THE GREAT FESTIVAL HALL OF IAMBUS
Iambus is seated on a black and crimson throne. His three principal Ministers of State are with him. Madelon and Sebastiano are seated on two chairs near the throne. Sebastiano is guarded by Zoppo; Madelon by Quaver, who trembles occasionally. Quasi stands behind Iambus, as usual. Fermato lies on the floor near the footlights; he is fast asleep, also as usual. Iambus is in a foul mood, Even Tenor, Crotchet and Rotondo are at their wits end how to pacify him.
EVEN TENOR (con sentimento): It grieves your faithful servants to see how thou art sunk into such a deep malinconia, dear Master. We feel as if we are clad with the garments of mourning and affliction when the sun of thy favour does not shine upon thy devoted vassals. And thou so mighty! Thy legions are uncountable . . . just like the stars. Thou art greater than Pindar of ancient Greek renown; more ingenious than Dufay who invented the canon in music; thy slightest word resounds like unto a series of cadenzas, a veritable bariolage de la main gauche, the ruling hand of the Left Path, which even a Paganini of smooth sinfulness, with all his tricks of virtuosity, like the fiddler of that name, the wonder of his aeon, could never hope to equal. Thou—who hast sprung from the very womb of ancient wizardry and ensorcellment, as great a Poet as Saint John of Damascus, nay! far greater!! More sublime than Tisias, the master-mind of the Greek chorus . . . for thy strophe and antistrophe are crowned by an epode so masterly that all the Universe stands amazed when it beholds thy genius, which domineers all that is . . . like a true Ison, the key-note of the Chant of the Gods, the very dominant of the scale of existence. Who, like thyself, great Lord, can know the weight of a flame? Who can measure the size of a storm better than thou in thy wisdom? Hearken unto our Preghiero, thou Prince of . . .
IAMBUS (impatiently): Oh, stop that babbling, thou jackass! I'm filled like the moon at the full with thy empty words, which sound almost like those of the erstwhile 'Saints' who escaped from me through the foul trickery of those traitors from 'Above', who have no right to interfere with my affairs. You think that you can weave your fawning flatteries into a fine net of deceit in which to ensnare me?
EVEN TENOR (raising his eyebrows and spreading out his hands): Nay, my Lord, indeed I would not venture so; I swear by these realms, where bloom the velvet flowers of Black Philosophy . . .
IAMBUS: Raise not those mangy eyebrows in my presence—thou malapert pimp! Think not to beguile me with the falsehood and deceit of thy lewd disposition. (He looks at Fermato who is snoring): Listen to that Lantum there—that Hurdy-Gurdy, humming like a leaking organ-pipe of the Magrepha, mentioned in the Talmud, blown by a bellows-treading Kalkant with sixteen corns on each toe!
(Even Tenor, Crotchet and Rotondo laugh loudly.)
IAMBUS (to Crotchet): Go and kick that Fliegende Hollander into unexpected wakefulness, Crotchet. Kick hard and use your 'heavy' hoof as if you were a muriatic mule!
(Crotchet limps across the stage and kicks Fermato.)
FERMATO (jumping up with a great yell): Yes, my Lord; at your service, my Lord!
IAMBUS: Hah! There is still life in thee if treated aright! Run—clown—and fetch me Signor Polycarp, our vintner. Run!!—I say!
(Fermato limps off, rubbing himself.)
IAMBUS (following Fermato with his eyes): Ha, Ha! Look at him! Undulating along like a hermaphrodite molecule. (Turning to Quaver, who has a fit of trembling): Stop quivering, Quaver—you make me queasy!
(Quaver holds on to Madelon's chair to steady himself; she places her hand on his and he calms down.)
IAMBUS (sneeringly): How touching! The lady introduces mercy into Hell! Take your hand away! Or I'll send both you and your paramour to our Fifth Region, there to be tortured by the recollections of your past lives!! Bewailing your lost place in 'Heaven'!
MADELON: Thou art malicious as well as stupid, Iambus. This is natural, I suppose: for a malicious soul is ever void of Wisdom, for Wisdom is an everlasting witness of pity. And I do pity this poor, trembling being, who is out of place here, for your cruelties horrify him.
IAMBUS: You feel pity for an actual demon in Hell? One who is so fully in my power that nought can release him ever? Bah! You are mawkish, my little cousin, and you are wasting your pity on one of my own vassals, while you yourself need it most, thou female Mikado of commiseration!
MADELON: Hell can no more restrain repentant demons than the tomb can chain man's soul!
IAMBUS: Your wise-cracks are somewhat distonare here, sweet cousin; or, to—make my meaning clearer: you are singing out of tune when you talk of 'repentant demons' being released from Hell! It amuses me to listen to your nocturne of 'pity', with its occasional nota de piacere of repentant demons; but be not vain enough to think that your Ninna-Nanna can lullaby me to sleep and to forgetfulness of my Power!
SEBASTIANO: Stop that silly boasting, Iambus. Today you still stand proudly in your evil place, but tomorrow you shall not be found, having then returned into the elemental dust, and all your 'power' (which you can hold only for so long as God allows it) will be as nothing.
IAMBUS (screaming): Hah! Again that hated name? Let Him beware, lest I storm Him with my Legions and burn His House with my anger!
SEBASTIANO: Shall the Lord of the Sun be overcome by thy feeble wrath? . . . Crawler!! . . . who hides his face at the mere sight of some of His Messengers?!
IAMBUS: Those Messengers have no more power than a grain of sand; I hid my countenance lest my might should destroy them!
SEBASTIANO: A pretty lie! But solve me this riddle: What power has a grain of sand? Yet many grains can hold the swirling sea at bay!
IAMBUS: This is no riddle—it is an obvious natural fact on earth.
SEBASTIANO: A natural fact? But the earth as known to Man, and you, is hastening to pass away for ever! And give me the answer to this too: Who shall part asunder Time and Eternity?
IAMBUS: I—Iambus—have that power! I am great; yea! greater than any God that was never known or heard!
SEBASTIANO: Oh, blasphemer! Canst thou make green again the withered flower, or gather up the winds and place them in a box, or make concrete the image of a voice? Nay!! . . . where then is thy boasted Power?
IAMBUS: What stupid images thou callest forth, dear cousin, from Heaven!
SEBASTIANO: Canst thou create even the 'image' of a world?
Iambus: Why should I? There is little gold in the world, but much dust and ashes. If I had made a world like that I'd crush it like a rotten egg! But here, in my Dominions, there is no dust, nor ashes, but instead an everlasting fire that reflects upon the gold of my Image!!
SEBASTIANO: Thou talkest of gold . . . princeling? Once, in the distant past, Satanic cousin, has our Golden God, Sublime, spared thy rebellious heart—For His Own wise Purpose—only exiling thee and thine; but beware—lest with His mighty Power he rends and tears the very breath from out thy breast . . . not airy breath as known to man . . . but Essence of the very Æther and Golden Flame Divine. Then . . . utter, dire destruction is thy Fate! And I see these matters with the eye of the Spirit, and nothing thereof will fail. And thy empty Empire shall be a memorial of thy destruction!
IAMBUS: A showy piece of improvisation, my friend, a real Toccatina. Dost play the harp, perchance? Should dwell in Wales and do some penillion singing, they are good at that sort of thing, I'm told. Your god may have some power, but am I not as strong as God in my domain as He in His? Where is the difference?
SEBASTIANO: Thou—Iambus—art small and full of uproar; but God is great, and His Majesty dwelleth in Silence. There lies the difference! Thou art a Serpent full of cunning, but empty of Wisdom.
IAMBUS: You should write a new Breviary and fill it with that sort of lugubrious fiddle-faddle. It would be useful to the keeners that howl at Irish funerals.
SEBASTIANO: Thou art blinded by the smoke of thy own wickedness, but the clear fountain of God's Justice will put out thy fumid flame.
IAMBUS: That inept fountain is no more than a feeble trickle—thus it hath ever been since I ruled from this throne.
MADELON: That small trickle will become a mighty flood anon . . . beware!
IAMBUS: The Great Breath of Evil (he bows) will blow away that flood; He is the true Master from whom alone I gather wisdom.
MADELON: Now let us match our purity against your craft, dark Prince, and who shall win that contest is only known to our God, Supreme; He—whom thou fearest as the final Judge and Arbiter of us all, created by His Will Divine. He—who can blast away that Evil Breath with one small sigh, if so He wishes. Yet is that empty Breath of Sin the cause of all thy self-deluded, emptier boasts and still more vacuous envy. Is it not so . . . small and mortal god? Fated to cease in the end together with all that crawling, blasphemous brood around you? For you a nirvana of everlasting non-being: for us a Nirvana of everlasting life. . . when the true Deity wills it so at the appointed time of His final In-spiration. Who shall enter the seven-gated Bastions of Heaven? Who shall be dragged to eternal death through the seven-portalled walls of Hell? Oh, ye greedy of error and sin!
IAMBUS: You two carry on like an infinite Canon, and I'm getting tired of your performance. Where is that sprightly spark, Fermato? Hey, there! (turning to Crotchet) Crotchet, compose me a Fuga Retrograda instead . . . (Crotchet gapes at him without understanding) . . . in other words, fetch me that Fermato scamp by retreating from the scene first, and then bring him in at once. Be quick and lively, or I'll have you cut into quavers, Crotchet, or semi-quavers and demi-semi-quavers. (To Madelon): And talking about quavers . . . you take your hand off our Quaver, who is MINE and beyond all hope of rescue!
MADELON: That depends upon a greater will than yours, Iambus. If God permits I'll save at least one soul from you—and his name shall be Maxima in Heaven, for there he shall become a steady 'Note' of long duration and his brief and curtailed Quaver of fear shall be transposed into a lasting note of JOY in the never-fading light of eternal Goodness. (Turning to Quaver): Do you wish it so, my poor friend?
(Quaver trembles all over and kneels beside her; before Iambus has time to interfere, Crotchet enters dragging Fermato by the hair to Iambus. They are followed by several demons, foremost of whom is Polycarp, the Vintner of Hell.)
IAMBUS: Hah! friend Polycarp! how fares our crop this year? Tell me quickly, for I'm athirst, with talking over-much and swallowing the dusty sayings of those two nitwits over there, who have arrived from 'Heaven'!
(All the demons roar with laughter.)
ROTONDO: Silence in court!! The Master speaks!
(He kicks Fermato, who runs to the back of the stage and curls up later behind the throne, where he crawls while Crotchet and Rotondo quarrel.)
CROCHET (to Rotondo): You are acting out of your turn, beef-wit; it is my business to kick him. And why should we not laugh when our Lord is pleased? Mind your own business in future, you are too inflated with the wind of your own fat importunity.
IAMBUS (to Crotchet): Shut up, fool! (To Polycarp): Well, friend vintner, what sayest thou?
POLYCARP: Bedded deep in sulphur soil, our vines are full to overflowing with the purple buds, filled with sweetly-bitter nectar, thick as blood. The trailing creepers clasp and cling like eager lovers in our vineal plantations, each vinette, sprig or branch a searching hand, greedy to engrasp the object of its longing. Our skins and casks are full with crushed, fermented juice, the mocker of the wise, the dream of toper, tippler, bibber—who love the turncoat source of joyful lust and mettled courage, falling like a drowsy cloud at last upon the un-abstemious sot, or setting blood afire with indiscretions manifold that fill your nets with fuddled fish, or gulls the human perch and trout to snatch your bait, and then thy hook and line and sinker play them, wriggling in the stream of life and up and down it, until with final jerk they're landed!
IAMBUS: Bravo, my brave vintner! Am proud of you, the only one not quite bereft of sense.
THE OTHERS: Bravo! Da Capo! Encore!!! Bis, Bis, Bis!!!
(Rotondo is silent, but Zoppo howls, and dances up and down on three hands.)
CROCHET (snarling at Rotondo): What now? Why don't you join the merry chorus? Art jealous of good Polycarp?
(Rotondo stalks up to him in a threatening manner.)
ROTONDO: What! congenital club-foot! Are you reproving me?
CROCHET: I am indeed, comical grease-belly! When our Master gives the sign it is your duty to obey. Yes, even you, with all your 'armies', 'fleets' and 'aircraft', and all your lazy lurkers who do nothing else, like you, you fat-wit, but boast of what perchance they will do some day!
(Rotondo raises his fists and is on the point of striking Crotchet.)
IAMBUS: Leave him alone General Bass; he has more spirit than I thought. (Aside): I'll have to watch that wretch, he is too self-assured of late. (To Crotchet): be silent, Crotchet, control thy unequal temperament, cease thy carping and let Polycarp now drown cavil and petulance with vintage wine, black and bitter-sweet. And you get busy and fetch my artists, dancers and musicians en scene, into our Salle de Concert—the Fiesta shall commence, gran gusto. Tell Quint to ring a merry peal.
CROCHET: What shall it be, my Lord?
IAMBUS: The 'Grandsire' will do, single-handed, for Quint is no Quack and will quicken our spirits with the oldest and most venerable of all the peals that ever rang the changes up aloft. It shall be in honour of the Great Breath—our Master; hence! rapidamente!
IAMBUS (to Polycarp): And now bring in the wine and let thy slaves pour out, con bravura, during the epitasis or progress of the plot of our poetic play.
(Polycarp beckons. Enter: demons pushing barrels or carrying all sorts of wine-skins and drinking vessels. They place the barrels on stands and get busy filling the vessels. Zoppo takes a skin of wine and drinks before all the others are ready, holding the skin aloft and letting the wine run into his mouth.)
IAMBUS: Hah! Hah! Good Zoppo! Well done, my pet. You set a good example. Drink—and fill your hairy hide till it bursts!
(A fanfare is heard behind the scenes and a peal of bells sounds from the distance. Enter: a troop of asses, braying loudly. They are followed by dancers of both sexes who tumble about in mad confusion. Some of the demons pour wine over the asses and drive them across the stage and off. The dancers and demons blow horns, beat cymbals, groan, hoot and yell cat-calls, until Iambus stops them with a gesture.)
IAMBUS: Ho, Ho!! That was a real callithumpian concert, far better than the sanglots, sobs and Irish Ochones I have had to listen to before. No dreary tunes in Jupiter's Ionian mode, but good and honest cacophony instead. That was an Anthem, brayed deliriously, on the imperfections of the Sciences and vanities of Art . . . which hath no profit!! But where are the musicians?
(Enter a group of fantastically arrayed musicians; their skins are completely covered with 'Absolute Pitch'!)
IAMBUS: Hah! Here are my Davidsbundler, the masters of the Diabolus in Musica!
(Others enter, very pompously.)
IAMBUS: And here are Phonascus, the Maestro di Canto of our devil choir. (Phonascus bows and forms a group of demons around him). And friend Scoria, our Virtuoso de pupitre, together with Herr Staccato (both bow and collect their musicians in another group). And Cachuco, the Caperer (he bows). What! Not jumping about like the jack hoppering away at the strings of the Harpsichord? Hast rheumatiz by chance? Hey there, Phonascus! Troll me a lusty snatch of song, a ballad, a lilliburlero of tasty jingles, a dithyramb in praise of Bacchus, a Swedish Skolien, a Madrigal, dear Magiscore, to introduce our Mascherata, a lampon with deceptive cadenzas, as befits our loyal denizens, whimsical, capricciosamente, or even a distich, tiercet, or a glee. Make ring the echoes, loud and gay, like unto famous ones of old Milano—six-and-fifty times repeated; but see to 't that you break that record here. Produce a Devil's Hymn to ME, to Pan, Priapus or Apollo! Make your choice, but start ye now! But no rhymes or sickly poetry.
(Phonascus begins to conduct his choir; they sing):
Drinking song in 2/4 Time.
Drink — High!
Drink — High! (The second word is yelled by ALL).
Drink — High!
Drink — High!
Down in the flowery vale,
Where the winds blow fiercely:
Drink to glorious Apollo—
Drink — High!
Drink — Wine!
Drink — Wine! (Ditto; but the brass joins in).
Drink — Wine!
Drink — Wine!
All creatures are merry,
Sousing in their lonely beds:
Drink to glorious Apollo—
Drink — Wine!
Drink — Deep!
Drink — Deep! (Ditto; but the drums and cymbals now join in as well).
Drink — Deep!
Drink — Deep!
With voices out of harmony,
In this hot spot,
Awake the fiery Lyre:
For the bee stings,
The adder strikes:
Drink to glorious Apollo—
Drink (short pause) HAIL!!!!! (Here follows the utmost uproar).
(All leap and tumble about like mad beings.)
IAMBUS: Enough!! That was a goodly tune, friend Phonascus; your Liederkranz does you credit, I shall remember it. Come now, myrmidons, quench the thirst of my burning soul with music and dance . . . and WINE!! much Wine!! to find forgetfulness for a space. After that Prelude of my tenorinos let us have a caprice or ghiribizzo of music and dance; whimsical, or glapissante, like the shrilling grêle of the sharp, thin voice of a sonatrice diabolical, or the trillo caprino of the great Goat's bleat, who, like an ancient diva's false fausset, presents parodias or burlesqueries in tempo rubato con reflorimente, of the lyric notes of Lamia's ancient flute. Let now Cachuco, bright Coryphaeus, whip on his lusty coryphants and dance a Kreistanz in a circle, delirante, frenzied; or a bright Fandango Espagnuolo, a Burlando full of jerking jests. Let them jump unequally in tempo imperfectum, or whirl the tambourine in wild ismania, quite mad, or dance a swift Courante in retrograde imitation, as befits these Realms. And don't forget a Masque, my friend, instrepito, with noise and bluster to impress our guests; a black Passion Play if you have the invention, fremissement or figural, facile and extempore with murky bases bellowing their broken octaves underneath. Our stage is set; ban all misery from the mise en scene and let us now rejoice. And you, Scoria—pray to the wandering ghosts of Monteverde and old Terpander, and to any other musical small beer that comes to your mind, to fill you full with inspiration, lest my wrath descends upon you. Let now the play commence in earnest.
Iambus and his court sit down, and there enters an orchestra of ancient Hebrews, Chaldeans and Assyrians (from the Prompt side), playing their national instruments and such-like, and there are the performers on the nechuloth (or wind-instruments) such as the Tibia—a flute made from a shinbone—and the Keramin and Keren, which are trumpets made out of ram's horns, the Sabbeka, or Hebrew Harp, and the Kabaro, an Abyssinian drum. There are several Nabla players, fingering their ten-stringed instruments feverishly, and those that play the Kinnor, the first instrument mentioned in the Bible. One strikes a red-hot Gong, the dull booms of which are heard above the sounds of brazen and silver trumpets.
From the O.P. side glide in a troupe of female dancers of the same period as the musicians, and they perform a ceremonial dance in front of Iambus, scattering in all directions when their dance is over. Cachuco is in evening dress like a ring-master in a circus, driving his dancers on throughout the scenes with a cracking whip.
Enter from the O.P. side a group of wild Asiatic musicans of all nationalities. There are Turks with the Sumara, or Turkish double flute, with the Zurna, or Turkish oboe; Hindus with the Yo-flute or with the Poofye, a Hindu nose-flute, and with the small Indian Matalon flute; Brahmans with their Toorooree trumpets, others with the Noursurgh, a straight Hindu horn; Japanese with the Kollo harp, Burmese with Soum harps, Hindus with the Toomourah tambourine and the Rabani and Pambe, small drums. There are Chinese with Tchang guitars, the Yang Kin, or Chinese Dulcimer with brass strings, and the Yue Kin, or Moon guitar; Hindus with the Vina and the Ravanastron, Japanese with Sotos, or Japanese Dulcimers, and Turks with the Kremangeh. Burmese playing the Tarau fiddle, and Hindus with Ruana violins. The percussion is represented by Hindu Talan cymbals, Persians with Zeng cymbals, Chinese with Tschungs, or gongs, Indians with Kintal cymbals, and these combine with the various Tom-Toms, while the Tziti and Toutari—Indian bag-pipes—blare and squeal.
Scoria is conducting frantically and from the P.S. come male and female dancers to perform fierce Asiatic rhythmic measures, wildly swirling in passionate speed under the urging whip of the Ballet Master. Drinking of wine continues all the while, each group of dancers and musicians joining in when their turn is over, and, apart from the acts of the performers, the whole stage is in a constant state of movement and turmoil. After each dance, Scoria's main orchestra plays a wild Galop, and the performers pair off and walk about, some leaving with beakers of wine in their hands and returning again later.
Now there is a sudden pause, and the sound of harps is heard off stage, approaching gradually. First there arrive Greek dancing girls who perform a graceful Greek dance. While the dance goes on a number of Greek musicians appear in small chariots, drawn by black slaves; they enter very slowly, playing all the while. All the Greeks are dressed in white and gold; the chariots are pink and silver. First come the harpists, playing the Barbiton, followed by a fancy figure of Jubal—father of harpists and organists . His light blue chariot is drawn by white asses. He takes up a position on the O.P. side, whence he bows to Iambus, who waves a hand in greeting. Then follow Lyre players, headed by Phrynis, the famous Greek Lyrist who performs on the Magadis, the ancient Greek Lyre with twenty strings. Follow Pektis, or Lute players on foot. The music is quite soft and delicate.
IAMBUS (to Jubal): Very nice and pretty, old friend; young Phrynis picks a bonny Lichanos indeed. But it is a little tame. Bring on some more of these Greeks, Scoria, and have them put some more life into it. (Scoria beckons, and new groups of male and female musicians arrive. The harps and Lyres continue to play softly, while the tibicen and tibicina—male and female flute players enter.)
SCORIA: Now sound ye Alcman's Spartan flutes and spare them not; let the Diaulos sigh and sob (the double flute) and play Athena's Polykephalos backwards with your murrained lips in honour of the Great Serpent—many-headed—so called for his craftiness!
They play rapid passages, and the harps and lyres sound louder. Scoria beckons again, and another group of female musicians enters at a run to join the dancers. The tempo becomes faster and faster, and the newcomers sound small cymbals, tambourines and tabors. When music and dancing are at their wildest, Jubal is driven off, followed by the dancers and musicians, the dancers leaping about like maddened Bacchantes. As soon as the last musician has left, Signor Staccato springs forward to play a violin solo. Loud fanfare of trumpeters who play the Clarino, shrilling their high-pitched bugle notes which shatter in the air. Staccato plays on a five-stringed iron fiddle, which he whips with his bow as if it were a reluctant horse. Accompanied by a leaden Lyre, decorated with onyx and jet willow-patterns, a Bell-harp, which is swung to and fro when struck, producing the effect of the sound of a peal of bells borne on the breeze, a Kandele, or ancient Finnish harp, a Pyrophone, the tones of which are produced by gas jets burning under resonant tubes, and a Walnika, or Russian peasant bag-pipe. Staccato plays his Pasticcio con passione, now frivolo, or trivial, then fusée, with roulades, shakes, rapidly ascending passages with many a quaint fioretto or embellishment, gagliardamente, briskly, merrily, his fantastic mélange or medley proceeds, while his unique Salon-Orchestra of accompanists slides and slurs glissato themes with baroque, confused harmonies and unnatural counter-melodies, full of discords, and blares uncouthly with barbaro, wild vehemence.
Iambus leads the applause at the end of that furious sinfonia, and the dithyrambic contest (shades of Lasus of ancient Greece!) is continued, when another demon artist performs an even worse cacofonia of chaotic music on the Archi Cymbal with its six keyboards, giving all the tones of the old Greek modes. Rapid passages in Pythagorean major sixths, abundance of imperfect chords in pluperfect augmented intervals, form into an improvised Chaconne, while the audience stamps a hollow basso ostinato, a true 'ground bass', on the floor with fervid insistence.
After the applause and the shouting are over, another artist performs a Rigadoon in the Æolian mode of A minor on the Gravicembalo, or Harpsichord; a master of the 'Relish', the ancient form of harpsichord graces, he enchants his listeners, and even Madelon and Sebastiano attend with evident interest and pleasure. There is but small appreciation on the part of Iambus, though! After the artist has bowed himself off:
IAMBUS (sardonico): Who is this 'master' of fallals, friend Scoria? I have not been introduced to him, have never heard of him before and do not wish to hear him again.
SCORIA: He is a new genius but lately arrived, and as this is his début, his execution is perhaps un poco nerveux. He will give more pleasure once he knows our proper style.
IAMBUS: He is too ponderous, too portamento; I do not like his modes, his style of glum scorrendo or glissando, sliding from one sound into another, tinkling in between like a cracked tea-pot with his sugary themes. That is a travesty, a parody of the proper art of music here; I am displeased. If only he had made us laugh by committing a few blunders here and there it would not have been so bad; but he is too perfect to my taste. Hand him over to our sorcerers downstairs, he needs a few lessons.
(Scoria bows and walks back to his musicians.)
MADELON: Why do all these people play on such ancient instruments?
SEBASTIANO: Because there is no progress in Hell!
IAMBUS: You misdeem, cousin. Hey, Scoria! Show our guests that we have the latest things in music here too!
At a sign from Scoria, several demons push a huge grand piano on to the stage. As they open the lid, a small demon with a large black moustache jumps out of the piano and sits down upon the stool in front of the keyboard. With pearly touch his fingers dance upon the feintes and the palettes, or black and white keys, perlé—brilliant, like a string of jewels, and then commences a proper sonata du Diable, a veritable devil-dance on the black keys alone, con temperamento and rough, debasing rococo, tempestosamente. And as he plays other performers join in with Cembalos, Echelettes or Xylophones, Campanellas and Campanellinos, following the pianist's devil themes in diminished and inversed imitation, loudly, with raucous vehemence. The drone and chanter of the Zampogna, the Gaita and the Bignou, and similar bag-pipes is added presently, and also the nerve-tearing noise of a new troupe of tiny devils, veritable racleurs, scraping on their sabots of inferior fiddles. There enter also performers on the Baroxytone, lipping their Helicons with masterly embouchure. The Pellitones and Bombardons groan and cough, snore and grumble underneath the rest. The Lur, or ancient Scandinavian Horn, bellows and cracks, and Serpent and Zampuga rival the Curtal, that primitive Bassoon, and the flageolet pipings of the Larigot, while the Fiffane fifes away above the lot. Little imps swing to and fro on the ropes that hang from Saturn's leaden cathedral bells, depending from the ceiling, Crecelles rattle against the tinkling sounds of small and silver Squilla bells, while Taballos, Talabaloccos, Zanzes, and other tympanies and kettle-drums sustain the uproar with their thunder.
Suddenly there sounds a tantara of trumpets, as if a choir of devilish horsemen were giving tongue with the blaring bugles of eager hunters on a forest frolic; and now arrives the weirdest group of musicians of all: a choir of six-and-sixty Gumband, or Jews Harp players, who serenade Iambus with the most extraordinary and eerie effects ever heard, accompanied by the Janizary bangs of small drums, cymbals and the jingle of triangles. Carried away by fierce satanic emotions, transported to the highest frenzy of delight, the rest scream and yell in utter ecstasy. Iambus screams as loudly as any, while Madelon and Sebastiano cover their ears with their hands in vain efforts to exclude that truly hellish noise.
Now Iambus stands up, stretching out his hand, and as the din subsides, shouts—
(When all is still, parlando): Well done, Scoria and the rest. This is soothing comfort to my soul indeed (turning to Madelon and Sebastiano): Here be sorceries of music that pale those ancient ones of famous Thessaly, where Lucius witnessed cauldrons steaming, seething with their elemental broths of sacrificial ritual. This is better than any Jubilato, such as ornamented once the Antiplions in Alleluias with their rolling phrases of fastoso pompousness! But let us proceed! We shall blind you two with science and deafen you with art! Clear the Logeum for the next item!
All the performers leave, except Scoria and his main orchestra. The latter immediately commence to play a Paspy, or Pavane. Enter a group of dancers dressed as peacocks, performing a pedantic but short Pavane. Each of the following short dances is performed by a small group; each group melts away as the next dance is played and danced; there is no pause at any time.
Now follows a stately Passe-Rue, danced by masked demons in medieval court dress.
Then commences a Bergamasca, danced by clownish rustics.
Next a Pibcorn, or Welsh hornpipe, by dancers in Welsh costumes.
Then a Polichinelle, or clown dance.
Next: the Zamacuca is danced by Chilean national dancers.
This is followed by a Ballonchio by Italian peasants.
Then follows a Danse Macabre in shrouds, accompanied by drummers who play on coffins.
This is taken up by Spanish dancers who perform the Zapateado, with much stamping, to emphasize the rhythm, followed by a lively Redowak by dancers in Bohemian national costumes, which is again taken over by Scotch dancers, reeling in the Highland Fling. Then comes a Moresca by black demons, dancing amid flames. At the end of this there is a thunderous crash of music, followed by a long roll on the tympany, during which a group of mummies enters stiffly and forms grotesque figures. From behind the scenes is heard the sound of tom-toms, flutes, harps and cymbals. Enter a group of Egyptian dancers, carrying Sisterns which they strike rhythmically, dancing between the stationery mummies. An Egyptian orchestra enters, playing a slow dance-tune, composed on the Seven Sacred Sounds of ancient Egypt. They play on Nefers and Ouds, or Egyptian guitars, on which they strum in slow and dignified strimpellata style, while the harps give forth arpeggiaturas in the rasagado manner by sweeping the strings with the thumb. Others play the Zaner, or Egyptian bassoon, the double 'Lady Maket' flutes, and the primitive Arghool, or Clarinet, whose blatant whine is heard from time to time. There are also players on the Nay-flute, the Rikk, a small Egyptian tambourine, and the Bedow, or drum, as well as high-pitched trumpets. The dancers gesticulate and mimic a pantomime of love and seduction until the music fades out gradually and the dancers come to a halt, grouped before Iambus, as if they were figures on the ancient monuments of Egypt, the Light of the World.
Iambus, as well as most of the others, has become very intoxicated, and as he staggers to his feet he declaims tipsily—
IAMBUS: I—Iambus—I am of far famed renown! All the world trembles at my frown; all sigh with relief when I relax . . . or seem to: for I am never still, and just when man believes he's overcome the magnet of my Power he'll FALL (he reels, and is held up by Even Tenor and Crotchet), to rise again if so I let him (he shakes off the others), only to fall farther still next time . . . until the time of rising is done for all eternity and he is MINE!!!! Ha, ha, ha, ha, Hah!!!! . . . !
(A deep hush has fallen upon the audience, like a clap of silent thunder!)
IAMBUS: (to Madelon and Sebastiano): Now then, dear Cousins mine, your last chance has come; is it yes or no?
MADELON: The things that are without the Breath of God are e'er too dearly bought—we denounce thee!
CROCHET (hiccupping): They have not yet seen all, my Lord. Our friends Scoria and Cachuco have still a further pleasant item on the programme.
ROTONDO: Nay!! I say let them be shot, or spiked and done with; our Prince has been too kind already and too patient. To the firing squad with them, I say!
EVEN TENOR: If I may, my gracious Lord, I should advise a respite until the end of our brave Masque. Let music sweet, the poetry of sound, that mighty whisper of the spirit, highest of all sciences, seed of illumination wag its mellifluous tongue until its melodious, madrigalesco murmur has brought submission to your will.
IAMBUS: Nay, good friends and counsellors, curse you for your false advice; let me deal with these two in my way and teach you all how Souls are won, so that new strength be mine. Bind them to their seats.
(Crotchet and Rotondo do so, while Zoppo reels drunkenly about.)
IAMBUS: Now force wine down their throats; never mind if it chokes them!
(This is done while Madelon and Sebastiano struggle furiously and Quaver hides his face in his hands and sobs.)
IAMBUS: This little patimento is but a small foretaste of coming grief and pain . . . unless ye yield.
SEBASTIANO (chokingly): This foul deed, oh 'Prince', will bear you monstrous disasters, such as even you cannot comprehend. The woods, and every sweet-smelling tree therein shall curse thee!!
IAMBUS: Hah! You like it not, good Cousins? Patience; there is more to come.
SEBASTIANO: You cannot fatten the leanness of your spirit with further evil deeds on us; beware!!
IAMBUS: You are in my power, and even Heaven cannot help you!
SEBASTIANO: You have mocked for the last time!
MADELON: And even hatred will fail you when you reap your due reward!
IAMBUS: I am the law of hatred and its symbol, to which everyone must bow.
MADELON: Thou hast perverted the only Law, which is Love Sublime, and changed all its ordinances.
SEBASTIANO: The abomination of utter desolation shall fall upon thee and thy domains; your wicked festivals turn into mourning; thy foul name held in contempt, so that even the swine will reproach thy memory. The caves of prophecy of old foretold thy Doom; but there is still a modicum of time to turn upon thy Path of Destruction. Release us both!
IAMBUS: When I shall give the order for release, it will be the last words you shall ever hear from anyone.
But first, we shall end our little play (Turning to the others): Come now, my paladins, what ails thee, fools? On with the dance. Let our delightful music thunder until it shakes the earth and rocks the universe on its foundations. Wine! More wine!! Drink, dance, sing, howl, groan and grovel . . . or maledictions on you all!
(All raise their various drinking vessels and shout:)
HAIL! . . . Iambus!!
From off stage is heard the tinkling of grelots, or sleigh-bells, and a troupe of wild Russian peasants—men and women—storm on to the stage, their costumes be-sprinkled with many little bells, while the men blow loud blasts on the Ragoke, a small Russian horn, and the women strum the Kobsa, a primitive Russian lute. Scoria and his orchestra form into two sections at either side of the stage, thus leaving the whole of its centre free for the dancers who immediately commence a fast Russian dance, accompanied by the orchestras. As they dance, all the previous performers join gradually. The drinking goes on and anon one player, dancer or actor after another falls down in a drunken stupor. The few musicians that are left eventually play in tempo perduto, unsteadily and irregularly, until at last all, except Iambus, Even Tenor, Madelon and Sebastiano are asleep, though the two former are both so drunk that they can hardly stand. Even Zoppo has collapsed and lies straddled on his piece of rock as if it were 'A' Proslambanomenos itself, the lowest note, right at the bottom of a deep abyss, whence no escape is possible. Iambus regards Madelon in a maudlin manner; he goes up to her and unties her bonds, while Quaver, who has not drunk at all and has hidden himself behind the throne, peeps carefully out of his hiding-place to see what is happening. He trembles with fear.
IAMBUS (hiccupping): Well . . . hic . . . my sweet Cousin . . . hic . . . what 'ye think about it, eh? . . . hic . . . Ye 're a nice little thing . . . hic . . . after all . . . hic . . . I'll make you my Queen . . . hic . . . for tonight.
(Madelon walks away in disgust.)
IAMBUS (to Even Tenor): The wench . . . hic . . . pretends she doesn't . . . hic . . . want me. Heh-heh!!
Even Tenor (also hiccupping): Thy . . . hic . . . princely persuasion . . . hic . . . can be turned into the key . . . hic . . . wherewith to force . . . hic . . . the reluctant portals of love's . . . hic . . . sanctuary . . . hic . . . Ho-ho!!
IAMBUS: Right . . . hic ... as usual . . . hic . . . my only friend. (To Madelon): Oh! . . . hic . . . let me pasture . . . in thine arms . . . hic . . . and take my fill . . . hic ... of love . . . hic . . . and swoon . . . hic . . . upon those white breasts . . . hic . . . delicious.
(He staggers, and Even Tenor helps him to his seat, were Iambus falls asleep at once. Whilst this happens Madelon has swiftly untied Sebastiano.)
EVEN TENOR (reeling at the foot of the throne): Please excuse my Master . . . hic . . . for a few moments . . . hic . . . He'll wake up in a minute . . . hic . . . and then the shadowy folds of that dark . . . hic . . . Emperor will descend upon thee . . . hic . . . and embrace thee . . .hic . . . with his stifling caress . . . hic.
(Meanwhile Quaver has crept up behind Even Tenor, and after the final words of the latter's speech, he throws Madelon's bonds over Even Tenor's head and around his neck and, ties him firmly to the throne. Even Tenor falls asleep too and Quaver has a terrible fit of the quivers.)
MADELON: (she goes up to Quaver and calms him down): Well done, my poor friend; be not afraid, we shall rescue you now.
SEBASTIANO: That's right; we must go quickly before any of this scum awakens. How do we get out of here, Quaver?
(Quaver runs up to a curtain near the throne; he pulls it aside, and a staircase is seen. He urges Madelon and Sebastiano up the stairs and follows; drawing the curtain shut again. As they disappear, there is heard the awful hissing of the Great Breath, and the sleeping demons stir uneasily, some raising themselves and looking round stupidly, only to fall asleep again.)
NEXT — FOURTH MOVEMENT — FIRST ACT
(A) Introduzione declamando, con Larghezza
© COPYRIGHT J Michaud PhD and occult-mysteries.org — all rights reserved