Scene-17b The Four Altars.
After listening and viewing from a distance,
Hugo and Orion hear from the fourth altar
what seems like a stifled murmur, a droning hum.
 
Orion remarks:
With that we have nothing at all to do,
Or, at least, not now, neither I nor you;
Though some day or other, possibly,
We may see it closer, both you and I;

Orion and Hugo approach in turn the first of three altars,
standing within the outer circle, which surrounds them,
and near the inner.



SPIRITS SING

Beneath us it flashes,
The glittering gold,
Though it turneth to ashes
And dross in the hold;
Yet man will endeavour,
By fraud or by strife,
To grasp it and never
To yield it with life.


Hugo sees there-'Some decrepit shapes,
That are neither dwarfs, nor demons, nor apes;
In the hollow earth they appear to store
And rake together great heaps of ore.'
Orion says- 'These are the gnomes, coarse sprites and rough:
Come on, of these we have seen enough.'
They approach the second altar, and stand as before.



SPIRITS SINGING

Above us it flashes,
The glittering steel,
Though the red blood splashes
Where its victims reel;
Yet man will endeavour
To grapple the hilt,
And to wield the blade ever
Till his life be spilt.

Hugo sees there-'A rocky glen,
A horrid jumble of fighting men,
And a face that somewhere I've seen before."
Orion takes Hugo to the third altar,
the altar of Ashtaroth.
Hugo is loth to visit for a reason
he cannot fathom.



SPIRITS SINGING SWEETLY

Around us it flashes,
The cestus of one
Born of white foam, that dashes
Beneath the white sun;
Let the mortal take heart, he
Has nothing to dare;
She is fair, Queen Astarte,
Her subjects are fair!

The old visions fade and Hugo sees a new vision.
Hugo-'I see a door that seems
To open; a ray of sunlight gleams
From a window behind; a vision as fair
As the flush of dawn is standing there.'
Hugo gazes earnestly.



ORION

Higher and hotter the white flames glow,
And the adamant may be thaw'd like snow,
And the life for a single chance may go,
And the soul for a certainty.
Oh! vain and shallow philosopher,
Dost feel them quicken, dost feel them stir,
The thoughts that have stray'd again to her
From whom thou hast sought to fly?

Lo! the furnace is heated till sevenfold;
Is thy brain still calm? Is thy blood still cold
To the curls that wander in ripples of gold
On the shoulders of ivory?
Do the large, dark eyes, and the small, red mouth,
Consume thy heart with a fiery drouth,
Like the fierce sirocco that sweeps from the south,
When the deserts are parch'd and dry?

Aye, start and shiver and catch thy breath,
The sting is certain, the venom is death,
And the scales are flashing the fruit beneath,
And the fang striketh suddenly.
At the core the ashes are bitter and dead,
But the rind is fair and the rind is red,
It has never been pluck'd since the serpent said,
Thou shalt not surely die.

Hugo tries to enter the inner ring; Orion hold him
back; they struggle.

HUGO

Unhand me, slave! or quail to the rod!
Agatha! Speak! in the name of God!
                 Adam Lindsay Gordon

The vision disappears, the altars vanish.
Hugo falls insensible.


...TO ASHTAROTH INDEX......BACK TO SCENE 17a......FORWARD TO SCENE 18...