Act 2

Summer night. A forest with a sheet of water in the foreground. Fox maidens stand in a half circle. Will-o'-the-wisps play about.

First Fox Maiden

The night is ripe,
Another fairy day is born;
Our torches are alight,
The will-o'-the-wisps aflame.

Fox Maidens

The night is ripe,
Another fairy day is born;
Our torches are alight,
The will-o'-the-wisps aflame.

First Fox Maiden

Like a soul ablaze
With love's hidden flame,
By frowns quenched, by smiles enkindled,
Flickers the fantastic fire.
In the mist fluttering,
On the lake wavering,
Burn, burn, O fairy light.

Fox Maidens

In the mist fluttering,
On the lake wavering,
Burn, burn, O fairy light.

First Fox Maiden

Swing to its measure,
Merry tinkles the brooklet's harp.

All  (dancing)

Gather the pearls
Which the dew has scattered;
Catch the skein
Of the firefly's golden flight;
String the pearls,
In our hair entwine
The garland of night.

Gather the pearls
Which the dew has scattered;
Catch the skein
Of the firefly's golden flight;
String the pearls,
Inour hair entwine
The garland of night.

First Fox Maiden

The moon has mounted
The jade stairs of the sky;
It is the hour the queen should wake.

Exit Fox Maidens. The moonlight brightens and discloses Kolha, the Fox Queen, reclining on a bank. A precipice and lake in the background.

Kolha

O moon,
Alone and white,
The stars have dissolved
To make a crystal night;
Light wanders in the shadows that were,
Shadows linger in the light to be;
O me,
White and alone,
The Fates have entrapped
Within a fox's form.
Sadness tempers the joys that were,
Joy crumbles in the sadness to be;
Lend me your purity, O moon;
Bathe my sinful soul with your rays benign;
For I must haste
To be Yasuna's bride.
In love's vain quest bewildered,
His wounds undressed, with fever raving,
Aimless he roams far and wide;
Unless I take Kuzunoha's shape
And quench the ravage of his scorching heart,
Soon shall his thread of life be broken.
Now may I requite
His kindly deed when he redeemed
My lowly self from a direful doom.
Lilies, jasmines, I ask your charms !
Clothe me in your winsome garb,
Like a lotus from mire arising,
Let me as Kuzunoha bloom.

Kolha gather the flowers and throws them on her body and stands transformed into Kuzunoha. Enter Yasuna staggering and grasping the torn sleeve of Kuzunoha. Kolha hides behind a tree.

Yasuna

I had a dream, a dream;
I was a dove and she my mate.
We cooed to the wind our secret joys.
In a leafy bower I fell asleep,
I woke alone and was a man.
Was it I who dreamt the dove ?
Was it the dove who dreamt the man ?
Awake and let me be the dove again.

Yasuna  (gazing on the flowers)

Iris serene,
In thee Kuzunoha, smiles;
Orchids sweet,
Thou art her breath.
Tell me, O daffodils,
Where has she gone ?
She is there !
She is here !
Here !   There !
Hither !   Whither !
Why allure me ?
Why elude me ?

Yasuna chases the fancied shape of Kuzunoha and falling exhausted by the pool, hangs her sleeve on a tree and drinks. Kolha takes the sleeve and reveals herself. Yasuna sees her image in the pool.

Yasuna

In the moonlit face
Of the placid pool,
What do I behold ?
Is it a phantasy
Of my longing soul ?

He starts up and again sees the reflection.

 

Away, away, false image;
Sink to thy level, rippling thought.
In my reason becalmed,
Vain delusion, I defy thee.

Kolha

In this world of semblance,
Who speaks so lightly of delusion ?

Yasuna

Voice transcendent,
Art thou real ?

Kolha

No more than thou !
Is not reality
But an illusion delayed ?

Yasuna

Sweet philosopher,
Entrancing reasoner,
In thee I embrace
My fugitive ideal.

Kolha

Rest thy weary head
On my tender breast;
Nevermore a parting
Shall we endure.
On yonder hillside,
Far from mortal ken,
A retreat I have found,
Where the sunlight laughs to the pines,
And the cascade gambols in glee.
There shall I tend thy wounds,
There shall we weave our life.
Love's shuttle on our loom gliding,
A tender pattern shall create.

Exit Yasuna guided by Kolha.
Enter Ackeimon and his soldiers gathering herbs.

Ackeimon

Floats a cloud on the azure void
Like a coy maiden poised in pride,
Its fleecy head tossing in disdain
Melting in tears before the blast.
Long have I held Kuzunoha captive.
Why must she spurn my suit,
Weeping at my very approach ?
In midnight forest I gather herbs
To brew a philtre which shall bend
Her wayward spirit to my will.

Enter Kolha and Fox Maidens.

Kolha  (to Fox Maidens)

Behold Ackeimon and his wicked train,
With goaded lust on heinous deeds intent.
Let us enthrall them in our wanton wiles.
Let them find their last carousal
In the blackest pool of snaky waters.

Fox Maidens

Set the trap, bait the snare,
Plume the arrows of your artful eyes;
Soon of our vengeance they shall taste;
Fairy powers were not given in vain.

Ackeimon spies Kolha.

Ackeimon

What !   Kuzunoha here !
From my hold escaping,
My trusty guard eluding,
How have you strayed ?
Your disdain but fans
The burning fuel of my passion.
Far though you fly
Never shall you overstep
The frontier of my keen desire.
Truce to this foolery,
Accept what is ordained.

Kolha makes a sign of refusal.

Kolha

Alas that man should knock
At love's portals with a mailed hand.
The woman's reserve, the maiden's pride,
Stand in revolt at that assault.
Try gentler means, Ackeimon,
And steal a heart not to be stormed.

Ackeimon

Teach me then, O Kuzunoha,
The royal road to win you.
With your schooling, a facile student,
Soon shall I master
Love's alphabet.
The mystic script of the eyes
Shall spell in smiles
And declaim in sighs.

Kolha

Presumptuous scholar,
Haughty pupil,
The book of love is sealed forever
To those who see not the unseen
And hear not the unheard.
Behold Nature's eternal sacrifice,
Giving, giving, asking no return.
Forget thyself in love's expanse,
Like a cloud melting in the sky.

Fox Maidens  (bringing viands and plying Ackeimon and his soldiers with wine)

Forget, forget,
In our joyous meeting,
Forget the present, forget the past;
Tomorrow a brighter sun we shall greet.

Soldiers

Forget, forget,
In our goblet foaming,
Forget the future, forget the past,
Tonight a bridal chain we shall forge.

Fox Maidens and soldiers in pairs dance away beyond the cliffs.

Fox Maidens and Soldiers

With our arms entwined,
With longing jubilant,
Sweeping the moonlight
With our garments flowing,
Whirl we along into eternity.

With our arms entwined,
With longing jubilant,
Sweeping the moonlight
With our garments flowing,
Whirl we along into eternity.

Ackeimon

They are mated
Like the wind and the willow.
The wind is caressing;
The willow is yielding.

Kolha

They are mated
Like the wind and the willow,
The wind is hurrying
To night's dark oblivion.

Ackeimon  (advancing toward Kolha, who recedes step by step and leads Ackeimon toward the precipice)

Oblivion of love,
I covet you.

Kolha

Why so impatient ?

Ackeimon

Why forever coy ?

Kolha on the brink of the precipice reveals herself as the Fox Queen.

Kolha

Wretch !

Ackeimon

Kolha !

Kolha  (making passes in the air)

Revenge !
Revenge !
Revenge !

Ackeimon falls over the precipice.

Curtain.