Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen



(In Egypt. Daybreak. MEMNON'S STATUE amid the sands.)

(PEER GYNT enters on foot, and looks around him for a while.)


Here I might fittingly start on my wanderings.-
So now, for a change, I've become an Egyptian;
but Egyptian on the basis of the Gyntish I.
To Assyria next I will bend my steps.
To begin right back at the world's creation
would lead to nought but bewilderment.
I will go round about all the Bible history;
its secular traces I'll always be coming on;
and to look, as the saying goes, into its seams,
lies entirely outside both my plan and my powers.

(Sits upon a stone.)

Now I will rest me, and patiently wait
till the statue has sung its habitual dawn-song.
When breakfast is over, I'll climb up the pyramid;
if I've time, I'll look through its interior afterwards.
Then I'll go round the head of the Red Sea by land;
perhaps I may hit on King Potiphar's grave.-
Next I'll turn Asiatic. In Babylon I'll seek for
the far-renowned harlots and hanging gardens,-
that's to say, the chief traces of civilisation.
Then at one bound to the ramparts of Troy.
From Troy there's a fareway by sea direct
across to the glorious ancient Athens;-
there on the spot will I, stone by stone,
survey the Pass that Leonidas guarded.
I will get up the works of the better philosophers,
find the prison where Socrates suffered, a martyr-;
oh no, by-the-bye-there's a war there at present-!
Well then, my Hellenism must even stand over.

(Looks at his watch.)

It's really too bad, such an age as it takes
for the sun to rise. I am pressed for time.
Well then, from Troy-it was there I left off-

(Rises and listens.)

What is that strange sort of murmur that's rushing-?




From the demigod's ashes there soar, youth-renewing,
birds ever singing.
Zeus the Omniscient
shaped them contending
Owls of wisdom,
my birds, where do they slumber?
Thou must die if thou rede not
the song's enigma!


How strange now,-I really fancied there came
from the statue a sound. Music, this, of the Past.
I heard the stone-accents now rising, now sinking.-
I will register it, for the learned to ponder.

(Notes in his pocket-book.)

"The statue did sing. I heard the sound plainly,
but didn't quite follow the text of the song.
The whole thing, of course, was hallucination.-
Nothing else of importance observed to-day."
(Proceeds on his way.)

From the homepage of Espen Joranger