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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Destruction of the Gods
By Eugène Brieux (1858–1932)
 
From ‘False Gods’ ‘La Foi’: Translation of James Bernard Fagan

SATNI—You demand it! You demand a miracle. Well, then, you shall have one, I will do this, but in the presence of all! Go! go! go throughout the domains—bring hither those you find bowed on the earth, or hung to poles for drawing water. Go you others, summon the slaves, the piteous workers—call hither the drawers of stones, bid them drop the ropes that flay their shoulders, bid them come.  1
  Mieris—What would you do?  2
  Satni—Convince them.  3
  Mieris—Now of a sudden, brutally?  4
  Satni—Brutally.  5
  Rheou—Do you believe them ready?  6
  Satni—You are afraid.  7
  Rheou—Day comes not suddenly on night, between them is the dawn.
[Delethi leads Mieris right, under the peristyle.]
  8
  Satni—I would have day, broad daylight—Now, at once, for all! ’Tis a crime to promise them reward for their suffering. How do we know that they will ever be paid?  9
  Rheou—They are so miserable—  10
  Satni—The truth—is the truth good only for the rich? Will you add that injustice to all the others? Behold them!  [Gradually the slaves and workers of all kinds have entered till they fill the stage.  Amongst them Pakh, Sokiti, Bitiou the Dwarf.]  Yes, behold them, the victims, behold the wretched! I know you all. You, you are a shepherd, you are worse nourished than your flocks, and your beasts, at least, are not given blows. They do not beat the cows nor the sheep. You, you sow and you reap; beneath the sun, tortured by flies, you gather abundant crops. You sleep in a hole. Others eat the corn you made grow, and sleep on precious stuffs. You, you are forever drawing water from the Nile; betwixt you and the ox they harness to another machine, there is no difference, and yet you are a man. You, you are one of those who drag great stones, to build the monuments of pride. You are a digger in the tombs, you live a month or more without sight of day. To glorify the death of others, you give your life. You are a trainer of lions for war; your father was eaten—they would have wept had the lion died—  How can it be that you accept all this, when you see beside you happiness without work, and abundance without effort? I will tell you. ’T is because, in the name of the god Amon-Ra, they have said to you:—“Have patience, this injustice will last but a lifetime.” Fools! nothing but that! All the time you are on earth, suffer, produce for others. Content ye with hunger, you who produce food. Content ye with worse usage than the swine, you who have guard of them. Content ye to sleep in the open, you who build palaces and temples. Content ye with all miseries, you carvers of gold, and setters of precious stones. Look without envy, without anger, on the welfare of those who do nothing, all this will last only the whole of your lives! After, in another world, you shall have the fullness of all the crops, and the joy of all the pleasures. Well, they lied to you: there is no island of souls, there are no happy fields, there is no life of atonement after this.  [Loud murmurs.]  They have set up these gods for your servile adoration; they have counseled you: “Bow down, these gods will avenge you.” They have said: “Prostrate yourselves, these gods are just.” They have said: “Throw yourselves to earth, these gods are good.” They have declared them all powerful; shut them in sanctuaries of awful gloom, whence you are shown them once a year, to keep alive your terror of the gods; and last, they have made you believe no man may touch these images and live. I tell you they lied—I will show you they lied to you. Behold the most mighty Ammon—the father of the gods—I spit my hate at him! Thou art but an idol; I curse thee for evil men have done in thy name! I curse thee in the name of all the enslaved, in the name of all those they have cheated with hopes of an avenging life; in the name of all who for thousands of years have groaned and wept; suffered insult, outrage, blows, death, without thought of revolt, because promises made in thy name had soothed their rage to sleep! And I curse thee for the sorrow that now fills me, and for the ills that must come even of thy going! Die!  [He throws a stool in the face of the statue.]  You others do as I. Go, climb their pedestals! Lay hold of their hands, they are lifeless! Strike, ’tis but an image! Spit in their faces, they are senseless! Strike! Ruin! All this is nothing but hardened mud!
[The crowd which had punctuated the words of Satni with cries and murmurs has approached the statues behind him and followed his example, blaspheming, and howling with fury.  The more courageous begin, being hoisted to the pedestals, the rest follow suit.  The gods are overthrown.]
  11
  Rheou—Now, let them open my granaries, that each may help himself; and take from my flocks to sate you all.
[Cries of joy; they go out slowly.  Bitiou in the meantime approaches an overthrown statue and still half afraid, kicks it.  He tries to run, falls, picks himself up, then seeing that decidedly there is no danger, seats himself on the stomach of the goddess Thoueris and bursts into a peal of triumphant bestial laughter.]
  12
  Bitiou—Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
[Then he perceives the little statue of Isis which Mieris shields with her arms, points it out to a couple of men who advance to it.]
  13
  Delethi—Mistress, they would take Isis!  14
  Mieris  [in tears]—Let me keep her——  15
  Rheou—No, Mieris.  16
  Mieris  [letting go]—Take her—  [Then]  Stay!  17
  Rheou—Wherefore?  18
  Mieris—Can you part from her, and feel nothing? Even now, Satni, in denouncing the gods to the fury of the crowd, you did not say everything—You, who can see her, behold this little image, think how many tears were shed before her, in the years since she was made. She has been ours for generations. Call up the countless crowds of those who have fixed their anxious looks upon her eyes, dead even as mine are. It is for all the anguish she has looked upon, we must respect her. Tears make holy. I doubt not you are right: she must be broken too—but not without farewell.  [To Yaouma.]  Where is she, Yaouma? I would say my last prayer to her.  [To the statue.]  Oh, thou who didst not heal, but didst console me; O thou who hast heard so many entreaties and thanksgivings, thou art but clay! Yet men have given thee life; thy life was not in thee, it was in them—and the proof is that thou diest, now they have taken their soul from thee. I give thee over to those who would break thee, but I revere thee, I salute thee, and I thank thee for all the hope thou hast given me; and I thank thee in the name of all the sorrows that thou hast sent to sleep.  [To the men.]  Take her hence—let them destroy her with respect.
[They take Isis away.]
  19
  Satni—There is nothing so sad or so great as the death of a god!  [A pause.  To Yaouma, who comes through the crowd.]  Behold, Yaouma! The gods are dead and I live—behold them! Do you believe me—do you believe me?
[Sadly Yaouma looks at the broken statues, then bursts into tears before Satni, who stands amazed.]
[Curtain.]
  20
 
 
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