King Roger - Act II

The inner court of king Roger's palace. The general character of the architecture suggests through its ornamentation that the palace was constructed at the command of the caliphs by builders from the East. However, here and there can already be felt the iron hand of the mighty conquerors from the North. The eastern softness and the nearly feminine elegance of the elaborately waving multicolored arabesques, the yellow and blue majolica, the richest rugs, form a strange harmony with the granite arches and columns and the huge bronze double doors at the entrance. Here and there glisten marvelous mosaics, the work of artists from Byzantium, depicting mysterious gardens full of unknown wonders and fantastic birds. In the back, a marble fountain murmurs quietly, its basin overflowing in the richness of flowers brought from all parts of the world. The courtyard is surrounded with a two-story inner gallery supported on light columns with fantastic capitals. At the back, in the middle, the main entrance, huge bronze double doors; next to them, a small door hung with carpets.
       In the upper gallery there are also doors and windows of the royal harem. The upper gallery is connected to the level of the stage with inner stairs running along its right side. On the left, at the front of the stage, on a raised platform, stands the royal throne. Nearby, slightly toward the back, a huge window, half covered with carpets, through which one can see vague shapes of trees, palms, cypresses - a vast expanse of sky.
       It is night. Alabaster lamps are burning, suspended between the columns of the gallery, softly lighting the interior. King Roger, in magnificent robes, is sitting on the throne. By the window, Edrisi, looking out into the far distance, as if in expectation. At the front doors, a few steel-clad knights from the royal guard, motionless like statues.

King Roger
(his whole being seems to be overcome with expectation and anxiety)
Anxiety of pale stars
glowing in the green sea of the sky!
(to Edrisi)
O, take my burning hands
in your cool palms!
In the sunny turmoil of the day
I didn't think at all
I'd wait in such a fear!
(to the Guards)
Guards! Keep watch!
Lead him in when he arrives!
Lead in the Shepherd Prophet!
Password "Shepherd."

Chorus
Password "Shepherd."

Edrisi
Inconceivable is fear,
it shakes off your good, joyful dreams
like gale the petals of jasmine!
O King! How long since you listened to a song?
In rupture you searched Roxana's mouth with yours?

King Roger
(uneasily)
Did you see the glow in her eyes,
when the Shepherd sang of his God?
Do you know what lies hidden in the heart of a woman!
Do you know what lies hidden there?

Edrisi
O King! You are Lord!
Don't let the gray darkness of night fog
surround you with fear!
Why are you trembling so?

King Roger
The trembling of the stars is running through my body!
(pensively)
My heart cast in bronze
trembles today at the glow of the stars
and like a child it fears
the secret hostile force!
My power reaches there
where the royal sword can reach!
And all around is mystery,
the silent stars and fear!
Edrisi! In his eyes an unknown fire burns;
that fire will turn to dust
my royal heart that's cast in bronze
but trembles today at the glow of the stars
enchanted in his eyes.

Edrisi
O King! Those pestering pale ghosts -
chase them away with a spell!
Listen to the silence of the night! Swan splendor sleeps,
lights slumber in the pools, reflections of sleepy stars!
And only tree branches tremble in the dark,
and sways the quiet cradle of silent sees.
Hush! Tambourines are jingling there
near the slumbering suburbs!

King Roger
(uneasily)
That's him!

Edrisi
Everything has turned silent!

Roxana
(unseen)
Ah...!

King Roger
Roxana! Her song!

Edrisi
Let's listen, O King!

Roxana
Ah...!
You sleep now, dreams of king Roger filled with blood,
let the balm of night flow down upon his will,
let his eager, vengeful heart fill with grace!
Ah...!

Chorus
Ah...!

King Roger
Do you hear her sing?

Edrisi
A beautiful song!

Roxana
Ah...!
Have mercy, O King, upon the shepherd,
and like a tired panther filled with blood let your wrath pass!
Have mercy, O King, upon the shepherd.
Ah...!

Chorus
Ah...!

King Roger
She's begging for mercy for the shepherd. Do you hear?

Edrisi
Her heart blossoms like the lotus in the night!

Roxana
Ah...!
Tonight's a night when the hawk leaves its prey in peace,
serpents are sleeping on the stems of the lilies,
mercy flows down from the white flame of the planets.
Ah...!

Chorus
Ah...!
(King Roger starts)

King Roger
A misty figure passed between the guards!
Edrisi! Why is there fear in my heart?
Why is there trembling?
Edrisi!

Edrisi
O King! He is the one who comes here to be judged by you!
(Suddenly off-stage in the distance the guards' password is heard repeated several times, getting closer.)

Guards
Password: "Shepherd."
Password: "Shepherd."

Shepherd
(off-stage, in the distance)
Password: "Roger"!
(The King starts up. He stares at the still closed doors. Edrisi comes near the King. They both stand transfixed in expectation.)

King Roger
That's him! He's coming!
(Behind the door, commotion can be felt; it eventually spreads to the guards standing on the stage. At one point the huge double doors open wide. In them appears the Shepherd and behind him his four companions. Farther upstage can be seen the pressing crowds of the soldiery, some with torches in their hands. The Shepherd pauses for a moment on the threshold. He glances around the whole interior. Then with a relaxed and bold step he approaches the king. His companions carry strange eastern musical instruments in their hands. They walk a few steps behind him but without reaching the front of the stage they settle down in mysterious silence on a rug on the ground. They remain motionless and silent until, later on, the Shepherd commands them to play. The doors close with a heavy clang. The Shepherd stops at the front of the stage on the right. He is wearing a very rich Indian garment covered with priceless jewels. From underneath his head wrap, dark copper curls fall on his shoulders. Similar garments, though less sumptuous, adorn his companions.)

Shepherd
O King, I come by myself, as you commanded,
I greet you in the name of a great love.

King Roger
(with power)
Where have you come from?

Shepherd
(with sweetness)
From the smile of the southern stars.
You'll find my footprints on many roads!
In the rosy Benares I am praying for you.
Indra's lotuses carry greetings for you!
My reflection on the face of the Ganges is greeting you, Roger.

King Roger
Whence comes your false might?

Shepherd
Ask the quiet trees in the noon hour,
ask the roses in the sun hour,
ask the sweet juice of the vines!

King Roger
Why do you charm the masses here?
Who has sent you to us?

Shepherd
Who has sent me? God!
From the green fields of paradise acres,
with the gold of his hand, with a sign pointing up
he called me out like a flower from florid meadows,
from peach gardens in the hour
when the dust of almonds sends its rosy scent.
Like sacrificial myrrh I rose from foamy waves
I shone like a ray of the sun!
Like the wing of white birds,
like the womb of lilacs white!

King Roger
Your blasphemy fills me with dread and fear!
Be silent!
I'm afraid of thunder!
(During the whole next scene the interior of the palace fills out slowly with a crowd of people. Beautiful young women, youth, boys, eunuchs, steal through the many doors, run down the stairs, crowd at the doors and windows, creating a wide semi-circle in the back of the stage. Their eyes are fixed on the Shepherd, women's hands stretch out to him, in the whole crowd one can sense excitement and expectation.)

Roxana
(from the top gallery, unseen)
Ah...! Quiet your fear and wrath, Roger!

Shepherd
(Having heard the singing he turns his head toward the unseen Roxana, then to Roger.)
O King, can you hear from above the pleading song?
It flows down upon us in a warble of nightingale's voice.
In an unknown heart love blooms like a flower at night!

Roxana
Ah...!

King Roger
Be silent!
My royal heart is cast
in the bronze of my wrath!

Roxana
Ah...!
You sleep now, dreams of king Roger filled with blood!

Shepherd
It's you who called me, O King!
I have appeared for trial!

King Roger
You say you want to be judged,
yet you slip out of my hand
like a bird whose wings are swift
like a silverscaly snake!
In your eyes I see the poisoned gleam
of distant hostile stars!

Roxana
Ah...! Quiet your wrath and fear!

King Roger
What is your charm that binds the crowd of madmen, slaves,
who madly roam along your roads?
What do they believe? Speak!

Shepherd
They believe in me!

King Roger
Blasphemer!

Edrisi
O King, be calm, be calm!

Shepherd
They believe in the glow of my eyes,
the glow you fear so much, O King;
they love my smile and my dancing song.

King Roger
Enough! That's enough!
You are no prophet!
You draw your dark power from the bottom of hell!
You lead the crowd to the abyss of death!

Shepherd
The glow of the secret depths of life
I kindle with my almighty hand!
(pointing with his hand to the crowd gathering around him)
O King, look!
Like a swarm of butterflies
around the scarlet of fragrant roses
the quiet ones circle around me,
a dreamy whirl of color rainbows
they catch the glow in my eyes!
Maidens, beautiful young men
on their wings of frenzy fly!
(He turns to his musicians.)
Brothers! Quick! A dancing song!
Strike your strings' silver bell,
the quick rhythm of your tambourines!
(to the king)
O King! Look around and see how from the hearts
the frenzy of secret desires rises in weeping waves,
O Roger, hear!
(The Shepherd's musicians begin to play. The whole crowd starts to whirl in an enchanted dance. The dance is growing stronger and stronger. Roger is staring into the whirling dancing circle in silent horror. The Shepherd looks at his face with an enigmatic smile. At one point Roxana appears in the upper gallery and starts running down the stairs in excitement.)

Chorus
Ah...!
(Roger sees her. He starts up and with a deft movement of his hand stops her halfway down the stairs. The Shepherd then turns his eyes away from the king and turns them slowly toward Roxana; for a long moment they look at each other. Roger throws himself down on his throne in despair, hiding his face in his hands. From Roxana's lips comes singing, first shy, then getting stronger and stronger. The Shepherd also starts to sing.)

Chorus
Ah...!

Roxana
In the dance of joy
in merry madness
a radiant dawn!
Share all your secrets!
Lead me to your world!

Shepherd
In the dance of love
in the flames of blood
the infinite glow!
In radiant paradise!
In the secret frenzy
the divine dance!

King Roger
(in utter despair)
Roxana!

Roxana
Coolness, gardens!
Dancing!
Waves in dream, fires deep!
Wings in flight!

Shepherd
Radiant dance!
Fires deep!
Wings in flight!

Roxana, Shepherd, Chorus
Ah...!
(From the crowd whirling in a frenzied dance also come voices; they all join in one powerful chord.)

King Roger
Guards! Faithful guards!
Take him! Seize him! Bind him!
(The guards rush toward the Shepherd, pushing the dancers aside. The dancing subsides. Everyone suddenly stops in indescribable horror. The guards seize the Shepherd, binding his hands with a chain. He breaks free of them and with his hand tied he stands on the stairs next to Roxana.)

Shepherd
(with anger and insolence)
Who dares to bind my charm with a chain?
Who wants to take me? Am I not already yours?
(He breaks the chain and throws it at he king's feet. He raises his unfettered arms.)
O, look at my free arms
from the depth of your heart.
Who is free, follow me!
Along my roads of joy
I'll lead you to my world,
to the sweet shade of the grove.
Streams murmur!
Divine girls dance!
Shouting! A call!
A mysterious, distant call!

Roxana, Chorus
A mysterious, distant call!
A mysterious, distant call!
Who is free, follow him!
Who is free, follow him!

Shepherd
Listen ...
In the silence of the night, listen ...
In the sound of the seas a mysterious, distant call!

Roxana
A mysterious, distant call!

Chorus
A distant call!

Shepherd
Who will now follow me?
(looking at Roger, emphatically)
Who will now follow me?
(Roger is silent. The Shepherd slowly walks toward the exit. Roxana follows him as if in a trance. From the crowd more and more people break away and follow them, their number growing.)

King Roger
(suddenly awakening from his torpor)
Stop! Where are you taking the crowd? Roxana ...
Where are you taking?

Shepherd
(pausing at the door)
I threw down the chains
at your royal feet
and I am leaving free!
If you want to be my judge,
I call you, O King,
to my sunny shore!
Did you understand me, Roger?
Roger!

Roxana, Chorus
Ah...!
(The Shepherd goes out, followed by Roxana and the crowd. The stage is empty except for Roger on his throne, with his face hidden in his hands, and Edrisi who watches him with greatest anxiety.)

King Roger
(with great pain)
Roxana!
(Edrisi comes up to the window and looks into the darkness outside.)

Edrisi
Night's shadow has covered the crowd!
In the distance the song has grown silent
and the swift sound of their feet.
(King Roger, after a moment's thought, with sudden determination throws off his crown, his royal mantle, unbuckles his sword and throws it to the ground with a crash.)

King Roger
Let us follow them!
The King is a pilgrim now!
(He and Edrisi go out.)


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