SCENE FOURTH(A hillside seamed by the dry bed of a torrent. A ruined mill-house beside the stream. The ground is torn up, and the whole place waste. Further up the hill, a large farm-house.)
(An auction is going on in front of the farm-house. There is a great gathering of people, who are drinking, with much noise. PEER GYNT is sitting on a rubbish-heap beside the mill.)
Forward and back, and it's just as far;
out and in, and it's just as strait.-
Time wears away and the river gnaws on.
Go roundabout, the Boyg said;-and here one must.
Now there is only rubbish left over.
(Catches sight of PEER GYNT.)
Are there strangers here too! God be with you, good friend!
Well met! You have lively times here to-day.
Is't a christening junket or a wedding feast?
I'd rather call it a house-warming treat;-
the bride is laid in a wormy bed.
And the worms are squabbling for rags and clouts.
That's the end of the ditty; it's over and done.
All the ditties end just alike;
and they're all old together; I knew 'em as a boy.
(with a casting-ladle).
Just look what a rare thing I've been buying!
In this Peer Gynt cast his silver buttons.
Look at mine, though! The money-bag bought for a halfpenny.
No more, eh? Twopence for the pedlar's pack!
Peer Gynt? Who was he?
All I know is this:
he was kinsman to Death and to Aslak the Smith.
You're forgetting me, man! Are you mad or drunk?
You forget that at Hegstad was a storehouse door.
Ay, true; but we know you were never dainty.
If only she doesn't give Death the slip-
Come, kinsman! A dram, for our kinship's sake!
To the deuce with your kinship! You're maundering in drink-
Oh, rubbish; blood's never so thin as all that;
one cannot but feel one's akin to Peer Gynt.
(Goes off with him.)
One meets with acquaintances.
(calls after the MAN IN MOURNING).
Mother that's dead
will be after you, Aslak, if you wet your whistle.
The agriculturists' saying seems scarce to hold here:
The deeper one harrows the better it smells.
(with a bear's skin).
Look, the cat of the Dovre! Well, only his fell.
It was he chased the trolls out on Christmas Eve.
(with a reindeer-skull).
Here is the wonderful reindeer that bore,
at Gendin, Peer Gynt over edge and scaur.
(with a hammer, calls out to the MAN IN MOURNING).
Hei, Aslak, this sledge-hammer, say, do you know it?
Was it this that you used when the devil clove the wall?
Mads Moen, here's the invisible cloak
Peer Gynt and Ingrid flew off through the air with.
Brandy here, boys! I feel I'm grown old;-
I must put up to auction my rubbish and lumber!
What have you to sell, then?
A palace I have-
it lies in the Ronde; it's solidly built.
A button is bid!
You must run to a dram.
Twere a sin and a shame to bid anything less.
He's a jolly old boy this!
(The bystanders crowd round him.)
Grane, my steed;
Where's he running?
Why, far in the west!
Near the sunset, my lads! Ah, that courser can fly
as fast, ay, as fast as Peer Gynt could lie.
What more have you got?
I've both rubbish and gold!
I bought it with ruin; I'll sell it at a loss.
Put it up!
A dream of a silver-clasped book!
That you can have for an old hook and eye.
To the devil with dreams!
Here's my Kaiserdom!
I throw it in the midst of you; scramble for it!
Is the crown given in?
Of the loveliest straw.
It will fit whoever first puts it on.
Hei, there is more yet! An addled egg!
A madman's grey hair! And the Prophet's beard!
All these shall be his that will show on the hillside
a post that has writ on it: Here lies your path!
(who has come up).
You're carrying on, my good man, so that almost
I think that your path will lead straight to the lock-up.
(hat in hand).
Quite likely. But, tell me, who was Peer Gynt?
Your pardon! Most humbly I beg-!
Oh, he's said to have been an abominable liar-
Yes-all that was strong and great
he made believe always that he had done it.
But, excuse me, friend-I have other duties-
And where is he now, this remarkable man?
He fared over seas to a foreign land;
it went ill with him there, as one well might foresee;-
it's many a year now since he was hanged.
Hanged! Ay, ay! Why, I thought as much;
our lamented Peer Gynt was himself to the last.
Good-bye,-and best thanks for to-day's merry meeting.
(Goes a few steps, but stops again.)
You joyous youngsters, you comely lasses,-
shall I pay my shot with a traveller's tale?
Yes; do you know any?
Nothing more easy.-
(He comes nearer; a look of strangeness comes over him.)
I was gold-digging once in San Francisco.
There were mountebanks swarming all over the town.
One with his toes could perform on the fiddle;
another could dance a Spanish halling on his knees;
a third, I was told, kept on making verses
while his brain-pan was having a hole bored right through it.
To the mountebank-meeting came also the devil;-
thought he'd try his luck with the rest of them.
His talent was this: in a manner convincing,
he was able to grunt like a flesh-and-blood pig.
He was not recognised, yet his manners attracted.
The house was well filled; expectation ran high.
He stepped forth in a cloak with an ample cape to it;
man muss sich drappiren, as the Germans say.
But under the mantle-what none suspected-
he'd managed to smuggle a real live pig.
And now he opened the representation;
the devil he pinched, and the pig gave voice.
The whole thing purported to be a fantasia
on the porcine existence, both free and in bonds;
and all ended up with a slaughter-house squeal-
whereupon the performer bowed low and retired.-
The critics discussed and appraised the affair;
the tone of the whole was attacked and defended.
Some fancied the vocal expression too thin,
while some thought the death-shriek too carefully studied;
but all were agreed as to one thing: qua grunt,
the performance was grossly exaggerated.-
Now that, you see, came of the devil's stupidity
in not taking the measure of his public first.
(He bows and goes off. A puzzled silence comes over the crowd.)