Sisyphus (a play in progress)


APXH


SISYPHUS:

My name is Sisyphus.

If it were not for me,

Mortals would have nothing

To talk about at all.

I am responsible

For the apparent rise

Of the Sun –

They give me no credit

For its fall!

I am not deaf to the gossip

About me,

And my shameless stone.

An author said of late

That I lead

An entirely futile life,

A life of one absurd revolution

After another,

Instead of doing

What any man

In his right mind

Would surely do,

If only he knew

What was rolling

Down the mountain –

Free himself,

Forthwith and forever,

From Fate!

Not that he would

If he could.

WE:

To what do we

Owe your appearance?

SISYPHUS:

People barely know themselves –

I periodically enlighten them.

WE:

Why?

SISYPHUS:

Why?

Because people

Must be stoned –

They have rocks for heads.

And I am duty bound

By obedience to myself,

As president of myself,

To trick the inmates

Of this perverse,

Rolling round house,

Into shattering their stones,

To free themselves

From the concatenations

Of their foolhardiness.

Wherefore I am named Sisyphus,

Or Se-sophos,

Meaning, Very Wise,

WE:

Tell us Sisyphus,

Where did you get

Your shining stone?

SISYPHUS:

Dragonessa Medusa,

Supreme female wisdom,

Made my marvelous mirror.

WE:

We see the light,

But are not enlightened.

Pray tell, then,

What have you done

For us lately?

SISYPHUS:

I so loved the world

That I created the gods.

WE:

Blasphemy!

Vanity!

Impiety!

Perjury!

Absurdity!

Will Sisyphus,

Who surpasses

All mortals

In intelligence,

Who is shrewdest

In contrivances,

Like a god,

Never learn

From the gods,

That he is merely

A mortal man?

Blasphemy!

He uses god’s power to destroy god.

Vanity!

He names god to flatter himself.

Impiety!

He exalts ungodly over godly.

Perjury!

He lies against his own law.

Absurdity!

What could be more absurd?

CRITIAS:

Will you stand by silently, Sisyphus,

Confronted here as you are

By these capital charges?

SISYPHUS:

I have already said quite enough

To sufficiently incriminate myself.

CRITIAS:

And I, Critias,

Am duty bound

To rid the community

Of deception,

Whether the community

Likes lucidity or not.

SISYPHUS:

Then you have

Multitudes to condemn.

So many heads must roll.

Streets must run red

With blood gushing forth

From necks gaping

On every corner.

Few are left standing

In the end,

When people thirst

For higher power.

WE:

Be gone, Critias!

We need no bloody tyrant

To slake our thirst

For aristocratic blood.

We are equal under our law,

By, for, and of the people.

CRITIAS:

What greater tyranny can there be

Than democracy over noble virtue?

A noble character is more credible

Than any law commonly considered,

For no mere talker may overcome it.

Many severed heads of big talkers

Are duly attached to our rostrum.

WE:

Aristocratic heads,

For the most part,

Hang from your rostrum!

We each are cattle

Humbled by our numbers.

Noble virtue shall not overcome

The dignity of our laws,

Or the grace of our god,

Nor shall big talkers!

Now this sophisticate, Sisyphus.

Claims to have so loved the world

That he created even the One God,

Thus he vainly puts his cause

Before the First Cause.

Would you plead his case?

CRITIAS:

If Sisyphus speaks truly,

That he created the gods,

He created tyrants over fools –

I prefer several to one –

And you should thank him

For exposing the truth

About your divine idiocy.

Gods,

States,

Laws,

All tyrants,

Yet you call me tyrant!

I fear not democracy,

For if gods, states, and laws

Are human creations,

They are no match

For the learned man.

WE:

A tyrant and a sophist!

What more could we ask for

In a big talker

Who claims nobility

Instead of divinity?

If only he were a demagogue,

We might call ourselves free!

CRITIAS:

Your political order is your true religion,

And your demagogue its talking idol.

SISYPHUS:

I created the gods

Then the one and only god –

And that was a restoration.

CRITIAS:

Thus you speak

To further incriminate yourself,

The self-created god,

To whom I put this question,

If you dare to answer:

Why were the gods created?

SISYPHUS:

There was a time when the life of all men

Was unordered, bestial, the slave of force:

There was no reward for the virtuous;

There was no punishment for the wicked.

So men devised laws of retribution,

That Justice might be their great dictator,

Having arrogance as its servile slave,

And if anyone sinned, he was punished.

Since the laws now forbade them to commit

Their usual crimes out in the open,

They began to commit them secretly.

A very wise and clever man appeared,

And for love of man he invented fear

Of the gods, that mortals might have on hand

Useful means of frightening the wicked

If in secret they did or thought of some

Evil deed. And therefore he introduced

The Divine, saying that there is a god

Flourishing with immortal life, hearing,

And seeing with his mind, and thinking of

Everything and caring about these things,

And having divine nature, who will hear

Everything said among mortals, and will

Be able to see well all that is done.

If one secretly plans something evil,

He will never escape the gods in this,

For they have surpassing intelligence.

Together with these words he introduced

The most pleasant of teachings heard by men,

Covering up the truth with false theory,

He said the gods dwelt in remote places,

Out of reach of the understanding of

Mere earthly mortals, where he could therefore

Use gods to frighten men out of their wits,

And convince them hard life has its rewards

And its punishments in a hereafter,

As dictated from those upper regions,

Where they saw lightning and heard dread thunder,

Beheld the star-faced body of heaven,

The beautiful embroidery of Time –

The skilled craftsman who brought forth the bright mass

Of Sun, and wet shower upon the Earth.

With many fears did he surround mankind,

Through which he established the deity

In a fitting place with his argument,

And thus he quenched lawlessness among men.

For the first time mortals were persuaded,

To believe in a high race of deities.

CRITIAS:

May I presume that this man

Is none other than you, Sisyphus,

Who have laid claim to creating the gods?

SISYPHUS:

You may so presume.

CRITIAS:

I cannot say that I blame you,

At least not for the tyranny,

But I question your devices,

For gods created by men are deceptions

Which can be destroyed by wise men.

SISYPHUS:

But I am the wisest of all men,

Surpassing all mortals in intelligence,

Shrewdest in contrivances,

Like a god, as it were.

CRITIAS:

It is best that a real tyrant rule directly,

By virtue of truth,

Than for people to be deceived

By false representation.

WE:

Death to Critias! Death to Critias! Death to Critias!

As for you Sisyphus,

Your sophistry rolls over our heads,

Day by day,

Just to sink into night,

Again and again.

Why raise our hopes so highly?

To cruelly let us down?

What have we done

To deserve this stoning

Unto death?

Have you no shame?

Death to Sisyphus! Death to Sisyphus! Death to Sisyphus!

SISYPHUS:

Your death sentence is most condign,

For without the light of Day,

You would have no Apollo

Attending your far-flung future.

WE:

But what of Night?

And all that Darkness implies?

SISYPHUS:

A living thing that needs the light

Must rest at night,

Lest its yearning

give it cause for burning.

WE:

But we are afraid of the dark.

SISYPHUS:

Wherefore I gave you gods

To mask Chaos with Cosmos,

That you might understand

One another and be secure

In your numbers, as One.

Have you forgotten so soon?

WE:

Threefold Goddess

Rose from Chaos,

Dressed in Earth,

Sea, and Night.

Black-winged Night,

Mother of Mystery,

Courted by Wind,

Laid a Silver Egg

In the Womb of Darkness,

Hence Love was hatched.

To move the Cosmos.

Now Darkness lives

Under Earth,

And Night resides

In the West.

When Day retires,

Night appears

In her chariot,

Drawn by steeds

Good and Evil,

With Starry Court in train.

She leads the Twins,

Death and Sleep –

Night saved Sleep from Death,

And Mighty Zeus,

In awe of Night,

Dared not intervene.

Ambivalent Night,

Frightening friend,

Hides guilt and innocence,

Conceals stolen valuables,

Covers lover’s charms,

Fosters fear and hope,

Turns sticks into snakes,

Logs into monsters,

Monsters into gods.

Mother’s introspection,

Provokes vigilance,

And prepares us for

The surprises of

The Enlightening Dawn.

SISYPHUS:

Hence my cue,

The Crowing Cock.

What of the Fateful Sisters

Dwelling well in the cave

Nearby the Moon?

WE:

Clotho who spins,

Lachesis who draws,

Atropos who cuts,

By the light

Of the Silvery Moon,

Tell us please,

Whose face among us all

Is the most beautiful?

processing….

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