Page images

the Orchestra of Patriotism is engaged. But at other moments, my work lies more and more with Prejudice and Dullness. If

boredom were not part of Satan’s doom, I sometimes think I should die of it, dear Muse !

THE MUsE (in her finest manner). Boredom is surely the nemesis of all great eminence in this mediocre universe.

SATAN. No, most amiable of sycophants; Satan is always bored, not through excess of greatness, but for a different reason.

THE MUsE. A different reason ! Indeed ! Is it presuming on your friendly condescension and the intense interest which History has always taken in what pertains to evil, is it indiscreet to ask what kind'of reason ?

SATAN. “ Satan’s table talk by one who knows him ”—eh P Don’t deny it, Clio, you see yourself already as my Boswell !

THE MUsE (modest, but intensely delighted). Oh, my Lord, my

ambition never soared-—

SATAN. Why not ? Milton and Goethe and thousands of divines and moralists have published so many spurious accounts of me, that I might as well, once in a way, give the world a little correct information about my humble self. To do so with your help will serve to while away the half-hour still remaining until the curtain rises on my new Ballet. So let us talk, dear Clio. Are you comfortably seated ? (SATAN shoves a footstool beneath the MUsE’s feet.)

THE MUsE. Always so thoughtful for his friends, our dear Lord Satan !

SATAN. Well, then: Satan is bored because he never feels love.

THE MUsE. The world at large, not having the advantage of such delightful experiences as mine, has indeed always taxed your Lordship with shall we say? a trifling lack of lovingkindness.


SATAN. And correctly. That, however, is not my meaning. There are other kinds of love than lovingkindnes's, Clio, although the self-righteousness of loveless moralists has talked as if that—love of your neighbour, country, enemy, love of the poor by those who are well off, werethe only kind of love. . . .

THE MUsE (archly). We are not moralists, my Lord, but men and women of the world !

SATAN. Oh, that is not what I am driving at. No allusion to the Daughters of Men whom the Sons of God found fair; and such like gossip. The notion that real love must be illicit, or at all events such as virtuous persons hide away in modest alcoves, is merely the inverted prudery of silly moderns. Love does comprise all that, whether preached from the pulpit or whispered with a wink, but love is something larger and transcends human relations, though it takes its name from them. Love not merely of creatures, but of anything else: places, employments, aspects, ideas and aims; love which means attraction, attachment, preference, the power of delighting in whatever it may be: the mother’s delight in her children, the thinker’s in his problems, the poet’s and the child’s in the bare sense and spectacle of life, the plain man’s in all his plans and prospects. 5T hat is love, love in the widest sense. And that is denied me. You noticed I was bored. The secret of that eternal boredom lies in this: Satan, my dear old interviewer, though in all else Omnipotent, is impotent on one point. He cannot take delight.

A pause. The MUsE does not know what she ought to say.

SATAN. Satan cannot love, anyom’ or anything. Satan’s only manner of possessing (but he has fashioned half mankind in his own jealous image), is to deny delight or use to others. For him the sense of power comes not in ma king, understanding, or loving, but only in spoiling. Shall I tell you what I am ?

THE MUsE. I should esteem ita great favour, and of


inestimable advantage to my future work, if you would, my Lord.

SATAN. Then listen, Clio: I am the Power that Wastes. Being unable to use, I render useless; taking no pleasure in fruition, I smite with barrenness. And the more precious, rare and sorely needed, the more I waste whatever it may be: earth and time’s opportunities of joy and betterment ; man’s life, man’s labour and man’s thought. But most of all, man’s goodness. So that Satan’s truest name might be : the Waster of Human Virtue.

THE MUsE. How deeply interesting ! I trust it may not be presuming too much on your kindness, to ask your Lordship for an instance or two in illustration of the above remarks ?

SATAN. Willingly. And since you are a Muse, wearing a key-pattern, genuine classic, on your frock, you shall have an instance from Homer. You must correct me if my memory plays tricks with the quotation. It is Achilles speaking: “Farewell, Patroclus, even in the house of Hades. I am now doing all that I have promised thee. Twelve sons of noble Trojans shall the flames consume along with thee. But dogs, not fire, shall devour the flesh of Hector, son of Priam.”

THE MUsE. I don’t quite grasp your illustration, dear Lord Satan. That was cruelty, the wolf not quite purged away out of primitive man. Nothing was being wasted ?

SATAN. Do wolves butcher prey which they cannot eat, in order to avenge some dear dead wolf ? No. Such virtue is human.

THE MUsE. Virtue, my Lord ?

SATAN. Surely. Loyalty to the dead; one of the virtues I greatly enjoy spoiling; and a virtue which, far from being purged away from modern man, is about to furnish me some sublime effects. . . . But I will not forestall my Ballet. Except to tell you that one of its main themes, its Leit-Motivs, as Wagnerians say, is my dealing with just such virtue : the sweet and ardent loyalty of noble lads, ready to die themselves and kill other noble lads, lest dear comrades should have died in vain; loyalty also which makes the bereaved mother send her last son that his dead elder brothers may not feel forsaken. That is virtue, you will not deny. And of such sacred, and much-needed virtue, I will make a vice.

' Iliad, xxm, kindly translated for me by Mr. Desmond MacCarthy.


THE MUsE (impressed, but itot quite sure whether she has really understood). A very original and dramatic notion, to be sure, my Lord I

SATAN. And this leads me to correct what I told you just now. Did I say I took delight in nothing? That requires revision. I love sacrifice.

THE MUss. You are a god and all gods share that taste.

SATAN. My sacrifices are genuine, and wholesale; not wretched little cakes, or grains of incense, or the inferior cuts of sacrificial beasts; nor hearts uplifted in momentary fervour; mere tiny tithes of what mankind produces for its own use and pleasure. My sacrifices leave nothing behind them; unlike all other gods, I claim the whole ; and I consume it all. The furnaces of Moloch smoked for me. . . . (the Moss is a little taken aback at SATAN’s sudden emphasis of manner, and doubtful whether it is in perfect taste).

THE MUsE. I am aware of that. Indeed I might make bold to point out to your Lordship that the Muse of History can really be trusted to know such facts.

SATAN. The facts, but not the meaning.

THE MUsE (nettled). You are unfair, my Lord! Even Milton, though only a poet, was taught by me that every superstition, savevhis own—his list was just a trifle sectarian —had been invented by your Lordship.

SATAN. But neither your Christian Milton, nor your

[ocr errors]

classic self, seems to have guessed that it is not the obscene rituals of Baal and Belial, nor the frenzy of mad fanaticism and monastic rule, which brought the offerings most savoury to my nostrils. Not Iphigenia, her white throat cut like a garlanded heifer’s to procure a wind; not Jephthah’s daughter, bewailing her unwedded girlhood, have been the most spotless victims immolated on my altars. Not even the glorious army of martyrs palmed and golden stoled whose blood-oh rosy blood of virgins and of little children !—was lapped up by my avenging Hounds of Persecution, making them ravenous for more martyred flesh ; not the countless multitude of uncanonized saints who, killing self, breed selfishness in others; not the myriad heroes (reckon them up ever since wars began I) who died for doubtful causes or no cause at all. I have received higher oblations ; Lambs more Unblemished have bled for me. For all true sacrifice is sacrifice to Satan.

THE MUsE. You are eloquent, my Lord. But, as so often happens nowadays with literary genius, you overstate your case and damage it by wilful paradox. Why, it is a precept of the commonest worldly wisdom that sacrifice is at times an excellent investment, whether for the next world or for this. And all moralists have taught, even the crassest Epicurians, that life insists upon it at almost every turn.

SATAN. A good investment, whether the interest be paid in heavenly glory or in earthly self-complacence, is not a sacrifice, dear Clio. And as to what life demands at every turn, that is renunciation and endurance, since every turn of life means discrimination and choice; preference of large to less, of future to present, of lasting satisfaction to brief or tainted rapture; and of arduous, uncertain adventure with its entrancing breathlessness and heart beat, to yawning security. Last, but not least, life at every turn bids mankind renounce its appetites and its ease for mankind’s most abiding comforts, the standards of the human race ; nay, it often bids

« PreviousContinue »