Tilbake

Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen

ACT 4

SCENE SIXTH

(The tent of an Arab chief, standing alone on an oasis. PEER GYNT, in his Eastern dress, resting on cushions. He is drinking coffee, and smoking a long pipe. ANITRA, and a bevy of GIRLS, dancing and singing before him.)

CHORUS OF GIRLS

The Prophet is come!
The Prophet, the Lord, the All-Knowing One,
to us, to us is he come,
o'er the sand-ocean riding!
The Prophet, the Lord, the Unerring One,
to us, to us is he come,
o'er the sand-ocean sailing!
Wake the flute and the drum!
The Prophet, the Prophet is come!

ANITRA

His courser is white as the milk is
that streams in the rivers of Paradise.
Bend every knee! Bow every head!
His eyes are as bright-gleaming, mild-beaming stars.
Yet none earth-born endureth
the rays of those stars in their blinding splendour!
Through the desert he came.
Gold and pearl-drops sprang forth on his breast.
Where he rode there was light.
Behind him was darkness;
behind him raged drought and the simoom.
He, the glorious one, came!
Through the desert he came,
like a mortal apparelled.
Kaaba, Kaaba stands void;-
he himself hath proclaimed it!

THE CHORUS OF GIRLS

Wake the flute and the drum!
The Prophet, the Prophet is come!

(They continue the dance, to soft music.)

PEER

I have read it in print-and the saying is true-
that no one's a prophet in his native land.-
This position is very much more to my mind
than my life over there 'mong the Charleston merchants.
There was something hollow in the whole affair,
something foreign at the bottom, something dubious behind it;-
I was never at home in their company,
nor felt myself really one of the guild.
What tempted me into that galley at all?
To grub and grub in the bins of trade-
as I think it all over, I can't understand it;-
it happened so; that's the whole affair.-
To be oneself on a basis of gold
is no better than founding one's house on the sand.
For your watch, and your ring, and the rest of your trappings
the good people fawn on you, grovelling to earth;
they lift their hats to your jewelled breast-pin;
but your ring and your breast-pin are not your person.-
A prophet; ay, that is a clearer position.
At least one knows on what footing one stands.
If you make a success, it's yourself that receives
the ovation, and not your pounds-sterling and shillings.
One is what one is, and no nonsense about it;
one owes nothing to chance or to accident,
and needs neither licence nor patent to lean on.-
A prophet; ay, that is the thing for me.
And I slipped so utterly unawares into it,-
just by coming galloping over the desert,
and meeting these children of nature en route.
The Prophet had come to them; so much was clear.
It was really not my intent to deceive-
there's a difference 'twixt lies and oracular answers;
and then I can always withdraw again.
I'm in no way bound; it's a simple matter-;
the whole thing is private, so to speak;
I can go as I came; there's my horse ready saddled;
I am master, in short, of the situation.

ANITRA

(approaching from the tent-door).

Prophet and Master!

PEER

What would my slave?

ANITRA

The sons of the desert await at thy tent-door;
they pray for the light of thy countenance-

PEER

Stop!
Say in the distance I'd have them assemble;
say from the distance I hear all their prayers.
Add that I suffer no menfolk in here!
Men, my child, are a worthless crew,-
inveterate rascals you well may call them!
Anitra, you can't think how shamelessly
they have swind-I mean they have sinned, my child!-
Well, enough now of that; you may dance for me, damsels!
The Prophet would banish the memories that gall him.

THE GIRLS

(dancing).

The Prophet is good! The Prophet is grieving
for the ill that the sons of the dust have wrought!
The Prophet is mild; to his mildness be praises;
he opens to sinners his Paradise!

PEER

(his eyes following ANITRA during the dance).

Legs as nimble as drumsticks flitting.
She's a dainty morsel indeed, that wench!
It's true she has somewhat extravagant contours,-
not quite in accord with the norms of beauty.
But what is beauty? A mere convention,-V a coin made current by time and place.
And just the extravagant seems most attractive
when one of the normal has drunk one's fill.
In the law-bound one misses all intoxication.
Either plump to excess or excessively lean;
either parlously young or portentously old;-
the medium is mawkish.-
Her feet-they are not altogether clean;
no more are her arms; in especial one of them.
But that is at bottom no drawback at all.
I should rather call it a qualification-
Anitra, come listen!

ANITRA

(approaching).

Thy handmaiden hears!

PEER

You are tempting, my daughter! The Prophet is touched.
If you don't believe me, then hear the proof;-
I'll make you a Houri in Paradise!

ANITRA

Impossible, Lord!

PEER

What? You think I am jesting?
I'm in sober earnest, as true as I live!

ANITRA

But I haven't a soul.

PEER

Then of course you must get one!

ANITRA

How, Lord?

PEER

Just leave me alone for that;-
I shall look after your education.
No soul? Why, truly you're not over bright,
as the saying goes. I've observed it with pain.
But pooh! for a soul you can always find room.
Come here! let me measure your brain-pan, child.-
There is room, there is room, I was sure there was.
It's true you never will penetrate
very deep; to a large soul you'll scarcely attain-
but never you mind; it won't matter a bit;-
you'll have plenty to carry you through with credit-

ANITRA

The Prophet is gracious-

PEER

You hesitate? Speak!

ANITRA

But I'd rather-

PEER

Say on; don't waste time about it!

ANITRA

I don't care so much about having a soul;- give me rather-

PEER

What, child?

ANITRA

(pointing to his turban).

That lovely opal

PEER

(enchanted, handing her the jewel).

Anitra! Anitra! true daughter of Eve!
I feel thee magnetic; for I am a man.
And, as a much-esteemed author has phrased it:
"Das Ewig-Weibliche ziehet uns an!"


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