Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Eternal Feminine, Act Two, Scene Four

Noon. The millpond. Lilith and Lucien stand by the edge of the water.

Lucien. Thank your father again for releasing me.

Lilith. Oh, he won’t remember, anyway.

Lucien. He seems an insensitive sort of fellow—
He didn’t even care about how you were tortured,
Only about his discomfort in serving.

Lilith. I did sell his name for a bit of respite.
It’s to be expected.
How did you like Samir, yourself?

Lucien. Experience was interesting
But I am glad to be home again
Under the benevolent sun.
Have you thought about staying, as I asked?

Lilith. I thank you for your invitation—
You are the first person
I’ve ever met who wasn’t old, or a baby…
And you are so interesting!
Is it true you grind up corn and wheat
And eat it?
I would dearly love
To learn to eat bread,
And stay with you.

Lucien. Truly, there is nothing better
Than eternal friendship.

Nixie enters dramatically at the top of the hill, looking wild and disheveled.

Nixie. Lilith, that is foolish!
You forget what it means to be immortal.
You forget that he will die
And you will go on and on, eternal.

Lilith. Nixie, you have come back to your pond!
Father was looking for you all this morning.
He needed your opinion on a new cravat.

Nixie. I have come to stay forever.
What else can I do with my life?
Warn all you meet, human child,
To stay away from this pond.
Down in the depths waits eternal life.
Go inside, foolish girl,
Perhaps you can only learn by experience.
You will only know the pain of eternity
Once love is lost.

Lucien. Nixie, don’t despair—
Eternity awaits not in pain,
But in light!

Nixie. The tragedy of Heaven
Is that it is not

Lucien. But things there will be different—
You won’t be bored or saddened by the world…

Nixie. You forget, O Son of Earth,
That she and I can never follow you there.

Lilith. Lucien, come—teach me to eat bread!

Lucien. If you will teach me to dance to fairy melodies!

Lilith. I will—and fie on thoughts of future!
Now is all-encompassing!
This you will learn from the Fay!

Lilith and Lucien exit.

Nixie. Winds ignore the world in their forceful play
I taste air that hints of cleanliness
Deceptive warmth grows up from the ground
Into the soles of my feet
It is again Spring
Seasons are so blindingly brilliant
Ever changing—
I love to watch them.
I love to watch them
Change and develop.
Change and develop,
Yet never grow older—
I would that
I could be the same.
To be ever twisting ‘round myself,
To be ever growing up and out,
Yet to be never old and ever new—
Yet to be never tired of life—
Such would be the True Eternal,
The Eternal Truth.
My soul cannot be joyful
Without the Numinous.
Pondering, I remember
Sadly, as I memorize
The histories,
The histories of Earth,
That she is slowly growing older.
She is not static, as she first seemed to me.
She is still young
Yet old, too old—
Her childhood is over and her strength is beginning.
Like me, she has long ages of memories.
Everything is already old to her,
Still she has much farther to go.
Her strength,
Her ambition,
Her ruthless, rushing activity
Mask the sorrow of boredom:
The sorrow of the curse.
Now we can never understand.
We can never be joyful.
We have not the Numinous.
Creating, creating—
As the poet promised us—
Striving, striving—
As the god commanded us—
Never ending.
Salvation comes to us,
But at what cost?
The wait is long,
And we will soon be too old—
Too old to laugh with fresh air tongues,
Too tired to dance intuitively on warm living grass,
Too jaded to gasp with wonder at the ceaseless creation,
And never gone, never gone—
Already we are this way,
The Earth and I.
We are already too old
For the Indescribable Firework Show at the End.
Now we beg only for rest, for cessation.
We watch under our eyelids
With envy, with loathsome desire,
That masculine Fire,
That masculine Fire that burns up the nations,
That burns up the souls of men:
So quickly extinguished
And so much light!
An explosion of energy,
Like an alchemist’s target,
Like the death of a star,
Like Lucifer falling, falling…
Oh, to live
Wrapped in Sublime,
Burning skin and screaming lungs,
Screaming lungs and forceful eyes,
Forceful eyes and tearing nails,
Tearing up the clothes,
Burning up the souls of women,
Forcing out the pain and beauty,
Screaming out the pain and beauty,
Screaming until it is all gone,
Gone out of the body.
And when the body is empty,
To cease:
This is our desire,
O Man of Vivid Death.
Do not worship our creation,
Do not aspire to strive as we strive—
Concern yourself with your cessation,
Concern yourself with your blinding light.
But if you leave your self-absorbed explosion
To think of us at all,
Let it be with a moment of pity.
Spare a drop of your passionate melancholy
For us who are

Eternal Feminine, Act Two, Scene Three

Early morning. The pond. Sebastian and Nixie sit on the ground, exhausted. The carcasses of Cato and Haven lie nearby, as does the magic knife. Blood is everywhere, including around Sebastian’s mouth.

Sebastian. I hate to kill.
It’s rather messy.

Nixie. And babies are too cute to enjoy.

Sebastian. But the other one was harder.
He would not give up that baby!

Nixie. Contemptuous fool!
I personally watched him
He saw a woman terrified and shamed
He offered no hand to help her
And he condemned her nonetheless.
It seemed as though
His aesthetic sensibilities
Trumped what ethics he may have had.

Sebastian. Hail, tongue of fire and squire of light who rot—
Hail, fiery savior of the earth, now slain—
We sacrifice you, for your courage brought
A mingling of the sacred and profane.
But it was not for you, O Titan low,
To undertake to right the earthly lie.
Your plans and aspirations tumble so
And fall around the mountain where you die.
Yet gazing forward, you took up this light,
And, doing so, gave up the ghost in kind,
Forgetting that the gods forbid such sight
And honor those who crawl and gaze behind.
Prometheus is left in endless dim,
And fire consumes the world that is not him!
I had better fetch my bonny bairn.
Would you like to come?
It might be fun to taunt
Such an opponent as this self-made sorcerer!

Nixie. I think I’d rather sit and worship
At this green, green shrine of beauty.

Sebastian flits away into the trees. As he does, Pascal steps out from behind a tree.

Nixie. Oh! God!
I see you finally!
How come you here
To let me sense your presence?

Pascal. I was praying in the glen,
And I heard the screaming…
I see I come upon you too late.

Nixie. Tell me, is it true?
Is it true that your purity allows you
Intimate knowledge of the ancient religion?

Pascal. I must report this crime!
This bloody terror!

Nixie. Oh, stay—
Stay with me and share your perfection!
Let me emulate your wholesomeness!

Pascal. You horrify me—
Come no closer!
You sold a boy who loved you into death—
You killed an innocent man
And smeared the blood of a baby
Over the clean earth!
You extinguished the soul of an innocent,
Denying him eternal ecstasy!

Pascal picks up the knife.

Pascal. Look, if you come any closer
I shall be forced to defend myself.

Nixie. I have no fear of death.
I cannot die, but will live forever.
Let me come to you.

Pascal. Would you really like to spend eternity
Covered in ever-bleeding wounds?
I know you, water-temptress.
Flee and leave this desecration.

Pascal threatens Nixie with the knife.

Nixie. The knife! Rest is lost!
And no respect, no respect,
For I have only shame.
I fail; I am eternally covered in filth.

Nixie backs away into the forest. Pascal, now alone, washes the knife in the pond.

Pascal. I am glad, knife, to have you back.
You were always sharper
Than a secret repeated.

Pascal removes his hood and applies false hair and make-up to reveal that he is actually Samir.

Samir. I suppose I ought to release the elf king,
Now that he has served his purpose.
But why release such a capable slave?
All I must do is say his name—
I must only whisper—
Only say—
How strange!
At any rate, it doesn’t matter.
I have only to go back to his daughter,
The girl Lilith.
Convincing her to tell was easy and fun.

He continues to tidy up the site, throwing the bodies into the pond. As he works, Marta approaches from offstage.

Marta. Samir?

Samir. Oh, princess!

Marta. I see you’ve killed our baby.

Samir. Oh, was it ours?

Marta. Yes… I’ve named it Haven.

Samir. Next time something like this happens,
You had better tell me
So I can take care of things.
But all’s well that ends well.

Marta. I’ve run away from home.

Samir. Did you enjoy yourself?

Marta. I did not.

Samir. Well, everyone has to sow her wild oats.
But of course you did not enjoy yourself—
I own you, and you need me.

Marta. Yes, I know.

Samir. Well, you may as well come home with me then.

Marta. What will become of the kingdom?

Samir. I will take care of it for you.
I have taken care of everything.
I am responsible.

Marta. Yes.
You are my Orestes.
You bear our responsibility.
I bear our guilt.

Samir. However you like to think of it
Is fine with me.

Marta. I wish, oh, I wish
That an end would come!
An end to guilt
And responsibility!

Samir. Woe to you who long
For the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
Only to meet a bear,
As though he entered his house
And rested his hand on the wall
Only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
Pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

Eternal Feminine, Act Two, Scene Two

Night. The city square. Many people mill about. Samir sells magic at his booth.

Chorus. We are a petty bourgeois people
With a functional view of wrong and right.
Sometimes, we make mistakes, but we believe
That the average, ordinary motion of our lives
Will last longer and prove stronger than explosive Romanticism.

Cato enters, carrying Haven.

Cato. Are you looking forward to the ship?
I will not forget you for a moment.
There are no distractions for me now.
Music has been put away,
I will fling myself into charity…

Chorus. Someone has to make the food,
Someone has to build the house,
Someone has to teach the children.
This is good enough.

Sebastian, dressed like a ship’s captain, suddenly appears.

Sebastian. Are you ready to leave?
I see no baggage.

Cato. We take nothing with us.
We are purging ourselves.
Finally my reason
Has overcome my emotion
And this victory is sweet
And bitter.

Sebastian. All victories are sweet and bitter.
Follow me to the ship.
Let us sing a song of victory!

Cato. I hurt like a raw wound
And music slips into the flesh
And rubs laughingly among the blood
I have to howl and snap
To drive it away
Otherwise I’ll cry!
…When I say that I hate music,
I do not mean that I am no longer obsessed with it.
I only mean that it hurts me,
It hurts me so that I can’t bear it,
And I need to run and hide from it.
There will be no more songs.

Sebastian, Cato, and Haven disappear into the crowd. Lilith appears next to Samir.

Samir. Why are you here, little one?

Lilith. Sir, I wonder
If I may go home
You seem to have no more need of me.

Samir. I know better than that, you contumelious calumniator
I know the ways of magic work
Along the lines of blood.
Besides, you may still be useful.

Lilith. I can’t possibly see how.

Samir ignores her, seeking out a potential customer.

Lilith. I don’t know
If people don’t want to hear me speak,
Or if they just don’t know
How to respond.
If they don’t want to hear me
And they don’t know how to respond.

Bowing, Lilith exits. Nixie, followed by Lucien, makes her way through the crowd to Samir.

Nixie. Good evening, sir.

Samir. Good evening, immortal sister.
I hear you have rejected
Your Creator-given purpose,
And that the millpond now is safe.

Nixie. My life wearies me.

Samir. Suicide for the immortal?
It’s a very difficult thing.
But possible, very possible…
How would you like to do it?

Nixie. Actually, I was looking for a knife—

Samir. A knife! It’s perfect.
Here is one of mine.
Wait a moment while I prepare it.

Samir produces a knife, seemingly from nowhere. He mumbles magic words while mixing a disgusting salve, which he smears over the knife.

Samir. But you can only use it once—
Don’t let it touch blood until
You are ready to die.
This concoction is made of such light
As to extinguish the shadow,
Eliminate the soul.
Now this is an expensive request.
How much are you willing to pay?
Here, this boy,
Is he yours?

Nixie. You’re looking for an apprentice?

Samir. Not so much an apprentice
As a slave.
I need a boy to clean my evil lair
And periodically to donate his blood for my brew.

Nixie. This boy is clean and bloody.
If this boy will pay for the knife,
Then he’s yours.

Samir. And here is your knife.

Lucien. Goddess, I’m not sure I understand—

Nixie. Did you not want to perceive sensation?

Lucien. I did. Will this bring me what I desire?

Samir. Experience is available for those willing to take risks.

Lucien. Then I will obey.

Nixie. Though I am shining
In diamond splendor,
No ray falls
Into the darkness of my heart.
You’ve known it well
For a long time.
You saw me in your dream,
And you saw the darkness in my heart,
And you saw the snake
That feeds upon my heart.
You saw how utterly wretched I am.

Nixie turns on her heel and strides determinedly away, leaving Lucien with Samir.

Lucien. Sir, I am not sure
Of what I should do.

Samir. You wait here, while I
Stride about, selling.
Here, girl!

Lilith appears.

Samir. Take charge of this boy.
He is to be mine for a while,
For the bleeding.
You know what will happen
If there is any trouble.
…I don’t like to elaborate on threats
Because it restricts my creative freedom afterwards.

Samir binds them to each other with rope, then walks among the crowd.

Lucien. My name is Lucien
I’m the miller’s eldest son.
What is your name?

Lilith. My name was Lilith,
I was the Erl-King’s only daughter
The dark daemonic dancer,
And now alone and violently violated.

Lilith and Lucien maneuver to a comfortable position in Samir’s booth.

Lilith. Do men sing to themselves?
Are their emotions
As strong as mine?
Do they throw themselves,
With wide-eyed innocence,
Into love?
Do their hearts inflate with excitement?
Do their lungs feel heavy with grief?
Or is it only an appearance,
Exaggerated by strong words
And raised eyebrows?
If there were only one man in the world
Who sang to himself,
Hope might be kept,
Like a glowing coal
Buried in ashes.
I no longer believe men are poets.
No, I have never believed it.
Will not someone
Prove me wrong?

Lucien. I cannot prove you wrong—
I have neither the knowledge nor the skill
To make poems and songs—
But I would like to!
The urge to create wells up
And threatens to explode
And the pent-up frustration
Of thwarted inspiration
Leaves my heart inflated
And my lungs heavy with grief.
I promise, there is no appearance
That can be stronger than my soul.

Lilith and Lucien huddle in a corner. Nixie appears in front of the Temple.

Nixie. This is unexpected—
I hold here in my hand
The power unlooked for, unhoped for.
With this knife I could end my misery.
How I’ve longed for this!
With a minimum of effort I could have rest.
But, no, Aubrey is enslaved.
Surely that is more immediate than my boredom.
This is my duty as his friend,
And I submit in idealistic glory.
Mayhap the knowledge of my moral victory
Will offset the misery of several days.
And it may be that such a selfless act
Will nudge me closer
To respect from one such as Pascal!
Oh, I live for such a moment!

Eternal Feminine, Act Two, Scene One

Evening. The pond behind the mill. Nixie paces distractedly, unable to stand still. Lucien sits at her feet, watching.

Nixie. I can’t concentrate
I’m panting
I’m in love with the world
I can see everything
Taste it
Smell the earth
I’m going to cry

Lucien. It’s wonderful

Nixie. Go away
You can’t understand
You can’t participate
Nostrils flaring
Squeeze eyes shut
Throw head back into the wall
Open mouth so wide
I can’t express it
I can’t get it out
I want to stay up all night and HOWL AT THE MOON

Lucien. I wish I were
As able as you to experience
The divine.
You are the idol of my existence.

Nixie. Oh
Am I human?
I feel human,
But so few are like me
Belly open
I’m so hungry,
I’m so hungry for everything

Lucien. Please teach me,
I’m hungry for everything, too
I pay attention to the minute details
Of the mundane
But so unsuccessfully!
Give me this gift of sensation!

Nixie. My hair is soft
Toss my head
It’s too, too much
My hair
So much soft teasing
Bite bite
Tear with teeth
Pull my hair
Pull me along, drag me
Moan groan
Kill and eat
Raw flesh
Still warm and bloody
I’m hungry
I must eat
I must live

Lucien. Yes, even death is fascinating
Even death is an adventure!
How is it that we must die to live?

Nixie. Go outside
Howl howl
The blood-red necklace
Fast panting
Lick lick
Lap up
Bite your tongue
Mouth fixation
Taste it all
My lips taste so good
Pant pant pant
Howl snarl
Open up to swallow them all
Lick lips and taste them
Taste cool tears
Watery wet and salty safe

Lucien. When I glanced into the water
I was changed
My life was never so appealing
As the animal zeal I find without

Nixie. Every every sensation
Chew until it snaps
Crack crack bones
Slither and swirl
I have so many teeth
So sharp
Whimper high
My mouth is
So big
My throat is
Twist and turn

Lucien. Yes, let us dance!
Dancing is the music of the body
It is the science of the spheres

Nixie. Oh oh
Quiet me down
Don’t let me
Stop me
Wild and depraved
Wild wild
Round round
Spherical bulbs
Bang bang bang
Stomp stomp stomp
No no no
Bite my body

Lucien. The sickness in you
Is, I fear, that for which I search.

Nixie. Sick romanticism?
Poor baby
We’re all sick and
Smile at your cute, cute sniffles
Shame at enjoyment
Of the taste of blood
Sharp canine teeth
Shame and wonder
Hunger and fear
Am I sick and evil?
Is it wrong?
To enjoy sense?
To enjoy pain?
Oh, Paschal Victim,
What would you say
If you saw me in my torment?

Lucien. Oh, goddess, how may I serve you?
The luminous moon is rising
As sets the benevolent sun.

Nixie. Stay, stay
And try to see it
Not with your eyes,
For they are wise,
But see it with your ears
And hear it with the inside of your hand—

Nixie flings herself into the pond, disappearing under the water.

Lucien. She may be right—
Why do I long to follow her?
Down to death I would go
If she commanded.
But when she is gone,
I no longer think of her.
Can this then be honest love?
I think not.
She may be right—
Why does she shape my destiny?
I find myself unable to imagine
A future without her
But every moment with her
Torments me with inadequacy.
If I could get away I might be happy,
But never challenged.
She may be right—
Why do I blindly follow her?
She may be correct in surmising
That I am naïve.
But when she is gone,
I no longer think of her.
Can this be honest?
I think not.

Lucien sighs, returning to the house. After a moment, Marta enters, carrying Haven in a basket.

Marta. I waited and daydreamed, a Cinderella princess
I pictured you saving the day
I waited in anger for a knight in shining armor
To take all my troubles away
I know it’s an old theme, and one I esteem
Knee-high in garbage, but I had a dream
Covered by flies and all I despise,
I didn’t have much chance against the fury in their eyes:
The guilty lies
You came and I gave you an open-ended question,
Invited you into my sin
But you wouldn’t give me a sympathetic answer
I had to make you begin
Fighting with my pride, Right on our side,
Angry at evil, I laughed when they died
You could stay so calm with blood on your palm,
You didn’t hate it or love it, but it made you belong:
I think it was wrong
Now we are lying in guilt and shame forever,
But you want to leave it behind
I cannot leave here—how can I wish for comfort?
I don’t want a sanctified mind
You know that it’s your sin. How can you grin?
If you hadn’t come here, how could we begin?
And now that I’m in pain, drowning in shame,
I know it was my dream, but you take the blame:
You don’t feel the same
You say it would be better if I’d take a stand
Decide that I’m in charge and take my fate in hand
I’m too exhausted to let go of Fortune’s apron string
I don’t want to be responsible for everything
I wish I were fifteen, chasing that theme
Holding the promise of my self-esteem
Covered in flies and all I despise,
Waiting for someone who’s strong in my eyes:
The Furies and the lies…
Ah, if only I had self-control
Ah, if only he would not manipulate me so
Why could he not refuse to help me sin?
Why does he not want me to gain salvation?
What kind of love is so selfish?
He should have stopped me from destroying myself!
It is his responsibility!
But the guilt—the guilt is mine.
And I am so afraid of his knowledge—
What he could do to me with a single word—
In the earth, there is nothing so powerful,
Nothing so powerful as secret knowledge.
Ah, Child
This is one of the Hebrew babies.
Ah, Water
Take this baby and nurse him for me,
And I will pay you.

Marta places the basket on the water. It begins to sink. Horrified, she snatches it up out of the water.

Marta. Will nothing work properly?
I have no desire to watch him die!

Marta begins crying at the sky. Cato enters.

Cato. I thought you might return here—
It is a picturesque place for suicide, isn’t it?
Why are you here, and not celebrating
The birth of the kingdom’s heir?

Marta. The kingdom has no heir
When the birth is illegitimate.

Cato. Really, these medieval ideas
Are detrimental in the extreme.
Why is the baby in a basket?

Marta hands the basket to Cato.

Marta. I had hoped to send him floating away
To a kingdom once and future
That he may inherit

Cato. But, Marta, this is a pond.
It doesn’t lead anywhere
Except down, to death.

A pause as he realizes the implications of his statement.

Cato. This is appalling!
Honestly, I don’t understand
How you can be so horribly cruel!
Is there anything more immoral?

Marta. What else can I do?
Give me a viable solution!

Cato. It’s too late for viable solutions!
Why didn’t you think about the future
When you had the chance?

Marta. Can’t you offer me anything at all?

Cato. How can you expect me to solve your problems?
Go home! Get well!

Marta. I can’t go home now.
And I won’t take him there, either.
Keep him from me, I bet you!
Or I will do him some violence.

Cato. I will!

Marta walks out determinedly, in the direction opposite her entrance. Cato stands, holding the basket with the baby.

Cato. The Noble Savage
sacrifices herself
once again
on the small nail that she finds
in the books on the bookshelf.
drowning herself in the glass of water
used to wash the paintbrushes,
drinking the particular poison that can be found
only in the garden, the human body, and the human mind.
Nearby, I, the Byronic Hero
attempt to set my palms on fire
with the matches I found
in the music on the music stand.
My presence ruins the pathos
of her attempt at death
Her presence intrudes upon
the loneliness
My chosen loneliness.
I am Edgar Allen Poe, and she
is Isadora Duncan
We are but two
of the hundreds
of the thousands
who search in desperation
for the Honor
given only to the dead.
We starve in garrets,
we paint our eyes black and our skin pale
we burn at the stake.
Still we search for new venues, because
all of these have become
Exaggeration of our plight
The depths of self-ignorance.
There are those who try to turn us from this pathos,
Who remind us that we are wrong—
they are right.
We beg them for help and
scorn their help;
It would better suit our purposes
if they refused us.
We tell ourselves that no one understands.
We may be wrong or not—
What matters to us is that we believe ourselves
It is painful
But is necessary, to achieve
Honor, to achieve
the screaming pain of
Art can be gotten
by other means
but it is then
screaming pain.
Oh, child—
The world fills me with horror.
A place where mothers kill the children of their blood…
I renounce this art!
I renounce this Sublime Daemonic!
I hate this music,
This musica mundana,
This music of the spheres!
We will flee
To a land where we can make the world
Better and more beautiful
Together, we will feed starving children
And build homes for the homeless.
Reason will be our guide.
From now on,
Our world is Economic!

Eternal Feminine, Act One, Scene Four

That evening. The city square. Every so often, someone scurries, cloaked, through streets. Various objects with dark purposes fill the shadowy corners of Samir’s booth. Samir is occupied with one of his sinister alchemy experiments.

Samir. Now I know the secret whisperings
Of the infernal underworld.
The spawn of hell has given me the key
With which to unlock the powers held back
The ancients knew the authority
Trapped in one word:
And now I have the ability
To command you by your name!
Come forth, Aubrey, king of the Elves!

As he says this line, Samir adds the final ingredient to his potion, which bubbles and explodes menacingly. Sebastian falls from the sky, stumbling, into the middle of the dark room.

Samir. There’s no need to be so sullen.
I merely want you to do a favor for me—
It’s a simple affair, really.

Sebastian. Who are you that commands me?
And where did you learn my name?

Samir. Neither of those is of any importance.
You need simply kill a man for me.

Sebastian. Why not kill him yourself?

Samir. I’m not a fool. I know that you
Are stronger far than I.
And you can kill with impunity!
He is a student at the university.
His name is Cato.
Leave his body in the woods—
I will gather his blood and bowels
To feed my fire.

Sebastian. I will not do this for you.

Samir. I know your name.
Would you like a taste of what will happen
When I speak your name with pain in mind?

Sebastian. I understand you completely.

Samir. I’m going now; I have a meeting
With the Princess Marta.

Samir disappears in a puff of foul-smelling smoke. Sebastian is left alone in the room. He angrily searches the room, looking for a clue as to how Samir discovered his name.

Sebastian. Damn it! How is it possible?
This is disgustingly, indescribably awful.
My fury threatens to overwhelm me!
I’ll never be able to think straight.
I will not be commanded!

He attempts to calm himself. With a bang, Nixie drops into the room the same way Sebastian did.

Nixie. Here you are! I thought I’d never find you.
What on earth possessed you to suddenly disappear?
But this is a fun game; next time I’ll hide and—

Sebastian. Don’t be ridiculous. I was summoned!

Nixie. What?

Sebastian. Someone knows my name.

Nixie. Your real name?

Sebastian. His name is Samir. The sorcerer in the square.

Nixie. But who could have told him? No one in the fairy kingdom
Could be so malicious.

Sebastian. Oh, they could be so malicious—
I have hateful enemies everywhere—
But they would never be so foolish.
Can you imagine the chaos that will ensue
When the mortal maggots can command our every thought?
Everyone knows this story;
Everyone has heard this tale of woe.
Who could possibly be so stupid
As to risk his or her own life along with mine?

Nixie. When we find out, we can punish him or her.

Sebastian. But first I have to get out of this mess.

Nixie. Isn’t there any way to make him forget your name?

Sebastian. Of course—the gods would never be so foolish
As not to provide for this very situation.
All I need is the blood of one of his children.
I have to drink it. And I’ll have to use one of his knives.

Nixie. That’s disgusting.
But you’re in luck!
I’ve found out something wonderful this morning!
I forgot to tell you earlier, because the dandelions were interesting,
And I didn’t think it would mean anything to you.
At any rate, this very Samir
Is going to have a child!
He doesn’t know it yet—
The Princess Marta is the mother, and she’s afraid to tell him—
And so he won’t protect it with any spell.
All you have to do is get the baby when it’s born.

Sebastian. And somehow acquire one of his knives.

Nixie. That will be easy. Can’t you steal one now?

Sebastian. Don’t be stupid. He would know.

Nixie. Well, then, how will we get one?

Sebastian. You can buy one from him.

Nixie. But how will you get the baby away from its mother?

Sebastian. If you haven’t noticed,
I’m quite accomplished at stealing children.
Have you never seen the ranks of child-slaves
That populate the dank tunnels of the mound?
I will merely sing a song:
You wonderful, sweet, beautiful child,
Come with me.
I promise to play
Many wonderful games with you!
I promise you will see
Many colorful flowers at the beach!
My mother has many golden outfits!
Sweet child, will you come with me?
My daughter will make sure you have the best!
My daughter also leads the nightly dance!
She will hold you in her arms,
Dance with you, and sing you to sleep!
I love you, and I long for your beautiful shape.
If you will not come with me to play,
I shall take you by force!

Eternal Feminine, Act One, Scene Three

Noon the next day. A happy yellow field behind the mill. The green-brown millpond swirls lazily. Insects buzz and birds chirp occasionally. It is the summer of summer. Lucien bolts out of the mill, slamming the door shut and sighing dramatically.

Lucien. Oh, how I longed for noon! At last, my time is free!
I wish my father’d come back soon, but I know that he’ll be proud of me.
He’s proud of me, and that is why I tend the house and mill alone.
With self-control, I will not sigh to any ears but my own.
But now that I’m alone, I’ll say aloud how much I hate that grown-up crowd!
I hate to tell them that I don’t and that they can’t and that he won’t!
I’m not cut out for business, for I truly long to gratify!
It breaks my heart to tell them that the rules won’t let me satisfy!
The benevolent sun is at its zenith
For today is the summeriest of summers
And now is the noonest of noons
Let me reach out my limbs to the Midsummer sun
Bless me, oh, guardian of warmth; let me receive the sunlight

He trips and falls with a hard smack on his back, beginning to laugh as soon as he recovers his breath.

Lucien. Let me be silent for a moment and listen to the earth.
Listen to the echoes of the creatures she gave birth.
The world is never truly silent; constant motion makes life.
The earth eternal recreates the birthing pangs of living strife.
Just imagine complete silence! It overwhelms me with fear.

Lucien stands up, looking about warily, and touches his cheeks.

Lucien. Already my cheeks are burnt bright red!
While not the smooth, translucent porcelain of a tormented artist,
Nor the freckled milk of the countries to the north,
My skin still hides behind rosy cheeks the hue of the tenderest apricot.
My blue-grey eyes squint against the sun on all but the cloudiest of days,
The benevolent sun that heals and warms by body burns my eyes
It burns my will to live as independent me!
Perhaps I shall go swimming to escape the sun, yet still be near it.
I am so uneasy around the millpond…
When I was young
I nearly lived in the water
Especially in the summery summers
Unsupervised by a mother who had grown so accustomed to water
That she no longer thought of it as perilous.
But as I grew to be eleven, twelve, thirteen
I began to hear the singing
I began to hear the keening moaning wail
The anguished cries of something deathly
Coming from the reeds of the pond
I know it will pull me in
I know that’s why Father never comes here
It’s like the reedy wailing of a sad, wild shawm
It’s like the painful howling of a dead child’s mother
It’s like the hungry yearning of a big bad wolf…
I do not know what it is that lurks in the water,
But I am sure that it is something,
Something that would pull me down!

Lucien pauses at the edge of the pond, looking into the green-brown water.

Lucien. The stream that feeds the pond
Keeps the water moving,
So I am not afraid of foul, unclean things
That might brush my feet or crawl into my hair.
Pure superstition, the thought of a nightmare
That has haunted me since childhood—
This holds me back!
My suspicious are unfounded;
I despise myself.
I name myself Coward!

Lucien throws himself recklessly into the water.

Lucien. The bottom of the pond is sandy;
There is nothing here to pull me down.
Let me wade around a bit;
Let my plunge my body beneath the surface.
I ought not to have kept my clothes on;
It’s difficult to move.
However, I have healthy arms and legs enough.
Moving about in the water leaves me,
As always,
Exhausted and hungry!
It is a good kind of exhausted,
The kind that comes after a long hike in a beautiful forest,
Or a day spent chasing small children up and down stairs.
Oh, victory!
I have conquered my cowardice!
Now I ought to go and get a novel
And spend the rest of the beneficent sunlight
Getting sunburned by the pond.
Perhaps I will have the pond to myself today;
It’s Midsummer’s Day, and those city folk who come here to
Commune with nature
Will perhaps stay home to
Commune with their families.

Lucien makes the effort up the hill and back to the house, dripping with water, grinning with all the triumph of victory. Cato enters, trudging thoughtfully through the leaves.

Cato. I understand most people think
It’s very difficult to be insane
But I’ve discovered that it’s more difficult
To avoid it
It takes will power to be always holding oneself back,
Constantly gritting one’s teeth
Have you ever thought about the strength of mind it takes
To steel your foot against the constant compulsive itching
And simply force your legs to keep moving?
Step after step, all of the same size, as if naturally…
Never minding the cracks stepped upon
And the sticks brushed against
And the toes stubbed…
We must cling to sanity, using all of our strength
The Sublime was everywhere today,
Especially in the brown, crunchy leaves
That linger even into summer in the darkest corners of the wood.
The contrast of the brown leaves and the green grass was
I had to willfully stop noticing,
Because it was beginning to hurt my soul.
I sat for a while in the garden,
But the Sublime crept into my stomach
And made me feel heavy and sad.
I thought to myself that it would be easier in an empty room,
Perhaps a pale yellow room.
But even pale yellow walls and floors and ceiling
Would be so, so beautiful
That I would never be able to stand it.
It is such a swelteringly lovely day
The beauty creeps over me like heat
And oppresses my body
I can hardly breathe
Looking up at the green, sparkling branches makes me dizzy
If I breathe too much air,
I know that I will begin to laugh
The green sparkles will come in on the air
And flood through my blood,
Thrusting me forward and hurtling me up into the sky
This is the theme of my life,
This epic battle between the Sublime and Existentialism
And I am caught like Electra
And I would very much like
To reveal it to the world
In its full glory.
Of course, it does not want its secret tyranny
Exposed so cruelly.
And I fear I shall never possess the skill
To recreate the divinity of the mundana.
The Sublime is so cruel,
Always blowing aside the veil,
Allowing me to see past the barrier off physicality
Into the spiritual world,
But never allowing me the ability
To share my visions.
It would be better,
The Existentialism tells me,
If I had never seen the visions.
I know I can stop them—
I am strong—
But I am not sure I want to give up that beauty.
And perhaps, perhaps…
I am not strong enough.
I pretend to the Existentialism
That he is a powerful state of mind,
But I know secretly in the sinking of my heart,
That should it come to a battle,
The Sublime will wield its power in my heart
And the Existentialism will explode
In my hands.
Oh, musica mundana!
Oh, voice of the spheres!
I remember the wild Phrygian tunes
That are sung in the ancient hallways of Byzantium
And I want you.
All around me are piled
The relics that cannot be properly described—
I turn squeamish at the thought of such blatantly ordinary language—
But I cannot come by the microtonal Dorian notes,
The map crafted by God to show
The dances of the planets.

Cato leaves the stage for a walk around the pond. After a moment, Marta enters.

Marta. Alone at last!
How much time do I have before they find me gone?
I must have a moment
To steel myself for the plunge.
Cato has told me about this pond—
He finds it serene somehow, yet dangerous.
I find it a fitting coffin,
For in it, I may be crushed to pieces under the millwheel.
Only, I fear I will not drown—
Childhood swimming lessons
And my body’s will to live
Are enemies to my purpose.
It is a cliché—
How disaster can spiral from one slip of the toe
Yet my mistake was not a slip.
It was a nosedive.
I see now the dichotomy
Between what I knew and what I believed
I am that fool
Who is aware of consequences
Yet disregards them
Now I have a beginning awareness of how my actions affect others.
At first I believed that nothing could be worse
Than the agony of waiting—
Now I know that I was wrong
The agony of waiting, the agony of wondering
Are nothing compared to the agony of
I laugh at my former inability to imagine
The revulsion that awaited me
It is incomprehensible—
The shame, the fear
The surreal experience of incomprehension
The knowledge that I chose my own humiliation
How is it that I can smile or laugh
How is it that I can think about other things
How do I carry on conversations
If I ignore it, perhaps it will go away
If I tell no one, perhaps it will stop
How long
How long will it be before I betray myself
How long do I have before the gentle swell of life
Curves over my belly
The shame of it
Lies in its shattered beauty
It was to have been wonderful and wanted
Now it is a hideous mockery.

Cato reenters.

Cato. Marta! Hello!
Whatever are you doing here alone?

Marta. I’ve come to kill myself in the pool.

Cato. You know you’re not serious.

Marta. Well, I don’t know what else to do.

Cato. It would be unwise.

Marta. You don’t understand—

Cato. You’re just tired.

Marta. The world is overwhelming—

Cato. It is for me, too, but I remain alive.

Marta. I’m going to have a baby. Very soon.

Cato. Really? Hmm,
You do look pregnant.
I can’t believe I didn’t notice.

Marta. You’re not the most observant of men.
But it appears to me that no one has noticed,
Though I have nightmares about being found out.
Empire-waisted dresses and denial have been my shield.

Cato. Well, congratulations!

Marta. Nonsense, it’s a curse--

Cato. Well, you certainly can’t kill yourself.
And risk the life of a baby, too?
Don’t be silly.

Marta. What else can I do?
I’ll be lost in hellfire either way!

Cato. I don’t see that you’ve done anything
So awfully wrong.
No one cares about such things any more.
You just explain to me what’s wrong about it.

Marta. That’s not the point!
Right and wrong are nothing!
Only guilt matters, guilt and responsibility
And I have guilt! Guilt!

Cato. Here, I’ll take you home.
You can think about this more
When you’ve had some rest.

Marta. Why is it that no one takes me seriously?

Cato. Shhh, shhh, you’d better get some rest.
Have you told Samir about it?

Marta. I’d rather die!

Cato. I thought we decided that was not an option.

Marta. You decided it was not an option.

Cato. Home—sleep—think about it later…

Marta. I suppose you’re right.
Thank you for saving my life.
Or rather, our lives.

Cato. Not at all, it was nothing…
Tell me, has Samir brought you the new harpsichord
That he promised?

Marta. Yes, it came this morning.
Come home with me and I’ll show you…

Cato and Marta leave the stage in the direction of the palace. Nixie emerges from the foliage.

Nixie. Home to my pond!
I learn so much at your banks!

Lucien exits the house, bringing a book out to read in the sunshine. Nixie, preoccupied, does not see him until it is too late; desperately, she flings herself into the shadow of a large rock.

Lucien. Who are you?

Nixie. You’re the miller’s eldest son.

Lucien. Why are you here?

Nixie. Here you are to worship the sun.

Lucien. What are you?

Nixie. You are a human soul.

Lucien. A human soul?
What does it mean?

Nixie. It means you have a shadow.
You have a name.
It means that you can die.
It means that you have a meaning
A linear, goal-focused meaning
A chance to discharge a command
To live well, and to die complete.

Lucien. My name is Lucien.
What is yours?

Nixie. I am a nixie.

Lucien. But what is your name?

Nixie. You have a name as an individual,
Because your soul is unique among souls—
There is no one quite exactly like Lucien.
But I—
I have only a name as animal object.
Thos of us without souls go undifferentiated—
Robin, cottonmouth, dragonfly, nixie.

Lucien. But we give names to dogs and horses,
When we make them our own,
And know them and love them.
Then for us they are individuals.
Why does no one tame you and name you?
Oh, please let me try.

Nixie. I don’t believe that you,
Or anyone,
May make me his own,
And know me, and love me.
I am untamable, because
I am unfathomable.
Such is my curse.

Lucien. Haven’t you a shadow?

Nixie. No. I haven’t a soul. I can’t die.

Lucien. May I see?

Nixie. No. As it is, you don’t believe me.
If you believed me, you would burn me
Or you would tell others,
And they would burn me.

Lucien. That isn’t so.

Nixie. It is so. I have seen
Many other fairy sprites
Burned at the stake
Pieces of their flesh cut out
Their noses chopped off
Frozen half to death.
They never stop coughing
They never stop freezing
Their noses never grow back
And they never die.
Can you imagine an eternity
Of deformity?
Immortality does not,
In our case,
Mean eternal health.
I have no wish to collect the burn-scars
That would render me a hideous monster
To every race.
Then men would not only be ashamed
Of their digressions and discretions,
But also of their inexplicable lust
For burned, scarred flesh.

Lucien. Why do you speak of lust,
O Princess Fairy?
How many people have hurt you?

Nixie. You know why you never come here,
At least in your subconscious mind.
I catch the feet of men who swim by
And seduce them to their deaths
In the millpond.
I know you were swimming today.

Lucien. Why didn’t I see you?

Nixie. I was at the Midsummer Fair.
I’ve only returned this morning.

Lucien. My father’s there today.
…I’m happy I’ve met you.

Nixie. It’s the way of the world.
You can’t help being in love with me.
It’s unfortunate, because I’ve given up men today.

Lucien. But why do you continue to seduce them?

Nixie. It’s not a conscious thing.
I don’t try to do it.
It simply happens on its own.
I believe I was placed here
By the Creator
In some kind of divine ordinance
To fill the world with danger.
I hate that I hurt people,
But it’s just what I do.

Lucien. You shouldn’t, you know.
Hurt people, I mean.
Don’t you feel guilty?

Nixie. Of course I feel guilty!
But still I can’t stop.

Lucien. It doesn’t make much sense
To feel guilty for something that isn’t your fault.
If it’s not your fault, stop feeling guilty.
Or, accept your guilt and know that you have the power to change!

Nixie. Ah, but child,
It takes so much energy
To accept my power!
Why, that would mean
That I would have to be responsible
For all of my actions!
I would have to be responsible
For all of my choices!
All of my mistakes would be
My own fault!

Lucien. Well, then, it seems
That you ought to stop feeling guilty.

Nixie. Impossible. I’m a bad person.
You believe so yourself!

Lucien. True…
It’s just that you’re so beautiful…
It can’t really be your fault.
Please let me stay here with you.
I love hearing you speak.
Are you the one who plays the shawm?
It’s so wild and bestially primitive!

Nixie. You’re adorable.
It’s too bad I’ve given you up.
Or rather, it’s a good thing
Because I would hate to deprive the world
Of those pretty golden curls.
You may follow me along, then.
But what will you tell your family?

Lucien. My family? Oh.
I shall leave them a note
Saying I’m going with you to learn…
To learn everything in the world.

Nixie. Well, perhaps you’ll be amusing.
Tell me, do you know a man named Pascal?

Lucien. No, I guess I don’t.

Nixie. He’s the most perfect man in the world.
I’ve decided to become just like him.
He’s perfectly celibate.
Oh, don’t blush.
Are you such a baby?

Lucien. Well, it’s a little bit…
I didn’t know that immortals
Were so uninhibited.

Nixie. Yes, well,
It’s the talk of the trade.
At any rate,
I’ve decided to stop seducing men
And letting them die
In an effort to model myself
After a mortal, and a male.
Is it not strange?

Lucien. Very. I agree.
Will you not come out of the shadows
And let me kiss you?

Nixie. Silly boy!
Have you listened to nothing I said?
I told you, I’ve given it up.

Lucien. But kisses are innocent!
I only meant
I’d like to kiss your forehead
Because you’re so beautiful.
You’re the sort of beautiful
I’d like to capture in a statue
And keep in a museum of art.

Nixie. Nonsense.
I know the truth.
You appear too young to lie,
And although you may be silly,
My guess is that you’re just naïve.
Have you never kissed before?

Lucien. Well, not exactly.
Only in my imagination.

Nixie. Ha! Just as I suspected.
Silly and naïve.
Romantics have no place here.
Are you sure you’d like to live with me
And learn the cynicism of the world?

Lucien. Of course!
I love you
And I love to learn!

Nixie. Darkly you will find
That kisses are precious currency;
They must be given rarely
And hoarded like gold.
A kiss is never innocent.

Eternal Feminine, Act One, Scene Two

Immediately following. The balcony above the dais. Marta’s chambers above the square. Marta looks out a window at the crowd. Cato sits at the pianoforte.

Cato. I defy thee, Thomas Mann!
This spirit, while archaic,
Is never obsolete…
This medieval force of wonder,
While you may deny it,
Creeps through us still…
Watch me! Watch me,
In spite of your warning,
As I rush headlong
Into the apolitical void!
Free us to be separatists!
Let us bring forth
Our Romantic Regionalism!
Watch me ignore the world,
And let it destroy itself!
I care not.
I will die of my Romantic morbidity!
Your rationality of life
Is healthy boredom.
Keep your social humanitarianism,
And leave me to love!
Life is more than economics.

Marta. I am a petty bourgeois princess
With a capitalistic princedom
And a never-changing, functional view
Of right and wrong.
Sometimes we make mistakes,
But I believe that the practical, functional,
Sometimes hypocritical,
Average, ordinary motion of our lives,
Though it may be overshadowed
By your explosive Romanticism for a day,
Will, in time,
Have lasted longer,
Proved the stronger,
And generally bested the other ideas. Or rather, ideals.
Someone has to make the food,
Someone has to build the house,
And more food and a bigger house are better!
Someone has to teach the children
Right from wrong,
And make sure they brush their teeth and speak politely.
You see, a world with mundane rules,
And bourgeois, hypocritical values,
Is a world with peace and prosperity.
This is good enough!

Cato. What concerns you so at the window?

Marta. The crowds of people
Beneath my feet…
How can I be responsible
For all of this?
I have so much power,
And so little…
The kings and queens of the world
Look down on me, the little princess.
I have not even the power
To control myself.

Cato. Marta, calm yourself.
The world is not so dreary as you think.
Listen: isn’t this theme clever?

Marta. Yes, it is…
But still I worry…
What have I done?
Why am I so weak?

Cato. Oh, but listen…

Marta. I always like to listen to you.
I wish I had your talent.

Cato. You have your talent—why did you not compete?

Marta. Form, my friend, form and fear.
You had better go. Samir is coming soon.

Cato. I hate the way he lords it over you.
How dare he tell you whom you may befriend?
And how can I leave this harpsichord?

Marta. It’ll be here when you get back.

Cato. I’ll come back later, then.
Will you be awake?

Marta. I’ll be awake all night, I’m sure.
Oh, Cato, the world is so heavy…

Cato. Marta, you don’t have to carry it all
On your own back.
Remember the endless weariness of Atlas!
Good night then, for now.

Cato exits.

Marta. Oh, how I envy you, Cato…
Your blind preoccupation with art…
How can you think so constantly of it?
It is left to me to worry
It is left to me to wonder about the future.
How may I escape?
I love him and I fear him
And he owns me.
How is it that I am so in love
With a man I do not respect?
I should never have agreed to this engagement…
But now he has the power to destroy me.
He has such power…
I can while away my hours
With a blank mind, if it’s mine,
And I can build a house in which to sleep
With only canvas and twine.
I know how to make a meal
Out of what I find and grow,
And my garments are my whimsy
When I gather, baste, and sew.
But it’s a long and lonely evening by the fireside
If it’s a fire that I built and cannot share,
And I admit it might be fine to see a land of rest
Or to let somebody help me travel there.
I’m strong enough to lift the heavy
Daily bread that fuels the home.
I can stand long hours in the sun
And walk for miles in sweat and foam.
If something’s broken, I can fix it
Or I can pay with what I earn.
I know how to heal myself
Or if I don’t know, I can learn.
But it’s a long and lonely lifetime in my confidence
When I must be responsible for every chore,
And I would rather live with any tyrant
Than huddle cold with ever-open door.
Passion triumphs over reason, Cato says.
Little does he know the truth in his words.
Even I, who know better, have been defeated by the power of passion.
It’s too late now for anything but compliance.
No one else would take me now…

Samir enters quietly.

Samir. I passed that boy on the stair again.
He spends too much time with you alone.

Marta. Samir!
If you’re talking about Cato,
He comes to play
And to talk about music with me.

Samir. You never share with me
Your thoughts about music!

Marta. But, darling, you don’t understand…
You don’t know anything about music…

Samir. That’s no excuse.
I’m not stupid!
Surely you can say to me
Whatever you say to him.

There is silence as Marta tries to think of something to say.

Samir. Dearest princess of my heart,
Goddess of my soul,
Athena! Aphrodite! Persephone!
I see your knowledge and your intelligence,
I am aware of your beauty and power.
I know that you are wonderful,
And you are mine!

Marta. Please don’t call me such names.
My name is Marta.
Can’t you call me Marta?

Samir. To me you are Persephone…
Persephone, Persephone…
Beautiful queen of death
Prisoner of hell and daughter of life
How could you think to escape from me?
How could you think to remain away?
Your place is here with me,
I have made you mine.
Your life is a struggle
Between opposing forces
Your life is caught tight
Between Scylla and Charybdis
You are nothing but a pawn.
Persephone, beautiful queen of death
You chose to eat the seeds that bind you here
How can you now complain?
Your complaints are silent nothings
Don’t you know that I can make wonderful magic
If only you will go along with what I do?
Persephone, pawn of death…

Eternal Feminine, Act One, Scene One

Midsummer’s Eve. A square surrounded by tall, ancient buildings. On the east side, a Temple. On the west side, a few musicians play on a dais; above them hangs a balcony, separated by curtains from an inner room. A crowd mills about. Booths line the square, advertising various wares.

Crowd. We adore now the rays
Of the beneficent sun
On this Midsummer Eve
As he sets to bid us sleep.
But on this night we walk awake
To be the first to greet him
Who usually finds us sleeping.
Tomorrow is his day, warm and long!
Today in his name
Was held a musical competition:
Wailing kortholts, lizards, bladder pipes,
Soft rackets, gemshorns, recorders,
Loud bleating of the dulcians and sacbuts,
The tambourines, drums, finger cymbals, pipes and tabors,
Organettos, rebecs, psalteries, zinks, cornamuses,
Nakers, transverse flutes, serpents, rauschpfeifes,
Hurdy-gurdies and crumhorns, harps and lutes.
Three were chosen to receive prize—
Sebastian, the charming player of the viol,
The popular favorite,
Cato, the student, with the lovely voice,
And the judges’ choice, Pascal, a monk—
He played the shawm.
And tonight we hold a dance
Gigue, chacona, allemande,
Galliard and sarabande,
Pavanne, courante, and saltarello.
The beneficent sun sets soon, to signal merriment.

Nixie appears in the middle of the crowd.

Nixie. I tire of my life,
Of all my tasks:
Tangling the horse’s tail
And planting the dandelion seeds…
I tire of men and of my purpose.
The list grows endless…
Pierre, Pierre Curie
I suppose you do not remember the day
When you told me that you longed to pierce the veil of science.
I suppose you do not even remember me.
We both were young
We both were strange and not like them
Like them, the other children of the world
We read the books that tell the stories of our souls
How is it, that even with such a small world as I had then
I could fall in love with your image:
The pale, blond, blind, intelligent prince of words?
I saw you years ago
At first I did not recognize you.
In my memories, you were much more beautiful.
But perhaps you have recently improved,
Gawky adolescence never served anyone well!
I am inextricably entwined with you
I can never fall in love with anyone who is not you.
And I wondered
If you are who I think you are…
Oberon, I dreamt once of you
You kissed the back of my head very gently.
It is the only dream I can remember without a tinge of struggle or worry.
I have spent daydreams pondering your origin.
I would swear you were born under the earth,
Amidst a mob of golden, well-formed fairies.
I have heard you sing and felt the shivers run up my spine.
I can see that you don’t belong to this world or to these people.
You must be a child of the sun, gold and golden…
I have not seen you for some time and I wonder
Are you any older than you were when we last spoke?
Have you stopped poisoning yourself?
What gives you the right, O son of earth, to destroy yourself?
Such a fair creation ought never to be marred!
You belong in a museum,
Between the white carved statues with their sleek muscles
And the Impressionist paintings, full of red lips and luscious curls.
Your voice,
Your face,
Your grace—
They are all too wonderful for reckoning.
Now there is Pascal, Pascal…
I wonder, precious darling, beautiful boy
Has anyone told you
That you are the most beautiful being on Earth?
If I could have a son,
I’d pray that he would be
Exactly like you,
Exactly like you…
I have never seen a more innocent face.
Every moment you have continued to prove your perfection.
I have watched you secretly to try to find your flaw.
I have found that your flaws are more endearing than your charms.
Your melodies are enchanting,
And I have lost my chance and my right to approach you.
How could I, with my charred remnants of integrity,
Dare to hope for your notice?
I watch as you daily blossom
Has there ever been another who, upon my better knowing him,
Never ceased to command my respect and admiration?
You will go on improving,
But I will soon cease to be beauty
I will soon cease to be lively
I will soon cease to be anything at all
But I thought I would tell you before I go
Without hope or even thought of response
That you are beautiful!
For, perhaps, no one else has ever told you so.
How am I ever to compare with you?
How am I ever to be worthy of your glance?
You fascinate me…
I will try; I must try to renounce my ways…

Crowd. Did you hear the viol player?
He never looked nervous.
His a superior master of da gamba
And an excellent showman!
His bow rests so comfortably on his upturned palm,
While his left hand commands the frets!
The viol rests between his knees with hint
Of neither instability nor tension!
He manages to grin so charmingly at the audience
As he executes his double stops and portamentos.
Buy lights to keep us safe at night!
Buy caramel apples, sweet and clean!
Buy shawls and kerchiefs to drape about you!
The thickening darkness cannot triumph
If we can only stay awake.
But water from the mountain springs!

Samir stands in his booth.

Samir. Night-worshippers, fear not—
For later, we will have our day.
Remember that we all have secrets
And secret knowledge is power!
Let not the sunlight creep in every crack.

He disappears.

Nixie. Oh, Paschal Victim,
The first notes of the shawm keened,
High-pitched and piercing.
Surely this man is a god!
He caressed the dorian tune effortlessly
As each note floated into the sky!
I could never, never play the shawm
With such excellence!
I recognize in his tone none of the harsh stridency
That squeals forth form my instrument.
The corners of his mouth dimple perfectly!
His eyes closed charmingly as he lost himself in music.
Ah, I say a god, but he is human—
I have seen him in the sunlight!
And they say he’s sworn to celibacy—
An impossible task, I have always found.
But his demise would be an insult to the world of art,
So I must stay away to keep from tempting him.
To kiss a face like that
Would be to kiss the face of God!
To capture a soul like that
Would be a reenactment of death!
But this idea of celibacy fascinates me…
It could be the answer to my ennui.

Lilith. Nixie! Darling!
How wonderful to see you here!
I can’t find anyone else I know.
How long will it be before we dance?

Nixie. Hours, I hope.
I’ve decided that I hate to dance.
I came to hear Sebastian play the viola da gamba
At the contest.
I had thought of bringing my shawm
But I am too lazy to practice.
I had much more fun
Lying in the muddy banks of the millpond
Counting daffodil petals,
Catching at the ankles of the miller’s children,
Playfully trying to pull them down.
One of the miller’s children
Is a boy with disheveled blond locks!
How I’d like to have a boy like that down at the bottom of my pond!
However does Sebastian force himself to practice?

Lilith. It is not that Father does not have such temptations,
Rather, his talent allows him to forego practicing.
At any rate, the chance at two hundred florins
Is enough to tempt him away from any number of blonds.
Oh, Nixie!
The Midsummer Fair is here at last!
We have come to celebrate the beneficent sun.

Nixie. Midsummer is an excuse to leave the miller’s,
To bind up my hair,
To slip on my sturdy shoes,
And to spend some of the guilders
That arrive in the pockets of young men.
These guilders are of no use to me at the bottom of the pond!

A fanfare. Marta appears on the balcony above the dais and addresses the crowd. Pascal, hooded and shy, appears next to her. Nixie is enraptured.

Marta. Welcome, kindly people
To our Midsummer Fair!
Let me introduce to you
The winner of the first
Of a series of contest
To honor the beneficent sun!
His name is Pascal;
He is a sacred brother
At the ancient temple here.

Pascal bows to the applause, then leaves at Marta’s gesture.

Marta. And now there will be dancing until the sun returns.
I entreat you, good folks,
To remember the sun we serve,
And to honor his day in ways that will bring no harm to his image.

Marta disappears behind the curtain.

Nixie. There is Sebastian!

Lilith. He was everyone’s favorite!
I cannot believe he won only third place.

Nixie. No, there were two that were better—
The rakish baritone named Cato
And the shawm…

She and Lilith wave. Sebastian grins back. He is putting away his bass viola da gamba across the square.

Nixie. Lilith, tell me—
Has Sebastian found a husband for you yet?

Lilith. No, he keeps bringing boys home
Heaven knows where he finds them all!
The village huts must be nigh empty!
But they are all boring and too young.
He has taken to bringing home babies,
So we can bring them up as proper consorts,
But honestly, how am I supposed to fall in love with a baby?
So now we have a lot of extra slaves.

Nixie. Extra slaves are very useful.
Be careful, dear, keep closer to the crowd.
Someone will notice that you haven’t any…

Lilith. Soon it will be dark enough that we won’t have to worry.
Oh, what a relief to be free for a few moments!

Nixie. You act as though this were your first Midsummer Fair!

Lilith. Oh, it is! Did you not know?
Father has forbidden me to come until this year—
He was afraid of the bonfires.
Oh, Nixie, it’s so wonderful!
You know I love nothing better than to dance!

Nixie. Lilith, this is not the dancing you are used to—
Not the solo dance of bringing flowers up for spring
Not the sliding movement of the arm to Sebastian’s da gamba—
But folk dances, with circles, and steps, and partners!
Oh, don’t look worried, it’s easy,
All you have to do is know left from right
And be able to count to eight.
The only reason I don’t like it
Is because the men bother me so much.
I’m so tired of men.

Lilith. You are tired of men?
You can’t be!
It would go against your very nature,
Ordained by the highest powers at the beginning of time!

Nixie. You misunderstand me, dearest!
I do not mean that I have ceased to be addicted to men!
I mean only that as time goes on,
I begin to find it wearying.
That is our curse, as you know,
The curse of longevity,
The curse of eternally fulfilling the same purpose
Until our eternal purpose does not fulfill us.
I must go on, as you note,
Luring them into the millpond,
Watching them drown and holding their corpses
While their souls go wandering the earth…
It wearies me.
Someday, young one,
You will feel this, too.

Lilith. I can’t imagine a future that isn’t bright and delicious!
The world is so big and I am so big
That I will never run out of experiences!
Nixie, see!
The last streaks of pink sunlight
Have been pulled behind us into the west
The temple bells clang the hour!

Nixie and Lilith climb atop a stone monument to see and to keep out of the way of the dancing crowd. Pascal leads the crowd in a silent, worshipful prayer to the west, then turns and joins a group of monks who ceremonially turn to the east and enter the Temple. Sebastian makes his way through the crowd and swings himself up next to Lilith and Nixie, grinning.

Sebastian. Good evening, ladies!

Lilith. Father, may I dance?
It’s so dark, no one will notice the shadows!

Sebastian. You may as well, only mind the steps,
And please appear as peasant-like as possible.

Lilith gleefully leaps down into the crowd to join the dancing.

Nixie. Why are you going through my pockets?

Sebastian. Have you any money?

Nixie. Here, in the only pocket you haven’t yet found.
I thought you just won fifty florins.

Sebastian. That’s for professional uses only.

Nixie. I see. What is this for, then?

Sebastian. Carmel apples. Would you like one?

They laugh together. Nixie hands some money to Sebastian, who pockets it.

Sebastian. First, tell me… what did you think of the shawm tonight?

Nixie. I have no words! Only fluttering eyelashes and palpitating heart!

Sebastian. I agree! Isn’t he talented?
And now for the apples?

Nixie. Please, Sebastian, don’t go just yet.
You know the minute I’m alone
I’ll be swarmed by potential dance partners,
And you know I can’t say no.
Won’t you dance with me, please?

Sebastian. You hate dancing.

Nixie. Trying to avoid it isn’t worth the effort.
I want to enjoy the music.
And if I’m not dancing with you,
I’ll have to make small talk with silly strangers.

Sebastian. I understand.
It’s difficult to really hear
The particular contrapuntal techniques
When you’ve got to make conversation.
I’ll be very glad to dance with you, Nix.
It’ll save me being asked by thirty or forty other girls.

Nixie. When we dance together,
Nobody cuts in!

Sebastian. It’s because we’re both so wonderful
That we obviously deserve each other!
Nobody else has the confidence to compete.

Sebastian and Nixie. Like burden of soft velvet and of wood,
Is warming heaviness of hard-pressed hand,
And murmur of the breezes understood,
The flavor of autumnal snow unplanned,
The scent of potion vigilant and rich,
And piercing radiance of falling sun.
Attuning to the sacbut’s voice-like pitch—
And never loath to leave the world undone—
We пошласть creatures concentrate on such
As motion, kisses, food, and gaudy cloth,
And never can achieve the faintest touch
Of dignity in spirit or in troth.
Grotesque obsession with th’ material
Forbids involvement in th’ ethereal.

They disappear into the dark, fluid crowd. All dance.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Waiting on Orestes

The chance arrived which I chose to ignore.
I hesitated, hopeful as before,
that he would blink and notice me once more.

I said no word, although it was my turn.
I waited though my heart began to churn
for him to act, to speak or else to spurn.

Self-loathing murmurs restless in my ear.
I do not know if I was still from fear
or whether lazy confidence cost dear,

but I know weakness never was the cause:
I had the power; Fortune seemed to pause
for me to snatch my daydreams from her jaws.

I was Electra with her self-made pact,
waiting on Orestes' word to act.
How ought I ask of him the strength I lacked?

My silent fatalism will defeat
the existential mantra I repeat.
Suppose Orestes choose another feat?

One terrifying thought renews its jeer:
I know that should another chance appear,
again I'd hesitate to make him hear.