Page images
PDF
EPUB

never be the things Man puts most store by. You may have heard this doctrine preached elsewhere than here, in fact by moralists and divines ever since the world began. The Muse. I have heard it, and am happy to say I hear it still on all hands. But with the addition, saving your Lordship's presence that this doctrine emanates . . . well! to put it plainly, from God. Satan. That God, dear unsuspecting Clio, was Satan in disguise. Is it possible that History has not yet made a note of some, at least, of the many aliases to which my business obliges me to have recourse from time to time? But to return. What were we talking about i Ah, to be sure! Self-sacrifice. Well! take my word for it: the great Creative Reality, whom men call God or Nature, has no taste for barren flowers of Virtue. It is Satan who grows them with much care and pride. I think I told you the lamentable fact that I am impotent to take delight in anything. With one exception! The odour of such sanctity as bears no fruit ravishes my disembodied senses; and, as beseems the saints in whom I nurture it, admits me back to heavenly joys. Virtue for Virtue's own sake; that is what I ask for. Since to the genuine connoisseur in spiritual rarities, to the full-fledged moral aesthete that I am, the beauty of self-sacrifice must never be marred by base utility. My coming Ballet will make that clear to you. You shall hear the devastating blast of Indignation's wings and Pity's unforgiving sobs. You shall be shown young Heroism's radiant face, as blind as a stone statue's. But I notice there is something more you want me to explain?The Muse (hesitating). Your Lordship has been so generous of information that ... in short, I fear my notes may present some slight obscurity or incoherence when I come to re-read them. Is it asking too great a favour to say how deeply grateful I should be if you would repeat once more your leading definition of yourself?

Satan. With the greatest pleasure (dictates): I am the Waster of all sorts of Virtue. The Muse bozos effusive thanks.

Satan. But hark! Cerberus once more at his alarums! Go, dear Muse of History. Those must be your friends, the vain and bodiless, but most effective, Ages-to-Come. Please open to them. The Muse disappears and bolts are heard being drawn. Meanwhile Satan throws himself back wearily in his corner of the sofa, passes his hand over his eyes and mutters meditatively to himself.

Satan. The Ballet of the Nations! My new masterpiece. And, as I sometimes fear, the last of its time-honoured sort. Well ! if the last, let it be the greatest!The Muse returns, introducing the Chorus Of Ages-toCome, classically draped and veiled in the stuff that dreams are made of.

Chorus Of Ages-to-come. Your very obedient humble servants at your Archangelic Lordship's commands. They curtsy to the ground. Satan has risen to meet them and waves a gracious greeting to each member of the Chorus.

Satan. Pray do not speak like that, delightful Ages-toCome! Why, not half an hour ago I was remarking to our illustrious friend Clio that, besides her own, there is no applause I covet as much as that of your most alluring and elusive selves. And, like her, you are much more than a mere audience, though the most appreciative. History helps me in my shows with her so-called Lessons, which, as you know, always inculcate the great untruth that there is nothing new under the sun; and History also makes it her business to keep old wounds from healing, and sees to Hatred flourishing like the green bay tree of Victory. Thus does the Past—or what passes muster as Past—collaborate with Satan. You, ever-disembodied Ages-to-Come, represent the no less needed assistance of a no less apocryphal Future! The Future which is always the Future because it can never turn into the present, and which therefore possesses the unparalleled attraction of what can be pursued but never clutched; the same prestige, in fact, enjoyed in pious days by the old-fashioned Kingdom of Heaven, making Men eager to sacrifice the peace and happiness of a tangible to-day, for the sake of the peace and happiness of an unsubstantial to-morrow, spun, like cobweb, out of their own sick brains. But enough! Come my efficacious Chorus of unrealities. Come, great Recorder of all that does and does not happen. Let us ascend from Hell's brooding stillness to the World's Theatre which awaits you, its eternal Patrons; and its Lessee and Manager, myself. Satan signs to the Ages-to-come to troop off in front, and follows, offering his arm to the Muse Of History. END OF THE FIRsT PART PART II THE BALLET OF THE NATIONS A ROMAIN ROLLAND

FRATERNELLEMENT

« PreviousContinue »