In Prague. The garden of the Emperor’s palace. An arbour to the right, an observatory tower to the left. Before it a spacious balcony with KEPLER’s writing desk, chair and astronomical instruments. LUCIFER, as KEPLER’s apprentice, is seen on the balcony. In the garden COURTIERS and ladies are strolling about in groups, among them EVE as BARBARA, the wife of KEPLER. The EMPEROR RUDOLF is deep in conversation with ADAM as KEPLER. A heretic is being burned at the stake in the background. It is evening, turning into night. The COURTIERS pass before the scene.

Another fellow getting nicely warm -
A witch or heretic this time?

      Who knows.
It’s so unfashionable to enquire,
Only the riff-raff gather round the fire.
They don’t even take much delight in it:
Nowadays they simply stare and mutter.

In my day we had festivals for such things -
The whole court, all of noble bloods were there.
Alas, the good old days don’t last for ever.
They move on

It’s nice to have a fire on such chill nights,
I must admit that I’ve got used to it,
I fear, however, it must go out soon.
It won’t be dowsed through manly resolution,
Nor through enlightened liberality,
But indifference in an age when no one’s left
To throw logs on the fire. So I go cold.
All great ideals tend to meet their nemesis
Through petty errors in their premises.
He retires into the observatory. RUDOLF and ADAM enter

Kepler, draw up my horoscope for me,
I had a bad dream last night and I fear
My star is in conjunction with some evil
Omen appearing in its radiance.
There, by the Snake’s head. I’ve seen it before.

All will be done, my lord, as you command. -

When once the days of the climacteric
Are past we will commence on our new work
Which would have failed had we begun today.
I looked again through Hermes Trismegistus,
Synesius, Albertus, Paracelsus,
The Key of Solomon and other books
Before I found the error we had made.
When we contrived to make the Old King sweat
Then there appeared the Raven and the Lion,
And after them the Twofold Mercury
Emerged under their joint influence,
And the saline content of the precious stone,
The philosopher’s, decreased and fell,
But we had overlooked Damp Fire, you see,
And Arid Water, and therefore failed to effect
The Sacred Knot, which should have crowned our efforts
With the elixir that rejuvenates old veins
And transmutes base metal into rarest gold.

I understand, your highness.

      One word more.
I hear disturbing rumours in the court
That you have espoused new ideas, and take
A sieve to the doctrines of the Holy Church;
And further, while your mother is imprisoned
And facing the grave charge of sorcery,
You will certainly arouse suspicion by
Agitating so persistently
And publicly for her release.

      My lord,
She is my mother after all!

      My son,
The Holy Church is more truly your mother,
Forget the world: whatever is, is right;
Do not attempt to tinker with its works. -
Do I not shower all my gifts on you?
Your father, as you well know, kept an inn
And I raised you to high rank beyond dispute -
Though not without some difficulty, mind.
It’s through your elevation to my throne
That you have gained the hand of Barbara MŘller.
And that’s why I repeat, take care my son.
He goes. ADAM remains behind in deep thought, standing on the steps of the balcony. Two COURTIERS pass before him

The astrologer is deep in thought again.

He s for ever careworn, the poor fellow.
He cannot acclimatise to this new sphere:
The peasant in him will keep slipping out.

He cannot understand that a true knight,
While worshipping a woman as a goddess,
Should always be prepared to shed his blood
If any scandal attaches to her name, -
He is morbidly suspicious of flirtation.
EVE, with another group, joins the two COURTIERS and laughing taps the SECOND COURTIER on the shoulder with her fan

Off with you, sir - for God’s sake pity me
Or I shall die with laughing at your jokes.
Bur look, here are two po-faced gentlemen.
Have you two men by any chance imbibed
That damnable new innovative spirit?
Oh out of my sight! I really cannot stand
Their spleen and envy and their gloomy notions.
Reproachful of this world of brilliant calm
And contemplating other ways of life.

We plead Not Guilty to the charge, dear lady.
Who’d wish for change when graced by your good presence.

But if I’m not mistaken there I see
A man with signs of worry on his face.

My poor husband? Gentlemen, for God’s sake
And to please me, do eliminate him
From your list of suspects, seeing we are bound
By sacred ties - and he is ill, quite ill.

An invalid, perhaps, to your bright eyes?

Indeed! And does he dare - as no one would -
Insult you with his envy and suspicion?
If only I could be your knight, I’d fling
My gauntlet in the wretched fellow’s face.
In the meantime they have come up to ADAM
My dear professor, I’m so pleased to see you,
I want to take a trip to my estates
And need a weather forecast.

      As for me
I’d like a horoscope drawn for my son,
Born yesterday, a little after midnight.

Both will be done by morning, gentlemen.

The party is breaking up, we too should go.

Your staircase, madam - I must bid you good night.
An hour from now.

EVE whispering
      The far side of the arbour.
Good night, gentlemen. - Come along, dear Johann!
They all depart. ADAM and EVE are left on the balcony. ADAM sinks into an armchair. EVE stands before him. It is rapidly, darkening

Johann, my dear, I’m rather short of money.

I haven’t a farthing, you’ve had everything.

And must I therefore suffer this eternal
Penury? The ladies of the court
Go strutting like peacocks, and I am ashamed
To be seen among them. Why, whenever some lord
Bows to me and tells me, full of smiles,
That I’m the queen of the whole company,
I blush for you, that you permit your queen
To attend the court in such a shabby outfit.

Do I not wear myself out, night and day?
I prostitute my knowledge for your sake,
Polluting it with useless weather forecasts
And drawing up of useless horoscopes.
I hide the truth I recognize at heart
And propagate what I know to be false.
And if I blush for shame it is because
I’m lower than the Sibyls who at least
Believe in their own forecasts while I don’t.
I do it all for you, to win your favour.
What should I do with the wages of my sin
Since I require nothing in this world
Except the night and all its glimmering stars,
Only the hidden harmony of the spheres?
The rest is yours. And bear in mind that when
The Emperor’s coffers are empty now and then
My wages must wait however I may nag.
What hurts me most is that although I give you
All my morning’s pay, you’re never grateful.

EVE weeping
You dare reproach me with your sacrifices!
Have I not sacrificed enough for you?
When I, the daughter of a noble family,
Staked my whole future on your dubious rank,
And was it not through me you were accepted
In polite society? Deny it, wretch. -

Are science and spirit then of dubious rank?
That beam of heavenly light upon my brow,
Is that indeed of shady pedigree?
What nobility can stand beside it?
That which you call noble is mere dust,
A crumbling idol whence the soul has fled,
But mine is ever young and powerful. -
If only you could understand me, woman,
If only your soul and mine were kindred spirits
As once I thought they were when we first kissed,
You would be proud of me and would not seek
Your happiness outside my sphere of being;
You would not parade all that is sweet in you
Before the world, and save all that is bitter
For home and hearth. - Oh woman, how I loved you!
And love you still, but O how bitter is
The sting that sours the honey of my heart.
It hurts me to think how high your soul could be
If you were truly free to be a woman;
That fate which makes an idol of a woman,
Who was a goddess in the great good days
Of chivalry, when they believed in such things,
Has crushed you. No one in this age of dwarfs
Believes: this mummery is just a cloak
For vice. I’d tear my heart out and divorce you,
However it hurt, if I could find some peace,
And you too might be happier without me;
But there again we come up against custom:
Authority, commandments of the Church,
So we must bear each other till we die.
He hides his bead in his hands. EVE is moved and strokes him

My dear Johann, don’t take it so to heart
If now and then I say things out of turn,
I don’t want you to fall into despair.
But look, the Court is such a splendid place,
The ladies are so haughty and sarcastic,
How could I begin to argue with them?
You’re not so angry with me anymore?
Good night. Remember - money in the morning.
She goes down the stairs and into the arbour

What a miraculous mixture of high and low
Is woman, a blend of nectar and pure poison.
Then why does she attract us? Because she is
Good in herself: the age that gave her birth
Has made her evil. Hey, apprentice!
LUCIFER comes with a lamp and puts it down on the table


A weather forecast and a horoscope
Are needed. Prepare the things immediately.

Something brilliant and glittering, no doubt:
Who’d pay good money for unvarnished truth?

Don’t go too far - nothing ridiculous.

It’s well nigh impossible to invent
A prophecy to scandalise the parents.
Is not each new born child the new Messiah,
The family’s own Star of Betlehem?
It’s only later that it grows into
A common brat.
He writes. In the meantime EVE has reached the arbour. The THIRD COURTIER goes to meet her

      You cruel hearted creature,
How long you’ve kept me suffering out here.

It seems such a great sacrifice for you
To put up with a chill breeze of an evening
While I betray a good and noble husband!
For you, sir, I defy the curse of heaven
And attract the censure of society.

Neither the curse of heaven, nor society’s
Censure can pierce the darkness of this grove.

ADAM musing
I longed for an age which had no need of struggle,
Where no one upset the settled scheme of things
Or interfered with all its hallowed customs,
Where I could rest and smile indifferently
And heal the wounds of my incessant battles. -
That age is here, but what use if the heart
Contains a soul - that sacred, painful heirloom
Obtained from heaven by man who is a fool -
Which longs to act and will not let him rest,
Which leaps to combat with his sluggish pleasures. -
Apprentice, ho! Bring wine, I’m shivering,
I’ll have to set this arctic world ablaze.
An age of midgets calls for some Dutch courage
To wash away the dirt which clings to us. -
LUCIFER brings wine. ADAM continues sipping it throughout what follows
Oh infinite heavens, open, open up
Your hidden sacred volumes to my sight!
If only I could learn your laws I might
Forget the age and everything around me.
You are eternal, everything else passes,
You raise me up while all else drags us down.

Oh, Barbara, if only you were mine!
If only God would take away your husband
So that he might see heaven all the clearer,
Since that is what he spends his life observing.

Hush sir, or I’ll pity the poor creature
So dreadfully my tears might stop my kisses.

You’re joking with me.

      Not at all, it’s true.

Who understands these mysterious moods of yours?
This shows you cannot love me, Barbara.
If I were exiled or impoverished
Tell me what you’d do to help your lover? -

In all sincerity I could not tell you.

Oh for a time to melt this frozen order,
To confront its worn out lumber with new vigour,
To rise like a judge, to punish or reward
He rises and totters to the edge of the balcony
Not to shrink from drastic measures or from
Pronouncing the mystic word, which like an avalanche
Would thunder down its destined course and crush
The very man perhaps who uttered it.
The strains of the Marseillaise are heard
I hear it now, the anthem of the future,
I’ve found the word, that mighty talisman
To revive the ancient world in all its freshness.