Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Thus Ends the World, Scene 2




Cast of Scene 2:


Richard, lord of the Yarbury estates
Mary, Richard’s wife
Charles, Richard and Mary’s dying son
Ailred, steward of the estate
 
Scene 2

[Richard and Ailred standing at Charles’ deathbed; Mary enters]

Mary: No, no, my Charles, no!
        What dark fate befalls us here?
        I walk in nightmare valleys now,
        Disbelieving this could be day.
        Let this be a mistral dream,
        And I an unhappy slumberer,
                Wracked with chills;
        Let not this moment crystalize
                Into the hard reality
                        Of the unforgetfulness of God.
        Oh, to awake!

Richard: If I could wake you, beloved,
        And myself besides,
        From out this hell-sent misery,
        I would tear old Atlas from his mount
                To do the thing.

Mary: Speak to me truth;
        Vain consolations can wait:
        What happened?

Ailred: An act of God, my lady:
        An accident.

Mary: Not the plague?
        I’ve fears of the plague’s touch
        Snaking through my soul.

Ailred: Not the plague.
        The young master was riding the grounds,
        All at peace, when rose a hostile wind.
        It tore loose a great limb
        From the ancient family tree
        That stands on guard at Yarbury gate.
        Master Charles was struck.

Mary: Struck! Does he yet live?

Ailred: Barely, my lady. He breathes,
        But it may be the breath of one
        Not long for this world.

Richard: Enough of truth, Ailred.
        I would speak more consolations—
        Vain reflections of a father’s hope, perhaps,
        Yet what but hope remains?
                So let us hope.

Mary: An act of God, said the steward…
        Why should the King of heaven
        Condemn my son to die?

Richard: Say not that it was God’s hand, beloved—
        Irreverence deepens the terror of the hour.

Ailred: My words were poorly chosen, Lady.

Mary: No, well chosen, Ailred—
        What could this be but divine omen?
        A hostile wind tears down the family tree—
        And in so tearing, uproots my family.

Richard: The Lord is just, but this act
        Was nature’s hateful caprice, nothing more.
        Say not it was our God.

Mary: It was! But he is just, yes,
        And justice is hard and cold,
        Made for days like this!
        I see no mournful sensitivity
                In heaven’s dark severity,
        No tears nor trembling lips that cry
                For the passing of my son.
        My son! Oh, my son…
        What just cause could Christ Almighty have
        For wreaking holy vengeance upon thee?
        None! You were a light, a joy,
        A fanfare on a dappled autumn day—
        Never thought of greed nor lustful smirk
        Ever made pass my Charles’ face—never!
        No, let God be damned a tyrant
        Before my Charles is defamed!

Richard: Mary…

Mary: You! You, Richard, you!
        Bear up to the day’s necessity,
        An accounting of our shame,
        And your misbegotten responsibility
        For pale death knocking at our door!
        Behold the stern assessment of a woman’s mind!
        What shall it be? That God is unjust?
                No, say you. Then what?
        That our Charles was so hated
                By the Fount of Everlasting Love
                That his blood was demanded
                To atone for wicked crimes?
        No? Then you, Richard, you!
        Lord of the house! Planted in Yarbury soil,
                Just like the ancient tree!
        And just like that tree, your weakness
        Now brings ruin to your boy!

Richard: What speak you here?
        What have I done?

Mary: God knows, and you.
        Me, I only know that my son dies
                Upon your stately bed,
        Down-struck by your hallowed branch—
        If God is just, then the fault
                Must needs be yours.
        He punishes the sins of the fathers
        To the third and fourth generation
                Of their children!
        If Charles himself deserved not to die,
        Then either God is cruel,
                Careless,
                        Helpless,
                                Or dead.
        Or the good God still reigns,
                And our son falls
                        For some unspoken crime of yours.

Richard: You pierce my heart, Mary!
        Whence comes this hate for me?

Mary: The cask of my love is split asunder here,
        And all its strength spills out
        On the young man dying yonder.
        The hate you hear is the hollow vacancy
        Of the reservoir of my love—
        It goes, and fire licks the planks
        That once held it so secure.
        Go, before my flame consumes you—
        Go! Out of my seeing,
                Out of my hearing!
                        Just go!

Richard: God have mercy. I go.

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