The Mosaic Soliloquies

by Joseph P. Farrell

Basil, While Staring at Vardas’ Bejeweled Kriss

Basil, While Staring at Vardas’ Bejeweled Kriss:

Why do I hesitate now, so many years and sins richer, from my youth’s heart’s hidden and secret sworn purpose? Can the man, now grown numb and gray and old and bent with the daily tedium of the small evils of loyalty tests a thousand-fold, — grown weary of the part of eager hastening his bidding to execute, grown weary of a heart’s virtue, compassion, and simplicity, compelled to remain locked and secreted within it — can such a man avenge the boy?

…..but, ‘t must be.

See there the golden edges of plundered nations,
the silver stolen by his publicans from the taxed,
the globulous gems removed from the melted rings
taken from the fingers that have been axed
from tortured noblemen’s hands.

“Treason,” he would say, “demands blood,” then he feigns compassion: “but a finger or two, that one and that one, as Thou art a nobleman, will do.” Proud Roman, I call thee traitor!

‘Twas my vengeance alone that I swore, now theirs overrides.
‘Tis not only revenge that I seek, but justice besides.

So, ‘t must be. But, see how well thou hast owned even my most just thoughts, Vardas! How thou hast taught my heart, in the midst of noble sentiments of truth and of honour, to scrounge, to scheme, to slink, and to plot: Michael cannot rule alone; lacking thee, he must have me. Damn thee, Vardas! amidst justice and honour, for this selfish thought!

He shall not have me, tyrant, lest I send thee,
unrepentant, to thine eternal misery.

How hast thou made me, the man old and rich with petty sins, to hesitate before the hypocrisy of doing this just and moral deed? So, ’tis the boy, and not the man, that sweareth again, by the clouds of invisible witnesses, dead by thy hand for far less, ’tis before them that I bind myself to it, and plead: See what I do, this long-held and fatal purpose, and pray, by Christ’s most-sufficient blood, that I be forgiven the deed.

For the deed, I hesitate; for the justice, I hasten.

The boy swore, Vardas, the man swears it again.
So, this trembling man must be condemned for the boy to be avenged.

Basil picked up the dagger, and held it before him, its undulating blade reflecting the candles back and forth across his face.

Thusly I reclaim my honour: thy dagger tyrant, and all the ill-gotten treasure of it. I have robbed thee, Vardas, despoiled thine house, and am come to rob and despoil still more.

Thy most treasured blade,
by it, shalt thou in the dust be low laid,
for thy blade and all its gold and adamantine globes
and iniquities therein fused and forged returneth to thee,
and with thine own evils thy heart is probed.

Thou tyrant, I swear it: I shall cleanse the Temple of this Empire by the bloody ablution, the temple of thy body, the libation of thy purpled blood; came the thief, the boy, in the night, to rob thee, Vardas, of food for his life; comes he now to rob thee of all thy substance, operation, and life.

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