Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Grotesques
By Cloyd Head
 
A Decoration in Black and White

  To the memory of a clear night with stars in it: Santa Barbara, June twenty-second, nineteen-fifteen.

  The reader is seated in the theatre of his imagination. After an Overture, delicate and not without irony, the curtain between the reader and the play is drawn upward. Before him is placed a decoration in black and white, a flat conventionalized design of tall white trees upon a black background. This background is framed and occupies somewhat more than half the width of the stage. To his left, the white disc of the moon is drawn, in a clear space of black sky. Opposite, on the branch of one of the trees, is a black owl, faintly outlined. Beneath the trees, the zigzag convention by which the idea “brook” is visualized. A single lotus rises from this, left; and near by are the white representations of rocks.
  About three feet forward from this background, extending from its edge to either side of the stage, is a frame of dark gauze, behind which droop the Grotesques, inanimate, awaiting the need of them. They have white faces lined with black, and their arms and hands are white.
  Close against the background in the center stands Capulchard, master of the decoration, a sardonic figure, with long tense fingers. He is the designer. And because the basis of decoration is pantomime, he weaves but the minimum of words through these episodes, developing them rather by curious groupings broken in outline by the mergence of white and black against the black and white of the background.

  Capulchard.  [After a pause, turning towards the Audience.]
This is a forest—that is a Grotesque.
You will find the forest somewhere in your thought.
Its trees are graphic like an arabesque;
The pale moon shines—I touch it with my hand.
I dip the water from the brook beneath,        5
And fling it high among the leaves like dew.
The effect is there, although the fact is not;
So shall all things here seem—illusory.
Who cares—who knows what brook is in his mind or in yours?
It’s the quintessence only that endures.        10
The moon, that clear quintessence—see—is split
To myriad moons by the brook, each moon like it!
The moons are washed away—but there’s the moon.
Thus with design: I draw you these Grotesques,
For your amusement spur them into—life?—        15
Sign for thing signified, the hieroglyph.
Give o’er philosophy to Beldame Owl:
She thinks not; but you think the thoughts she should.
How wise a counsellor!—if she does not hoot
And break the illusion.        20
  The Owl.  [Softly.]  Hoot!
  Capulchard.            The idol speaks;
And thence the abode of wisdom is transferred.
Its seat is now, I dare say, in the moon
Till sunrise…. Open the picture-book.        25
The first design—a song: these be the words.
  [Capulchard makes a sign towards the Woman who, inert, is behind the screen on the left. She lifts her head and sings as if without consciousness.]
  Woman.  [Singing at left.]
With body enwrapped in a mantle light,
Softly a-down the shadowy night,
Lo, the moon ’neath overlaced branches white—
  [The song pauses for a moment while he takes the Crone from behind the screen on the right, gives her a staff, and places her within the edge of the decoration, whereof she at once becomes a part.]
  Capulchard.  [Resuming his former position.]
In counterpoint, enter a stooped Grotesque.
        30
Tell where goest thou, Crone.
  Crone.  [Crossing.]      To a palace that’s dark.
  Capulchard.  The grave?
  Crone.          I know not: I am blind, stone blind.
  Woman.  [Continuing her song.]
White birds on the white-branched, motionless trees,
        35
Two by two. Dark my steps fall faint, Japanese.
Love am I; I am hate: yet know nothing of these.
  Capulchard.  Thou art old: read the song. She is young.
  Crone.                Time is naught,
When it’s past and the staff seeks no light o’ the moon.        40
  Capulchard.  Frail withered leaf—the first November wind—
  [Exit the Crone, who, upon reaching the edge of the decoration, becomes inert and sinks down limply behind the screen.]
The song: full-throated, dark, and passionate.
Her lover?—No, we’ll save the pencil-stroke.
  Woman.  [Continuing her song.]
My beloved awaiting me, swift toward the spring
I approach!        45
  Capulchard.  There is silence.
  Woman.            The kiss that I bring—
  [Capulchard has pushed the Crone back. He now lifts the Woman, clad in a dark mantle edged with white, and places her at the edge of the decoration. She enters.]
The kiss—to the mocking-voiced echoes I sing.
  [An interval. To herself, in a slow monotonous voice.]
Warm path by the stream, thou art chill to-night.
Phantom shadows—weave—
  [She glides off, right, and sinks down inert.]
        50
  Capulchard.            Her voice glides past
Like it was she—dark, sinuous delight.
Expressive outline bound her beauty fast.
Therewith she and the episode stop short.
Inceptive decoration: play it out        55
Each as you will, the sequence unenslaved.
It’s naught to these Grotesques, unconscious strings
Scraped into melody, but else inert.
And yet, why hunt your pleasure to its death?
Ignore the ending, trace a new design.        60
Black background, disc of the moon: create—a Sprite.
Whose presence makes this wood an eerie place.
  [He goes right and, lifting the Sprite, a curious black and white figure, brings it to the edge of the decoration.]
There’s little trick to the supernatural.
  Sprite.  Tiptoe a-tread, through the wood, by the brook, the Sprite enters—oh, ho!
Dance, crinkled stream!        65
Ha!—a dragon-fly poised upon air!
  [Blows.]  Begone.
  [Reflectively.]  It is night.
  [Bowing.]  Madame Owl,
Hoot! to-whoo!        70
  The Owl.    Hoot!
  Sprite.  Brisk maker of shadows, clown moon!
  [He stands grimacing at it; then, upon a gesture from Capulchard, he begins with arms and fingers a shadow-dance, rapid and spontaneous but wholly conventionalized. There are of course no shadows.]
Quick, clown moon—make them faster!
  [Capulchard abruptly stops him on a posture at the extreme left.]
  Capulchard.  The dance proceeds, conventioned in a pose.
Yet the design wants counterbalance….        75
Here to the right I’ll place the Girl-motive.
  [He lifts the Girl from the receptacle, right, and places her at the edge of the decoration, giving her at the same time a conventionalized symbol representing a bird. She enters, in the controlled and exaggerated manner characteristic of the grotesques, her movements wholly conventionalized and idyllic. Her costume, predominantly white, remains constant through all the episodes. Capulchard, at once developing the possibilities of the design, directs the notice of the Sprite to her.]
  Girl.  [To herself, motionless.]  Who am I that come,
Caressing tenderly the sign of bird?
A Girl, in white, alone, beside the pattern brook
I wander without fear, of fear not having heard.        80
  Capulchard.  Meanwhile—
  Girl.  Upon this sward beneath these trees I rest, and say:
Sweet bird, here bathe your wings where the pure white lotus flowers dream
Prettily.
  Capulchard.  [To the Audience.]
      Hark: the bird sings—
        85
  Girl.          With éclat … With éclat …
  Capulchard.  I gave her that phrase out of character.
She looks—
  Girl.  [Seeing the Sprite, who stands hungrily erect poised to leap towards her. She is struck motionless.]
        ’Neath the moon …
  Capulchard.  [Holding them apart in a pause which he carefully guards.]
                        Note
        90
How sensitively to the artist’s will,
Even the minutest shade, the figures drawn
Respond. Though tense the moment, yet the crux
Seems somewhat too abrupt. If we instead
Design her as if thralled by fantasy,        95
Bound by the spell of her own wayward longing….
  [Her expression changes from fear to eagerness. Capulchard places on her robe one or two conventionalized black leaves. He then extricates the Man from among the Grotesques, left, gives him a bow, and places him at the edge of the decoration. Capulchard steps back, almost invisible against the wood.]
  Man.  With tread firm and taut deep through this strange wood fearless come I,
Hunter of mighty beasts, by prowess conqueror, else slain.
One arrow unsped yet left sole in my quiver.
  Capulchard.  [Designing, as she cowers from the Man.]
                        Having crossed, he turns.
        100
But she, who shuns release from love of dreams—
  Girl.  Go hence.
  Man.  Are you a mortal maiden that dread less
This place than—?
  [Sees the Sprite.]  Ah!…        105
  Capulchard.                The tragic primitive.
  Sprite.  [Triumphantly.]
She’s mine. Come, spirits!
  Capulchard.          Portray ghosts by effect.
Against the black—
  Man.          Black ghosts! White!        110
  Capulchard.                    Against white.
  Man.  [Recoiling.]
Pale phantoms—four—three—five …
  Girl.            Fright him, dear dreams!
  Capulchard.  [Thoughtfully, as the Man turns to flee.]
His movement outward draws discordant line;
Courage would make the rhythm more compact.        115
Stand, therefore!
  Man.  [Made to assume toward the Girl an attitude of protection which would surmount his own fear.]
            Therefore, I stand.
  Capulchard.            His courage wakens love.
  Sprite.  [Beckoning her, as she turns from him.]
He cannot hold you—
  [A pause: then the Sprite snaps his fingers indifferently.]
  Man.            They are gone.        120
  Sprite.  Forth I follow the brook—to the end—where a pixie—
  [Exit. Outside the frame he falls inert.]
  Capulchard.  The end is not far distant either way;
To left, to right, the picture has an edge.
  Girl.  [Passing her hand across her brow.]
How came I to this forest?
  Capulchard.            We’ll omit        125
The anti-climax, princess—the routine
That ends all well. Instead, a love-theme weave,
A tapestry of passion darker-toned:
Placing the Woman-motive in her stead,
Re-draw the Man as Warrior—.        130
  Girl.                Ever then
You will protect me?
  Man.        From all danger.
  Capulchard.  [Grasping the Girl.]    Come!
  [He replaces the Girl inanimate among the Grotesques, right; then he returns to the Man, who now is alone on the stage, giving him a mantle and sword instead of a bow. As he does this, the Man, by a great unconscious effort, tries to reach towards her. Capulchard is surprised, but smiles ironically. The impulse dies.]
  Capulchard.  A mantle, then a sword: thus achieve strength,        135
Intelligence, rank, power, and the rest
That give a warrior capability
To lead an army to a city’s gates.
And she, the daughter of his foe—
  [He lifts the Woman, giving her a costume that suggests a princess; and places her at the right edge of the decoration.]
  Capulchard.  [To the Man.]  Adjust to rhythm of the new design.        140
  Man.  The shout of battle has ceased from the darkened plain;
Black swords now no more clash in a white sky.
Here shall I rest till dawn, not victor while
Their four-walled city holds unvanquished.
  Woman.  [Holding out her hands towards him.]  Forth from the citadel I bear a gift.        145
  Man.  Would it were thou!
  Woman.            Desire as thou wilt.
  [To herself, of the city which love had tempted her to betray to him.]
No longer am I peril of my realm.
No barrier lies between my will and me.
  Man.  Go!—lest that, weary after battle, I—
  [A pause, which leads to a new grouping.]
        150
  Man.  This bank shall be our bed,
O my beloved!
  Woman.  This brook shall be the music of our night.
  Man.  The lotus shall yield wine,
O my beloved!        155
  Woman.  Perfume of drowsiness—desire—
  Man.  Thou to the might of my love captive—
  Capulchard.  Translate the rhythm from their words to deeper silence.
None draw the erotic quite as Beardsley could.
Yet strange this governed transcript of a mood        160
They cannot feel, while you—. Disquietude?—
Sex-love? The theme’s not false. Is it you prefer
Tang always? Well, then chance shall wreck their love.
  Woman.  Though I am lost, my realm I’ve not betrayed,
By opening our strong-walled city’s gates        165
To bring thee—
  Man.  [Forcing her from him, with a vitality of rhythmic line which suggests will-effort.]
            To thy realm thou shalt return.
Quick! lock thy beauty by a thousand bars,
That my one longing may give armies strength
To find my way to thee.        170
  Woman.          That strength is vain—
The dawn shall tell them that from thee I come.
  Capulchard.  Disaster. Climax. Let us turn the page,
New-motive her as Queen, the Man as one
’Neath even her scorn, an Outlaw. Meanwhile, say:        175
  Woman.  The dawn shall tell them that from thee I come;
And they will send me forth an outcast, shamed.
  [Capulchard with his hand touches her as she moves to the edge of the decoration, right.]
What art thou?…
  Man.      Stay—I will spare thy realm.
  Woman.      Dawn blackens….  [She falls inert.]        180
  Capulchard.  [After a pause.]  That every episode must this way end
Limits the rhythm like a clash of line,
Breaking it by mere harsh irrelevance.
  Man.  She does not answer. Where?
  Capulchard.            An afterglow?        185
Searching? Interpret as avoiding search.
Thereby our Outlaw, fleeing.
  Man.  [Uncertainly.]  They hunt me—Warrior …
Outlaw … She is lost … I …
  Capulchard.  [Concealing apprehension.]  Let the theme        190
Create me ex-officio spectre. Appear!
  Man.  [Recoiling, in the grotesque manner, in response to a direct gesture from Capulchard.]
What figure tense, dark-robed, phantom against the dark?
  Capulchard.  [Resuming his mastery.]  The Outlaw, baffled in his strength, aghast
Stares—seemingly, since he is a Grotesque,
And by good fortune to his self-respect,        195
Insensible. But, with the tang you crave,
As I no less, being vicar, rhythm’s restored.
  Man.  He speaks to someone.
  Capulchard.            Ha!
  Man.  [As before, vaguely, to himself.]  He speaks to someone.        200
  Capulchard.  Does the marionette grasp at its strings?
  Man.  [Slowly and with effort, but turning directly towards Capulchard.]
You speak—
  Capulchard.  [To the Audience.]
            Howe’er this lead, exit waits poised
Whereby to render him inert.
  Man.  [With increasing persistence.]  You speak.        205
  Capulchard.  To those who see you make to disobey,
Who come to observe that which you would resist,
For whose regale the decoration’s wrought—
The Audience.
  Man.        Gods!…
  [After a moment of indecision, he kneels slowly in an attitude of worship before Capulchard, at a distance from him.]
        210
  Capulchard.        Eh! what’s this?
  Man.  Gods look upon us?—He has seen the gods!
  Capulchard.  I speak with them.
  Man.  [Faltering.]      They answer?
  Capulchard.  [After a pause.]        They are there.        215
  Man.  High priest!
  Capulchard.  [To himself, not without self-consciousness.]
                True, I address the gods.
[He steps aside.]
  Man.  [Left kneeling to vacancy, looks up.]  Vanished!
[He rises, devoutly.]
’Tis holy ground: an altar I will raise!
  [He shapes the stones into a rude altar. Capulchard smiles, holding the design in rhythm.]
I will give thanks unto our gods and plead        220
Of them protection: I am their Grotesque;
I will be strong and bold.
  Capulchard.  [Placing the convention of fire on the altar.]
                Not strength from you,
But cowardice, an Outlaw, they require.
  Man.  [With proud fear.]  Hid in this forest at their will I lurk.        225
  Capulchard.  The courage of the willing sacrifice;
The mannikin in uniform, his pride.
  [He goes right and, lifting the Woman, places upon her shoulders the white mantle of a Queen.]
At the scene’s edge, a crown upon her brow,
She stands … Contrasted motives … Soon shall she
Recoil in terror. Would you have her speak?
  [To the Woman.]
        230
I’ll give you utterance of what you are.
  Woman.  A Woman—in her eyes the sign of grief;
A Queen, who walks in solitude, gravely.
Within her heart who knows what sorrows mourn?
Who knows what sorrows still?… She comes.
  [She sees the Man and starts back, in a conventionalized movement, suggesting dread with her body. They look at one another. A silence. A change comes over the Woman. She closes her eyes.]
        235
I feel a strange unfolding as from sleep.
Look at me, longer.
  Man.        You are beautiful.
  Woman.  Why do you cower from me?
  Capulchard.  [Without irony.]        Puppet Queen.        240
  Man.  [Proudly.]  Ay; and the gods have me their Outlaw made.
  Woman.  [Re-acting to the decoration.]
The dread of capture held his eyes to mine.
  Man.  I love.
  Woman.      That dagger bright wakes—
  Capulchard.  [Dexterously.]          Fear. Perhaps,        245
Conscious a bit, they might have further tang;
There’s naught more pliant than a little fire.
  Man.  [Helplessly.]  ’Twas the gods’ will—we’ve pleased them—they—
  Woman.  Alas, that I am royal!
  Man.  [Harshly.]          Stay!
  [Capulchard makes a gesture that separates them.]
        250
  Woman.  [With a gesture of great tenderness, gliding back repulses the Man.]
.  .  .  .  .      
[The Man looks at Capulchard.]
  Capulchard.  Turn not aside to ask the obvious.
Are you not Outlaw?
  Man.  [Trying to explain.]  Ay, the gods—the gods—
  [Capulchard does not answer, but places the Girl at the edge of the decoration, right. With a gesture he causes the Man, in conventionalized movement, to creep back into the forest, left.]
  Capulchard.  There was a theme, had it been wise to risk,        255
That for her he had slain the King; and she—
But no.
  Woman.  [Who has started to speak to the Girl.]
        Such was I once: I will not wake her.
  [Exit the Woman, right. She falls inert.]
  Capulchard.  [Relaxing.]  However, now they are no more extant.
Dismiss them out of memory: behold,        260
Amid the night-sounds of the forest, enter
The Girl-motive.
  Girl.  [Expressing fear.]  Only the cold white trees
And the silver moon, and rippling thin at my feet,
The slender glint of the zigzag brook,        265
Clear waters fleet.
I, alone in the darkness, lost. Who
Is that, tall—? Ah—
  Capulchard.        I’ll hedge her with a storm!
Uprise the rushing sound of wind.        270
  The Owl.                To-whoo!
  Girl.  An owl-cry!
  Capulchard.  Blunder storm-phantoms blind.
  The Owl.                    To-whoo!
  Girl.  They scream!        275
  Capulchard.  ’Tis the rattle of branches.
  Girl.                Save me!
  Capulchard.                    Seek
Shelter.
  [He places a cloud-pattern across the moon.]
  Veil of the moonlight. Quick: ere the flashing streak,        280
White fire, shall speed ignition to the clouds and form
A fusion with their black genetic strength!
  [He abruptly unrolls a sharp white streak of lightning against the sky. With éclat.]
                    The storm!
  [The Girl, with highly elaborated gestures expressing fear, sinks down. Capulchard takes the fire from the altar. Silence, to imply the presence of the storm.]
Loud roars, through the thick-pouring rain, thunder.
  [At each imagined sound of thunder, she trembles.]
Fears throng her heart, terror to her supplied        285
By your fecund imagination.
  Girl.            Oh,
Take down the storm!
  Capulchard.        Therein she doth abide
As in a fortress. Let the storm be past.
  [He takes the clouds and lightning down.]
        290
From shelter creep, symbols of forest things.
  Girl.  I now exclaim: Lead me hence, someone! help me!
I am lost.
  Capulchard.  Footsteps, then.
  Girl.                Hark!        295
  Capulchard.                    Of whom?
  [Capulchard lifts the Crone, placing her at the left edge of the decoration.]
I’ll honor you with their attention.
  [As she hesitates through weariness.]  Forth.
  Crone.  I heard two voices, one of them a maid,
If she be young enough. Where are you, dear?
  [Silence. She wanders toward the right, the Girl crossing, frightened, in rhythmic contrast.]
        300
I had these words to speak—are you afraid?—
About warm love: old age comes soon …
  [A pause.]
I dare not leave the stream-side. She will learn.
Teach her, whoever it be.
  Capulchard.            So—        305
  Crone.                Capulchard?
  [Exit the Crone, right. She falls inert.]
  Girl.  [Designed as if frightened, but a little curious.]
What would she teach?
  Capulchard.        White cheeks to flame and burn
Till all their fire is dead.
  Girl.  [Repeating.]  To flame and burn….
  [Capulchard shrugs his shoulders; then, striding left, he takes a handful of water-drops from the brook and flings them into the sky beside the moon. They become seven conventionalized white stars.]
        310
  Capulchard.  A curtain cannot be: the play goes on;
Scene follows scene, must follow without pause.
  [He turns reluctantly to the Man, who lies inanimate outside the frame. Subtly, glancing at the Audience.]
I’ll put his consciousness in fealty.
  [He lifts the Man, clothes him in a monastic garb, and places him at the right edge of the decoration. In his hand he places an actual, brilliantly colored flower.]
He shall forget the Woman-motive now.
Garbed mind has use: it keeps the scene intact.        315
  Man.  [Sometimes intoning.]  Behold the ancient altar of this wood.
I cannot quite remember—yet there was
Someone: it was not you.
  Capulchard.          Though she is fair.
  Man.  It seems I’ve journeyed here from far away,        320
From distant plains, great cities, o’er a sea
Where the waves are alternate black and white,
And a black sun shines in a chalk-white sky
Flecked by dark clouds and birds, black, soaring high;
While over the sea ride chequered ships        325
With white sail fastened to ebon mast.
The ports they make are cities vast,
With spires, minarets, and domes,
All black and white.
Here first the very presence of the gods.        330
  Girl.  What have you in your hand?
  Man.                An offering.
  Girl.  [Standing very close to him and looking at the flower.]  This flower is not real like that one.
  [Indicating the conventionalized lotus.]
  Man.                No; it lives.
  Capulchard.  The lotus is like time, misunderstood.        335
  Girl.  And here and there it’s neither black nor white.
  Man.  I know not what that is, which came as I
Fashioned the petals. Gift of the gods, a seal
Of their benignity.
  Girl.            I like the gods.        340
  Man.  [Turning towards the Audience.]
The gods watch over us, they guard us well;
They have no other thought but for our good,
And not a bird-sign falls but they behold it.
Place now this flower humbly on their shrine;
Your hands are pure and stainless as the light        345
Reflected to the moon and seven stars.
  Girl.  You like my hands?
  Man.  [His tone changing.]  Why do I find you here?
  Capulchard.  That theme has character; I’ll give her words.
  Girl.  It is dark night, and I had lost my way.        350
But now that you are come, I do not care.
We are alone: the gods seemed so far off.
  [She takes the flower, crosses with delicate conventionalized movement to the right of the altar, and kisses the flower. She starts slightly, but does not speak until she has placed it on the altar.]
The fragrance—withered.
  Man.  [Not heeding his words.]  ’Twas acceptable.
Night and the stars, and silence in the wood.        355
And she—
  Girl.  What do you mean?
  Man.                I love you.
  Girl.                    Then
You will not do me harm.        360
  Capulchard.        She creeps away.
  [The Man, gaining control of himself, kneels penitently beside the altar.]
Somewhat a climax, if we quickly pass.
We’ll take her off, though that is dangerous;
Scenes must progress.
  [The Girl creeps into the forest, right. Capulchard stands at the edge of the decoration as she falls inert. Presently the Man looks up. A pause.]
  Man.  [In remorse.]  Forgive me—oh, forgive!        365
I know that I shall never see her more.
Beyond this length of forest all is void.
How can the gods stand by and see so fair
And innocent a creature perish, yet
Raise not one hand to help her or restrain?        370
Do they snatch joy from her unhappiness?
  [Capulchard places the Woman at the right edge of the decoration.]
Nay, they are gods: their silence must have cause—
Immortal life!
  Woman.  Death would not then be true.
  [The Man turns abruptly.]
  Man.  Who are you that have strength to look at grief?        375
  Woman.  I know grief’s pain, the memory’s garnering.
  Capulchard.  Swift let the past sweep backward from their ken,
Completed.
  Man.  They might will the past restored,
Did we appeal, humbly….
  [He looks in mute appeal towards the Audience. A pause. His hope breaks. Capulchard smiles.]
        380
  Capulchard.  The gods are kind, but wish to be amused.
Obey the decoration: be not like
The marionette who learned that there were strings
And, seeking independence, severed them.
  [A silence. Capulchard has removed the monastic garb from the Man.]
  Woman.  If I, knowing sorrow, could teach happiness—        385
  Capulchard.  Await the tang: their search will yield you tang.
Brief shall the scene be, so with stress designed.
  Man.  You were their answer.
  Woman.      Yes.  [She starts.]  Gods kill at last….
All moods of life in turn sweep through my heart.        390
Each sings a moment, passes, and is gone,
Like winds of evening, winds of night, and dawn.
  Man.  Your heart is not inconstant—
  Woman.                Not my heart.
There is a mystery; I know there waits …        395
  Man.  Our love, deep-grounded in the roots of life,
Eternal—
  Woman.  Flee: I bring unhappiness!
  Capulchard.  Has he learned not transcience? Let them weave the theme.
  Man.  One weapon—craft. We’ll make our own design.        400
  Capulchard.  Shadows who’d swing the moon.
  [The Man draws her into a pose suggesting two lovers. This becomes the motive of the design.]
  Man.  [As, with a glance at Capulchard, she yields.]
                    Victory!
  Capulchard.  [Surprised, grimly.]  How slight
A breath would puff them pell-mell into space,
And free the canvas for a different theme!        405
  Woman.  [After a long pause.]
Seize in this one embrace our happiness;
Swift to my lips!
  Capulchard.  [Designing.]  Now, duty. What, n’importe!
  Woman.  [Quietly, looking past the Man to Capulchard.]
I know that you must leave me.
  Man.                Now?        410
  Woman.                    The while—
That love may so be perfect; ere the gods
Destroy; and return to—find—me—
  [They move to the right edge of the decoration.]
                Dearest …
  Man.                      Wait …
  [He turns aside, left. She smiles, looking upward. Her smiles becomes ecstasy.]
        415
  Capulchard.  [Abruptly.]  The tang!
  [He touches her upon the shoulder. She steps quietly from the decoration. The Man turns. A very long silence. Capulchard watches the design with interest.]
  Capulchard.  [Filling the silence.]  Dynamic.
  [To the Man.]            In the will lies no redress.
  [He grasps the lotus from the stream and offers it to the Man.]
Taste of the lotus; it’s forgetfulness.
  [The Man unconsciously, in deep thought, wanders into the forest, left.]
  Capulchard.  Thus ends revolt. If they should strive once more—[To the lotus.]        420
(Re-grasp the brooklet)—doubtless they will strive:
Nietzsche implies a Götterdämmerung;
Grotesques are something that must be surpassed.
But you, their gods, for whom they are create—
Ultimate critics in Olympian chairs—        425
Shall laugh at their weak struggle to be—gods?
Therefore, we’ll give them incarnation now,
Though many interludes suggest themselves,
War-themes, the Lithuania—. We’ve warned.
  [He takes the Woman from where she has fallen, right, and places her at the edge of the decoration. Speaking to the Audience, but she hearing.]
If still, untamed, they catch at the design,        430
First like a net it shall them close enmesh,
Then you may strike, almighty gods, by me.
Let her be Woman, Temptress; he—a Knight.
  [He places the Man, not in a knight’s costume, at the left edge of the decoration. The Woman crouches at the right.]
  Man.  I wove a path here swiftly through the trees;
Did not a voice call to the great white road        435
In peril?
  Woman.  No.
  Man.      It was your voice I heard.
  Woman.  [Seeing the opportunity for a double rhythm.]
Mine was a voice in silence crying, “Stay!”
  Capulchard.  [To her.]  That misses character.        440
  Man.                    The lifted voice
Of all down-trodden pleads: “What right hath love?
Save us!” And therefore I adventure forth
With deep reluctance. We must part, bravely.
  Woman.  [To him, directly.]
Part, that you may seek quest where search is vain,
        445
Beyond the decoration….
  Man.  Your glory foredoomed ever to suborn!
  Woman.  Think not of that: yield if I tempt thee.
  Capulchard.  [Misinterpreting.]            Good.
  Man.  False to ourselves?        450
  Woman.          The gods will welcome it;
That gives their picture zest.
  Capulchard.  [With a look at the Audience.]  They blaspheme you.
  Woman.  Our honor, nay, our love, they have made sport
To thrill them. I am set to tempt, that they        455
May see you false, if yet our baffled love,
Again reincarnated, plead unslain.
There is no duty greater than our love.
Yield: let them relish it.
  Man.        They’ll hear us.        460
  Woman.                Ay;
And let them. Cruel, they are powerless,
Except to gaze. You love me: let them gaze.
Why heed their laughter or their froth of tears?
  Man.  [Indicating Capulchard.]  But—he—?        465
  Woman.        Their priest? He too seeks but design.
  Man.  [Cynically, with elaborate care for the design.]
I strive: my strife is futile, and I yield.
  [He reclines beside her.]
You were alone.
  Woman.    I needed you so much.
  [After a pause.]
We must have strength.        470
  Capulchard.  [To the Audience.]  Enjoy: what reck their words,
So the design lead whither it was planned?
A little, and they forth shall fly in space,
After the manner of created things,
To plead you mercy: I will see to that.        475
  Man.  What does he mean?
  Woman.  [Knowing well.]  It is some threat perhaps.
  Capulchard.  If we could draw remorse—
  [Going quickly to the right edge of the decoration.]
                        The Girl-motive.
  Woman.  My lover!        480
  Man.            We have found our buried life.
Fear not: they only see—what matter?
  Capulchard.  [Designing.]        Voices …
  Voices.  [Without.]  Come: we call….
  Man.                No, No.        485
  Woman.  [Muttering to him, as he glances at the Audience.]                Beyond is naught,
Except the gods.
  Man.  [To her, terrified.]  Do you not feel their eyes—
Eyes that stare, waiting? We were happy….
  Voices.  [Without.]            Come …        490
  Capulchard.  [To the Audience.]
They hear the voice, but only in your minds.
That was a symbol merely: this is—fact.
  [He has lifted the Girl, right. She stands for an instant; then, with conventionalized movement, turns towards the Man.]
  Girl.  [As always, controlled.]
Alas, not lost, nor slain? Even that were best,
Rather than find you false to the gods’ will.
They tell you to go forth. It might be you        495
Could save all decoration.
  Woman.                Save? Thereby …
  Girl.  [Staccato.]
His going would depict altruism.
  Man.  [To the Woman.]
She does not know. Nor we—surely—
  [Looking towards the Girl almost in the manner of the early Grotesques.]            Beyond        500
The decoration there is naught—that’s real,
Except the gods …
  Capulchard.  [Not without disappointment.]
                The good will conquer.
  Woman.  [In passionate defiance.]  Us,
Our love, our life, for the pleasure of strengthless gods,        505
If there be—
  [She stops. The Man, with a conventionalized movement, is approaching the Girl. With a sharp cry.]
          No! it is revolt, concealed!
  Man.  Those ancient, staring eyes that will outlive
The moon and stars compel us to submit.
  Capulchard.  The puffed-up bubbles burst.        510
  Woman.  [Looking toward Capulchard.]  Whatever we do
Ends as he planned.
  Man.  [Apart.]  Once more, unhappiness.
  Woman.  [To herself.]  Now we may conquer hope, and end all fear.
  [To the Man.]
Unhappiness? I ask no less from them.        515
  Man.  [After a moment.]
What would you have me do?—I have betrayed
You, even her, our love. This, penance:
  [Turning front.]            I
Am a Grotesque; we will no longer bow,
The prey of gods!
  [He destroys the altar. A pause.]
        520
                They have no answer—ha!—
Nor power. They can only stare. Hear,
O ye gods who brought us into life,
We fling defiance: give us freedom!
  Girl.  [Horror-struck.]        Oh!…        525
  Capulchard.  They shall have freedom, even as they wish,
Freedom beyond their wish, freedom complete,
And even the gods shall hesitate to laugh.
We’ll pause, merely to mend the broken rhythm.
  Man.  We must stand firm…. I cannot save you.        530
  Woman.                        No.
  [Capulchard brings the Sprite from the right edge of the decoration. At Capulchard’s direction, the Sprite bends towards the Girl.]
  Girl.  [As the Sprite seizes her.]
Ah, catch me not so!
  Sprite.        I have you for myself!
  Capulchard.  [With a glance at the Man.]
Thus far: forever, if there come no help.
  [A silence that brings the design to complete stagnation. A pause. The lights of the auditorium are very slightly illuminated. A pause. The lights diminish and go out.]
  Man.  Mercy!—not mercy from them: hate!        535
  Capulchard.  [Himself awed, in a whisper.]
At last the gods!
  [Capulchard looks at the Grotesques. He smiles.]
What matter? Let the end be dexterous;
Then to new canvas and a different theme.
Backgrounds are many as the stars themselves;
And these Grotesques would seek a wider range,        540
A third dimension, something—infinite.
  Girl.  Pray to the gods.
  Woman.  [Gently.]  Yes; offer them a prayer.
  Capulchard.  Now like a daemon of dread power, vast
To their small eyes, but small to me myself,        545
Lo, I take down the moon, erase the stars.
  [He does so. There is no less light.]
  Man.  It is the end: I love you.
  Woman.                We have loved.
  Capulchard.  Caught in the void: we’ll sweep the canvas clear.
New decoration, say, by Alastair.        550
For naught is permanent—excepting change.
  [He tears away the background and goes out, leaving the stage a void filled by a strange diminishing light, which penetrates beyond into the surrounding nowhere—an emptiness in which the Grotesques, including the Crone, whom he flings forward with the others, move vaguely. A pause.]
  Girl.  Have mercy upon us!…
  [A long silence. Curtain.]
 
 
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