Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Thus Ends the World, Scene 3

Scene 1
Scene 2

Scene 3

[Richard pacing alone in the antechamber]

Richard: O Timeless Hope of helpless souls,
Thou Endless and Sublime,
Stand Thou as my vindication,
Or my forbidding judge?
Is she right?—
            She, with whom my love waxed slow,
            But now burns in riotous flames
            Of gratitude and fierce respect
            For all her manifold charms—
Is she right about Thee, O God?
Cruel, careless, helpless, or dead…

If Thou, in ruthless providence,
Made fall the branch that crushed my son
Simply to cause us pain,
A disgracious, superfluous raging
Of Thy wrath before Thy self-appointed time,
            Then yes, Thou art cruel…
                        But faith cannot abide that.

If Thou art so distant from us,
            O Unmoved Mover,
As to be hard-set against
            The smallest reflex of pity,
An adamantine wall of unimpassioned power
            In the face of earthly suffering,
So that the simplest act of mercy,
            The averting of the fateful blow,
                        Was too much for Thy undertaking—
Then yes, Thou art careless…
            But faith cannot abide that either.

If Thou stand in endless struggle
            ‘Gainst foes who whelm Thy might—
                        Evil and sin and dark mischance—
And Thou, though good-hearted, strong and true,
            Must still abandon some forlorn field
                        To the sternest of defeats,
Then yes, Thou art helpless…
            But such faith, while taking consolation
                        From Thy fidelity and love,
            Is left still more disconsolate
                        By the prospect of Thy fall.

If Thou art dead and gone,
            A frail idea whose unreality
                        Mocks the frailty of Thy followers,
A shadow dancing on our cavern walls
            For which no light gives source—
Then we are lost to ourselves alone,
            With never an escape—
                        No salvation from the harshness
                        Of a hateful reality
                        Where nothing loves mankind.
Oh, would that Thou wert helpless, careless, cruel,
            Than lost to us in black unfaith!

My heart speaks no to every choice,
            So what remains to us?
That Charles is damned for his misdeeds?
            No, there Mary strikes it true—
Not perfect, he, but made of patient faith
            Such that men would joy to praise.

Then I, I…is it I?
Dark my heart, yes—
            I know nothing so well as this—
                        Bur dark enough to merit torture
                        On heaven’s grinding rack?
Lord of the estate am I,
            And death-breathing avarice
Knocks often at my door.
Or perhaps I am the unjust lord, not Thou,
            Who’ve thought too little of my yeomen
                        ‘Til justice turns the balance
                        By breaking my heart, as I,
                        Thoughtless master, must oft have broken theirs.
But no, I think not—
            Fairness is my guiding aim.
Then what? Failure to pray to Thee
            As Thou deserve?
                        No, that’s the place of all mankind.
A lustful glance at comely maiden?
            If so, this punishment unfits
                        The measure of the crime.
Perhaps an old attachment, too long held—
            A love I’ve no more right to love—
                        Is it this, O God?
Have mercy on Thy servant,
            And grant sweet consolation
                        Of knowing the unspoken Why.
Enough. I go to St. Julian’s.
            I must speak with her again.

[Richard exits]