Out of the Wings

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La devoción de la cruz (1628-1633), Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Devotion to the Cross, translated by Kathleen Jeffs (née Mountjoy)

ACT ONE Scene One Devotion to the Cross

Out on a rough road on the outskirts of Siena, Eusebio has proclaimed his love for Lisardo’s sister, Julia, but Lisardo disapproves of the match. Trying to convince him that he is good enough for her, Eusebio tells Lisardo his miraculous life story in a monologue, from which this excerpt is taken.
Sample text

I don’t know who my father was,
but I do know that my first
cradle was at the foot of a cross,
and my first bed was a stone.
My birth was strange,
from what the shepherds say,
for it was they who found me
on that mountainside.
They say they heard me cry
for three days, but the terrain
was so wild they could not
get to me, and for fear of wild beasts;
but not one of them harmed me,
and who could doubt that it was
the holy cross that
came to my defence?
A shepherd found me,
he happened to be searching for a
lost sheep in the rugged mountainside,
and he brought me to the village
where a man, Eusebio, happened,
not by chance, to be living,
and the shepherd told him of
my wondrous birth, and the tale of Heaven’s
mercy to me encouraged his own.
Eusebio demanded that they bring me
to his house, and there he
raised me like a son.
I was named Eusebio of the Cross,
after him, and for the cross
which was my first guide
and my first protector.


The above sample taken from the translation Devotion to the Cross by Kathleen Jeffs (née Mountjoy) is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

ACT TWO Scene One Devotion to the Cross

Curcio, the father of Lisardo and Julia, finds himself out in the woods at the site of a horrific event he now recalls; many years ago he accused his wife of infidelity and on this spot attempted to take her life. Heavily pregnant, the shock of his violence had caused her to go into labour, not with one child, but two.
Sample text

This very mountain was the theatre
that held a terrible event,
for even going back to the ancients,
no one’s jealousy has ever caused
such monstrousness against innocence and truth.
But who can ever free himself
from suspicions, which turn
truth into lies?
Jealousy is fatal to love,
and it spares no one,
not even the lowly,
nor does it respect the lofty.
Here, then, as I say,
Rosmira and I … well, in remembering,
it is not surprising that my soul trembles
and my voice falters,
for there is no blossom here that does not frighten me,
no leaf that does not startle me,
no rock that does not make me gasp,
nor a tree-trunk that does not turn me into a coward,
a boulder that does not make me shudder,
a mountain that does not threaten me,
because each one of them was a witness
to my infamous deed.
On that day, I drew my sword, and she,
without fear of me and without upsetting herself,
(because when honour is at risk,
the innocent have nothing to fear)
she said, ‘Husband, wait,
I will not ask you not to kill me
if that is your wish, because
how could I deny you my life
which belongs to you?
I only ask that before you do so,
you tell me why I am to die,
and allow me to embrace you?’
I told her, ‘Inside you,
like a viper, you carry
the reason you must die.
There have been enough signs
that you await an illegitimate birth,
but you will never see it,
for I will give you your death first,
I will be your executioner and that of the angel yet unborn.’
‘If by chance’, she then said to me,
‘if by chance, husband, you come to believe that
I have failed you, it is right that you should kill me.
But this beloved cross here before you’, she continued,
‘I call as the witness that I never
knew I was offending you,
and that it alone will be my just protector.’
I should then have repented
and thrown myself at her feet,
because her innocence was
visible in her face.
But he who plans to do a treacherous deed
must see clearly what he is doing,
because once he has declared his intention,
even though he may later change his mind,
once he has declared he has cause for action,
he must see it through.
I, well, not because I doubted
that she was not guilty,
but because my passion had to be satisfied,
I lifted my arm into the air,
and struck as if to impart
a thousand wounds all over her body,
but I kept the blade an inch away from her,
slicing only the air.
She lay insensible at the foot of the cross,
and as I wished to escape,
I came home to our house,
and I found her there
more beautiful than the dawn,
which presents us every day
with newborn rays of sunlight.
She held Julia in her arms,
a divine image of beauty and discretion,
(what joy could equal mine?)
for her birth had taken place that afternoon
at the foot of the cross.
God revealed His miracle to the world
with such divine signs,
the baby girl had been born blessed with His mark,
and she had on her little chest a cross
forged from fire and blood.
But so much good fortune was tempered,
for she had left another child on the mountainside,
and she, in the pangs of birth,
had felt she had delivered two,
and I then …

He is interrupted by the entrance of OTAVIO.


The above sample taken from the translation Devotion to the Cross by Kathleen Jeffs (née Mountjoy) is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

ACT TWO Penultimate Scene Devotion to the Cross

Eusebio has scaled the walls of Julia’s convent using a ladder, and has made his way to her private cell. There, overtaken by his passion for her, he is determined to have his way with her whether she consents to it or not. She relents, and in undressing her he finds the mark of the cross upon her chest, which is the very same as the mark upon his own chest. It frightens him out of the convent, but the pair do not yet realise they are actually twins, marked with the same sign of their birth at the foot of the cross.
Sample text

I do not deny the amorous knot
which we joyfully tied to
unite our two souls,
or that its pull was strong,
or that I practised calling you ‘beloved husband’
and I confess that is all how it was;
but here now, with religious vows,
I have given my word and my hand
that I will be the bride of Christ.
Now that I am His, what can you want from me?
Go, because you frighten everyone,
you kill men and you force women.
Go, Eusebio, now you cannot hope
for the fruit of your crazed love.
Think, now, because it will cause you to recoil from me:
I am now consecrated.


The more you defend yourself
the more my appetite grows.
I have already scaled the walls of the convent;
I have already seen you;
it is not love that drives me now,
but a darker cause.
I will have my desire,
or I will say that you have called me here yourself,
that you have had me locked up in your cell
for many days, and that my
unhappiness has me desperate;
I’ll shout, and they will all know …


Wait, Eusebio, look, Oh God!
I hear footsteps coming,
the choir is crossing the hall.
Heaven, I do not know what you have in store for me.
Lock this cell door, and you stay behind here,
or one horror will follow another.


How powerful is my love!


How harsh is my fortune!

[Outside, the highwaymen wait with the ladder for EUSEBIO to climb down.]

It’s three o’clock now,
he’s been in there forever.


He who enjoys an adventure,
Ricardo, under cover of darkness,
does not hope the sun will rise soon.
I bet that tonight it will seem to him
that the sun never rose so quickly,
that today it hurried on its way to the dawn.
[ … ]

[They continue their banter about the sun seeming to rise too quickly for lovers.]

Leave me alone, woman.


When I am conquered by your desires,
moved by your sighs,
obliging your requests,
giving in to your tears,
and twice I have offended God,
as both my God and my holy spouse,
you abandon my arms,
without any hope, you disdain me,
without possession, you show contempt!
Where are you going?


Woman, what do you want?
Leave me, for I go fleeing from your arms,
because I have seen some god in them.
Flames fly from your eyes,
you breathe fire in your sighs,
a volcano with every one of your words,
a lightning bolt in every hair on your head.
Every word is my death,
every touch an inferno;
all these fears are brought to me by
the cross I have seen on your chest.
I have seen the sign that Heaven has given,
and I am reminded that although I offend my passion,
I will not disrespect the cross;
because if I allow it to witness
my crimes as I commit them,
how could I call upon it without shame
when I need it to come to my aid?
Stay here with your religion,
Julia, I do not despise you,
but more and more I adore you.


Listen, wait, Eusebio.


There is the ladder.


Wait, or take me with you.


I cannot, for without enjoying you
as I had so hoped I would tonight,
I must leave you.
Heaven save me! I’ve fallen.


What’s happened?


Do you not see the fireball
of burning lightning bolts?
Do you not see the bloody sky
that looms over me?
Where can I find safety,
if even Heaven is against me?
Divine cross, I promise you
and I make this solemn vow,
I make this contract with you,
that wherever I may see you,
I will kneel upon the ground
and pray a Hail Mary.

[Exit the highwaymen and EUEBIO, they leave the ladder behind, and in the following scene, JULIA deliberates and eventually climbs down in pursuit of EUSEBIO.]

The above sample taken from the translation Devotion to the Cross by Kathleen Jeffs (née Mountjoy) is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 25 February 2011.

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