Page images
PDF
EPUB

silence. On his right is Death leaning on the arm of Heroism with wide, blind eyes; on his left the Muse; the Ages-tc Come kneel in a circle all round.}

Satan. Dearly beloved Nations, called heretofore Brethren in Christ, and henceforth to become true Brethren in Satan, receive my blessing which speeds you to destruction. Let the light of judgment and of choice be blotted from your minds; and let your clean volitions be submerged and rotted away by the hot and turbid lusts of possession and cruelty welling up from the dark unconsciousness of your soul. Ye are going forth, 0 Nations, to join Death's Dance even as candid high-hearted virgins who have been decoyed by fair show into the house of prostitution, where sins they never dreamed of become their daily trade, and whence they dread release because they have kept compajiy with perjurers and cut-throats, and become estranged from the honesty of common life. For however pure you enter into it, the Dance of Ballet Master Death brings you to contamination and barrenness. Moreover, with your dancing I will interrupt the great eternal, fruitful give-and-take of life. I will hold up the enriching commerce of different spiritual climates; and the regions of the earth shall cease to be each other's completion. I will forbid the banns of marriage of True Minds; and make those born to love one another despise and abhor. Goodness shall cease to call across the earth to goodness; neither shall Wisdom stretch helping hands to Wisdom. And the sweet affinities of common humanity shall attract no longer. But I will knit together the good which is in every people with its own folly and wickedness till these grow together, as one flesh and one soul, in the fear and hatred which they share. The lucid eye of the spirit shall be bloodshot and blinded. The hand, once cunning to give shape and usefulness, shall, like the hands of the epileptic, be strong only to strike, wounding itself and others. The mouth, whereby men understood each other's truth and goodness, shall foam out only lies and boasts and insults. And the heart shall go out no longer to other hearts, but only melt in self-pity and blaze in vindictiveness. And none of you, O Nations, shall know your degradation. The blood of martyrs shall bring forth new executioners. And out of the tears of bereaved women shall arise the slaughter of other sons and other husbands. And every rarest and most needed virtue shall be wasted as a burnt offering upon my altars. The blessing of Satan attend you, who go forth in purity and strength to return in pollution and enfeeblement. Evil be the fruition of your goodness, and chaos the reward of your discipline.

Satan raises his hand in benediction. The Nations salute with their banners and cry: "Arise, 0 Lord of Hosts!"END OF ACT I.

Act 2

Inside the Theatre of the World. Satan on a raised seat. The Muse on a low stool by his side, holding her tablets and stylus. Behind her the chorus of Ages-to-come. Opposite, continuing the semicircle of the pit, a few Neutral Nations and a number of Sleepy Virtues, among whom, however, Pity and Indignation are eager and expectant. The Passions are seated in front of the stage, in the narrower part of the pit railed off by a carved balustrade, inscribed "Patriotism: reserved for Members of the Orchestra." The stage is closed by a background of August harvest-fields at sunset. This is gradually darkened and replaced by the starlit vault, which deepens like a cavern and gradually fills with fire, smoke, rockets and explosions.

Satan. Begin your record, Muse of History! The Muse rises and writes, standing by the side of Satan's throne, declaiming what she is writing in a clear, impassive voice. The performance on the stage, of course, proceeds in accordance with her spoken description, but a trifle in advance of it; and the Muse pauses now and then, resuming her low seat next to Satan in order to allow the action to repeat itself and accumulate.

The Muse. Now, the beginning of the Ballet of the Nations was as follows: Among the Nations appointed by Satan to dance the Dance of Death—for a few had to be kept to swell the audience, which would otherwise have consisted only of some Sleepy Virtues and the Ages-to-Come, all bodiless and difficult to please—among these Dancing Nations there was a Very Little One, far too small to have danced with the others and particularly unwilling to dance at all, because experience had taught it that the dances of Ballet Master Death were apt to take place across its prostrate body. This being the case, it was always informed that all it need do was to stay quite quiet for the others to dance round. And as it stood there, at the western side of the stage, two or three of the tallest and finest dancers danced up in a graceful step, smiling, wreathing their arms and blowing kisses, all of which is the Ballet language for "Don't be afraid; we will look after you." And danced away, wagging their finger at a particular one of their vis-a-vis, who was also curtseying and smiling in the most engaging manner on the other side. During this prelude, Idealism, Self-Righteousness and Routine played a few conventional variations on the well-known Diplomatic Hymn of Peace, the music being conducted, so far, not yet by Ballet Master Death, but by the Deaf Prompter Statecraft from his little hidden box. And to this music the various Nations pirouetted unconcernedly about, although Fear, with Suspicion and Panic, were beginning to whistle, and to clatter that mediaeval tocsin-bell concealed in newspapers. Science and Organization were also busy putting rollers into their mechanical instruments. And as the Smallest-of-All the Corps de Ballet stood quite alone in the middle of the western stage, that same tall and wonderfully well-trained Dancer sidled up to it with polite gestures of "by your leave," and, suddenly placing his huge horny paws on the Tiny One's shoulders, prepared for leapfrog. But at a sign from Death's baton, and with a hideous crash of all the instruments of Satan's orchestra, and a magnificent note from Heroism's clear voice, the poor SmallestDancer-of-All tripped up that Giant and made him reel. But the Giant instantly recovered his feet, although his eyes became bloodshot and his brain swam; and, flinging the poor Smallest Dancer on the floor, he set to performing on its poor little body one of the most terrific pas seuls that Ballet Master Death had ever invented; while the vis-a-vis Nations danced slowly up till they came to grips over that Smallest-of-All the Dancers, who lay prone on the ground, and continued so to lie till the end of the Ballet, lifeless between its aggressors and its defenders. The Ages-to-come burst into shouts of horrified rapture like spectators at a bull-fight. The Orchestra subsides for a moment, and only the drum is heard. Satan (low to the Muse). Hark! The drum of Heroism! Of all the instruments the one, I sometimes think, most to my liking. No other has such imperious power over the nerves and muscles, and so little to say to the mind. For the drum knows neither intervals nor modes nor modulation, things requisite alike for music and rational existence; it recognizes neither resemblance nor diversity; but, like the glorious blind boy whom it urges on, goes marching, marching, marching, without knowledge of why, whence, or whither.

The Muse (writing and declaiming). But while this was happening at the western end of the Theatre, a symmetrical action had begun at the eastern, where a Nation, who had long been forbidden to dance on its own account, because it had been made the slave of some of the others, was being danced across like a carpet by two of the great vis-d-vis, each of whom would point at it with gestures of pity and protection, but without ceasing to trample it, until the to-and-fro's of their dance had pounded it out of all shape and almost out of existence.

Death (rapping on his desk and silencing the Orchestra). My Lord Satan! Interesting Neutral Nations still in the audience; noble, though somewhat drowsy, Virtues who are looking on; and you who reward Ballet and Ballet Master with undying glory, illustrious and bodiless Ages-to-Come! These two first figures of our Ballet, symmetrical but D

« PreviousContinue »