Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part III: Four Plays
CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY
The scene is laid in the United States
Una. It is a breath of joy indeed to be once again in my studio, away from all the turmoil of life. It is a joy, which is beyond words. It is a happiness, which cannot be found anywhere else. – My studio has been neglected for such a long while. I have been occupied with no end of things, busy answering life's unceasing demands. But whenever I find time, my one and only thought is to come here and be myself again. Home has no joy for me, nor do I find happiness anywhere else. No one understands me, and all those whom I know are absorbed in their own lives. – Every step I take I am drawn back, and all that I try to hold breaks, for it is rotten; the rock I seek to rest upon crumbles, for it is made of sand. In the world's fair everything I purchase costs more than it is worth, and if I have anything to sell I get nothing for it. By the continual pinpricks that I feel through life, my heart is riddled. O life, you are indeed a puzzle; the only solace I have is in my art. (Takes one of her tools in her hand.)
My tools, you are the companions of my solitude! (Looks up at the glass roof.)
The sun, the glorious sun, is sending its rays to lift my heart to cheerfulness.
(Begins to work at the unfinished statue.)
My statue, how long it is since I have touched you!
(A knock is heard at the door.)
Here is someone calling already before I have even begun to work!
(Opens the door. Helen enters.)
Helen My dear Una, I have been looking everywhere for you! Where have you been all this long time? Were you hiding from your friends? If so, be sure we shall find you in the end. You can't run away and hide from us!
Una I did not mean to hide. After a long time I just had a moment to come to my studio. I have not even begun to work yet.
Helen (looking at the half-finished statue) Is this something that you are working at? Dear me, what a dull occupation! Can't you find anything else to do?
Una (perplexed and speechless)
Helen (continues) Una, dear, you spend hours at this useless work in this solitary studio. I can't understand how you can do it!
Una (after a moment's pause) My dear girl, when have I any time to work? All day I am busy at home. At night I lie awake for hours, thinking how to make both ends meet. You know that my parents are no longer able to be responsible for the household? They have both aged very much, and it is upon me alone that the care of the house depends. Yet whenever I have a moment I come here and try to find oblivion in doing this work, the only thing I really care for.
Helen You simple girl, is this the work you live for! I wouldn't give that much (snapping her fingers) for work that brings nothing better. It is simply a waste of time! Excuse me for telling you so.
Una Art seldom brings any material returns. Besides, to expect any would be to me like offering beauty in the marketplace.
Helen I can't understand how you can shut yourself up in this solitary place! If I had no one round me to talk to, life would become so monotonous that I should not know what to do with it.
Una Well, I am happy only when I am by myself. I don't want anyone to talk to. Silence is never long enough for me.
Helen Well, you certainly are a riddle! Now tell me the truth, Una, did you read the Daily Gossip this morning?
Una You know quite well that I don't read the papers. I have too much to do. And besides, I am not particularly interested in the sensational stories in the newspapers. They generally say one thing in the morning and quite the opposite in the evening.
Helen Do you know the rate of exchange today?
Una Whether money goes up or down does not make much difference in our lives when we live from hand to mouth day by day. Moreover, the idea of profiting by the loss of another has always been foreign to my nature.
Helen Do you know the name of the new mayor who has just been elected?
Una No, indeed I don't. My dear girl, I live in quite another world from yours.
Helen You certainly are behind the times. Last night I was at a ball given by Mrs. Wilkins. Everybody in the town who is anybody was present. There was music and dancing all night and great fun. There is a Founders' Ball coming off next week, and Auntie is on the committee. She has asked me to help her. Everyone has been asked to come disguised as someone they think they were in their past lives. Won't that be amusing?
Helen You will come, Una dear, won't you? Though I know that you always avoid social functions. But all the local papers are talking about this. Do come, please.
Una Society life is for people like you, Helen, not for me.
Helen Una, I really wish you were not living such a retired life. What is the good of life if you don't live it?
Una I am not at all interested in society. I prefer the life of a humble artist.
Helen It seems that no one can change your ideas, Una. I must be going now. I'm sorry to have kept you so long from your work. Now be sure and come to the ball. Au revoir.
(They kiss. Exit Helen.)
Una. I don't know why people can't leave me alone! They live their own lives; why can't they let me live mine? (Sighs) Well, I suppose that is the way of the world.
(A knock at the door.)
Una. (opens the door) Father, is that you! Yes, I'm here. I had a spare moment, so I thought I would come and try to finish some work I was doing here. (Leads her father in, holding his arm, and seats him in an armchair.) Well, Father, what have you come to tell me?
Father. My dear child, you are wanted at home, as your mother is not well. When you are out everything goes wrong. Besides, I have never liked the idea of your being an artist. In our family, as you know very well, we have never had any artists; and there has never been any wish for any of the family to become artist. Our people look upon it quite differently from you. As for myself, I never could have imagined you an artist.
Una. Dear Father, those are the old ideas. Now science and art are the great qualifications of the age. And you know, dear Father, I do not do this as a profession; it is my love for art, which makes me take it up.
Father. Una, my child, though we have been for some time in straitened circumstances, yet we have always considered our dignity. Your mother is depressed, and very often feels sad to see you so unlike the other girls in our family, who go into society.
Una. Father, my society consists of the little works of art which are round me in this studio. I feel at home here, and every moment while I am working here I am happy.
Father. My dear child, there are many things in the world besides art which are to be sought in order that one may be really happy. If you never see anyone, no one will ever know you. There are many other things in life, if you will seek for them. Art is all very well to amuse oneself with, but it is not everything that one needs in life.
Una (remains silent. After a moment) All I need, Father, is to make you and Mother happy in every way I can. That is the only thing that interests me in life; and if I have any personal interest, it is in my art.
Father. My child, I must go home and look after your mother. She is not at all well. Come as soon as you can.
Una. Yes, Father dear, I will.
(They kiss, and the Father goes out.)
Una. Never a moment have I to concentrate on my work! How true it is that the world of every soul is different; for the life of one is not the life of another. I wish I could be here and continue my work, but life in the world has so many duties that one cannot ignore them and at the same time live happily.
– Well, I must hurry, or I shall keep poor Father waiting. My work, when shall I be free to come to you again, especially now that I have to make preparations for this ball? (Puts away her tools and leaves for her home.)
Mother's bedroom. Mother ill in bed. Una enters, embraces her mother.
Una. Dear Mother, I was sorry to hear that you don't feel well. No sooner had Father left the studio than I hurried to see how you were. As much as I love my art, I do not wish to be away from home, Mother dear, when you are not well.
Mother. Dear Girl, with us old people there is always something wrong; one moment we feel well, the next moment we don't. What worries me is to see you going only in one direction. The art to which you are so devoted is to us a foreign word. For you know, however poor we may be in our family, there is no such thing known among us as an artist.
Una. Dear Mother, it is not that I love art in order to become an artist. I don't want to become anything; it is beauty that I love.
Mother. My simple child, beauty is to be seen in nature; you need not go to art in order to see beauty. Besides, as they say: 'The country is made by God, the town is made by man.'
Una. Dear Mother, I have always felt that what is not completed in nature is finished in art by the Master of all things. The hand of the artist is guided by the eyes unseen.
Mother. But what do you gain by devoting all your time to something in which you don't wish to make your career? You must think of the future, my dear girl!
Una. Mother dear, we all make our future with whatever we do. But it is the future that will tell what we made. Life to me is the making of something; it only depends what we make. We each make something; it is we who make our highest ideal.
Mother. What do you mean by ideal, my dear child? There is no such thing, my darling girl. Ideal is not to be found in this world. You are yet too young, my darling, to know this. When we were young, we thought also of ideals, but alas, in the end we found that it was only a word.
Una. You are right, Mother, there is never an ideal to be found under the sun, if we do not make it. It is we who, out of our own selves, give all that the ideal wants for it to become an ideal. What we make remains; what we are is destroyed. Rumi says, in his Masnavi,
One creates a heart out of a rock; another turns a heart into a rock.
Mother. Say simple things, my dear girl. This is all confusing to me; what your mother wants is your welfare, your happiness. This is all we wish for you, I and your father both.
Father. Are you here, Una? Get ready to go to the ball. Have you forgotten you were invited to go to Mrs. Wilkins' house?
Una. I had quite forgotten, Father. Thank you for reminding me. I'll just go and get ready. (She embraces her mother and departs.)
Ballroom in Aunt's house.
Aunt, assisted by Helen, receives the guests, who are announced by the names of the characters they have assumed. Shah of Persia, King Tut, Queen of Sheba, Emperor Akbar, Greek Philosopher, Dante and Beatrice, Yusuf and Zulaikha arrive and are announced and received by Aunt and Helen.
(Enter First Queen of Egypt.)
Butler. The Queen of Egypt, consort of King Tut.
(Enter Second Queen of Egypt.)
Butler. The Queen of Egypt, consort of King Tut.
First Queen (to Second Queen.) You were not the consort of King Tut. I was his consort.
Second Queen. Not at all, it is I who was his consort.
First Queen. Nonsense! You don't know what you are saying.
Helen. Let's ask him which was his Queen. He has just risen from his grave. (She is seen asking King Tut.)
King Tut (looks slowly and carefully at both Queens. Scornfully) I don't thing that either of them has ever been my Queen. (Turns away.)
(Enter American Indian. Helen greets him.)
Helen. Were you an American Indian in your past life?
American Indian. No. I don't know what I was in the past, but for the last twenty years I have had an American Indian guide.
Helen. Do you mean a living guide?
American Indian. No, a spirit.
Helen. How did you find a spirit guide?
American Indian. I began by hearing taps at the door for a year before this guide appeared to me, and since then he is always with me.
Helen. How wonderful! And what does he look like?
American Indian (with importance) Just like me!
(He walks about and is welcomed by all.)
American Indian (to First Guest) Are you a medium?
First Guest. No.
American Indian (to Second Guest) Are you psychic?
Second Guest. Not yet.
American Indian (to Aunt) Are you a clairvoyant?
Aunt. I don't even know what you mean by clairvoyant.
American Indian. If you want to know you must go to a seance and hear the trumpet medium. (Continues conversation.)
Butler. Monsieur Jules Ferrier!
(Enter Ferrier, a workman, looking nervous. Aunt greets him, and introduces him to Helen.)
Helen. How extraordinary! Among all the kings and queens you come as a plain workman! Were you that in your past life?
Workman. I don't know anything about my past life, and I only know what I was in this one before I joined the Four Hundred.
Helen. And what was that?
Workman. I was a workman.
Helen. But have you always been a workman?
Workman. No, before that I was a barber in England.
Helen. And before that?
Workman. Oh well, before that I was a chimney-sweep.
Helen. You amusing man! But how did you get into society?
Workman. Oh, I made a lot of money in the war, and now I am invited and received everywhere. But, to tell you the truth, I don't like the life. I feel out of place. I feel lonely, too, and I should like to marry. Do you know of any nice girl to introduce me to?
Helen. Have you been married before?
Workman (nodding his head and looking mysterious) The past is past; the present is present; it is the future that we look forward to!
Helen. I asked if you had been married before.
Workman (impatiently) Suppose I had been married twenty times before, what about it just now?
(At this moment Una is announced. While Helen greets her, the Workman looks at her with interest.)
Helen. What a pleasant surprise to see you at last? Are you really here? I can't believe my eyes? But why aren't you dressed? What are you supposed to be?
Helen. Yourself! What do you mean by that?
Una. Self means always self; it cannot mean any other.
Helen. You have the queerest ideas, my dear! (Aside) What fun it would be to introduce that odd man and this simple girl to each other. I will, presently.
Helen (to Workman) There is a young lady over there whom you would like. I am going to introduce you to her.
Workman (eagerly) Right you are! I am sure I should like her! For among all these kings and queens we're the only two who are dressed simply.
(Helen introduces them to each other. The Workman holds out his hand, but Una draws back slightly; then puts out her hand, but without looking at him.)
Workman. I'm glad to meet you, Miss.
(Una remains silent, her eyes cast down.)
Helen. Now you two must excuse me, I have other things to do. (She leaves them. They sit down.)
Workman. I wonder, Miss, how it happens that among all those who are here, only you and I are so simply dressed. I suppose you don't know your past incarnations any more than I do mine? I am so glad to have found you among all these smart people.
(Una still silent, looking down.)
Workman. Can you dance, Miss? Everyone can but me, it seems. I should not mind trying if you would be my partner, for I am sure we should make a good pair.
Una (as if waking from a dream) Dance? I never dance. (Aside) I feel my soul dance when my body is still.
Workman (to himself) She seems to be in the clouds. I'll try my luck.
Helen (to Una) Please come and sing, or dance.
Una. Don't ask me to take part in it. I am enjoying looking on.
Helen. But do take part!
Una. The spectators alone know reality.
Helen. Come and do something.
Una. What shall I do?
Helen. If you can't sing, recite something.
Una. Very well. (She recites)
'I have loved in life and I have been loved.
I have drunk the bowl of poison from the hands of Love as nectar, and have been raised above life's joy and sorrow.
My heart aflame in love set afire every heart that came in touch with it.
My heart hath been rent and joined again.
My heart hath been broken and made whole again.
My heart hath been wounded and healed again,
A thousand deaths my heart hath died, and, thanks be to Love, it liveth yet.
'I went through Hell and saw there Love's raging fire, and I entered Heaven illuminated with the light of Love.
I wept in love and made all weep with me,
I mourned in love and pierced the hearts of men,
And when my fiery glance fell on the rocks, the rocks burst forth as volcanoes.
The whole world sank in the flood caused by my one tear,
With my deep sigh the earth trembled, and when I cried aloud the name of my beloved, I shook the throne of God in Heaven.
'I bowed my head low in humility, and on my knees I begged of Love,
'Disclose to me, I pray thee, O Love, thy secret.'
She took me gently by my arms and lifted me above the earth, and spoke softly in my ear,
'My dear one, thou thyself art Love, art lover and thyself art the Beloved whom thou hast adored.''
Workman. How nice, Miss! I enjoyed your poetry so much. I could not understand what it was all about. What interested me was one word. You know what that was, don't you?
Una. No, which?
Workman. 'Love,' that is all there is to think about. All these people here are all interested in the same thing – love.
Una. I do not know it yet. To me it seems a blasphemy to hear it on the lips of ordinary people. I don't know a being on earth who is an example of this word.
Workman. You are talking of big things. I don't mean that at all. What I know about love is to be cheerful and gay. See how happy the other people are. Why should not you and I be the same?
Una. Gaiety is not my way of being happy. What are these pleasures to me?
Workman. You are too serious for me. What's the use of being so melancholy?
Una. If I do not join in the gaiety, it does not mean that I am melancholy. I seek happiness in myself.
Workman. But I want you to seek it in me. For you know how I feel when I look at you. You are trying to hold me off by talking so brilliantly, but you look so beautifully when you are sad that I feel like kneeling at your feet. But you know that the thing I want most in the world is to see you laughing.
Una. You can see many people here laughing. You must enjoy it with them. (To herself) Poor man, why does he not look for his gaiety somewhere else?
(Turns away and leaves him. Walks across stage. Stands still.)
Una. O human nature! It is a continual study to see the different directions that the mind takes. Yet how few there are whom you can really call human beings. Alone at home, alone in the society of others – I suppose to be alone is my lot. And it never wearies me. Life in the world is most interesting to me, but solitude away from the world is the longing of my soul.
Una (addressing the Statue) Beloved Image, the ideal of my soul, thou hast been conceived in my soul and I have nursed thee with my tears, until thou hast manifested to my vision. When thou art before me, my Beloved, I rise upon wings and my burden becomes light, but when my little self rises before mine eyes I drop to earth and all its weight falls upon me. Did I make sacrifices for thee? No. Thou art the outcome of my love. How long, how long shall I wait to hear a word from thee? Whether here or elsewhere I have worked for thee and thought of thee alone. Dear, dear Image, thou art the ideal of my heart. O speak to me! My heart patiently awaits thy word, deaf to all that comes from without. O thou who art enshrined in my heart, speak to me! I have yearned to hear thy voice if it were but once.
Statue. Yes, I speak, but I speak only when thou art silent.
Una. Thy whisper to the ears of my heart moves my soul to ecstasy. The waves of joy, which rise out of my heart, form a net in which thy living word may swing.
Statue. Thou hast found thy happiness in working in this place which is my world. Thou didst first imagine my existence, as I lived in thy imagination; now thy imagination has become a reality and my existence has become truth. So thou madest me to be the masterpiece of thine art. Now I am the result of thine art, and in finishing me thou fulfillest the purpose of thy life. Dost thou love me? Then first learn what love means. Love means sacrifice, one continual sacrifice from the beginning to the end. I come to life only when thou becomest dead.
Una. I would willingly die a thousand deaths, if by dying I could gain thy beloved presence. If it were a cup of poison thy beloved hand offered, I would prefer that poison to the bowl of nectar. I value the dust under thy feet, my precious one, most of all treasures the earth holds. If my head could touch the earth of thy dwelling place, I would proudly refuse Khusrau's crown. I would sacrifice all the pleasures the earth can offer me, if I could only retain the pain I have in my feeling heart.
Statue. (holds out a bowl) I offer thee this cup of poison. Take it if thou wilt.
(Una takes the cup. Falls down as though dead)
Statue. (raises her in his arms, embraces her and kisses her, and brings her to life again) Awake! Awake! (She opens her eyes.) Thou hast gone through death, but hast not died. The sacrifice thou madest did not after all rob thee of thy life. It has only raised thee above death. Now thou art living with my life. It is thy love, which hath given thee the life after death, a life to live forever.
Una. Thy light hath illuminated the dark chambers of my mind. Thy love is rooted in the depth of my heart. Thine own eyes are the light of my soul. Thy power worketh behind my action. Thy peace alone is my life's repose. Thy will is behind my every impulse. Thy voice is audible in the words I speak. Thine own image is my countenance. My body is but a cover over the soul. My life is thy very breath, my Beloved, and my self is thine own being.