Strange Free World: Act 2
[Sutherland is walking along the high street: shops in the background – ‘Aliyah Bet Bookies’, ‘Kitchens of Distinction’]
[Subsequently, Sutherland is standing in the foyer of a large supermarket face to face with Sarah’s brother, Isaac, who is the covering manager of the store. It is 11 o’clock in the morning. Though gloomy outside, it is bright within the store. A receptionist is sat at the desk nearby. Isaac is in his late thirties; and the Receptionist is considerably older. Isaac is slightly taller than Sutherland, and wears glasses at least as thick as Sutherland’s own. The family resemblance between him and his sister is marked.
The receptionist is slightly overweight and blonde. She answers the ringing telephone; and speaks with a very genteel timbre]
(Isaac) Is that your CV?
[Sutherland hands his CV to Isaac; Isaac begins reading]
(Receptionist) Oh, Isaac – phone call.
(Isaac) [Coughs] That’s Mr Salman please, Mrs Salman. [To Sutherland] My work wife. You see… [Receptionist looks unamused] nevermind. Who is it?
(Receptionist) Mr Coleman.
(Receptionist) The district manager.
(Isaac) Oh, right. Tell him to go to hell, codgity old bastard.
(Receptionist) I’m afraid he’s not available at the moment Mr Coleman. Can I take a message for you. Uh huh. Uh huh. Yes. Sure. Saving stamps.
(Isaac) Oh for God’s sake. Always with the sodding stamps. Tell him where he can stick them.
(Receptionist) Yes, that’s right. I’ll leave your message right on his desk.
(Isaac) Tell him where he can stick his message as well.
(Receptionist) Yes. Oh, yes – I’m sure he’ll be glad to know the new target, Mr Coleman.
(Isaac) [Shakes head] Come along [Sutherland follows, unenthusiastically. Isaac opens the door to his office, which is evidently in disarray, and decides to forgo holding the interview there. The two turn back into the corridor and keep walking. Isaac reading Sutherland’s CV; he nods towards a woman mopping the floor nearby] This is Julie – my work mistress. She doesn’t speak. Mute.
(Julie) [Polish accent] Yes I do bloody speak. Nobody bloody listens. ‘Oh, she’s just a cleaning lady’ they all say. Hmph!
(Isaac) Julie used to be the store manager. She didn’t like saving stamps either. Doesn’t bode well does it?
(Sutherland) No; I guess not.
(Julie) Store manager [tuts].
(Isaac) [Looks up and turns around. His half-empty coffee cup hits Sutherland’s elbow and falls on the floor]. I do apologise. Julie, do you have a cloth? [She nods] Can I just borrow it please? [Wipes floor]. Where’s your bucket? Ah, thank you, my dear. [To Sutherland as walking away] There’s nothing wrong with polygamy. At least one of my wives agrees.
[Isaac and Sutherland continue walking towards the shop-floor of the supermarket; which is evidently very noisy and bustling. Isaac still reading CV].
(Isaac) You’re a friend of my sister’s?
(Isaac) How do you know her?
(Sutherland) I met her. Well, obviously I met her…
(Isaac) No designs or anything?
(Isaac) Some guys are into the chair. You’re not into wheels right?
(Sutherland) I don’t follow.
(Isaac) Nevermind. So, you’re a student?
(Isaac) You’re studying literature?
(Isaac) Who’s your favourite author?
(Isaac) They say he didn’t write his own plays. They talk out of their arses. Okay. Hobbies. Drama, music, politics. Ah, that explains it. Where our Sarah sits you’ll find three different opinions. Doesn’t matter if anybody else is in the room with her at the time. Why do you want to work for us?
(Sutherland) I’m a student and I need the money.
(Isaac) Do you have references?
(Sutherland) Sure. I think.
(Isaac) When can you start?
(Sutherland) If I’m successful, you mean?
(Sutherland) Don’t you have other candidates to see?
(Isaac) Nobody else wants this job. Besides, I owe our Sarah. Besides, it means more interviews. One’s enough for this week. [Opens large double door: shop floor – very brightly lit and noisy. Has to raise voice]. It’s a dreary job, but it pays, I suppose. Yours is not going to be any better, mind.
[A disembodied voice is heard passing the doorway – one woman to another in the supermarket: “That’s what he said his name was ‘Michael Angelo’, and I fell for it. I should’ve known better; I should’ve seen it coming”].
(Isaac) Most of the customers are cracked; but some are all right. We have to serve them either way, mind. If you have half an hour free I’ll show you around and run you through the basics.
(Sutherland) You do know that I don’t have any previous experience, right?
(Isaac) Uh-huh. Five minutes’ training’s all you need. You’re only stacking shelves and scanning junk. It’s nothing to write home about. Besides, I like mistakes. They add charisma. I’ll let you shadow one of the till girls – you’ll be fine. As long as you don’t steal anything I’ll be happy. Other than that, you just need to smile and be polite, and patient. [Looks around the shop-floor] Don’t take any nonsense from the customers, mind. Most of them are nice; some of them aren’t. The talkers are the worst. The best thing is to frustrate them – drives them crazy.
(Isaac) Gina there on till three – she’s been working here a few months. Has a son – five years old; lovely kid. Knows every swear word there is in three languages.
If you just let her know you’re here to watch her, I’ll be along in a minute.
[Gina is a middle-aged black woman, hair braided, wearing glasses and with small but bright eyes, leaning on her till restively. She has a slight Congolese-French accent, and is quietly spoken. A young teenage white boy comes to her till: scruffy, wearing a cap and flashy sports clothing]
(Gina) Hi sweetie. That all? One pound forty please. Thank you. See you later.
(Sutherland) [Approaching from till-side] Hi, I’m here to watch you.
(Gina) Watch me do what?
(Gina) Who sent you?
(Gina) I’m only kidding. Are you starting here?
(Sutherland) Yes; I think. Do you like working here?
(Sutherland) I’m supposed to shadow you.
(Gina) Well all you have to do is scan the items and take the money.
(Sutherland) How do you move the conveyor?
(Gina) Oh, it does it itself. See?
[Inside the till is a placard: ‘Have you asked every customer about saving stamps? Let’s try to beat our target!’]
(Sutherland) Do I have to ask everybody about the stamps?
(Gina) No; it’s a waste of time. If people want them they ask for them anyway.
[A customer approaches. Gina scans two loaves of wholemeal bread and three fish].
(Customer) [Nods genially] Wholemeal…
(Customer) …because me bowels – me bowels don’t work so right.
(Isaac) [Comes to the till]. Hiya Mr Johnson. How’s the new diet working out?
(Customer) Fine, just fine. Still irregular though.
(Isaac) Well you know where the bathroom is if you’re caught short.
(Isaac) What? It happens to the best of us. How’s the dog?
(Customer) Much, much better. Walking on all four legs now.
(Isaac) Good, good. Well, we’ll be seeing you. [To Sutherland] His dog had gout. Lovely thing. It can bark in three languages.
(Sutherland) Really? Oh, wait…
(Isaac) Have you taught him everything you know, Gina love?
(Gina) Everything I know.
(Isaac) Well then I’ll show you the aisles.
[Isaac and Sutherland leave the till area. Talk as walking along]
(Sutherland) Was she upset about something?
(Isaac) Who, Gina?
(Sutherland) Did I say something to offend her?
(Isaac) Oh, no; don’t mind her. She used to be a nurse. She came here to get away from people and their ailments.
(Isaac) No; lost her husband. She had a sister over here and her son was on the way.
(Sutherland) She moved here?
(Isaac) Not quite. Anyway – here’s fruit; there’s vegetables; and around and about are the delicatessens. Feel free to help yourself.
(Sutherland) Really? Great.
(Isaac) You have to pay, mind.
(Sutherland) Of course.
(Isaac) It’s good to soak up the atmosphere, I find. I like to stand just here of a morning. You get a real feel for your customers. If you just stand quietly, out of the way, all the salts of the earth meander by.
[Just out of sight are a mother and her young son whose voices are heard clearly. The mother’s accent is Pakistani; the boy’s is a Hull accent]
(Son) No, I don’t want to.
(Mother) Are you sure?
(Mother) Because if you’re not sure it’s best to try and then you can decide for yourself.
(Son) I don’t want to.
(Mother) Are you positive?
(Mother) Well, why don’t we just give them a try? Just to see what it’s like?
(Son) I don’t like them.
(Mother) But how do you know if you’ve never tried them?
(Son) They’re red.
(Son) I’m not wearing red shoes.
(Mother) But they look so nice.
(Son) I don’t care.
(Mother) What size are you?
(Son) Look, I’m not bloody wearing red shoes.
[The sound of the boy’s mother clapping him over the back of the head].
(Mother) Bloody language. There’s nothing bloody wrong with red. Stop being so bloody pernickety. They’re perfectly good for playing out in.
(Son) But my friends…
(Mother) If you’re friends laugh at you then they’re not really your friends.
(Son) [Resignedly] Mum…
(Mother) There we go see. Actually I’ll get you two pairs, and you can wear one to school.
(Son) One shoe?
(Mother) Don’t be fresh. Maybe the next size up so you can grow into them for your next birthday.
[Both speakers move on]
(Isaac) Any questions?
(Sutherland) Will I be working on the tills?
(Isaac) Probably stacking tins; but I’ll draft you onto a till if we’re busy. You can work alongside Gina. She’s all right when you get to know her.
(Isaac) Any more questions?
(Sutherland) Why is it you can say somebody has beautiful brown eyes, but not beautiful brown teeth? Or pretty blue eyes, but not a nice blue nose?
(Isaac) I don’t know. [Pause] Diamonds last forever, right? So why do they make a great engagement gift, but a fossil doesn’t?
(Sutherland) Proposals would be much better if you offered somebody a trilobite.
(Isaac) True that. Or a diplodocus femur.
(Sutherland) Ah, a true romantic.
[It is early in the evening; but the short winter day has its long night. The British Notional Party has gathered in a large hall located close to Newland Avenue. The hall is austere, and has a lofty ceiling, while its walls are replete with large windows extending from the floor to the upper limit; the curtains remain open throughout. The hall is well lit, yet gloomy because of the darkness outside made vivid by the windows in the background. When the forthcoming power-cut affects the hall, candles and burning-torches are lit in place of the electric lights.
The BNP are seated facing the stage. There is an aisle running through the centre of the hall. Cobblestone strides through the walkway and takes to the stage via hollow wooden steps; his large audience is hushed but murmuring here and there with anticipation. Cobblestone stands elegantly behind a tall podium and lowers his head for several seconds. Silence ensues. Cobblestone looks up and scans his audience intently from right to left, before finally speaking calmly]
(Cobblestone) Gentlemen. I, Paul Cobblestone, stand before you tonight as your leader. You, my compatriots, sit before me as my audience. [Pause] My fellow Britons: we live in a day-to-day era, now more than ever; and yet a historical moment has fallen upon us, and we have to decide the future. Do we want things to be as we know them to be? Or do we want them to be as we know not what, nor how, though we all, of course, know why? [Murmurs of consensus from audience; Cobblestone raises his hand]. Gentlemen: these things I believe. We Britons have one of the most widely talented of all histories. Once we were a world power; but now we are no longer. Long ago we ruled the waves; and yet today the waves rule us. At one time we literally drove the world; and now the world literally droves us. What happened, I ask? Britain invented Europe, not the other way around. Did we forget this? Britain is one of the few man-made objects visible from space. How did we come to neglect that?
Once we were a country without compromise. A land without leverage. A people without perversion. Time was, any civilised person in the world would be expected to speak English – and to speak it accurate. Well, gentlemen, not no more. Rarely these days is the question stated: ‘How British can a foreigner be?’. And why? Why? Because there is no answer! [Applause; Cobblestone basks for several seconds before quieting his audience]. Received wisdom tells us that commonsense prevails. But how can this hold true when our constitution has been torn in half and now lies in a hundred pieces? Walk down any British main-street and ask yourself ‘What sort of country is this?’. What sort of country is this, I ask you, when nasty French Golden Delicious takes precedence over honest British Cox? British Cox – noble, firm and proud. When French peaches stand in the stead of great British plums: plump, purple, and richly veined; overflowing with sweet succulent nectar – velvety to the pallet and perfumed to the nose. And yet it is the French peach which greets our senses whenever we journey through England.
Once unconquerable British fruit would stand as a testament to our great nation; but now upright British apples have been steadily encroached upon by an increasingly lessened number of foreign varieties. It is not merely the greengrocer who has suffered, however, in our culture wars. Once each British fisherman would proudly say ‘my fish is what I am’. The noble British baker would stand proudly abreast of the honest English stock-maker. Only British police officers were ever British enough to have no arms. My fellow Britons – not now; not no more; and perhaps never again. It is almost as if these things never existed, save for the imaginations of a courageous few.
If our ancestors were alive today they would roll in their graves. We civilised the world and our reward was the loss of our own civilisation. It will be our own country next – through sheer, honest, British demurity and tact, we will hand this country over to foreign hands. Britain is losing Britain precisely because of our very Britishness. This needs to change. It needs to stop. Only we are the ones sent to deliver this [Scene ends].
[Sutherland and Isaac are stacking canned goods on low shelves, with music playing softly in the background. Both are kneeling down. Sutherland is wearing a red supermarket apron with two badges attached: one says ‘Vote T/S’ the other ‘Ask About Our Saving Stamps’]
(Isaac) What’s that?
(Isaac) The badge there.
(Sutherland) Oh – it’s for the election…
(Isaac) No, the other one. Is it one of those stupid saving stamp buttons? Who gave you that?
(Sutherland) You did the other day.
(Isaac) Take it off; honestly. [Sutherland removes badge; pricking his finger in the process]. Anyway, what I meant to ask you was which came first, the male or the female? I mean, men can’t give birth; women can’t inseminate.
(Sutherland) I don’t know. Maybe it was some kind of mitosis?
(Isaac) Hmm. Possibly. You know, I think if God did have a hand in matters, he would have put more thought into the design [adjusts self accordingly and grimaces].
(Sutherland) Why did you take work here?
(Isaac) Well, my passion for product placement for one thing; my love of humanity – or at least paying customers – for another. [Pause] It’s not a perfect world; you don’t always get what you want out of life. I don’t know – the bromides are no better than the fallacies. Why, anyway?
(Sutherland) Idle curiosity.
(Isaac) Curiosity’s never idle. We’re born curious for a reason. How do you think we got from plum tomatoes to chopped tomatoes?
(Sutherland) And cow’s milk. How else would we have discovered that?
(Isaac) Perversion, quite frankly. That’s no bad thing either, mind. Look at parliament.
What do you have in mind, anyway?
(Sutherland) I’m testing the water at the moment.
(Isaac) You don’t know what you really want to do in life, you mean?
(Sutherland) Pretty much.
(Isaac) Well, I don’t have any bright ideas, I’m afraid. Store manager was never my dream. I was supposed to become an accountant, but it wasn’t in me. So I ended up here, where I do the accounts anyway – only for lower pay.
[In the background, three voices. Isaac and Sutherland stop work]
(Man 1) ‘E died.
(Man 2) ‘Oo – the owld gadger with the ’ump on ’is back?
(Man 1) Yeah; ‘e died last week.
(Man 1) Yeah; pneumonia. Last Tuesday. No family or nowt neither. T’electric found ‘im two days later. They only went ‘round ‘cos ‘e ‘adn’t paid t’bill.
[Voices pass away]
(Isaac) Lord preserve us. Silly sods. Ah, delight of delights – my heavenly sister.
[Sarah wheels into view]
(Isaac) [To Sutherland quietly] I’ll leave you to it. [Stands; and addresses Sutherland loudly for Sarah’s benefit] Get back to work! Put that badge back where it belongs! [To a passing man] Hey, Mr Harris – how’s it going? How’s the hip?
(Man) Which one?
(Isaac) The left one.
(Man) Not bad. Not bad.
(Isaac) How’s the right?
(Man) Could be better. Could be much better.
[Leaves scene. Sutherland remains kneeling on the floor and stacking shelves]
(Sarah) There’s an all-party debate tomorrow morning. It’s going to be televised.
(Sutherland) I’m not a member of any party.
(Sarah) That doesn’t matter. You have to attend.
(Sutherland) I haven’t even got anything prepared. Besides, I’m not exactly photogenic.
(Sarah) Well…[A middle aged man wheels Sarah out of the way without asking]
(Sarah) Excuse me.
(Man) No problem, love [takes a can from a shelf and leaves]
(Sutherland) Look, I can’t anyway – it’s my last day; and there’s the office party tonight and…
(Sarah) Like it matters!
(Sutherland) Of course it matters! The blonde…well, your brother’s been decent and all.
(Sarah) My brother? He hates those parties. Everybody does.
(Sutherland) Why do they go then, eh?
(Sarah) Isaac goes because his staff do; and they go because he does.
(Sutherland) Nonsense. This is a supermarket; they probably have the best parties on earth. Besides, it’s fancy dress and I’ve already bought a costume.
(Sarah) All anybody ever does at work parties is get drunk, talk crap, and act like a prize tit.
(Sutherland) That’s a bit harsh, now.
(Sarah) Fine. Go to the stupid get-together.
(Sutherland) Which one?
(Sarah) [Doesn’t answer; wheels away].
(Sutherland) I was only kidding. Come on! Fine.
[Cobblestone continues as before]
(Cobblestone) We must be mad. Literally mad. Literally stark-staring, jowl bejabbering sub-mental. This green and pleasant land is now a realm utterly despoiled. A country polluted with strangeness, and filled to the brim with the uncivilised. They leave to here, and speak neither our language nor our customs with even the minutest degree of rightness. Oh, that’s right; and don’t you believe it! The entire fiasco can be summed up in one word: complete disaster [applause; Cobblestone speaks over the noise].
‘What is the problem?’ asks the liberal, thereby condemning themselves with their own proof. The answer is clearly obvious. A tidal wave of seismic proportions has held us by the throat; and the ripples have grown upon grown until – with the hand of history looking over our shoulder – a new, inner, tidal-wave has formed. It is tearing our way of life apart. Enough is enough! [Rippled applause; Cobblestone motions for hush, and takes a drink].
Oh, but it is almost no surprise that this has happened. In fact, it isn’t – it was obvious it was happening from the moment it began. Well, I speak for all England when I say that we say enough is too many, and it is high time that we said it. For far too long have far too many of us had far too much. Nearly the vast majority of people in this once proud country agree. We are the gleam of light on the tip of a slab of good, honest British marble! We stand alone! [Standing ovation. Cobblestone’s voice ring clear over the throng] But we are not alone: the majority of British people stand behind us. Why then have they left us to fight this battle on our own? Why have our most devoted supporters consistently refused to sustain our endeavours? It is because they are afraid to raise their heads above the sandbag! I am the only one courageous enough to say these things; and I am being silenced as I speak! [The standing audience breaks into raptures. Scene ends]
[It is nearly midnight. The Supermarket’s office party is well attended, and lairy. Music is playing, and is extremely loud . Sutherland is the only attendee in fancy dress; wearing a red velveteen robe and a gold plastic crown, which is later lost when somebody knocks into him from behind. Sutherland is holding a glass in one hand. He smiles and flicks eyebrows at one of the shop-girls who doesn’t notice; sighs and looks resigned. Isaac approaches].
(Isaac) Having a good time?
(Isaac) It’ll soon be Christmas.
(Sutherland) You celebrate Christmas?
(Isaac) I celebrate time off work.
(Sutherland) What about Hanukkah?
(Isaac) I give that a miss. Parents [shakes head]. I still take the time off work, mind. Ramadan’s even better. Come – hie we hence to the buffet. That’s from Shakespeare, right?
(Sutherland) Near enough.
[Cobblestone continues with his speech. His audience have retaken their seats and fallen quiet. Cobblestone is flushed and his forehead and cheeks have grown humid; he loosens his tie slightly and takes a drink. His speech has become very slightly slurred; his eyes more piercing, and less inclined to regard the audience].
(Cobblestone) Gentlemen, our way of life is under attack, and it begins with our cuisine. Cod-pieces, Yorkshire pudding, custard and stew: these are more than mere food-stuffs – they are the very stuff of British life. British cuisine for British folk: Stilton soup for starters; spring greens with blossoming nettle tops for afters; and nought else but the best of British beef for all comers – vegetarianism in all its perversity shall have no place in our new order. Let bubble and squeak define our ideals. Let toad in the hole represent everything we stand for. Let Carp and Stew inform our manifesto. Let us simmer with pride. Let us bubble with satisfaction.
We must resurrect these proud British dishes; and reinstate patriotic cutlery on every table in the land. Britain as it should be. Britain – the land of tea and sunrises. True tea is British flavoured. Ask yourself this: ‘Does it taste suitably British?’. Yes, yes – exactly right. All the cadences, the delicately scented notes, the exquisitely fluted tones of Britishness in one mellifluous cup of tea. Sturdy, earthy, doughty, wholesome and pure. More than British, even – Yorkshirean. And yet what is an innocent British child faced with today? What are they literally forced to consume? French food! French! Never has a cuisine been so intrinsically wanton. Before French became British there was nary a trace of homosexuality in the land. Now we see children obsessed with it! Palm-sized vibrating cell-phones: what did they think would happen! The cause is perfectly clear. As with wholesome British food – wholesome British families; as with French cuisine – only the nudest of depravities.
No more does a five-year-old child experience the deliciousness of British brambles. Instead, they follow where the Frenchman leads. They will bake ice-cream. They will literally bake ice cream. They will actually put it in an oven; and then they will heat it. They will make what should by rights be frozen only too hot; and then they will consume it piece by foulest piece. The obcenityness of such obscenes simply beggars belief. Only a Frenchman could have invented the baguette; no honest Briton would ever even have conceived of baking bread in the shape of a phallus; and if we had, we would have made it a realistic size. Unlike the arrogant Frenchman, we Britons take great pride in our modesty. ‘And how has this manifested itself today in Britain?’ you ask. Need I even enquire? It is simply incontemptible! This used to be a Christian country until it became blighted by the pox of foreign cuisines. It is time to deny the gods of the new world order: it is time to take our high-streets back!
[It has just passed midnight. There has been another power-cut which strikes in the middle of the Supermarket party. The music falls silent; and only chatter is heard. The partygoers depart swiftly. Isaac and Sutherland are the last people to exit; and they leave the supermarket building together – Sutherland singing ‘Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful day!’. As they step outside into the frosty air their breath clouds. Sleet is falling slightly amidst a fine rain. The streets remain empty and silent while Sutherland and Isaac journey through them].
(Isaac) Ah, frost at midnight: enough to make the darkness bright.
[Sutherland stumbles down the concrete steps; Isaac locks the door, also trips, dropping his keys, retrieving them]
(Isaac) Here’s a night pities neither wise men nor fools. Where are you headed?
(Sutherland) Nowhere. Home – my goodly home, where I made all my finest indecisions.
(Isaac) Which way?
(Sutherland) Albion Street; [pause] no, Newland Avenue. You?
(Isaac) I don’t know. I’ll walk awhile with you, my friend.
[Struggles to put keys in his pocket, drops them on the pavement and leaves them]
Let us go then you and I,
As the moon is spread across the sky –
(Sutherland) Like peanut butter on a sailor’s thigh.
(Isaac) Hie we hence and thence we hie.
(Sutherland) Let us go then I and thou;
(Isaac) Let us wander in and out;
(Sutherland) Through streets that wind as does the clock;
(Isaac) A feeble tick to mighty tock.
(Sutherland) For nettle-stings: leaves of the dock.
(Isaac) We have time yet for a hundred whinges,
(Sutherland) A hundred purges, a thousand binges;
(Isaac) And for a hundred gripes and grouses –
(Sutherland) The witless snipes of petty louses…
(Isaac) Pet-lips and pouts from snippy grouches.
(Sutherland) Before partaking – both you and me –
(Isaac) Of sweet biscuits and tart coffee.
(Sutherland) My life is chronicled with biscuit packets;
And other crumpling things which make rackets.
[Sutherland takes a gold paper crown out of his pocket and places it upon his own head]
(Sutherland) I am King Sutherland – king of kings.
Engineer of stuff and great wrangler of things;
Owner of empires and sovereign rings.
I know nothing about nothing, and that is no lie,
For I know well enough one or two things:
Like the fact that a fly can indeed fly;
And that pigs are not made out of springs.
Look upon my crown ye mighty, and despair.
Or words to that effect, at any rate.
They’re surely written somewhere.
[Takes shopping list out of pocket and reads]
‘One times King Edward, and two times pear’.
(Isaac) What makes Sutherland kingly?
(Sutherland) Once, my nose did royally bleed.
I cupped my hands, and caught the blood that fell;
Then wiped it on my sleeve –
Not on my lapel.
(Isaac) And what be thy kingly duties?
(Sutherland) I sunbathe under cloud and rain;
I tell time by the weather vane.
I taste the gall in finest wine.
I am king for a day; fool for a lifetime.
(Isaac) What will be thy regal task?
(Sutherland) I will fall head over heels in frankest lust –
Not base love, but carnal delights.
Not the sins of the heart, but the virtues of the flesh.
As king, I’ll share in freedom’s heights;
I’ll be neither slave, nor servant to care.
The spirit is strong, but the flesh is meek:
Docile, compliant, modest and mild –
The whims of the heart leave the body defiled.
Touch – not thought; though touch-not I ought.
I will make sport of base liberty;
My pintle shall a sceptre be.
(Isaac) Hail Sutherland, thane of Yorkshire!
(Sutherland) Hail Sutherland! A prince among princes!
(Isaac) Hail King Sutherland – King of Sutherland!
(Sutherland) What is this wetness that presumes to fall upon me?
(Isaac) Rain, King Sutherland, rain.
(Sutherland) If rain it must then rain it shall – King Sutherland grants leave.
(Isaac) By what rank or station?
(Sutherland) By the width of my aforementioned sleeve.
(Isaac) A toast to King Sutherland, may his wit never fail!
(Sutherland) A drink to King Sutherland; to his Kingdom all hail!
(Isaac) Hail King Sutherland in all his glory!
(Sutherland) Hail, friend Isaac, tell me mine story!
(Isaac) Pray sire, how?
Relate your choice travail!
(Sutherland) I wandered lowly as a sow
That trollops over hill and dale;
I snuffled truffles with my snout,
And sat upon my curly tail.
I made a couch upon a crowd –
A bunch of golden daffodils;
To my surprise – perhaps less now –
My host all did then trill.
‘Bloody oaf!’ they gushed aloud,
‘Bugger off’ they groaned;
‘What the devil?’ I replied:
‘Such impertinence’ they moaned.
‘By God – indeed – egad’ I sighed,
‘How can this be allowed?’
‘Thou art no dainty trifle, lad’
Mused a passing cloud.
‘It’s not my fault I am not svelte –
We’re all unlike’ I huffed;
‘We’re not’ the daffodils cried out,
‘Now shift thine arse!’ they puffed.
‘Hush thy noise thou pesky buds,
I’ll give thee each a clout’:
I was sincere, and said it calm –
I very rarely shout.
‘We’ll prick our pistils in thy loins,
Thou brute – thou husky lout!
Thy hide, thy rump, thy pudgy groin
Have crushed us all about!’
‘Husky? Pudgy? How dare you!
Why, such a bleeding cheek!’
‘Try twofold in your face’ they crowed,
In their unearthly speech.
Now oft, as I do roll in swill,
In pensive-vacant mood,
I feel a pang of pride and guilt
As no doubt I well should.
My temperament is lacking gilt,
Though I wish that it would:
You see I trampled all of them
To show them that I could.
(Isaac) I have a tale most similar;
Though unlike I must own:
The setting is identical,
Yet in a different zone.
In the Greek mid-winter,
The merlot vines hand-sown;
The earth stood soft and gentle,
And yet the vintner moaned:
‘The clouds have made a drought of light –
All it ever does is rain;
From one day through until the next
‘Tis listlessly the same’.
Grapes had fallen – one by one –
To and fro, to and fro;
Gripes had risen with aplomb –
Swift to come and lax to go.
In the Greek mid-winter –
Not so long ago.
‘We need a stable place’ I said;
‘The roots they need their footing;
I can’t decide between a graft
Or – indeed – a cutting’.
‘It does not make much difference’,
The indifferent gardener groaned;
‘All that grows is bound to end –
Its presence is but loaned’.
I winced to hear such surliness –
Such coolness seeméd foreign;
‘The weather is but churlishness –
The vines will soon be barren’.
Thus my tutor looked askance,
Wiped his brow, intoned:
‘Put thy ripeness out my lad,’
The frosty vintner moaned;
‘Lessen now thy japes.
The earth is parched and scorched you see –
‘Tis far too hot for grapes’.
‘Now be a cheery fellow’ quoth I,
‘Have a taste – nay, have a dram:
It is robust yet mellow;
And it goes so well with lamb’.
‘That’s all well and good’, he said,
‘But I’m a vegetarian’.
[Both stop to relieve themselves discreetly, shielding selves from view]
(Sutherland) And with that they pissed upon the moonlit wall.
(Isaac) A stream of gold, how it glitters in the night air.
Gold and silver meet here with such delicacy.
(Sutherland) It has just hit me.
(Isaac) I do apologise.
(Sutherland) No, no – the most exquisite liquor; the most tepid tea – it all winds up the same way in the end. He that sups must also piss. You know, when you get down to brass tacks, everybody pisses and craps.
(Isaac) “If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes” .
(Sutherland) I’ll not. Thy nose perhaps –
‘Tis pitted as a rose that flaps;
Its petals fall’n; its stem cut.
Its beauty gone – and yet, but,
If only memory will not wither.
If trace remains and rots not hither –
‘Tis a picture, and yet ‘tis much fitter;
Though it crumple to ashes bitter.
(Isaac) A drink – a toast!
To my marvellous, wondrous, wonderful nose!
(Sutherland) May it ever endeavour; through it life ever blow.
(Isaac) Not pretty, not clever – as tough as old leather;
But living and running and breathing as ever.
(Sutherland) And what of the nostril? Does each have its meaning?
(Isaac) Aye, in this light, each one is gleaming.
Not brilliant like diamond; not warming like gold.
Like the light of youth dimming, as we grow and grow old.
(Sutherland) My eyes – they are brimming; your words they do scold.
(Isaac) Let that be your answer – warm’st tears runneth cold.
In relief there is discomfort, and vice versa I do find.
(Sutherland) [Groans] If man was created in God’s image, why were the genitals not ergonomically designed?
[The pair re-emerge into view. The frosty wind makes moan and whisks Sutherland’s crown away]
(Sutherland) My crown – it sits not upon my…crown.
My kingship has been cast into doubt.
The rain bequeaths a guttering fire.
(Isaac) It splutters all about.
(Sutherland) It falls upon us, the infernal sky! My ears they are fair ringing.
(Isaac) Not rain, King Sutherland, nor sleet, but hail. Hail, King Sutherland.
(Sutherland) Thy praise, my friend, is stinging.
(Isaac) The world is no respecter of persons, King Sutherland.
Thou art an exile and a stranger even in your own home.
(Sutherland) Home? There is no home.
The toaster put paid to that – or perchance the kettle.
I am reduced from Kingly state
To a knight bedecked in metal
[Brushes hail from shoulders].
A dog, a dog, my kingdom for a dog –
That I may shew kindness without reproach!
What is my kingship without great favours?
(Isaac) [Sings] Lully lullay, lully lullay –
A falcon hath borne my true love away.
He bore him to where he would not be found;
He flew him to an orchard turned brown.
In that place the last fruit had fall’n;
‘Twas there the knight’s name a maiden had call’n.
Within the orchard there agéd a hall,
With a room which was coloured in scarlet and pall.
In that room there standeth a bed,
And it was hangéd with gold so red;
In that bed there lieth the knight,
His wounds lay bleeding by day and by night.
By that bedside there kneeleth the maid,
And she weepeth by turns both night and by day.
Lully lullay, lully lullay –
My true love has born himself away.
It was the maiden who bore him to bed;
It was her hands which brought him the cup.
A garland of thorns she took from his head;
His face to heaven could only look up.
Upon her bed she lay him down;
A kiss she laid upon his mouth
A hand she placed upon his crown.
Tears now marked where thorns once had laid;
The knight’s hands the girl kissed and suffered to fall.
The falcon was tame with none but the maid –
He had returned to her soft voice’s call.
Upon her hand he perched and he stayed;
Crimson and scarlet and amber brocade.
Lully lullay, lully lullay –
The falcon has borne me my true love away.
Of her heart was made a wound;
And through his hair a garland wound.
Under her hand the knight’s head swooned;
And then he fell silent without any sound
Upon his mouth she lay her hand,
And on his head she placed a kiss;
For the day his eyes were closed,
As for the night his lips.
Lully lullay, lully lullay –
My true love has born itself away.
The maid’s orchard continues in scarlet and pall;
To blossom in spring; in Autumn to fall.
As the sun turned golden and finally set,
The moon lit upon the maid and her pet.
Now, in the orchard there lieth a stone,
‘Corpus Christi’ written thereon.
(Sutherland) What did the tortoise have to do with it?
(Sutherland) And why was it pristine? How can a tortoise be pristine?
(Isaac) Turquoise, I said; turquoise and aqua-marine.
(Sutherland) In the absence of love, love lies therein.
(Isaac) A heart tameless, wild, and true.
From swiftest fox and roaring whales;
Down to the shrewdest shrew.
(Sutherland) The dog has its appointed fleas;
Whose company doth deposed King Sutherland please?
(Isaac) Thou needest friend Isaac to set thee at ease.
(Sutherland) What I need is a potion of love and desire –
Borne of the wind and framed in the fire.
T’inflame lust in a eunuch; excite truth in a liar.
As soft as a thistle, and sweet as the sea.
Cool as the morning and bright as a poppy.
(Isaac) What need’st thou thus?
(Sutherland) Pretty lady’s smock and loose purples of strife:
Fit for a maiden; befitting a wife.
Fennel bones and hyssop veins;
Rose-petal clots and honey-suckle pains.
From ‘midst the briar’s patch, the bramble’s prick;
The berry’s sweet juice enchants softest lip.
(Isaac) And if t’should prove sickly?
Should stick in the throat?
(Sutherland) Perfume of garlic; the delicate oak.
(Isaac) To love or to drug and be endlessly thine?
(Sutherland) A mix of wise sage and old creeping thyme.
(Isaac) And where wilt thou gather these things?
Where stands thy ghostly maid?
(Sutherland) Across the desert I wandered; into the wilds I strayed.
The soft blooms of the nettle I gathered; of thistles made I bread.
Upon the tender gorse I lay my doting, sleeping head.
(Isaac) And what seekest thou?
(Sutherland) A quietness of demeanour; a steely, womanly resolve.
A certain tautness of arse. These I have loved.
(Isaac) And if ‘t should lack zest?
(Sutherland) Well then I should raise the piquancy, with stuff of austere crag:
Marrow of the bird’s bones; feathers of colt and nag.
(Isaac) And in thy deepest slumbers – or perchance a moment’s sleep –
Didst thou dream of barley, oat, or solitary wheat?
(Sutherland) Ach! For love such motes are less than meet.
It is the pretty cowslip leaves the calf weak at the knees;
It is sweet petals in which mosquitoes hum;
In and out they flitter, and ripen thus the plum.
(Isaac) What is the oak that lives a thousand years?
It is cast into the fire for the briefest of warmth.
When flame devours both ends of it, and the midst of it’s ablaze:
Is it meet for ought at all? What end has its days?
(Sutherland) What suffices barley?
What life knows such a thing?
‘Tis the buttercup entices butterfly;
And the sunlight on its wing
Which slips into the air and sings
A gaily shining lullaby
That stays with me when it’s gone by.
(Isaac) It parts from life as soft as breath.
(Sutherland) A grain of wheat knows nought but death.
(Isaac) What is its life without it?
(Sutherland) It lives only to die
(Isaac) And dies for life.
(Sutherland) It rots with ‘dew or feeds the mouse.
(Isaac) When its gold beseeming glitters; and jealous hands hold tight.
(Sutherland) The barley spared by the reaper and the gleaner alike
Shall be loos’d by the softest of wind.
(Isaac) It is the wind that shakes the barley which keenest brings forth life.
(Sutherland) And what is a germ of wheat worth when cast in the shade? What is it good for? When the morning’s light falls upon it, all is well; but what when the evening’s breath is upon it at all times? Aye – what then? Where damp is not meet, but decays, and mould creeps; or brittle soil? It does not edge its way towards light. It is cast there, or is not.
(Isaac) If not furrow, plough – then clumsy hoof of man, or herd of treading cow.
(Sutherland) And if rain stirs its heart not; nor brightness kindles? It will meet not the wind nor rouse the shadow. When will the reaper cut and cease reaping?
My strength is the strength of blossom; my flesh is that of grass. My path continues; I go to nothing and perish. God is not, and I am alone.
(Isaac) Dost not the Hull become the Humber?
Do waves cease; or even slumber?
Does it not become the sea?
Will not the slightest tributary
A mighty ocean grow to be?
(Sutherland) Things grow to life, and come to cease.
(Isaac) The earth catches all in its tender ease.
(Sutherland) The wind makes nothing of the greatest oak.
(Isaac) It blows bellows on all pompous folk.
(Sutherland) I talk and I write: but the words do speak for me:
‘Thee, thou art a poor fool, man. And thou art one indeed’.
(Isaac) If one places a thousand critics at a thousand type writers for all eternity –
Is it not possible that one may prove themselves unfoolish, if only for a moment?
(Sutherland) My words, like seedlings sown, shall fruit;
Shall scatter all about; shall shoot.
Shall bring their leaves unto the sun;
Their roots through gentle earth shall run;
Shall flower and be brought to nought.
(Isaac) Shall sow seed – by the earth be caught.
(Sutherland) If so, I must sow them once again:
And I shall do so but in vain.
(Isaac) The rose grows amongst its own thorns;
(Sutherland) And falls at the touch of autumn.
Everything is taken apart by time.
Moss creeps back over cleared land.
Dykes crumble, and the lowlands are re-soured.
Bracken will over-tend the ground;
And paths narrow with the thorn.
The grass shall reign in the garden,
Because none pass through with tread.
Crowned rulers are no more than lepers, cripples, beggars
With noses eaten away,
And bloody stumps for hands;
Silk and curls and the breath of gaiety,
Will stiffen and set cold.
All is nothing; nothing’s all.
We shall lie as we shall fall.
The lichen on the grave is no lowlier than we.
It goes about its business quietly; making its living gently.
[Pause] Poor Sutherland’s afeard.
(Isaac) Of what?
(Sutherland) Of nothing.
(Isaac) Only that, and nothing more?
(Sutherland) Aye, only that. Of that I am afraid fair sore.
Why live? Why? If all that lives is born to die?
All that’s borne decays.
Leaves turn from green to red to yellow;
The sky to palest grey.
(Isaac) But they return each spring, flower anew, die to renew, and fade away again.
(Sutherland) No fine words alter the rankness of a cankered apple; a shipload of sugar sweetens not the bilge.
(Isaac) Why should fruit be delicious? Not acrid and stenchful?
(Sutherland) The wilds of the earth – rank with weeds and barren ground –
Therein ‘tis only silence which echoes all around. Everything yields; nothing lasts.
(Isaac) The fruit that rots the bough: needs must it should fall and pass.
(Sutherland) That is not what I meant at all;
No, that is not it; not at all.
(Isaac) Sometimes I can’t help but wonder…
(Sutherland) Sometimes I can’t help but fall.
[Slips on a patch of ice and lands awkwardly on his behind]
[Isaac helps him to stand up]
(Sutherland) O weary mantle of eternity! Is it ever thus?
To wear the body I’ve always worn;
And flesh and bone – my spirit’s truss –
Never shorn of huskiness?
(Isaac) What immortal hand or eye
Dare not frame its pleasing asymmetry?
(Sutherland) I am like a pelican of the wilderness;
Like an owl of the desert ;
The bee-sting upon the ass of an ass.
I cheweth my way through the lettuce;
And take mead of the tender grass.
Whither not the gentle granite appear,
And the marble bud forth?
(Isaac) Gavest life the mouse goodly wings?
Or feathers and flight to the toad?
(Sutherland) I once stood proud – shod with badger’s pelt,
A beautiful wondrous crown upon my head;
Shoes of fine flour, of honey and oil;
I wast exceeding beautiful – perfect through my comeliness.
Alas mine heart did play the gadabout;
And now I mope about in loneliness.
My skin is broke, and sewn with worms;
My garments eaten by the moth.
For love is the sea’s desire for the shore.
Drought is within her waters.
She bestows a quench that makes for nought but thirst.
(Isaac) Time makes smooth the stone…
(Sutherland) And veins the youthful flesh.
Full fathom five –
There my father swyves;
On his cheeks carbuncles thrive:
Those are sores that were his eyes.
On the shore his bones are laid;
His pelvis crushed by fulsome maid.
His family jewels are disarrayed.
Sea-nymphs nightly pluck his tarse
Sprightly tease and pinch his arse.
Nothing of him truly fades,
Yet all-in-all’s a sea-change made.
All flesh shall perish together;
All turn again to dust.
The wind never ceases;
Nor ever sleeps the rust.
Rain falls equally
On the desert and the wilds;
It has no special savour
For the gentle and the mild.
It falls where violets love to spring;
And the shaded woods they perfume in;
And in the shades beset with sap,
Pallid mushrumps and death-caps.
(Isaac) Tides fall; fleas jump – one and all.
(Sutherland) Wisdom is foolishness.
(Isaac) Who can count the dew drops before the first press of the sun?
(Sutherland) Who can look into the sun?
(Isaac) Who can make the lion lie down with the lamb?
(Sutherland) I am not faithful fortune’s friend;
Terrors and snares my steps attend.
Whichsoever way I wend,
Therein I find my heart doth rend.
The scarecrow me his sleeve will lend;
He guards as fittingly as I –
Upon his arms fowls of the sky;
Upon the ground fresh seed they peck.
I imitate his every step.
All of me’s my shadow cast;
All the livelong day it lasts.
Come night, come dark, come creeping in;
My shadow parts and sleep begins.
My stated purpose; my fated end:
An allotment, with buttercups to tend.
When hoar-frost copies her fair sister’s image;
When to press upon water causes damage.
Where treads the bird with silent sounds;
Where nought is heard ‘cept all around.
Where in the evening brambles throng,
Where the Toad-lilies bloom.
Where the spider sings his song
Underneath the autumn moon.
Where the wilder roses grow,
And lean upon the fallen snow.
There I’ll feel the poppy’s breath:
As bright as life and quiet as death.
There, oh there, is where I’ll go.
I’ll wait in patience – I will abide so.
[Scene. Cobblestone is still standing at his podium, and is evidently the worse for wear at this point. The power-cut has affected the hall; but the room is lit with candle-light. The New Model Youth are standing at the front of hall in ranks, holding burning torches]
(Cobblestone) ‘What has happened to our country?’ you ask. ‘What has befallen our fair isle?’ you add. ‘How did it come to this?’ you have even queried. Well, gentlemen, I will tell you. Britons; elders; people of youth: most of you know what it is to sit in a hall. Most of you will even know what it means to listen to a great man speaking fine words. [Pause. Cobblestone leans over his podium and scans the audience]. But how many of you can be sure of who really pulls the strings? [Murmurs of trepidation]. We are seeing an Islamicafiction steadily taking root in Britain. Oh yes – and don’t you believe it! [Pause; leans forward and looks tense; speaks more quietly] Gentlemen, I have drunk and seen the spider [Stands upright again].
I have had a dream, my fellow Britons: ye shall be cut in pieces; and your houses shall be made a dung heap [disquieted murmurings]. I have had a dream: a great affliction will descend on all the land, and before it has even begun, it will be too late. I have had a dream, and in my dream a voice declared ‘in all nations throughout the world, there is scattered a certain malicious people. They have laws contrary to all nations, so that the uniting of our kingdom – honourably intended by us – cannot proceed’ .
This people alone is continually opposed to all others; differing in their laws, and in their customs. Strangers brought upon us – the terrible of the world. They are the grave of all nations – the sepulchre of all peoples. They will fill our land with the slain. The streets will foam with Britishness. Gentlemen, this is a new age of horrorism. The shadow of Islam has fallen upon us and we are the sun-dial [the audience begin to voice consternation].
These people are the enemy within. They are merely awaiting their chance. How long will our so-called leaders stand by and let them choose their ripest time? How long will we permit this to happen? How long will it continue before…before what? What will happen? Now is the time to act! We must do so without hesitation; without even thinking! We must close our hearts to pity. We must show them no mercy, for they shall spare us not. Rivers of blood are on the horizon. Evil is propagating itself in every direction.
Oh, they are out there, with their savage pebbles. They are pitiless throwers of small stones. I saw chips in the windows of this very hall as I walked my way towards this here stage [takes a drink from his glass]. Unspeakably depraved and liberal: they would walk over water purely for the malicious pleasure of taking our full English breakfast from under the table.
They should not be here undermining our culture, our language and our heritage [Audience murmur in agreement]. The sadistic pleasure they take in undermining our cuisine simply beggars belief. Halal brutality inflicted upon innocent British livestock; and the furtive introduction of falafel to our isles as a sop to insidious vegetarian sensibilities. The poisoner of all peoples; the cultural tuberculosis coursing its way through the flesh and blood of Britain [takes a drink and catches his breath].
Oh, don’t be misled into thinking that you can fight a disease without eliminating the carrier – without destroying the bacillus. Don’t think that you can fight corruption without rooting out the cause. This contamination will not subside; this cankering of our nation will not end, until the carrier itself has been banished from our midst for all time.
Islamically persuasive – with a lewdness and lasciviousness basest foul; with ferocious pacifism and a thoroughly vicious slouch, the Muslim places unBritishness squarely on the table. As the streetlight gleams at nightfall, the Muslim spies his prey: stalking with all the slyness consistent with his race, he stalks. Slyly. Tracking and pursuing; lurking in the shadows he shadows her – pestering the British maiden with words in a foreign tongue and with seductive promises: little does she know that her dishonouring will prove her disgrace. That her undoing will be her downfall.
Oh, this is no mere fiction: it is the reality of many shattered lives in darkest Hull. The Islamic serpent – he sits with hands unwashed in the French manner, his tongue flickering, his breath literally dripping with Islam! Eyes full of adultery; beguiling and enticing: his words allure through the very lusts they incite. Pleasuring our women with a soft voice. Oh, but once the serpent gets its hands on her – oh, the depredation that follows is indescribable. Acts of unimaginable unBritishness. Never did a snake’s talons wreak such havoc before…before… [collects self and straightens tie]. Gentleman, the Muslim is our misfortune [Standing ovation; Cobblestone shouts over the top of the crowd’s raptures, his voice brackish].
This is a war of civilisation! If we should fail, then the whole world will fall into the abyss of a new dark age. The darkness of Islam will spread across Europe; and there will be no new Rome to liberate us – there shall be no Renaissance; not if Islam is ignored. Oh, yes. I have seen it for my very self. I have seen it – with my own British eyes! As I have walked the streets of Hull!
Islamic children prowling the streets at night,
Hunting down easy, elderly prey.
Despite the fogs of darkest Hull,
Their sight is keen as day.
This is a new age of horrorism;
A terror to behold.
And it is perpetrated by miscreants
As young as five-years-old!
They hunt stray Britons with a net;
Swift as evening wolves; silent as the owl.
They keep young patriots as a pet;
And rear them as one might raise a fowl.
[Cobblestone’s audience murmurs]
One night I saw it with my own two ears:
A Halal meet, where – inspired by the very Koran –
Unfolded the foulest plot of all:
A truly terrible Islamic plan.
You see, I had just left my shower,
And was making sport of towel;
When through the gloaming came a cry –
In fact it was a howl.
Outside my bathroom window,
Something moved swift in the dark.
The evening held its breath;
I held mine and gave hark.
A voice stated calmly,
And whispered with demure:
‘Behold I am against your pillows;
Your handkerchiefs also will I tear’ .
I simply had no idea what to make of this;
But the meaning was perfectly clear.
I followed quietly at a distance,
Yet I kept myself quite near;
And what I saw my sight fair ravaged:
Amidst the dense darkness – wild, naked, savage –
Fully flushed in foreignness –
A sight of perfect wickedness:
It was an undercover mosque,
And jam-packed there within –
A baying, chanting, swaying dirge:
An unBritish thronging din.
My interest piqued, I dared all cost –
My courage met with vim;
I bespied a hole in the mosque’s grim wall
And thus I looked therein.
The wicked abominations they did in there –
I felt myself within.
A headless trunk – I swear it ran!
And by the hair, a macabre lantern
Was swung, as one might swing a shoe;
‘Blimey’ it said in soft Urdu.
I flinched, I turned my eyes from there;
I drew breath deep on the chill night air.
I gathered self, resolve and will,
I peered back through the crack until
I knew not was it night or day;
My ears stung with their ringing bay.
One hauled a basket, one a plate:
Upon them – terror I relate –
Were British heads a hundred-weight!
To their dark lord I heard them pray:
‘Whether it be good or evil,
Thy will we shall obey.
We have filled the land with violence;
Beswept the streets with blood.
Giblets, entrails, offal;
It is fit to call a flood’.
And to the others one said quite clear –
And well within my hearing;
‘Go ye through the city;
Through domicile and clearing:
And have ye nary pity;
Set the town afearing.
Let children marvel at thy prate;
And pensioners fair castigate:
Yes do this you must dare.
Lend thy voice unto the wind
And let thine eye not spare’.
It was a tone of evilness,
Alloyed with purest spite;
What was their vision for our land?
What did they plan to smite?
‘Slay utterly both old and young;
Both maids and little children.
Make mincemeat of their pretty locks,
And line the streets with skin.
Make of the town a cauldron;
And rend their flesh therein’ .
‘Aha,’ I roared as does the lion;
‘I knew it all along!
I was right – just as I said!
Everyone else was wrong!’.
I ducked – lest they might hear my voice;
But not from fear, of course.
I wished to know their wicked plan;
To stymie their recourse.
Perhaps the Muslim sensed this;
Or Koranic powers made known?
From within the mosque there spoke
A voice of ill-renown:
‘Alas, there is but one fair figure –
Whose doughtiness we own –
May give his fellows stout resolve
And undermine our throne’.
Who was this noble, gracious one –
Whose sentiments they feared?
Who was this rousing prince of men,
Who British hearts fair cheered?
‘That malicious gossip Cobblestone,’
The Muslim snarled in tousled monotone –
‘I want his tongue, or at least his nose;
Or an item of his precious clothes’.
‘Precious?’ I demurred aloud;
My mind did fairly swim –
You see, I sacrifice my wealth
For the sake of Albion.
He shook with anger, as if on fire;
And gnashed his teeth for baulked desire:
‘His British pride is his undoing,’
He said with snideness and low-cunning;
‘His words will greet deaf ears.
He is quite simply too sincere:
He will meet with nought but sneers’.
I took the compliment – it was due –
And yet it left me reeling;
My Britishness has often thus
Left a bitter feeling.
I fell down on my face and cried:
‘And what will be of England?
What will befall our nation’s pride?’
My tears spilled without end.
And then a voice spoke through the night
And whispered unto me:
‘Son of Albion, Cobblestone,
Thence and prophesy’.
And so I stand before you,
And prophesise I shall:
Never, never must the Muslim prevail;
Nor Britain be Halal.
My brethren; men of my kindred;
This land was given to our possession.
And if the Muslim attempts to bestir it,
Well…then they will suffer a lesson.
There will be no mercy.
There will be no quarter given.
We will not hide, nor shirk our duty –
No sin shall be forgiven.
The whole of our might and our fury will we turn thence!
Now is the time to alter fate!
Now is the time to wreak vengeance!
Now is the time to hate!
For you see…
[There is a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning simultaneously, illuminating the entire hall via the windows]
The Hijab is upon us! Flee! Run for your lives! Run! Hide! Flee!
[Cobblestone dives to the floor and stoops behind his podium. The New Model Youth belt out of building and immediately begin attacking cars, including Cobblestone’s own. The ‘Youth start to decapitate milk bottles with hockey sticks; milk and glass splatters over the pavement. Several turn their attention to a bus stop; whilst others throw small stones at the windows of houses and shops. One takes a holly wreath from the front door of a house, and dashes it to the pavement. A siren begins to wail in the distance; the New Model Youth scatter and run away into the night. Scene ends]
[Elsewhere, Sutherland and Isaac have taken a wrong turning: from Princes Avenue onto Princes Road]
(Sutherland) [Noting the street sign] Where are we?
(Isaac) Are we lost?
(Sutherland) [Seeing reflection of himself and Isaac in the window of a public house] Who are those others there,
Whom the rain beats, and the wind drives?
(Isaac) Perchance ghosts of the future.
Look how they shiver:
They are as cold as we.
(Sutherland) My heart is moved to pity;
We are blessed by comparison.
Had they but lived as a sheep or goat,
And frisked as a mote in the evening sun.
Look – the fellow points.
(Isaac) What does he see?
(Sutherland) Can it be you?
(Isaac) Dost thou regard me?
(Sutherland) Methinks thou art coy:
With mine affections thou dost toy.
(Isaac) Be it a girl or a beauteous boy?
(Sutherland) His hand is pointing at the moon.
(Isaac) No, no; what he beholds is less marvellous.
[Leans down towards the pavement and picks up the body of a dead starling]
(Sutherland) Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert.
In the yellow light of the cankered sun,
Thy grain becomes the dirt.
Lower – and yet lower still –
The earthworm tends thy heart;
‘Til slow time and tender warmth
Break thy caul apart.
There penetrates the apple’s root,
Whose boughs have swollen swift;
And ripe they loose their seasoned fruit
To suckle eager lips.
Thy brethren fair alight in squall,
To feed upon the meat;
Their former peer heeds not their call:
Thine ears are made of peat.
Thou neared heaven more than ever could I,
Now out pourest thy heart into loam;
Whereon looked thou with thine bright eye,
There liest thou now in the gloam.
What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy veins?
Dost the mole make mountains
Of thy choice remains?
Bird of rapture, what sweet thoughts are thine,
Now thy seat is in the larvae’s mine?
Rain-awaken’d flowers –
Whose lace tendrils shy from light –
Feast upon thy bowels,
And shimmer with delight.
Simple earthbound creatures
Who once had envied you
Now scattering unbeholden
Thy former golden hue.
In the midst of earth’s caress,
Thy lesson we must learn:
He who increases his flesh
But multiplies food for the worm .
(Isaac) Let the dead bury the dead.
(Isaac) The fruit is gone – is not the tree known by its fruit?
(Isaac) Ye look before and after; and whinge for what is not.
(Sutherland) Meh! Time glides by on soft wings and its days and years deceive.
No sooner has the morn begun than it begets the eve.
As the wildcat kids the mouse –
Life’s tender mercies are bitterest cruel.
Blessed be the barren, ecstatic the eunuch,
(Isaac) And joyous, of course, the fool.
(Sutherland) Life’s pretty pledges – its promises fair –
Are written on water; scored in air.
There lives cruelty in smiles;
And viciousness in dainty wiles.
Ugliness finds mate in beauty;
And laziness its friend in duty.
Lust partners want; and grief knows bliss.
(Isaac) And he that sups must also piss?
Thou hast too much grief; and too little time t’express it.
(Sutherland) Aye, and ‘tis such brevity makes me pall.
[Turn corner onto Newland Avenue]
(Isaac) Along this road goes no-one, this winter night.
Where then is thy home, pilgrim?
(Sutherland) [Gestures vaguely] My place is at the end.
[The two encounter the bus stop previously attacked by the New Model Youth:
glass splinters cover the pavement from one side to the next]
(Sutherland) Look, a carcass of glass. As if it broke apart at the press of too much sorrow upon its heart, and dissolved in tears upon the way.
(Isaac) Or maybe it was bricked; ‘tis hard to say.
[As they walk, the ground begins to crunch audibly]
(Sutherland) It glitters – it pretties the walkway [Sutherland brushes his hand over the shards] Ach, it bites and scratches! My fingers bleed in good spirit! Here the light is darkness; the night-time bright! [Stops suddenly] No; we are but fools: it is a night of casualty. [Picks up a broken milk bottle containing a remnant of liquid, and cradles it]
Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time:
Silver historian, who canst thus express
An elaborate tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What bovine haunches filled thy shape?
What deities or mortals, or both,
Lent death to thy imperfect nape?
Who made of thee a sacrifice?
What men or boys were they?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
Relay the tale; spill thy message:
I’ll not weep!
Nay, nay; I shall, I shall.
Therefore ye soft milk, spill on.
Heard maladies are sweet; but those unheard are sweeter:
I will partake of tear on thy behalf.
Thou cannot fade,
For ever cold and still to be enjoy’d,
Not like the sour-cream that cloy’d:
Thou gavest solace to a burning forehead,
And succour to a parching tongue.
Thou tickled me full-throated,
And thus my nose made run.
Emptied of its folk this bitter night
Little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and thou, hushed form,
Dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: cold, pastoral.
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other joys
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st low:
‘France? It’s all monkfish and underage boys:
That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know’.
[Sutherland pitches the bottle ceremoniously into a waste bin]
Friend Isaac, the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.
(Isaac) The droppings of blackbirds bring forth cherry trees.
(Sutherland) How akin the fire to ice:
Each out of place is so unpleasant;
Each in it is so nice.
(Isaac) How sterile the rose
To the dog’s tender nose;
Are so much more fitting.
(Sutherland) Such a delicate sense
Loves indelicate scents.
(Isaac) The hand falls quiet before the lyre,
Together and alone;
As one does move, the other sounds,
Moments pass and slow.
(Sutherland) [Shakes hands as they have begun to sting] Father – nay teacher – I ponder ‘What is Hell?’ I maintain it is the suffering of being without gloves. Lo, what lies there? ‘Tis another martyr, I fear.
(Isaac) What be it? Owt?
(Sutherland) In so far as Sutherland see it, it be nowt.
[Sutherland finds the small holly wreath previously stripped from somebody’s front door by the New Model Youth, and adorns his temple]
(Sutherland) My crown; it has returned to me.
How I have missed ye so.
Fondness makes the heart grow absent.
Ach! ‘Tis a garland of thorns! ‘Tis truly a pitiless night.
Once the crown served me; and now I am its servant.
‘After each living thing, let a shadow move in like manner;
Endlessly falling, always fitting’ – thus I did decree.
Did anyone pay attention? No!
And now my shadow mocketh me –
Look: how it mimics and stalks!
(Isaac) Why, as you prate it fairly talks.
(Sutherland) Once for what my heart drew near,
My wondrous words declaréd:
‘That be a cup’ I said; ‘and the wine is red’.
But did I receive thanks, or even merely gratitude?
No! Neither did I gain longitude nor latitude!
And now my age is come, and my looks have swiftly gone;
So jests the cadaver; and so rights the wrong.
(Isaac) And wert thou learned and majestic?
(Sutherland) I must confess,
My station left me ill at ease.
Damnable gluttony was my soul’s disease :
Bourbons were my helpless prey;
To feast upon them I tried cease.
Alas, alas – I could not so;
I could not liberate my soul;
For when they were all cast away
I remedied with cookie dough;
And whenever my resolve did break,
I would partake of Jaffa Cake.
It’s no improvement, really, is it?
So why not go back to bourbon biscuit?
No, do thy worst blind cupid; I’ll not love .
(Isaac) Will you have satisfaction, of a scarf and a glove?
(Sutherland) How dare you! How damnable –
To these I’d make love?
Satisfaction I’ll have!
Strike death from above!
(Isaac) Why does the caged bird sing her song?
Its eyes are pricked; and clipped its wing’.
(Sutherland) Aye, what is it makes her gizzards throng?
What causes such a one to sing?
Does it call in hope? For the chance to see?
Imaginings, dreams – does it sing for these?
For sorrow or joy? Does it call out for help?
To open its cage…
(Isaac) But if its wings are broken, its eye-sight gone,
How could it survive in this world for long?
(Sutherland) Perhaps then impotent rage –
Its voice only sweet by fault of design:
In cipher despairing, but to our ears fine.
As earth sown with salt:
Tender with want, yet bitter in excesses.
It is perhaps this fault
Which her voice expresses.
(Isaac) The sun is blindness to the eye,
And silence to the ear;
(Sutherland) Relieved of sight such heat
The creature need no longer fear;
Her voice flutes both mellow and sweet
Because in blindness one sees clear.
The bird is blind unto the world
And thus ‘tis made content:
‘Tis ugliness which quiets the voice;
Makes hymn silent by singer’s choice.
Passion is quelled by misery;
‘Tis a blessing to no longer see.
(Isaac) Sometimes the summer is too long;
And the wind of autumn is a blessing
To those it touches on.
The fields are all grown over;
Thus lest the earth be o’er seeded,
Now the reaper meets his purpose,
And dexterity is needed.
(Sutherland) It feels its own security:
Enclosed in gilded bar’;
Where no fox treads, nor hawk’s eye scours;
Cats’ paws don’t reach so far.
(Isaac) One frets not under lock and key –
Is it not therefore the same as we?
(Sutherland) But why the voice?
Why such a gift receive?
When hours are tender, moments sore –
And even joy is grief?
(Isaac) Perhaps its heart awaits in patience
The dawn of final light?
In which the dusk is radiant,
And where clipped wings know flight?
These things spent eyes will never view,
But gentle time and patient earth,
Which whisper soft ‘You come too’.
(Sutherland) Our frame is dust; our bones our pyre.
And what is it that stirs the fire?
A wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
(Isaac) Now winter is truly upon us;
And thoughts of summer mark shades of discontent.
(Sutherland) It is at such times that I wish for belief.
(Isaac) The workmen build the temple, not the bishop.
‘Tis the harlot’s woe which is holy; not the mitre.
What is the monarch bestowing earthly estate
Next to the heart-beat of a publican who puts one on the house?
(Sutherland) He who drinks shall thirst again;
All things of earth shall turn to earth, remain.
Wisest in negligence; foolish in care.
(Isaac) Wine and milk cannot be conserved
In vessels of gold; only those of earthenware .
(Sutherland) ‘Tis life which is death.
Her lips drip as the honeycomb,
And her words shine as doth a bottle of superior category olive oil;
But her end is bitter rue – sharp as thorn;
Her feet go down to death, and her steps take hold on hell .
(Isaac) Dost bring to mind the three fellows we met along the way.
Remberest thou that?
(Sutherland) Aye; one was tall and lanky; the other squat and fat –
And the third was exactly the same as the other two;
Except he wore a hat.
(Isaac) How doth the city sit solitary!
(Sutherland) She hath none to comfort her;
None to pet her pout;
Nor to cup their hands for her
When blows her dainty maiden snout.
(Isaac) This city is not thy home. Thy crown is a stave. Amidst all thou art alone.
(Sutherland) Then who is my father? My mother? My brethren? [Takes shoes off and holds them aloft] – the same is my brother and sister [removes wreath from head], and thus my mother. [Sutherland makes mime with one of his shoes] ‘He who hates my neighbour hates me’. It is thus I am indeed majestic. This pavement is my throne.
(Isaac) Are these then thy kin?
(Sutherland) I love them that love me; my kindness meets with theirs.
(Isaac) Then thy heart is cruel; and insists on splitting hairs.
(Sutherland) I will defend this city.
(Isaac) From what?
(Sutherland) The enemy within: not rivals; but deadly foes.
Storms shall rage and fall quiet; the winds shall roar and quell!
(Isaac) There is a voice within the voice; there is a silence in the squall.
What lights the ocean, lends the grain its shadow.
In the vein there is a pulse which bears a spark of flame;
And when it flickers for a moment nothing stays the same.
The glittering metropolis still houses cobbled streets:
Beside the laughing babe remains the staunchest of antiques.
(Sutherland) What then is my calling, or my cause?
(Isaac) The crown of glory is not one of roses, but of thorns.
(Sutherland) No – my mission is more grand:
I am King Sutherland, called to lead.
(Isaac) Thou art the son of England.
(Sutherland) And what then is England? And what am I?
(Isaac) A word of fire from a figurine of wood.
(Sutherland) The dust on the moth’s wing;
The midge’s bite on a child’s hand.
(Isaac) The hand that points to the moon;
The bell tolling gently as our lives pass with it.
(Sutherland) For the flea, too, the night is long, it is lonely.
(Isaac) [Stops short; Sutherland stands still likewise]
Hark – the petals of snow
Are weeping, slow.
As the light wind lives and dies,
The pilgrim treads the earth:
It is what keeps him steadfast;
As it is his final berth.
Aligning with the changing tides.
Ceaseless, and yet set in ways:
Much of grief and woe besides
What is light and gay.
Dead is not always dead;
Nor life nothing but living.
Grace does not reside in hope
It lies in giving blessing.
And when you are weakest
I will leave you alone:
Each pilgrim’s benighted path
Is each treader’s own.
(Sutherland) And what if I am at a loss;
I know not where to go?
If I should chart a course
Beyond all hopeless human hope?
If nobody is guided,
What use then is the guide?
(Isaac) What then am I?
(Sutherland) A Jew?
(Isaac) Yes King Sutherland – adieu.
[It is still the early hours. In Sutherland/R.’s flat: R. sitting in an armchair near the window with its curtains open. The city’s power is still out – the room is dark with heavy shadows in the corners, but the moon is bright through the window.
Enter Sutherland, wet. Sutherland clatters through the door, tripping over, landing with a weighty thud on the wooden floor and evidently hurting his knees in the process. He flops over onto the floor, lying on his back. The holly wreath remains upon his head all the while].
(Sutherland) Seduced by the easy floor. Oh, but how its heart is hard!
[Pause] Me-thinks King Sutherland has had a mite too much.
(R.) Are you bleeding?
(Sutherland) Yes, yes. A glittering sea of stars my arse.
(Sutherland) Nobody tells you it bites and scratches: it cuts the keys that fit the latches. A pot of tea perhaps? And where is my blasted kettle? To charm the very teabags from the air with its dainty whistling fettle.
(R.) What have you done to your hands?
(Sutherland) I touched the stars. Too bad they bit. Truly, sir – they were but poor fellows that would live.
(Sutherland) This city is built on broken glass.
(R.) Glass? Hang on. I’ll get you a pair of tweezers.
(Sutherland) No, no. What a wasted opportunity. See it catch the light. See it gleam silver and gold and red. Look at the rivers of blood; crimson straits such as Moses ne’er saw. [Pause] You know, the Humber is so lovely and brown. It gleams russet in the moonlight. You and I should not be afraid to say so.
(R.) Perhaps you can write one of your sonnets in its honour.
(Sutherland) Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?
Thou art more bitter, and more grave.
A chill wind dost blow and bluster all to fright;
‘Tis such gloom as makes a pilgrim brave:
…why were you sitting in the dark, incidentally?
(Sutherland) Lo, the moon is enough to make the darkness gleam.
And yet not enough to feed the wheat.
(R.) The wheat?
(Sutherland) The bold grain:
Some ripen and bear food; some wither and fade.
One lives for loss, and one dies for gain.
But I am so heavy and so full of sleep:
I will lay here but for a while,
And listen to my [hiccups] weep.
(R.) Where are your shoes?
(Sutherland) I traded them for a song – the devil’s song [sings] ‘O-o death; o-o death – can’t you spare me over ‘til another year?’ Ah; that is the answer: ‘Twas not the bird – the spirit flew, and thus it is the song [removes wreath from head].
(R.) How can somebody lose their shoes?
(Sutherland) Preposterous question; ridiculous accusations. No mere King has need of mighty footwear. The physician has no need of the healthy; nor the crown need of king.
(R.) What bird, anyway?
(Sutherland) The one on the wine bottle. It was only fourteen percent – fourteen! That was the age I was when I first came to know the meaning of the pleasure of solitude.
(Sutherland) There’s no harm in it. We all do it – some with more skill than others, admittedly, which explains marked variations of time. [Pause] Which leaves you in mixed company, mind. It is curious, is it not?
(Sutherland) The less skill you have, the longer it takes; and yet the more skill you have, the longer it takes.
(R.) What are you talking about?
(Sutherland) Answer me this: is love hell?
And, if not, why has it such a cantankerous sulphurous smell?
(R.) It’s over-rated.
(Sutherland) You have broken my heart; and I my knee.
Ah, fate – thus cruelly shafted:
Ask not for whom the bough breaks, it breaks for thee.
My dear, love is…
(R.) Weak tea re-heated.
(Sutherland) What’s in a name?
Manure by any other name would smell just as sweet.
(R.) I’m going to bed. You’re not the only one who has things to avoid attending to tomorrow.
(Sutherland) [Rises to his knees with discomfort] You dare to address your king thus? With such insolent manner? Without so much as a common curtsey? (giggles). (Slurs) And as he stands resplendent in all his glory – the very portrait of all kings?
(R.) I’m not kidding. And I’m not helping you into bed either.
(Sutherland) Well! I hesitate to use the term treachery, but really – that’s too much!
[Sutherland rises from the floor and saunters towards his bedroom, crashes into the door, flounces into the room, and flops audibly onto his bed. R. goes into his own room without a second thought].
[It is the next morning. Sutherland’s room: the curtains are closed; it is still dark outside and there is a wintry fog. The street lights are working again, lending the morning a murky gloam. In bed, Sutherland is feverish and deathly pale; looking up at the ceiling. R. knocks on Sutherland’s half-open door. Looking around, there is nowhere to sit: the chairs and floor are covered in papers and junk. R. sits on the end of Sutherland’s bed].
(Sutherland) God, what time is it?
(Sutherland) What? There’s a six-thirty in the morning?
[Sits bolt upright] Jesus; I have to go to a meeting today. [Lays back down inertly] No; I don’t [groans and holds temples].
(R.) Judging by your pallor, you’ve caught flu to go with your hangover; or you’ve risen from the grave.
(Sutherland) Bloody bed. Why is it so hot in here? Why is it so cold? Is the window open?
(R.) No; it’s closed.
(Sutherland) Good, good – that’s how it should be. Can you open it please?
[R. opens window a fraction]
God, that breeze is death.
(R.) Would you like me to close the window again?
(Sutherland) Yes. No. I don’t know.
(R.) I have to go out and I won’t be back until the evening. I’ve made some soup…
(Sutherland) [Heaves; R. hands him a waste-bin] No – I’m alright. I’m alright. I’m fine.
(R.) Anyway, the soup…
(Sutherland) [Stomach blurts]
(R.) You hadn’t filed any of your opuses in there had you?
(Sutherland) [Wipes mouth] That’s just great. Mocking the afflicted. Lovely.
(R.) Here [hands Sutherland a mug].
(Sutherland) [Sips and winces] What the hell’s that? It tastes like battery acid.
(R.) A cup of tea.
(Sutherland) Oh, right. Thanks.
(R.) It’s okay. I make it strong. ‘Tis a bitter remedy; but ‘twill cure what ails ye.
[looks around] Are you going to clear up in here?
(Sutherland) Where specifically?
(R.) I’m impressed by the bedpan, I have to admit.
(Sutherland) That was already here when we moved in. A lot of this stuff was, actually.
(R.) Maybe we could divert a small stream?
(Sutherland) I was supposed to pick my preparatory essay up today.
(R.) I’ll call into the University and let them know you’re ill.
(Sutherland) God, I’d like to start over again. Well, I mean I wouldn’t want to have to do all of the work again – but…nevermind.
(R.) Well, I’ll see you later; but in case you don’t pull through, goodbye.
(Sutherland) That’s not funny.
(R.) I’ll get some paracetomol while I’m out. Try to get some sleep.
[R. Departs; Sutherland lays back and closes eyes in discomfort. Scene ends]
[It is mid-morning. The setting is the same hall as the one in which Cobblestone spoke the previous night. The furniture has been re-arranged, however, and is less regimented. The all-candidate media conference is in flow. All of the Election hopefuls are present and are standing in place on the stage; journalists and several television cameras are at the front of the hall; a large and diverse audience is in attendance. Cobblestone is speaking in mid-flow].
(Cobblestone) I am obliged to say I am astonished. Could such a thing have happened in Hull? You ask me why last night’s events occurred? Why such violence spilled forth? I will tell you why: the silent majority has finally had its say! Their patriotic motives must be acknowledged before any condemnation is cast.
(Cons) Clearly, we must utterly condemn last night’s events. No amount of justifiable anger justifies such fury. But the cause is perfectly clear – however uncertain – and quite simply must be addressed.
(Lab) Obviously, we condemn last night’s events even more utterly. Whoever is responsible was surely only the tip of a large iceberg, however; and one which will not swiftly melt. Let us not be too swift with censure.
(Cons) That is typically reckless. Thousands of pounds worth of property was damaged last night. It is unforgivable.
(Lab) These tensions are the legacy of your party and your policies; blame-shifting solves nothing.
(Cons) Social problems are often the consequence of the choices that people make. Now is the time for a mandate to call time on the twisted values that have literaly eaten away at our social fabric, and cankered the very root of our society. Nobody represents that more than us; and we are today asking for your support. Let us mend our broken society.
(Lab) We must no longer be afraid to state the difference between right and wrong. We, as a society, have been far too sensitive. We have been too lenient. In order to avoid injury to people’s feelings, to avoid appearing judgmental, we have failed to say what needs to be said. We have seen a decades-long erosion of responsibility, of social virtue, of self-discipline, of respect for others, of deferring gratification instead of instant gratification. This entire process came to a head last night.
(Journalist) Are the candidates aware that several young men were reportedly seen at a Mosque less than a mile away, only several hours before the episode occurred?
(Cobblestone) I witnessed it for myself. I saw it with my own eyes. What I saw simply beggared belief: crazed lunatics quite literally mad with their own insanity. All of them Muslims. Literally Islamic.
(Journalist) You were a bystander?
(Cobblestone) Yes: I witnessed all. Both the incident and the prelude. An innocent onlooker; certainly no more than that.
(Journalist) Please would you tell us what happened?
(Cobblestone) Yes – though I will inevitably be condemned by the politically correct – I will testify: it was the Muslims. It was they. I saw it with my very eyes. I saw a thing I’d hesitate to tell; did not a blameless conscience stand me well. Where not my honesty beyond compare, indeed my friends, I would not dare. Truly, what I saw I can see still; to think of it – my blood runs chill. My heart’s as ice; my mind makes swim.
(Journalist) Please then Cobblestone, begin.
‘Twas quiet and the evening frost
Had settled where bare paths did cross.
The night was drawing in – ‘twas late;
Often thus I ruminate:
I walk the streets, I late retire –
Rejoicing in our blessed Shire.
Oft nights, you see, while all are ‘sleep;
A lonely vigil I do keep;
As others troubled dreams do scotch,
I maintain a mindful watch.
While peace and somnolence abound
Thus each night I do my rounds.
Suddenly I heard such sounds,
Plentiful and all around;
Not delicate, not black-bird’s song –
But the wailing of a throng.
I must admit my heart fair leaped;
My interest though was utmost piqued.
‘Perhaps it is a novice choir?
Perchance someone is mending tyres?
What might it be?’ I did not know.
‘Twas accomp’nied by a darkly glow.
I honed on whence the noise accost:
I approached the local Mosque.
The clamour thence there had its source;
It weaved its creeping wending course.
The turf was thick and rank and gross;
Yet unperturbed I crept across.
So slunk I, drawing nigh the wall;
I spied the font of caterwaul
Through cracks a careless hand did hew;
My error left; my terror grew.
A small fire therein flared flaming fierce;
I peered – the gloom I sought to pierce.
I heard the howls, I heard the baying:
I could almost hear what they were saying.
I made out huge faces; monstrous arms.
Atrocious potions; beastly balms.
There they stood and circled round:
A Union Jack lay on the ground.
My heart was stirred, my anger ample;
My nation’s flag was promptly trampled.
‘Death – O Death – to Albion foul!’
Savage mouths at once did howl.
At such a distance – I was surprised –
Their baleful breath could smart my eyes.
It had the smell of broken locks;
Of women’s clothes and poppycocks.
‘All of these they must have eaten;
And what else if they’re not beaten?’
‘Perhaps’ thought I ‘their plan is murder?’;
And so I listened to them further.
Their leader I could not quite see;
His voice rang out through the melee.
‘Look at this! What I have here!’
It swift was plain, and all too clear:
It was the plaque from our church taken;
He held it high, and thus forsaken.
‘It was I, yes I who stole the treasure.
For such fine thieving yields much pleasure’.
This and thus ‘gan he to gloat;
One then sacrificed a goat.
All this I saw – more heard refrain:
‘Others charged and falsely blamed;
Such joy I take in giving pain
For there is such a bliss in strife:
Spite’s my bride; turmoil’s my wife’.
He whispered quiet, yet heard I clear:
‘Now prick thine ears, attend and hear:
New men, new laws, new ways of life
Trouble and no end of strife
In Yorkshire shall but swift appear’.
‘Never!’ cried I, ‘My county dear!’
Love of my life, my birthplace too!
My mother country shan’t yield to you!’
Once more their leader found his voice:
‘Upraise thine arms and let’s rejoice!
We’ll rage the fight,
Rend Hull apart!
Stagger every single white,
Strike fatal blows at Albion’s heart!
Before the end of this short night
We will have rocked the apple-cart!’.
This, said he, was but the start;
Of such things they’d make an art .
‘The subtle serpent, the creeping thief –
Is one of us beneath each leaf?
Will death come swiftly, or be slow?’
This they’ll ask and never know;
Who will stop us, who will dare?
Where is found such courage rare?
Then he paused, and drew his breath:
‘There is but one protector left;
There is but one whom we must fear –
The guardian of his people dear –’
‘Gan gabble he with clucking tongue:
‘Let us hunt down Cobbleston’
Hero, hope of Albion.
For you see, if he’s not here,
The path to power will be clear.
Soon we’ll rule – we will dictate
The contents of each British plate’.
So began the cackling cries:
‘No more crackling and pork pies!
No more bacon placed on waffles!
‘Twill be replaced by cold falafel!’
All of this I heard and more;
I swooned and dropped down to the floor.
I dashed my cranium as I fell,
And yet still I heard him yell:
‘The Banner of the King of Hell
Goes forth with we as all shall tell!’
This cried he, in bold Islamic;
I held my nerve – I dared not panic.
‘The Mosque shines forth in mystic glow’.
What this meant I could not know.
‘My fellow Muslims – forward go!’.
At last I understood it so:
‘Twas insurrection, overthrow –
This the plot unfurling, slow.
Thus herein, to my surprise,
A vista spread before my eyes –
A vision of what may yet be:
Oh such horrors I did see!
With Sheikly yells they ventured forth;
The procession’s head – a spiteful dwarf.
It was he who led the sally;
His howl enough to sift a valley.
From his fell mouth decrees he cried:
‘Hie to Cobblestone! Let’s rend his hide!
Dent his British National Pride!
Fix him with a blade right wide!
Life’s torrent gushing from his noble side!
Allah looks on, and sees it good!
He winks at us and says we should!
To wash us in that precious flood:
The splendid Son of Albion’s blood!’
To consecrate the speech he gave
He smashed a jar of marmalade.
I shivered, shuddered, rent my breast –
Their wicked moves I second-guessed.
Slowly, surely I arose;
I followed quietly, and quite close.
Thus as one they trekked unto
Unwary Newland Avenue.
Here the wicked pageant paused;
Took time to strategise their cause.
I myself did hesitate;
I watched one fetch a soap-box crate.
The dwarf climbed up and slapped his thigh;
I saw malevolence in his eye.
On a trumpet sharp he blew:
A blast of devilry ensued.
His Muslim brethren he addressed
Proclaiming they were Allah-blessed:
‘Let us harry, garrotte and throttle
Each valiant British Milk bottle!
Take that plant pot – take it far;
Place it on that British car!
And snatch that brick there – have it placed
In an honest tradesman’s shop’s front-face!’.
It was thus that they began;
Through the streets naked they ran.
The dwarf it was who gave command:
All this inspired by their Koran.
It demands that they harass
Every single British lass.
One such maiden passéd by –
Her simple beauty caught his eye.
You see, the dwarf could not resist
Her pure and wholesome Britishness.
There was an alley, dim, nearby;
‘Twas there he hid and did espy.
There he waited, lurked in dark;
And as she passed began to bark:
‘Girl’ he said, ‘you’d look much better
In a more revealing sweater!’
This, said he, in Arabic.
That’s what he said, he really did.
She bolted, she was petrified;
Frightened, scared and terrified.
Alarmed and startled, thanks to he;
Upset, she was; who would not be?
He laughed and laughed, and cried with glee:
‘When we rule we will be free;
We’ll jab at ankles, poke at knees –
We will take such base liberties!
We’ll put pins on cushions, spice in drink –
That will really make them think!
The heat will weep and well their eye’ –
By such means we’ll terrify!
Yes, indeed, do this we shall –
Each child’s school-lunch shall be Halal!’.
And it was it so began;
Up and down the street they ran.
Beating, hurling – with wail and shriek –
They trashed the blameless city street.
Such carnage, mayhem – lewd, obscene:
Such horrors I had never seen.
Round and round, exposed they ran;
With flourish thus the dwarf began:
‘Allah’, said he,
‘Hath revelled in our savagery.
Wickedness, Islamery –
Hath triumphed herein by we’.
My heart, my soul, the sight did maim:
‘Death to Albion!’ was their refrain.
But turn away? I could not dare.
I saw them dancing, naked, bare;
Pintles swinging as they hopped:
Their cries and baying never stopped.
All this, and more, they did as one;
My last vestige of hope was gone.
But then it came, although from far:
The sound of a British police car.
At this the dwarf himself took heed –
He noted rate of haste and speed;
He considered space, expanse and distance,
He accounted for the wind resistance.
‘Hie thee hence! Be gone and scarum!’
He yelled at the belated siren.
But he saw it was no use;
Honest Brits would hold aloof.
Led by doughty Cobblestone,
They’d defend their rightful home.
For such foul stuff they would not stand;
Not within their own homeland.
The Muslim horde – they all took flight;
They disappeared into the night.
The dwarf retired, gave one last bay:
‘Death to Albion!’ – so scattered they.
As swift as they had come ‘were gone;
Railing and cursing Albion’.
The street fell calm, but ‘twas too late:
I knew now I stared at Hell’s own gate.
I knew for sure they would return;
Once more to pillage and to burn –
To wreak such havoc once again.
My warnings are perhaps in vain.
I stood alone, I stand here still;
If we don’t win, perhaps they will.
(Police spokeswoman) [Pause] Obviously last night’s incident was a serious problem, and we will deal with it appropriately.
[Sutherland is lying in bed, and evidently sweltering whilst sleeping uneasily. A small black dog appears from the doorway, jumps onto Sutherland’s bed and begins to lick his face].
(Sutherland) No, Andrew. No. No. Well, Andy, then. Look I said no – my Dad’s standing right there.
[Sutherland wakes delirious: the dog jumps down from the bed and Sutherland follows it out of the room, through the kitchen door into a wilderness.
Sutherland is dressed in his pyjamas, impractical slippers and dressing gown; and descends calmly into a plush darkness, and finds himself outdoors, walking down a gentle incline. It is night-time. The scene is slightly misty to begin with – the haze deepens, however, promptly becoming cloudy and opaque. Sutherland is initially at a loss, but heeds the distant barking of the dog and moves towards it, finding it without difficulty. The two begin walking together in silence, the dog pattering along at Sutherland’s side, for a few moments].
(Sutherland) Are you going to explain yourself?
(Dog) We’re going on a journey.
(Sutherland) Fair enough. Where exactly? And why are you a dog?
(Dog) Those are not particularly sensible questions.
[Sutherland holds quiet. The two walk on together past copses of trees that rustle quietly in the gentle night breeze. By the wayside is a small stream gliding along past silent houses: their doors shut; their lights off. The city is sleeping. It is dark and chill, but calm and hushed. The street lights are out; but the moon is bright enough to see by. The pavement glitters with frost. The journeyman and his guide soon arrive at a secluded grove with two gates standing in the midst of moonlight. There is no sign of a beaten path. The gates stand alone: there are no walls. One is a small wooden gate: for a lock there is a snail; for ornament – frost and a few icicles. The other gate is burnished gold and richly pearled. It is impassive and still; and it is the opulent gate through which the pair will eventually pass].
(Sutherland) Where are we?
(Dog) At the gates of Hull – last refuge of the damned.
(Sutherland) Really? It’s more agreeable than I’ve been led to believe. Isn’t there supposed to be a guard-dog hereabouts, or something?
(Dog) Come – the night is long, but soon gone. Let us enter.
(Sutherland) I’d rather not if it’s all the same.
[The two pass through the fine gate after a moment’s hesitation on Sutherland’s part. When Sutherland passes through the gate: a strong chill wind instantly blows upon him and his guide, which makes Sutherland shudder and draw his dressing gown more tightly. The scene is without colour; the wind alone is heard. Scene ends]
[At the media conference as before]
(Lab.) It is time to ask which of these Muslims was responsible; and whether the local Muslim community should be brought to account for not controlling these extremists within their own ranks. Reform must take place within the Islamic world, and today, here in our city, we have a prime opportunity to begin the process. Let us begin the discussion. We are today seeking from Muslim community leaders an apology and a public declaration of support for democracy and British values. Those who do not wish to subscribe to such values, well let them be aware of the consequences [mild applause from the audience].
(Cons.) Muslim extremists must be held accountable. No amount of politically correct pandering can excuse what was done in the name of Islam last night. What took place was no less than an assault on our traditions, our community, our very way of life. It is clear that the social discord which has increasingly developed over the last few years has reached a critical point, and it is time to address this problem square on. We are British; we have earned the right! [mild applause from the audience].
(Journalist) Your statement please. Mr Cobblestone?
(Cobblestone) I said that this would happen. Like Aphrodite on the banks of the Humber, I foresaw these very self-same rivers of blood thronging in our very streets of the city. They were caught on CCTV camera, it is said. There can be no denying their probable intent, I have said. I have said this over and over again! I have repeated it ad nauseam. And who listened to me? Who even gave me the time of day? Now the evidence is only too clear. I, Paul Cobblestone, today, on behalf of the British people and the silent majority, demand a curfew on all local Muslims and immigrants, and the immediate deportation of those who break it. If nothing isn’t done in response to this night of broken glass and cracked British values then something will happen, and will continue to happen, and will continue to persist, and I will not be held responsible, nor will I apologise!
[Vigorous applause. Scene ends]
[Beyond the gate of Hull, Sutherland and his canine guide enter a small cave, in which there is a tunnel heading gently down into the earth. They find themselves in a cavernous subway: it is not oppressive or unpleasant; but nor is it a scene of joy and warmth. The mist in the air is pervasive, yet remains only a thin haze. The vapour running along the ground is denser and white. The scene is spacious, and their voices echo slightly as they walk on together through the tunnel. A moment passes]
(Sutherland) How long have we been walking?
(Dog) A few minutes.
(Sutherland) What? It feels like days. [Notices decline of the mist on the ground] Are we going downhill? It feels like we’re climbing a mountain.
(Dog) The road winds uphill all the way.
(Sutherland) How does that work?
(Dog) It is your mind descending.
(Sutherland) Will the journey take the whole long night to end?
(Dog) From night ‘til morn, my husky friend.
(Sutherland) [having noticed the word ‘husky’] Is there a resting place? Perhaps an Inn? A haven for when the slow, dark hours begin?
(Dog) There is a place; you will find rest within.
(Sutherland) Shall I meet other wayfarers by the way?
(Dog) Those who’ve gone before. More I cannot say.
(Sutherland) Will there be room for me? Will I find what I seek?
(Dog) Space for all who come: young and old, unkind and meek .
(Sutherland) I fear, my guide, we’re going nowhere fast.
(Dog) Worry not – the night won’t last.
[The tunnel opens suddenly into an enormous underground cavern. It is darker even than the tunnel – the upper reaches are pitch black – and it has a more disagreeable mien. In the background is the sound of weeping: very soft and gentle – it intersperses with the sound of the river which is now wide and deep, dark and still, before the two travellers. The water is saline, and has a glutinous and slick appearance.
Sutherland and his guide find themselves on a stone quayside. The far bank is distant, but can be discerned vaguely: it glows with a green-yellow light – neither amenable nor off-putting; neither dull nor bright].
(Sutherland) Where are we?
(Dog) Where all the ills of all the world are cast. This is thy native city.
(Sutherland) That’s not entirely fair. Well, it’s not the most exciting of towns, admittedly; but, still – I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen such a sight before. Where does such a grim current spring?
(Dog) In a waste of chill; under a rain of perpetual grief. Therein lies the origin of the River.
(Sutherland) You mean the Yorkshire Wolds? I visited once – It wasn’t quite like that. Well, actually, there was this youth hostel…
[Sutherland becomes aware of a crowd of ethereal spectres present on the quay beside him and his guide].
(Sutherland) Who are these?
(Dog) Do you not perceive?
[Several of the faces Sutherland distinguishes; evidently recognising them].
(Sutherland) Yes; these I know – at least in part.
(Dog) And none among them touched your heart?
(Sutherland) No, I wouldn’t say that; though none pleased.
Some annoyed; others teased.
Yet more were cold, but even though,
I would not wish them herein so.
(Dog) Wishes are not yours to grant; less still deny.
(Sutherland) Why are they here?
(Dog) They are helpless souls; their spirits remain unquiet forever, fluttering around in longing. Unable to speak, for they have no voice, and none will speak for them. Their suffering does not leave them, even in death. Wild panic seizes them oft-times, and one and all – unable to swim – they rush towards the river .
(Sutherland) They drown?
(Dog) No; they are unable to. They are already dead.
(Sutherland) What torment spurs them? What drives them on? Why are they so keen to pass over and be gone?
(Dog) They have no hope of death.
All their fear has become desire.
Every fate they covet, frequently as they draw breath.
(Sutherland) What did they that brings so much suffering so?
(Dog) Their grief is not for torment, but for loss undying .
They sinned not; nor did they bless.
(Sutherland) Then why are they here?
(Dog) Their soul lacked its chiefest merit, that which is the gateway to grace .
Poor unfortunates. They found contentment neither in life, nor in death. Consequently they are unable to pass the river here.
[There is a sound of water being softly beaten amidst the deep silence of the scene. A wooden boat creaks its way slowly across the river towards the wharf on which Sutherland and his guide stand. The craft is reedy and dilapidated in appearance; its Oarsman is tall, pale and very gaunt, and wears a heavy black cloak. He is standing on the stern, with a solitary oar in his hands. He is much more affable than his appearance suggests, however].
(Oarsman) Alright, alright – ‘old yer bleedin’ ‘orses. One at a time, one at a time. Yer not going any where in an ‘urry.
(Sutherland) [to his guide] Southerners. They’re always the same.
[The spectres crowd and press towards the boat; they rush into the vessel in an endless train, and immediately pass through the hull into the water].
(Oarsman) [to Sutherland, once the crowd has disappeared in its entirety] Now then me laddo – are yer comin’ across?
(Sutherland) Not a chance in hell. That water looks bloody freezing.
(Oarsman) Oh, that’s not for you. ‘Just for the waif’ ‘n strays.
[He points to the bank where the same immersed figures have returned and gathered again, as if they’d never entered the water. Sutherland hedges briefly, then steps very gingerly onto the boat and finds it solid and well balanced. The dog hops into the boat elegantly].
(Sutherland) That’s a lousy trick to play.
(Oarsman) The vessel’s got material enough for those ‘oo make it out.
(Sutherland) Eh? What’s that supposed to mean?
[The Oarsman begins rowing without further word on the subject. The craft is oared quietly towards the far-off light. It glides over the water weightlessly].
(Oarsman) So, what’re yer ‘ere for?
(Sutherland) What do you mean?
(Oarsman) Yer must be ‘ere fer a reason. It’s usually just ‘arlots and Cod-fishermen make it this way. They don’t shell out much, but they do at least pay.
(Sutherland) Eh? Oh – I didn’t realise…
(Oarsman) Nevermind, nevermind. I can tell a student from the other shore. The trousers ‘n the tresses.
(Sutherland) Look, if you’re just going to make fun of my hair…besides, I lost most of my clothes in the fire.
(Oarsman) Y’ve been ‘ere before?
(Oarsman) Nevermind, nevermind.
(Sutherland) Where are we going anyway?
(Oarsman) ‘s not for me to say.
(Sutherland) Well, what’s on the far shore?
(Oarsman) Can’t tell yer that for sure.
(Sutherland) Well then, why am I here?
(Oarsman) That’s not entirely clear.
(Sutherland) Honestly. [To Guide] Where are we?
(Dog) The spirit-world – the hereafter – the barren nether regions of the world.
(Dog) Well, the bowels of Hull. The difference is trifling most days.
(Sutherland) Is everybody here so contrary?
(Dog) By no means; only too compliant for the most part.
The Oarsman’s unable to leave the boat. He’s never been ashore.
(Oarsman) Which is why I can’t tell yer owt about it – neither less ner more.
[Sutherland peers over the side of the boat and looks down into the river].
(Oarsman) Don’t touch the water there; you’ll find summat of note in that.
(Dog) Be careful: if you touch the river, the river touches you.
[Sutherland – puts his hand to the water anyway; recoils sharply and remains silent a moment. The vessel immediately alights on the riverbank with a bump and a scrape, evidently more swiftly than Sutherland had presumed or prepared for].
(Oarsman) ‘Ere yer are young sirs. Now bugger off, kindly.
[Sutherland and his guide hop down from the boat onto the shore. It is a brown clay bank, gleaming less now than from the distance. The pair land without difficulty, and begin walking towards the entryway to a high empty corridor with pale walls, no different to the first tunnel in aspect, and equally colourless, but with an orange glow evidently coming from its end . As the two walk along, the air becomes unpleasant and trying; the murk deepens. The floor of the corridor becomes wooden and heavy as Sutherland and his guide tread upon it].
(Sutherland) [Stumbles on something] I’m not keen on the gloom here.
(Dog) Herein the sun treads not; and the wind is voiceless.
(Sutherland) Well, isn’t there a torch, or something useful? A flare would be good.
(Dog) Darkness is nothing of itself.
(Sutherland) You’re none of you particularly helpful down here.
(Dog) Here is your next guide.
[Sutherland’s guide points out a spirit waiting for them by the way which is cast in the figure of Isaac, though Sutherland does not recognise him as such].
(Sutherland) We must part?
(Dog) We must take leave, yes.
(Sutherland) You’re coming no further?
(Dog) I must return to the upper-world; so too will each of your approaching guides as they have journeyed with you. None can travel further than their appointed end; and the last stage you must travel alone.
[Sutherland and his new guide take leave of the dog and continue on their way, walking along the short corridor towards the point of radiance].
(Guide) He first, I second now, must guide thee on.
(Sutherland) Where are we going?
(Guide) We are going to watch a performance.
[Sutherland’s guide leads him into a large chamber with high stone walls. There is no source of natural light; the chamber is gloomy, but bright red, lit by a several torches on the walls and a large candle on a small altar at the rear of the stage. There is a large brazier to the right-hand side of the setting, which initially stands unlit. Standing at the right-hand side of the stage are several tawdry figures, enchained, and guarded by two burly uniformed guards with pikes who stand nearby. Sutherland’s guide leads him into a position south and to the right of the stage/prospect, facing the scene. The two are beyond the participants’ perception.
Ten grandiose priests are assembled in a pew to the left of the stage in white cassocks (facing right); all are corpulent; one of them falls asleep intermittently. The Head Priest is seated nearest to Sutherland and his guide. There is a small audience of laity in the background (at the rear of the stage), facing the prospect. An Inquisitor is standing in the middle of the stage floor. He wears a very smart white cassock trimmed with purple; he is tall and smartly bearded (played by the same actor as the Inn-keeper in Act 1; Scene 1). He speaks evenly, intelligently, and not unpleasantly. No spite enters his tone throughout scene, nor shrillness, and he does not fulminate at any point.
At the opening of the scene, all of the prisoners are standing in a line, abreast of each other, their backs to a large wooden door which is the entrance to the chamber (at right of stage). The prisoners consist of several young women, a middle-aged woman, an elderly woman – evidently convalescent and white haired – and two men: one middle-aged, one aged and decrepit. All are dishevelled and unprepossessing.
The Inquisitor lights a taper from the candle on the altar, and uses it to ignite the brazier: the room becomes instantly brighter; its shadows deepen].
(Inquisitor) Where is the instigator? Which is the chief witch?
[The guard to the south of the stage shoves a young woman forward with the blunt base of his pike; she falls onto her knees. Her hands are bound; she is wearing a white dress no longer clean, nor completely intact. The woman is of Romany appearance; and she is both young and attractive (same actress as the stable-hand’s wife in Act 1; Scene 1)].
(Sutherland) What’s happening?
(Guide) The people here are on trial.
(Sutherland) For what?
(Guide) For witchcraft and impiety.
(Sutherland) You can’t be serious?
(Guide) [Motions towards the Inquisitor]
(Inquisitor) We are gathered here today, in the sight of our good Lord – and in the face of you, my noble and righteous lords – to judge the women and men before us. They are on trial for the salvation of their souls; therefore it is not to be entered into without wisdom or gravity, but reverently and soberly. If anyone present can show just cause why they may not be lawfully tried and judged, let them speak now, or hold their peace evermore. [Silence] Then we may proceed. [To Priests] Take a look at these creatures. They are charged with – amongst many sins [reads from a short list] – denying the sacraments, idolatry, blasphemy, solicitation, pilfering, selling their souls to the devil, and adoring him in the form of this [holds up a wooden icon for the benefit of the priests and laity. It is cylindrical, smooth, made of pale pine, has a rounded top with a flanged base, and is c. 10 inches in length].
(Head Priest) It is a peg of some kind?
(Inquisitor) Consider carefully the size, the shape, its intended usage.
(Priest) A baton?
(Inquisitor) It is an instrument of darkness; a device of unholy devotion, put to ill-effect repeatedly by these creatures. [Hands it to the priests who pore over it each in turn].
(Inquisitor) Note the quality of the workmanship –
(Priest) It is as smooth as ice…
(Priest) …gossamer as silk.
(Inquisitor) It is indeed an outstanding item: almost uncannily consummate. Unearthly sheer – its smoothness has been formed by no man’s hand.
(Priest) Pray what is it, Brother…?
(Inquisitor) What is it indeed. [Pause. To Romany woman] Would you care to divulge your secret? [Pause] No; I thought not. [Turns to priests] It is proof of their wickedness; of their desire to destroy all mankind.
(Head Priest) It is a proxy?
(Inquisitor) It provides some consolation to them in their Lord’s absence, yes. It is a source of satanic delight; of unspeakable joys; unmentionable pleasures.
(Head Priest) A substitute for their lord?
(Inquisitor) That is the thrust of it, yes.
(Priest) It is a sceptre of sorts?
(Inquisitor) Yes, in the right hand, it is an instrument of command.
(Head Priest) What is it for?
(Priest) What fulfilment is gained from such a thing?
(Priest) Enlighten us, please.
(Priest) Yes, portray its usage.
(Priest) The practice.
(Priest) The procedure.
(Inquisitor) [Pause] It is a familiar – an icon to worship in their lord’s stead. An idol: a standing image of wood, to which they make obeisance in their master’s absence.
(Head Priest) Tell us, please, how did you come to possess such a thing?
(Woman) It is not my belonging.
(Inquisitor) Then why was it found in your possession? Why when we searched your dwelling was it found concealed within your sleeping quarters?
(Woman) I cannot say.
(Inquisitor) Is this not your familiar?
(Woman) No; no, it is not mine.
(Inquisitor) Then whose, if not thine? Why possess this if it is no conduit of your own dark passions?
[The elderly woman tuts and rolls her eyes. The Inquisitor’s eyes glitter]
(Inquisitor) It is yours?
(Elderly woman) Well, honestly. Such a fuss over a bloody…
(Inquisitor) You see, my lords – they are in league. All of them witches; menacing all Christendom. This is the altar-piece for their communion with Lucifer – worshipping him as the king of heaven, as he and his fellow fallen creatures plot to retake their home. The effigy is an aid to their collective iniquity.
(Elderly Woman) [Feebly] It is not an aid – it’s a dibber…used to plant vegetables, and…bulbs.
(Inquisitor) [Eyeing the object curiously, with the air of a connoisseur] Yes; these creations have been known to double in usage – most commonly as wands, however; not as the planters of seed.
(Head Priest) Wands?
(Inquisitor) Yes; there are certain tell-tale signs – imperceptible to the untrained eye – but only too clear to the Christian beholder: this has been used for the summoning of dark energies; for satisfying wicked lusts.
(Head priest) Do you deny this?
(Elderly Woman) Of course I do, for God’s sake!
(Head Priest) Such irreverence.
[Priests talk to each other quietly and the Head of them delivers their ruling]
(Head Priest) We have heard enough; we are convinced. Proceed according to the will of divinity.
(Inquisitor) Thank you. [Gathering air] Indeed, she was not alone in such possession. We found another of these things in another of these creature’s dwellings [points to middle-aged man].
(Head Priest) You too have used such a carving?
(Man) Well, you know, everyone’s different.
(Head Priest) To what effect?
(Inquisitor) Devilish indeed.
(Priest) [Eyeing it circumspectly] Its nature is known to us. One question vexes, however: how is it placed? Is it thus [horizontal] or thus [vertical]?
(Inquisitor) My Lord, it stands upright, as if with a mind of its own; it is designed to be placed on an altar as the centre-piece of their communion. [Inquisitor takes it back from priests, and places it upright on the small altar at the centre/rear of stage]. As you can see for yourselves.
(Head Priest) It is thus that he manifests himself?
(Priest) Do you pray to it?
(Priest) Use it in method?
(Priest) Stir potions?
(Priest) An evil pestle for a wicked mortar?
(Priest) Does it unlock the gates of Hell?
(Inquisitor) [To woman] Would you care to answer?
(Priest) Pray, tell.
(Woman) I have nothing to say. I’ve told you – it’s not mine. I have need of no such thing. I chanced upon it and kept it safe.
(Priest) You harboured this thing?
(Woman) That is not my meaning.
(Inquisitor) What occurred is clear. A mysterious carpenter has felled a tree fit for the purpose. Hath taken from it all the bark – skilfully – all about; has wrought it handsomely, formed it diligently, and fashioned it unto himself.
[Elderly woman rolls eyes]
(Inquisitor) You have something to add?
(Elderly Woman) Where’s the like to be found in nature?
(Inquisitor) [Pause] You have been aware of this aberrance all the while?
(Elderly Woman) Aberrance?
(Inquisitor) That such a thing is not to be found in God’s creation?
(Elderly Woman) Who isn’t? What I wouldn’t give for one that just worked properly for ten minutes.
(Priest) Ten minutes of wanton licentiousness?
(Elderly Woman) Well, in a manner of speaking.
(Priest) You would find delight in that?
(Elderly Woman) Yes, yes. Honestly.
(Priest) Is not your conscience pricked? What of your soul?
[Woman tuts and rolls eyes again]
(Inquisitor) My good Lords, what are we to make of these? Of they who would commit themselves to worshipping their Lord by means of a small piece of wood? Who would revere it, and fashion it into an idol, my Lords? Who would devote their energies to incantation; and not to duty? Can we know such minds? Can we know their price?
(Priest) It is a sovereign creature?
(Inquisitor) It has a mind of its own – rising and falling as it pleases. It waxes and wanes in potency and power. It is spirited and lively; it invites lust, and aches when unattended to.
(Priest) It is an article of evil?
(Inquisitor) Yes; that is its nature. But it is nought without the deviant hands of women. All its power is resolved to instil these creatures with command. It is through this that these creatures seek mastery over mankind. That is their desire; this is the means of their fulfilment, and its own discharge. Thus will they bring Christendom to its knees, and place the world at their dark lord’s behest.
[Goes to pick the icon up, but it falls over when Inquisitor treads upon a board in contact with the table’s base. The icon rolls onto the floor. Inquisitor pauses momentarily, then picks it up gracefully, walks downstage to the brazier, and throws it into the fire – the flames crackle and whisper].
(Inquisitor) Its evil presence will end shortly; its power will be no more.
[Priests talk quietly to each other. Head Priest delivers verdict].
(Head Priest) The reverence of idols is the beginning and end of all evil. You have chosen unwisely, however. [To both the young and elderly woman] It is the weakness of women to fall prey to their lusts; [to middle-aged man] it is the weakness of men to feel pity for those such as these and follow their suit.
(Man) Yes; that’s certainly the case. [The guard nearest him wallops him with his pike].
(Head Priest) Ye are one and all pitiable creatures, and your sufferings – as your mischief – shall cease as God sees fit. You must count your blessings. We feel that lenience is just; is Christian. We are willing to grant clemency to all who confess and repent. Those who come clean, admit their guilt, and acknowledge Christ shall find forgiveness in our hearts; those who do not must rely on God’s mercy alone.
(Inquisitor) That is not all, however. There is more, my Lord; my good Lords. Flesh can be tempted according to nature…and against it.
(Priest) Please clarify, Brother?
(Inquisitor) You will – of course – note that the creature before you is with child; and yet she is unmarried. [Several of the priests grumble indignantly to each other]. Honourable neighbours – loyal Christians – have faithfully reported that a dark figure has visited her lodging on many a night. A mysterious visitor; a creature of the night. ‘A simple tradesman’ she claims. A simple tradesman. One she refuses to name. And why? Why? Despite the fact that we assured him last rites, and a Christian burial if she led us to him? Because her betrayal of his name would see her damned – damned before our very eyes. It would break the bond sworn between them, wherein she granted him her soul. His name, of course, we ourselves may utter – protected as we are by faithfulness to our good Lord. It is the Lord of Darkness incarnate – Lucifer!
(Sutherland) [To guide] He wasn’t the same as Satan, apparently.
(Inquisitor) Satan himself!
[Sutherland shrugs his shoulders].
(Inquisitor) Has she denied it? Has she denied it a hundred times over? Yes; inevitably. Why does she protect him, we may ask? Why would a ravished, yet innocent creature protect such a one? Why would she not admit her sin and welcome swift dispatch from this mortal coil? The answer is only too obvious. This woman carries within her the son of no man – it is the anti-Christ. It is the seed of Satan’s dominion; the germ of our destruction.
(Head Priest) Is this true? Can it be so?
(Woman) I have no knowledge of such things. I have said so, and spoken the truth.
(Head Priest) You claim no courtship has taken place, and yet the evidence is clear before our eyes. How is this?
(Woman) You misunderstand me.
(Inquisitor) Then explain to us how the following came to be? Your neighbour falls ill, mysteriously, and shortly after your reported visits, she recovers. Gradually, to be sure. Slowly, yes – but only to keep your handiwork hidden the more deceptively. What power but God’s could have delivered her otherwise? It is a mystery is it not?
(Woman) It is true – I had a hand in her recovery – but there is no mystery.
(Head Priest) Please explain, child.
(Inquisitor) [Interrupting] We shall return to this matter shortly, my Lords. Beforehand, however, would you care to tell the good gentlemen assembled here if you recognise this? [Inquisitor withdraws a very fine golden grail from his cassock, and holds it up for the benefit of all parties present. Woman blushes and looks to floor]. We had foretold your guilt from the outset. We see now that we were correct. An honourable Christian pays their tithes. They respect the property rights of the church. They do not publicly criticise our verdicts, nor seek our mortification. They do not raise their ire against our authority. Less still do they steal expensive gold cups from our altars. ‘And for what?’ you may ask. For what, my noble lords? Tell them.
(Head Priest) Yes; this is a most unjust act.
(Woman) My neighbour is elderly and lives on her own…
(Inquisitor) Tell them!
(Woman) She was ill, and has no kin…
(Inquisitor) Confess and be delivered!
(Woman) I stole it. I took it. I sold it.
(Inquisitor) Profiting from our loss! ‘Thou shalt not steal!’. Thou shalt not steal. Our Lord’s words. She took the ornament – greedy for its gold – and sold it to a common Jew, no less. A golden grail for silver coins. The body of Christ itself has been defiled by this creature. There can be no sympathy for one such as she; for such an act. Is it right that a vessel designed for sacred purpose should now be used for profane? Bartered and sold for a meagre sum.
(Head Priest) Why did you do such a thing? Why take a sacred vessel and sell it to a Jew?
(Woman) It was given him and sold, in order to buy linctus and valerian.
(Inquisitor) The Jew was the middle-man?
(Head Priest) Linctus? What is this?
(Inquisitor) A quite wicked concoction my lord – its potency is devilish: it is designed to generate sinful thoughts; wicked treacheries; depraved lusts. Desires; distempers. All of which leave a woman ripe for the depredations of Satan.
(Head Priest) And the beset woman?
(Inquisitor) Corrupted; ruined. Here she is standing before you – a fallen creature.
[Inquisitor indicates the elderly woman]
(Head Priest) What is your response to all of this?
(Elderly Woman) I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. It was just bleeding chills and a fever.
[The priests recoil in shock]
(Priest) She speaks to us as such?
(Inquisitor) The encounter of devilry is known to bear such symptoms. Scalding, freezing, and scolding. All bear the marks of Satan’s touch upon a woman.
(Head Priest) [To Romany woman] Tell us, please, how did this come about?
(Priest) How did you strike up such a relationship with such a one?
(Woman) With whom?
(Inquisitor) She will not tell. We have asked repeatedly, and with the utmost Christian gentility; and yet even the chains would not loosen her tongue. However the answer may be found by those who seek it with enough vigour.
(Head Priest) Press on. [Inquisitor nods in assent].
(Inquisitor) This Jew –
(Woman) He’s just a salesman, as I have said.
(Inquisitor) A common huckster?
(Woman) He is not like that at all.
(Head Priest) You have known the Jew for a length of time?
(Woman) He is a good man.
(Head Priest.) [Pause] We do not doubt that you believe this; thinking does not make it so, however. He is the father is he not?
(Priest) He loves you?
(Woman) I believe so.
(Inquisitor) He does your bidding?
(Inquisitor) He is at your command?
(Woman) Whenever I need him, for ought, he is there. I don’t have to ask twice.
(Inquisitor) He appears from a nameless abode?
(Woman) I don’t understand…
(Head Priest) Why did you not marry?
(Woman) He is betrothed to another.
(Priest) You have committed adultery?
(Woman) It is not like that. He and his wife are unhappy with each other, but unable to part. They find no favour in each others’ eyes; nor any peace . They have no children, there is no affection; besides which, his wife sees others.
(Woman) Other men.
(Head Priest) With his acceptance?
(Woman) With his blessing.
(Inquisitor) You see, my good lord, what a viper’s nest we have unearthed?
(Head Priest) [Sits back, pensive] Yes – yes indeed.
(Inquisitor) It is well that we examine the roots. [To woman] The Jew is the stranger who sojourned with you, who made you an offering of sweet savour in return for so little a thing as a promise: to be his; to be wed to him eternally; to follow in his footsteps. His word bore faith; your heart was his. Is this not the case?
(Woman) I professed my love; I was his by heart and mind, why not by soul?
(Inquisitor) Your lord and master to be?
(Woman) No, no lord and master to me; it is not thus I am beholden. I am his, but he is mine. I serve him, it is true; and he serves me. Upon his arm I am quiet; he likewise.
(Inquisitor) He is dark is he not?
(Woman) He is not fair.
(Inquisitor) His bearing…
(Woman) Is not as thine.
(Inquisitor) No, indeed not. He is not of this region?
(Inquisitor) [To Priests] You see.
(Woman) …he is.,,
(Inquisitor) [Interrupting] He made his supplications by night; his offerings by the light of fire?
(Woman) How else? You know what small villages are.
(Inquisitor) When you meet, he would speak pleasantly: ‘Come with me. You will be mine, I – thine. Come, let us away together, you and I’. Was it not so?
(Woman) Yes; something like.
(Inquisitor) Your heart leapt and you fell under his spell when you met his eyes?
(Woman) [Quietly] Yes; there was kindness there. Weakness and wear; but tenderness too.
(Inquisitor) We have here his instructions [Hands a small piece of paper to the priests].
(Head Priest) ‘How to poison wells and influence people’.
(Woman) What? I am not familiar with such a direction. May I see the script?
(Inquisitor) It will not aid you. You see my Lords, it is the Jew who is the middleman – the henchman to Satan; advisor to these creatures. It is always thus. Satan, as it is well known, often recruits Jews, who are in turn eager to destroy our Christian values and traditions; and desire to make themselves lords of the earth, with women as their instruments. They relish the opportunity to do his bidding. ‘Matters not that they be damned by association: they are beyond redemption any which way. The blood of the saviour is upon their hands and heads. A people eternally cursed by God: they are Satan’s emissaries in this world. In return they employ lepers to contaminate wells, by foisting their cast-offs into the water supplies of towns and hamlets. An elbow here; an ear there. Rivers and fountains, which once ran clear, are now riddled with putrescence and rank with putrefaction. Thus it spreads. The sources of plague – instruments of God’s wrath. Their intent as ever is to destroy the whole of Christendom and hold lordship over the entire world . The woman’s body is their vessel. It is thus will they conquer us and strengthen Judaism; thus will they institute a reign of terror. The anti-Christ springs from Jewish blood, and from the body of this woman.
[The Priests confer]
(Head Priest) This is understood; but who is he? Why will you not say?
(Inquisitor) She cannot say. She has declared her fidelity, and it is beyond mortals to break such a bond. But there is no need. The prophecies hold true. It is thus the anti-Christ’s father may be known. It is Marvin Hamlisch.
(Woman) You know his name? How?
(Inquisitor) A revelation prophesying from the very beginning of known time with the utmost sanction and authority has enlightened us. [Pause] And one of your neighbours confirmed it.
(Head Priest) It is known with certainty?
(Inquisitor) Yes, my Lord. Sired by Satan; suckled by woman; fostered by the power of evil. The deceived and the deceivers are his. He leads counsel astray, and makes judges fools. Pours contempt upon priests, and weakens the strength of the mighty. He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and brings to light the shade of death. Increases nations, and then destroys them. He has unleashed many an opus in-keeping with his true nature .
(Head Priest) We have him detained?
(Inquisitor) No; we have not. The woman here is the means of apprehension. This creature’s courtship of the Jew – her devotion to him – is heresy.
(Woman) Then there’s no such thing as heresy.
[Priests murmur; an elderly one swoons unpersuasively, until nudged by his neighbour].
(Inquisitor) Through the woman here, the devil speaks to us. She is his understudy.
(Head Priest) You have encountered Satan himself?
(Inquisitor) Yes – they are all of them initiates; all of them willingly ravished. [The prisoners grumble mildly. A guard growls and they fall quiet].
(Priest) He has sojourned among them?
(Inquisitor) Yes, my Lord. He ‘guises himself as a young and handsome shepherd. So young; so handsome. His garments of white, his eyes brown, his skin russet and his hair all black curls. She welcomed the young man, many times, into her chamber. So have they all. [The male prisoners grumble again; guard claps one over the back of the head].
(Head Priest) Perhaps it was her initiative; but perchance merely beguiled?
(Inquisitor) Nevertheless, her intrigues are a snare to other women – it is their intrinsic weakness leaves them ripe for depredation; so too are their desires a trap to men-folk, to innocent Christians. So entangled with her deviant beauty, they become adulterated from God, and from their own salvation.
(Head Priest) Perhaps she has suffered in his grasp?
(Inquisitor) Oh, he is tender and gentle indeed with women. The dark lord’s relationship with his maidens is a happy one. [To woman] You sat on the floor by him, and heard his word. Cumbered about with much serving; careworn and troubled about many things. But one thing was most needful, and that you gave .
(Head Priest) What? What was it?
(Inquisitor) Her heart. This she gave unconditionally. She gave him her heart for all time. Is this not so?
(Head Priest) Perhaps it was unwitting? You know what women are.
(Inquisitor) Oh, she knew who he was; she knew it to be wrong. But her heart could find excuse; her love space for pity. He took her hand and talked in quiet tones, in a gentle voice; besought her aid; promised wedlock. She consented with a toast of henbane, Belladonna, ergot, rue and hemlock. This is one who has willingly partaken of the devil’s pottage.
(Head Priest) What have you to say to this?
(Woman) [Looks sorrowful, but keeps head down and says nothing.
(Inquisitor) Picture the scene for yourselves, my good Lords: the Lord of all evil standing over you, with his aching, devilish pintle in his impious taloned hand – bright crimson, and lustrous with wickedness; his claws glowing gold with the very gleam of iniquity. An enormous burning member made entirely of blazing ice – its pain is satisfaction: like the pangs of birth its fatal ecstasies. Buggery he chooses, and buggery he allows: a sodomite is our Dark Lord! ‘Bugger, bugger – all is hugger-mugger!’ those are his vows! Thus his condemnation to stand forever on burning sand; his twitching pintle ever far from his impotent, flailing hand. The inferno inflames his lust – maddens, incenses; turns his blood to dust, his tears to menses. His cloven hooves stamp in distressed fury, his very horns quiver in their hunger for succoury; yet his clawed hands make self-satisfaction simply impossible. But oh! He has no need of such sweet release! A softer palm brings his relief! Devilry – thy name is woman! Debauched, corrupted, dishonoured – we are doing this stricken creature a favour by releasing her from her mortal shame!
(Priest) Describe to us the devil’s tarse.
(Priest) Reveal its mysteries.
(Priest) Is it a thing of darkness?
(Priest) Is it bright?
(Priest) Does it blaze with bitter flames?
(Priest) Is it really made of ice?
(Priest) Does it taste of noxious spice?
(Priest) Is it corporeal…
(Priest) …Or ethereal?
(Priest) Does it entice with its power…
(Priest) … Its potence…
(Priest) …Its perfume?
(Priest) Does it rake…
(Priest) …Or subsume?
(Priest) How does it please?
(Priest) Does it satisfy?
(Priest) Does it tease?
[The sleepy one stirs] What? Yes – oh, yes.
(Woman) I have no answers to questions such as these.
(Priest) It delights?
(Inquisitor) Oh yes – it is an exquisite anguish.
(Priest) It is imperious?
(Inquisitor) Irreverent, impertinent and mocking; a momentous figure which comes from nowhere, seeking all about.
(Priest) It is the source of their enchantment?
(Inquisitor) It is a fatal distress, and yet an unending pleasure, causing an endless want in those who seek its satisfaction.
(Priest) It is as man’s?
(Inquisitor) Nearly a mile in length and breadth; arched with its own wickedness; gleaming with its own rancorous malady. His yearning burns eternally; his heart smouldering for all time.
(Priest) It’s appearance? It is veritable?
(Inquisitor) Like black smoke, it is a rootless phantom – seething like a burning clinker; a grievous thing of filth and grime. A milk of jade poison in its stem; its eruption – like black seeds of the nightshade berry. Upon this his followers make merry. A malady of such horrors, stenches and agonies; surrounded by sheets of fire, sulphurous and foul fumes – they fall upon their knees.
(Priest) And yet it is pleasurable?
(Inquisitor) Yes, it is a source of joy for them – for these fallen creatures. His minion imps which – in his secret parts – anoint his profane aspect with civet, musk and ambergris, lie nuzzling at the sacramental wart; those leeches circling at the haemorrhoid vein – they feed on him, and he on them . [Pause] Thus my lords I ask of you, for the sake of their souls, for the glory of our Messiah – for the security of all Christendom – I humbly beseech of you, my noble superiors, I entreat of you only this: they must burn.
[Priests Look at each other: sleeper awakes and says ‘yes, yes’. Others concur: ‘yes, yes’].
(Head Priest) Wait, let us consider a moment. Witchcraft is impermissible – this is a matter beyond doubt. The prescribed punishment is stoning, however. Moreover, brother, if they confess they shall find forgiveness. Thus is Christ served. [The other Priests murmur in assent].
(Inquisitor) Yes, yes; thus it is written in scripture – which of course remains paramount – but this is precisely what such creatures wish for. The mortal coil is as nothing to them; their spirits will simply be without a temporary residence – they will seek another; they will find abode in those nearby. Possibly your good selves. No, my lords: fire is the only effective recourse; the only certain means of preventing the spread of possession. It is for this reason that we cannot allow these creatures a defence: those who expose themselves to the devil may be invaded by him. We, innocent followers of Christ, in all our meekness, mildness, goodness and glory, are easy prey – simply because of our own pure souls. [Pause] My lords, I would not wish to see you penetrated by Satan’s spirit. Putrescent with immortal malady: rank corruption dripping from your gaping maws. To think of you, my honourable brothers in Christ, subject to this peril – made to kneel before such a monstrosity – and in full view of the laity forced to lower your…[waves hand deferentially]. No; it is simply beyond countenance.
(Head Priest) Very well; sentence may be considered passed. If they do not confess, they will be executed in the prescribed manner.
(Inquisitor) Most gracious, my good Lords. But let them not take advantage of your kindly, charitable natures.
(Head Priest) We have considered the matter most carefully, brother; we are willing to let God practice his will as he alone understands.
(Inquisitor) My good Lords – that the good Lord would have introduced such beings into the world remains a mystery to some; but the answer is clear to the enlightened, to the faithful adherent of his will: it is a test – a test of our piety. It is our mission to undertake this work; it is our duty to remove these creatures from His creation.
(Head Priest) We do not forget our mission, nor our duty. It is redemption we seek for these creatures, not retribution. Their short-comings are a matter of pity, not enmity. Satan’s patronage is a blessing and a curse. It was neither man nor woman who formed their weakness. We must remember this. Should they confess they will find clemency.
(Inquisitor) Then we will have failed. We will have consented to our own destruction. It would then be we who unleash a state of terror upon Christendom.
(Priest) How so?
(Priest) How is this?
(Inquisitor) The fear and suspicion these creatures have unleashed has turned neighbour against neighbour. Every man is a fright to his fellow citizen. How can one love their neighbour, in good Christian fashion, thus? Several villagers have informed us of this sorry state of affairs; and of the waywardness these women have loosed upon their community. I have here a sworn record of their activities – of the profanity of their abominable lives; of their lusts and depravities. Their misdeeds; their intestine calamities [takes a white scroll from within his cassock and begins to read]:
‘Teasing and kissing young men; enticing the elderly; inflaming the gout-ridden; rendering nought but imbalances in prized furniture’.
(Priest) What is that? The last there?
(Inquisitor) Wobbly tables and unsteady chairs. Of this they are abundantly guilty [wobbles altar; several of the priests flinch]. And yet it worsens: ‘Luscious damsels entering men’s chambers by night, entering darkly without candle, and forcing Christian men to engage in all manner of lusts, wholly against their wills’. So says the district Mayor, no less. His marriage almost ruined by the collective intrigues of succubae. ‘Milk being left to curdle when none could be found who had left it. Items lost within peoples’ homes, and then mysteriously appearing where before they could not be seen’. [Priests murmur and grumble] ‘Bad harvests. Rotten grain. A Farm-hand’s many accidents with scythe; his inability to reap in time’. His livelihood diminished, he says. His employment hangs by a thread.
‘Spreading rumours; hindering men’s careers; eliciting improper glances from the husbands of others. Animal familiars; concoction of poisonous brews; orgies that would make a Protestant blush. Disturbing the peace, and the natural order: rendering men impotent by means of tying knots in thread; eating nauseating food made from spoiled grain; riding backwards on swine; performing household tasks with their left hands. Flying through the night – stealing communion wafers and dashing them at pilgrims. Walking unclothed within their homes. Hanging intimate clothes in a most improper fashion on lines observable by the public. Cajoling young men onto all fours, then a-straddling them and riding them around their gardens! Whipping them with switches! Switches cut from willow wood!’
‘Organising an international conspiracy to overthrow Christianity. To sanctify their undertakings, they drink a potion made of powder prepared from the ashes of women buried in unsanctified ground, and made viscous by the tears of illegitimate children’. Such wickedness; such cruelty. It is little wonder, indeed, that it manifests itself thus [points to elderly woman, who rolls her eyes and tuts]. In sum, the most unseemly, the most unchristian behaviour. These are not my words, my good lords: this is the testimony of honest village folk – good Christians, who pay their tithes in a timely fashion, attend church as required, and who wished to remain anonymous, lest they be cursed.
(Woman) You can’t seriously believe those things.
(Inquisitor) There is little doubt of your own particular instigation. Concerned neighbours have testified that you have in your possession a black cock and a white cat, with amity between them. Is this not true?
(Woman) Yes, of course. Chickens lay eggs and rodents spoil grain; you can all work the rest out for yourselves. I couldn’t have the two without accord.
(Inquisitor) A pact, you mean?
(Woman) So to speak, yes.
(Inquisitor) [Glances briefly at the priests who murmur to one another]. This was not all they had to say on the subject, my Lords. ‘Visited by spirits in various guises: a bright red dragon-fly with emerald wings which skips in sunlight and beneath the moon it quietly sings; a wan hedgehog named ‘Prickle-peg’ with a snub nose and a gimpy leg; a dwarf – possessor of a wicked hickory stick and a halo of flies – who is unable to walk forwards one step without taking two to the side; and a one-eyed bee-keeper with two superfluous nipples, who masquerades as a vendor of cheap – yet contumely – tipples.
(Head Priest) Horrors, all.
(Inquisitor) Demons – at her beck and call. She is not alone in keeping such company; nor does she enjoin such wickedness unaided.
[When Inquisitor points to individuals, guards butt them forwards onto their knees with their pikes].
When sought, witnesses came forth with little hesitation. They wanted to save their souls; they honoured and respected our ministrations. Simple, honest folk. They could not stand idly by while they suspected such depravity was taking place but a hair’s breadth from their own households.
(Elderly Woman) What rotten humbug!
(Inquisitor) You forget yourself, harridan. Your own iniquity has not gone unmarked. [Turns to Priests] I have here the testimony of a simple, candid Christian who, he says, having refused to assist you with a heavy load – purely because of his bad back – walked into a low beam and suffered a migraine the whole day.
(Elderly Woman) God paying him back.
(Inquisitor) He says you cursed him.
(Elderly Woman) Well, the mean sod. I mean, really.
(Inquisitor) He is not the only victim of this woman’s scorn, as shall become only too clear. The pattern is more wide-spread, more far-reaching than could have ever been conceived previously.
[To the young gypsy woman] You – is it not true that you attend church but rarely, and to the sermon seldom? That you would rather break the Sabbath and list to neighbours than to worship? Were you not once caught sleeping in the midst of congregation? Did you not once neglect attendance solely in order to aid a local shepherd with his search for a lost lamb?
[To the elderly woman] You, woman: are the local residents wrong to condemn your captious nagging? Are you not quarrelsome – the kind any district would not wish to house? Do you not badger and irritate? Are you right to criticise the behaviour of your neighbours? Good Christian men?
[To old man] Were you not found to be asking for alms? Begging from good, honest hard-working Christians? And why? To give their wages away to strangers – to people who have never even set foot in this village. [Inquisitor eyes his scroll] ‘A cantankerous old creature preaching sermons fully in-keeping with his pact with Satan; bossy and opinionated – encouraging us to give our possessions away to vagrants, drifters and beggars. The bane of the village’s villagers, and their hard-earned earnings’.
[To others collectively] Is it not true, as neighbours have informed us, that you are frequently melancholy and irritable? Do you not have a tendency to live apart and keep yourselves different? Have you not proven yourselves hostile to your own community? Do you not drink of mead at times excessively? Is not the revelry in thy hearts oft-times excessive and overflowing? Is it not easily loosed? Not demure, as becometh women: unnatural creatures of lust; of voices shrill.
[To Priests] You see, my good lords, there is a much deeper malaise being born here; and prevention is the vital part of cure. These are the most powerful of the devil’s creatures. In those weak frames there pulse frightly urges and desires. They are the devil’s entrance into this world. The very hunching of their backs is a sure sign their sire rides upon them. Their physical weakness is a sign of their nightly exertions. Their whitéd hair, their flaccid skin: a proof of the horrors and terrors within.
You see my lords, ancient evils – very nearly forgotten – are emerging anew with renewed vigour, to infect society once more. These creatures are agents carrying out the will of the evil one, and – as we have shown – are bearing his spawn. They are a virus from which the whole world suffers. They plot the destruction of Christendom, and mankind. All that is needed is a small, determined seed. If it is sown in the heart of the common man, it will not die; it will grow, and live, and bear much fruit. It will wait in darkness; it will expand and seek increase. The first seed – the parent – this creature bears within her belly.
(Head Priest) And what of this? What awaits? What do you foresee?
(Inquisitor) Open rebellion against Christian civilisation itself. The progenitor requires but a chance. At the moment of its ripe issue, it will breathe common air as any man, and bend men to its will. We will not be able to tell the difference between those who bring amity, and those who fetch terror. Of this woman comes the beginning of such sin; and through her would we all die . My lords, should we fail in this difficult task, should we fail in our Christian duties, God’s judgement would be upon us.
(Head Priest) We have heard enough. Yes, we shall make her confess, that she may hope for the mercy of He that made her .
(Inquisitor) They shall depart this life. So shall we put evil out of our land and from among us.
(Head Priest) You have broken our commandments; and are now a stranger to our flock.
(Inquisitor) Hateful, impure: they shall not be suffered to live among us – their blood shall be upon them. We must close our hearts to pity.
(Head Priest) God, in his infinite mercy, will see that your body cinders quickly. He will grant swift dispatch to those who submit and confess. We, in our compassion, will stoke the fire that you may depart the more swiftly. But you must confess; you must admit your guilt.
(Inquisitor) Let us make a burnt offering of these heretics – of hundreds, if needs must. It is God’s will; we must protect Christendom and civilisation. It is the greater good concerns us here. The greatness of the Christian nation.
(Head Priest) Your confession will set you free.
(Inquisitor) Amorous license, scurrilous wantonness – neither fearing God, nor blushing at the righteous scorn of the crowd.
(Head Priest) Honour, order and the public good shall be sustained. A goodly, godly society must be maintained.
(Inquisitor) Temptations and lusts; devices and desires. They draw us into their power, and under their dark lord’s persuasions. Their very nature is deviant.
(Head Priest) Such is the message of Christ; embrace him as your saviour. Welcome the succour of the flames. Wise and good and correct is the one true path.
(Inquisitor) Altering God’s arrangements – they will be punished in the afterlife: demons shall lock hot needles and awls into every hole from which a hair may be plucked. Oh yes. And let it be said: they have well deserved the pain .
(Head Priest) Let the flames purify each of us in his own heart. Let the lord’s will be done. Let us pray for their souls.
(Inquisitor) He who seduces; who beguiles. His cunning is at work in dainty girlish wiles. Man touches Satan, when he holds a woman’s hand. It is thus devilry takes root within the heart of man.
(Head Priest) The whole world placed within the grasp of the evil one.
(Inquisitor) We must cast the evil out: the devil and all his works. His children and his surrogates.
(Woman) [Interrupting] What is it that you preach to people? What does it mean when those who assume the title of shepherd play the part of wolves? You proclaim humility when your pride knows no bounds; you talk of poverty when for you the world is not enough – you must have heaven too. You preach chastity – but I will be silent on this. God knows what each man and woman does, and how some of us satisfy our lusts .
(Inquisitor) It is as if Satan himself speaks to us.
(Woman) Priests in word, not in matter. Men in cloth, not in flesh.
(Inquisitor) Such vile calumny! And upon such venerable, pious lords! Every year, in honour of our saviour’s birth, do they not give their left-overs to the poor? Do they not hear confessions before passing judgement? Do they not pray on behalf of those who have paid the tithe? Do they not give a portion of their income to the deprived annually? Are they not preachers of kind and unselfish ways? Are they not Christians?
(Woman) The title of Christian is blasphemy from those such as thee!
(Inquisitor) It is Satan himself we hear speaking.
(Head Priest) On this we agree. Confess – for the sake of your soul. Let your spirit find rest. Let your shame be whole.
(Inquisitor) Open your heart, search the depths of your soul for the sake of theirs. Who among your brethren is guilty?
(Inquisitor) And thereby all. She lies on their behalves for one reason only: their guilt. They are all of them witches; all of them Satan’s servants – his handmaidens of impiety.
(Priest) How do you create earthquakes?
(Priest) Induce pox and plague?
(Priest) Grippes and shakes?
(Priest) …Gripes and agues?
(Priest) Is it a matter of give and take?
(Priest) Does snapping bald twigs make men’s necks break?
(Head Priest) The confession.
(Inquisitor) [Turns to woman] Do you embrace the Lord and all his ways? Do you renounce the devil and all his works?
(Woman) The devil I renounce is you! [Spits]
(Inquisitor) [Clutches at eye] It burns! It burns! As molten lead it smoulders my very eye!
[The clergy move uneasily; their girth rendering ready flight from the pew impossible].
(Inquisitor) [Rousing] Fear not my lords, I have the remedy here [touches eye with a gold crucifix on a chain around his neck]. Once more, the power of Christ works its miracles in the face of the devil’s inspiration. The shepherd has done his duty. [Dusts self down, carefully removing a filament from his sleeve before re-adjusting it]. Since the verdict has been contested by the various creatures we see before us, we are obliged to extract the confession by force, for the sake of their souls. And ye shall confess. Prepare the pokers and the brands.
(Sutherland) I don’t really want to see this.
(Guide) Let us pass on. But fear not; her soul was strong.
(Sutherland) Still, it was hardly bloody fair.
(Guide) No, my friend; but though her hands were fettered, her spirit was unbound.
(Sutherland) It’s no consolation for red-hot pokers up the arse and in the eyes, though.
(Guide) Excuse me?
(Sutherland) The ears, I mean.
[Sutherland and his guide are walking away from the last scene along a very short tunnel. Sutherland stops up short at the threshold of the tunnel’s exit].
(Guide) Come, we have far to go.
(Sutherland) Yes, I know; can we not rest here awhile?
(Guide) Behold the rocks – and note the cracks.
The path oft splits and falls in wracks.
(Sutherland) Is there no point of peace to be found here?
(Guide) There is one course only left open at present.
(Guide) Yes; and upwards.
(Sutherland) There is no returning by whence we came?
(Guide) By another path thou needs must leave,
If thou wilt ever ‘part this waste .
Ascent is long, the night is brief;
We must not tarry, but must haste.
(Sutherland) How should I go? Who says so? Why?
Who thinks me fit? Not others, nor I.
Suppose I fall? Or stumble, trip?
If I should stall, or crack my hip?
My limbs grown weary make me slip?
Or fumble, o’er the side I tip?
No; I’d rather remain right here –
Despite the chill and echoes drear.
The path, I know, is far from clear;
But it surely beats a threadbare rear.
(Guide) Together you and I we will
Climb the short road up the hill.
(Sutherland) I know what short bloody means down here –
It gives no sustenance to cheer.
How long will it take me to reach the end?
(Guide) You must walk until evening’s end.
Until the dawn, must wind and wend.
(Sutherland) I sodding knew – I said just then
– is there not a simpler course?
(Guide) None but sorrowful remorse.
You can of course remain herein;
As you wish, so is it giv’n.
(Sutherland) There is no other opening?
(Guide) No, there’s not; so let’s begin.
[Sutherland and his guide leave the tunnel, and face a bottomless ravine, linked only by a rickety rope bridge knotted with creeping ivy. Where Sutherland and his guide stand is bare rock, echoing with the sound of soft sawing and gentle tapping. The other side is shrouded in pale mist. The entryway nearest the pair is attended by an elderly spirit collecting duties in a woven basket].
(Guide) Note the vine.
(Sutherland) Yes, along the ropes entwined.
(Guide) As the bridge moves, it moves as well.
(Sutherland) It’s entrusted its life to such a frail channel.
(Guide) The bridge remains unbroken, is endless, yet needs upkeep;
Look aft, see repairmen who know only briefest sleep.
(Sutherland) It needs upholding?
(Guide) It needs safeguarding –
Today, tomorrow, ever more.
(Sutherland) Is that not what the levy’s for?
(Guardian of the bridge) Toll is due, toll is due;
If thou will t’other side pass to.
(Sutherland) I have nothing save my gown.
(Guardian) That’s all right; ‘twould only weigh thee down.
Catch at thy heels, or attach at the twine;
Have thee scrambling along with the vine.
(Sutherland) Okay; fine. You know I have ‘flu, right?
You’ve felt the chill of the night?
[Sutherland hands the man his dressing gown begrudgingly, and it vanishes into his basket. The two walk across the bridge comfortably…]
(Guide) Hold my hand.
(Sutherland) Look, there’ve been some rumours but I assure you –
[…and pass into the mist. The scene Sutherland and his guide have entered is monochromatic: a cold blue-grey. The bitterness evidently penetrates Sutherland’s spruce and flimsy pyjamas. The floor is heavy stone, but is fogged. The mist is very fine, opaque, pale and chill – shadows wander indiscernibly and in silence. Only Sutherland’s footsteps are heard. None heed their neighbours, but throng and press, jostle and knock past one another. Various voices can be heard; some muttering gently, travelling along the fog; others are more lucid and move with the shadows).
(Ghost) [Disembodied voice] Oh, bleeding hell –
My right leg first, my left as well!
My head’s popped off without a fuss!
Now that’s just bloody marvellous!
(Sutherland) What was that?
(Guide) Cease to listen if you wish to hear.
(Sutherland) I don’t understand?
(Guide) Blest eyes see all things complete .
(Sutherland) You’re as abstruse as the dog and that bloody Oarsman.
[An unseen and young feminine voice is heard singing softly from within the mist].
(Ghost) A heart grown hard,
Made warm by cold metals;
A white snow-falling
Bestrewn with red petals.
Tears that descend
Amidst wished eyelashes;
With bittersweet kisses
And strawberry gashes.
As flowers which fan their fresh blossoms out;
Which seeking the sunlight find nothing about –
Save the stars, that glisten so distant and chill,
Brought close by the frost, that lingers until
The blossoms fall down in a hurry, a flurry,
Pressing upon them without the least worry.
Never meet with a glance, wane all the long night;
Wither untouched by the softest of light .
Love and desire,
My burning is true.
I will save my ashes for you.
[Sutherland loses track of his guide, trips over and falls flat on his face. When he picks himself up the mist is gone, as are his glasses, and his guide stands before him].
(Guide) Look down.
(Sutherland) [Looks at the paved floor to see a ghost with the side of his face pressed to the ground].
(Ghost) [Talks without raising head]
Why walks this man undead in the Kingdom of the Dead?
Bid him be gone home – let him wend his way alone;
Or the place he treads upon will one day be his own.
(Sutherland) I would enjoy the quiet; I would enjoy the cool.
(Ghost) So think’st thou now; so thinks many a fool.
This nighted land is bliss to those
Who seek but loss and endless woes.
Whose lives know blessing not, nor sorrow;
Who to themselves remain untrue,
Who think only of the morrow,
And know not the meaning of ‘these things too’.
Here such remain, enthralled in misery;
Knowing no torment save their own company.
(Sutherland) Leave me not here.
If we may go no further, pray, let us return.
Let us hasten together – I know the way.
(Guide) There is no going back; only forwards.
The bridge behind us has now gone.
Lest ye seek to tread through air
You and I – we must press on.
(Sutherland) Good, my guide – good – let us be gone.
Let us not revisit this place.
So much set anguish – so many kept in pain.
(Guide) No my friend, none are kept here.
(Sutherland) And yet here they remain?
(Guide) None stands sentinel; as they themselves know well.
(Sutherland) I don’t understand?
(Guide) You touched the river, did you not?
[Sutherland nods and remains quiet for a moment].
(Sutherland) Maybe they have no guide?
Or have lost their way?
(Guide) The way denies none.
It waits to receive those who are most astray.
(Sutherland) Maybe it eludes their sight?
Why else lament with such faint sighs?
(Guide) Even the blindest of the blind
Have vision without eyes.
(Sutherland) This course we’re taking – perhaps it palls?
(Guide) It beckons soft, and quiet it calls.
It has no remit; it cushions falls.
(Sutherland) It is still a pitiable sight;
To see such wraiths in endless plight.
(Guide) The stars shine brighter when darker the night.
(Sutherland) No – you’ve lost me.
(Guide) The deepest, darkest place of all, is yet the source of light .
(Sutherland) What do you mean?
(Guide) There is but one way to be free.
One thing alone that lifts all chains;
That loosens binds that yet remain.
There is a perfect liberty.
(Sutherland) I’m tired of this – pray tell it me.
(Guide) There is no need – ‘tis known by thee.
(Sutherland) No it’s not, annoyingly.
(Guide) Ah, that is what you believe.
But if you watch then you will see.
(Sutherland) Bastard rhymes and poesy!
What makes one free in slavery?
What liberates while one’s enchained?
What slackens bonds that pinch and maim?
There is no real wonder why
The ghosts herein prefer to cry;
And weep amidst their wrack and scorn,
Than find themselves so trouble-worn.
No, it’s beyond me – I don’t know.
(Guide) Then we must journey farther so.
(Sutherland) But the right road is wholly lost and gone .
(Guide) No – it is as wide as it is long.
Its narrowness expands like song.
It moves as quietly as the lark;
But one must walk with closéd eyes
And ever in the dark.
[Sutherland and his guide walk on and leave the place of mist and shade behind. The route becomes more lush and temperate. The walls become richly hued with gold and deep red; the floor opulent and carpeted, soft to the tread. The coldness leaves the air, which becomes positively sultry. The sound of the wind is no longer to be heard, and has been replaced with the hushed noises of jungle and forest. These are near, but seem faint and distant. The overall tone remains on the lesser side of light, however: despite the radiance, this place is felt by Sutherland to be the darkest area of all. Sutherland’s final guide is waiting for him here. She is a young black Congolese woman, with very close cropped hair. In the dark red light of the scene she is almost indiscernible but for her clothes which are of bright yellow cloth, and her movements which catch the light faintly].
(Guide) Here is your next guide; take care.
Watch your step – abide with her.
The path is too well trodden here on in;
The light too gently welcoming.
Be lulled not; do not heed pleas made.
Those who rest in such warm embrace
Shiver in eternal shade [departs].
(Ilanga) My name is Ilanga. You are the one they call Sutherland?
(Sutherland) In a manner of speaking, yes.
(Ilanga) It is nice to meet you. You are near the end of your journey.
(Sutherland) Is the way out this way?
(Ilanga) Yes; but there is one more place you must first visit. We will walk together; I will tell you about myself.
[As Sutherland and his guide walk together, the sound of a mighty river is distant but perceptible in the backdrop].
(Ilanga) A long time ago, our fathers were living comfortably in their village, by the great river that swallows all rivers. They had cattle, crops, salt marshes and banana trees until the strangers arrived. One day a vast ship appeared out of the ocean. White men came from within its belly, and spoke words none could understand. ‘They are spirits returned from the world of the dead’ our elders said, taking fright. The village chief believed they were ghosts, and the former possessors of our land; and that they had come to claim it once more. The people became more frightened still. They pressed the white men back into the ocean with volleys of arrows; but the whites returned fire, with the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder. Many men were killed, and our ancestors fled .
I lived in a village called Waniendo, after our chief. It was a large village near a small stream, with great fields of cassava, maize and other crops. Our people worked hard at our plantations. We never knew shortage, nor hostilities. The men had few arms except knives.
One day, we were busy in the fields, hoeing the rank growth that springs shoots so swiftly in the rainy season. A runner came to the village, saying that men were approaching, that they all wore red caps and blue cloth, and carried guns and long knives. Many white men were with them. Our chief told us to return to the fields and gather ground-nuts, plantains, and cassava for the warriors who were coming; goats and fowls for the white men. The women all filled baskets, and placed them in the road. Our chief believed that making such offerings would induce the strangers to pass on without harming us.
(Sutherland) What happened?
(Ilanga) And so it proved. The white men and their warriors went away, and we returned to our work. We hoped they would not return; but this they did in a very short time. As before, we brought in great heaps of food, and presented them; but this time they did not leave immediately – they camped near our village. Soldiers came and took our fowls and goats. They tore up our cassava. But we did not mind this so much, as long as they did not harm us.
The next morning, at sunrise, a large band of soldiers came into the village. We went into our houses and sat down quietly. They rushed into homes and hauled people out; they threatened our chief with their guns. Several came into my house, and caught hold of me, my husband, and my sister. We were dragged into the road and bound together with cords about our necks so that we could not run away. We knew then that we would be taken away as slaves. The soldiers beat us with the iron sticks of their guns, and made us march to their camp. Women were tied up separately; ten to a cord. The men likewise. When we were all collected, the soldiers brought baskets of food for us to carry. In some of these was the smoked flesh of men and women.
We set off marching very quickly. My sister had her baby in her arms, and so was not made to bear a basket. My husband was made to carry a goat. We marched until the afternoon, when we camped near a small stream and were able to drink. We were allowed nothing to eat until the following day, when we were marched to a deserted village – the people had all run away. Our marching continued for days. On the fifth day, they took my sister’s baby and threw it in the grass, leaving it to die, and made my sister carry some cooking pots. On the sixth day, we were weak with hunger, the marching, and sleeping in the damp and cold. My husband could bear the goat no longer; and so he sat down, refusing to move. And then I saw him no more. We passed over the brow of a hill, and he was out of sight. [Pause] Many of our young men were killed; many babies were thrown into grass and left. After marching ten days, we came to the great water, and were taken in canoes to the white men’s territory .
(Sutherland) Why had they come? What was it they wanted?
(Ilanga) White gold, and the wood that weeps.
(Sutherland) What do you mean?
(Ilanga) You will see.
[Ilanga steps aside at the threshold of an opulent sitting quarter: in the fashion of a gentlemen’s club in Mayfair. She ushers Sutherland into the chamber, who is taken aback with the splendour of the scene. It is strikingly lush and lavish. In the centre of the room is a highly polished mahogany table. The settees surrounding it are plush: red velvet cushions, embossed with gold braiding. The table supports golden candlesticks, holding crimson candles. More striking still are the spectral figures seated in settees around the table, drinking rich claret from very fine glasses.
The figures of King Leopold II of Belgium and Henry Morgan Stanley are seated on the left. The German general, Lothar Von Trotha and the Imperial official Theodor Von Leutwein are on the right (i.e. facing Leopold and Stanley). In between them, seated around the edge of the table furthest away from the audience are in order – the Spaniard Hernando Cortez; the two Britons Arthur and Robinson; and two U.S. Generals: Bourke and George Crook . As Sutherland and his guide remain in the room, several other ghosts will appear from the background intermittently].
(Sutherland) Who’s the man talking?
(Ilanga) That is Leopold – the King of Belgium.
(Sutherland) Belgium? I don’t understand.
(Leopold) [Talking to Cortez mid-flow] There was no more unclaimed territory in the Americas; nor where there any blank spaces in Asia. Only Africa still stood empty ; its unsolved mystery remaining. It was nothing but a vast wilderness, enclosed in darkness; but by us it was swift uncovered and flooded with daylight: filled with the radiance of nobility and civilisation; illuminated by European industry.
Our soldiers, hearts serene, braved the sultry climate to end the swathe of terror spread throughout the continent by the dreadful Arab slave-traders, and to break the African’s cruel chains. We granted the natives protection. We civilised them. We put a stop to their barbaric practices. We brought them the sweep of liberty and the gift of Christianity . Roads were built; railways opened. We freed them from their porterage. Steamboats were placed upon rivers – all under one protective flag bringing freedom of trade and emancipation . In fact, we created an international colony, open to traders from all Europe . The International Association of the Congo: formed with the noble aim of rendering lasting and disinterested services to the cause of progress. We introduced scientists, linguists and artists who could teach practical skills to the natives; laboratories for studying the soil, the weather, the flora and fauna; infirmaries with all the latest medicines . We opened up to civilisation the only part of our globe which it had not penetrated. Our crusade pierced the darkness which hung over an entire people. And they were grateful for our wise rule. Slavery – freedom; barbarism – civilisation; savagery – Christianity. We granted them such gifts.
(Stanley) [Addressing the two Britons] It was an essentially unpeopled country when we arrived. One could well imagine a church spire rising where the tamarind reared its dark foliage; and how well a score of pretty cottages would look in place of thorn clumps and gum trees . The great river of the Congo would be the grand highway of commerce into west central Africa. The roar was tremendous and deafening. A thousand miles of savages lined the banks in the general indecency of their nakedness. Our flag was a blaze of hope amidst the African darkness; we carried it far into the heart of the continent, where no cultured man had ever been.
(Leopold) Of course, the ignorance of the tribes was legion. Few had even seen the written word, let alone experienced a European language.
(Stanley) They thought we had hooves! They’d never even seen shoes before!
(Leopold) In return for cloth and gin, they declaimed all sovereignty for themselves, their heirs and successors; and promised to assist by labour – or otherwise – in any works or expedition which our associates might seek to undertake . All that we sought in return for our efforts was the authority to levy import duties.
(Arthur) An undertaking of nobility.
(Stanley) [To Leopold] If royal greatness consists in the wisdom and the goodness of a sovereign leading his people with the solicitude of a shepherd watching over his flock, then the greatest sovereign is you . [Turning back to the two Britons] Shamefully calumnised by a clique of foreign merchants and socialists spreading old-wives tales and hateful peddlers’ stories. Troublesome do-gooders intent on doing no good and causing no end of trouble.
(Leopold) Sometimes, I think it is I who has suffered the most. What I did in Africa was done as a Christian duty to the poor African. I did not wish to have one cent back of all the money I had invested .
(Sutherland) Is that true?
(Ilanga) Have patience.
(Leopold) It was a magnificent field for enterprise, with unheard-of profits. In Belgium, even a King had to stoop; but in the Congo there was no stooping – it was all mine .
(Stanley) We had heard tell, of course, of legends.
(Leopold) Tables of emerald, capable of seating thousands; glittering with crystals and sparkling with precious stones. Halls brightened not with candles, but by diamonds.
(Cortez) El Dorado itself.
(Leopold) I’m sorry?
(Cortes) El Dorado. A city of the Americas abounding with gold. Instant and fabulous wealth awaited its discovery. It must have been somewhere, though we never did find it. A heaven. One had only to pull the grass and gold-dust would fall sparkling – or so it was said.
(Leopold) Well, it was we who discovered and founded the Congo. It was only natural that whatsoever we unearthed there belonged to us.
(Leopold) White gold. Elephant’s tusks – Ivory. For knife-handles, billiard balls, napkin rings; hundreds of piano keys, thousands of false teeth. Of course the Africans were made to help out in the gathering – but that was not to make a profit; it was to rescue those benighted people from their indolence . In dealing with a race composed of cannibals for thousands of years, it is necessary to use methods which will best shake off their idleness, and to make them realise the simple sanctity of honest labour .
(Stanley) To draft a scheme in which the African can be made to work without press – or compulsion – is beyond the power of human ingenuity. He is by nature absolutely resistant to any notion of work – respecting no law bar force. Under-bred; most expectant – smoking and sprawling in the most socialistic manner. So many idle hands. So many clothesless and over-tattooed – completely unabashed in their nudity. I, however, foresaw a brilliant future for Africa; if, by any miracle of good-fortune, I could persuade the dark millions to cast off their fabrics of grass clothing and don second-hand costumes . They would be given serving trays, a bottle ready to pour, and we would let them drape a towel over an arm.
(Ilanga) It was not only ivory that the white men sought; they wanted rubber as well.
(Ilanga) Wild rubber – it grew in vines in the forest around the village: it needed no husbandry, no fertilizers, no capital – only labour.
(Congolese Ghost) [Materialises from the background] The vines that weep. Cut them, and they would bleed. Once the vines around the village were dry, we had to go ever deeper into the forest, travelling days to find fresh plants; climbing up to the canopy when those near the ground were exhausted. Rain turned the forest into swampland. Often, men fell; and backs were broken.
(Sutherland) I don’t understand – why would you agree to work for the Belgians?
(Ghost) Soldiers would arrive in canoes at the village. Our people would flee instantly. When the soldiers landed, they would begin looting – taking chickens, and grain out of our houses. Afterwards, they attacked us until they were able to seize women. They kept them as hostages until the Chief had brought them the necessary weight of rubber. They were then sold back for several goats apiece. If a man refused to gather rubber, it could mean death for a woman .
(White Missionary Ghost) [Appears from background] The soldiers were given cartridges whenever they went out to fetch rubber. They were ordered not to waste bullets; and for every one fired, they had to bring back a hand.
(Sutherland) A hand?
(White Missionary Ghost) They were punished for not bringing cartridges back; so they killed children with the butts of their rifles [vanishes].
(Congolese Ghost) We would carry baskets of rubber on our heads, and would sometimes have to walk twenty miles or more to assemble at the houses of European agents, who sat on their verandas and weighed the harvest. The state and the companies paid us for our rubber with a piece of cloth, or beads, a few spoonfuls of salt, or a knife – which we needed for gathering more rubber . Sometimes, we would have to live day and night in the forest. We built cages to sleep in – for protection against leopards. They were not always successful [Ghost departs].
(Leopold) Grant political powers to the Negroes? That would be absurd.
(Stanley) Their Monarch had a Zebra-tail whip, and the skins and heads of baby animals suspended from his belt. Polygamists [Arthur groans]. They would sacrifice slaves – a slow, agonising death: their bones broken, one by one, merely to ratify a treaty. They were only too willing to sell us their kin by the shipload. Savages. Uncivilised, brute savagery.
(Arthur) Yes; it is quite aptly named the Dark Continent indeed. One has always been given the impression that it was merely a picturesque land with tribes gyrating unrewardingly; but essentially without causing harm.
(Stanley) Oh, on the contrary, it was a land of terrible swamps and deadly diseases; vicious attacks by crocodiles; inhuman attacks by ferocious Arab slavers raiding Africa from the east. I stared into the very heart of that darkness; and it looked into me.
(Arthur) The Arab never changes.
(Stanley) One uncivilised race enslaving another.
(Arthur) It is without doubt a virtue to have shaken the non-European peoples out of their past – out of barbarism, sloth and indolence.
(Stanley) Any flinching, any cowardice and we were lost. Once, as we sailed the lake Tanganyika, the beach was covered with infuriates and scorners. We discovered we were being followed by several canoes. Spears were shaken at us; curses cried. I opened on them with a Winchester. Six shots and four deaths were sufficient to quiet the mockery . And their primitive muzzle-loaders were no match for our breech rifles. Loose gunpowder was useless in the tropical rain. It was no better than dust. The Maxim gun, however – at six hundred rounds per minute – proved to be of inestimable service in helping civilisation to overcome barbarism . Of course, on the whole the Negroes gave a great amount of trouble; they were too ungrateful, too unappreciative. When mud and wet sapped the energy of the lazily inclined, the dog-whip became their backs, swiftly restoring them to a sound activity. The Chicotte prevailed.
(Arthur) Quite right.
(Ghost of Morel ) [Appearing from background] It was a secret society of murderers.
(Morel) I worked on the docks in Antwerp. I saw what the ships travelling to and from the Congo were carrying. Nothing was going in to pay for what was coming out. In return for ivory and rubber, there were rifles, cartridges and cap-guns: all consigned to the state or to Belgian companies. Material of war – its export kept secret; the government, of course, greatly troubled by indiscretions. The Congolese weren’t allowed to use money, and no other goods were entering the territory. What else could have been happening? My own employers had the monopoly, and were skimming handsome profits from the practice. It was forced labour – directed by the King for his own benefit . All concealed beneath an elaborate skein of fraud [vanishes].
(Leopold) The rubber earnings brought us a handsome profit. I bestowed royal gifts upon Belgium: triumphal arches studded with heroic statuary; great parks, glorious boulevards, splendid villas and grand palaces. The bigger the better – all for the glory of Belgium.
(Ilanga) When the white men ran out of food, they took women as chattel to trade with. When they believed they might be attacked, they burned villages all around.
(White European Ghost) [Materialises] As our party moved through village after village, a group of men had been issued with torches to burn every hut. As we progressed, the crackle of fire and a line of smoke hung over the jungle for many miles, announcing to the natives far and wide that civilisation was dawning [dissipates].
(Ilanga) As news of the terror spread, hundreds of thousands of people fled their villages. Soldiers took their animals and burned huts and crops. People had no food; they had to leave behind their goats, hens, and ducks, and their children. Their cries would have given away their hiding places . [Pause] Our people were not always any better. The white men were not the first to take our hands. When they arrived, our chiefs were only too happy to sell their kin. Some people were simple and naïve. They believed in the European goods. Cloth, beads, jewellery, drink – for these, people sold members of their families. Village chiefs grew rich on slave sales. The fever took hold among the whites too – men who had set out to teach, to lay bricks and build homes, herded us in chains to the coast, and sold us on. Priests, too, came and altered – and sold their students and converts to other whites .
(Sutherland) Why did your people sign over their own land?
(Ilanga) Ruses and tricks. Once, a white man loaded a gun in view of our people; but we hadn’t seen him remove the bullet and secrete it in his sleeve. He handed the gun to our chief and asked him to take aim and shoot. Afterwards, he leaned over and took the bullet from his shoe. By such artifice, and for a few bottles of gin, whole villages were signed away – we were bought and sold .
[Sutherland remains silent a moment].
(Ilanga) People spoke of the Chief of the Strangers – covered with fabric, his face wan and waxen . How can he be a good man who cares for no trade? Who always goes covered with clothes, unlike all other people?
(Sutherland) What happened to you, in the end?
(Ilanga) The white men brought their diseases with them. Sleeping sickness spread up the rivers. The great movements saw it spread from village to village. The vultures were so gorged they were unable to fly . We began to feel the cold; and tired – very tired. There were no children by that time: all of the men were hunting for rubber, and many women refused to bear. Some took pains to save themselves from motherhood. If the war had come upon them, how could they flee and hide from the soldiers while heavy with children, or with an infant to carry?
(Sutherland) Please will you take me from this place? I’ve heard enough.
(Ilanga) We must wait a short while longer yet. You have not heard all.
(Leopold) How could we be in anyway culpable when we had merely served as agents in some divine judicial process? The Africans were tried and found wanting.
At each step – under our guidance – the rough slouch of the primitive was to be modified, until it had metamorphosised into the buoyant march of twentieth century civilisation. And if it was necessary to use violence in order to cram the scheme of millennial change into just twenty years of colonial activity, then so be it . Of course the natural right of the most powerful was victorious in the end. It was our duty to spur-on what was merely inevitable; the deeper the spurs cut, the swifter the advance. To the nobler and more vigorous belongs the world; to the most powerful, the most advanced, and the most intelligent civilisation on earth. That is the justice of God .
[The voices of the two American ghosts enter the foreground]
(Bourke) It was a stronghold of soaring crags, desert wastelands and impassable defiles. We had to comb the area incessantly until the enemy was overtaken or destroyed; or else forced to surrender through sheer attrition.
(Crook) The hardest thing is to go and fight those whom you know are in the right .
(Robinson) What do you mean?
(Crook) Bad as Indians often are, I have never yet seen one so demoralised that he was not an example in honour and nobility to the wretches who enrich themselves by plundering him of the little our government appropriates for him .
(Bourke) Indeed. The two great points of superiority of the savage soldier, over the representatives of civilised discipline, are his absolute knowledge of the country, and his perfect ability to take care of himself at all times and under all circumstances. In battle he is the antithesis of the Caucasian. The Apache has no false ideals of courage; he would prefer to skulk like the coyote for hours, and then kill his enemy, or capture his head, rather than by injudicious exposure receive a wound – fatal or otherwise.
(Von Trotha) Dirty guerrilla tactics – unmanly, ungallant.
(Bourke) No, he is no coward. On the contrary, he is entitled to rank among the bravest. The precautions taken for his safety prove that he is an exceptionally skilful soldier .
(Crook) The Indian commands respect for his rights only so long as he inspires terror from his rifle .
(Von Trotha) An uncompromising enemy to all mankind.
(Bourke) Eventually, the warrior’s lance was beaten into a plough-share, however. Supplying the Apaches with a pick, a shovel, seed, harness and draught ponies, meant that for the first time in the history of that fierce people, every member of the tribe was at peace. They gave up their hunting and gathering, and began to enjoy a world of settled agriculture . There were still elements of enmity, of course; but strong spirits are a foil for rage. It has a power subtle enough, drink –
(Crook) The warrior’s spirit within them began to ebb away. The wilderness was finally overcome – they were a defeated people at last.
(Arthur) The natives of the Tasman Isle were the same – equally savage. The men’s blackened bodies were patterned with lacerations; their locks shoulder-lengthed, smeared in grease and stained with ochre. Women’s heads were shaven; and their nakedness unabashed. A meal: kangaroo or seal – pitched into flames and plucked out barely cooked. They would sit in a crowd, consuming the whole mess of gristle, bone, fat and all like animals at a kill . Altogether an ignorant wretched race of mortals; and yet they inhabited a country capable of producing every necessity of life, with a climate the finest in the world . Beings who had barely managed to initiate any cultural improvement, let alone create a civilisation .
(Robinson) Mired in the stagnant waters of brute creation.
(Arthur) Without the essential machinery of creative reason, they had been unable to break through into the bracing streams of human progress. Unless Europeans offered them the opportunity, they would remain forever caught in the wasteland of animal nature and impulse . And yet their conceit was undeniable. They clearly entertained notions of ownership; yet, since they were a nomadic people, and that their presence upon any given place was so transitory, could they really be said to be in occupation of it? And if not, how could it be a crime for us to take possession of it? To talk of contracts and boundaries to an Aborigine was to talk in a foreign language. Logically, then, possession could take place without consultation .
Of course there was a measure of unhappiness on their part, but I have reason to know that the work in which I was engaged was the work of God . We had sought to let them co-exist peacefully in our new colony, but they spurned the generous hand of civilisation, and did not advance one step towards a state of improvement . Quite the contrary, in fact. The brutes of the forest – armed with sticks and stones – raided remote farmsteads at will; burning outbuildings and crops, spearing livestock, and plundering stores of flour and sugar. Refusing a fair and open fight – their uniform disposition to treachery was plain.
(Stanley) Ferocious brutes.
(Arthur) Lone shepherds were clubbed to death. Ranches were attacked – their occupants frequently mere women and children. Many Europeans fell victim to the Tasmanians’ stones and spears.
(Leutwein) Such motiveless cruelty.
(Von Trotha) The wrath of the savage is inextinguishable.
(George Arthur) They were in truth a race perhaps more sinned against than sinning. They certainly suffered at the hands of the immoral bushrangers and stockmen – in fact, various parties among the criminal class we had transported to the colony were most beastly.
(Von Trotha) The only way to deal with such useless and ungrateful material is its complete elimination. [Pause] If there is an imperative to destroy Negroes, then we are bound to use the measures that providence has placed in our hands for that purpose .
(Arthur) [Pause] We bore with their terrorism for long enough, until the hostilities escalated beyond reasonable measure. Bloodshed became wholesale – they had to be removed from the island for the sake of harmony and civilisation. So we waged one final push, summoning the entire colony for a supreme effort to end hostilities. The scrub shredded the men’s clothes; jagged rocks wore out their boots. At night they huddled around camp fires, discharging their rifles at the bounding and leaping shadows; preparing for assaults by the ghostly hordes . It was a massive game drive.
A cordon pressed the quarry southwards into a natural funnel at the Tasmanian peninsula. It was an ideal spot at which to bring the black war to a close . Two thousand soldiers, special constables, convicts, settlers, and volunteers combined to place them under the control of a competent establishment. It would no longer be in their power to escape and to molest the inhabitants of the country . But we failed. The line had been infiltrated by traitors, who had assisted the Tasmanians in making a cunning escape . For all of our efforts, they evaded capture. We brokered a peace settlement, of sorts, eventually. With tiresome negotiation and much compromise, we established a settlement on Flinders Island for the Tasmanians; where they could live contentedly, allowing us to live in peace.
(Robinson) They did not feel themselves imprisoned there, nor pine away in consequence of restraint; nor did they wish to return to the mainland, or regret their inability to hunt and roam about in the manner they had previously done on their island. They were able to fish, dance, and sing; throw spears and amuse themselves in the usual way . We were able to reinforce the habits of a civilised life: of industry, propriety, and an interest in the acquisition of property .
(Von Trotha) Animals have need of masters.
(Robinson) In truth, I must say, I noted among them a certain kind of loving care for their children; of family affection; even a sense of mourning as their relatives and spouses succumbed to illness. You see, I believe they resembled nothing so much as the gem in its rough unfashioned state. They required only the artisan’s skilled hand to develop a true lustre – to expose to light the rich qualities within. It was my duty to bring them to the word of God; to improve the condition of the hopeless race and emancipate them from bondage .
I perfected the art of gentle persuasion; I learned of their movements – once amongst them – and played my flute to sooth the troubled minds of those dark enemies of civilisation . I had them blessed in every church in the land – converting them from heathenism to Christian worship, providing them with Christian instruction, to raise them on the scale of civilisation.
(Arthur) Such strange, dark, and unpredictable beings must be converted into something more recognisable; more controllable .
(Robinson) The only draw back to the establishment was the great mortality amongst the Tasmanians. Many fell to coughs and shivers. [Pause] But those who did survive were henceforth happy, contented members of civilised society .
(Arthur) [Takes drink of wine] Even if the tribesmen did pine away, it was better that they should meet with death in such a manner – whilst every kindness was manifested towards them – than that they should fall a sacrifice to the inevitable consequence of their continued acts of outrage upon the land’s rightful inhabitants .
(Robinson) There are certain certainties in life, of course – one must admit. They came, ultimately, as the sad remnant of a bygone race. Walking into the settlement; treading upon their nation’s last resting place . Weary of liberty and its endless trials, they succumbed to the inevitable .
(Stanley) [Drinks deeply] The slovenly good-for nothings should have been made to work for the charity so generously bestowed upon them. Degenerate ingrates.
(Von Trotha) I can tell you of something not dissimilar – not placed at a far remove, in truth. Namibia was a black, benighted land of unreason prior to our conquest. It was a hot and malarial region, fogged by a dark age of unceasing murder and violence, from which the Negroes were only delivered by European intervention; populated by creatures whose staples were sour milk and cow’s blood . Bloody massacres were legion – women would have their limbs cut off to remove their jewellery; children’s bowels were ripped open to gratify a savage thirst for blood . Monsters who would not hesitate to thrash a poor wretch until the skin breaks with every blow were legion. A barren land. A stupid, ignorant and yet conceited people. Plunder, murder, bloodshed, depravity and horror: all the banners of Satan’s empire waved freely there . All – from rich to poor – were unashamed beggars and thieves. Polygamy, adultery and whoring were regarded as perfectly normal. Demonic anarchy was natural. Let the world look with satisfaction, sympathy and joy upon the glorious extension of Germany into that desert place of the earth .
[Sutherland notices a dark figure scarcely noticeable amidst the shadows . The figure is distinguished from the gloom in the background only by the colour of his clothes and the faint show of light upon his features. His flesh is pitch-black; his clothing dark red. When he talks, his mouth and eyes remain unseen, and his voice is disembodied].
(Sutherland) Who is that?
(Ilanga) None know his name, and he will not tell it.
(Sutherland) Will he speak to me?
(Ilanga) He may.
(Sutherland) Excuse me…
(Herero) [Begins to speak, but not responsive to Sutherland]
There was brought against us a people from afar,
From the end of the earth – as swift as the eagle flies –
Strange visitors whose tongue we did not understand.
They did not regard the persons of the old,
Nor shew favour to the young.
Nor did they leave us grain, or the herds of our cattle,
Or the increase of our kin.
Their eyes grew evil towards us;
Towards our sons and daughters, and the children we should bear.
They brought themselves upon us until we should be destroyed
Because we would no longer obey.
They besieged us throughout the land,
Until we should be destroyed;
Until we should eat the fruit of our own body,
The flesh of our sons, and our daughters .
(Von Trotha) To explain the Herero unrest, one need look no further than the ignorant conceit and savagery of the primitive. The causes of conflict are attributable to their arrogance and the confidence in their superiority over us. Their motiveless bloodshed; their hysterical mayhem. There was no justification for the preservation of their people . Lenience and mercy would have endangered our own security. Kindness to them would in turn have been of the greatest cruelty to our own people. It would surely have unleashed such savage madness upon civilisation that we may never have recovered.
(Herero) We lost our homes, and were driven into the desert –
Into the wilds where no fruit grew and nothing lived.
The rivers had run waterless; cattle died of thirst.
(Leutwein) Some had drunk at the breasts of women, or slit the throats of cattle and drunk the blood. Others had disembowelled oxen and squeezed the stomach contents in the hope of a few final drops of fluid .
(Stanley) Despicable degeneracy.
(Herero) The white strangers poisoned the waterholes;
The sands were littered with skeletons and skulls marked by musket fire.
They covered the face of the earth, so that the land was darkened.
The sun fell still, and the sky grew black;
The day became night, and the light – shadow.
A darkness that may be heard, a silence felt;
Such as there was none like it in all the world .
(Von Trotha) And the hateful, lying manner in which newspapers alleged that our soldiers spared neither woman nor child. It was owing solely to the cowardice of the native men, who took cover behind their womenfolk when fired upon .
(Herero) We hid in thick groves, and the clefts of rocks.
In the daylight we became shadows;
Against the great night fires we became silhouettes.
Our skin was torn with briers,
And our flesh grieved with the thorn.
The sun that giveth life taketh it also;
The brighter it is, the heavier its shadows are.
They bore upon us with lightning and thunder –
Ears burst with the crack of the shot;
The flash split instantly – years over in a moment.
Wounded hearts beating themselves out of existence;
Life making the journey into death.
And then rain fell, making the blood run once more;
Falling through the cracks in the river-bed, into the earth.
Winds sweeping the plains clear.
Locusts in million-strong swarms;
Stones, ashes and thorns.
(Sutherland) What did he mean?
(Ilanga) I cannot say.
(Stanley) The sultry climate; the tropical fertility – there is no wonder such creatures have the qualities of wild animals.
(Arthur) Their native inclination to indolence – their impossible sloth – makes conflict inevitable whenever they encounter the civilised.
(Leopold) A great pity that such creatures as they enjoy so sweet a country. Nature amply provides for them – loading their trees with plenty, so that they have never had any need to work. Thus they idly spend the years of their useless and restive lives; loitering away their hours in idle past-times, under the shadow of their bananas .
(Stanley) The only answer to their aversion to work is to force them to it.
(Von Trotha) Their clod-like inertia; their infantile incompetence .
(Leopold) There is little profit in applying the rational faculties of Europeans to such vague and inexplicable creatures.
(Stanley) They simply will not labour without compulsion; and unless they labour, they cannot be brought into communion with the civilised, nor be converted to Christianity.
(Arthur) Simple people – accustomed all their days to a life of ease and indolence.
(Robinson) Infants in a man’s world – sadly but inevitably doomed.
(Von Trotha) A defeated and immaterial branch of humanity .
(Leopold) There is no question of national dignity involved in the treatment of savages by a civilised power .
(Von Trotha) The savage could only gain on the road to civilisation. We granted them the twin blessings of western science and Christianity. But was it enough? No – they needs must remain benighted and cruel; unruly and uncivilised. Our gifts were met with base ingratitude.
(Leopold) When we have fulfilled our task of kind civilised people towards the weak, then they will have to bend to the irreversible law of nature. If the natives keep on leading their lives in a careless manner, they will leave their place to the more energetic races of Europe . To the powerful – the vigorous – the spoils; the fragile must perish. Their extinction is unavoidable: they are too sensitive to the soft touch of a civilised hand.
(Von Trotha) From time immemorial, the Negroes have grown used to indolence, brutality, and stupidity. The dirtier they are, the more they feel at ease; any European who has lived among natives finds it impossible to regard them as human beings at all, in any European sense .
(Robinson) They need centuries of training as human beings, with endless patience, austerity, and justice.
(Von Trotha) Yes, yes; I know enough of tribes – they are indeed all alike. They only respond to the rigours of force.
(Leutwein) The Negro is in fact happiest when under a firm hand – which rules his daily conduct, and nips any desires for insubordination and impertinence in the bud .
(Stanley) Yes; Europeans have failed to give the black man the right kind of treatment. Nothing but ruthless severity will ever lead to success .
(Von Trotha) Bestial and pitiless savages: the most vicious, dishonest, treacherous and cruel creatures of all – striking terror into the hearts of all civilised Europeans. Barbarous devourers of human flesh – cowardly and ignorant. Born to fail – to succumb to a higher civilisation; to labour and toil in the interests of the superior German people .
(Leutwein) They are an excessively idle race of creatures: they could be seen basking in the sun for days together in listless activity; frequently almost perishing from thirst or hunger .
(Von Trotha) But the animals would have their masters: the greatest military nation on earth. The majestic armies of the Kaiser taught anew how far men can surpass the boundaries of human endurance when a strong and unbendable will rules . Our soldiers, whenever they withdrew, saw fit to poison their waterholes. Then would the tribes know our power. After all, we were not fighting against an enemy respecting the rules of fairness, but against savages. Never – never – must we allow the Negroes to prevail. The consequences of such a victory would be dire indeed, as even now the creatures believe that Africa belongs to them . Our men must function as a soldier is supposed to function – without mercy; with no remorse.
(Leopold) Yes – for the preservation of civilisation itself. It is God’s will that they should lose their natural barbarism to nations of culture. It serves the development of mankind and its prosperity to make such races serviceable. The greatest possible working efficiency is always paramount. There is no place for sickly sentimentalism. Such creatures are important only as units of labour.
(Stanley) The black has always deemed labour to be beneath his dignity. His weak limbs and delicate physique disqualifying him from all but the most pitiful undertakings .
(Von Trotha) Cowherds, shepherds and menials – thoroughly indifferent to personal hygiene .
(Robinson) [Holding his glass of wine slightly tremulously before placing it down on the table – he maintains his grip holding it in place] Surely one can achieve the same ends by different means? A reservation can be created anywhere; even the reluctant can be improved.
(Von Trotha) No. The Negroes deserved death before God and man, not because they murdered two hundred farmers, nor even because they revolted against us, but because they built no houses and they dug no wells . Disease was a God given blessing. The savages’ worthlessness – their ultimate fate – was extinction: the entitlement to rule was ours by virtue of divine ordinance and natural right. War is the great element of civilisation, and our destiny was conquest. Indeed, the moment a nation ceases to extend its sway, it falls a prey to an inferior but more energetic neighbour . Gentlemen: the weaker neighbour must perish. It is right that it is so.
[Robinson knocks his (full) glass over – the wine spills from the table to the floor. There is a moment of quiet; the wine glass rolls audibly for several seconds. The lights around the scene make the liquid glitter brightly both crimson and golden – the radiance is cast for a moment on Von Trotha’s face].
(Von Trotha) What is life as lived by men? It is the nation lives on; the nation alone is eternal. There is little to gain from peace. A willing sacrifice of many lives upon the altar of civilisation – that has meaning. It is death which is glorious, not life. It is the dead whose life is everlasting – the life evermore. They are nothing; their nation is everything. Gentlemen, the law of nature is the law of reason.
[The other participants murmur their assent]
(Von Trotha) The tribes will come to know this.
The desert fox, the spider, even the asp
Will find succour in the cold and the damp;
But not them.
A storm will sweep the world,
Without pity or sorrow.
There will be no more yesterdays;
There shall be no tomorrow.
Not for them –
Never will the revolting tribe prevail;
They shall beget sons and daughters, but shall not enjoy them.
The trees and fruit of their land shall the locust consume .
The day cometh that shall burn them up;
They shall be dust under the soles.
Neither their silver nor their gold shall save them.
Great shall be the day when driven cattle
Are slain by the words of a mouth.
They shall walk quietly, everyone his path; breathing gently.
The earth shall not quake, nor the heavens tremble.
The calf which totters shall suckle and skip to the last;
Flowers will bloom, and blooms flower.
And it shall come to pass:
Men slow to anger, and of great heart,
Yet shall make the morning darkness.
The man who sacrifices shall kiss the calf ;
The days shall come when the reaper overtakes the ploughman;
And the least grain shall not stir the earth.
Men without fear, without anguish, with nerves to endure,
Will stand on the burnt plain, will look out over the ruins,
And their eye will not spare.
The day shall cast shadow;
The flesh shall fill the valleys,
Shall water the earth with blood.
The mountain will burn with fire, and become darkness.
And it shall come to pass;
Women will be made childless –
Not by the sword, but by the gentle hand.
The womb shall smoulder, and the breast run dry.
Mothers will rend the caul.
Fathers shall seek death, and find it not;
Shall desire to cease, but decease shall remain elusive .
Moments of joy will be their eternal sorrow;
Life shall be death unto them.
The stones will weep from the wall;
The limbs of the trees will testify .
They will cry to God, but find the sky empty;
They will run, all together –
Small and great, young and old –
The gate shall be opened, and they shall be brought to nothing.
The light in there is darkness everlasting –
It draws in and never gives out.
No more than the bones of locusts and the husks of wheat –
Swept along by the gentlest wind.
Of remains shall be no trace.
Memory will gutter; will extinguish.
Men’s frames shall burn as incense;
But the earth will keep her quietness.
They will not rise from the flames;
They will not return from the ashes.
The only sound shall be silence;
The only sight – naught, and evermore.
Still flows the river, and shall forever flow.
And it shall come to pass,
That everything that liveth, which moveth,
Whithersoever the rivers shall course, shall cease .
They are nothing; they will be nothing
But the shadow of the wind and the cry of the sun;
And this for all time.
But shall the sword devour forever?
Shall its strokes never cease?
The fires will wane;
They will come to an end.
The burning will at last to embers come;
Yet shall scorch the earth once more.
A new birth will see the dawn –
There will be no horizon;
The river will course with a halo of ashes.
As the sun rises and gleams on the waves’ froth;
As each breaks and retreats once more,
Time and again, again and in time,
The waters will wash clean, run clear and run cold:
Rivers of blood, rivers of gold.
[Von Trotha places his glass of wine on table before him once more, leans back and begins to sing mildly]
(Von Trotha) ‘Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me’
(Sutherland) Take me away from here, please.
(Ilanga) Yes; we can leave now.
(Von Trotha) ‘Small and white, clean and bright,
You look happy to meet me’
[Sutherland and his guide leave at this point. The intonation continues quietly in the distance as they depart].
(All in unison) ‘Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever.
Bless my homeland forever’
[Sutherland and his guide are walking on together. It is apparent that Sutherland is weary, but there is a faint vitality about his movements now. He and Ilanga are treading a slightly sandy, light-brown rock path, which has evidently seen much traffic. The pair’s surroundings are cavernous, but not intimidating, and the echoes are soft and intimate. There is a note of warmth in the air blowing in faintly from the distance. The backdrop is dark; but the foreground is light as early dawn].
(Ilanga) Day is rising on the world once more;
We must depart; you have seen all.
The way is long, the road rough going.
(Sutherland) I apologise: my pace is slowing.
(Ilanga) It is not you; it is the way.
As one draws close it moves away.
(Sutherland) Will we see the birth of day?
(Ilanga) If we’re swift, perhaps we may.
The path is coarse, jagged and bumpy.
(Sutherland) Thank heaven for my slippers, frankly.
Lead on; my heart is heavy, but my limbs are lusty.
(Ilanga) The way is rugged and narrow –
Steep and awkward to ascend.
(Sutherland) I’m resolute and stout –
Not limp, nor frail, albeit husky.
(Ilanga) Let us begin then with the end.
(Sutherland) Take me on, any way we wend.
(Ilanga) There is but one route out of here.
It is a solitary scale – up crags, up boulders, and ice –
Wherein the foot would seek to speed in vain .
(Sutherland) Better that than here remain,
Enthralled in such a morbid lair;
Better one’s arse should grow thread-bare.
(Ilanga) The way is narrow, and there is no point of rest.
(Sutherland) Great. That’s just fabulous.
Anyway, let’s get going.
(Ilanga) You will come to the light at the end.
That is the beginning.
(Sutherland) You mean I have to start over again?
(Ilanga) [nods] The night is far spent; the day will soon start .
Time left for one last encounter before you depart.
[Enter Satan, seated. Sutherland and his guide walk along a circular path winding upwards, and walk a small distance past an aged and insubstantial clerk seated at a desk, writing and filing, without Sutherland noticing. The pair stop; the guide ushers Sutherland towards the man. He is pleasant and smartly clothed, dressed in a dark grey suit, pin-striped light grey; a white shirt and a rich crimson tie; he has elegant spectacles. Satan is an older gentleman (c. sixty) of acumen; politely spoken and amiable, he remains affable throughout].
(Ilanga) Here we are.
[Satan is shuffling his paperwork and organising forms intermittently].
(Sutherland) What? That’s him? I don’t believe it.
(Ilanga) Nobody ever does.
(Satan) [Speaks over his shoulder without initially looking up] Good evening, young man. How are you? Who are you? Where are you going?
(Sutherland) I’m not sure, exactly.
(Satan) Where would you like to go?
(Sutherland) Home. Bed, in truth.
(Satan) Really? We have a wonderful chamber by the way if you wish for respite.
(Sutherland) Well, I’m near enough the end now, aren’t I? And I couldn’t possibly prefer a warm bed to climbing a rocky outcrop and a tunnel of ice. Please could you show me the way out?
(Satan) [Turns around to face Sutherland) I’m afraid not. But I can at least show you where it lies. [Points to a passage – stone walled, leading sharply upwards, and set in the wall to his right: both the wall and the tunnel are rough hewn; there is a dim yet noticeable brightness coming from within the tunnel; the floor of the tunnel is manifestly well-trodden].
(Sutherland) Will you explain something to me, please?
(Satan) If I can, I would be glad to.
(Sutherland) Why is there so much misery here?
(Satan) I’m afraid I can’t answer that. I don’t create; nor decide who remains here and for what duration. I have no power to keep those here who wish to leave; nor in truth would I desire to do so. Decisions are not mine to make. I have no such influence; nor strength, even. My knees won’t even permit me to kneel – not on this cold floor anyway. I tried it once and found the experience wanting – I have no passion for it, in truth – [taps knees] they’ve creaked ever since – ghastly cracking noise.
(Sutherland) Would you like a hand getting up?
(Satan) No, no; thank you. I’ve never had a need to rise since. I shall end up resembling the chair I sit upon; but we all do eventually, I suppose. Now, is there anything more I can help you with?
(Sutherland) This is the only way out, presumably?
(Satan) Quite correct. Your appearance belies your intellect, if you don’t mind my saying so. You’re by no means obliged to take it, of course.
(Sutherland) Really? There’s another exit?
(Satan) Oh no; but you’re welcome to stay here as long as you wish to.
(Sutherland) I’ll take my chances, thank you. Is it as difficult as said?
(Satan) It is precipitous and barbed.
(Sutherland) I’m not happy about this.
(Satan) Nonetheless, there is only one way to leave here; and you must walk it alone. The path is difficult and dark – only wide enough for each traveller to walk unaided, I’m afraid. And you’re likely to stumble in the darkness. It is regrettable, but it is so.
(Sutherland) I mean, well, I don’t mean to go on about it, but it’s not like I asked to come here.
(Satan) None do. Need has little to do with desire.
(Sutherland) Isn’t there like a lift, or an escalator-pavement, or something?
(Satan) A what?
(Satan) Take care, young fellow. Rocks and ice will have their way; but it is not our ruling – it is one we must obey. About mid-way you shall see a pin-prick of light, but it won’t get any larger until you reach it. Some find it enough to see by; others, unhappily, not.
(Sutherland) Do you have a torch, or a light?
(Satan) Oh no; no, I’m afraid. Budgets and such.
(Sutherland) I might’ve guessed as much.
(Satan) You’ll have to remove your glasses also: for safety – should they break, and the glass splinter…well, you can picture the rest, I’m sure. For obvious reasons, we are very conscious of personal well-being here – you wouldn’t believe the amount of injury claimants and solicitors I’ve processed today already.
(Sutherland) Are they tormented?
(Satan) Oh yes; quite grievously. It is time for you to leave, however. As you reach the mid-point of the climb, the air begins to thin, and the atmosphere becomes chill. I don’t intend to dissuade you – I couldn’t if I wished to, which I do not – but you seem like a pleasant young man; and if it’s not getting too personal, you don’t seem the type to enjoy tangible harshness. It is the only route out though, I’m afraid. Stalactites and stalagmites, too, at points. I forget which is which; I don’t suppose it matters when you’re braving them.
(Ilanga) Come now, you must take the road and complete your journey. I must finish mine.
(Satan) I will be here still, should you wish to return. Even occasional visits would be most pleasant; should you turn around, you will find the warm glow here easy enough to follow. No need to retrace your steps. Merely take a seat, and you will skelter down swiftly enough.
(Sutherland) One last thing: tell me, please – what end may be in store for me?
(Satan) This I cannot tell – cannot be said – and there is no need.
If you knew all, could your mind be at liberty?
(Sutherland) So I must go without – withal must dare?
Out from within to the bitter bright air?
(Ilanga) Your path is your own; and you must walk it alone.
(Satan) And all of this you needs must dare,
Unless you wish to remain set here.
(Sutherland) Not bloody likely. No offence.
(Satan) None taken. The creation is not of my making.
There is but one point more, for posterity:
When to the world thou art restored,
Recall my name to living memory.
(Sutherland) And the creaking of your seat?
(Satan) Yes, and that, should you find it meet.
(Sutherland) And the rasping of your knees?
(Satan) Yes, and that, if you so please.
(Sutherland) And the clearing of your…
(Satan) Go now.
(Ilanga) We must take leave here; you must go and I return.
(Sutherland) I’m grateful for whatever I’ve learned; whatsoever indeed it be.
(Ilanga) And I’m glad that such unwitting profit could have its source in me.
(Sutherland) This long night I’ve journeyed wide and far.
(Ilanga) Go forth to look once more upon the stars .
[Sutherland begins to ascend the path before him with something of trepidation; but remembers his boarding of the Oarsman’s craft, begins to climb, and does not look back. Scene ends]
[Sutherland awakes: drawing the curtains of his room to a bright winter day. It is early in the morning. The air outside is chill, but clear and light. Sutherland is subsequently pottering around the flat; wearing his bright blue dressing gown and fuzzy pink slippers. He begins scouring the cupboards and the fridge. When speaking, his voice is glutinous].
(Sutherland) What have we that I might swipe?
Biscuits, cake or fruit right ripe?
[The cupboards and fridge are barren]
Ah, right. My shopping list.
[Feels weak and rubs his eyes; sits down at the kitchen table. Looks at his slippers]
My shoes! I can’t afford to bloody replace them!
It is the onset of evening; Sutherland is still sitting at the kitchen table, with one of many mugs of coffee, looking pensive and trembling with his grippe; R. enters with groceries.
(R.) How are you feeling?
(Sutherland) Cold of hand; sore of head.
Fatigued of heart; desirous of bed.
(Sutherland) Terrible. Never felt worse. What size shoes do you take?
(R.) Ten. Why?
(Sutherland) Oh, no reason. Do you know anybody in size thirteen?
[R. takes blastic bowl out of freezer]
(Sutherland) The freezer!
(R.) Yes; the freezer.
(Sutherland) No – I was looking for something to eat earlier. I didn’t think to check there.
(R.) Haven’t you eaten?
(Sutherland) Not today, no.
(R.) Well this’ll be done in a few minutes. [Mirowaves]
Maybe you should go back to bed.
(Sutherland) No; bad dreams. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a weird bloody nightmare.
(R.) Was it the one about Andrew Lloyd Webber?
(Sutherland) [Pause] What?
(R.) The one about…
(Sutherland) How did you know about that?
(R.) I overheard you telling your friend about it.
(Sutherland) You were ear-wigging?
(R.) I was making a cup of tea: you were both at the table.
(Sutherland) How much did you hear?
(R.) The part about the casting couch; and your father watching disapprovingly. Your friend was excited, if I remember rightly.
(Sutherland) [Pause; frowns] Well it definitely wasn’t that dream. What did you get, anyway?
(R.) Cold cure [pours contents of bag onto table]
(Sutherland) [Leafs through] Green olives?
(R.) I heard you mention them.
(Sutherland) Right; yes. Lovely. [Pause] You know I don’t believe in God, right?
(R.) Look, I know I’m good but let’s be sensible.
(R.) I’m not a substitute.
(Sutherland) If he or she did exist, do you think they’d be forgiving?
(R.) Why? What’ve you done?
(Sutherland) No – seriously.
(R.) Sure. Hopefully. Mercy wouldn’t be up to much if it wasn’t merciful.
What’s forgiveness without forgiveness? Why, anyway?
(Sutherland) Doesn’t matter.
[Microwave pings. R. takes bowl out and places on table]
(Sutherland) [Looks dubious] What is it?
(R.) Vegetarian chicken soup. Eat of it: ‘twill cure what ails ye.
(Sutherland) [Tastes it and winces at the temperature] Quite nice. [Coughs] Jesus.
(R.) Three types of chilli. You don’t have to like it; but it’ll help you sweat out your fever.
(Sutherland) [Coughs again].
(R.) You don’t like it?
(Sutherland) Don’t believe it. I could eat hot coals at the moment. I’ve never had such an appetite [Eyes beginning to swelter; but Sutherland finishes the bowl ravenously].
(Sutherland) Have you ever been in love with anyone?
(R.) Well, I’ve been at the cutting edge of narcissism for many a year. Why, only the other day…
(Sutherland) Why not?
(R.) Yes; once. Why, anyway?
(Sutherland) No reason.
(R.) Are you sure you’re feeling alright?
(Sutherland) Um? Oh; yeah – I don’t feel too bad actually. My legs aren’t half wobbly though.
(R.) Maybe you should see your doctor.
(Sutherland) My doctors are bloody evil. The last time I went for my hayfever meds one of them gave me a blood test just to spite me. Honestly. He wasn’t going to until I told him I was afraid of needles, the bastard. God knows what he’d do if I went for the sake of a sodding cold. Probably prescribe a bloody head transplant! Mind you, there might be something in that [scene ends].
(Sutherland) Do you think I’m handsome?
(R.) Are you asking me if I find you attractive?
(Sutherland) Why don’t girls like me?
(R.) I like you.
(Sutherland) That’s not the same.
(R.) True; though I’m not the most masculine of men.
(Sutherland) [Pause] What is it about virginity? Why does everyone make such a fuss over it?
(R.) I don’t know.
(Sutherland) Too virginal; not virginal enough. Forty vestal virgins in heaven.
(R.) I know. Surely it’s the sinful ones – the one’s who aren’t virgins – that you’d want to meet in heaven anyway.
(Sutherland) Exactly. Forty sinful women sounds pretty heavenly to me; especially on earth. The wickedness – the depravity! It would be nice.
(R.) Why, anyway?
(Sutherland) Why what?
(R.) Why all the questions?
(Sutherland) I ask a lot of questions.
(R.) True; but the kind of questions you normally ask me are usually in the vein of ‘which came first: women or men?’.
(Sutherland) True. Mitosis, incidentally, I think. Maybe if I got my teeth fixed.
(R.) What? Your teeth?
(Sutherland) The crooked ones at the front. And my hair.
(R.) Your crooked hair?
(Sutherland) [Looks desultory] I’m not a man of modest proportion. I’ve had to add another notch to my belt in the last year already.
(Sutherland) Well, look at me.
(R.) You’ve been eating jam.
(Sutherland) What? Oh, yeah. A couple of days ago, actually. But that’s precisely the point.
(R.) You like jam?
(Sutherland) No –
(R.) You don’t like it?
(Sutherland) Stop it please. People take one look at me and I know what they think.
(R.) That you’re undecided on jam?
(Sutherland) You know what I mean.
(R.) It’s their loss. Why do you care about that stuff?
(Sutherland) I don’t! I would love to meet a man – well, a woman – with crooked hair. Or not, actually. I mean that’s not what I look for specifically, but…nevermind. Maybe if I dressed differently.
(R.) If you dressed differently?
(Sutherland) If I wore better clothes. Smarter. A suit, maybe. A tie.
(R.) A suit? You’re a student. When was the last time you ironed anything? You don’t get out of bed before mid-day most weeks.
(Sutherland) Or if I had money. People would like me then.
(R.) Why would you care about such nonsense?
(Sutherland) It’s what people think.
(R.) Who cares? It doesn’t matter.
(Sutherland) I know; but it doesn’t bloody help.
(R.) Things don’t always need to be perfect [takes Sutherland’s hand]. You do, however, need to take a shower [scene ends].