Tilbake

Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen

ACT 5

SCENE EIGHTH

(A further point on the heath.)

PEER

(running hard).

Time is money, as the scripture says.
If I only knew where the cross-roads are;-
they may be near and they may be far.
The earth burns beneath me like red-hot iron.
A witness! A witness! Oh, where shall I find one?
It's almost unthinkable here in the forest.
The world is a bungle! A wretched arrangement,
when a man must prove a right that's as patent as day!

(AN OLD MAN, bent with age, with a staff in his hand and a bag on his back, is trudging in front of him.)

THE OLD MAN

(stops).

Dear, kind sir-a trifle to a houseless soul!

PEER

Excuse me; I've got no small change in my pocket-

THE OLD MAN

Prince Peer! Oh, to think we should meet again-!

PEER

Who are you?

THE OLD MAN

You forget the Old Man in the Ronde?

PEER

Why, you're never-?

THE OLD MAN

The King of the Dovre, my boy!

PEER

The Dovre-King? Really? The Dovre-king? Speak!

THE OLD MAN

Oh, I've come terribly down in the world-!

PEER

Ruined?

THE OLD MAN

Ay, plundered of every stiver.
Here am I tramping it, starved as a wolf.

PEER

Hurrah! Such a witness doesn't grow on the trees!

THE OLD MAN

My Lord Prince, too, has grizzled a bit since we met.

PEER

My dear father-in-law, the years gnaw and wear one.-
Well well, a truce to all private affairs,-
and pray, above all things, no family jars.
I was then a sad madcap-

THE OLD MAN

Oh yes; oh yes;-
His Highness was young; and what won't one do then?
But his Highness was wise in rejecting his bride;
he saved himself thereby both worry and shame;
for since then she's utterly gone to the bad-

PEER

Indeed!

THE OLD MAN

She has led a deplorable life;
and, just think,-she and Trond are now living together.

PEER

Which Trond?

THE OLD MAN

Of the Valfjeld.

PEER

It's he? Aha;
it was he I cut out with the saeter-girls.

THE OLD MAN

But my grandson has flourished-grown both stout and great,
and has strapping children all over the country-

PEER

Now, my dear man, spare us this flow of words;-
I've something quite different troubling my mind.-
I've got into rather a ticklish position,
and am greatly in need of a witness or voucher;-
that's how you could help me best, father-in-law,
and I'll find you a trifle to drink my health with.

THE OLD MAN

You don't say so; can I be of use to his Highness?
You'll give me a character, then, in return?

PEER

Most gladly. I'm somewhat hard pressed for cash,
and must cut down expenses in every direction.
Now hear what's the matter. No doubt you remember
that night when I came to the Ronde a-wooing-

THE OLD MAN

Why, of course, my Lord Prince!

PEER

Oh, no more of the Prince!
But no matter. You wanted, by sheer brute force,
to bias my sight, with a slit in the lens,
and to change me about from Peer Gynt to a troll.
What did I do then? I stood out against it,-
swore I would stand on no feet but my own;
love, power, and glory at once I renounced,
and all for the sake of remaining myself.
Now this fact, you see, you must swear to in Court-

THE OLD MAN

No, I'm blest if I can.

PEER

Why, what nonsense is this?

THE OLD MAN

You surely don't want to compel me to lie?
You pulled on the troll-breeches, don't you remember,
and tasted the mead-

PEER

Ay, you lured me seductively;-
but I flatly declined the decisive test,
and that is the thing you must judge your man by.
It's the end of the ditty that all depends on.

THE OLD MAN

But it ended, Peer, just in the opposite way.

PEER

What rubbish is this?

THE OLD MAN

When you left the Ronde,
you inscribed my motto upon your 'scutcheon.

PEER

What motto?

THE OLD MAN

The potent and sundering word.

PEER

The word?

THE OLD MAN

That which severs the whole race of men
from the troll-folk.Troll! To thyself be enough!

PEER

(falls back a step).

Enough!

THE OLD MAN

And with every nerve in your body,
you've being living up to it ever since.

PEER

What, I? Peer Gynt?

THE OLD MAN

(weeps).

It's ungrateful of you!
You've lived as a troll, but have still kept it secret.
The word I taught you has shown you the way
to swing yourself up as a man of substance;-
and now you must needs come and turn up your nose
at me and the word you've to thank for it all.

PEER

Enough! A hill-troll! An egoist!
This must be all rubbish; that's perfectly certain!

THE OLD MAN

(pulls out a bundle of old newspapers).

I daresay you think that we've no newspapers?
Wait; here I'll show you in red and black,
how the Bloksberg Post eulogises you;
and the Heklefield Journal has done the same
ever since the winter you left the country.-
Do you care to read them? You're welcome, Peer.
Here's an article, look you, signed "Stallionhoof."
And here too is one: "On Troll-Nationalism."
The writer points out and lays stress on the truth
that horns and a tail are of little importance,
so long as one has but a strip of the hide.
"Our enough," he concludes, "gives the hall-mark of trolldom
to man,"-and proceeds to cite you as an instance.

PEER

A hill-troll? I?

THE OLD MAN

Yes, that's perfectly clear.

PEER

Might as well have stayed quietly where I was?
Might have stopped in the Ronde in comfort and peace?
Saved my trouble and toil and no end of shoe-leather?
Peer Gynt-a troll? Why it's rubbish! It's stuff!
Good-bye! There's a halfpenny to buy you tobacco.

THE OLD MAN

Nay, my good Prince Peer!

PEER

Let me go! You're mad,
or else doting. Off to the hospital with you!

THE OLD MAN

Oh, that is exactly what I'm in search of.
But, as I told you, my grandson's offspring
have become overwhelmingly strong in the land,
and they say that I only exist in books.
The saw says: One's kin are unkindest of all;
I've found to my cost that that saying is true.
It's cruel to count as mere figment and fable

PEER

My dear man, there are others who share the same fate.

THE OLD MAN

And ourselves we've no Mutual Aid Society,
no alms-box or Penny Savings Bank;-
in the Ronde, of course, they'd be out of place.

PEER

No, that cursed: To thyself be enough was the word there!

THE OLD MAN

Oh, come now, the Prince can't complain of the word.
And if he could manage by hook or by crook-

PEER

My man, you have got on the wrong scent entirely;
I'm myself, as the saying goes, fairly cleaned out-

THE OLD MAN

You surely can't mean it? His Highness a beggar?

PEER

Completely. His Highness's ego's in pawn.
And it's all your fault, you accursed trolls!
That's what comes of keeping bad company.

THE OLD MAN

So there came my hope toppling down from its perch again!
Good-bye! I had best struggle on to the town-

PEER

What would you do there?

THE OLD MAN

I will go to the theatre.
The papers are clamouring for national talents-

PEER

Good luck on your journey; and greet them from me.
If I can but get free, I will go the same way.
A farce I will write them, a mad and profound one;
its name shall be: "Sic transit gloria mundi."

(He runs off along the road; the OLD MAN shouts after him.)


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