Callimachus (Roswitha, Lambert 1923)

For other English-language translations of this work, see Callimachus (Hrotsvitha).




A play by
The Nun of Gandersheim.


Translated from the original
Latin into English prose by
Richard S. Lambert,
and illustrated by
Agnes Lambert.


Printed at

Callimachus (Roswitha, Lambert 1923) Frontispiece.png


The text from which the following translation has been made is that of C. Mangin published at Paris in 1842.





Dramatis Personæ.


Callimachus, a young pagan gentleman.
Friends of Callimachus.
Drusiana, a young Christian lady.
Andronicus, husband of Drusiana.
Saint John the Apostle.
Fortunatus, a slave of Andronicus.
God, in the likeness of a young man.

Scene – Ephesus.
Time – The first century A. D.




A public place in Ephesus. A number of young men are together. They are joined by Callimachus, who addresses two of them.

CALLIMACHUS. I want a word or two with you, my friends, if you please.

FRIENDS. We are entirely at your service.

CALL. But if you have no objection, I would rather you stepped aside a moment from the others here.

FRIENDS. Very well. We are ready to go anywhere that suits you.

CALL. Then let us find some quieter spot where no one is likely to come upon us and interrupt our conversation.

FRIENDS. Just as you like.

(They move off together.)


A quiet corner in Ephesus. Callimachus with his friends.

CALLIMACHUS. For some time past I have had to endure an almost intolerable burden. I now hope to be able to lighten it by asking your advice.

FRIENDS. We have exchanged sympathies so often before now that we all feel a natural interest in one another's fortune, good and bad alike.

CALL. Ah, how I wish you could feel my trouble and sympathise with me!

FRIENDS. Well then, out with it! Tell us just what your trouble is. If it calls for sympathy, we will give it you; and if not, we will do our best to free your thoughts from their obsession.

CALL. I am in love.

FRIENDS. In love! With what?

CALL. The fairest of the fair.

FRIENDS (bantering him). That is not a logical answer. 'Fair' is neither unique nor universal. We cannot tell what is the particular object of your love.

CALL. Woman.

FRIENDS. Aha, but when you say 'woman', you are including them all!

CALL. No, not all equally, but one especially.

FRIENDS. That will not do either. You cannot label one alone, unless you specify which one. Come now, if you want us to admit the epithet 'fair', you must name the subject.

CALL. Drusiana.

FRIENDS. What? The wife of Prince Andronicus?

CALL. Exactly.

FRIENDS. My dear fellow, you are quite off the track. She has been baptised a Christian.

CALL. I care nothing for that, if I can only make her love me.

FRIENDS. That you will never accomplish.

CALL. And what reason have you for thinking so?

FRIENDS. Well, you have a hard task before you.

CALL. But I am not the first to undertake such a task, am I? Are there not plenty of previous examples to stimulate my courage?

FRIENDS. Look here, brother. The object of your passion is a follower of the teachings of Saint John the Apostle, She has vowed herself entirely to God, so much so that for some time past it has been impossible to induce her even to go back and live with Andronicus, although he too is a devoted Christian. How unlikely it is, then, that she will fall in with your absurd plans!

CALL. Well, I did expect some sort of comfort from you, but instead you drive me to despair.

FRIENDS. Pretence is only a form of deceit, and flattery a selling of the truth.

CALL. But as you deny me your assistance, I shall approach her myself directly, and win her affections by fair speech.

FRIENDS. You will not win her.

CALL. Then if so it will be a case of 'Since Fate forbids'-

FRIENDS. We shall see.


In Drusiana's lodging. Callimachus is admitted to see Drusiana.

CALLIMACHUS. What I have to say to you, Drusiana, comes from the bottom of my heart - it is a matter of Love!

DRUSIANA. Why, Callimachus, I am quite at a loss, wondering what you can want to talk about with me?

CALL. Do you really wonder?

DRUS. Yes, really.

CALL. First of all, then, I want to talk about love.

DRUS. Well, what about it?

CALL. Just this - that I love you above everything in the world.

DRUS. But why should you love me? Are we related? Is there any bond of law between us?

CALL. No. It is just your beauty.

DRUS. My beauty!

CALL. Yes, your beauty.

DRUS. What has that to do with you?

CALL. Little enough so far, I am sorry to say, but I trust that in future things may be different.

DRUS. (indignant). Leave me, quit my presence at once, you villain, you seducer! I am ashamed to be talking with you. I see you are full of Satan's guile!

CALL. My dear Drusiana, pray do not drive from your side one who is heart and soul in love with you, but try and return that love a little.

DRUS. I care not a rap for your coaxing. Your vile suggestions fill me with disgust, and I thoroughly despise you.

CALL. (angry). So far I have refrained from taking offence, because I felt that it might be only your modesty that hindered you from confessing the effects of my suit upon your feelings.

DRUS. It has no effect except to make me furious.

CALL. I fancy you will come to alter that opinion.

DRUS. You may be sure I shall not alter it.

CALL. Oh, I daresay!

DRUS. You silly infatuated boy, why do you deceive yourself? Why amuse yourself with these ridiculous hopes? Whatever reason, whatever mad whim rather, has led you to imagine that I should accept your frivolous attentions, when I have already for some time past withdrawn myself even from my lawful husband?

CALL. By heaven and earth, if you do not accept them, I will never rest till I have somehow caught you in my toils!

(He rushes out.)


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The same. Drusiana alone.

DRUSIANA. Oh, dear! O Lord Jesus Christ, what is the good of taking a vow of chastity, when a madman like that is deceived by my looks? O God, see how full of fear I am, see what anguish I am suffering! I cannot imagine what on earth I ought to do now. If I complain against him, then I shall be the means of stirring up a public scandal and strife: but if I keep it secret, I shall never be able, without Thy help, to avoid falling into these snares of the devil. O Christ, bid me now to die in Thee, that I may never bring ruin on this passionate young man! (She expires.)

(Andronicus comes in to her.)

ANDRONICUS. Heavens, what a disaster! Drusiana has suddenly fallen dead. I must run and fetch Saint John.

(He goes out.)


Somewhere outside Ephesus. Andronicus comes sadly to Saint John.

ST. JOHN. Why, Andronicus, why are you so downcast? What are you shedding tears for?

ANDRONICUS. Oh, sir, I am weary of my life!

ST. JOHN. But what is the matter?

AND. Drusiana, your disciple -

ST. JOHN. What? Has she departed this life?

AND. Alas, she has. (sobbing.)

ST JOHN (patting him on the back). Come, come - it is quite wrong to shed tears for those whose souls we believe are rejoicing in their heavenly rest.

AND. Though I have no doubt that, as you say, her soul is now enjoying eternal bliss, and that her body will some day rise again uncorrupted, yet I am still grievously tormented by one thought - and that is, that in my hearing she herself prayed for death, and so brought it nearer.

ST. JOHN. But have you any idea what the reason was?

AND. I have, and will reveal it to you, if ever I recover from my sorrow.

ST. JOHN. Well, come along, let us go and attend carefully to her funeral.

AND. There is close by here a marble tomb, in which she shall be buried. And I will give my steward Fortunatus instructions to keep watch over it.

ST. JOHN. That is right; she deserves honourable burial. May God rest her soul in joyfulness!


At Andronicus' house. Callimachus is talking with Fortunatus.

CALLIMACHUS. Ah, Fortunatus, whatever will come of it all? Just think, even now Drusiana is dead I cannot banish my love for her from my thoughts!

FORTUNATUS. A most unfortunate state of affairs!

CALL. It will be the death of me, if you do not come to my assistance.

FORT. But how can I assist you?

CALL. By finding a means to let me see her, dead though she is.

FORT. The body, I fancy, must be still quite fresh, for it was not wasted by lingering illness; but as you know it was nothing but a sharp touch of fever that carried her off.

CALL. How happy should I be, if I had never known it!

FORT. Well, if you will make it worth my while, I will give you the body to do as you like with.

CALL. Here, take all I have about me to go on with, and trust my word for it, you shall have far more later on.

FORT. Come quickly with me, then.

CALL. All right. I shall not be the one to hang back.


The marble tomb. The corpse of Drusiana wrapped in a winding-sheet. Fortunatus and Callimachus approach.

FORTUNATUS. There is the body. Why, it hardly looks like a corpse at all, and the limbs are not decaying! Well, now do what you like with her.

CALLIMACHUS (tenderly clasping the body). O Drusiana, my Drusiana, what heart's devotion have I lavished upon you! How truly have I loved you from the very depth of my soul! And yet you have always repulsed me, always denied my professions. Aha, but now I have the power to pay back those insults and to treat you as I please!

(Fortunatus is attacked by a large snake.)

FORT. Oh, look! A frightful snake is attacking us!

(Fortunatus is bitten and falls dead.)

CALL. (collapsing with fright). Ah! Fortunatus, why did you lead me into this trap? Why did you urge me on to this detestable act of villainy? There now, you will die of the snake's bite, and I too am dying....of sheer terror!

(Callimachus falls dead.)


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A road. St. John and Andronicus are walking together.

ST. JOHN. Come along, Andronicus, let us go up to Drusiana's tomb and say a prayer to Christ for her soul.

ANDRONICUS. Oh sir, it is just like your saintly nature not to forget one who put her trust in you.

(GOD appears in the likeness of a young man.)

ST. JOHN. Look there, invisible God is plainly appearing to us, in the likeness of a fair young man!

AND. (to the audience). Now, tremble!

ST. JOHN. O Lord Jesus, wherefore hast Thou deigned to show Thyself to Thy servants at this spot?

GOD. To the end that Drusiana and the young man who lies beside her tomb may rise again have I appeared, for in them shall My Name be glorified.

(GOD disappears.)

AND. Oh, how suddenly he went up again to heaven!

ST. JOHN. Yes, and that prevents my grasping the full meaning of it all.

AND. Well, let us quicken our step. Then, maybe, on our arrival the facts of the situation will explain what you say you cannot yet understand.

(They hurry on.)


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At the tomb. The corpses of Drusiana, Callimachus and Fortunatus. Enter St. John and Andronicus.

ST. JOHN. In Christ's name, what is this that I behold? Look there, the tomb is open, and Drusiana's body has been thrown out, whilst nearby lie two corpses gripped in the coils of a snake!

ANDRONICUS. I can guess what it means. This is that fellow Callimachus who pestered Drusiana, while she was alive, with his lawless love. It was because she was so upset by it that she fell into a melancholy fever and prayed for death to come -

ST. JOHN. What, did her love of chastity drive her to that?

AND. And then, after her death, this poor fool, worked up to a pitch of despair by worrying over his unlucky love and full of regrets that his ill deed had not been accomplished, went out of his wits - and that made him more inflamed with longing than before!

ST. JOHN. How deplorable!

AND. And I have no doubt that he bribed this scoundrel of a servant of mine to procure him an opportunity to commit this outrage.

ST. JOHN. What unheard-of villainy!

AND. And now, you see, they have both been struck dead, to prevent them carrying out their criminal design.

ST. JOHN. And they deserve it, too.

AND. But there is one thing which still very much surprises me, and that is, why the voice of God should foretell the restoration to life of the one who willed the evil deed rather than of the one who was but his accomplice: unless, maybe, it was because the former was seduced by the lust of the flesh and sinned through ignorance, whilst the latter sinned through sheer love of wrongdoing?

ST. JOHN. How scrupulously the Heavenly Judge looks into all our actions, and how fairly He weighs up every one of our merits in the balance, is a secret that no one will ever be able to unravel, for the acuteness of God's judgement far exceeds the wisdom of our human mind.

AND. That, I take it, is why we fail to appreciate those judgements. It is because we can never get a complete knowledge of the cause of any event.

ST. JOHN. Yes, too often the sequel alone can show us its real significance.

AND. But come now, blessed John, and do what you were sent to do. Restore Callimachus to life and so assist to solve this perplexing mystery.

ST. JOHN (dubiously). I fancy....the first thing to to scare away that calling on Christ's name. Afterwards I can go on to restore Callimachus.

AND. Quite right. Then he will be in no danger of getting a second bite.

ST. JOHN. Cruel monster, depart from this young man! He is marked for service to Christ.

(The snake retreats.)

AND. Well, the brute may be lacking in reason, but at any rate it is not deaf! It has obeyed your command.

ST. JOHN. It was Christ's authority, not mine, that made it give way.

AND. That must be why it disappeared so quickly - almost before you spoke.

ST. JOHN. O infinite and illimitable God, uncompounded and incalculable essence, Thou who alone art what Thou art, Thou who by joining two opposites in one canst from them create man, and yet again by severing them in sunder canst to his elements man disperse; command now that the breath return into this body, that this disordered frame be once more welded in one, and that Callimachus rise again a perfect man, as he was before - whereby Thou, who alone doest great marvels, mayest be glorified of all the world!

AND. Amen.. .But look! He lives! His breath is coming again! It is only stupefaction that keeps him still lying there.

ST. JOHN (taking Callimachus by the hand). Arise, Callimachus, in the name of Christ, and confess what has happened! Tell us any sins of which you may be guilty, in order that we may have before us nothing but the whole truth.

CALLIMACHUS. I cannot deny that I came here with the intention of committing a crime. For I was out of my wits with worry and misery and could not restrain the wave of lawless passion that came over me.

ST. JOHN. But what madness, what insane frenzy possessed you, that you dared to subject these pure remains to such shameful outrage?

CALL. It was partly my own folly, and partly the deceitful suggestions of this fellow Fortunatus.

ST. JOHN. And have you, in addition to these two disasters, brought upon your own head the third misery of having succeeded in accomplishing your wicked deed?

CALL. No, no. Although I was given the opportunity of wishing, I never had the chance to do anything.

ST. JOHN. What prevented you?

CALL. I had torn off the shroud and begun to revile the lifeless body with harsh words, when that wretch Fortunatus, who supplied the fuel and kindled the flame of my iniquity, was bitten by a poisonous snake and died.

AND. Oh, well done!

CALL. Next I saw appear a young man of forbidding countenance. He decently drew a covering over the exposed corpse, whose face glowed and sparkled with rays that lit up the whole tomb. One of these rays darted full on my face, and at the same moment I heard a voice crying:- 'Die now, Callimachus, to live again!' At those words I expired.

ST. JOHN. It was Heaven's grace at work, which delighteth not in the ruin of sinners.

CALL. Now you have heard the pitiful story of my ruin, do not any longer withold from me the balm of your compassion -

ST. JOHN. No. I will not.

CALL. For I feel altogether overwhelmed; my heart aches with remorse; I am full of trouble and inward groaning, and shed tears at the thought of my sacriligious act.

ST. JOHN. Richly you deserve it, too. Such a grievous sin needs no light repentance to cure it.

CALL. Oh, if I could only unbar the secret places of my soul, to let you see the bitter anguish I am suffering within. Then you would be sorry for my misery!

ST. JOHN. No, I rather rejoice to see it, because I am sure your grief is a healthy sign.

CALL. The very recollection of my past life disgusts me, and so does the thought of unhallowed pleasure -

ST. JOHN. There is no harm in that.

CALL. And I repent of my terrible lapse!

ST. JOHN. Well you may, too.

CALL. In such abhorrence do I hold my action that now I love my life no more, and take no pleasure in living, unless I can be reborn in Christ and changed into a better man.

ST. JOHN. I daresay Heaven's grace may yet manifest itself in you.

CALL. In that case please do not wait any longer, do not hesitate to strengthen the weary and raise up the sorrowful by words of comfort. And let it be by your encouragement and your authority that I am converted from heathenism to Christianity and from profligacy to chastity. Then under your guidance I may find the Way of Truth, and live according to the terms of God's promise.

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ST. JOHN. Blessed be the only-begotten Son of God, who hath verily been a partaker of our frailty, for it is He, my son Callimachus, who of His mercy doomed you to die, and by dooming you to die has made you live again, to the end that by this likeness of death He might deliver the work of His hands from spiritual destruction!

AND. What a paradox - it should give us all food for wonder!

ST. JOHN. O Christ, redeemer of the world and sacrifice for our sins, I know not in what terms of praise to glorify Thee sufficiently. I tremble at the very thought of Thy bounteous mercy and merciful patience - Thou who at one time cherishest the sinner with a father's forbearance, and at another compellest him to repentance by the merited harshness of his punishment!

AND. Praise be to His divine compassion!

ST. JOHN. Who could have dared to believe or presumed to hope that a man like this, caught in the very act of crime by death and by death snatched away, would by Thy pity be deemed worthy of being restored to life and brought to repentance? Blessed be Thy Holy Name throughout all ages - Thou who alone doest great marvels!

AND. There now, Saint John! Be quick and comfort me too. For my affection for Drusiana, my dear wife, will not let my mind rest till I see her too restored to life at the earliest possible moment.

ST. JOHN. Drusiana, may the Lord Jesus Christ bring you back to life!

(Drusiana revives.)

DRUSIANA. Praise and glory be to Thee, who hast made me to live once more!

CALL. Thanks be to the Author of all salvation, my dear Drusiana, who hath granted that you should rise again in joyfulness of spirit - you who ended your life in such bitter sorrow!

DRUS. Reverend Father John, it would be but in accord with your saintly character that, now you have restored Callimachus, who unlawfully loved me, you should also restore this slave, who, it appears, betrayed my body to him.

CALL. No, no, think how unworthy it would be of you, as Christ's apostle, to free from his death-bonds this scoundrel who deceived me, lured me on, and instigated me to commit that horrible crime!

ST. JOHN. But you ought not to grudge him the favour of God's mercy.

CALL. No, but a man proved guilty of the ruin of another does not deserve to be restored to life.

ST. JOHN. The law of our religion teaches us that a man must forgive his brother's trespass if he expects God to forgive his own -

AND. That is only fair.

ST. JOHN. For the only-begotten Son of God, the first-born of the Virgin, He who alone came into the world innocent, spotless, and without taint of original sin, actually found all mankind bowed down under the grievous weight of sin -

AND. It is true.

ST. JOHN. I suppose He could not find a single upright man, or a single man really deserving of mercy; and yet He despised no one. He shut no one out from the favour of His compassion; but He offered Himself on behalf of all, and laid down for us His own precious life.

AND. Yes, and if He had not been put to death without a cause, no one could rightfully have been saved from death.

ST. JOHN. So that is why He delights not in the destruction of men, because He remembers that they were redeemed by His precious blood.

AND. Thanks be to Him!

ST. JOHN. Very well, then, we must not grudge to others God's grace, which we feel abounding in ourselves through no merit of own.

CALL. Your rebuke makes me fearful.

ST. JOHN. Still, in order not to appear to oppose your wish, he shall be restored to life not by me but by Drusiana, for God has given her the grace to accomplish it.

DRUS. O Substance Divine, that alone art truly without material form, that hast created man in Thine own image, and hast breathed into Thy creation the breath of life - command now this material body of Fortunatus to grow warm and be made again into a living soul - that this our third resurrection may redound to Thy praise, O wondrous Trinity!

ST. JOHN. Amen.

DRUS. Wake up, Fortunatus, and at Christ's command break asunder the chains of death!

(Fortunatus sits up.)

FORTUNATUS. Who was that who took me by the hand, and lifted me up? Who was it called upon me to rise again?

ST. JOHN. It was Drusiana.

FORT. What! Has Drusiana restored me to life?

ST. JOHN. Indeed she has.

FORT. But was she not carried off some days ago by a sudden death?

ST. JOHN. Yes, but now, by Christ's help, she lives.

FORT. Then why does Callimachus here stand still with downcast eyes and meek expression? Why is he not carried away, as he used to be, with his passion for Drusiana?

ST. JOHN. Because he has been dissuaded from his wicked design, and has now become a true follower of Christ.

FORT. No, no!

ST. JOHN. Yes, yes.

FORT. (looking round). Well....if, as you maintain, it was Drusiana that restored me, while Callimachus actually believes in Christ..., why, then....I refuse my life, and deliberately choose death. For I would rather not exist at all than have to go on living in such an overwhelming atmosphere of grace and virtue!

(Fortunatus falls back.)

ST. JOHN. O what amazing and devilish jealousy! What spite on the part of the old Serpent, who long ago profered the cup of death to our forefathers and even to this day groans over the triumph of the righteous! This miserable Fortunatus, chock-full of the gall of Satan's venom, is like a rotten tree that brings forth bitter fruit. Therefore let him be cut off from the brotherhood of the righteous, and cast out from the society of those that fear God! Let him be consigned to the flames of everlasting punishment, there to be tormented without respite or refreshment!

AND. Look, look, the wounds made by the snake are all swelling up! He is collapsing again! Why, he will be dead before the word is out of my mouth!

ST. JOHN. Let him die, and dwell in hell. He deserves it for refusing his life simply through envy of another's good fortune.

AND. But what a dreadful business!

ST. JOHN. There is nothing more dreadful than envy, or more accursed than pride.

AND. No, both states are pitiable.

ST. JOHN. And the same person is always afflicted by both these vices together. Neither of them is found without the other.

AND. Please explain more clearly what you mean.

ST. JOHN. Well, anyone who is proud must be envious, and anyone who is envious must be proud. For the envious mind cannot bear to hear another praised. It seeks to depreciate those who are more virtuous than itself. At the same time it scorns to be thought unequal to its superiors, and proudly tries to appear superior to its equals.

AND. I understand.

ST. JOHN. That was why this wretched creature felt so cut to the heart - he could not endure to be thought worse than our two friends here. He simply could not see that God's grace was shining in them with fuller light.

AND. Now at last I realise why Fortunatus was not mentioned among those who were to be restored to life. It was because he was to die again so soon.

ST. JOHN. He certainly deserved to die twice over, once for outraging the corpse committed to his care, and again for insulting by his unreasonable behaviour those who had been restored to life.

AND. Anyhow, the poor wretch is dead.

ST. JOHN. Let us withdraw now, and leave the Devil to claim his own. As for us, in consideration of Callimachus' marvellous conversion and of this double resurrection, let us pass the day in rejoicing and giving thanks to God, that upright judge and most unerring witness of hidden things, who alone sifts every matter to its finest elements, decides every question for the best, and applies to each single individual the reward or punishment that He knows is deserved. To Him alone be honour, virtue, power and victory, praise and jubilation throughout all ages to eternity. Amen.




This edition is limited to 75 copies,
of which this is Number 52


Printed and sold by Richard Stanton Lambert and Elinor Lambert at their Stanton Press at 32 Chalfont Avenue, Wembley Hill, Middlesex.

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Finished on July 22nd, 1923.

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