from APOLLO’S WOMAN

CLYTEMNESTRA
Did Apollo not know who the boy was?

Cassandra shrugs.

CASSANDRA
I knew. Therefore he knew, one would suppose.
But what if he, like me, gets only glimpses?
Or does he see everything? Had he known all along?
Was he playing with me? Had he been playing with Paris?

CLYTEMNESTRA
With Paris? Then with Helen? Oh, you are mad!
Everything you say is tangled up, in riddles!

CASSANDRA
Am I? Listen. While Paris was yet a child,
concealed from the world, my father ordered that
I be inducted as a priestess. And since I was beautiful –
“the most beautiful of Priam’s daughters” – a prize –
and since my mother had been Apollo’s priestess
and Apollo known to be a god who loves
beauty in maidens almost as much as he loves
the beauty of boys, they decided to consecrate me,
like her, to Apollo. I spent the night locked
in his Temple. It was pitch black, and I still
hardly more than a child. I crouched in a corner,
hardly daring to breathe, for what seemed like
the whole night. Then he appeared. He had
the form of a young man bathed in moonlight.
He said he had been watching me, had watched
as I grew up; that I was like my mother only –
more so; and now, at last, I would be his.
He offered me gifts, one the gift of prophecy,
if I would agree to be his and his alone
for all time, even after he tired of me.
I said I must ask my father. He said no,
I must decide then and there, that night.
He sat and played upon his lyre. I slept.
Then woke and wept. He comforted, caressed me …
and as dawn broke, murmured, ‘Well, Cassandra?
Will you accept my gift?’ ‘Yes, my lord.’
He kissed my lips. His tongue touched my lips.
They parted. His tongue met mine, and suddenly
I saw – could see! I saw at once that I
would never be his! He saw it too, then,
and with a roar, rose up, towering golden above me,
a god now, not a man even in seeming.
He had believed me! How could he have believed me?
He seized me by my hair and held me up
before his face which shone now like the sun,
and went to kiss me again. Again my lips parted –
but this time, instead of kissing me,
he spat – spat into my mouth. And by
so doing transformed the gift into a curse.
I would foresee, but no one would believe.

CLYTEMNESTRA
Hm. Though it is true that Great Apollo
has little luck with women. I remember
the nymph Castalia fled from him and dived
into the river at Delphi where she drowned.

CASSANDRA
And Marpessa, who, offered the chance to choose,
chose Idas, and when Idas died, killed herself
rather than ever be Apollo’s.

CLYTEMNESTRA
And poor Daphne,
who preferred to be changed into a tree
rather than submit to his so smooth embrace –

CASSANDRA
Smooth, yes! Silky smooth. He has no hair
on his chin – no hair anywhere –

CLYTEMNESTRA
Save on his head, those flowing, golden locks.
But how do you know …? Did you perhaps do more
than simply kiss, ere you rejected him?

CASSANDRA
No! It was just that you could tell. You could!

CLYTEMNESTRA
Apollo is a man’s boy, a boy’s
man, as cold at heart towards women as
his sister is to men. And like her
you probably had – you still have – a certain
boyishness about you. It must infuriate him.

CASSANDRA
Oh, it did! Yet I did not reject him!
I simply knew that I would never be his,
that I would be Athena’s priestess, not his,
that it was all – pre-ordained – fated;
that Paris – yes! It was in that mind-searing moment
when time stopped that I first saw Paris,
knew that he lived!

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