Tilbake

Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen

ACT 4

SCENE THIRTEENTH

(In Cairo. A large courtyard, surrounded by high walls and buildings. Barred windows; iron cages.)

(THREE KEEPERS in the courtyard. A FOURTH comes in.)

THE NEW-COMER

Schafmann, say, where's the director gone?

A KEEPER

He drove out this morning some time before dawn.

THE FIRST

I think something must have occurred to annoy him;
for last night-

ANOTHER

Hush, be quiet; he's there at the door!

(BEGRIFFENFELDT leads PEER GYNT in, locks the gate, and puts the key in his pocket.)

PEER

(to himself).

Indeed an exceedingly gifted man;
almost all that he says is beyond comprehension.

(Looks around.)

So this is the Club of the Savants, eh?

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Here you will find them, every man jack of them;-
the group of Interpreters threescore and ten;
it's been lately increased by a hundred and sixty-

(Shouts to the KEEPERS.)

Mikkel, Schlingelberg, Schafmann, Fuchs,-
into the cages with you at once!

THE KEEPERS

We!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Who else, pray? Get in, get in!
When the world twirls around, we must twirl with it too.

(Forces them into a cage.)

He's arrived this morning, the mighty Peer;-
the rest you can guess,-I need say no more.

(Locks the cage door, and throws the key into a well.)

PEER

But, my dear Herr Doctor and Director, pray-?

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Neither one nor the other! I was before-
Herr Peer, are you secret? I must ease my heart-

PEER

(with increasing uneasiness).

What is it?

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Promise you will not tremble.

PEER

I will do my best, but-

BEGRIFFENFELDT

(draws him into a corner, and whispers).

The Absolute Reason
departed this life at eleven last night.

PEER

God help me-!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Why, yes, it's extremely deplorable.
And as I'm placed, you see, it is doubly unpleasant;
for this institution has passed up to now
for what's called a madhouse.

PEER

A madhouse, ha!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Not now, understand!

PEER

(softly, pale with fear).

Now I see what the place is!
And the man is mad;-and there's none that knows it!

(Tries to steal away.)

BEGRIFFENFELDT

(following him).

However, I hope you don't misunderstand me?
When I said he was dead, I was talking stuff.
He's beside himself. Started clean out of his skin,-
just like my compatriot Munchausen's fox.

PEER

Excuse me a moment-

BEGRIFFENFELDT

(holding him back).

I meant like an eel;-
it was not like a fox. A needle through his eye;-
and he writhed on the wall-

PEER

Where can rescue be found!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

A snick round his neck, and whip! out of his skin!

PEER

He's raving! He's utterly out of his wits!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Now it's patent, and can't be dissimulated,
that this from-himself-going must have for result
a complete revolution by sea and land.
The persons one hitherto reckoned as mad,
you see, became normal last night at eleven,
accordant with Reason in its newest phase.
And more, if the matter be rightly regarded,
it's patent that, at the aforementioned hour,
the sane folks, so called, began forthwith to rave.

PEER

You mentioned the hour, sir, my time is but scant-

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Your time, did you say? There you jog my remembrance!

(Opens a door and calls out.)

Come forth all! The time that shall be is proclaimed!
Reason is dead and gone; long live Peer Gynt!

PEER

Now, my dear good fellow-!

(The LUNATICS come one by one, and at intervals, into the courtyard.)

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Good morning! Come forth,
and hail the dawn of emancipation!
Your Kaiser has come to you!

PEER

Kaiser?

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Of course!

PEER

But the honour's so great, so entirely excessive-

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Oh, do not let any false modesty sway you
at an hour such as this.

PEER

But at least give me time-!
No, indeed, I'm not fit; I'm completely dumbfounded!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

A man who has fathomed the Sphinx's meaning!
A man who's himself!

PEER

Ay, but that's just the rub.
It's true that in everything I am myself;
but here the point is, if I follow your meaning,
to be, so to phrase it, outside oneself.

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Outside? No, there you are strangely mistaken!
It's here, sir, that one is oneself with a vengeance;
oneself, and nothing whatever besides.
We go, full sail, as our very selves.
Each one shuts himself up in the barrel of self,
in the self-fermentation he dives to the bottom,-
with the self-bung he seals it hermetically,
and seasons the staves in the well of self.
No one has tears for the other's woes;
no one has mind for the other's ideas.
We're our very selves, both in thought and tone,
ourselves to the spring-board's uttermost verge,-
and so, if a Kaiser's to fill the throne,
it is clear that you are the very man.

PEER

O would that the devil-!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Come, don't be cast down;
almost all things in nature are new at the first.
"Oneself;"-come, here you shall see an example;
I'll choose you at random the first man that comes

(To a gloomy figure.)

Good-day, Huhu! Well, my boy, wandering round
for ever with misery's impress upon you?

HUHU

Can I help it, when the people,
race by race, dies untranslated?

(To PEER GYNT.)

You're a stranger; will you listen?

PEER

Oh, by all means!

HUHU

Lend your ear then.-
Eastward far, like brow-borne garlands,
lie the Malabarish seaboards.
Hollanders and Portugueses
compass all the land with culture.
There, moreover, swarms are dwelling
of the pure-bred Malabaris.
These have muddled up the language,
they now lord it in the country.-
But in long-departed ages
there the orang-outang was ruler.
He, the forest's lord and master,
freely fought and snarled in freedom.
As the hand of nature shaped him,
just so grinned he, just so gaped he.
He could shriek unreprehended;
he was ruler in his kingdom.-
Ah, but then the foreign yoke came,
marred the forest-tongue primeval.
Twice two hundred years of darkness
brooded o'er the race of monkeys;
and, you know, nights so protracted
bring a people to a standstill.-
Mute are now the wood-notes primal;
grunts and growls are heard no longer;-
if we'd utter our ideas,
it must be by means of language.
What constraint on all and sundry!
Hollanders and Portugueses,
half-caste race and Malabaris,
all alike must suffer by it.-
I have tried to fight the battle
of our real, primal wood-speech,-
tried to bring to life its carcass,-
proved the people's right of shrieking,-
shrieked myself, and shown the need of
shrieks in poems for the people.-
Scantly, though, my work is valued.-
Now I think you grasp my sorrow.
Thanks for lending me a hearing;-
have you counsel, let me hear it!

PEER

(softly).

It is written: Best be howling
with the wolves that are about you.

(Aloud.)

Friend, if I remember rightly,
there are bushes in Morocco,
where orang-outangs in plenty
live with neither bard nor spokesman;-
their speech sounded Malabarish;-
it was classical and pleasing.
Why don't you, like other worthies,
emigrate to serve your country?

HUHU

Thanks for lending me a hearing;-
I will do as you advise me.

(With a large gesture.)

East! thou hast disowned thy singer!
West! thou hast orang-outangs still!

(Goes.)

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Well, was he himself? I should rather think so.
He's filled with his own affairs, simply and solely.
He's himself in all that comes out of him,-
himself, just because he's beside himself.
Come here! Now I'll show you another one,
who's no less, since last evening, accordant with Reason.

(To a FELLAH, with a mummy on his back.)

King Apis, how goes it, my mighty lord?

THE FELLAH

(wildly, to PEER GYNT).

Am I King Apis?

PEER

(getting behind the DOCTOR).

I'm sorry to say
I'm not quite at home in the situation;
but I certainly gather, to judge by your tone-

THE FELLAH

Now you too are lying.

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Your Highness should state
how the whole matter stands.

THE FELLAH

Yes, I'll tell him my tale.
(Turns to PEER GYNT.)

Do you see whom I bear on my shoulders?
His name was King Apis of old.
Now he goes by the title of mummy,
and withal he's completely dead.
All the pyramids yonder he builded,
and hewed out the mighty Sphinx,
and fought, as the Doctor puts it,
with the Turks, both to rechts and links.
And therefore the whole of Egypt
exalted him as a god,
and set up his image in temples,
in the outward shape of a bull.-
But I am this very King Apis,
I see that as clear as day;
and if you don't understand it,
you shall understand it soon.
King Apis, you see, was out hunting,
and got off his horse awhile,
and withdrew himself unattended
to a part of my ancestor's land.
But the field that King Apis manured
has nourished me with its corn,
and if further proofs are demanded,
know, I have invisible horns.
Now, isn't it most accursed
that no one will own my might!
By birth I am Apis of Egypt,
but a fellah in other men's sight.
Can you tell me what course to follow?-
then counsel me honestly.-
The problem is how to make me
resemble King Apis the Great.

PEER

Build pyramids then, your highness,
and carve out a greater Sphinx,
and fight, as the Doctor puts it,
with the Turks, both to rechts and links.

THE FELLAH

Ay, that is all mighty fine talking!
A fellah! A hungry louse!
I, who scarcely can keep my hovel
clear even of rats and mice.
Quick, man,-think of something better,
that'll make me both great and safe,
and further, exactly like to
King Apis that's on my back!

PEER

What if your highness hanged you,
and then, in the lap of earth,
'twixt the coffin's natural frontiers,
kept still and completely dead.

THE FELLAH

I'll do it! My life for a halter!
To the gallows with hide and hair!-
At first there will be some difference,
but that time will smooth away.

(Goes off and prepares to hang himself.)

BEGRIFFENFELDT

There's a personality for you, Herr Peer,-
a man of method-

PEER

Yes, yes; I see-;
but he'll really hang himself! God grant us grace!
I'll be ill;-I can scarcely command my thoughts!

BEGRIFFENFELDT

A state of transition; it won't last long.

PEER

Transition? To what? With your leave-I must go-

BEGRIFFENFELDT

(holding him).

Are you crazy?

PEER

Not yet-. Crazy? Heaven forbid!

(A commotion. The Minister HUSSEIN forces his way through the crowd.)

HUSSEIN

They tell me a Kaiser has come to-day.

(To PEER GYNT.)

It is you?

PEER

(in desperation).

Yes, that is a settled thing!

HUSSEIN

Good.-Then no doubt there are notes to be answered?

PEER

(tearing his hair).

Come on! Right you are, sir;-the madder the better!

HUSSEIN

Will you do me the honour of taking a dip?

(Bowing deeply.)

I am a pen.

PEER

(bowing still deeper).

Why then I am quite clearly
a rubbishy piece of imperial parchment.

HUSSEIN

My story, my lord, is concisely this:
they take me for a sand-box, and I am a pen.

PEER

My story, Sir Pen, is, to put it briefly:
I'm a blank sheet of paper that no one will write on.

HUSSEIN

No man understands in the least what I'm good for;
they all want to use me for scattering sand with!

PEER

I was in a woman's keeping a silver-clasped book;-
it's one and the same misprint to be either mad or sane!

HUSSEIN

(with high leap).

Just fancy, what an exhausting life:
to be a pen and never taste the edge of a knife!

PEER

Just fancy, for a reindeer to leap from on high-
to fall and fall-and never feel the ground beneath your
hoofs!

HUSSEIN

A knife! I am blunt;-quick, mend me and slit me!
The world will go to ruin if they don't mend my point for me! !

PEER

A pity for the world which, like other self-made things,
was reckoned by the Lord to be so excellently good.

BEGRIFFENFELDT

Here's a knife!

HUSSEIN

(seizing it).

Ah, how I shall lick up the ink now!
Oh, what rapture to cut oneself!

(Cuts his throat.)

BEGRIFFENFELDT

(stepping aside).

Pray do not sputter.

PEER

(in increasing terror).

Hold him!

HUSSEIN

Ay, hold me! That is the word!
Hold! Hold the pen! On the desk with the paper-!

(Falls.)

I'm outworn. The postscript-remember it, pray:
He lived and he died as a fate-guided pen!

PEER

(dizzily).

What shall I-! What am I? Thou mighty-, hold fast!
I am all that thou wilt,-I'm a Turk, I'm a sinner-
a hill-troll-; but help;-there was something that burst-!

(Shrieks.)

I cannot just hit on thy name at the moment;-
oh, come to my aid, thou-all madmen's protector!

(Sinks down insensible.)

BEGRIFFENFELDT

(with a wreath of straw in his hand, gives a bound

and sits astride of him).
Ha! See him in the mire enthroned;-
beside himself-! To crown him now!
Long life, long life to Self-hood's Kaiser!

SCHAFMANN

(in the cage).

Es lebe hoch der grosse Peer!


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