走れメロス 太宰治 Run, Melos! 英和対照


走れメロス 原文

太宰治

 メロスは激怒した。必ず、かの邪智暴虐じゃちぼうぎゃくの王を除かなければならぬと決意した。メロスには政治がわからぬ。メロスは、村の牧人である。笛を吹き、羊と遊んで暮して来た。けれども邪悪に対しては、人一倍に敏感であった。きょう未明メロスは村を出発し、野を越え山越え、十里はなれた此このシラクスの市にやって来た。メロスには父も、母も無い。女房も無い。十六の、内気な妹と二人暮しだ。この妹は、村の或る律気な一牧人を、近々、花婿はなむことして迎える事になっていた。結婚式も間近かなのである。メロスは、それゆえ、花嫁の衣裳やら祝宴の御馳走やらを買いに、はるばる市にやって来たのだ。先ず、その品々を買い集め、それから都の大路をぶらぶら歩いた。メロスには竹馬の友があった。セリヌンティウスである。今は此のシラクスの市で、石工をしている。その友を、これから訪ねてみるつもりなのだ。久しく逢わなかったのだから、訪ねて行くのが楽しみである。歩いているうちにメロスは、まちの様子を怪しく思った。ひっそりしている。もう既に日も落ちて、まちの暗いのは当りまえだが、けれども、なんだか、夜のせいばかりでは無く、市全体が、やけに寂しい。のんきなメロスも、だんだん不安になって来た。路で逢った若い衆をつかまえて、何かあったのか、二年まえに此の市に来たときは、夜でも皆が歌をうたって、まちは賑やかであった筈はずだが、と質問した。若い衆は、首を振って答えなかった。しばらく歩いて老爺ろうやに逢い、こんどはもっと、語勢を強くして質問した。老爺は答えなかった。メロスは両手で老爺のからだをゆすぶって質問を重ねた。老爺は、あたりをはばかる低声で、わずか答えた。
「王様は、人を殺します。」
「なぜ殺すのだ。」
「悪心を抱いている、というのですが、誰もそんな、悪心を持っては居りませぬ。」
「たくさんの人を殺したのか。」
「はい、はじめは王様の妹婿さまを。それから、御自身のお世嗣よつぎを。それから、妹さまを。それから、妹さまの御子さまを。それから、皇后さまを。それから、賢臣のアレキス様を。」
「おどろいた。国王は乱心か。」
「いいえ、乱心ではございませぬ。人を、信ずる事が出来ぬ、というのです。このごろは、臣下の心をも、お疑いになり、少しく派手な暮しをしている者には、人質ひとりずつ差し出すことを命じて居ります。御命令を拒めば十字架にかけられて、殺されます。きょうは、六人殺されました。」
 聞いて、メロスは激怒した。「呆あきれた王だ。生かして置けぬ。」
 メロスは、単純な男であった。買い物を、背負ったままで、のそのそ王城にはいって行った。たちまち彼は、巡邏じゅんらの警吏に捕縛された。調べられて、メロスの懐中からは短剣が出て来たので、騒ぎが大きくなってしまった。メロスは、王の前に引き出された。
「この短刀で何をするつもりであったか。言え!」暴君ディオニスは静かに、けれども威厳を以もって問いつめた。その王の顔は蒼白そうはくで、眉間みけんの皺しわは、刻み込まれたように深かった。
「市を暴君の手から救うのだ。」とメロスは悪びれずに答えた。
「おまえがか?」王は、憫笑びんしょうした。「仕方の無いやつじゃ。おまえには、わしの孤独がわからぬ。」
「言うな!」とメロスは、いきり立って反駁はんばくした。「人の心を疑うのは、最も恥ずべき悪徳だ。王は、民の忠誠をさえ疑って居られる。」
「疑うのが、正当の心構えなのだと、わしに教えてくれたのは、おまえたちだ。人の心は、あてにならない。人間は、もともと私慾のかたまりさ。信じては、ならぬ。」暴君は落着いて呟つぶやき、ほっと溜息ためいきをついた。「わしだって、平和を望んでいるのだが。」
「なんの為の平和だ。自分の地位を守る為か。」こんどはメロスが嘲笑した。「罪の無い人を殺して、何が平和だ。」
「だまれ、下賤げせんの者。」王は、さっと顔を挙げて報いた。「口では、どんな清らかな事でも言える。わしには、人の腹綿の奥底が見え透いてならぬ。おまえだって、いまに、磔はりつけになってから、泣いて詫わびたって聞かぬぞ。」
「ああ、王は悧巧りこうだ。自惚うぬぼれているがよい。私は、ちゃんと死ぬる覚悟で居るのに。命乞いなど決してしない。ただ、――」と言いかけて、メロスは足もとに視線を落し瞬時ためらい、「ただ、私に情をかけたいつもりなら、処刑までに三日間の日限を与えて下さい。たった一人の妹に、亭主を持たせてやりたいのです。三日のうちに、私は村で結婚式を挙げさせ、必ず、ここへ帰って来ます。」
「ばかな。」と暴君は、嗄しわがれた声で低く笑った。「とんでもない嘘うそを言うわい。逃がした小鳥が帰って来るというのか。」
「そうです。帰って来るのです。」メロスは必死で言い張った。「私は約束を守ります。私を、三日間だけ許して下さい。妹が、私の帰りを待っているのだ。そんなに私を信じられないならば、よろしい、この市にセリヌンティウスという石工がいます。私の無二の友人だ。あれを、人質としてここに置いて行こう。私が逃げてしまって、三日目の日暮まで、ここに帰って来なかったら、あの友人を絞め殺して下さい。たのむ、そうして下さい。」
 それを聞いて王は、残虐な気持で、そっと北叟笑ほくそえんだ。生意気なことを言うわい。どうせ帰って来ないにきまっている。この嘘つきに騙だまされた振りして、放してやるのも面白い。そうして身代りの男を、三日目に殺してやるのも気味がいい。人は、これだから信じられぬと、わしは悲しい顔して、その身代りの男を磔刑に処してやるのだ。世の中の、正直者とかいう奴輩やつばらにうんと見せつけてやりたいものさ。
「願いを、聞いた。その身代りを呼ぶがよい。三日目には日没までに帰って来い。おくれたら、その身代りを、きっと殺すぞ。ちょっとおくれて来るがいい。おまえの罪は、永遠にゆるしてやろうぞ。」
「なに、何をおっしゃる。」
「はは。いのちが大事だったら、おくれて来い。おまえの心は、わかっているぞ。」
 メロスは口惜しく、地団駄じだんだ踏んだ。ものも言いたくなくなった。
 竹馬の友、セリヌンティウスは、深夜、王城に召された。暴君ディオニスの面前で、佳よき友と佳き友は、二年ぶりで相逢うた。メロスは、友に一切の事情を語った。セリヌンティウスは無言で首肯うなずき、メロスをひしと抱きしめた。友と友の間は、それでよかった。セリヌンティウスは、縄打たれた。メロスは、すぐに出発した。初夏、満天の星である。
 メロスはその夜、一睡もせず十里の路を急ぎに急いで、村へ到着したのは、翌あくる日の午前、陽は既に高く昇って、村人たちは野に出て仕事をはじめていた。メロスの十六の妹も、きょうは兄の代りに羊群の番をしていた。よろめいて歩いて来る兄の、疲労困憊こんぱいの姿を見つけて驚いた。そうして、うるさく兄に質問を浴びせた。
「なんでも無い。」メロスは無理に笑おうと努めた。「市に用事を残して来た。またすぐ市に行かなければならぬ。あす、おまえの結婚式を挙げる。早いほうがよかろう。」
 妹は頬をあからめた。
「うれしいか。綺麗きれいな衣裳も買って来た。さあ、これから行って、村の人たちに知らせて来い。結婚式は、あすだと。」
 メロスは、また、よろよろと歩き出し、家へ帰って神々の祭壇を飾り、祝宴の席を調え、間もなく床に倒れ伏し、呼吸もせぬくらいの深い眠りに落ちてしまった。
 眼が覚めたのは夜だった。メロスは起きてすぐ、花婿の家を訪れた。そうして、少し事情があるから、結婚式を明日にしてくれ、と頼んだ。婿の牧人は驚き、それはいけない、こちらには未だ何の仕度も出来ていない、葡萄ぶどうの季節まで待ってくれ、と答えた。メロスは、待つことは出来ぬ、どうか明日にしてくれ給え、と更に押してたのんだ。婿の牧人も頑強であった。なかなか承諾してくれない。夜明けまで議論をつづけて、やっと、どうにか婿をなだめ、すかして、説き伏せた。結婚式は、真昼に行われた。新郎新婦の、神々への宣誓が済んだころ、黒雲が空を覆い、ぽつりぽつり雨が降り出し、やがて車軸を流すような大雨となった。祝宴に列席していた村人たちは、何か不吉なものを感じたが、それでも、めいめい気持を引きたて、狭い家の中で、むんむん蒸し暑いのも怺こらえ、陽気に歌をうたい、手を拍うった。メロスも、満面に喜色を湛たたえ、しばらくは、王とのあの約束をさえ忘れていた。祝宴は、夜に入っていよいよ乱れ華やかになり、人々は、外の豪雨を全く気にしなくなった。メロスは、一生このままここにいたい、と思った。この佳い人たちと生涯暮して行きたいと願ったが、いまは、自分のからだで、自分のものでは無い。ままならぬ事である。メロスは、わが身に鞭打ち、ついに出発を決意した。あすの日没までには、まだ十分の時が在る。ちょっと一眠りして、それからすぐに出発しよう、と考えた。その頃には、雨も小降りになっていよう。少しでも永くこの家に愚図愚図とどまっていたかった。メロスほどの男にも、やはり未練の情というものは在る。今宵呆然、歓喜に酔っているらしい花嫁に近寄り、
「おめでとう。私は疲れてしまったから、ちょっとご免こうむって眠りたい。眼が覚めたら、すぐに市に出かける。大切な用事があるのだ。私がいなくても、もうおまえには優しい亭主があるのだから、決して寂しい事は無い。おまえの兄の、一ばんきらいなものは、人を疑う事と、それから、嘘をつく事だ。おまえも、それは、知っているね。亭主との間に、どんな秘密でも作ってはならぬ。おまえに言いたいのは、それだけだ。おまえの兄は、たぶん偉い男なのだから、おまえもその誇りを持っていろ。」
 花嫁は、夢見心地で首肯うなずいた。メロスは、それから花婿の肩をたたいて、
「仕度の無いのはお互さまさ。私の家にも、宝といっては、妹と羊だけだ。他には、何も無い。全部あげよう。もう一つ、メロスの弟になったことを誇ってくれ。」
 花婿は揉もみ手して、てれていた。メロスは笑って村人たちにも会釈えしゃくして、宴席から立ち去り、羊小屋にもぐり込んで、死んだように深く眠った。
 眼が覚めたのは翌る日の薄明の頃である。メロスは跳ね起き、南無三、寝過したか、いや、まだまだ大丈夫、これからすぐに出発すれば、約束の刻限までには十分間に合う。きょうは是非とも、あの王に、人の信実の存するところを見せてやろう。そうして笑って磔の台に上ってやる。メロスは、悠々と身仕度をはじめた。雨も、いくぶん小降りになっている様子である。身仕度は出来た。さて、メロスは、ぶるんと両腕を大きく振って、雨中、矢の如く走り出た。
 私は、今宵、殺される。殺される為に走るのだ。身代りの友を救う為に走るのだ。王の奸佞かんねい邪智を打ち破る為に走るのだ。走らなければならぬ。そうして、私は殺される。若い時から名誉を守れ。さらば、ふるさと。若いメロスは、つらかった。幾度か、立ちどまりそうになった。えい、えいと大声挙げて自身を叱りながら走った。村を出て、野を横切り、森をくぐり抜け、隣村に着いた頃には、雨も止やみ、日は高く昇って、そろそろ暑くなって来た。メロスは額ひたいの汗をこぶしで払い、ここまで来れば大丈夫、もはや故郷への未練は無い。妹たちは、きっと佳い夫婦になるだろう。私には、いま、なんの気がかりも無い筈だ。まっすぐに王城に行き着けば、それでよいのだ。そんなに急ぐ必要も無い。ゆっくり歩こう、と持ちまえの呑気のんきさを取り返し、好きな小歌をいい声で歌い出した。ぶらぶら歩いて二里行き三里行き、そろそろ全里程の半ばに到達した頃、降って湧わいた災難、メロスの足は、はたと、とまった。見よ、前方の川を。きのうの豪雨で山の水源地は氾濫はんらんし、濁流滔々とうとうと下流に集り、猛勢一挙に橋を破壊し、どうどうと響きをあげる激流が、木葉微塵こっぱみじんに橋桁はしげたを跳ね飛ばしていた。彼は茫然と、立ちすくんだ。あちこちと眺めまわし、また、声を限りに呼びたててみたが、繋舟けいしゅうは残らず浪に浚さらわれて影なく、渡守りの姿も見えない。流れはいよいよ、ふくれ上り、海のようになっている。メロスは川岸にうずくまり、男泣きに泣きながらゼウスに手を挙げて哀願した。「ああ、鎮しずめたまえ、荒れ狂う流れを! 時は刻々に過ぎて行きます。太陽も既に真昼時です。あれが沈んでしまわぬうちに、王城に行き着くことが出来なかったら、あの佳い友達が、私のために死ぬのです。」
 濁流は、メロスの叫びをせせら笑う如く、ますます激しく躍り狂う。浪は浪を呑み、捲き、煽あおり立て、そうして時は、刻一刻と消えて行く。今はメロスも覚悟した。泳ぎ切るより他に無い。ああ、神々も照覧あれ! 濁流にも負けぬ愛と誠の偉大な力を、いまこそ発揮して見せる。メロスは、ざんぶと流れに飛び込み、百匹の大蛇のようにのた打ち荒れ狂う浪を相手に、必死の闘争を開始した。満身の力を腕にこめて、押し寄せ渦巻き引きずる流れを、なんのこれしきと掻かきわけ掻きわけ、めくらめっぽう獅子奮迅の人の子の姿には、神も哀れと思ったか、ついに憐愍れんびんを垂れてくれた。押し流されつつも、見事、対岸の樹木の幹に、すがりつく事が出来たのである。ありがたい。メロスは馬のように大きな胴震いを一つして、すぐにまた先きを急いだ。一刻といえども、むだには出来ない。陽は既に西に傾きかけている。ぜいぜい荒い呼吸をしながら峠をのぼり、のぼり切って、ほっとした時、突然、目の前に一隊の山賊が躍り出た。
「待て。」
「何をするのだ。私は陽の沈まぬうちに王城へ行かなければならぬ。放せ。」
「どっこい放さぬ。持ちもの全部を置いて行け。」
「私にはいのちの他には何も無い。その、たった一つの命も、これから王にくれてやるのだ。」
「その、いのちが欲しいのだ。」
「さては、王の命令で、ここで私を待ち伏せしていたのだな。」
 山賊たちは、ものも言わず一斉に棍棒こんぼうを振り挙げた。メロスはひょいと、からだを折り曲げ、飛鳥の如く身近かの一人に襲いかかり、その棍棒を奪い取って、
「気の毒だが正義のためだ!」と猛然一撃、たちまち、三人を殴り倒し、残る者のひるむ隙すきに、さっさと走って峠を下った。一気に峠を駈け降りたが、流石さすがに疲労し、折から午後の灼熱しゃくねつの太陽がまともに、かっと照って来て、メロスは幾度となく眩暈めまいを感じ、これではならぬ、と気を取り直しては、よろよろ二、三歩あるいて、ついに、がくりと膝を折った。立ち上る事が出来ぬのだ。天を仰いで、くやし泣きに泣き出した。ああ、あ、濁流を泳ぎ切り、山賊を三人も撃ち倒し韋駄天いだてん、ここまで突破して来たメロスよ。真の勇者、メロスよ。今、ここで、疲れ切って動けなくなるとは情無い。愛する友は、おまえを信じたばかりに、やがて殺されなければならぬ。おまえは、稀代きたいの不信の人間、まさしく王の思う壺つぼだぞ、と自分を叱ってみるのだが、全身萎なえて、もはや芋虫いもむしほどにも前進かなわぬ。路傍の草原にごろりと寝ころがった。身体疲労すれば、精神も共にやられる。もう、どうでもいいという、勇者に不似合いな不貞腐ふてくされた根性が、心の隅に巣喰った。私は、これほど努力したのだ。約束を破る心は、みじんも無かった。神も照覧、私は精一ぱいに努めて来たのだ。動けなくなるまで走って来たのだ。私は不信の徒では無い。ああ、できる事なら私の胸を截たち割って、真紅の心臓をお目に掛けたい。愛と信実の血液だけで動いているこの心臓を見せてやりたい。けれども私は、この大事な時に、精も根も尽きたのだ。私は、よくよく不幸な男だ。私は、きっと笑われる。私の一家も笑われる。私は友を欺あざむいた。中途で倒れるのは、はじめから何もしないのと同じ事だ。ああ、もう、どうでもいい。これが、私の定った運命なのかも知れない。セリヌンティウスよ、ゆるしてくれ。君は、いつでも私を信じた。私も君を、欺かなかった。私たちは、本当に佳い友と友であったのだ。いちどだって、暗い疑惑の雲を、お互い胸に宿したことは無かった。いまだって、君は私を無心に待っているだろう。ああ、待っているだろう。ありがとう、セリヌンティウス。よくも私を信じてくれた。それを思えば、たまらない。友と友の間の信実は、この世で一ばん誇るべき宝なのだからな。セリヌンティウス、私は走ったのだ。君を欺くつもりは、みじんも無かった。信じてくれ! 私は急ぎに急いでここまで来たのだ。濁流を突破した。山賊の囲みからも、するりと抜けて一気に峠を駈け降りて来たのだ。私だから、出来たのだよ。ああ、この上、私に望み給うな。放って置いてくれ。どうでも、いいのだ。私は負けたのだ。だらしが無い。笑ってくれ。王は私に、ちょっとおくれて来い、と耳打ちした。おくれたら、身代りを殺して、私を助けてくれると約束した。私は王の卑劣を憎んだ。けれども、今になってみると、私は王の言うままになっている。私は、おくれて行くだろう。王は、ひとり合点して私を笑い、そうして事も無く私を放免するだろう。そうなったら、私は、死ぬよりつらい。私は、永遠に裏切者だ。地上で最も、不名誉の人種だ。セリヌンティウスよ、私も死ぬぞ。君と一緒に死なせてくれ。君だけは私を信じてくれるにちがい無い。いや、それも私の、ひとりよがりか? ああ、もういっそ、悪徳者として生き伸びてやろうか。村には私の家が在る。羊も居る。妹夫婦は、まさか私を村から追い出すような事はしないだろう。正義だの、信実だの、愛だの、考えてみれば、くだらない。人を殺して自分が生きる。それが人間世界の定法ではなかったか。ああ、何もかも、ばかばかしい。私は、醜い裏切り者だ。どうとも、勝手にするがよい。やんぬる哉かな。――四肢を投げ出して、うとうと、まどろんでしまった。
 ふと耳に、潺々せんせん、水の流れる音が聞えた。そっと頭をもたげ、息を呑んで耳をすました。すぐ足もとで、水が流れているらしい。よろよろ起き上って、見ると、岩の裂目から滾々こんこんと、何か小さく囁ささやきながら清水が湧き出ているのである。その泉に吸い込まれるようにメロスは身をかがめた。水を両手で掬すくって、一くち飲んだ。ほうと長い溜息が出て、夢から覚めたような気がした。歩ける。行こう。肉体の疲労恢復かいふくと共に、わずかながら希望が生れた。義務遂行の希望である。わが身を殺して、名誉を守る希望である。斜陽は赤い光を、樹々の葉に投じ、葉も枝も燃えるばかりに輝いている。日没までには、まだ間がある。私を、待っている人があるのだ。少しも疑わず、静かに期待してくれている人があるのだ。私は、信じられている。私の命なぞは、問題ではない。死んでお詫び、などと気のいい事は言って居られぬ。私は、信頼に報いなければならぬ。いまはただその一事だ。走れ! メロス。
 私は信頼されている。私は信頼されている。先刻の、あの悪魔の囁きは、あれは夢だ。悪い夢だ。忘れてしまえ。五臓が疲れているときは、ふいとあんな悪い夢を見るものだ。メロス、おまえの恥ではない。やはり、おまえは真の勇者だ。再び立って走れるようになったではないか。ありがたい! 私は、正義の士として死ぬ事が出来るぞ。ああ、陽が沈む。ずんずん沈む。待ってくれ、ゼウスよ。私は生れた時から正直な男であった。正直な男のままにして死なせて下さい。
 路行く人を押しのけ、跳はねとばし、メロスは黒い風のように走った。野原で酒宴の、その宴席のまっただ中を駈け抜け、酒宴の人たちを仰天させ、犬を蹴けとばし、小川を飛び越え、少しずつ沈んでゆく太陽の、十倍も早く走った。一団の旅人と颯さっとすれちがった瞬間、不吉な会話を小耳にはさんだ。「いまごろは、あの男も、磔にかかっているよ。」ああ、その男、その男のために私は、いまこんなに走っているのだ。その男を死なせてはならない。急げ、メロス。おくれてはならぬ。愛と誠の力を、いまこそ知らせてやるがよい。風態なんかは、どうでもいい。メロスは、いまは、ほとんど全裸体であった。呼吸も出来ず、二度、三度、口から血が噴き出た。見える。はるか向うに小さく、シラクスの市の塔楼が見える。塔楼は、夕陽を受けてきらきら光っている。
「ああ、メロス様。」うめくような声が、風と共に聞えた。
「誰だ。」メロスは走りながら尋ねた。
「フィロストラトスでございます。貴方のお友達セリヌンティウス様の弟子でございます。」その若い石工も、メロスの後について走りながら叫んだ。「もう、駄目でございます。むだでございます。走るのは、やめて下さい。もう、あの方かたをお助けになることは出来ません。」
「いや、まだ陽は沈まぬ。」
「ちょうど今、あの方が死刑になるところです。ああ、あなたは遅かった。おうらみ申します。ほんの少し、もうちょっとでも、早かったなら!」
「いや、まだ陽は沈まぬ。」メロスは胸の張り裂ける思いで、赤く大きい夕陽ばかりを見つめていた。走るより他は無い。
「やめて下さい。走るのは、やめて下さい。いまはご自分のお命が大事です。あの方は、あなたを信じて居りました。刑場に引き出されても、平気でいました。王様が、さんざんあの方をからかっても、メロスは来ます、とだけ答え、強い信念を持ちつづけている様子でございました。」
「それだから、走るのだ。信じられているから走るのだ。間に合う、間に合わぬは問題でないのだ。人の命も問題でないのだ。私は、なんだか、もっと恐ろしく大きいものの為に走っているのだ。ついて来い! フィロストラトス。」
「ああ、あなたは気が狂ったか。それでは、うんと走るがいい。ひょっとしたら、間に合わぬものでもない。走るがいい。」
 言うにや及ぶ。まだ陽は沈まぬ。最後の死力を尽して、メロスは走った。メロスの頭は、からっぽだ。何一つ考えていない。ただ、わけのわからぬ大きな力にひきずられて走った。陽は、ゆらゆら地平線に没し、まさに最後の一片の残光も、消えようとした時、メロスは疾風の如く刑場に突入した。間に合った。
「待て。その人を殺してはならぬ。メロスが帰って来た。約束のとおり、いま、帰って来た。」と大声で刑場の群衆にむかって叫んだつもりであったが、喉のどがつぶれて嗄しわがれた声が幽かすかに出たばかり、群衆は、ひとりとして彼の到着に気がつかない。すでに磔の柱が高々と立てられ、縄を打たれたセリヌンティウスは、徐々に釣り上げられてゆく。メロスはそれを目撃して最後の勇、先刻、濁流を泳いだように群衆を掻きわけ、掻きわけ、
「私だ、刑吏! 殺されるのは、私だ。メロスだ。彼を人質にした私は、ここにいる!」と、かすれた声で精一ぱいに叫びながら、ついに磔台に昇り、釣り上げられてゆく友の両足に、齧かじりついた。群衆は、どよめいた。あっぱれ。ゆるせ、と口々にわめいた。セリヌンティウスの縄は、ほどかれたのである。
「セリヌンティウス。」メロスは眼に涙を浮べて言った。「私を殴れ。ちから一ぱいに頬を殴れ。私は、途中で一度、悪い夢を見た。君が若もし私を殴ってくれなかったら、私は君と抱擁する資格さえ無いのだ。殴れ。」
 セリヌンティウスは、すべてを察した様子で首肯うなずき、刑場一ぱいに鳴り響くほど音高くメロスの右頬を殴った。殴ってから優しく微笑ほほえみ、
「メロス、私を殴れ。同じくらい音高く私の頬を殴れ。私はこの三日の間、たった一度だけ、ちらと君を疑った。生れて、はじめて君を疑った。君が私を殴ってくれなければ、私は君と抱擁できない。」
 メロスは腕に唸うなりをつけてセリヌンティウスの頬を殴った。
「ありがとう、友よ。」二人同時に言い、ひしと抱き合い、それから嬉し泣きにおいおい声を放って泣いた。
 群衆の中からも、歔欷きょきの声が聞えた。暴君ディオニスは、群衆の背後から二人の様を、まじまじと見つめていたが、やがて静かに二人に近づき、顔をあからめて、こう言った。
「おまえらの望みは叶かなったぞ。おまえらは、わしの心に勝ったのだ。信実とは、決して空虚な妄想ではなかった。どうか、わしをも仲間に入れてくれまいか。どうか、わしの願いを聞き入れて、おまえらの仲間の一人にしてほしい。」
 どっと群衆の間に、歓声が起った。
「万歳、王様万歳。」
 ひとりの少女が、緋ひのマントをメロスに捧げた。メロスは、まごついた。佳き友は、気をきかせて教えてやった。
「メロス、君は、まっぱだかじゃないか。早くそのマントを着るがいい。この可愛い娘さんは、メロスの裸体を、皆に見られるのが、たまらなく口惜しいのだ。」
 勇者は、ひどく赤面した。

RUN, MELOS! English
BY OSAMU DAZAI

eigaenglish.com

Melos was enraged. He resolved to do whatever he must to rid the land of that evil and ruthless king. Melos knew nothing of politics. He was a mere shepherd from an outlying village who spent his days playing his flute and watching over his sheep. But Melos was a man who felt the sting of injustice more deeply than most.
Before dawn this very day, Melos had left his village to travel some ten leagues, over plains and mountains, to the city of Syracuse. Melos had no mother or father, nor a wife of his own. He lived with his younger sister, a shy girl of sixteen who was soon to be wed to a certain true and honest herdsman. It was to purchase his sister’s wedding dress and food and drink for the wedding feast that Melos had undertaken the long journey to the city. He had made his purchases and was now strolling down one of the main streets of the capital, on his way to visit his friend Selinuntius, a close comrade since childhood. Selinuntius was living in Syracuse, where he worked as a stonemason. Some time had passed since they had last met, and Melos was looking forward to the visit. As he walked along, however, he began to notice something odd about the atmosphere of the city. It was strangely hushed and quiet. The sun had already set, and the streets, quite naturally, were dark, but the mournful mood that hung over the city was somehow more than the mere advent of night could account for. Melos was by nature easygoing and carefree, but now he began to feel apprehensive. Stopping a young man on the street, he asked if some misfortune had befallen the city, adding that on his previous visit, some two years before, the streets even at night had been filled with people laughing and singing and bustling cheerfully about. The young stranger only shook his head and hurried on. A bit farther along, Melos met an elderly man and asked the same question, this time with greater urgency. The old man said nothing. Only when Melos took him by the shoulders and shook him, repeating the question, did he finally reply, whispering as if fearful of being overheard.
“The king is putting people to death.”
“For what reason?”
“He says they are full of evil intent. Of course, it isn’t true.”
“Has he killed many?”
“Yes. The first was his sister’s husband. Next was the prince, his own son and heir. Then his sister and her child. Then his wife, the queen. Then his vassal, the wise Alekis …”
“Shocking. Has he gone mad?”
“No, he is not mad, but he says that no one is to be trusted. Recently he has grown suspicious of his retainers, and has commanded the more affluent of them to yield up to him one hostage. The punishment for refusal is death by crucifixion. Six have been executed today.”
Hearing this, Melos was enraged. “What sort of king is this?” he cried. “He must not be allowed to live!”
Melos was a simple man. With his purchases still slung over his shoulder, he made his way to the castle and stole inside. He was soon caught by the guards, however, who bound him hand and foot. The uproar only increased when, as Melos was being searched, a dagger was found in his pocket. He was dragged before the king.
“What would you with this dagger of yours?” the tyrant Dionysius demanded with quiet majesty. “Speak!”
“I would deliver the city from the hands of a tyrant,” Melos fearlessly replied.
“You?” The king smiled condescendingly. “Pitiful little man. What do you know of my pain and solitude?”
“Stop!” Melos shot back, flushed with anger. “To doubt the hearts of men is the greatest, most shameful of evils. And you, my king, doubt the loyalty of your subjects.”
“Do you not prove my suspicion warranted? Men are not to be trusted. What are men but lumps of selfishness and greed? To take them at their word is to invite ruin.” The king spoke these words softly, with composure, and now he sighed. “Do you not think that I myself desire peace?”
“Peace? And for what end? To protect your throne?” Now it was Melos who smiled, with scorn. “What peace is there in the murder of innocent people?”
“Silence, peasant.” The king raised his head. “Such fine words slip easily from your lips. But I, unfortunately for you, am one whose gaze penetrates the hearts of men. Soon you, too, when nailed to the cross, will weep and wail and beg for mercy. Expect none from me.”
“Ah, such a wise king. Small wonder you bear such a great love for yourself. As for me, I am prepared for death. I’ll not beg for my life. But…” Melos hesitated, casting his eyes downward. “But if you would grant me one request, I ask that you delay the execution for three days. I wish to see my only sister wed. Grant me three days to go back to the my village and attend the wedding festivities. I shall, without fail, return here before the third day is ended.”
“Fool.” A dry, raspy chuckle escaped the tyrant’s lips. “Such preposterous lies. Does a wild bird, once released, return to its cage?”
“I will return,” Melos insisted, his voice desperate with emotion. “I am a man of my word. Three days is all I ask. My sister awaits me even now. But since you so distrust me, very well, then … There lives in this city a stonemason named Selinuntius. He is to me a peerless friend. I shall leave him here as hostage. If I should flee, if by sundown of the third day I have not returned, then you may hang him on the cross in my stead.”
The king mused, and smiled with cruel cunning. The impudence of this peasant. Of course he would not return. Perhaps, however, it would be amusing to pretend to be deceived and to set him free. Nor would it be a disagreeable task, on the third day, to have the other executed in his place. To watch the hostage’s crucifixion with a sorrowful countenance, as if to say: Behold him – proof that men cannot be trusted. Would it not be a proper lesson for the so-called honest men of the world?
“So bet it. Let the hostage be sent for. You are to return before sundown of the third day. Should you be late, the hostage shall die. Yes, you would do well to come a bit late: you will be absolved forever of your crime.”
“What! What are you saying?”
“Ha, ha! Be late, if you value your life. I know your heart.”
Melos could only stamp his foot in vexation. He had no more use for words.
Late that night, Selinuntius was brought to the castle. There, in the presence of the tyrant Dionysius, t two bosom friends greeted each other for the first time in two years. Melos explained everything. Selinuntius nodded silently and embraced him. For the two true friends, that was enough. Selinuntius was bound with ropes. Melos, free, set out at once. The early summer sky was brimming with stars.
All night Melos ran, racing the ten leagues back to his village without stopping to sleep. He arrived on the morning of the following day. The sun was already high, and the villagers had begun their day’s work in the fields. Melos’s younger sister was watching the sheep in his absence. She was startled and full of concern when she saw him staggering toward her, exhausted, and she deluged him with questions.
“It’s nothing.” Melos forced a smile. “I’ve left some unfinished business in the city. I must return there soon. We shall hold the wedding feast tomorrow. I trust you’ll have no objection to hurrying things along?”
A blush colored his sister’s cheeks.
“Are you glad? I brought a beautiful dress for you to wear. Now go and spread the word among the villagers. The wedding will be tomorrow.”
So saying, Melos staggered off toward his house. Once there, he prepared the altar and arranged tables and chairs for the feast. No sooner was this done than he collapsed to the floor and fell into a sleep as deep as death.
It was night when Melos awoke. He leaped to his feet and rushed off to the house of the groom. He found him at home and explained that circumstances had arisen that forced him to request that the wedding be held the following day. The young herdsman was surprised and protested that it was too soon, that he had not made any arrangements, and asked Melos to wait until the grapes were harvested. Melos insisted that no delay was possible, that it must be tomorrow. The groom, too, was adamant in his refusal. They argued and pleaded with each other until dawn, when, after much coaxing, Melos finally persuaded the young man to agree.
The marriage rites were performed at noon. Just as the bride and groom were concluding their oaths to the gods, the sky grew dark with clouds. Scattered raindrops fell, and these soon gave way to a torrential downpour. The guests thought this an unfortunate omen, but they shrugged it off and made themselves be of good cheer. Soon, in spite of the sultry, oppressive heat inside the little house, they were all merrily singing and clapping their hands. Melos, too, was beaming with pleasure, and was even able to forget, for the moment, his promise to the king. The revelry only increased once night had fallen, and now the guests were all but oblivious to the downpour outside. Ah, to live forever this way, among these good people, thought Melos. But he knew it was not to be. His life was no longer his own, and he steeled himself in his resolve to return to Syracuse. But there was time enough before sundown of the following day. He would leave as soon as he’d had a short sleep. The rain, too, may have eased by then, he thought. Even men such as Melos are reluctant to part with those they love, and each extra moment spent relaxing in his own home was precious to him. He drew near the bride, who throughout the feast had been sitting in a daze, as if intoxicated with joy.
After congratulating her, Melos said, “I’m very tired, and, with your leave, I’ll be off to sleep. As soon as I awake, I must depart for the city. I have vital business there. You now have a gentle, understanding husband to care for you. Even when I am gone, you will not be alone. What your brother despises most in this world is distrust of others, and deceit. You know that, don’t you? You and your husband must keep no secrets from each other. That’s all I want to say to you. Your brother is, perhaps, a man of worth. Be proud of him.”
The bride only nodded dreamily. Melos then turned to the groom, clapped him on the shoulder, and said, “Neither of us had time to make the proper arrangements. The only treasures I have are my sister and my flock of sheep. They are yours. I ask only this in return – that you always take pride in having become the brother of Melos.”
The groom, not knowing how to respond, fidgeted shyly with his hands. Melos smiled and, bowing slightly to bid the company farewell, left the banquet. He went to the sheep pen outside, where he fell into a deathlike sleep.
He awoke the next day at dawn. Great gods! – he thought, leaping to his feet – have I overslept? No, it is early yet. If I leave now I’ll arrive with time to spare. Today, at all costs, I must show the king that men can, and will, be true to their word. Then I shall climb upon the cross with a smile.
Calmly, deliberately, Melos began to prepare for his journey. The rain appeared to have let up somewhat, and no sooner had he finished his preparations than he braced himself, dashed outside, and began to run with all the swiftness of an arrow in flight.
This evening I will be killed. I run to meet my own death. I run to save my friend, who waits in my stead. I run to deal a blow to the wicked heart of the king. I have no choice but to run. And I will be killed. Youth, honor is thine to preserve!
It was not easy for Melos. Several times he nearly came to a halt, and had to reproach himself loudly as he ran. He left the village behind, crossed a stretch of plain, and made his way through a forest. By the time he reached the next village, the rain had stopped, the sun was high, and the day grew hot. Melos wiped the sweat from his forehead with his fist. Now that he’d got this far, he was no longer pretty to distracting thoughts of home and village.
My sister and her husband will be happy together. There is nothing now to weigh upon my mind. I need only run straight for the castle of the king. Nor need I hurry so, at that. I can walk at a leisurely pace and still be in time.
Melos slowed to a stroll and began to sing, in a beautiful voice, a little song he loved. He walked two leagues, three leagues, at an easy gait. But when he was nearly halfway to the city, an unforeseeable disaster brought him to a halt. Look there! The heavy rains of the day before had caused the mountain springs to overflow, the brooks and streams to swell, their dark, turbid waters to rush down the slopes and fill the riverbed, where, with one powerful, roaring surge, they had swept away the bridge, smashing its beams to pieces. Melos stood and stared in stunned disbelief. He looked up and down the riverbank and called out at the top of his lungs; but there was not a boat nor a ferryman in sight. The river was still rising, tossing about like a restless sea. Melos collapsed on the bank, weeping, and raised his arms in an appeal to his god.
“Stay, O Zeus, this raging current! Already the sun is at its zenith. If, by the time it sinks from sight, I have not reached the castle gate, my faithful friend must die for me!”
As if scornful of Melos’s cries, the dark waters swelled and raged with even greater violence. Waves swallowed wave, swirling and crashing, and Melos could only watch as the moments fled. At last his despair turned to daring. He had no choice but to try to swim across.
“Gods! I call you to witness the power of love and truth that will not bow to these fierce waters!”
Melos dived into the current and began his desperate struggle with the tumultuous waves that lashed and squirmed about him like countless giant serpents. With all the strength he could summon, he cleaved his way through the surging, whirling rapids like a ferocious lion in battle. And perhaps the gods, on seeing this heroic display, were moved to compassion. Even as Melos was tossed and swept along by the wild current, he somehow managed to reach the opposite bank and cling to the trunk of a tree there. He climbed ashore, shook the water from his body with a mighty shudder, and hurried on. There was not a moment to lose. The sun was already inclining toward the west. His breathing heavy and labored, he ran up the mountain toward the pass. Only when he reached the top did he pause to catch his breath, and it was then that, out of nowhere, a band of mountain brigands appeared on the path before him.
“Halt.”
“What is this? I must be at the castle of the king before sundown. Let me go.”
“Not till we have your valuables, we won’t.”
“I have nothing. Nothing but my life. And today I must offer that up to the king.”
“It’s that life of yours we’ll have, then.”
“Wait. Can it be that the king sent you to stop me?”
The brigands made no reply but lifted their clubs in the air. Melos dropped nimbly into a crouch, pounced upon the man nearest him, and quickly wrestled his club away.
“I would not harm you but for the righteousness of my cause!” Melos shouted, and with three furious, savage strokes of the club, three brigands lay dead. As the others recoiled in fear, Melos broke away and sprinted down the mountain path.
He reached the foot of the mountain in a single dash, but then exhaustion began to take its toll. The afternoon sun was now shining full in his face with its fierce, blazing heat. Waves of dizziness swept over him, and again and again he fought the feeling off until, staggering a final two or three steps, his knees gave out and he fell to the ground. He could not get up. He lay on his back, weeping bitterly.
Ah, Melos, you’ve made it this far. You’ve swum the raging river, laid three bandits low, and run like Hermes himself. Brae and true Melos, how shameful to lie here now, too exhausted to move. Soon your beloved friend will pay with his life for his trust in you. O unfaithful one, are you not just as the king suspected?
Thus Melos ranted at himself, but all his strength was gone. He lay sprawled out in a green field beside the road, and could make no more progress than a worm that crawls. When the body is fatigued, the spirit, too, grows weak. Nothing matters now, he told himself, as a sulky petulance, so unbecoming a hero, found its way into his heart.
I’ve done my best. I had not the slightest intention of breaking my promise. As the gods are my witness, I taxed my powers to the utmost. I am not an unfaithful man. Ah, could I but cut open this breast that you might see the crimson of my heart, whose very lifeblood is love and truth. But my strength has left me, my spirit is exhausted. Cursed be my fate! My name will be an object of ridicule. If I am to collapse here now, it will be as though I’d done nothing in the first place. I deceived my friend. Nothing matters now. Was this to be my destiny, then? Forgive me, Selinuntius. You were constant in your trust in me. Nor have I deceived you. You and I were good, true friends. Never did either of us harbor in his breast the dark clouds of doubt. Even now, you patiently await my return. Ah, I know you are waiting. Thank you, Selinuntius. You trusted me, and trust between friends is life’s greatest treasure. I cannot bear to think of it. I ran, Selinuntius. I had not the slightest intention of deceiving you. Please believe me! I overcame the raging river. I escaped the brigands who surrounded me, and ran to the foot of the mountain without a moment’s rest. Who but I could have made it this far?
Ah, but expect no more of me now. Forget about me. Nothing matters any more. I am defeated. A disgrace. Laugh at me. The king whispered that I’d do well to arrive late. If I did so, he would kill the hostage, he said, and spare my life. I despised him for that. But now look at me: am I not doing exactly as he suggested? I will arrive late. The king will take it for granted that I did so intentionally. He will laugh at me and send me on my way, a free man. That, for me, is a fate worse than death. I will be branded a traitor forever, the greatest ignominy known to man. No, Selinuntius, I too shall die. You and you alone will believe my heart was true. Let me die with you.
But have I the right? Should I not live on, in corruption and wickedness? I have my home in the village. I have my sheep. Surely my sister and her husband would not drive me from my home. Righteousness, trust, love – are they not merely words? We kill others that we may live. That is the way of the world. And how futile it all is. I am a vile, deceitful traitor. Whatever I do is of no importance. Alas!
As Melos lay with arms and legs flung out on the ground, sleep began to overcome him. But then, suddenly, a murmuring sound reached his ears. Raising his head slightly, he held his breath and listened. The sound came from somewhere nearby. Rising falteringly to his hands and knees, he saw it – water gurgling quietly out of a crevice in the rocks. The stream seemed to whisper to Melos, to beckon to him, and he bent over it and drank, scooping up the water with both hands. He let out a long, deep sigh, and felt as if he were awakening from a dream. He could go on. He would go on. As his body began to revive, a small spark of hope was kindled in his heart. The hope that he could preserve his honor by dying at the executioner’s hands. The red, declining sun shone so brightly that it seemed to set the leaves and branches of the trees afire.
There is still time before sunset. Someone waits for me. Patiently, never doubting me, he waits for my return. I have his trust. My life? It counts for nothing. But this is not time to seek forgiveness with my own death. I must prove worthy of this trust. That, for now, is everything. Run, Melos!
He trusts me. He trusts me. That whispering of demons a moment ago was just a dream. A bad dream. Banish it from your mind. Men will have such dreams when the flesh is weary. There is no shame in that, Melos. You are a man of true valor. Have you not risen, are you not running again? Praise the gods. I can die the death of a righteous man. Ah, the sun sinks. How rapidly it sinks! Wait, O Zeus. I have been an honest man in life. Allow me to be as honest in death.
Pushing aside the people who crowded the road, sending some of them flying, Melos ran like a dark wind. He startled a crowd of revelers gathered for a feast in the grassy meadow by dashing recklessly through their midst. Kicking dogs out of his way and leaping over streams, he ran ten times as fast as the sinking sun. It was as he passed a group of travelers walking the opposite way that he chanced to hear these ominous words: “That man will be on the cross by now.”
“That man.” It is for that man that I run. That man must not die. Faster, Melos. You must not be late. Now is the time to prove the power of love and truth.
Stripping himself nearly naked – for appearances meant nothing to him now – Melos ran on. He was barely able to breathe, and twice or three times he coughed up blood. But look. There, small in the distance, the towers of Syracuse. The towers, shining in the setting sun.
“Ah, it’s Melos, is it not?” A voice like a groan reached his ears along with the sound of the wind.
“Who speaks?” said Melos, without breaking stride.
“My name is Philostratus, sir, apprentice to your friend Selinuntius.” The young man ran behind Melos, shouting his words. “You’re too late, sir. It’s hopeless. You needn’t run now. You can no longer help him.”
“The sun has yet to set.”
“Even now he is being prepared for execution. You’re too late, sir. Alas. If only you had come but moments sooner!”
“The sun has yet to set.” Melos felt as if his heart would burst. His eyes were fixed on the huge, red sun on the western horizon. There was nothing to do but run.
“Enough, sir. Stay, I beg you. It is your life that is important now. My master believed in you. Even when they dragged him onto the execution ground, he remained unconcerned. And when the king mocked and taunted him, all he said was, ‘Melos will come.’ His faith in you was unshaken to the end.”
“That is why I must run. I run because of that faith, that trust. Whether I make it in time is not the question. Nor is it merely a question of one man’s life. I am running because of something immeasurably greater and more fearsome than death. Run with me, Philostratus!”
“Ah, is it madness that drives you, then? Very well, sir, run! Run for all you are worth. Perhaps, just perhaps, there may still be time. Run!”
Nor could anything have made him stop. The sun had yet to set. Summoning up his last desperate reserves of strength, Melos ran on. Not a single thought passed through his head. He ran, propelled by some immense, unnamable force. The sun, meanwhile, sank lazily below the horizon, and just as the last, lingering ray of light was about to vanish, Melos, riding the wings of the wind, burst onto the execution ground. He’d made it.
“Hold, executioner. Spare that man. Melos has returned, as promised.” From the back of the great throng that had gathered, Melos tried to shout these words. All that issued from his parched, constricted throat, however, was a harsh whisper, and no one in the multitude took heed of his arrival. The cross was already in place, looming high above the crowd, and Selinuntius, bound with ropes, was being hoisted slowly upon it. Melos, with one final, courageous burst of strength, pushed his way through the crowd, much as he’d earlier parted the turbulent waves of the river.
“Executioner! It is I! I am the one to be put to death. I am Melos. Melos, who left this man as surety, is standing before you!” Struggling to make his hoarse voice heard, Melos climbed upon the platform that supported the cross and flung his arms around the legs of his friend.
A stir ran through the crowd. From all sides rose cries of “Praise be!” and “Free him!” Selinuntius was lowered to the platform and released from his bonds.
“Selinuntius,” said Melos, his eyes brimming with tears. “Hit me. Strike me as hard as you can. For one moment, on my way here, a bad dream overcame me. If you won’t strike me, I haven’t the right to embrace you. Hit me, Selinuntius!”
Selinuntius seemed to understand. He nodded, and dealt Melos’s right cheek such a blow that the sound of it echoed over the execution ground. Then he smiled gently.
“Melos,” he said. “Hit me. Strike me as hard and as resoundingly as I’ve just struck you. Once during the past three days, I doubted you. Just once, but for the first time in my life. If you won’t strike me, I cannot embrace you.”
Melos’s hand flew through the air and crashed against Selinuntius’s cheek.
“Thank you, my friend!” Melos and Selinuntius spoke the words as one, embraced tightly, and sobbed aloud with joy.
From the crowd, too, came sobs. The tyrant Dionysius, perched on his seat behind the crowd, stared intently at the two friends for some time. Then he walked quietly to where they stood. His face flushed as he spoke.
“Your wish has been fulfilled. You have subdued my heart. Trust between men is not just an empty illusion. I, too, would be your friend. Say you will let the league of love be three.”
Cheers and shouts of “Long live the king!” arose from the crowd. And out of the cheering throng, a young maiden stepped forward bearing a red cloak. When she held the cloak out to Melos, he could only look at it in bewilderment. His friend, true Selinuntius, was quick to explain.
“Look at you, Melos – your clothes are gone. Put on the cloak. This pretty maiden can’t bear to have everyone see you that way.”
A scarlet blush mantled the hero’s cheek.

(from an ancient legend, and a poem by Schiller)

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