THE COUNCIL OF THE GODS

by José Rizal

An Allegory In One Act

 

Note: Rizal wrote this in 1880 when he was a student at Ateneo when he was 19 or 20 years old. The work shows Rizal's amazing knowledge of the intricacies of Roman mythology.

Note:  This play, supplied to the site by an earnest student, is submitted for free academic resource for Filipino students and others interested in the Philippine national hero. Bibliographic information and permission to put up electronically is pending.  If the English translation of this work is not in the public domain and the copyright holder wishes that it be removed, it will be done. -- RLY

 

 

Reunion of the Gods on Olympus:

        Jupiter [the chief deity, god of thunder and the skies: also known as the Greek Zeus - RLY] is seated on a throne of gold and precious stones, bearing in his hand a scepter of cypress. At his feet is the eagle, whose metallic plumage gleams multicolored; thunderbolts, his terrible arms, lie on the floor. At his right is his wife, the jealous Juno [the sister and wife of Jupiter, queen of the gods, and goddess of marriage: also known as the Greek Hera - RLY], with a refulgent diadem and the peacock of vanity. At his left is the wise Pallas [the goddess of wisdom, skills, and warfare. Also known as Athena. – RLY] (Minerva), his daughter and adviser, adorned with her helmet and awesome shield, crowned with green olive and gracefully bearing her heavy lance.

 

Forming a striking contrast is Saturn [the god of agriculture: also known as the Greek Cronus - RLY], squatting and gazing at the beautiful group. In gracious disarray reclines the lovely Venus [the goddess of love and beauty: also known as the Greek Aphrodite. - RLY] on a bed of roses, crowned with fragrant myrtle, caressing Cupid [the god of love, son of Venus: usually represented as a winged boy with bow and arrow also known as the Greek Eros. - RLY]. Divine Apollo [the god of music, poetry, prophecy, and medicine, represented as exemplifying manly youth and beauty. - RLY] suavely strikes his lyre of gold and mother-of-pearl, dallying with eight Muses (daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory), who are Calliope, muse of heroic poetry; Melpomene, muse of tragedy; Thalia, muse of comedy; Polyhymnia, muse of rhetoric; Erato, muse of lyric poetry; Euterpe, muse of song and music; Urania, muse of astronomy; and Clio, muse of history. Completing that select circle are Mars [the god of war; also known as the Greek Ares. - RLY] , Bellona [Wife (or sister) of Mars; goddess of war], Alcides [the son of Zeus and Alcmene, renowned for his strength and courage perhaps better known by the name, Hercules- RLY] and Momus [Note: God of mockery and censure - RLY]. Behind Jupiter and Juno are Hebe [Note: Goddess of Youth -- RLY] and Ganymede [Note: a beautiful youth carried off by Zeus to be the cupbearer to the Gods - RLY]. On the right side of Jupiter sits Justice [“Justice is not formally a part of the Roman pantheon but is treated as such in this play. - RLY] on a throne, her attributes in her-hands.

      Enter the ninth muse, Terpsichore, the muse of dance, followed by nymphs, naiads, and undines [minor nature gods and goddesses, living in rivers, mountains and trees. An undine is a feminine water spirit who can acquire a soul by marrying and bearing a child to a human - RLY], who, scattering flowers, dance to the lyres of Apollo and Erato and the flute of Euterpe. After the dance, they group themselves on either side of the stage. Enter Mercury [the messenger of the gods, god of commerce, manual skill, eloquence, cleverness, travel, and thievery: also known as the Greek Hermes. - RLY].

MERCURY: (removing his Phrygian cap) I have obeyed your orders, sovereign father. Neptune and his court cannot come; they fear to lose commands of the seas because of the boldness of men. Vulcan is still at work on the thunderbolts you ordered him to make, with which to arm Olympus, and is finishing them now. As for Pluto...

JUPITER: (interrupting) Enough! I don't need them either. Hebe, Ganymede: serve the nectar so the immortal may drink. (Hebe and Ganymede obey.)

        Enter Bacchus [the god of wine and revelry: also known as the Greek Dionysus] on foot and Silenus [Note: the foster father and tutor of Dionysus and leader of the satyrs {minor woodland deities with the head and trunk of a human, the hind legs of a goat, the ears and tail of a horse and short horns known for their riotous and lecherous merrymaking.}, traditionally pictured as a fat, drunken, jovial old man with pointed ears. - RLY] on an ass, singing:

                He who wishes to live

                and to divert himself,

                let him abandon Minerva

                and tend my vines...

MINERVA: (loudly) Silence! Don't you see that mighty Jupiter would speak?

SILENUS: So what? Is the conqueror of the Titans annoyed? The gods are drinking nectar; so, anyone can express merriment as he pleases. But I see that my disciple has offended you, and you use this as a pretext...

MOMUS: (mockingly) Defend him, Silenus, so they won't say your followers are an impudent lot.

     Minerva, about to speak, is silenced by gesture of Jupiter, but expresses her disdain with a smile that alerts the delicate serenity of her shapely lips. Meanwhile, the gods have finished their nectar and have begun to chat among themselves.

JUPITER: There was a time, great gods, when the proud sons of earth attempted to climb Olympus by piling mountain upon mountain, so they could wrest away my power. And there's no doubt at all that they would have succeeded if your arms and my terrible thunderbolts had not hurled them down to Tartarus [The deepest chamber of the underworld and prison of the word’s dead - RLY], burying the others in the bowels of fiery Etna. This happy event do I wish to celebrate with all the pomp of the immortals, now that Earth, following its eternal course, has returned to that very same point in its orbit that it occupied then. So I, king of the gods, desire to begin this feast with a literary contest. I have here a magnificent war trumpet, a lyre and a crown of laurel, all exquisitely made. The trumpet is of a metal known only to Vulcan, more precious than gold and silver; the lyre like that of Apollo, is of gold and mother-of-pearl, fashioned also by Vulcan, but its strings, wrought by the Muses, have no equal; and the crown woven by the Graces of the finest laurel growing in my immortal gardens, shines more brilliantly than all the crowns of the kings on earth. These three prizes are of equal value; and who has most ably cultivated the letters and the virtues shall be the owner of these magnificent jewels. Show me, therefore, the mortal whom you deem worthy to receive them.

JUNO: (rising arrogantly) Permit me, Jupiter, to speak first, since I am your wife and the mother of the most powerful gods. No one better than I can present to you so perfect a mortal as the divine Homer. Who indeed would dare dispute his supremacy? For no work can compete with his Iliad, so brave and bold, and with his Odyssey, so reflective and prudent. Who, like him, has sung your grandeur and that of the other gods so magnificently, as if he had surprised us right here on Olympus and been present at our gatherings? Who has done more than him to keep the odorous incense of Arabia burning abundantly before our images as well as fat sacrificial offerings, whose delicious smoke, rising in capricious spirals, please us enough to placate our anger? Who, like him, has recounted the most sublime battles in more splendid verses? He sang of divinity, of knowledge, of virtue, of bravery, of heroism and disaster, using all the notes of his lyre. It is he who deserves the prize, for I believe, as all Olympus believes, that nobody else has made himself so worthy of our esteem.

VENUS: Pardon me, sister, wife of great Jove, if I do not share your estimable option. And you, Jupiter, visible only to mortals, be lenient to my pleas. I pray you not to allow that he who sang [= the epic poet Virgil who wrote the Aeneid of whom Aeneas is the hero. - RLY] of my son Aeneas [Upon escaping ruined Troy, Aeneas wanders for years before coming to Latium and so is considered the forefather of the Romans. - RLY] should be vanquished by Homer [The epic poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey of whom Achilles. - RLY]. Call to mind the lyre of Virgil, which sang of our glories and made sweet even the laments of tragic love. His most sweet and melancholy verses stir the soul; he praised piety in the person of the son of Anchises [i.e. Aeneas of whom Anchises is his father - RLY]: his battles are no less glorious those fought at the foot of the Trojan walls. Aeneas is greater and more virtuous than the irascible Achilles [The hero of The Iliad]. In short, to mind, Virgil is far superior to the poet of Chios [an Island in the Agean Sea. A legend holds that Homer was a blind beggar from that island. - RLY]. Is it not true that he fulfills all the requirements laid down by your holy mind?

     Having spoken, she returns to recline gracefully on her couch, like the gracious Undine, who, cuddling on the foam of the waves, forms the most precious jewel of a lovely poetical lake.

JUNO: (infuriated) What! And why is the Roman poet to be preferred to the Greek? How can Virgil, a mere imitator, be greater than Homer? Since when has the copy been better than the original? (In a disdainful tone) Ah, beautiful Venus, I see you are mistaken and I am not surprised: for when the subject is not love, it's over your head. Besides, the heart and the passions never knew how to reason. Abandon the argument, I beg you - in the name of your innumerable lovers...

VENUS: (blushingly interrupting) O most fair Juno, as jealous as you are vengeful! In spite of your excellent memory, which ever recalls the golden apple so unjustly denied your famous and never quite fully regarded charms, I see with disgust that you have forgotten the gross insults your favorite Homer hurled against us. However, if you yourself find him reasonable and truthful, that's good - and I felicitate you for it; but as for me, let the gods of Olympus say...

MOMUS: (interrupting) Yes! Let them say that you praise Virgil because. `Tis said, he behaved well with you; and that Juno defends Homer because he is the poet of vengeance; and that both of you are really merely trading caresses and compliments! But you, Jupiter, why do you not intervene in this debate? There you sit, like a stunned boob listening to the trilogies at the Olympian feasts!

JUNO: (loudly) Husband, why do you allow this deformed and ugly monster to insult us? Kick him out of Olympus, for his breath stinks! Besides...

MOMUS: Glory to Juno, who never insults, for she merely called me ugly and deformed! (The gods laugh.)

JUNO: (paling and frowning, and darting lightning looks at everyone. especially Momus) Shut up, god of mockery! By the Stygian lake [reference to the River Styx which transported the dead to the infernal regions = “by the rivers of hell!” - RLY]...! But enough of this, and let speak Minerva, whose opinion has always been mine since time immemorial.

MOMUS: Yes! Another one like you, illustrious meddlers, who are always found where they should not be!

MINERVA: (pretending not to hear; removing her helmet to reveal her stern smooth brow, mansion of intelligence; and speaking in a clear silvery voice) I beg you to hear me, mighty son of Saturn, who shakes Olympus with your terrible frown; and you, prudent and venerated gods, who direct and govern mankind. Please do not take my words amiss, ever submitted to the will of the Thunderer [= Jupiter - RLY]. If perchance my arguments lack weight in your eyes, deign to refute them and to weigh them on the scales of justice.

     There is an ancient Hesperia [the Roman name for Spain - RLY], beyond the Pyrenees [a mountain range that separates Spain from the rest of Europe. - RLY], a man whose fame has crossed, with the swiftness of a flash of lightning, the space that separates the world of mortals from Olympus. Ignored and unknown, he became the plaything of envy and vile passions, overwhelmed by disaster, the sad fate of great spirits. It seemed indeed that the world had extracted from Tartarus all its sufferings and torments and had heaped them on his unhappy person. But, in spite of so many sufferings and injustices, he has not cared to return blow for blow, but, being too good and too great to be vengeful, he has rather sought to correct and educate his fellowmen, by creating an immortal work: his Don Quixote. I speak then of Cervantes, of this son of Spain, who is to be her pride but is now perishing in the most dreadful misery. The Quixote, his great labor, is a whip that punishes and corrects, drawing not blood but laughter; it is a nectar that contains the virtues of a bitter medicine; it is a caressing hand that energetically disciplines human passions. If you ask me what obstacles he overcame, please listen to me for a moment and you shall know.

     The world found itself invaded by a kind of madness, dismal and frenzied, spread by the idiotic pens of feverish imaginations. Bad taste prevailed and time was wasted in the reading of pernicious books. Then there appeared this brilliant light to dispel the darkness of the intelligence; and as birds flee at the sight of the hunter or at the whistling of an arrow, so vanished the errors, the bad taste and the absurd beliefs, sinking into the night of oblivion. And while it is true that the singer of Ileum, in his sonorous verses, was the first to open the temple of the Muses and to celebrate the heroism of mortals and the wisdom of the immortals; while it is true that the swan of Mantua exalted the piety of him who rescued the gods from the conflagration of his native land and who renounced the delights of Venus to obey your will - you, Jupiter, greatest of all the gods - and that the most delicate sentiments sprang from his lyre, his melancholy music transporting the mind to other realms; it is also no less certain that neither Homer nor Virgil reformed the manners of their age, as did Cervantes. At his appearance, truth once more occupied her throne, announcing a new era to the world, then corrupted. If you ask me about his beauties, though I know them well, I bid you ask Apollo, supreme judge on the matter, if the author of Quixote has burned incense on his immortal altars.

APOLLO: Receive, O my father, these arguments of mine with the same pleasure that you listen, on still nights, to the complaints of Philomela. The Nine Sisters [i.e. the Muses - RLY] and I have read in the gardens of Parnassus [i.e. gardens of poetic activity. - RLY] this book of which the wise Minerva spoke. Its merry style and pleasant rhythm sound in my ears like a sonorous fountain springing at the mouth of Umbrian cave. (I beg you not to think me partisan because Cervantes dedicated to me many of his beautiful pages!) If even in the extreme poverty that breeds the hunger, misery and woes that afflict the hapless, a humble son of mine has nevertheless been able to lift up to me his songs and to harmonize his accents, offering me a tribute more gorgeous and precious than my glittering chariot or my indomitable horses; if in a stinking dungeon, unhappy prison of a soul that yearns to fly, his well trained pen was able to pour forth torrents of dazzling poetry far sweeter and richer than the waters of the golden Pactolus [at this River King Midus was able to rid himself of the curse that caused everything he touched to turn to gold.  Gold is supposed to be found in the sands of its riverbanks. - RLY], why, then, should we deny his superiority and not give him the victory as the greatest genius the universe has ever seen? His Quixote is the favorite book of the Muses; and while with its humor it consoles the depressed and the melancholy and enlightens the ignorant, it is at the same time a history, the most faithful history of Spanish customs. I am, therefore, of the same opinion as the wise Pallas - and may the gods who do not share that opinion forgive me.

JUNO: If the greatest merit of Cervantes consists in having endured so many misfortunes, and since, in other respects, he surpasses no one, if indeed he is not surpassed, then I can also say that Homer, blind and miserable, once substituted on public charity (which Cervantes never did), wandering through the towns and cities with his lyre as his only friend and living in the most complete misery. This do you remember well, ungrateful Apollo.

VENUS: So what? And Virgil - has he not also been poor? Did he not live for a long time on a single loaf of bread, a gift of Caesar? The melancholy that breathes from his works - does it not tell enough of how much his sensitive and delicate heart must have suffered? Could he have suffered less than the brilliant Homer or the gay Cervantes?

MINERVA: All that is true, no doubt. But you must not forget that Cervantes was wounded, overpowered and taken captive on the inhospitable soil Africa, where he drained to the dregs the chalice of bitterness living under the constant threat of death.

     Jupiter makes signs that he agrees with Minerva.

MARS: (rising and speaking with a voice of thunder and wrath) No, by my lance! No! Never! While a drop of immortal blood warms my veins, Cervantes shall not win! How can I permit a book to rise victorious that hurls my glory to the ground and makes mock my feasts? Jupiter, I helped you one time; so listen to my reasons.

JUNO: (irate) You hear, O Jove the Judge, the reasons of valiant Mars, as sensible as he is courageous. Light and truth spring from his words. How indeed can we permit this man whose glory Time has respected (and let Saturn speak out) to see himself displaced by a one-armed upstart, the scorn of society?

MARS: And if you, father of gods and men, doubt the force of my arguments, inquire of these others if there be any among then who would sustain his reasons with his arm! (He strides arrogantly to the center, defying all with a look and brandishing his sword.)

MINERVA: (stepping forward with proud mien and flashing eyes, but speaking in a serene voice) Foolhardy Mars, who has forgotten the Trojan field where you were wounded by a mere mortal [with the help of the goddess Juno, the warrior Diomedes drove a spear into Mars in the battle for Troy. - RLY]: if your reasons are backed by your sword, mine fear no combat with them on your ground. But, so I may not be called reckless, I wish to show you how wrong you are. Cervantes followed your banners and served you heroically on the waters of Lepanto [In this battle Cervantes lost the use of his left hand as he fought the Turks in 1571. - RLY], where he would have lost his life had Destiny not meant him for greater end. If he abandoned the sword to take up the pen, it was by the will of the immortals and not to disparage you, as you may have imagined in your wild delirium. (Speaking more gently) Do not then be ungrateful, you whose generous heart is inaccessible to rancor and odious passions. Cervantes ridiculed knight errantry because it was no longer proper to his time. Besides those are not the combats that do you honor, but battles in the open field, as you well know. These are my arguments; and if they don't convince you, I accept your challenge.

     Having spoken Minerva, like a lightning-loaded cloud approaching another over the center of the ocean when the sky darkens, slowly marches forward, clasping her formidable shield and lowering her spear, a terrible angel of destruction, of tranquil but terrifying look, the sound of her voice striking fear.

     Bellona places herself beside Mars, ready to help him. On seeing this, Apollo drops his lyre and seizes his bow, draws an arrow from his golden quiver and, placing himself besides Minerva, pulls his bow, ready to shoot.

     Olympus, on the verge of collapse, shudders; the light of day darkens and the gods tremble.

JUPITER: (shouting enraged and wielding a thunderbolt) To your seats, Minerva, Apollo! And you, Mars and Bellona, do not provoke celestial fury! (Like cruel wild beasts in an iron cage obeying the voice of their bold master, those four gods return to their respective seats, scared by the threat of the son of Cybele, who, on seeing their obedience, speaks more gently.) I shall put an end this dispute. Justice shall weigh the books with strict impartiality; and what she decrees shall be followed in the world, while you shall accept her immutable judgment.

     Justice descends from her throne and goes to the center, bearing impartial scales, on which Mercury places the Aenied and the Quixote. After oscillating for a long time, the needle finally points to the middle, indicating that the books are equal.

     Venus is shocked but keeps silent

     Mercury removes the Aenied and replaces it with the Iliad. A smile appears on the lips of Juno, a smile that speedily vanishes when she sees the two scales bearing the Quixote and the Iliad rising and falling.

     Suspense grips everyone; no one speaks, no one breathes.

     A zephyr [a soft, gentle west wind. - RLY] flies overhead and perches on the branch of a tree, to await the verdict of Destiny.

At last the scales rest equal and remain still.

JUPITER: (in a solemn voice) Gods and goddesses, Justice believes them equal! Bow, then, your heads and let us give the trumpet to Homer, the lyre to Virgil, and the laurel crown to Cervantes, while Fame shall publish in the world the verdict of Destiny and Apollo shall intone a hymn to the new star that from now on shall shine in the sky of glory and occupy a seat in the temple of immortality.

APOLLO: (striking his lyre - at whose sound Olympus is illuminated - and intoning the hymn of glory that resounds all over the coliseum): Hail to thee, greatest of men, favorite son of the Muses, core of the intense light that shall illuminate the universe - hail! Praise to your name, splendid luminary, around who, in the days to come, shall revolve a thousand intellects, admirers of your glory! Hail, masterpiece of the land of the Almighty, pride of Spain! Most beautiful of the flowers that crown my brows, I salute you! You shall eclipse the glories of antiquity; your name, written in letters of gold in the temple of immortality, shall be the despair of other geniuses! Mighty giant, you shall be invincible! Rising like a superb monument in the midst of your century, you shall draw all eyes. Your powerful arm shall vanquish your enemies as voracious fire consumes dry straw. Go, inspired Muses; gather fragrant myrtle, beauteous laurel and red roses, and weave immortal crowns for Cervantes. Pan [a god of fields, forests, wild animals, flocks, and shepherds, represented as having the legs (and, sometimes, horns and ears) of a goat: also known as the Roman Faunus. Often playing a reed pipe. - RLY], and Silenus, and you fauns and merry satyrs, dance on the carpet of the dark forests, while the nereids [= fairies - RLY], the naiads, the noisy undines and the playful nymphs, scattering a thousand fragrant flowers, embellish with their songs the solitude of the seas, the lakes, the water falls and the rivers, and agitate the clear surface of the fountains in their diverse games.

              The Muses, nymphs, naiads, etc., begin to dance, as well as Bacchus, Momus, Silenus and Ganymede, Terpsichore being the leader dancer. Apollo and Erato play the lyre; Euterpe, the flute; Clio, the trumpet; and Calliope, the bugle. Meanwhile, the gods and goddesses arrange themselves on either side of the stage, which has been cleared of their thrones. The Philippine anthem is played and a second curtain opens, revealing, fantastically illuminated, a bust of Cervantes being crowned by Rizal, to the strains of the Spanish "Marcha Real [Note: “Royal March” – Spain’s National Anthem]."

  í Click Here  æ

Write your Webmaster:
The Life and of Dr. José Rizal
Dr. Robert L. Yoder

DrRobertL_Yoder@excite.com

VIEW "RIZAL'S LIFE AND WRITINGS" GUESTBOOK

SIGN GUESTBOOK