me, stings to spur. 
To stubborn and enkindle. I am chosen. 
Destined. 

Onegesius 
What mean you ? 

Attila 

Attila is awakened, 
And he will match him with this mighty Rome 
That boasts her birth beyond the count of time. 

Onegesius 
If it please you, hear 

Attila 

I, I will be eternal ; 
Out of the teeming chaos that 's to be 
My will shall fetch and mould to form and flesh 
Its long-unborn fulfilment : I have seen 
In vision rising up a line of kings, 
And each more terrible than the last. 



ATTILA 53 

Onegesius 

The present 

Attila 
No counsel, Onegesius. 

Onegesius 

Who should be 
Mightier than Attila? 

Attila 

He shall come, I tell you, 
And Ildico shall mother him. 

Onegesius 

Beseech you. 
Beware of Ildico, beware of her. ,g 
These same Burgundians are a sullen folk, 
That cherish wrongs like oaths and sacred vows. 
This marriage is unholy in their eyes. 
Your death is dearer than their lives to them. 
Take heed, lest perfidy stab home at you. 

Attila 
Pish ! Gnats of summer, let them bite their fill. 
What hour is it? 

Onegesius 
Past midnight ; dawn draws near. 



54 ATTILA 

Attila 
Get you to bed. I shall not sleep. 

[oNEGESius is going out, then returns. 

Onegesius 

My lord. 



What now ? 



Attila 

Onegesius 
The Egyptian sorcerer. 'Twere well 
That he were silenced. I fear blabbing tongues. 
This man 's a danger. 

Attila 

End him as you will. 
I have used him. Let all go that served my past. 
The world arises new, and I with it. 
— What was that noise? 

Onegesius 
[listening at the door] 

Some stirring in the town, 
Far off. All 's still now. 

Attila 

So the future stirs. 
To bed ! I '11 see the dawn up, Time's new dawn. 



A T T I L A 55 



SCENE II 



The same scene as in Act i. Night, rorik, 
BURBA, and other huns gather near the gate. 



What of the King? 



Burba 

Rorik 

I wait for Esla's word. 



Burba 
Is it past midnight? 

Rorik 

The first cock has crowed. 

Burba 
Give us our cues again. 

Rorik 

Stand to your stations : 
You, Burba, there ; I by the doorpost here. 
The rest behind. No noise until the signal. 

Burba 
Three knocks upon the gate, and on the third 
We drop the bolt. 

Enter esla hurriedly. 

Rorik 
What now ? 



56 ATTILA 

ESLA 

A curse is on us. 
The King is not abed, cannot be found. 
He is gone with Onegesius, none knows where. 

RORIK 

That crafty Greek is ever crossing me. 

Burba 

What 's to be done ? 

ESLA 

They whisper that he tries 
The oracles of that Egyptian. 

RORIK 

O, 

We '11 find him matter for his auguries. 

This shall be richer sport. He shall be roused, 

Fear not ; I '11 parley with this Sigismund, 

Say Attila is warned, the secret known. 

He must hammer on the door and come, swords 

out. 
For open fight. 

ESLA 

Well thought. 

Burba 

My fingers itch. 



ATTILA 57 

RORIK 

Soft ! not so loud. Already I have primed 

A score of men to hold the several gates 

And at the signal make such clamouring show 

The town shall seem invaded and at arms. 

Meanwhile we keep these Franks in noisy fence 

Till the King comes ; and when the hubbub grows 

So huge a roaring as would start the dead, 

And Attila with anger in his eyes 

Strides in, why then — let swords leap all about 

him ; 
We '11 spice his nostril with the scent of war. 
Cry ' Kill ! ' and ' Lead us ! ' 

Burba 

There '11 be slaying then ! 



A merry time ! 



ESLA 
RORIK 

Hush, all ! 



Burba 

Is it yet the hour? 

RORIK 

Some minutes still : wait for the knocking ; now 
Like mouse to hole. 

[The HUNS retire to their hiding-places. After 



58 ATTILA 

a brief pause ildico comes out jrom her 
house mid sits doivn on the steps, her head 
in her hands, cunegonde follows her, 
ajid touches her on the shoulder. ] 

Cunegonde 
Here in the cold air? 

Ildico 

O, I could not sleep. 
I stifled. Will it soon be dawn ? 

Cunegonde 

Quite soon. 
Come, — come to bed. 

Ildico 

What do you listen for? 

Cunegonde 
I thought there was a sound without the gate. 

Ildico 
You tremble. [Seizing her arvi.] 

Cunegonde 
Come away ! 



ATTILA 59 

Ildico 

What do you fear? 
What do your eyes seek yonder in the dark? 
No, I '11 not come till you have answered me. 

CUNEGONDE 

It is not fear, but hope. Yet I fear too. 
Sigismund — hark ! — Sigismund is in arms. 
He has mustered all the boldest of our folk, 
And strikes to-night for freedom and for you. 

Ildico 
My word was pledged he stirred not. Cunegonde, 
Did you not carry my command to him? 

Cunegonde 
He is a man : he would not listen. Ah ! 
He is in peril ; would you thwart him now? 

Ildico 

Woe to you ! You have betrayed me ! You, my 

friend. 
Where is the King? 

Cunegonde 
He sleeps. 

Ildico 

What was that sound? 



6o ATTILA 

CUNEGONDE 

A sword striking the wall. 



He must be warned. 



Ildico 

The King, the King ! 



ESLA 

Back ! no one enters here. 
[ildico arid cunegonde retire behind the 
colonnade. Three knocks sound upon the 
gate.] 

RORIK 

[coining forward] 
Knock louder, man ! Louder ! The King is 

warned ! 
No use for secrecy. Make show as if 
An army came. Hammer, to fetch him up ! 
A loud alarm ! Then we shall take him here 
Trapped and alone. 

SiGISMUND 

[ivithout] 
Open ! 

RORIK 

Let fall the bolt. 



ATTILA 6i 

SiGISMUND 

[rushing in with a troop o/'burgundians] 
Attila, Attila ! Where hides the Hun ? 

RORIK 

He comes. 

Burba 
Meanwhile a bout of fencing, friend. 

RORIK 

Lights, Esla, lights! [huns bring torches.] 

SiGISMUND 

[defending himself] 

What devilry is this? 

Burba 
Stand to your guard ! Now were we not at play, 
Your head were cloven through. 

SiGISMUND 

Where hides your King? 
Let fall your blade a breathing-space. 

Burba 

Good sport ! 
[An uproar without begins and increases.] 



62 A T T I L A 

RORIK 

Now we will rouse him. Huns, he shall see blood ! 

[He kills a burgundian.] 

BURGUNDIANS 

Flee ! Treachery ! 

[Some flee, pursued by the huns, -who try to 
shut the gate. ] 

Huns 
Kill, kill ! Attila ! 

SiGISMUND 

[still defending himself \ 

Snake, devil ! 
Was this your trap ? 

RORIK 

For simple souls like you 
Such traps are made. Stay, Burba, hold him yet, 
And he shall have his stroke at Attila. 

[iLDico comes out among them.] 

Ildico 
[to rorik] 
Free this man ! 

SiGISMUND 

Ildico ! 



ATTILA 63 

RORIK 

At whose command? 

SiGISMUND 

Not that namCj Ildico. 

Ildico 
In Attila, the King's name, I command. 

Attila 
[suddenly appearing from the righi] 
Who speaks for Attila? 

Ildico 

Ildico, my lord. 
I am shamed. I knew not of this thing. I thought 
My people heeded my command, — and yet. 
Give me this man's life. 

RORIK 

Let me kill the slave. 
He meant your murder. 

Attila 

Free him ! By God's wrath, 
Do you know your King? 

[The HUNS release sigismund, but disarm him 
first. ] 

Your blades are ready ; come, 
I '11 stop this hubbub. Burba, take your guard, 



64 A T T I L A 

Speed to the north gate, put the riot down. 
Rorik, with me ! 

RORIK 

To the world's end, my King ! 
Now Attila is Attila again. 

[attila and the huns disperse right and left.] 

SiGISMUND 

I had him in my hand. A thousand curses 1 

Ildico 
He shone like fire. O, this was Attila ! 

SiGISMUND 

The traitor, the damned snake ! And O, fool me ! 

Ildico 
Hark how the uproar at his coming dies. 

SiGISMUND 

Ildico ! 

Ildico 
Hark! 

SiGISMUND 

Ildico ! Have you drunk 
Of poison, are you witched with sorceries. 
Is your blood changed, to have used that hateful 
name? 



He set you free. 



For your sake. 



A T T I L A 65 

Ildico 

SiGISMUND 

Ay, that's the bitterest sting ! 

Ildico 

For my sake, yes, for my sake. 



SiGISMUND 

Have you no shame to feel and to be stung? 
— Ah ! do you dream of empire, and with him. 
Because you own a corner of his mind 
And are the last thing that has pleased his eye. 
To-morrow loathed, enjoyed, and cast away? 



Ildico 



No more of outrage. 



SiGISMUND 

Ildico, I love you 
To my life's end. I am mad with love and hate ! 

Ildico 
Sigismund, he will crush you with his heel. 
Go. 

SiGISMUND 

Never will I see you bride of him ! 
Either he dies, or I. 

E 



66 ATTILA 

Ildico 
Go! 
[siGiSMUND goes out as ATTILA relums.] 

Attila 

Ildico ! 
If these few mutinous swords had been a thousand, 
This petty tumult the whole world in arms, 
I would have borne you from the midst. Mine, 

mine ! 
^Tis written in the unalterable stars. 
I have heard to-night God crying out of heaven 
' Ildico, Ildico ! ' 

Ildico 

Not yet, not yet I 

Attila 
Now ! For Heaven puts from me the wife I had. 
A curse is on her, but on you the choice. 
The oracle has spoken ; we are bound 
In destiny together. O, by my soul 
I love you ! 

Ildico 
Is it written so, past strength 
To break or alter, past all strength of will, 
Of fear, of anguish? 



ATTILA 67 

Attila 

It is written so ; 
You shall be mine. 

Ildico 
My captain and my King ! 
Let me not think : I totter. O blind me, blind me 
In love that burns up all I cast away ! 
Let it all burn, and one great single flame 
Clothe us for ever ! Hide me, thou strong tower ! 
[She buries her head in his breast, then looks up. ] 

Attila 
My love is fierce, never will let thee go. 

Ildico 
O turn not eyes so terrible on me ! 

Attila 
Ah! seest thou, seest thou? — Give me back my 

sons ! 
Thou bitter sweet, canst thou so much atone ? 
Canst thou ? Thou shalt ! Heaven swears it me, 

thou shalt ! 
Down, images of terror, to the gulf 
You sprang from ! I defy you ! Here and here 
Out of black night I kiss thee, life for life. 



68 ATTILA 

Ildico 
What agony shakes from you such wild words ? 
What haggard sights are staring? 

Attila 

Scorching leaves, 
Where hundred hopes were green ! Thou hast 
slain my sons. 

Ildico 
I? 

Attila 
Thou. 

Ildico 
They live. 

Attila 

The flutter of a spark, 
No more. The hour 's dated. They are sentenced. 

O, 
When thou didst come, shining across my path, 
God hung their doom in heaven, a fiery sign 

Ildico 
Look where the black-winged clouds have fleeted 

off- 
Yonder it burns again ! 



ATTILA 69 

Attila 

By that bright doom, 
By my soul's waste and desert, by the pang. 
The loss, the fury, thou shalt all avenge, 
Thou famine and thou feast, thou desolation 
And thou all future joy ! 

[Putting a torch above her head. ] 
Stand in the light, 
Thou challenge of mortality, thou Queen ! 
Is it of mortal stuff that thou art made. 
That housest Time's great secret? 

Wound and bliss. 
Cruel and precious with the cost of death, 
I kiss thy robe, 
Thou nourisher and mould of kings to be ! 

Ildico 
Ah ! take my body, take my soul, take all 
I am and was and shall be — but a woman. 
Only a woman ! 

Attila 
Woman, and my bride ! 
Yon streaming star of loss and death shall change 
His omened fire to be our nuptial torch. 
The morrow comes 

Ildico 
Look how the east is pale ! 



70 ATTILA 

Attila 
Dawn ! The new day, new heaven, and new earth. 
Now Attila has shaken off his sleep 
And you shall see him kindled. He whose hand 
Holds over us that wonder in the sky 
Wields also me. I am the sword. And lo, 
Yonder the world that waits us ; all the world ! 

Ildico 

Ah ! thither, thither let us speed, my King, 
Speed on fast horses : let us drink the wind. 
There is no rough fare that shall not be sweet, 
No bed not soft, no hardship not delight, 
So I am with you. Take me, carry me 
Out of all this, out of all this, for ever ! 

[A trumpet sounds in tJie distance.] 
A trumpet in the night ! 

Attila 

I know that peal : 
It challenges my fate. 

Ildico 

{Trumpet again y 7iearer.] 
Hark, hark again ! 

Attila 
I have heard that sound upon the blood-red field 
A hundred times. Ildico, Ildico, 



ATTILA 71 

Our horses' hoofs shall stamp the Sacred Street, 
And you shall sit throned in the Capitol ; 
For pleasaunce walks you shall have continents, 
For jewels, subject cities [Trumpet again.] 

Ildico 

Attila ! 
What summons blows? The dawn is breaking. 
Hark! 

Attila 
It is Rome's trumpet — You shall reign in Rome. 



CURTAIN 



72 ATTILA 



ACT III 



SCENE I 



The same scene as in Act i. Midday. Groups 
of people passing by or loitering^ among them 
BURBA, ESLA, and other huns. Enter from 
the right rorik, in haste. 

Burba 
Rorik ! 

Rorik 

War ! By the Dragon, war ; we shall have war ! 
I tell you Attila is stirred at last ; 
These mouldering days are done. 

Burba 

Tell us of the envoys. 

ESLA 

These Romans 

Burba 
Has he sent them packing home 
With a challenge? Did he threat them? Did you 
hear? 



A T T I L A 73 

RORIK 

They have not seen him. 

ESLA 

How? 

RORIK 

Refused, contemned ! 
You shall see them in a minute come this way 
With flouted faces muttering anxiously 
In one another's ear. 



Good ! 

No, 'tis ill. 



ESLA 

He would not see them ? 
Burba 



RoRIK 

Whichever way, 'tis war. 

Burba 
I like it not. His thought's all Ildico. 
To-night he weds her : he '11 have none of war 
Nor state affairs ; the woman fills his eyes, 
He sees nought else. The world may howl for him. 

RORIK 

A week, and he '11 be sated. Could a woman 
Kindle him as last night we saw him kindled? 



74 ATTILA 

Did you not note the lightnings in his eye, 
And how his words leapt after, quick as thunder? 
That was a good night's work — if but he had let me 
Slit the long throat of that fool Sigismund ! 

ESLA 

The fellow lurks about still. 

Burba 

Yet I doubt. 

RORIK 

What say you then to this? The Gothic kings 
Are summoned hither. 

Burba 

To the marriage-feast? 

RORIK 

They come with armies. Look across the plain. 
Yonder 's a moving glitter. It is they ! 
The spears of Ardaric and Valamir. 
Down to the gate ! 

ESLA 

Down to the gate ! 

RORIK 

Come on ! 
{The HUNS^o out, left.] 



ATTILA 75 

A crowd of people come noisily on the scene, 
followed by the Rojuan envoys messalla 
and LAETUS, before whom the Moorish 
dwarf ZERCON marches with ajitic ges- 
tures. 

Zercon 
The King" shall hear you. I have power with him. 
I have my own cause too that I shall plead. 
Trust me, you men of Rome ! I wield a sword 
And wag a tongue as well. 

A Max\ 

Your champion, Romans ! 

A Woman 

Faint hearts, a champion ! 

Men and Women 

Zercon ! 

Zercon 

Follow me, 
People ! I go to give the Gothic kings 
My welcome. [Exeunt all but the Romans,] 

Laetus 
Are all mad, or is it we? 



76 A T T I L A 

Messalla 
This is the future, Laetus. We are past ; 
These are our conquerors. 

Laetus 

Rome, what a rabble ! 
Here's all the quartered world jostling in frag- 
ments. 

Messalla 
Our mould is cracked ; here is the molten ore 
Streaming and seething. 

Laetus 

Were I Cassar now, 
I 'd catch and cage these motley chatterers 
And watch their apish antics, for the jest. 
And yet our errand 's as fantastical. 
I thought it always mad, but madder now. 
A princess of the purple, Caesar's sister. 
Proffers her troth, her uninvited troth. 
To this barbarian ; sends a ring to him. 
And wooes him, wooes this wild boar in his den. 
'Tis a wild story ! — Come, we are refused. 
Scorned, slighted : what can profit to stay on ? 
We have seen 

Messalla 
But have not conquered. No, I stay 
And win this audience. Attila shall hear. 



ATTILA 77 

Will you go back and tell Honoria 

' We went, and we did nothing, and return ' ? 

Laetus 
Her pride will rage at this indignity. 

Messalla 
Yes, if we fail, but not if we succeed. 
I find that Onegesius the Greek 
Contrives all here. I spoke with him apart. 
I think — but see, he comes. 

Enter onegesius. 

Laetus 

It is all madness. 



Well? 



Messalla 

Onegesius 
Attila will hear you — upon condition. 



Messalla 

The terms? 

Onegesius 
A public audience. 

Messalla 

Impossible. 



78 ATTILA 

Onegesius 
Speak what you will, but speak it before all. 
King Attila will hear and welcome you. 

Messalla 
Our matter is for him and him alone. 

Onegesius 
His ways are open ; he keeps no private ear. 

Laetus 
Renegade Greek ! Let us back to Rome, Messalla. 

Onegesius 
As you will. [Extij 7'ight.] 

Messalla 
Patience ! 

Laetus 

I am sick of patience ! 
Do you imagine, were Honoria here 
And saw her foolish daydream by daylight, 
And found herself a gibe and castaway 
Among these hideous Huns, she would endure 
An instant ? O, post back to Italy ! 
Think of your garden on the Aventine, 
Your library, your fishponds, waiting you 



ATTILA 79 

Messalla 
They are waiting always, Laetus. 

[siGiSMUND, hooded^ comes up to them.] 

Who is this ? 

Laetus 
He stares at us intently. 

Messalla 

Are you a Hun ? 

SiGISMUND 

A Hun ! I would rather go upon four legs 
Than be a beast on two. 

Messalla 

Yet you are here. 

SiGISMUND 

This is my land, not theirs. 

Messalla 

Then Attila 
You love not? 

SiGISMUND 

Were my fingers at his throat ! — 
You are from Rome. He is your enemy 
Eternal. You will see him face to face — 
O were I you ! 



8o ATTILA 

Messalla 
What then ? 

SiGISMUND 

[with a gesture] 

A little thing. 

Laetus 
This is a little thing. [Showing a dagger.] 

Messalla 
Your thoughts run fast. 
But Attila refuses us, my friend. 
We are dismissed his presence. 

SiGISMUND 

Attila 
Is ruled. 

Messalla 
How? 

SiGISMUND 

By a woman. 

Messalla 

Who is she? 

SiGISMUND 

Burgundy's last of royalty, Ildico, 
My foster-sister. 



O happy Hun ! 



ATTILA 8i 

Laetus 
What, another princess ! 

SiGISMUND 

To-night he weds her. 

Laetus 

Weds! 

SiGISMUND 

Unless — You are Romans, you bring news from 

Rome, 
Business of moment, doubtless, that shall turn 
His mind to heavier issues. What is a woman 
When policy is in the balance? Go, 
Get his ear, divert him. Women love to taste 
Their power upon a man. Seek Ildico, 
She will persuade him. 

Laetus 

Excellent foster-brother ! 

Messalla 
Where is this princess? 

SiGISMUND 

I will bring her to you. 
[SIGISMUND ^<2jj-ej into iLDico's hoiise.\ 

F 



82 ATTILA 

Laetus 
Wedded to-night ! Honoria's dream 's a dream ! 
Home again, home : all 's ended, come ! 

Messalla 

Not yet. 

Laetus 
What? 

Messalla 
Let it be a dream. I never feared 

Its coming true, or would have stayed at home. 

Attila will deride it, I know well. 

But I have promised to Honoria 

To give the ring, and I will give the ring. 

Moreover, I will see this Hun, whom Rome 

Pays tribute of her fear to. 

[iLDico comes out attended by cunegonde and 
inaids. ] 

Laetus 

O, she 's fair ! 

Ildico 
Are you from Rome ? 

Messalla 
Princess, we are from Rome. 



A T T I L A 83 

Ildico 
What brings you hither? Do you await the 
King? 

Messalla 
We crave a private audience of the King 
Which he refuses. Must we go empty away 
And say in Rome that Attila [He hesitates.] 

Ildico 

Say on. 

Messalla 

That Attila unroyally withholds 
His ear from honourable embassies, 
Abstaining from that ancient courtesy, 
The privilege of kings? Shall we report 
That Attila is afraid? Princess, you know 
'Tis not so, but I think he is abused 
In counsel. Could we see him face to face. 
Then would he listen, then would be himself; 
But it seems Onegesius holds the power. 

Ildico 
Onegesius ! I will ask the King. I think 
That you shall have your audience. Stay mean- 
while. 
Fetch some wine hither ! Do you refresh yourselves. 
[She signs to her maids, who re-enter the 
house. ] 



84 ATTILA 

Messalla 
Princess, we thank you, from our hearts we thank 
you. 

[Exit iLDico into the house of attila. cune- 
GONDE remains in the background.^ 

Laetus 
Who would have sought such beauty here? — She 
rules him. 

Messalla 
For the moment. 

Laetus 
What new thought possesses you ? 

Messalla 
I listen : I can hear the coming roar 
Of chaos, when the keystone 's struck away 
From this rude arch of empire. 

Laetus 

Attila? 
Give that Burgundian opportunity — 

[Two maids return, bringing wine and cakes 07i 
gold dishes, then retire.] 
I am weary. Drink ! To the fair Ildico ! 

[He drinks, but sets down the cup with a ivry 
face. ] 
And may she come not to as sour an end ! 
O, golden dishes ! [Nibbles at a cake.] 



ATTILA 85 

Messalla 

What was in that sigh ? 

Laetus 
Nothing ; a memory. A bath, Messalla, 
Some olives, and a bath ! 

Ildico 
[re-entering] 



King Attila 



Gives audience — but to one. 
Laetus 



Not both ? 
Ildico 



To one. 



Laetus 
Then you, Messalla. 

Messalla 

Now? 

Ildico 

Immediately. 

Messalla 
Thanks, noble princess, for your intercession. 
Would that our gratitude could match your grace ! 

[Exit MESSALLA.] 



86 ATTILA 

Ildico 



Tell me of Rome. 



Laetus 



What shall I say ? A city 
That is utterly aweary of itself. 
Why, did you pace upon the Roman streets, 
You 'd find yourself a wonder ; next, a worship ; 
Flowers, odes, a hundred lovers at your feet ; 
And on the morrow, nothing : out-of-date, 
A yesterday ; we love not yesterdays. 
We live for pleasure, princess — a hard life ! 

Ildico 

Is every Roman so ? Yet Rome is feared. 
Is there no pith and mettle in her sons? 
No spirit and no daring? 

Laetus 

I have heard 
Those words, but never used them, mettle and 

daring ; 
And it was on such lovely lips as yours 
I heard them last, with such indignant tone. — 
Rome boasts a princess whom our poets hymn 
The moon of Italy, the rose of fame, 
Though I would sv/ear the face I look upon 
Would turn them traitors. 



A T T I L A 87 

Ildico 

Only a woman, then? 
Does it not shame you to be called a man ? 
How is she named ? 

Laetus 
Honoria. 



Ildico 
Laetus 



And a princess? 



The Emperor's sister. 

Ildico 

She should be your queen- 
O, can you not catch fire from such a heart? 

Laetus 
'Tis prettier pleasure to see others burn 
Than burn oneself. Unhappy Honoria ! 

Ildico 
Unhappy? I perceive this is a soul 
You cannot understand, of purest flame 
That wastes itself unfuelled ; yet I think 
She is happier than you that mock at her. 

Laetus 

She is unhappy, for she sits and sighs 
Beside her palace window all day long, 



88 ATTILA 

And gazing over roofs and roar of Rome 
Dreams of a hero, fancying, poor she, 
If the north wind blow, it may bring her news 
Of Attila. 

Ildico 
Of Attila ! 

Laetus 

Her hero. 
Her Attila, her world-subduing king. 
Whose name is text and comment on our ways. 
Whose greatness canopies the day, the night. 
And puts the stars out. Ah, mere dreams, mere 

dreams ! 
Unhappy she ! Your fame shall make Rome 

envious ! 
Princess, 
More happy than Honoria, farewell ! 

[Exit LAETUS. CUNEGONDE cofues fonvard.] 



Ah, Cunegonde ! 



Ildico 
[coldly] 

Cunegonde 
I heard. 



Ildico 

If this be a Roman, 



Rome is a bubble. 



A T T I L A 89 

CUNEGONDE 

And Honoria? 
This lady that has all men at her feet 

Ildico 
What of her ? 

CUNEGONDE 

Nothing. 

Ildico 

Tell me, what of her? 

CUNEGONDE 

This only, that she loves your Attila, 
And sends these envoys 

Ildico 

She ! High state affairs, 
Not woman's messages they come upon. 

CUNEGONDE 

And yet 

Ildico 

No more. Go ! 

[Exz'i CUNEGONDE.] 

Now, if that were true. 
And Attila listen? Shame, O shame for me ! — 
O what is love, that we should speak of it 



90 ATTILA 

So fair and fondly? It is fierce, not kind ; 
Cruel, not tender ; 'tis not a thing we own ; 
It clutches us, and will not let us go ; 
It is a stream we drown in, a strong stream 
That sweeps us out of sight of home, of friends. 
Of our own souls, of everything. 

[With sudden change of to7ie.\ 'Tis written 
In heaven that I am his, my Attila's ; 
A bond unbreakable, and in that bond 
My body is made holy to him, and I 
More wonderful than woman. 

Honoria? 
The truth ! I '11 seek him ; 1 must know the truth ! 

\Exit^ right.] 



SCENE II 

An audience-chamber, plainly furnished, attila 
is sealed on a loiv dais, left, messalla stands 
at the right, the slave ivho carries the treasure 
stands behind. At the back a curtained door. 
MESSALLA has just finished speaking. 

Attila 
I find no matter for my private ear 
In this. I think my patience is abused. 



ATTILA 91 

Messalla 
My prologue 's ended. But for what 's to come 
I crave your secrecy : this is a theme 
Nearer and more familiar. But meanwhile 
Let Attila accept a gift from Rome. — 
Pour out your treasure, slave, at the King's feet. 
[The SLAVE advances, but is stopped by a 
gesture fro?n attila.] 

Attila 
Hold ! Come no nearer. Leave the treasure there. 
Dismiss the slave. We are alone. Speak on. 
How, hesitating? Do you moisten lips 
For this that was so instant to be said ? 

Messalla 
I doubt to find the words that shall commend 
My mission. 

Attila 
State affairs are suited best 
With plain words. What would the Emperor 
with me? 

Messalla 

Your pardon ! I must seek to tune my speech 
To other issues, though an old man's lips 
Discourse them strangely ; yet, if I am old, 
I have seen the more, and ageing with my kind 



92 ATTILA 

Know nothing 's strange that 's human. Wisdom is 
Not to despise : the thread of fate, wherein 
Events are bound and huge dominions hang, 
Is often spun of tissue delicate 

As sighs, as dreams, a thread that one might burst 
Against the beating of a woman's heart. 

Attila 
Come, come ! what would you speak of? 

Messalla 

Of a woman. 
It is a woman uses speech in me. 

Attila 
Is Rome so manless and emasculate 
That women send ambassadors? 

Messalla 

Hear yet 
Before you judge, O Attila. It is 
A woman, but imperial, sends me hither. 
You know the Emperor has a sister, young, 
A ripe eighteen — Honoria ; she is one 
Whose nature will not starve in custom's mould. 
But breaks in precious fire — how shall I say? 
You will not understand how I am moved 
In speaking of her ; a spirit that rebels 
From seeming what she is not, chooses, wills. 



ATTILA 93 

And stops not at the halting-place of fear. 
Whatever moves her, moves her to the quick. 
She is proud ; yet giving, she gives absolutely : 
Her nature is a queen. And Caesar fears her, 
Grudges her scope, sets spies upon her, mews 
Her wings in palace walls that prison her ; 
Even now debates within some convent's gate 
For ever to exile her. 

Attila 

What of this? 
C^sar may dungeon half a hundred sisters, 
I will not stir to help or draw the bolt. 
What 's this to me? 

Messalla 

Alas ! upon this theme 
My tongue grows garrulous. Then, to be brief. 
This young, imperious, and unmated heart, 
Finding about her none to incarnate 
The greatness that she dreams of, — for she dreams 
Of such a Cc-esar as the Julian star 
Mourned, when the master of all nations fell — 
Would sponge away five hundred years, to breathe 
Heroic times again, and living caged 
Fosters the more such fancies as, you know. 
Flower in a prison, wither in the world, — 
She turns from Rome to far horizons : there 



94 A T T I L A 

She hears one name fill all the North with dread, 
The rumour of one spirit matching hers 
In greatness of adventure and desire. 

Attila 
Whom do you speak of? 

Messalla 

Whom but Attila? 
As queen to king, she sends her embassage ; 
Proudly and freely thus declares her heart. 
Honoria weds with Attila or none ; 
In proof and pledge whereof she sends this ring 
Affiancing her heart and destiny. 

Attila 
Give me the ring. What story or device 
Is wrought upon the gem ? 

Messalla 

It shows the fleece 
Old poets tell of, like that bearded star 
We watched last night, hung golden in the gloom 
Of jealous forests, and the dragon coiled 
About the tree-trunk with a burning eye. 
Apollodorus, the Sicilian, made 
The gem : for modern workmanship 'tis well. 
Though I could show you in my cabinet 



ATTILA 95 

Attila 
[ivith sudden change of tone] 
What talk is this of toys and girls and rings? 
Say now what business brought you? 

Messalla 

All is said. 
A girl's whim, doubtless, 'tis but a girl's whim. 
She should have paced an ampler age than ours. 
We maim her, a proud marble of old time 
In dust and wreck found beautiful, but maimed ; 
But I — I am her friend, and for my friendship 
She chose me for this errand, and because 
My years perhaps seemed fitter to commend 
Her act as not a folly, though a folly 
To Attila it is ; and if 'tis so 
She is answered : but to Attila's own ear 
I have committed it ; my duty 's done. 

Attila 
[starting up] 
So with this patched and most unlikely tale 
You thought to blind me, and behind this mask 
Of trumpery and words to carry off 
Your baffled plot ! You have not fooled me. No, 
Your errand was my murder ! 

Messalla 

God forbid ! 



96 ATTILA 

Attila 
Am I a dolt, a round-eyed innocent, 
That know not your Italian practices? 
'Twas tried before : Byzantium bribed a man 
To stab me in close audience ; now 'tis Rome. 
You meant to do it while that slave of yours 
Poured out the gold and while I fingered it. 

Messalla 
I swear 

Attila 
What were you hired with to remove 
Rome's nightmare, and pull down the hated Hun ? 
Why, Caesar's purple, Valentinian's throne 
Were less than just reward ! 

Messalla 

King, I confess, 
Were Attila no more, Rome would sleep sounder ; 
But not a Roman stirred a finger here. 

Attila 
I say, my death was plotted ere you came. 
Ay, chuckled over in the Capitol ! 

Messalla 
Not so, I swear, no, nor a dream of it. 
I come, ambassador to Attila, 
And with no thought but of my embassy. 



ATTILA 97 

An office sacred out of time to kings, 
As mine should be to you. 

Attila 

Ambassador ! 
Embassy from a girl — a shameless girl, 
If what you say be truth ; if truth, 'tis folly 
That merits no respect ; but it is false, 
Pretence and pretext. Do you think to escape 
Because you are foiled, or that I honour names 
Put on for cloaks, or spare because you are old — 
The older, the worse fool ? 

[Calling RORIK, 7vho appears instantly.] 
Take out this man, 
And tie him up to be an archer's mark, — 
My Huns have lacked a target — and proclaim. 
Thus Attila deals with traitors, and with spies 
Usurping honourable offices. 

Messalla 
So be it : let my death dishonour you, 

Attila. No matter : my term 's ripe. 
A Roman dies — but Rome remains. 

Attila 

Come back. 

1 have a word yet. — Rorik, wait without. 

[After a pause. ] 
I did not think Rome bred such spirits still ; 

G 



98 A T T I L A 

Come, sir, be open. Coward you are not. 

Nor should be fool. Put off the mask : you are 

free. 
What deeper purpose brings you to this place? 
No hand shall harm you, so you tell me all. 

Messalla 
It is all told, condemn it as you will 
For folly or for fiction ; truth it is 
Princess Honoria sent you the ring, 
Praying me earnestly to deliver it 
Into your very hands ; nothing but this 
Was my commission, nothing else my purpose. 

Attila 
[to himself] 
It's true, then, this mad story of the ring. 
A woman, again a woman ! 

[To messalla.] What's your name? 

Messalla 
Messalla. 

Attila 
Go, Messalla ; you have seen 
That Attila is armed, yet can be mild. 
Go back to Rome 



ATTILA 99 

Messalla 

If I am free to go, 
I pray you, let me take the ring again, 
Honoria's silent and sufficient answer. 

Attila 
No ; tell your princess I accept the ring, 
'Tis on my finger, say you saw it there, 
And say besides that at my chosen time 
I come to claim her. How, not pleased? What's 

ill? 
Pluck laurel for your brows, ambassador ! 
Honoria shall crown you. 
[Calling to RORIK, 7vlio appears.] Rorik, give 
This Roman escort. He is free. 

[Exil messalla IVt'l/l RORIK.] 

Bald fool ! 
If this be she Fate points her finger at. 
Not Ildico, but she? A Roman girl, 
Essenced and puny, and that has no shame 
To cast herself before an unknown man ! 
Such women please me not at all. And yet 
Rome on my finger ! The gem glitters at me. 
A world of cities, old and populous. 
The ports of traffic with wide seas between, 
Enfortressed armies, tributary kings. 
Rivers and corn-lands, mountains veined with gold, 
The hopes, the fears of hundred nations, all 



loo ATTILA 

Contracted to one point of changing light 
Upon my finger. 

[Calling.] Onegesius ! 
What was it the sorcerer said ? A woman, a woman ! 
Enemy born, yet may be turned to boon. 
Honoria chimes as well as Ildico. 
Doubt wins upon my soul, but it is she. 

[A SLAVE e7iters.'\ 
Call Onegesius ! — Must I dance a puppet 
And women pull the strings? I? What's one 

woman 
More than another ? 

ILDICO enters.^ 
O, she comes ! 

Ildico 

My lord, 

Am I admitted now ? What is afoot ? 

Tell me — your brows are knitted — tell your bride 

What brought these Romans hither? 

Attila 

State affairs. 
Ildico 
Trouble ? 

Attila 
No trouble. 

Ildico 

Good, then ? 



ATTILA loi 

Attila 

Who can tell ? 
But there 's no trouble possible, when my eyes 
Have joy of you, my Ildico. 

Ildico 

My lord, 
Is it true you love me? 

ONEGESius enters. 

Attila 

Doubt all else but that. 

Ildico 
Even to the end ? 

Attila 
Even to the end. But see, 
Grave counsels call me. Onegesius comes. 
We must unravel intricate affairs — 
And then to feast ; and then 

Ildico 

Have you no more 
To tell me? 

Attila 
Till to-night, sweet, till to-night ! 
[ildico goes out sloivly, onegesius comes 
forward. ] 
Is she not fair? 



102 ATTILA 

Onegesius 
Too fair not to be feared. 
But you Ml not hear me. 

Attila 

Is she not a shape 
To body forth the purposes of Gods ? 
Can they create such meaning to the eye, 
Inscribe all-glorious hopes and histories 
On form and feature, but to gull the soul 
That is the eye's dupe? O, I doubt she 's nothing ! 
Mortal flesh, a fair body, nothing more ! — 
Fetch me that sorcerer, I have need of him. 

Onegesius 
He is dead. 

Attila 
Since when? 

Onegesius 

He died at your command. 

Attila 
I never ordered 

Onegesius 
But consented. 

Attila 

O, 
By plague and thunder, you have served me ill ! 



A T T I L A lo: 

Onegesius 
What need to ply him further? All is known. 
The oracle 's already part fulfilled, 
The rest 's to come. 



Look on ny hand. 



Attila 

I tell you, all 's not known. 

Onegesius 

A ring ! 

Attila 

A Roman ring. 



A gift. 



Onegesius 
From Caesar? 



Attila 

No, from Caesar's sister. 

Onegesius 



Honoria? 



Attila 
She. And with the ring she gives 
Her heart and fate, her body and her soul. 
What say you ? 



I04 ATTILA 

Onegesius 
Rome itself is in the ring. 

the imperial hostage ! 'Tis an army- 
Given over to you in the enemy's camp. — 
Why, this speaks clearer than all oracles 
Rome shall be yours. 

Attila 
Think you so? Think you so? 
'Tis like the silent action of immortals 
To crown us with the long despaired of prize. 

1 have heard of stars that tumbled in the lap 

Of despised women, and enthroned them queens. 
But O, to pluck and wrench this rooted joy 
Out of my breast ! Honoria 's a name 
Unwelcomed, thrust on me : but Ildico — 
Her lips have been on mine, and I had built 
An image high as heaven in desire 
Of her fulfilling soul. — Well, crumble, dreams ! 
Be it only her sweet body, she is mine ! 
Are the armies summoned? 

Onegesius 

Valamir and Ardaric 
Are come, their hosts are camped at hand. 

Attila 

'Tis well. 
Hernak yet lives. What if the omens lied ? 



ATTILA 105 

My curse on weakness that entreats for signs 

And promises contemptuously cast 

As bones to dogs ! These double-dealing Fates 

Laugh at us, when we dread them. From this hour 

They shall dread me. Let shifting omens point 

To Ildico or to Honoria, 

I laugh, for both are given me, both are mine ! 

Onegesius 
Nay, take my counsel : choose. To clutch at both 
May be to lose both. 

Attila 
By this glittering ring 
I will have Rome. — Take means to set on foot, 
To-morrow, our preparation for the march. 
And Ildico 

Onegesius 
Forswear her, Attila. 

Attila 
Tumble the towers of earth and heaven, not I ! 
No, though the superstitious glory's gone, 
She 's my possession. If the world is mine 
To break within my hands, shall I renounce 
The spice and sting that 's at the core of it? 

Onegesius 
Ay, better so, when the Gods give you Rome. 



io6 ATTILA 

Attila 
Onegesius, hark ! We that rode over earth 
And trod it down, we are masters ; shall not we 
Invade these Powers that lurk within the cave 
Of time to be, and mock and baffle us? 
Show me the thing that boldness cannot quell ! 
I swear, did we burst in, our swords should find 
Fate cowering there. 

Onegesius 

As perilous a world, 
Perhaps, you are invading now. 



Attila 



Onegesius 



What mean you ? 



A woman's soul. 



Attila 
O women, women, women ! 
Flowers to be plucked, — what force is in a flower 
To harm or to be feared? Flowers to be plucked ! 



CURTAIN 



A T T I L A 107 



ACT IV 



SCENE 



A kail set out with small tables and imth a double 
throne^ left, on a dais. At the back, betiveen 
tim pillars, an inner chamber masked by heavy 
curtains. 

As the curtain rises, hernak is discovered, 
seated on the throne, alone, kerka enters, 
rigkt. 



Kerka 



I have sought you- 



Hernak 
I am here. 

Kerka 

On the king's throne ! 



Hernak 
One day I must be king. 



io8 ATTILA 

Kerka 
[embracing him] 

My noble boy ! 
In you I live, in you I am avenged. 
May she be barren, may she have no child, 
She that usurps me ! May her beauty be 
A flower that withers and is tossed away ! 
May she too drink the cup that I drink of, 
And may it be thrice bitter to her soul ! 
Son, my own son, live, for I live in you ! 



Let me go, mother ! 



Hernak 

Kerka 

Hernak, promise me ! 

Hernak 



What? 



Kerka 
This : be absent from the feast to-night. 

Hernak 
I am to stand upon the King's right hand. 

Kerka 
Yes ; always. But to-night your place shall want 
you. 



ATTILA 109 

The King shall want you and shall ask for you ; 
But you '11 be absent. For my sake do this. 

Hernak 

I was to stand upoji the King's right hand. 
My father will be angered. 

\Relenting.\ Yet, I will. 
But let me gQ> now ; I must seek abroad 
Among the captains, for they talk of war. 

Kerka 

O no, stay by me ! 

Hark ! the music comes. 
We must be gone now. Music for her feet ! 
Nay, swifter, swifter ! dance her to her doom ! 

\A file of girls holding above their heads a long 
white scarf enters in a rhythmical dance, 
preceding ildico, ivho takes her stand upon 
the dais, kerka standing with hernak, 
over against iLDico, right.] 
Ay, glory now ! Be flushed, be blind with bliss ! 
Heap up the dizzy moment with delight 
Ere it be spilt, as soon it shall be spilt, 
And thou, supplanter, be supplanted ! Then 
Shalt thou come hither where now Kerka stands. 
With no son by thy side ; that haughty head 
Be humble, and thou discarded and abhorred ; 
And then the Roman woman in thy place 



no ATTILA 

Ildico 
[speaking in exaltation^ 
I fear not any woman upon earth. 
I have that certainty within my soul 
Which mocks at past and future. So, hate on. 
I pity thee, so poisoned. 

Kerka 

Pity rather 
Thine own awakening to reaUty, 
With thy lost faith fixed on a faithless man. 

Ildico 
Fixed in the great heavens shines unchangeable 
My destiny for ever. 

[Music. The huns begin to troop in to the 
banquet, chanting the conclusion of a war- 
song. ] 

Where the Dragon-banner streamed, 
Armies quaked and rolled asunder ; 
Lightnings on our lances gleamed, 
Cities splintered at our thunder. 

Riding like the whirlwind's breath 
We were Famine, we were Death ; 
Send us such another day, 
Attila, our Attila ! 

[As the HUNS take their seats, ardaric and 
VALAMiR come in and occupy each a high 



ATTILA III 

seat. ATTILA enters y holding out his arms 
to HERNAK, i^ho tums frovi him and goes 
out with KERKA. ATTILA with a laiigh 
passes on to the throne. \ 

Attila 
Kings, princes, warriors, whose assembling swords 
Array our bridal banquet, welcome all ! 
Out of our birth-land of remotest East 
What goad of God has pricked us, and driven on, 
A storm against all storms, like thunder-wind. 
Hither across uncounted plains and streams 
You know ; and here a white flower of the West 
To my rough soul, so lately scarred with loss. 
Brings balsam, and my fortune crowns afresh. 
Heaven prophesied this in yon sudden star. 
Behold my bride, the gentle Ildico ! 
Behold your queen, the noble Ildico ! 
Pledge us in wine, in the red wine, my Huns, 
To your queen ; drink ! To the fair Ildico ! 

Huns 
Attila, hail ! Ildico, hail ! Attila and Ildico, hail ! 
hail ! 

ESLA 

No word of war. 

RORIK 

Wait, there 's a word to come. 



112 ATTILA 

Burba 
111 comes of wedding with a Western bride. 

Ildico 

[rism£-] 
My King-, I pledge thee in the cup, and drink 
To the glory of Attila. 

Huns 

Attila, Attila ! 

Ildico 
Where your King rides, there Ildico will ride. 

ESLA 

Hear you that, Burba ? Royal as she 's fair ! 

Attila 
Wine, kings and captains, let the wine go round. 
Laugh your full hearts out, revel at your ease. 
No trumpet cries us to the field to-night. 
No, nor to-morrow. Come, a long regale, 
That tosses care into the dancing cup, 
The cup of mirth and joy. 

[Movement of disappointment among the 

HUNS.] 

Burba 

Pah, fondling hands ! 
He dotes upon her with a glistening eye. 



ATTILA 113 

[zERCON enters^ martially arrayed in grotesque 
magnificence y amid the laughter of the 
banqueters. ] 

Zercon 
Majesty, a boon ! 

[He draws his sword with a fierce air as a hun 
intercepts him.'\ 

Fellow, my falchion 's bare ! 
Hands off, or I shall split you, crown to fork ! 

RORIK 

Toss the imp to me. 

Zercon 
Majesty, a boon ! 

Attila 
A song, then, for the boon. 

Huns 

Zercon, a song ! 

Zercon 
I mouth no songs ; I am a man of deeds. 

Huns 

Zercon, a song ! A battle-song, a war-song ! 

H 



114 ATTILA 

Attila 
Let the knave speak. 

Zercon 

O King, this night gives you 
A wife, but me it robs ; I had a wife. 
A yellow Goth has stolen her from me. 
Avenge me ! 

RORIK 

Man of deeds ! 

Zercon 

The monster fled ; 
He feared me. 

Attila 
You shall have another wife. 
And I will choose her. Women are the spoils 
For heroes, Zercon. 

Zercon 

The King's choice for me ! 
Most bounteous thanks. Some wine, give me 
some wine ! 

Huns 

A song, a war-song ! 

RORIK 

War! 



ATTILA 115 

Attila 

What, still untuned 
To revel ! Does the bull stamp in the stall? 
Drink deeper ! Camps of mire in the foul fog 
And sinew-biting frost, — would you have all 
You toiled in, rather than the toil's reward? 
Feast and carouse ! Bethink you of the drouth, 
The fiery dust, the thirsts unquenchable, 
Then relish the full beaker ! Parch your throats 
With hot remembrance, that the flooding wine 
May drown it. Come, unharness those swift 

thoughts. 
Tastes not the wine well? Must you hear the 

sound 
Of axe and arrow ere you savour it ? 

RORIK 

Now mark ! 

Attila 

Forget ! can you not quite forget 
Music of battle, sword on helmet ringing, 
Spear dinting shield? 

A Hun 

Give us that sound again 



Burba 
Then we will revel ! 



ii6 ATTILA 

RORIK 

Swords for Attila ! 
Huns 

' Send us such another day, 
Attila, our Attila !' 

{The HUNS raise their szvords, and gather 
nearer attila. ] 

Attila 
Huns ! 

Esla 
The King speaks. 

Attila 

Huns ! 

Many Voices 

Hark to Attila ! 

Attila 
Huns, that have over-ridden earth with me, 
Will you not rest? 

Huns 

Never ! 

Attila 

Nor sit at ease, 
Warriors of mine? The pleasant earth is yours. 



ATTILA 117 

Huns 

To horse, to battle ! Let us ride again ! 

Attila 
Huns, I exult to see you, hear you, feel you. 
When I have reined my horse in, stamping earth 
Before the charge, and quivering in the flank, 
So have I felt a mettle answer mine. 
As now in you it answers. 

RORIK 

War at last ! 

Attila 
What ! Did you deem me idle, sleep-benumbed 
And sloth-corrupted? Me? Then know my soul 
Smouldered, because it burned more deep within ; 
And while you chafed and muttered — did you not? — 
My purpose swelled and ripened. The hour strikes 
To show it. 

Huns 
Show it us ! 

Attila 

King Ardaric, 
How many spears are counted in your host? 

Ardaric 
Five thousand by the river, and seven times more 
Beyond the pass. 



ii8 ATTILA 

Attila 
King Valamir, say you 
How many can you add? 

Valamir 

Not a man less 
Than thirty thousand for my summons wait 
Beside the ford of Danube. 

Attila 

Huns, you hear? 
Now, Hun and Goth and Gepid, since the time 
Chimes with your temper, and my mood with both, 
Behold the Sword ! 

[He sho7vs the sacred s7V07^d at his belt^ and 
drawing ity holds it erect. ] 

All 
The Sword of God ! 

Attila 

You know 
My meaning. When this Sword is girded on, 
You know my vows are taken, and my resolve 
Not put from me till this is put from me ; 
And my will holds to march. 

All 

Whither, whither? 



ATTILA 119 

Attila 



On Rome ! 



All 
On Rome ! Rome shall be ours ! 
Rome ! Rome ! 

[A mid the excited cries of the huns, sigismund 
suddenly enters. \ 

Sigismund 
Huns, let a word be spoken in your midst 
Of one that tasted your King's clemency. 
To-night he weds with a Burgundian bride : 
Shall Burgundy be silent? Here and now 
I dedicate my sword to Attila. 

[Drminng his szvord, he rushes at attila. 
iLDico throws herself in his 7vay, hut 
SIGISMUND is at once cut down by the 

HUNS.l 



Ildico 



Sigismund ! 



Sigismund 
[expiring] 

Ildico ! traitress Ildico ! 
[A black cloak is flung over the body^ which is 
carried out while attila speaks.\ 



I20 ATTILA 

Attila 
A victim, Huns ! A victim that the Gods 
Slay for my glory. He who seeks my life 
Finds his own doom. Not twice nor thrice a stab 
Has meant me and has failed. An omen, Huns, — 
The Gods, the Gods have Attila in charge, — 
An omen on the threshold of our war. 
Let not this fool's irruption on our feast 
Distaste your mirth and cloud your revelry ; 
Yet, for my bride's sake, to your several homes 
Pass and disperse. To-night is for the feast, 
To-morrow trumpets us to Italy, 
And greets us in the saddle with the sun. 

[The HUNS pass out clashing shields and crying 
^ Rome ! Rome!' yldico has been stand- 
ing transfixed with horror, attila turns 
to her exulting. ] 
Now, crown of joys ! 

Ildico 

That spilt blood curses me. 
O that 'twas I had fallen at your feet. 
Pierced by his steel, my body given for you ! 

Attila 
What, yon poor madman, gulping at his doom ? 
For simple serpents and contriving doves 
There is no room in nature. But for us 



ATTILA 121 

Ildico 

Attila, I gave, and you have taken. 

1 have cast away all, all that was my own, — 
See, my own blood judges and curses me ! — 
Say it again, say it is willed in Heaven, 
Say that you love me ! By that starry bond. 
That bond of faith which knots us even to death, 
Give me oblivion, give me 

Attila 
[suddenly seizing her in his arms] 

Ildico ! 
Ildico 
Hold me and hide me and drown me in your love, 
The greatness and the glory of your love ! 

Attila 
Toss all away that burns not in this kiss — 
Be strained, you sweetness, strained into my arms. 
They shall crush out remembrance into wine 
Of ecstasy so fierce you shall not think, 
Fear, hope, remember, in the pangs of joy ! 
I 'd cast a kingdom in the seas to-night, 
For the Gods envy me. 

[Holding her at arm's length.] 
O never yet 
In teeming Time was such a beauty born 
As lives in you and flames. It stings, it maddens ! 
Thou red wine, I will drink thee ! 



122 ATTILA 

Ildico 
[catching his hand to hold him off] 

Ah, you hurt ! 
— What is that ring upon your hand? Not mine ! 

Attila 
No, but 'tis mine. Do you covet it, the gem ? 
See in the core of it a winking fire 
Glows like a dragon's eye ; now it is changed 
To colder than a moonbeam, splintered ice, 
And now again all angry. 

Ildico 

Give it me ! 

Attila 
It ravishes your eye? It is from Rome. 
A cunning craftsman made it. 

Ildico 

Rome? From Rome? 
Honoria, Honoria sent it you ! 

Attila 
Who has blabbed ? What know you of Honoria? 
No matter, it is mine. 

Ildico 

Fling it away ! 



ATTILA 12: 

Attila 
Ha, ha ! 

A dream-sick girl, mewed in a palace cage, 
That hunts her wandering fancy on the wind, 
And dotes upon a man she never saw — 
A milky-hearted girl, in love with dreams. 
She sends me this. 

Ildico 
You suffer it? Accept? 
Give me the ring ! 

Attila 
What will you do with it? 

Ildico 
Trample it with my heel, grind it to dust. 
Since you forget my honour and your own. 

Attila 
Soft, soft ; I keep it for my uses, sweet, — 
State matters you 've no need acquaintance of. 
Let the toy be, I shall not wear it more 
Till 

Ildico 
Perjury ! If any meaning lives 
In such a token, such a gift, this hand 
Is false, and plighted to Honoria. 
This was the Roman's errand that you hid 



124 ATTILA 

So secret, and for this you march on Rome 
Nor tell your bride a word ! O perjured hand ! 
— I '11 not believe it ! Say you jest. 'Tis cruel 
To jest so, yet I '11 pardon. 

Attila 

Ay, a jest, 
A good jest ! 

Ildico 
Then give me the ring. 

Attila 

Not now. 
Another time. We waste our life's delight. 
This night's for sweeter use than argument. 
Come, kiss and pardon. 

Ildico 

No, you love me not ! 
You love me not, that wear another's ring. 
Exile me from your inmost purposes. 
And tell me last what you should tell me first — 
Me whom you vowed the passion of your fate. 
Queen of your destiny, your soul, your star 

Attila 
The stars are broken ; I am destiny. 
In the night's crooked characters let fools 
Read their own folly. 



ATTILA 125 

Ildico 

Is it nothing, all 
You vowed to me beneath that burning star 
With earnest eyes and dedicating lips, 
Prophecies that entwined us to all time. 
False? 

Attila 
A false prophet gulled me with his lies. 
I am I, and you are mine. 

Ildico 

You love not me ! 

Attila 
O, by all torments of desire, I do! 

Ildico 
False ! 

Attila 
Yes, all 's false but beauty ; all is false, 
A wilderness of falsehood, but your hair 
That stings me, and the crimson of your mouth, 
And white throat, and warm panting of your 

breast — 
And they are mine, they shall be mine, mine ! 

Hark! 
How my Huns revel ! We will plumb a well 
Of bliss beyond their thought. 



126 ATTILA 

Ildico 
{breaking violently from hint] 

O shame, O shame ! 
A woman such as you would toss to wive 
With that misfeatured Moor. False, false, false ! 

Attila 

Ah! 

Stand so, and let the lovely anger blaze ! 

I '11 not begrudge it fuel. Let it spark 

Cheek and eye ; beauty is thrice beautiful 

So passionately coloured. I am drunk 

With joy of gazing on this beauty. — Yet, 

Where I am, I am master ; and these arms 

Can crush as well as cherish. So, be taught. 

Come, come ! I did but tease that angry mood. 

Here are your maids to tire you. Wait me 

quickly. 

[attila goes out as cunegonde enters with 
attendant women.] 

Ildico 
A moment, yet a moment, Cunegonde ! 

[cunegonde retires.] 
Traitress ! No, no ! I am not that, no, no ! 
All terror is come true. It must be done! 

[She kneels down and prays.] 
Gods of my fathers, I have sinned against you : 



ATTILA 127 

My eyes were blinded, and I could not see. 
Change this distempered fever, that I thought 
Was love, and noble ; purge it from my heart ; 
Let me be clean. O, if you did withhold 
Your presence for this time, now doubly fill 
My soul, my veins! Lift me from weakness up. 
O send me strength, strength, agony, but strength ! 
Let me not now be humbled by this man ; 
Let me be one remembrance of my blood 
That never yet was vile or bore a shame, 
And being shamed rises to be avenged. 
Make these hands strong to strike him ! 
[Rising and calling to cunegonde.] Cunegonde ! 
[cuNEGONDE, GiSLA, and maids enter witk 
robes, a silver mirror, etc. During this 
scene cunegonde speaks xmth intense and 
bitter irony. ] 

Take off this robe ! 
It weighs me down. 

Cunegonde 
This robe is the King's gift. 
It is woven of one piece ; the hands that sewed 
Were hands of princesses, as smooth as flowers, 
Of Eastern princesses, of captive queens. 
It has been charmed and hallowed. The world's 

empress 
Might covet such a gift. 



128 ATTILA 

Ildico 
[throiving it from her] 

The robe is soiled ! 
Take off these jewels. 

CUNEGONDE 

Jewels of such price 
Would ransom twenty captains — who shall say 
How far outvalue one man's lifeblood spilt 
For his country ! 

Ildico 
Cunegonde ! 
[To the maids.] Go, one of you, 
Fetch me that jewel which my mother wore. 

GiSLA 

Of simple bronze? It is not royal gold 

Cunegonde 
Befitting for the bride of Attila ! 

Ildico 
[to thernaids, one of whom goes to fetch the jewel] 

Do as I ask. 

[To GISLA.] Is not your father sick? 
You should be tending upon him, not me. 

GiSLA 

The mirror, Queen ! 



ATTILA 129 

Ildico 

[holding the mirror] 
Is it I? 

GiSLA 

You are changed to-night. 
Your gaze is starry, you are far from us. 

[All the maids but cunegonde retire.] 

Ildico 
I am ready. — Sooner than a mouth of shame 
He shall kiss death. 

Cunegonde 
[kneeling and kissing ildico's hand] 

I have wronged you, O my Queen ! 
Pardon ! 

Ildico 

[moving as if to throiv her arms round cunegonde, 
then checking herself , fearful of losing self-control] 
Good-night ! Go ! [The bolting of a door is heard.] 
Go! 
[Cunegonde goes out. Ildico stands motionless. ] 
The end of the world ! 

I 



I30 ATTILA 

[With sudde7i excitement.] I have no weapon ! 

Now, 
You Gods, if there be justice, answer me ! 

[She turns, hearing the step of a.tti\.a approach- 
ing, and as he enters u7iarmoured faces 
him, very calm. She sees the siwrd still 
at his belt, and her face is illuminated.] 

Attila 
\with astonishment and admiration in his voice] 
Thou miracle ! Thou vision ! Ildico ! 
No word? I like thy coldness, my chaste bride. 
I swear thy anger did not shine more fair 
Than now — light breathes so through the end of 

rain — 
Comes thy submission. Lead me in, my bride ! 

Ildico 
My lord, command me. Do you wear a sword? 

Attila 
The sword that fell from heaven. I have bound 

it on 
Because my vows are taken ; but to-night 
Your fingers shall unbuckle it. 

Ildico 
[kneeling and unfastening the snooi-d] 

Is it true 



ATTILA 131 

That Attila is proof to every blade 
But this? 

Attila 
[Imtghing] 
My Huns believe it, Ildico. 

Ildico 
It is heavy. 

Attila 
With my fate. — Beyond this night 
Who knows what waits me, what the storm of hours 
Shall hurry me to meet, when the great thunders 
Are breaking, and earth crimsoned, far and far. 
To what wild seashores of the world? Come all ! 
To-night my heart sits on an easy throne, 
Joy fills me, and love fills me ; I am filled 
With joy of you, my bride, my Ildico. 
I am come into my kingdom. Lead me in ! 

[They pass in together^ ildico hearing the 
sivord, to the inner chamber. The stage 
is left empty. Noise of the huns revelling 
•without is faintly heai'd, changed suddenly 
to a different tone^ as exclamations and 
questions rise to a dull uproar, coming 
closer. Out of the confusion at last distinct 
cries are heard. Hernak ! The King ! 
Hernak ! They have killed Hernak !] 



132 ATTILA 

Voice of Rorik 
Knock on the door ! 

Voice of a Hun 
I dare not! 

Voice of Rorik 

He shall know ! 
The King shall know that they have slain his son ! 
Open ! 

[iLDico glides out of the inner chamber and 
crouches panting. ] 

Ildico 
I struck so hard, the hilt has hurt my hand ! . . . 
Horrible vision, leap not out at me ! 
It was not I that did it ! I am weak ! 
And my hands tremble, tremble! 

Voice of Rorik 

Burst the bolt ! 
Ildico 
Ah ! terrible strong Gods that raised me up, 
Fling- me not down, cast me not quite away ! 

[The door is burst open. She rises to her full 
height, rorik and other huns 7vith swords 
and torches rush in.\ 

Rorik 

The King! 



ATTILA 133 

ESLA 

Hernak is slain ! 



RORIK 



Where is the King? 



Ildico 
Go baclv, go back ! You shall not enter here. 
I have killed him, I have killed him ! He is dead ! 
[rorik passes her, and goes to the inner cham- 
ber, then staggers hack, as if struck.] 

ESLA 

What shakes you ? 

Rorik 
Tell me that I dreamed, not saw ! 

ESLA 

[looking in and returning] 
The Sword is in his heart, — the Sword of God ! 

Ildico 
Here, here in me ! Bury your blades in me ! 

ESLA 

She is mad with horror. 



134 ATTILA 

RORIK 

Attila is dead, 
And God has slain him, God has smitten him ! 
{They pass out into the cronjd imthout ; wails 
and furious cries repeat themselves into the 
far distance.] 

Ildico 
[listening transfixed] 
The pillar of the world is broken down : 
And yet heaven has not fallen ! O Attila ! . . . 

Gods of my country, now you are avenged ! 



CURTAIN 



Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty 
at the Edinburgh University Press 



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