FIRST MOVEMENT — SECOND ACT
(B) Allegro Malevogliente
THE GREAT HALL OF THE CASTLE
Let us follow the children and enter the castle's great Hall as unseen spectators, or let us imagine that we are in a theatre, watching a stage show. On the Opposite Prompt (O.P.) side of the stage (which is on the right hand of the spectator) a winding staircase ascends steeply until it disappears from sight in the upper regions where a watchtower dominates the landscape, although we cannot see the actual tower as yet. The children are asleep beneath the staircase, but, as we must now consider ourselves to be in an extension of space and time as we know it on earth, to the denizens of that inner region the children, being flesh and blood, are invisible; nor could they, should they wake up, see aught but the ruins and the Adder's Tongue Fern upon which they would then appear to be sleeping. But we are privileged beings—that is to say:—You who may be reading this book, and I who have written it, explaining all those details to you so patiently. We are, then, now in a spiritual region, but you need not be afraid on that score, friend reader, for as long as this story lasts you are under my protection, and I will not allow any of the actors in the coming story to do you any harm. But . . . we are not only beholding a spiritual region, but one where evil spirits dwell who will act for you delectation—or disgust, perchance, though I hope they will not go so far in their evil machinations that you can bear it no longer and throw away this book, cursing the author! Remember: whatever happens they will not be able to see us any more than they can see the children.
The only piece of furniture in the Great Hall is a throne, made of elephant's tusks, ebony and gold; there is but one entrance, central, and at the back of the stage. The throne stands near the Prompt side and in a corner at the back of the stage, also on the Prompt side, on your left hand as you face the stage, stands a gigantic monkey. This is Zoppo, the syncopated Ape, and he is called so because he is such a fierce brute, given to exceptional and sudden rages, that even the evil and brutal beings that inhabit the castle are afraid of him, in spite of their own powers and strength. To curb his outbursts a little they have shackled one of his feet (or, I should say, nether or hind hands—for a monkey has no feet I'm told) to a large piece of rock, which impedes his actions considerably. When, in one of his frequent rages, he would like to make a sudden rush at one of the demons who live in the castle, Presto furioso, as it were, he is, on account of the rock, unable to execute anything faster than a mere Blues, or Fox-Trot, one hand always lagging behind the rest, while with the other three he tries to make a dash towards the object of his desires for destruction. This produces a true epitome of the highest form of syncopation, very droll to behold, so much so, that many a demon has actually split his sides with laughing at the comical spectacle, so that henceforth he was only fit for fuel with which to stoke the fires below the castle.
Now, I hope you will forgive me for wasting so much time on these descriptions, but as Zoppo has to play a more or less important role, though a short one, it was necessary to tell you all about him.
Well!—this, then, is the Great Hall; the children can be seen on your right hand, quite in the forefront of the stage, below the stairs, and on your left is Zoppo, the Syncopated, at the rear.
Enter: our first principal subject of this Movement (in the dark key of D flat Major), namely, Prince Iambus, the great two-footed Serpent—the mighty I-AM! He is proud of mien, and justly so, for he is a person of extraordinary beauty, a haughty Prince, once one of the great Angels, but now sadly fallen and deteriorated: for has he not lost his place in heaven, though he is still Satan personified?
At present he looks a little out of sorts, somewhat sullen, for, to tell the truth, he is getting a little tired of his Satanhood—especially when he looks with disgust at the motley crew of his more immediate entourage, for, although they are quite arrogant, especially when Iambus is elsewhere at the moment, and though they are dressed in what they consider to be magnificent costumes or uniforms, each to his taste—and what a taste! They are in reality a shabby crowd when all is said and done, and nothing to be proud of, really, when once you have been used, like Iambus, to be one of the upper ten thousand of the Angels and were accustomed to have the entree to the highest circles in the Superior Realms.
So here he is—Iambus, Satan, the Devil, Set, Apep, Ahriman, the Adversary, or any other of the thousand names by which he is known and feared. Make your choice and have it your own way, but in this Symphony his name is Iambus as far as I am concerned. He strides to the throne and drops on to it wearily. He is followed at a respectful distance (for his temper is very uncertain today) by some of his satellites, his servants and companions in devilry; and here is Rotondo, or General Bass, the fat demon, bedecked with medals like a gaudy Christmas Tree; Crotchet, who has a club-foot and is of a very quarrelsome nature, but clever with devilish insinuations with which to beguile mankind, for he is Iambus's cunning Minister of Propaganda, who knows how to lure the unsuspecting into his well set snares; and they are followed by Even Tenor, one of the Prince's Ambassadors, very soothing and tactful, and the only one to whom Iambus will listen sometimes when he is in one of his tantrums. Standing by the door is Quasi—the semi-human, personal valet of Iambus, always in attendance, wherever his master be. He looks a little unreal, as if he were only half there, and on one side he is entirely grey in dress, skin and hair, while the other side is black. He amuses Iambus, for the poor devil never knows what his status really is!
So having now arranged the materials for the commencement of this Movement, namely Introduction (description of Hall, etc.), first principal subject (Iambus), and auxiliary themes (the attendants), let us see what can be done with them before we reach our 'bridge', which will lead us to our second principal subject in the mournful, but noble key of A flat minor, and all the rest that follows in a well constructed symphonic First Movement: for you will remember that this is not really a story or play, but a Symphony (fantastic at that) set to words!
IAMBUS: I am bored! I am tired! Oh, how I hate the eternal mockery of this ancient hole where nothing pleasant ever comes to pass. All my domains are bankrupt of power of late and not a single worthwhile sinner has been swept into our wide-spread nets. What has become of thy propaganda, Crotchet, thou fool of fools! does it suffer from sore feet, the same as yourself, only more so—nit-wit—so that perforce it lags behind in the race, and man, the puppet, does no longer dance to thy 'witching pipes but stays at home like an egg-bound he-hen, brooding on his nest that is as empty of manly enterprise in evil as a philosopher's brain is of wisdom? Answer me! Must I do all the talking?
CROCHET: Nay, indeed not, your Royal Highness, I was but waiting respectfully until thy speech was done.
IAMBUS: Well? What is the latest club-footed excuse?
CROCHET: Something strange is abroad in the world of late, O, Prince; there seems to be let loose a spirit such as never before—not since your descent into these mighty realms—has ever been known. There is a whispering in the air of unknown quality of what those fools on earth call super-wisdom and goodness . . . may they all reach eternal damnation soon, and . . .
IAMBUS: Leave that to ME, slave, it is not within thy province to damn, which only I can do in the end, yea, even such an inept idiot like yourself, who prattles about 'unknown qualities' to hide his own inefficiency! Bah!! you are getting too old for your job, my friend, and . . .
(Zoppo suddenly utters a frightful roar.)
IAMBUS: . . . and, as I was going to say, if such an accomplished fiend as you are supposed to be is too bedridden of ideas to tempt worthy candidates for us to play with here, I shall release friend Zoppo and let him loose, so that he may drag in some scum by the scruff of their necks. And, no doubt, he is full eager to have his freedom, so that he may have a go at you and a few others too who have taken advantage of his shackles to vent their spite on him, poor pet, because they know their failures elsewhere. (He turns to Rotondo). And you, fat lump, dressed up like a dummy in a penny bazaar with your vain-glorious medals, what have you to say to me? Your troops are lukewarm instead of hot with zeal, and instead of a fierce troop of demon fighters, they look as paltry as a row of wooden soldiers in a shooting-booth at a fair—waiting to be knocked down by the first yokel armed with any old gas-pipe, blowing dried peas at them.
ROTONDO: My armies, fleets and flying boats are in perfect condition, my Lord, only waiting for your loyal command to go forth and destroy mankind, if they can not be drawn by the cunning temptations of our great Minister of Propaganda (leering at Crotchet as he says this sneeringly).
CROCHET (flying into a passion): Blast and curse you for an inflated bladder of skunk's lard! How dare you talk to me like that?
IAMBUS: Silence—Crotchet! Are you forgetting in whose presence you are? Must my Royalty, nay—Majesty listen to your blusterings like any schoolboy to a blundering pedagogue?
CROCHET: With all respect to your divine Princehood, I will not be belittled by any fiend in Hell! Who is there that has done greater work than I? Who thought first of removing the particle 'not' from the Ten Commandments, transferring it to the Apostles' Creed? Who thought of . . .
IAMBUS: Silence!!! for the last time. Who cares here for thy empty boasts? And, anyhow, who remembers the Ten Commandments these days, or has even heard of the Apostles' Creed? These things were all right thousands of years ago, but are now out-of-date. I want inspiration in my servants, not repetitions and dwellings on the dead past.
EVEN TENOR: If your Majesty will permit me, I should like to suggest that my worthy colleagues are a little upset today because they see our great master, thyself, O wonderful Prince, somewhat dissatisfied with things in general. But we are only passing through one of those phases of inactivity; I feel sure that the time will come again when our faithful Minister of Propaganda will be overwhelmed with new inspirations that will bring much goodly harvest and fill our bellies with the joy of fullness, as the uncharitable eagle's egg is filled with fury.
(But Iambus was not to be pacified so easily and lolled despairingly upon his unhappy throne; while in his corner Zoppo turned about restlessly, whining and sniffing the air.)
IAMBUS: What is the matter with that Ape to-day? He seems as restless as the unestablished worm who feels the excavating tremors of the nearby mole approaching. Perhaps he has a useful inspiration, but cannot tell Crotchet about it.
CROCHET: But I have thought of a new slogan, very subtle, your Royal Highness; something quite old, with a new twist to it.
IAMBUS: And what is it, slant-hoof?
CROCHET: Believe in what thou hast not yet and it is thine . . . even damnation!
IAMBUS: What! Inspiration!!? Is this the best you can do? Spare me those pimply eruptions of suppurating wit, thou pustulated panderer; wouldst bandy words with ME!!?
EVEN TENOR: (soothingly): Our friend is not himself to-day, Oh, Prince! I am sure that he loves thee too well to bandy words, and that he has the most profound respect for thy wisdom, the same as we all. You alone of all the gods can tell how many flames there are in these rich and glorious domains, how many tortures man can bear and yet survive for further pranks, what is to be the end of all thy vassals, and how and why and where and when. May you reign for ever, with us as thy ever faithful servants; and may the distressed in mind never find peace; may the hunger in the heart of the lover for his beloved never be appeased or satisfied; may the sick in body be never healed, may the—
IAMBUS: Basta!! cease thy idle chatter, thou honey-tongued poltroon!
EVEN TENOR (bowing deeply): The wisdom of your Majesty has no peer—I bow unto thee and worship and venerate, and I feel like a bird with broken wings at the first sign of thy displeasure, oh, beloved Prince!
IAMBUS: Why call me only Prince?!! Am I not mightier than any foolish king or emperor, who—in his purple pride—deems that he is equal to the Gods? Am I not IAMBUS—the doer of tremendous deeds? Kneel then before me, thou lowly sons of ignorance in cunning! (He rises).
(All three turn their backs on him and kneel down, touching the floor with their foreheads, except Rotondo, who cannot reach that far. And Iambus gives each a hearty kick and sits down again, shaking with laughter).
IAMBUS: This is better. Get up, dolts!
(All rise up and face him again.)
ROTONDO: If it please your Royal Highness, my troops are eager for work. They want to be sent back to the world, to rape and kill, loot, destroy and torture. I have devised new tricks and devices, unheard of mechanisms that will bewilder the fools who now in their complacent ignorance believe the time for war is done for aye.
CROCHET (eagerly): Nay, Oh Prince of Darkness, let us wait awhile and lull humanity into the snare of false security still more. Give me more time, and the fruit of my labours will be riper still. Have I not set up blatant youth against their elders, so that they sneer at wisdom, art and beauty and all the things that brighten life on earth? Those young pups think now that they could run the world and teach the old ones what is right or wrong; believing in their raw, untutored way that age must needs besotted be with weakness of invention! Wait—I say—and in the end we'll net the lot, young and old alike; the harvest will be very great indeed!
But as Crotchet speaks, something very strange is happening beneath the staircase where the children sleep unseen. A radiance issues forth from them, and this increases in power, until towards the end of the last speech two figures arise from the bodies of the sleeping children. From the form of Dolce issues forth a young maiden, who seems to be about eighteen years' old, and from Farni's a young man of about twenty-one. They look at each other and smile. These young people are the true selves of Dolce and Farni; not the temporary human shells known by those names in which they dwell on earth. When the human body sleeps, the true selves are released for a few hours and may dwell in any of the so-called 'ethereal' realms in their real and eternal shapes. To man—who is blinded by the illusion of earthly matter—those shapes have no existence, for he cannot behold them by means of his gross, earthly sight. But to those that dwell within the realms beyond the earth they are fully visible, and they are to them as solid and tangible as earthly bodies are to the men on earth. Those entities that have reached spiritual emancipation appear always as 'youths', and their bodies never age; yet they are filled with all Wisdom. But, when for one reason or another they enter into human incarnation once again, they are not always fully active when their human vehicles are busy on their common errands, for these human principles have to live their own life, unhampered by their higher selves if they wish it so. Thus they learn their earthly lessons of material experience, and this experience is added to the store of wisdom gathered previously in other lives and retained within the memories of their higher minds. So, when the human selves are busy, the higher selves may withdraw from time to time, so that there shall be no interference. And though the human forms must age and decay, the higher selves remain the same for ever, for as long as they dwell within the higher spiritual realms; and they are much more perfect than any human shape can ever hope to be.
Though to the dwellers in other realms the human body is as invisible as they themselves are invisible to the average human, the higher selves of any human beings, when away from their bodies during the sleep of the latter, can always see their own earthly forms if they wish it so. Thus Dolce and Farni, while invisible to the rest of the actors on our stage, can be seen by the two forms that have arisen from them just now. Nor are the higher selves at any time connected with the human shapes by means of 'silver cords' when they roam within the other realms of being. Nay! Only Will and Destiny can ever connect the higher and the lower entities at all. In short: their 'Common Chord' of human being is now dissolved in strange and transcendental modulations for a while. Nor are their names the same as before; for the earthly name of man changes with each incarnation, while his divine name remains the same as ever.
The true name of Dolce, in her ethereal body, is Madelon; Farni's true name is Sebastiano; they are real affinitives and are never separated at any time any more.
While Iambus sits upon his throne, head resting on his left hand, and ponders over that which Crotchet and Rotondo have just been saying, Sebastiano turns to Madelon and says:
SEBASTIANO: Thank goodness, they are fast asleep (he bends over the children to make quite sure) and we are free for awhile (he stands up); but where are they now? They should be at home and in bed instead of here—wherever it is. It is night on earth and I cannot think why they are away from home.
(At this moment, Zoppo senses Madelon and Sebastiano and begins to sniff and growl. He beats the air and holds a hand in front of his face, as if he were warding off smoke or unpleasant smells.)
IAMBUS (looking up): What is the matter with our pet? He appears to be uneasy about something tonight. Hey! Zoppo!! Come thou hither and tell me what ails thee?
(Zoppo shambles towards the throne awkwardly in his syncopated manner, grumbling fiercely and gazing round in all directions. All except Iambus retreat from the menacing beast.)
IAMBUS: Now then, my sweet jewel, tell thy Master what is wrong.
(Zoppo snarls and howls.)
SEBASTIANO: What acrid sounds are these? They smell like smouldering toadstools in a burning forest!
MADELON: I do not know, but I fear the children have strayed into an evil place indeed!
IAMBUS: That bestial brute can't speak, but he senses something strange here. And I can smell a foul and loathsome scent like roses in full bloom mixed up with violets. Bah!! And the place stinks as if humans were about, but that is impossible. Can it be that fool by the door? Hey, you, come hither, Quasi!
(Quasi approaches hesitatingly.)
IAMBUS: Hurry up, thou half-baked lump of clay! Dost think it is I who must await your pleasure?
(Quasi arrives at the throne and Iambus sniffs him disdainfully.)
IAMBUS: No! It is not him I can smell; one half of him is good and wholesome mud, the other half delicious brimstone. Go thou back to thy post, slave! But there is someone here though; I feel a tingling in the palms of my hands and a breezy freshness in the air, curse it! Hunt around, all of you! There is more than one, for there are two smells! Hah! There will be some sport at last when they find them. Go fetch them, Zoppo, good fellow! If there is a stranger here and you find him I'll give you a moaning mystic to play with; one of the sort that never had the pluck for one single decent sin in all his life. Fetch! Fetch!!
(And Zoppo syncopates towards the staircase where Madelon and Sebastiano, who have heard the words, await his coming with consternation. The brute sees them at last and drags them out of their place of concealment. Rotondo and Crotchet run up to the struggling group, in order to prevent the ferocious ape from tearing them to pieces before Iambus has examined them. Even Tenor looks on smilingly. Crotchet and Rotondo drive back the Ape and compel the two towards the throne, while Iambus shouts at Zoppo):
IAMBUS: Back to your corner, you!
(The Ape shuffles away, growling and gnashing his teeth. Iambus stands up, surprised, and realises at once what Madelon and Sebastiano are; the two reach the throne at last.)
IAMBUS: Ha-ha!!! What priceless treasure have we here! Two SOULS, unshackled from the mortal flesh and perishing lower entity, instead of bridled men of low and shameless dynasty and line, of whom the earth and Hell are full to overflowing. Those latter sicken even ME—Iambus, the great and mighty Master of the underworlds. Come hither, my two doves and kiss my hoofs. Thou wilt not? Thinkest thou of thy proud lineage? Thou, who art descended from my brothers, when like craven jackals they fell down to earth and mixed with females of the race of brute-like men . . . instilling in their animal blood the holy essence of the gods, which I—Iambus—scorned to do, and ever since have had my slaves and servants busy, going to and fro within and on the earth, setting cunning traps and snares in which to net the bastard offspring of the heavenly hosts! But always in vain, so far, for their Angel Sires protect the only worthwhile handful and leave to me the dross—pestilent garbage, with only an occasional sinner great enough to earn the highest honours here below. But now, at last, we have succeeded, just when the clouds of weariness began to settle on my god-like brow, for even that froth which thinks it is Man from God descended has become so stale in enterprise that it is not worth collecting any more. It's many centuries since here arrived in pomp and panoply a truly worthy genius of sin! The pity is that none is left to comfort me and give the loyal aid I need—for being cunning and ambitious, they ever try to emulate my power and overcome my Princehood in the end . . . which then turns out to be their end—inevitably. But few survive of all my richest gatherings; those are the weaker ones who lack the nerve to fight me here—not that 'twould avail their hardihood, for none can best me—god or demon, beast or man! But you are different, kin of my kin, though not from me descended. You shall join with me and have a place of honour. We shall plot and scheme and think out better ways to spur humanity into renewed and vigorous sinhood. I have been longing for fresh brains and blood to take the place of those dull dotards over yonder. The only one of any value here is Zoppo—but he is dumb. Wouldst sit beside me on my throne and rule in awful majesty as my two Vice-Roys in these Realms? Give but the word, and all that is within my sixfold Empire will be thine, to roam in freely and at will, and thou shalt have thy fill of lust and power—undreamt of by the milk-and-water saints above!
SEBASTIANO: Spare us thy pratings, princeling of the Deeps, and let us hence. Thou hast no power to detain the Sons of God; thou knowest this well.
IAMBUS: What!? You have the boldness to insult me in the vastness of my own dominions? Beware! lest I blast thee into an everlasting doom of non-being!
SEBASTIANO: Blast on, bold demon prince; we fear thee not!
IAMBUS: Sayest thou we? It may well be that in the arrogance of thine inherited valour thou wilt try to dare my might, not counting the cost. But what about thy sweet companion, as beautiful as any of my heavenly cousins (may their Realm of Light be blasted into deep, eternal night)! Would she be equally brave, and does your heart not quake when your reasoning tells you what her fate will be if I would so command? Think well! My cities are brimmed with manifold races; there bloom the dusky flowers of despair 'midst turbulent joys unknown elsewhere! And everlasting youth is thine if thou wilt join with me and blend thy souls with mine. Come—thou shalt see the gladsome sight of bloody sacrifices and hearken to the clamorous shrieks of fools too weak in evil to reach the lowest depths of my grim, dark Estate, to live in splendour on for ever within the Realms where all is filled with thunderous roars of everlasting flames of blackest hue. It is cold for the dwellers on the heights; mingle with my genial Flame and revel in my comfort; what sayest thou, oh, maiden beautiful?
MADELON: I say that although lowly man is but a shadow in a dream, thy demon-hood a shadow deeper still, an unsubstantial shade in the limbo of the lost. I, too, defy thee!
IAMBUS: Hola there! Even Tenor, come here and let me hire those honeyed accents and that persuasive tongue of thine.
EVEN TENOR: My Lord, I am honoured beyond my poor deserts.
IAMBUS: Come hither, thou crafty Crotchet, and use thy propoganda's wiles upon this stiff-necked pair.
CROCHET: Thy servant, Prince, what shall I say?
IAMBUS: Now then, Rotondo, tell my cousins of the mighty armies, fleets and aerial armadas under thy control. My nomad cousins think me but an empty shade; disillusion their scatterling minds with my vast substantiality!
ROTONDO: The god-like might of your Majesty's . . .
IAMBUS: Shut up—barrel of brawn! (Turning to Madelon and Sebastiano) Those foolish demons are but puppets, jerking at my fell behest, yet could they each (if so I willed) destroy the power of Heaven in their own fierce way, and according to their talents. Should I decide to send our Even Tenor as Ambassador to God, his lying tongue would so pervert the truth that neither God nor man would know it from a falsehood. If Crotchet were to plaster Heaven's walls with samples of his propaganda, recruits for Hell would be enrolled in millions and the halls of all the Upper Realms stand empty, desolate for aye. And should I give command to General Bass to strike at Paradise with all his might, it would be another tale this time, a tale of my victory; a final victory. The first time we were not prepared; but if thou wilt join with me, all their cunning and valour would be as nought, and I might even hold my hand at your request, and you would dwell in glory, draped and clad with crimson rays of my delight.
SEBASTIANO: We do not wish that crimson glory and delight which are illusions, twice seven times removed from Truth.
IAMBUS: I will teach you the secrets of the lower crypts of Thebes and Memphis, of Heliopolis and Denderah, and shower upon you greater splendours than were ever seen at the ancient courts of Syracuse.
SEBASTIANO: Your hopes are emptier than the empty air, and more so, Iambus; no golden wages offered here, however princely they may seem, can e'er seduce our Souls. Who can forget the Waters of the Fountain of Light when once he's slaked his thirst with their delight? Oh, thou spinner of web-like lies with which to twine the unsuspecting fast within they crafty loomings! Thou hast forsaken thy Royal Heritance in Heaven, hedged by Divinity, long ago. We have taken profit from that lesson and will not join thee in thy ancient Fall.
MADELON: And I—small prince—am of the same opinion as Sebastiano.
IAMBUS: Hah! You insult me. ME! Iambus!! You shall pay dearly for your insolence.
SEBASTIANO: We fear not thy imaginary might, low Serpent. Thy so-called Princehood is a cesspool, filled with foulest speech and idle boasts, the stench of which ascends to Earth and blasts the ignorant with clouds of poison gases, oh, dire malefactor, once an Angel!!
IAMBUS: I shall destroy you two as if you were two blades of grass!
MADELON: A blade of grass in the hand of God is mightier than the mightiest instrument of death you can conceive . . . slay on—if thou canst!
IAMBUS: Mention not that hated name again within these precincts—wench!
SEBASTIANO: Thou art afraid . . . cowardly Prince!
IAMBUS: I'll have thee tortured slowly and with infinite pains, thou braggart lad . . . then we'll see who is the coward.
MADELON: Only a bully threatens, Iambus; we do not fear thy blowsy blusterings . . . go to!—and do thy worst . . . if thou canst!
IAMBUS: Ho, ho! sweet maiden, have a little patience now; never fear, thy buds of youth shall never come to flower, but wither in the dust of my estates.
SEBASTIANO: You cannot hold pure Souls, and you know it. We shall escape from here at the appointed time.
IAMBUS: Nay! vain youth; you will be as lost in the vanities of your struggles for escape as Pico Mirandola, and others who have tried to spy like you, endeavouring to solve my Kabalistic Mysteries to reach the hidden secrets they contain . . . only to lose themselves within my graceless labyrinths whence no escape is possible.
SEBASTIANO: This is another of thy lies; we came here by accident . . . (musingly), or was there again that guiding hand that led the children to this spot and is the archetypal pattern of God's grand design of Destiny now coming into manifestation?
IAMBUS: What are you muttering about now; is the maggot of doubt beginning to gnaw so soon thy heroism's marrow after all your brave protestations? That crimped excuse of 'coming here by accident' is an impromptu fancy, born of the windy airs within your unadventurous mind, a shadow of your lame imagination, which has been shattered on my rock of firm solidity. And such as you, who, in their wenching perambulations stray 'by accident' within my stronghold, dare talk to Me—Iambus—of shadows?! Bah!! Those words of you twain are like limping frogs, too dull to leap, like buzzing flies, the braying of an Ass or the howling of a superannuated Cerberus. Perform your flowery cadenzas of ordured oratory to less enlightened audiences and hire an agent or an impresario to coax engagements from reluctant managers; your unripe talents may be more appreciated there than here. That is to say . . . when you have escaped from me!
SEBASTIANO: Cease your chatter, Iambus, Prince! Your croaking voice is hoarse with wickedness, unnameable. Your words cannot hurt us, and deeds you are unable to perform.
IAMBUS: And do you really think so, young cockerel?
MADELON: Yes, indeed we do, Iambus. You ought to know that even Angels, good or bad, however strong, have never any power in the presence of a single Ray direct from God, for such Rays, concentrated on a privileged few, are inviolable for ever. We are such, and you acknowledged this when hailing us as 'Cousins'. The only souls that you may sway—if so they let you—are those who lack this holiness, and alas! they form the majority of men.
IAMBUS: Then prove your power and escape from me now—thou foolish fanfarons.
SEBASTIANO: We shall do so in good time, but being here we shall await the hour that will unveil the reason of our coming.
IAMBUS: And that's enough of your petits riens, your little wordy nothings; your trifling little pieces of wit fail to amuse me; but I will amuse you two in a short while and let you see what is in store for you both unless you come to terms with me. Hey! Crotchet! To me!! rapidamente! Rotondo! Hither, subito! Warm your lukewarm beef somewhat by instilling into it some more esprit; you are too tepido in your actions to satisfy my eagerness.
(Both run to Iambus as fast as they can from the back of the stage, where they have been holding a whispering conversation with Even Tenor).
CROCHET and ROTUNDO (together): At your service, great Lord!
IAMBUS: Tacet! Be silent! I want to give those two young jackasses a foretaste of what awaits their 'inviolability' here if they do not come to heel. Something dreadful, tremendissimo! Stir your addled brains and devise me a spectacle or two. Presto, prestissimo, you hobbling wobbling sluggards!
(Even Tenor has approached the throne silently meanwhile, but stands back a little.)
IAMBUS: Now then, master Crotchet; stir up your blockish wits and tell me what you would do to instil a little sense into the muddled minds of my two dear Cousins. Say on, and fear not, but talk sense!
CROCHET: I would let them read the great book in which you have set down your plans to wrest all power from your enemies, creating a new order of existence, my Lord.
IAMBUS: And you, General Bass: what is your advice?
ROTONDO: A grand parade of all your armies and the engines of war your genius has invented. That would show them your divinity more than anything else.
IAMBUS: So it is thus you two would serve me, eh? Using my inventions when I ask for your ideas! Is it for this that I have given you the most important posts in all my realms? Dunderheads!! What a fraudulent crew I have around me here! Is there no one left with a single idea that will teach those two upstarts the greatness of my sceptred power?
(He regards his crafty councillors with utter scorn, unbridled, and for one short flash his god-like nature shows forth from his proud countenance, and his heart is filled with despair. Crotchet and Rotondo step back a few paces in alarm.)
CROCHET (aside to Even Tenor): Quickly! Wag that silver tongue of thine, Ambassador, and 'guile the Prince into forbearance, lest he destroys us all. What are we but a couple of poor devils?
EVEN TENOR (stepping to the throne and bowing deeply): If it please your divinity, may your humblest servant of all venture to make a suggestion, my Lord?
IAMBUS: What! More drivel! What have you remembered now of my inventions of the long gone ages? Who is there in Hell that has ever anything to offer me that is of value only after I have turned it inside out and used my ingenuity to create wisdom out of foolishness? Who led the first revolt above, when all that those sycophants there could do was to lick the very dust of Aether from the sandals of Him that tried to rule us all with his tales of 'Love' and 'Service'? I—Iambus! Who led the great assault upon those wingéd hordes, those abject slaves, who only overcame my independency by means of larger numbers?
Who founded here my Empire, to be a magnet and a scourge to maggot Man? Who rules with iron will and power, void of mercy, and tames the mighty throngs that crowd in my Dominions? I—Iambus!
It's always I, and I and I, and never any other! It wearies me at times to carry all that load, though I, an Angel, nay! equal to the gods themselves and a very God indeed! But speak and have done, for mischief seethes within my brain like a tempestuous volcano. Beware—lest it overflow and scald you all into a nameless drab indecency! There is a quality of unrest stirring in the worlds above that finds an echo in my veins and mind. Great things are brewing, but even I—Iambus—cannot read the portents yet. Speak up, I say, what are you waiting for?
EVEN TENOR: If it please your divine Princehood, I should like to remind my two colleagues here of our latest arrivals in your fair Realm, gathered painfully and with much labour in the world of men. Tis true indeed when in your Wisdom you declare that strange events are on the eve of breaking out. Has not Man himself become more imbecile these last few thousand years? It is more difficult as time goes on to catch within our nets some worthwhile fish; mankind lacks fire wherewith to feed our holy flames. But have we not amongst our new arrivals some so-called 'Saints'? who, by thy cunning counsels have made a slip, sufficiently to qualify them for at least a little punishment? Let friend Crotchet prepare a real old-fashioned holocaust of what we have in way of sinners, combined with a great spectacle of those dread beings that dwell within our nether realms; and let our Generalissimo call up his Forces to give more weight to our argument as 't were. And when the sacrifice is over, let us have a Fiesta, a scene of real rejoicing in which our talents shall be displayed, and—for this is the real reason for my suggestions—let your Cousins be spectators of the feast, whether they will or not, for, having strayed within the Realms that are your Province, they are subject to your will. Give then the command, oh Prince, and let us all make merry because of the greatness of your divine power!
IAMBUS: Well spoken, my worthy Ambassador! Thou art the only one who is not entirely bereft of sense and invention. Yes! we'll have a festival that will recall the olden times when all was gay and pleasant here, and listen to the chirpings of the 'Saints' and others as they burn! Hey there! Quasi, you piebald pup, go fetch my torturers and wardens; arouse my myrmidons from their morose meditations and call them hither, those direct descendants of the Gadarene swine, Hell's proper cattle. Grab the mouldering moustachios of my maestro di balletto and drag him to me, and also our Kapellmeister, and our Chorus Dragon, and all the rest. Let them hurry, run—you fool! Don't forget the leaders of the Elemental hosts!
(Quasi runs away.)
IAMBUS: And you, Barrel-belly (to Rotondo), go arrange your armies; and you (to Crotchet) suet-brains, see that all is made ready down below.
IAMBUS (to Even Tenor): You go and supervise those dog-robbing flunkeys, lest they make a mess of everything after all.
(Exit Even Tenor.)
IAMBUS: To me, sweet Zoppo! Guard your master from these two heavenly visitors of mine and see they don't escape.
(Zoppo, who has been in the background all the time, whining and grumbling occasionally, syncopates to the throne.)
IAMBUS: And now, dear Cousins, a final word to you. Will you accept my offer and dwell with me as honoured companions for ever after, or must I pronounce on you such a doom as was never dreamt of in Heaven or on earth? Speak on—there is still time.
SEBASTIANO: We scorn and pity you, Iambus, and we fear not that imaginary doom. He that dwelleth in Light will never be forsaken, for the eye of God is upon him and his needs, wherever he be.
MADELON: We cannot take your offer, thou knowest well, but if one good deed you will perform, oh Prince and Cousin, we shall praise you with all our heart and mind and soul. Just one good deed—one deed of mercy—and even thou art free; for God is beyond all magnificence in Mercy, and all that are below Him, even the highest Angel, too poor in faith to understand! But one good deed I say.
IAMBUS (wavering): But one good deed, say you? (musingly): What vision splendid does mine eye behold!
(At that moment is heard the noise of many voices, and Quasi enters with Crotchet, Rotondo and Even Tenor, followed by a fantastic crowd of the servants of Iambus.)
IAMBUS (shaking himself): what dream of amaranth is this? What rancid nightmare? (loudly) Hah! Here come my trusty vassals, who would not think of leading me astray with hypocritical lies!
CROCHET: All is ready, my Lord; we await your commands.
IAMBUS: So—o—o—o! Away with those vapours! (arrogantly) Splendid is my bloody path, bestrewed with broken hearts and minds and promises unfilled. Shall I believe in the mercy of another? WORSHIP ME!!
(All grovel on the floor, except Madelon and Sebastiano.)
IAMBUS (turning to Madelon and Sebastiano): For those cunning words of thine, thou shalt perish in the secret place, where even God Himself can never penetrate!
(At that moment, is heard a monstrous, hissing sound. Madelon and Sebastiano grasp one another in sudden fright; Iambus cowers down upon his throne and from the grovelling demons comes an awe-stricken, groan.)
All whisper hoarsely: The Great Breath of Evil!
IAMBUS (recovering himself): Hah! The Great Breath Itself! Ever concealed even from ME!—it has pronounced a benediction upon our plans.
(He stands up and bows profoundly.) Oh, only Master whom I truly worship, thou great Principle of Eternal Destruction, I bow to Thee with deepest gratitude and reverence and thank Thee, I, Iambus, Thy servant for ever.
(Addressing the crowd): Rise up! To your stations! The Play shall now commence in honour of the only Master of us all! But wait! Where is Quint, the five-eyed? Ah, there you are my trusty villain!
(One of the demons approaches. He is the Watchman who has five enormous eyes, one in front, one behind, one at each side of the head, and one at the crown of the head.)
IAMBUS: Up with you friend Quint; ascend the tower and keep good watch. There may be spies about, for two have fallen into our hands already, thanks to Zoppo. Take care, and bring me news if aught you see about. Hurry!! (Quint runs towards the tower and ascends the stairs.)
IAMBUS (addressing the rest): And now tell me—hog-wash—what are your plans for entertaining our two Cousins here?
(From this moment onward the action must be very rapid—almost confusingly so—the attendants of Iambus all speaking their parts without any breaks between one and the next; each stepping forward and retreating after he has spoken.)
EVEN TENOR: (beginning in his usual deliberate style): Divine Prince, Great Lord, Ruler of the mighty . . .
IAMBUS: (harshly and impatiently): Enough, honeypot, let the others have their say.
CROCHET (quickly): My staff sent rapid messages and gathered all my foremost men for the grand spectacles to follow, my Lord. The Torturers are ready for the victims, the music and the dancing masters here to report.
ROTONDO: My soldiers have dragged forth the new arrivals to play their pleasant roles for thy delight, great Prince.
RABBIA (first torturer): The stakes are up and sharp for action, the faggots ready, creaking with impatience for the fire.
TORTUM (second Torturer): The racks are groaning with anticipation, the irons hot, the nippers, knives and shears are eager for fresh blood—very juicy.
PHONASCUS (Singing Master): My choristers have learned some exquisite new numbers to entertain the gracious guests.
SCORIA (Conductor): My orchestras have rehearsed new ditties, very hot and swingy! My leader, friend Staccato of the flying bow (Staccato steps forward, fiddle and bow in hand, and makes a deep obeisance, after which he retires again) will help me raise to frenzy the participators, most scrumptiously.
CACHUCO (the Dancing Master): Jumps forward with great leaps and makes exotic springs and capers while speaking:—I have . . . Oh, Lord . . . an entirely new . . . pantomime set up . . . thou wilt . . . be delighted! (He bounds all over the stage in the most erratic manner.)
IAMBUS (to Quasi): Throw that animated Catherine-wheel downstairs! (To Cachuco): Stop it! You epileptic grasshopper! (To Quasi, who hesitates, wobbling this way and that after Cachuco): Catch him—jelly-fish, or I'll have you cut into strips of alternate mud and lava; the knives and shears are very eager!!
(Quasi runs frantically after Cachuco who, making terrific leaps, escapes by the door; Quasi following him.)
IAMBUS: Hah, Hah!! This drives away the vapours and does me good! Ha—ha—Hah!!
ALL THE REST: Ha—Ha—Hah!! The Prince is pleased. Ho—Ho!! He—He!!
(Some of them roll on the floor in delight, others jump like Cachuco, Staccato scrapes on his fiddle, and the rest blow all sorts of toy trumpets, beat tambourines and scream with excitement. Zoppo howls and dances about, while Rotondo and Crotchet walk up to Madelon and Sebastiano, take them by the arms and march them off the stage, followed closely by the torturers. Great shouting and hilarity of the rest; cheers as the others leave the stage, while Iambus, Even Tenor beside him, leans back on his throne, shaking with laughter.)
NEXT — SECOND MOVEMENT
Adagio con Afflizione
The Underground Torture Chamber
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