SCENE SEVENTH(Another part of the heath.)
A sexton! A sexton! where are you, hounds?
A song from braying precentor-mouths;
around your hat-brim a mourning band;-
my dead are many; I must follow their biers!
(THE BUTTON-MOULDER, with a box of tools, and a large casting-ladle, comes from a side-path.)
Well met, old gaffer!
Good evening, friend.
The man's in a hurry. Why, where is he going?
To a grave-feast.
Indeed? My sight's not very good;-
excuse me,-your name doesn't chance to be Peer?
Peer Gynt, as the saying is.
That I call luck!
It's precisely Peer Gynt I am sent for to-night.
You're sent for? What do you want?
Why, see here;
I'm a button-moulder. You're to go into my ladle.
And what to do there?
To be melted up.
To be melted?
Here it is, empty and scoured.
Your grave is dug ready, your coffin bespoke.
The worms in your body will live at their ease;-
but I have orders, without delay,
on Master's behalf to fetch in your soul.
It can't be! Like this, without any warning-!
It's an old tradition at burials and births
to appoint in secret the day of the feast,
with no warning at all to the guest of honour.
Ay, ay, that's true. All my brain's awhirl.
Why, I told you-a button-moulder.
I see! A pet child has many nicknames.
So that's it, Peer; it is there you're to harbour!
But these, my good man, are most unfair proceedings!
I'm sure I deserve better treatment than this;-
I'm not nearly so bad as perhaps you think,-
I've done a good deal of good in the world;-
at worst you may call me a sort of a bungler,-
but certainly not an exceptional sinner.
Why that is precisely the rub, my man;
you're no sinner at all in the higher sense;
that's why you're excused all the torture-pangs,
and land, like others, in the casting-ladle.
Give it what name you please-call it ladle or pool;
spruce ale and swipes, they are both of them beer.
Avaunt from me, Satan!
You can't be so rude
as to take my foot for a horse's hoof?
On horse's hoof or on fox's claws-
be off; and be careful what you're about!
My friend, you're making a great mistake.
We're both in a hurry, and so, to save time,
I'll explain the reason of the whole affair.
You are, with your own lips you told me so,
no sinner on the so-called heroic scale,-
scarce middling even-
Ah, now you're beginning
to talk common sense
Just have patience a bit-
but to call you virtuous would be going too far.-
Well, you know I have never laid claim to that.
You're nor one thing nor t'other then, only so-so.
A sinner of really grandiose style
is nowadays not to be met on the highways.
It wants much more than merely to wallow in mire;
for both vigour and earnestness go to a sin.
Ay, it's very true, that remark of yours;
one has to lay on, like the old Berserkers.
You, friend, on the other hand, took your sin lightly.
Only outwardly, friend, like a splash of mud.
Ah, we'll soon be at one now. The sulphur pool
is no place for you, who but plashed in the mire.
And in consequence, friend, I can go as I came?
No, in consequence, friend, I must melt you up.
What tricks are these that you've hit upon
at home here, while I've been in foreign parts?
The custom's as old as the Snake's creation;
it's designed to prevent loss of good material.
You've worked at the craft-you must know that often
a casting turns out, to speak plainly, mere dross;
the buttons, for instance, have sometimes no loop to them.
What did you do, then?
Flung the rubbish away.
Ah, yes; Jon Gynt was well known for a waster,
so long as he'd aught left in wallet or purse.
But Master, you see, he is thrifty, he is;
and that is why he's so well-to-do.
He flings nothing away as entirely worthless
that can be made use of as raw material.
Now, you were designed for a shining button
on the vest of the world; but your loop gave way;
so into the waste-box you needs must go,
and then, as they phrase it, be merged in the mass.
You're surely not meaning to melt me up,
with Dick, Tom, and Harry, into something new?
That's just what I do mean, and nothing else.
We've done it already to plenty of folks.
At Kongsberg they do just the same with money
that's been current so long that its stamp's worn away.
But this is the wretchedest miserliness!
My dear good friend, let me get off free;-
a loopless button, a worn out farthing,-
what is that to a man in your Master's position?
Oh, so long, and inasmuch as, the spirit's in one,
one always has value as so much metal.
No, I say! No! With both teeth and claws
I'll fight against this! Sooner anything else!
But what else? Come now, be reasonable.
You know you're not airy enough for heaven-
I'm not hard to content; I don't aim so high;-
but I won't be deprived of one doit of my Self.
Have me judged by the law in the old-fashioned way!
For a certain time place me with Him of the Hoof;-
say a hundred years, come the worst to the worst;
that, now, is a thing that one surely can bear;
for they say the torment is only moral,
so it can't after all be so pyramidal.
It is, as 'tis written, a mere transition;
and as the fox said: One waits; there comes
an hour of deliverance; one lives in seclusion,
and hopes in the meantime for happier days.-
But this other notion-to have to be merged,
like a mote, in the carcass of some outsider,-
this casting-ladle business, this Gynt-cessation,-
it stirs up my innermost soul in revolt!
Bless me, my dear Peer, there is surely no need
to get so wrought up about trifles like this.
Yourself you never have been at all;-
then what does it matter, your dying right out?
Have I not been-? I could almost laugh!
Peer Gynt, then, has been something else, I suppose!
No, Button-moulder, you judge in the dark.
If you could but look into my very reins,
you'd find only Peer there, and Peer all through,-
nothing else in the world, no, nor anything more.
It's impossible. Here I have got my orders.
Look, here it is written: Peer Gynt shalt thou summon.
He has set at defiance his life's design;
clap him into the ladle with other spoilt goods.
What nonsense! They must mean some other person.
Is it really Peer? It's not Rasmus, or Jon?
It is many a day since I melted them.
So come quietly now, and don't waste my time.
I'll be damned if I do! Ay, 'twould be a fine thing
if it turned out to-morrow some one else was meant.
You'd better take care what you're at, my good man!
think of the onus you're taking upon you-
I have it in writing-
At least give me time!
What good would that do you?
I'll use it to prove
that I've been myself all the days of my life;
and that's the question that's in dispute.
You'll prove it? And how?
Why, by vouchers and witnesses.
I'm sadly afraid Master will not accept them.
Impossible! However, enough for the day-!
My dear man, allow me a loan of myself;
I'll be back again shortly. One is born only once,
and one's self, as created, one fain would stick to.
Come, are we agreed?
Very well then, so be it.
But remember, we meet at the next cross-roads.
(PEER GYNT runs off.)