(text by Manuel Mujica Láinez)


Scene I, “The Potion”

I, Pier Franceso Orsini, Duke of Bomarzo, sometimes called 'Vicino', on the last day of my life (of that life), left my castle, went through the park, until I reached a figure carved in the rock known as The Mouth of Hell. My astrologer, Silvio de Narni, carrying a luminous chalice, and Nicolas, son of my brother, Maerbale, came with me. I remember we heard a shepherd boy sing that he would not change places with the Duke because I went through life dragging in my hump the burden of my sins. I remember thinking that everything I had donde was worthless when compared to the peace of that innocent soul. I was given the chalice, and in it there shone the mysterious potion that would make me immortal. They left me there and, alone, I drank the potion. As I broke the goblet, I heard the voice of my beloved grandmother saying they had bertrayed me, and I was going to die. The shepherd boy appeared and I called to him, but I couldn't make myself heard, for I was writhing in pain. Then I saw pass before my eyes all the events of my strange life, not the important ones, the Court, Battles and Wars -but the events of my secret life which, like the hump on my back, encumbered my soul.

Scene II, “Pier Francesco's Childhood”

Thus, in the first scene I saw my brothers Girolamo and Maerbale, when they were children, playing in one of the rooms of the castle, amidst old clothes and jewelry that lay scattered about. They put on some of the strange costumes and wanted me to join them in their play, but I knew what they were like, I knew that, as always, they would try to tease me. I soon realized I was right when Girolamo, the eldest, the heir to the dukedom, ordered me to play the part of the buffoon of the Orsinis. I tried to resist, and they put a dunce cap on my head, but I didn't move. Angry at me, they thought up something worse. Girolamo decided that, since he was to be the Duke, I would be the Duchess of Bomarzo, and that Maerbale would marry us. They dressed me in an absurd female costume, but when my eldest brother tried to kiss me, I escaped. Suddenly, Girolamo fell upon me in fury, pricked my ear with a stiletto and pierced the lobe with an ear-ring that he picked up from the floor, saying that it was a present for the Duchess. My father heard my agonized cries, and came to the room, but instead of helping me, he insulted me. He said I was the disgrace of the family, and he called me an effeminate hunchback. My brothers ran away and then my father, in mocking anger, reminded me taht in a hidden room nearby there lived a mysterious being nobody had ever seen but whom everyone dreared, a being whom some thought a saint and ohters a demon. Opening a secret panel, he pushed me into the inner cell. Inside, I saw a reclining figure, a skeleton crowned with rose-like rags. Such was my horror that I fancied it moved, and I fainted. I know not whether I dreamt it, or if it really happened, but the skeleton stood up and started dancing, chasing me into the next room till it fell upon me and the candles went out.

Scene III, “The Horoscope”

I next found myself as a young man in my study with Silvio de Narni, the astrologer, who showed me my horoscope and told me that, due to the unusual distribution of the stars, he could predict an endless life for me. According to these signs, I would be immortal, and, consequently, the most glorious of the Orsinis. I argued that my father hated me and that he wouldn't let me outlive him, but Silvio answered that he could avoid that by means of a magic spell, adding that it was my grandmother's wish. When I heard this, I gave in, and Silvio de Narni wove a terrible incantation. As he was about to finish the diabolical invocation, we heard peacocks scream in the park which surprised us, as there were none in Bomarzo, and my grandmother appeared on the terrace, filled with premonition. A messenger announced that my father, the condottiere, was returning to Bomarzo and that he had been badly wounded. I realized that the astrologer's forecast was coming true.

Scene IV, “Pantasilea”

The Duke wouldn't see me, and sent me to Florence to a famous courtesan, Pantasilea, perhaps to make fun of me. The courtesan awaited me, thinking that the Orsinis were sending her a gallant prince, and she was naturally disappointed when she saw a hunchback enter her chamber, were she was singing to Love, which was King in Florence. I was attended by Abul, my slave, whom I loved dearly. I remember the terror I felt when I was left alone with Pantasilea in a room of mirrors peopled by my shameful image. My terror grew as Pantasilea redoubled her passionate requests. I fancied that the small monsters in the mirrors were mocking the afflicted visitor. I gave the voluptuous creature my sapphire necklace, and I asked her to let me go. Half in jest, half in earnest, she answered me that she would, but that she would give me a present in return. She led me to a cupboard, and I was revolted by its contents: skulls, bones, embalmed beasts and the dreadful liquids they used to fan the flame of failing love. I couldn't stand it, and I ran away, as the peacocks echoed the ominous cry I had heard in the castle.

Scene V, “By the Tiber”

Memory then took me to a place in Bomarzo, near the Tiber, were my grandmother Diana, inspired by the promise of immortality, told me, as she had often done, the story of the marvellous Orsinis, and assured me that I had nothing to fear, since I was protected by the ancestral She-bear. Suddenly I saw Girolamo on top of a rock. He was about to bathe in the river, and he laughed at the promise of my horoscope. He jeered at me, at my weakness, and as he stepped back, he lost his footing and fell into the river. He called out faintly for help but my grandmother wouldn't let me go to his assistance. I realized he had hit his head on a rock, and he was dying. My grandmother held out her arms: "Come, Duke of Bomarzo for ever".

Scene VI, “Pier Francesco Orsini, Duke of Bomarzo”

Soon after Girolamo's death, my father died, and I succeeded to the Dukedom. We held the traditional ceremony in the hall of the castle, where my grandmother introduced me to one of the guests, the beautiful Giulia Farnese. Lords and vassals marched in procession before me. To my annoyance, Giulia left the hall with my brother, Maerbale. I remained alone with Abul, and a hooded man approached, his face muffled, but I recognized -or thought to recognize- the ghost of my father. Diana was watching and she returned to give me courage, telling me again and again that I was the Duke now and that I should marry Giulia, an alliance by which we would all profit.

Scene VII, “Fiesta at Bomarzo”

The courtiers were dancing and I, isolated by my terrible fate, hardly managed to mumble the love that I felt for Bomarzo, my Bomarzo, for I am Bomarzo. I passed from one dream to another, and I had the impression Abul, the slave, Giulia Farnese and Pantasilea were dancing with me, trying to take possession of me. The masked dancers returned, and as they whirled away, the dream became a nightmare.

Scene VIII, “The Portrait by Lorenzo Lotto”

My reminiscence then showed me a strange scene. I was back from the Piccardy campaign, where I had fought with the French against Charles V, and I went to my study, my eyes eager for the image that so hauntingly fascinated me: my portrait, painted by Messer Lorenzo Lotto in Venice. I stopped before the portrait and told Abul that the artist had reflected in it the best of myself, showing me as a beautiful Roman prince. The slave withdrew and I noticed, by the portrait, a large mirror. I had bannished mirrors from Bomarzo, and yet in the clarity of its reflection I saw a version of my painful body in contrast with that in the lordly portrait. I realized I was both at the same time, and should I be made immortal, that immortality would be bestowed on both. But at that moment, from the depth of the mirror, there emerged the countenance of the Devil, as if invoked by the spirits of my father and of Girolamo. Blind with terror, I shattered the mirror with my helmet in a crisis of despair at my pathetic duality.


Scene IX, “Giulia Farnese”

The beautiful, the exquisite Giulia Farnese was a constant obsession with me. It is not strange then that she should come to my mind, and I saw her in her father's palace in Rome, the evening she sang delicately about the graces of courtly love. Maerbale was singing with her and I, hidden, interpolated phrases of bitterness. When Maerbale and Giulia were about to drink a glass or red wine, I could bear it no longer, and reaching for the cup, I involuntarily spilt the contents of the goblet on Giulia's dress. I divined in that purple stain a premonition of death.

Scene X, “The Bridal Chamber”

Giulia and I were married in Bomarzo with great pomp, and so the hopes of my grandmother and my own came true. After the ceremony, we retired to the bridal chamber which had benn specially decorated. I pointed out to Giulia the mosaics that in heraldic design combined the roses of the Orsinis and the lilies of the Farneses. Suddenly I saw among the designs, one that represented the face of the Devil, invisible to Giulia. I realized then that I would face a lifelong struggle with these infernal forces.

Scene XI, “The Dream”

I couldn't possess Giulia that night and sank into despair, made worse by a dream, in the midst of which I could discern the silhouettes of the future monsters of Bomarzo. The painted figures of the men and the women that people the Etruscan graves of Bomarzo came to life capturing Giulia and myself in their dances, offering me through imagination what reality had denied me.

Scene XII, “The Minotaur”

Like a madman, I left the chamber, and made my way along the corridor lined with the busts of the Roman emperors, until I came to the central sculpture, the Minotaur. I felt the proud Orsinis around me, surrounding me as the emperors surrounded the mythical beast, and on recognizing my fated brother in the dreadful image, the Minotaur, I kissed its marble lips. Bomarzo trembled with passion, yet I found solace only in that sweet brother.

Scene XIII, “Maerbale”

The years went by, accompanied by a train of misfortunes, and I couldn't erase from my feverish mind a suspicion that Giulia and Maerbale were deceiving me. To ascertain whether it was true, I induced Silvio de Narni, my astrologer, to bring the suspected lovers together. I hid among the trees, and when Maerbale passed by, Silvio convinced him that Giulia was awaiting him on the loggia. I didn't realize that Nicola Orsini, my brother's son, was also watching the scene from among the trees. They kissed, and I immediately ordered Abul to entice my brother into the park. Nicola, sensing the danger, warned his father to escape. Urged on by me, the slave pursued him with his naked dagger. Thus Maerbale met his end.

Scene XIV, “The Alchemy”

Silvio de Narni, astrologer and alchemist, devoted all those years to search in his laboratory in the vaults of the castle for the formula that would win eternity for me, and at last he found it. I had already accomplished the tremendous task of transforming the rocks in the park into gigantic monsters. It was my "Sacred Wood". Those shapes -the Elephant, Neptune, the Turtle, the Battling of the Giants, the Dragon and the Dogs, the Two-faced Janus, the enormous Nymph, the Mouth of Hell- symbolized the episodes of my puzzling existence. Around us, in Silvio's laboratory, were the many colored statues of the famous alchemists, from Hermes Trimegistus and Apollonius to Alexander the Great, and while the sorcerer prepared the supreme concoction in his still, it seemed to me that those horrible shapes danced like furies around him, helping him to prepare the potion. I didn't realize that Nicola, who was constantly following me, was watching us. He had sworn to revenge his father.

Scene XV, “The Park of the Monsters”

And now, for Nicola Orsini mixed the potion of immortality with poison, I know I am going to die. The monsters of Bomarzo keep watch by the Duke whose life is dying away. I will not die! I can't die! I must be here forever! Don't let me go blessed ones, saints and popes of the Orsinis! Bear of the Orsinis, don't let me go! For I am the blood of these beloved rocks, and the blood that I shed for love is their life-blood. My eyes are closing. Where, if not here, could I be immortal? The shepherd boy has returned and he kisses my forehead. That kiss means forgiveness. Bomarzo forgives me. My heart is not beating and yet I stand up and go, with open arms, towards my monsters -my immortality. Some day a dreamer will come here and will remember all this. With him I will be here and forever, because he who remembers hasn't died.



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