Note from Simon: In order to bring this work to the new site format, I've had to undertake a semi-manual process to bring the HTML into the 21st century. While I've tried to proofread to make sure that changes were not made in error during this process, I cannot guarantee no errors were made. If this bothers you, you can read the play in its original form on Chris Street's website.
a verse play in five acts,
written, in a rather bemused vein, by Chris Street.
If Hamlet had been an animated mouse,
Othello a pastellèd man,
If Lear spake prose with whiskered nose
And painted eyes had Pan,
My plume I'd stay, I'd pawn that day
A pencil for my pen.
~ * ~
The widow BRISBY, a meadow mouse
Mr. AGES, an alchemist, Brisby's gruffish confidant and friend
JEREMY, a clownish Crow
A SHREW, greatly in need of some taming
NICODEMUS, wise ruler of the Rats
JUSTIN, the Rats' Captain of the Guard
JENNER, a Rat of high regard and a villainous traitor
SULLIVAN, Jenner's lackey
PATRICK, Nicodemus' clown
The OWL, wisest of all the Animals
Brisby's children, CYNTHIA, TIMOTHY, MARTIN, and TERESA
The Rats' PRIEST
Table of Contents
- 1.1: In which Mrs Brisby makes an important call on Mr Ages: her small son Timothy is deathly ill
- 1.2: In which Mrs Brisby makes a friend: Jeremy, the crow
- 1.3: In which Martin irritates the shrew and his mother, and we learn that the planting is coming. Spring is no longer Timmy's saviour, but a masquerading villain
- 1.4: In which Mrs Brisby wakes to a unsettlingly quiet day, and learns to value her friendship more than her fear
- 2.1: In which Mrs Brisby arrives at the Owl's house, and is curiously able to persuade the indifferent Owl into action
- 2.2: In which the shrew resignedly wreaks havoc on poor Timothy, and Martin's good shines through
- 2.3: In which we meet Jenner and Sullivan, on their way to the Council Hall, and Jenner lets the audience in on a little secret
- 2.4: In which the Owl has told Mrs Brisby everything she needs to save her family; well, at least where to find everything she needs to save her family. She happily returns home that night
- 3.1: In which the shrew is humiliated, in which Mrs Brisby cannot stay set in one place, and in which a new day breaks to a measure of promise
- 3.2: In which Mrs Brisby is confronted by Mr Ages at the rosebush, and in which she meets Jenner and Justin, the Captain of the Guard of the mysterious Rats
- 3.3: In which the Rats hold their ill-delayed council meeting, and Jenner opens the frothy mare's floodgates
- 3.4: In which Brisby is confronted and then comforted by Patrick, who doubles as Nicodemus' son and his clown
- 3.5: In which Brisby finally comes to Nicodemus' chamber and first hears the story of the Rats of NIMH and her husband's death, and Patrick strikes the first chord in the night's doings
- 4.1: In which all is achatter at the Brisby home sans Mrs Brisby, and Martin as always speaks the loudest of all
- 4.2: In which Nicodemus, Ages, Justin, Patrick and a priest make a rather large request of Mrs Brisby
- 4.3: In which, much to the shrew's distress, Mrs Brisby tells her family of her new task, and glows with joy
- 4.4: In which Mrs Brisby braves the farmer's house and again learns something of great importance
- 4.5: In which Mrs Brisby returns home to find Jeremy encumbered with a rather heavy burden: the shrew
- 5.1: In which Mrs Brisby tells Ages something which reveals the immediate necessity of Nicodemus' plan
- 5.2: In which the Rats of NIMH move Mrs Brisby's house, but almost do not, and in which chaotic doings ensue
- 5.3: In which Justin delivers a eulogy for Nicodemus
- 5.4: In which the play comes to an end
Remember, there are no small parts, only small actors.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, but just long enough that the days belong to another chapter in Time's book, there were great virtuosos, who spoke the same language as you and me, but spoke it as if the words were not only words, but as they were musical instruments. In those days, just beyond the reach of our willing but too-easy remembrance, English was the language for poetry, a language of many members to be collected and arranged according to form; English was like music. When they made this music, it was to an audience willing to hear it, on new strings, with a strong, resilient bow and a gleaming chestnut case, and it was excitingly new. Today, what was stained wood with a brilliant sheen is cracked and yellowed, and the strings do not have the resistance and fidelity that they should, and the bow is sadly frayed, lacking completely the tautness of a former day. This is the result of such fervent and continued performance.
I know not who, if any, should hear my inventions, but if there is music left in this dusty saw, it would be terrible to let it go unheard. Having chosen to inherit the instrument of a passed year, it would be well to familiarise my audience (should I ever attain any) in the method. Music is genial to the ear; there is no such rapport between the eye and the word. This 'play' (not so much a stage play as the playing of this verbal violin) is written, in the greater portion, in a form of verse named iambic pentameter. This particular verse is one of English's best treasures. Each versed line contains five iambs (poetic 'feet') of two syllables each. The stress in each iamb goes on the second syllable. A topical example of an iambic pentameter line might be "We shall steal of the farmer's grain no more." (There is also some of the so-called 'feminine verse' throughout; these lines contain an extra unstressed syllable after the last iamb. A good example from the play is "I have no lance, O, and on George's errand!" in act 4, scene 2.) Although most is written in this fashion, there are also other meters utilized, and sections written in prose, not having any deliberate meter at all.
The questioning reader may wonder, given that I have chosen to write a work in a form altogether curious, in which almost nothing has been written in the past century, why I have made the choice of double jeopardy and writ it on such subject matter that I have. The savvy reader will wonder further what I have done with the resource material. The matter was chosen as somewhat of a joke, I admit. But I believe that what one writes should be representative of one's beliefs; further, I believe that a valuable belief-system is not one to be distilled in one or two works, no matter how poignant or pithy they may be. Each work illuminates but one facet of the great jewel of Truth, and as this dazzling stone glares so brightly, our eyes may but afford the examination of one side at a time.
What facet, then, does Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIMH represent? What does it try to say? Well, when one writes, out spill a universe of ideas and issues. At the center is the great, central, unifying force behind the work. All others merely gravitate towards it. Just as countless bodies may exist in any solar system - there may even be more than one star - this 'play,' as a meld of ancient imagery and the classical sonata form (yes, with a touch of facetiousness) is full of different themes. But there can exist but one center of gravity, one crux on which everything else rotates, and without which, all would fly willy-nilly into chaos.
The great star towards which all tends toward in Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIMH is a particular idea of our dependence... even helplessness. This is not a dirge of despair, however, but a glory in it. When one is dependent, one is dependent on one's friends.
It seems that a great buzz is made in this world about one's independence. Men with wyvern's tongues tell us we are nothing until completely isolated, until we are closed from outer support, until we are allowed to be ourselves alone, free of influence for ill or good. Can we ever be independent? Would we be anybody whosoever, but for other people? Of our parents, may we grow to self-realization, say Corban, and forevermore be done with them? No, we cannot: we wouldn't be for them. How of our loves? Shall we be able to cast them off, be disposed and yet remain composed? Despite the wisdom of the age, we shouldn't. Remember that you wouldn't be who you are today, but for them. To be through with them means to deny something in yourself. But what of friends? Ah, what of our friends? Though parents and lovers find analogies throughout the living universe, friends seem unique to intelligence, to souls - an unwieldy piece are they!
This 'play' is a story of what, if comparison can truly be drawn between any two loves, is perhaps the greatest of all: that of friends. It is not a selfish love - how could it be? It is a dedicated love that sees others as prospering as one's self. When a person in taken in Love, his or her character is taken in with the other's - and a fellowship of people, which have mutually found commonality between themselves in some way (for such are friends) - especially if it is in their humanness - are bound by the fact of being. So an ordered verse play, written in sonata form, brimming with comparison and delight in common threads, is a beautiful setting for the story.
Friendship, further, is a love which fails to be jealous. The friendly pair is happy to find another who may share their story... who are also playing their melody, their form, in some dynamic, passionate fashion... in variation. What better way to express this, then, than in the verse play; whose observations are written in variation, with as few breath pauses as necessary to keep the players alive. The verse play is continually changing - but only to speak the same truths as before.
No love, no love whatsoever, is afraid of change. The heart which wishes to remain as it always has been never matures; furthermore, it may never express Love - for Love's face bears a changing expression; today it is a laugh, it is foolhardy to suppose what it is tomorrow. Never be afraid to change - though some make it to be the greatest of all evils. Some say that to seek to never change is to seek to never die. I make the counterassertion: to seek to never change is to seek to never live - we shall all die without a nod to our respective desire to do so; and death, as far as time is concerned, is the ultimate stasis. Some say that to seek to never change is to seek to never have pain. I, once again, will be troublesome: to seek to never change is to seek to never have joy. It is the truth that every joy one comes upon brings new opportunity to be pained. Once happiness, once joy's store is depleted, there is no threshing-floor to go to, to beg for scraps. Joy brings with her the reapers, and we all enjoy a jubilee of plenty; then she goes, leaving us (much as foraging mice in the wan of Winter) to scrape and nape. Happiness and Joy are wandering visitors, whose arrival is inflected with great and ever-gloriously differing confitures, whose tenure inflicts an assortment of such raptures, one would wish to die in their presence. One cannot, but it is good - as you shall read in these pages, one suffering in Loss' dominion, even those pinched by the evils of Death, may have an amazing respite; one need only accept it - and what is more important, one must not be afraid to let one's self be reshaped by it.
Some say that to seek to never change one's love for somebody is to seek to love them forever. I cry, False demon! That is the deadliest of these traps... for it appeals to one's desire to continue love, and does so seemingly reasonably. My refutation is as simple as it is conclusive: as the object of your love will change tomorrow (it is inevitable!), should you continue to love in the same way as before, you are loving something that is no more. And in a sleight-of-hand trick, your love has vanished... and your object will fail to understand your love, as it is directed towards something which only was in the past. There is no such thing as a habitual love; love delights in devising new and wonderful expressions of itself... both the beggar and the king love, love may make from each either, but to rope love in - to seek to confine it - is to seek to own or control it. What was once a pleasing sacrifice becomes idolatry, what was once pure devotion is an evil dementia, and the heart as galloped over the greatest mountains and soared toward the loftiest pinnacles of mortal aspiration becomes a homeless cripple, forced to wander forever, seeking that which he lost; coming even to the point of wondering if it ever was at all, but never realizing that it is no more. What is, is no longer; what breathes, breathes no longer; what stays, stays no longer; such is the way of life in the lands governed by Loss.
Returning to the 'play,' we see these truths variously stationed, in every place elaborated upon: the villain is simply one who would not change, the heroine, one who will not stay; the friendship between Mrs. Brisby and Mr. Ages is true, the so-called 'friendship' between Jenner and Sullivan is, in truth, merely an intimate evil - wrong, taken in intimacy and trust, configures itself in a manner similar to love. When Mrs. Brisby makes a friend in act 1, scene 2, it is with Jeremy, who is bunched in cords he was gathering for a love-nest. How is Mrs. Brisby his friend? In that she is willing to release Jeremy from his trial. Jeremy does Mrs. Brisby a favour in return for hers by taking her to the Owl's nest. The rats of NIMH, who rescue Mrs. Brisby's son from the plow, do the act because of their friendship with Jonathan... who set them free, in turn, from an even worse evil. Notice that here, the true friends are those who set each other free from bondage - they are the yokehefters. Jenner, a false friend, keeps Sullivan in bonds to him - forever obliged to him, but for no reason; Sullivan, caught in his love for Jenner, always seeks to release Jenner in his stops, but walls himself in until he cannot see where it leads: he is blinded.
But is this the only way to tell true friendship? Are friends our friends merely because they help us in life's burdens? Once a friend has helped us in our need, are we in the right to demand service from him later, as he has become our friend? If I go to my friend to use him, if I go to my friend to order his action, then I am setting myself up as a liege, a king, over my friend, and he as my servant. But this is not reversible. If I am lord over my friends, and they my servants, they cannot in turn be lord over me, and I cannot be their servant - just as to say that one owns one's self is inherently somewhat contradictory. If they are my friends because of their service to me, how can I then be their friend? The wisdom of the age would have dogs be dogs: chasing their tails incessantly, futilely: are we to do likewise? No, it cannot be. If we are to be friends, we are either all kings together or all servants together.
What, then, is to be said? If I help my friend because of our friendship, am I being subjugated to him? Is his use of me an insufferable violation of my humanity? Certainly not. The difference is entirely in what spirit your friend pleas in. If my friend comes to me in dire want, begging and pleading deliverance from some trial, and I help him, am I not his deliverer? Did he not come to me in abject humility, even begging? How could he, then, make himself lord of my actions? Did he try to manipulate me? If he haughtily asked me to get him a package of Planters from a vending machine in the hall, not because he wanted the peanuts, but just to see if I'd jump to his aid - well, the additional ingredient here is a poison named Pride.
Pride is what makes the difference. Jenner makes a salient point in act 5, scene 2, when he says the Owl is a far more fearful beast than the cat - who kills more than the cat ever could - but yet, Mrs. Brisby fears and hates the cat, and has befriended the Owl. Why is the Owl forgivable? Jonathan, Mrs. Brisby's dead husband, could well have been killed by the Owl instead of the cat (had the Owl not known him,) why, then, is the Owl's advice of any more worth than the cat's dreadest lurkings? The answer is in the Owl's lack of pride. When Mrs. Brisby comes for help (and she does so with no pride whatsoever; she begs, and is indignant only when the Owl ignores her entirely under the cloak of 'wisdom'), the Owl guides her without pride ("I am not wise, if I suppose I'm all, / From slightest things, I can learn volumes yet.") Jenner, however, is a paragon of Pride, and does not recognize this. It is finally his pride in himself - not just this, but the fact that he continues to be proud even when it can gain him nothing - which leads to his fall.
Friendship here is central. In Jeremy's bright, many-coloured cords, we have a permeant image in the play. The play begins with them and ends with them, and in them. In their strength, they depict life, in their confines is dependency, solidarity, and the bonds of marriage, in their taut is the song of all the players, worked upon a musical instrument. This play is wrapped, from beginning to end, with them; this play is bound tightly by the cords of friendship. If it weren't for them, Mrs. Brisby's unhappiness and the problems of all on our stage would rampage toward the inescapable. We are all pinioned - for our own good, lest we become prideful and then mindless - in these cords, the cords of love, the cords of friendship... and the friend as comes to set us free shall not see us unbound long, nor shall we see him or her free long. This is a true wonder: to be fully insufficient in one's self, but to impart one's ability to the good of another, and to incur their good back, in great swells, and in this mutual benefaction, have our chains broken. We are then able, and in each other we see models for our common selfhood, for our common world, for our common God. These are the most uncommon things imaginable... but, then, how often is the everyday resplendent with the colours of the exceptional!
I wish I could speak for pages in this Introduction on such things. But to do so would be unnecessary, and painful: to reduce the ideas would be to adapt them, to contract these passages would be to lose some meaning; to simplify the expression would be to wash out the subtle sky - it is blue, but such a deep blue - and to caricature the whole from horizon to horizon with a quick brush sweep would be misrepresentation. Should I wish to confine this play to these meager leaves only? This would be a waste of work, and a disservice to myself. I apologize for wishing without first reflecting.
Simple things should be said simply, but the great things cannot be said in any way other than in poetry. If ideas seem worn to you today, it is only through use, for truth is truth, and if a word is spoken well, it is repeated on many other tongues - not because the mimics heard the first sage speak, but because they discovered it on their own, and in their experience and in the application of the knowledge it sparkled for them. It is truth, and a thinking mind will find it. If great things like friendship and beauty and love seem trite, wonder to yourself, reader, wonder at this. Is it not because you have merely heard them and seen them and read them and spoke them and felt them and lived them a thousand thousand times before? If it is so, good reader, bright audience, then it is now time to disengage your cynicism - for a moment, pray! - and see the world with a gleam of knowledge... the knowledge that you do not understand this world, and with hope. Is it a coincidence that our players are small? Not at all, see the world once from their perspective, and realize that you, also, are very small in the order of this universe.
I would not dare elucidate everything in the following pages. They speak well enough on their own, and although this "play" is speckled with some passages I feel compelled to write merely as a bow to the old sages (odd to have the playwright bow before the players!) - oddities perhaps notable only for their opacity - it has inherited a wealth of honesty and veracity from what has been before. It is so true that heroes are to be found in the meekest of things, in the humble, in the small. The proud wish to be applauded as heroes for simply being themselves. They need not change. Here, good reader, set yourself a while. Read these words. Do not, please, see yourself in the oncoming spring. That is a role too great for any of us to play. Do not nod at Doom, Fate, Loss, or the witless stars... they are unseen players; they are not fitting for us. What you cannot apply you are no worse for... though should you find something pleasing, or (dare I hope!) useful, take upon it vigorously. Where vision into these matters is practical, turn your eyes around every corner of the words. Their very shape assumes meaning, their shape adduces form... membered, they still say the same, rhymed and rearranged, they still stand at their stations; where vision is practical, I say, see this: if humble letters may together make a word, if words themselves, concatenated in some deliberate fashion, attain worth in sentences, if sentences (O, small bodies in themselves!) can be suitably numbered and termed, something comes of the process. Again, a playwright is nothing great, an audience multiplies him tremendously, and if you collect all of the playwrights, and all of the audiences, and all of the stages and all of the bookmongers and all of the mallards and the cheerful and stormy and helpless and glorious things on the earth, and if they all pour out a blue drop of ink still fresh from the Playwright's pen, why, we are something, then. And though we are awed by the grandeur of a starry night, do we not still carefully distinguish one fellow human being from the next? Though the century has seen great unification, and we have learned much of both the very great and very small, are we ourselves no greater or smaller than before? Pay attention, dear reader. The greatest things are noble enough not to steal the importance of the small... what we can hardly face does not destroy what we embrace.
I said I should stop, and I dare go no further. Stay alert, reader. Remember always as you read this that the true story is not told in the words of the characters: the true story is told by you. What you read in the play, just as what you hear in music, is all that is of importance. If you came to this work with a love for iambic pentameter, I hope you shall find it satisfied. If you love the theater, sit down, read, and hear the voices ringing in your ears. If you love the book or film which this play is balanced upon, then I am sure you shall find this work intriguing, for good or ill. When one becomes affectionate towards anything specific, one begins to demand much of it - and one becomes propense to jealousy. You shall either rejoice at this setting of a old, beloved 'sparkly' in a noble and glorious form, or deride it as a needless retelling of a story set only for prose. It is easy to pander to those who love meter: only write meter for them. They as love poetry should be given poetry. But those who love a specific story present a ticklish problem: is it best to handle such-and-such tactfully, or tacitly? Never overlook the meaning of a tale: the author chooses even words for a defined reason, and as this, too, is specific, he also is jealous of them.
Here, I contribute this widow's mite to an empty almsbox. If any who read glean what I fashion, and can condense what I am saying into two or three sentences, then that may be something worth writing down and pasting somewhere. If, however, any who read this work can understand why writers write, it is something to shout to the world. Having said that, to speak any more would be to detain you. You've an adventure to set upon. Let us, then, turn to our world of runes, where spring's advancing winds may do our mice to death, and primeveral currents may sweep them off to Doom...
11 January 1999
Partake recess an hour here, my friends;
Let cause be stilled to realign your sight;
Let me instill the proper mise en scéne,
Let care be gone, and let your mein be light.
Why stare you at the loft, why at the skies?
Fenestral eyes, which humbly look upon
Celestial visions, oft are curtained in
By lackings of their narrowness. Look down,
How seems the world upon a blade of grass?
The thicker's forest, and the forest's sky,
The slightest knob may seem a mile high -
But what may tiny things make fret upon?
I say, the very ills that trouble us -
For life, for shelter, mostly for their well -
I argue our importance, turn your eyes above,
And see the sky as fashioned out of love
And wonder at the stars, and at the sun:
To mountains, we're the mice.
Tak'st thou recess, thou weary work-a-day,
For thy enjoyment, I present this play.
Act the First
Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace, this toasted cheese will do it.
—William Shakespeare, King Lear
1.1 - A field, on a farm in Lancaster
Mr. Ages, I have come to you with a matter of some import to discuss. Come, what is this? I know you are here.
I've known thee, Brisby, long enough to see
The tiring sun sway sulk'ly toward the south,
And since before the frost of winter last;
This is unlike thee yet, this quiet blast!
Dost thou not know, that tho' thy faithful friend
I'd not be bothered by thy pleading voice,
Nor let thee interrupt my burdensome tasks,
The time is heavy, but the weather warms,
There's much to do in spring. Conceit no wrong,
I'm not displeased that thou hast ventured here,
Yet I ask, aye, contest the seeing skies,
What matter of grave import do you bring?
Think'st thou I do not carefully observe
The slightest oscillation of the spheres,
That I do not foreknow the slightest mall
Which thee or me to task puts; yea, this had
Have crushing weight, or, by Ptolemy's heavens!
My crotchety wrath, upon thee, shall be.
Your speech is mean, old friend. I know you have
Important duties to attend, and thy
Divinities to read; I prithee, first,
But hear me! I would ne'er dishonour that
Bond friendly which my husband took with thee,
Nor could I let unvoiced thy graces stand
The favour thou'st, in thy bonds, shown to me:
For Timmy's spider welt was bound by thee.
I'd rather Sistine ceil or Atlas climb,
Than in the slightest that Phrygian badge
Betray, to be thy friend... speak'st thou to me
From a clean breast. It is a cause appropriate;
For it, indeed, is Timothy again
Who ushers me to beg now at thy step,
For he's not crank to common spider's venom,
But eaten, methinks, by an affliction
Of worser name; my soul doth qualm with fear.
Spring has thee bound again, please, hear my voice
But ne'er yoke off responsibility -
Thy nostrum art's no meet for many miles -
Thou lov'st my son, e'en as I love my son,
Thou hast done him a vital favor once,
As good repeated accentuates th'one,
Byhap, thou mightst repeat the performance.
Timmy, indeed? He promise shows, I'm bound
And for his sake and yours, I must now help.
But think me wonderful not, nor gi'en
To Miracle - I can do no such thing;
I say in sooth, he will be healed by spring.
Tell me now, what signs does he give?
His forehead is hot to the touch.
He wheezes by day an' by night;
His heart's near stop, and I can't hear his words
When realized; I tell myself he speaks
In tongues of angels, who his prayers attest.
His life's encurtained, and in death ensconced;
No mortal's privy to his secret thoughts.
I ha' thought it over already, thy son Timmy is afflicted with pneumonia - I'm sad to say it.
Is it beyond repair?
Not to those who care. Keep away all chills, let him sleep warm and snug; watch him whene'er thou canst, and he'll answer thine earnest plea.
Oh, bless you!
None of that, for those who need blessing most
Can bless themselves - or so I say. Come; I
Shall take a pestle, and a powder grind;
Of virtues such, they ease his pain, e'en though
'Tis not by much. Sit! Though it's little, it's
All I'm afraid I have authority to do;
Pneumonia's such that any proffered pure's
Perennially conducive to the cure,
'Tis not a cookbook case; no method's set,
He cannot slay the sickness with one swallow,
The ancient's felled by time. I grind it thus;
Smell! Herbs of these ilk, with their odour rare,
Officinal, efficient, pure and whole,
Are not to be found by divining instinct,
They take a pinch of power. The colour does
My medicine justice, but the texture is
Too coarse and grainy, and I fear the taste
Is most convulsive: best this balm entrust
To tea. For, what is often not to palate,
Is the very thing that helps the most.
I wrap 't! Now take 't! Away, thy hopeful soul
Requests a blessing; I wish thee Godspeed.
I am indebted to you forever.
No, you're not; be off!
Such a sad visit!
I wonder why I leave an open door
For such a one. But, would I visits disdain
To frivols given, and if also I
Would one to gravity dedicated,
Who would I admit? Would I be a friend?
Perhaps, albeit a strange one. But, given
The history, 'tis how I'll be: strange, for
The matter's strange, and veiled, by mists concealed
In mystery, in redirection's shrouds,
I'd know. I see; for I'm the medium.
But not by virtues of my alchemy,
Not by my arts, nor by the cunning stars,
I've weight and wisdom from some other means.
Alack! Poor widow, I'd not have it so,
But I ken much more than thou'lt ever know.
1.2 - A nook amongst the grasses on the field
[Enter Jeremy, thoroughly tied]
How rightly is the fool in tangles caught;
Though love's a sticky web, I say! No sage
Should ever seek to understand such love
Without becoming first a fool, with error
In vest, the folly! Deep's my heart enwelled!
These fetters which I'd fain present my love
And seek to bind her with my soul for aught
Are tricky tools to wield - who may fence love? -
One only who may fence me onto love;
Alack, I've not the skill! Hey, parry must I;
These cords inhibiting of love, I'd take,
And I'd have bound the parcel of the dear
Of my mind's eye in ribbons, in which I now
Am inexorably bound, more corporeally.
How, now? It is a daw before me, tho' not as black as soot,
But pink and green and pastel rouge, and tied from head to foot.
O, cruel rhyme! O, thou jester merciless!
Has Fate appointed torments immodest
To peck at me, who is in nature Peck?
Leave me strait, if you cannot but tease me!
Excuse me if I kid. I'm naught to fear,
Though, yea, I might leap back in my surprise;
And I was made for troubles such as this:
A liberator 'm I, for in my mouth
I am your most lenient and fair friend.
'Tis but a mouse! Amen, fair lady, amen! Set me free of my bonds, if you but will! Set your rodental gnaws at my chains, if there be any trace of mercy or Christian charity in you!
An agreeable yoke, a task I will take to presently... but first, may I inquire, how came you in such a flaxen prison so helplessly entwined?
You state my problem well, Madame Mouse, and with much ease, I wish I could with similar readiness explain how I came into it.
Do best in reason with the time that's gi'en; 'twill take the better of an hour to extricate thy copious self from these hopeless tangles.
O, what glorious post shall I gain, this Gordian knot to loose?
I shall begin with fervently held dreams
Of childhood. I've always longed and pined
For mine own nest, with mine own nestlings lined,
And round about patrolled by me an' my other.
And I have oft collected bright bits of
Such string would fit my cause, and yarn and twine:
To make me a love-nest, an I e'er find
My one true love.
'Tis fair enough so far,
Though unexplained's that which you came to be
Enwrapped in the dear objects so collected.
Ah, that I shall tell you of next.
An embarrassing saga, how shall I relate?
I tripped over the yarn that I held in my maw,
And over and under the stuff did I fall,
Tumbling down through the wet, soddy grass,
I landed, was hung, and I'm stuck here quite fast!
Occluded was he by his courtierly grace,
He fell to his bobs, and then fell on his face.
Ha, ha, he, ho, ho!
O, you're but a fool.
No, I'm but a Jeremy. That is who my friends know me as. How do they call you?
Those friends e'en I know should call me but seldom,
I see little profit to put words to the scene,
And as the sun shines on the dew of the morning,
I'm too struck with wonder to ask what I mean.
He, he, ho, ha, ho!
If you must know, I am Mrs. Brisby. And do stay your hyenas; I fear the cat is nearby.
How, ho, what's that?
The menace, the predator! The sharp teeth, the pouncing weight - that is all I worry for. All of civilization's charms cannot take the lion out of a cat, who has but once taken notice of easy prey.
O, then, hurry quickly, for in my encumbrance I am a sitting duck, and putting both our lives in foulest jeopardy!
As I've but to do, as the friendly soul doth;
And hurry, but how? Should I fail my friend
Were't better the pursuant catch me. I, take me off?
It bestial'd make me, or hurry to free
You from this ribbon's hold? That, quickly, clean;
To franchise you again is now my goal -
I'd keep my freedom - from the nadir of
Subservience to death my friends would e'er
Deliver me, so I'll deliver you,
Though once you're caught, then who's the friendly soul
Should free you? Openly, I deal you back
As has been dealt to me by other souls,
And, see, for nothing you are benefit,
Go, then, and help your neighbor sim'larly.
Excuse have you for now, but not for long.
How fair! A perfect pox upon your kind,
This vessel's set to sea, and she is caught
Upon her cleverness, yea, she is shoaled
Upon her beneficence, and the wretched
Daemons stir below, and Neptune's wrath
Is instigated on these friendly words -
For who so deep may dredge a meetly friend?
They cannot help but notice, and are bound
To sink her. So, they come, and they indeed
Shall hear us. I have spoken you of me,
Now likewise can you not tell me of you?
What would you know of me?
Who is your husband?
O, that's the horror! He's the cat, you see,
He were eaten by it, and lost to me.
The hellion foul has stolen the lonely flame
From my life, and without this lovely lume,
I'm left a dying wick, and so resigned
I stand still and await the breath of Doom,
To silence me, or coax my love to grow.
But his noble and constant, steadied flame,
Which never false nor cručl burned, flares on,
Is not extinguished, but - the fellest fate! -
Now to the fiery furnace contributes
Within the dragon's stenchčd, foul rumen.
That I am sad to hear, and most grieved. What is your errand, that you are now here?
Why, anon, it is to free you from these ribbons and bows, which are your iron bars and claps - such a darling stock! And what a job it is - but this is not, I am sure, what you ask. 'Tis a personal matter, but as I have already revealed pains of my soul, and of my heart open leaves made, I shall inform thee, as a friend.
And a great honor it is, to be thy friend. May I prove as faithful to thee as thou hast already been to me, having given thee no cause.
Cause have I, thou breath'st! I've come of late
From Ages', the apothecarist and
Alchemist, and what else, is of all 'A's'.
He has a medicine me bestowed, towards
My little Jonathan, the smaller spark,
Who gives me great joy in his model's stead.
I'm very lucky, four such sparks have I,
Remembrances of the one who has
Embarked ahead, but Timothy's the brightest
Of all, and so is likely as to burn
Voraciously - yet kindly - as my dear.
Living, breathing remembrances! O, such is my dream!
Tell, I beg thee, what is wrong with thy treasured ling -
Can I, at all, help preserve thine offspring?
Ages stuck a name on it - he said,
'Pneumonia' - I remember to myself.
As for what help thou canst...
O, it is all undone!
What? Hast thou no hope, good lady? Surely it is...
No, the tangles, the knots... they are undone!
Thou art free, and can go about thy whim.
Ah, 'tis so! Wondrous! Wonderful wondrous! And yet - accept this bow, if thou wilt - I am somewhat sorry
for't. For now I am to go on my way - I would have conversed on, 'till the moon its beamčd glow, cast upon the
millpond yon. But I would not weary thee with blustery speech of my dreams, nor detain thee from the urgent errand that
thou set upon. Take this bow also, and this - why, take the courteous cords - and I am off!
A curious soul! Well, off I must go.
For every breeze I hear amongst the grass
Does mind me of the rasping of my boy
And my resolve, like tempered iron, casts.
O, how I chide myself, I hear him now!
In every mournful song amidst the birds,
The sickly lowing of my son resounds,
A suff'ring soul too pitiful for words.
The dormant chill doth stab me through and through,
The memory of Jonathan, my sweet,
The swiftest kites find crow watching my steps,
At Hermes' pace, wings set upon my feet.
Hark, what? O, I will not now slack nor stay;
In such observance, devils don't delay.
1.3 - Mrs. Brisby's house, elsewhere on the field
[Enter Martin, Teresa, Cynthia and the shrew]
[to Martin] I stead myself, lest in my imbalance
I fall to such a tetchy thing as thee!
Hold strait thy tongue, it will do thee much grief!
Although a friendly target I provide,
There is no warranty in foreign minds.
I do not return blows, by any means,
My witticisms, tit-for-tat, besides.
Placated and relaxed I make myself,
In the eye of disrupting tempest's blasts,
I sanctuary me in quiet pause;
For whilst I speak, thy sharp tongue can't advance.
[to shrew] Heed not his pressed-meted insults! What good can come of order and of rhyme, when it is to injury
and infamy applied?
[to Teresa] If his is the best order that does come
Of the name Brisby, I'll have no more of't;
Be thankful I've a mind wont to forgive,
And which cannot turn tail to Jonathan's kin.
Now please have mercy, I have a weak heart,
Given to morbid palpitations grim;
I do not venture that my halting meek
Or else my timorous constitution can
Withstand the onslaught of thy vicious slings,
Nor quaff thy base bane, without falling dead.
'Tis no great wonder that poor Timmy, who
Has lived with thee, and breathed thy reekish fumes,
Now doth lie in bed in pathetic throes.
The marvel is how he has stayed so long
With thee, and not until now has succumbed!
[She turns to leave]
'Tis no good day that your complexion mars,
Your tow'ring foulness eclipses the sun,
Thy vomitous speech all civility bars,
And mellows joys and light of noon, to dun.
[The shrew turns back]
My complexion mars, thou sayest? Then I must in reply say Mars ha' no better woodpecker than thee! I eclipse
the sun, accordest thou? Thou art the moon, that passes twixt that glorious lamp and me.
Thou cosmic nuisance! Surely thou wouldst fain
Appeal the weighty planets thy cause stead.
For, by the virtue of your massive girth,
They are, iwis, the company you keep.
If I am incontinent, surely thou art Continent! Oughtst not thou be listed in the astrologies? I must bid my mother
speak Ages of it.
Blame not my mother, in this she's no part;
Even if I had not a single spark
Of sage fire, of Prometheus' fame,
Had no one taught me speech in English phrase,
Thy mere presence would marshal words from me,
Like water from a stone, curses would flow,
My void voice the entire globe would hear
And marvel at thy prodigy profane.
[She turns, again, to leave.]
Martin, why do you treat her so?
She is of good nature, and doth take my abuse in sport. Heed not her storied infirmities, she plays the game as
well as I.
A game? 'Tis not for spectators, I guess.
Observe the swift succession of the state,
When once, a tyrant falls in our disgrace,
Another tyrant rises in his place!
Does duty's prompting govern absolute?
To unjust despot, wouldst thou fall prostrate?
I have returned to beating of the drums,
And my drum pounds at thy flourish irate.
Well, they have wearied me enough today,
When next a day a'rambling you must make,
Consider it again, before you call,
For I know not how much more I can take.
But, heed ye not the noises in the field?
The frost is melting quickly from the ground,
Avaunt! You realize not how close we are,
The sowers are at hand as are to sound.
Their roaring, you can hear, if hard you list,
The noises that they grunt precipitate
The fleeing of you all from Danger's hand,
Or spinning, once, the chancčd wheel of Fate.
Spring early comes, and we are caught asleep,
Over our lives, drastic designs do loom,
And what would save our dear and hopeful cause,
Is now reliance uncertain on Doom.
Fate and Doom? The repetition puzzles me; I cannot well distinguish one from the other.
In parity can Doom's grim face be found,
Death's toothsome grin and Fate's thick-gilded crown.
I am excused.
I know not why Martin is in such fulsome humour.
[to Brisby] What means this pounding of these dual drums?
Does not thy wit reveal the obvious?
'Twere quick, I noted, when in reverie
It tore down that which never did it wrong,
And trampled good govern maliciously.
I only left thee in the shrew's repose
Pressed by necessity, on mortal urge.
Think not, but that my only thoughts did dwell
On thee! For I should take a day to seek
That counsel, the advice to make thee whole.
The only reason I am returned soon
Is that the object of the present day,
The herb I have procured for Timothy's sake,
Was close at hand, a mere romp o'er the field.
But an the drug, the edifying drought,
Grew only on the hills of Malay far,
No brute neglect nor any dear expense
Could halt me from completion of my quest.
And if I knew 'twould guarantee thy joy,
And if the craft and power I possessed,
The world to foamy chaos would degen,
And I'd consign myself to nothingness.
If poetry doth still bepuzzle thee,
This drummish mystery yet now best thee,
Then lay your hand upon my chest and feel
Its rhythm, that doth prod me on for thee.
This throb I speak of beats only by thee,
Pray, drum it kindly, for in it is me.
Go on! I'm sorry, I was just having my fun.
[to Brisby] Speak not so - destroying yourself! I would not bid it!
And I am right glad of it.
Would not bid it - why, you could not do it!
And glad of that also.
'Twould do us no boon, anyway. Unfurling the universe! I would rather just satisfy myself with supper.
A trebled glee! But, I check myself. My raging question, which I ha' waited and stayed only by forced
temperation, must be answered now; how does Timmy?
Not so well, I fear.
He ne'er stops his coughing, and the rattling in his chest does not bode well.
Ay, he would not suffer me stay near, to comfort him.
Then perhaps all is undone, regardless. Teresa, set some water on.
[She does so]
If it boils still, then I might suppose,
There is yet law, and to these thorns, a rose.
What needs the water?
This herb I hold is of such bitter taste
Were I to give it Timmy indilute,
It would invoke a retching frightful fierce,
And I would have two Martins, and not one.
O, pitiful - passing pitiful! Beshrew me, were I what thou say'st.
Go to! I have beshrewed thee; she's out the door. Thy quillets are not lost on me.
Thou knowest I am now recanted.
Now recanted, but how the morrow?
I shan't be fickle then, nor change this mood
In passing through a single sleep's domain,
The rising rays next morn shall gently fall
Upon a soul resolvčd, who would fain
His tongue be halted, and be held up by
Fair Reticence, as an example prime.
Thou hold'st true for a day, perhaps, an' on two?
A doubled day doth make no change on me,
Gibraltar shall see much more wear than me,
Four extra watches seem so little time,
To this faithful sentry, in this charge of thine.
And with a week's passing?
Ah, who can see so far? You ask too much of me.
The water boils.
Chamomile, for the tea. 'Twould do Timmy good, I venture.
Superb! I see now why we keep thee on.
I do not chide Martin to give thee leisure to act like him, Teresa.
Well, here is the water, and the flower.
Then I shall take them, and complete this day,
Which has this one object, its lonely aim.
Cynthia, worry'st thou?
Tomorrow shall its own problems amend,
Or if not, then they would to us appear,
And only once we diagnose the grief,
Can we then motions take to set it right.
If the morn comes, it shall not us affright.
And what of the shrew's words?
What of them? They may have been sore and abrasive, but were well provoked.
No, I speak of the planting. In sooth, is it so? - and so soon?
I wish I wot. But then, patience avers
This rumor, for veracity or no.
Much like Israel's slaves in Pharaoh's day,
These bitter herbs and fervent prayers prelude
A hopeful passover of the worse scythe,
And exodus from our shrew's fell decree.
The compound's made; I must administer
It readily, or I'm the hypocrite.
You will excuse me, I must go to cap,
But first, a stop at blessčd Timmy's bed.
So harvest must, seeded in Travail's day,
Bear comely, fragrant fruit, when all is said.
1.4 - The next morning, on the field
The calm has waked me up, and silence has
Drawn me unaided from my drowsy bed.
I mark, the air is still, O, gravely still!
And nothing stirs this morn; the dawn is dead.
[Enter the shrew]
The weather's warm, or I'm a pigeon!
[aside] Nothing stirs, but that which always stirs.
How now, friend shrew?
For now? Secure in body and in mind -
But what make you on this lonesome amble?
O, I am marveling at the quiet.
It roused me from my slumbering just yet.
That surprises me not... you must have little acquaintance with it.
I assign weight to your planting story.
Soon come the till and hoe and oxened plow,
To give that which they and we value well,
And then remove what only we appraise.
This is, indeed, become a day of Doom.
'Twas twattering that revealed this to me,
And silence that established it for you.
O, what am I to make of this dread cast?
Do what everybody else must do; move your family.
But Timothy confined to sickbed lies,
Who, with the twice-warmed comforts of his home,
Doth gasp for life, and lies in mournful thrall,
How if he were subjected to the shock
Of spring's too premature and novice chill,
And February's youthful victim fell?
I could not draw an account of the cost,
The expense skews the balance beyond thought.
But I know dead I may account the youth,
If I no course of action do adopt.
Far be it from me to the pragmate play
Who that discards which hinders his progress,
Why, even if such starting steps I took
I'd want myself, and therewithal regress.
I would not bear it; I would curse the frost
And curse myself, allowing such fell loss.
What would I have you do? Move your family; in that are you charged, for their sake and yours. But, by the good
graces that make me a shrew! What comes hither from the skies?
What? O, I see. That is my friend, the crow.
Your friend, the crow? Your speech is laden with esteem, such as I half expected to hear, 'my friend, the
king' or 'my friend, the Pope.' Such friends, my dear - 'the crow', indeed!
My friend shrew, I say again, my friend shrew,
He is my friend and he shall so remain
Until common crows are both Popes and kings.
By faith! I wonder who may be your friend,
If such must wear a crown or Peter's ring.
I myself am ashamed - and thou art truly my friend.
I only meant that no formal tone was meet,
And that you should flag and flail your arms,
Your faithful friend, if so he is, to greet.
I shall now meet this daw you note so well.
Halloo, and a delightful morn to thee!
How make the efforts of widow Brisby?
I am not sure, for I am at a pass.
Flown you from Rome of late, good Sir?
What now? I have not had the honour yet,
And neither Rome nor you did I acquaint.
This is the field's own shrew, who calls her own
The business of all who live therein.
Although a weary traveling mate she makes,
There's no escape at all from her, methinks.
An honorary rodent I've become,
When shrews and mice my whole circle consists.
For yet, I must confess to thee in sooth,
My lifelong aerial mate I have not met.
Good lady, 'tis an honour to know thy face.
From me, like. Greetings I abbreviate,
The time deserves not such recognition.
[to Brisby] And what means she?
We must severe calamities, as such
Do plague this troubled hour, now discuss.
There is not time for friendly niceties.
I mark, tho' blunt, this is all the shrew means.
No time for friendly niceties? Well, then,
There is not time for such explanation
As her obscurèd answer did deserve.
What calamities fall upon thy heads?
None that concern you or your kin at all.
Now, now, if my friends have me one thing taught,
'Tis that a friend needs not propriet concern
Of his own; theirs is just sufficient cause
To prompt him to the direst designs make
To free them from their troubled, tangled cords,
At risk of death and cats, such motions take.
A good pupil I would account myself;
If I show interest in your fondest want,
Think me not prisome, spookish or a hound
To snap thy snarčd heels, if there they're found.
I'd rather prove myself astute and true,
Inquiring your inner dearest need,
If it concerns me not, I'm not your friend,
For friends are quick to worry friends, indeed.
The shrew doth not account her dear to thee,
And she shows little friendliness to me.
The mallish, cursčd problem that does vex
Me inwardly, shall toll hard on thee next.
Reveal this dread crisis to me, and thy troubled history unfold,
Thy thoughts to me make music, thine untoned wishes, gold.
A friend, shrew! All the kings and Popes would take,
Centuries dedication such to make -
And what's more, all his benefits expound,
He has the benefit of being found.
I have mentioned my son, the spark, to thee;
His kindling hath not caught, he glowers still,
Unaugmented by his natural heat,
And dampered 'mongst a bed of death-cold coals.
And, yet, I must the poker take, and prod
His hearth, and stir the uncaught ashes up,
With care, but there's no means to take in full,
The pains I'd tender, tindering my son.
I fear to stifle his new flame before
It catches, and can warm our house once more.
The melt doth force us flee, and the wind's breath
Might waft away his life, yea, unto death.
But if we linger, if to him attend,
The plow shall turn us up, and our lives end.
A crushing fate doth wait us either way,
I do not feel like speaking much today.
And 'twere speaking and counsel that may help thee up!
What, to my gibbet?
Thou art melancholy, but art well reprieved! Why sit there, striking foot to stone; why moan and sigh and wail,
"hey, ho"? There is a way to solve this yet; so stow thy frowns, and store thy doting pose; rise up, and
brave the way this story goes!
Methinks you have swallowed too much of the wind.
Perhaps I am not wise.
I'll say, that's true.
But I know one who is.
Pray, tell me, who?
[he curtsies] who's spent a hundred years a'flight...
O, come now, how can there be such a wight?
His wisdom doth encompass all there is...
But is he skilled at moving sickly kids?
His cogent advice he doth give by day...
But is he known for counseling his prey?
He would display his charity to mice...
O, go to, he would eat her in a trice!
For he will dispense that which does thee good...
In Madame Brisby, he doth see but food!
And he shall all thy troubles soon relieve!
When once I see it, then shall I believe.
Where dwells this owl, this wizened bird of prey?
For if he can my Timothy relieve,
Deliver him to gentle April fair,
And bear him thither on his ancient wings,
My coddling nature should unbounded fly,
Rejoicing in his health, along I'd soar;
Him overtake, and I would meet them there,
Embrace him, weeping, sobbing tears of joy,
I, vindicated, released from my care;
And free from fear to love, forevermore.
My babe and I a babel there should raise,
We'd tower to the skies paeans of praise.
Model of pitiful hope, thou wast born under a weak and tippling star! Wouldst thou assign thyself and Timmy both to
the care of this clownish jack? He bobs e'en now, like a crane more than crow, but he indeed crows fair well! He
tips worse than thee, and strikes a desperate hour.
Stars, made for wishing, tumble 'bout the pole;
And our fickle dreams doth play them well,
From the first day we walked upon this knoll,
Until the final moments 'fore death's knell.
Thou speak'st of soaring through the air, indeed?
Yes, where lives this owl?
That is residuary - wouldst thou soar through the air?
He's no more reasonable than Popes or kings.
How could she fly, when she doth lack the wings?
She lacks naught - I've a serviceable pair.
Right you are - the vast heavens should admit us, and the gusty wind, which wafts 'way this spark's heat, may carry us to his most generous reprieve.
Is that the way the wind blows?
Straight to a quick resolve, and we with it, if thou wilt.
'Tis a brave act.
An' one an act to end.
'Tis a fool act.
An' thou hast thy fool, here.
I stand uncertain - I but wish my children well.
Thou wishest thy kin well, to right a fault;
To thy kin's well, the way is welkin's vault.
An' this is how the crow doth recompense make, to usher thee to thy doom? Does he repay a favor, another boon to make?
'Tis excellent, for fair, the right repaid,
To have again the chance, the right reprise.
Be gone! I know thou shouldst be, what thou sayest; it is only right. If I do not see thee again, I know why. Custody of the whole field, and four children! I shall be busy henceforth.
Now, now, 'tis but a watch!
A watch... a watch for ruddy moon, perhaps.
This crow is my friend, and should well advise.
Be off, ye hopeful mouse, but mind yourself;
Icarus were the friend of honeybees,
On borrowed wings he sought his own relieve,
And in the sun of his exub'rant flight,
His friendships' worth was counted not a mite.
Your husband's name knew David, king of old,
And countless psalms were sung of their camaraderie,
Did David bear his Jonathan to bears?
Did he lend regal shoulders for a crutch,
To lead his lifelong friend to gory death?
But, lo! A fateful thought has passed my brain;
A fearful motion asks, why act ye so?
Can you no more bear to breathe in and out?
Is it a neat and comely death you seek?
Goest thou with him, a waiter to an owl?
Bring'st thou a dish for our sagacious bird,
On such a mourning, black platter as this?
Wouldst thou in sep'rate tombs thy bones inter,
And have a cat for him, an owl for her?
Were it that you would deafen me! If you must, do it in an hour; I need first hear the owl speak. I shall let the
wind blow 'way the memory of your speech, as I go, but pray, say no more, I bleed inside.
And I forgot friends are forgiving, too.
If thou forgiv'st me for my probing thoughts,
That wander where they never should have gone,
Than I forget how thou didst me bereave,
One thawing day, which saw a sun too soon,
And broke to a young mouseling's sickly crow,
And a young widow's wak'ning to the still:
A world quiet to her, which holds no more
Her fire, which to Heaven wast recalled,
A spring that dawned to them devoid of life,
A nighted child, and unhusband'd wife.
Be gone, again! And let me not thee stay,
If not tomorrow, let all end today.
Then, I am off, and a delighted morn again, Lady Shrew: I should see more of you, I hope.
There is no more to see than what stands before you.
Ha, ha, he! You're right, and it should be more oft!
It were not so funny today.
Now art thou saturnine, where I was wont
To mull myself in pitiful regret,
And turn about in fear of mortal Doom?
'Twere slight reversed, I notice in your sighs,
And tho' I do not care to keep this ill,
I'd rather I'd not pass it on to thee.
Until the even, I bid thee, farewell!
[Exeunt manent the shrew]
'Tis not the office of the shades to care,
Nor is it meet for spectres lost to mourn.
If thou know'st not thy concerns in Sheol,
Art lief to suck up gallons of the Lethe,
And let thy deep care perish in thy grave,
Then I am left thy memories to keep,
And all thy pet designs I now must save.
Farewell, shouldst thou fly forth before the noon!
Thy sun were far too hot for thee, I fear;
In search of denizens of the cool moon,
Thou sidlest to thy enemy too near.
Farewell, thou painčd mother, thou hast known
A share of night and chill for sunny days;
And since thy husband hath left thee alone,
Thou wand'rest bout in an unsunny haze.
So fly up high, and lift above thy fog:
Farewell, thou victim of a thrown-off year,
Slough off thy sadness, soar above thy bog,
Near up to Heaven; nip thy husband's ear.
Farewell to dear friends I shall see no more -
'Twere yesterday we knew our joy complete,
Yet now we sorely want what came before,
And sorrow for what's passed beneath our feet.
Farewell, for Timmy's sake I bid thee so,
I mean it hard: I would have thee return;
The pups do not fare well without their doe;
Pray, kindle them again, that they may burn.
May in thy sapient bird be found no wrong,
May thou return'st, his disclosure to tell,
May April's sun break on our pinking throng,
Well fair - and so I bid again, farewell!
Act the Second
Difficulties show men what they are.
2.1 - High in the boughs of a great oak
Hast thou so much to say? We near the tree now.
It is, by troth, a great oak.
It is more, and thou dost well to gape oakenly at't. 'Twere a right Teutonic tree, and held 'fore the reign Titanic, and rose a sprout from a fall of the world oak, and makes its roots in the deeps of the earth, and suckles nourishment from the secret springs. As a sapling, it housed the first of the Owls, [he curtsies] and their dynasty's lofty nest, and held the genesis of all we flighty souls, and birthed the first of the great eagles, tho' I'd venture he were then but an eaglet, and quite small. Ah! but I could sing for hours of its yore! What roots it has!
It has a fine lineage then, also
A airy eyrie to its higher boughs,
And in possession of its storied berth,
It shows more promise than its roots in earth.
The latter was what I did come to search,
Its higher praise doth lie in our owl's perch.
But thou hast it not in half! Here, let me set it to thee in song: it is well known to we in the community:
'We wing our way from our noble oak,
We humble birds and common folk.
The prestige of our arbor renown,
Is not too heighty to house lowly down...'
Have I not heard this song already?
'And so we sing of ancient oaks that stand,
And grew of dryad's songs in nymphic land;
And prospered 'fore the long-lost days of auld
And whose great histories we now unfold...'
Who doth dare grime my step with foolish foot,
How not the hallowed oak itself uproot
On such audacious trespass as does now
Gird itself up, and rightful cause endow?
Only because the fruiting season grows
Ere its appointed time, and ripe it shows
Such problems to the divers birds and beasts,
That no one is excluded - not the least.
He that my lofty dwelling would access,
E'en must a hero's measured couth possess,
Right now the grave mistake you have made, or
Enter my house, and see what owls are for!
Was that the thunder, or was that a voice?
I could not make the first words out at all,
I was not listening for an order to 't.
'Twere the thunder, and 'twere a voice. That, lady, is the owl.
That is, methinks, what brought thee here.
An' owls eat mice!
Owls eat mice - it is all I can remember.
Is it? I should think thy friend the shrew should ha' minded thee of it!
Owls eat mice!
Repeat that to thyself as thou goest; if it is indeed all thou canst conceit.
I take thy leave. Owls eat mice, owls eat mice,
Owls eat mice, owls eat mice...
Stand thou there dumb, waiting for me to act?
Prate to thyself anon, to state a fact?
Even is not yet here, I'm not at prey,
And so I shall not snap at thee today.
Keep'st thou thy life, I have no interest there,
Unkempt thou art, to sneak into my lair,
Proffering thyself shall not help thee at all.
It would be a fine day, Sir Owl, when your food delivered itself to you, and a fine day for me.
I should grow glutton then, so I shall not
Take any mousy motion toward that lot.
Ah, but I am the one taking the motions.
Yea, I know precisely.
Having deliberated not to eat me, shall you then let me prosper?
What does it mean to prosper, first I ask?
Is it to be free from the things that tax,
Or must it also contain what is good,
Plenteous wealth, no want, and healthy brood?
Can any one of us play Fate for gull?
Is anyone so wise to be a fool
To blindly venture off the bounds of known,
And bravely reap the grain of what he's sown?
Is anybody sage to throw off want?
Is there a soul who does not know to care?
Or is it mortal that we blessings flaunt,
And turn on bread, for want of better fare?
If thou art troubled, all thy concerns wind,
And let me listen to thy heart's complaint;
Then let me tell thee how thy heart hast sinned,
And how ingratitude thy soul did taint.
'Tis truly wise, to resign to thy lot,
And be resolved, although thy lot is mean,
And try to forget objects thou hast sought,
And long searched for, but which have never seen.
For us is discord, and contention meant,
To quarrel 'bout, and not to be content.
Thou hast lived in thy gloom too long, yet thou know'st me well, and see that I have indeed brought a concern to thy door. Yea, I have been told thou wert wont to help those in need... and yet... and yet..., O! O! - owls eat mice!
I have heard no concerns yet, nor have I seen opportunity to help. From me, thou hast solicited nothing, and so I shall give nothing, and a few wise words to ponder, moreover. If thou hast a request, speak it. If thou hast a boon, let it boom. If thou hast come to repeat a standard of self-destruction, and wouldst elicit, not pity, but a rumbling in stomach, it were best to scurry away to thy motto, an' in a quick tempo, too. For I ha' given thee no cause to verdict on my benevolence - not yet.
May I, then, speak?
I would not stay thee, on a matter of concern, for the life of this oak. I would not stay thee, on a quiddity, for remiss of a good laugh. If it is of import, let it be export; if it is of no weight, let it float from thee, and be heard.
Good owl - I trust thou art good - I am here,
Bound on a grave concern of my young son,
Who lies sick in bed of the cold; I fear
His lengthening, warming days may soon be done.
For tho' I have the poultice of his ill,
And quick recovery he may well make,
I must need move him soon, and in the chill
His mall may worsen, and his dear life take.
We cannot remain set, the plow arrives;
If we are here with it, why, we are not;
To brave change for one's child's good and wise,
I've seen before, and'd see what I have sought,
And I know not the thing I ought to do,
I thought I might find good counsel in you.
Move your family; make mobile your charge.
'Tis simple matter, count it how you may,
In there, the loss at most is not too large,
But you shall lose all in the other way.
I cannot hear!
O, an' owls eat mice, I've heard.
Have you heard? You mumble cold Sophist, and reverb echoes of the depths.
There is no warmth in this accursèd oak!
Your reply all the demons chant with nods,
Your pragmate waxing advocates my wane,
Thou art no owl, thou art a slavering tod,
For tat, delivering Tod, and gloating, fain
Commending my tot ill, and me insane.
Permutations I prescript as you asked,
I do not blow a balmy breeze when tasked.
What good is insight thus, when it's applied,
In such a churlish fashion as you say?
When it lacks comfort, is it such a boon?
When any fool would function well without,
And do so cheerfully, is it a prize?
When it consigns your soul to placating,
When you might somehow right a wrong you face,
When you forth sally, shouting songs of air,
When you promote your friends to do the same,
And enjoined in your mutual quest, go off,
And quester all along the way their cares,
When you prescribe them all to do the same,
And forget all their want, and not care for
Poor wretches who are not beyond their help,
When you enlist these in, and they do come
Willingly, and their ordered course do throw,
And all their ordained goodness do disdain,
When all futurity seems but a book,
And all the rules of Providence are moot,
And your not caring party ventures on,
Meets Pandora; pauses awhiles to flirt,
And shakes its fists at all the turning stars,
And laughs at songs of epic battles then,
And says, "'Tis charms, and mythic stories by
Those who see meaning, where there only is
A kind of caprice in unseeing Fate",
When they do blunt their swords upon the stones,
For absence of the enemies they had,
And have still, but upon turn new-blind eyes,
When they see beggars with no better lamps,
Who probe their way about an arrant earth,
Nay, who by nature arrant not themselves,
Who were not marked for heinous crime commit,
When they see mothers reft, and widows made,
Who did not suffer so for clearing cause,
Nor less their loss with penitential tears,
But cried for knowing not the reason why,
And lived distraught and lonely out their run,
When they see these, their only comforts are,
"List to me, wise am I - evil thou art!
Be wise, and let the demons play their wills!
Give them fair leave to plague this troubled world,
And mischief make which ne'er can be relieved!
Let them run rampant and live unopposed.
Lift not thy hand to stop a vile deed!"
When wisdom such can comfort none afford,
The gold of knowledge doth buy no reward,
The fools do lord the sages in their sleep
And all the fat of folly do they keep,
When Cygnus sings a song of drinking beer,
And Punch doth make pretense of Solomon,
When songs of Prester John make him seem near,
And lawyers make physicians stuff of fun,
That day thy party gallants off to naught,
To senseless death, and high reckless neglect
And rides to fatal Doom without a care:
Is there a hint of wisdom in your acts?
Are you not fools despite of any name?
Ignoring all the problems you are lent,
Is it a benefit to stay content?
Thou art Bildad! Eliphaz! Zophar! Tempests, whirlwinds, spouts, spring forth! Send thy elemental fury upon this head! Make him see! Make him hear! Make him truly wise! For I am not yet wise; I cannot instruct him.
Thou art not wise, say ye no more!
I would not hear another peep.
Thou wouldst not hear another speech from me?
But what of this wooden, hollow oak's life?
Aye, I forgot, I promised something like.
But I know something I forgot to say,
A fact which saves my honesty intact.
This oak, whose edifice does scrape the sky,
Whose size intimidate does shame the crags,
A tree whose glimpse has inspir'd ballads fair,
And nurtured life for many long-past years,
Deceives those folk who do not know it well,
'Tis hollow and most cunning in its looks;
The core has been afflicted with a rot,
A plague which is a function of its age,
A pox which calls effects on ancient roots,
And eats them whole, and burrows its way deep,
Its gravity shall non bring its downfall,
The day is coming soon when it shall die,
And wizened birds therein shall go with it,
And in my swearing I did not say much.
Think'st thou that I care only for myself?
Nay, I can do thee good, eat thee, and give thee share in my wisdom - but I fear that may be too good for thee.
O, Jonathan! Jonathan!
What now, what are you whispering? Were it a name?
Yea, although you care not.
It is easy to say "yea"; I am sure it was a name. If 'tweren't a name, then it must have been some invocation against me. Tell me the name, lest I assume it were otherwise.
Excuse me; I was calling Jonathan.
For if I read thee right, I may him join.
Jonathan - is he thy husband?
What does it matter? He is one month dead,
And I am sorely, from his losing, lost.
Corrosion as does hollow agèd oaks,
Perturbance as does shake them from their roots,
The gnawing disease that does eat live flesh,
The fire that can burn a man to death,
The age that stops a beating, weary heart,
The drowning ocean that away steals breath,
They pallid grow with fear, and rev'rence to
Their master, Loss, a despot fiercely blinked,
Who, breathing, invokes fear in all around,
And in his smile beats them to the ground.
I must petition strongly for my life;
What is a death, but loss? I know four souls,
My children, who have been visited once
By Loss, the victims of his feared decree,
And who, in losing me, would die again.
Who cares of rot that makes an owl swear air?
'Tis insignificant, I'm impressed not
By size, maturity, or storied past,
This oak doth finish in my concerns last.
Look 'bout, and ope thine eyes, thou art not dead!
I have but asked thee who thy husband was,
I have revolved this ancient wisdom's head,
And have retracted ev'ry word, because
I only had thy highest good in mind,
To speak the truth, although the truth hold pains,
'Twere true, no better answer could I find,
Nor could I hear less discordant refrains.
But now thy son glows golden through the vague,
And has a future still, though warrant not
In the hard times before his present ague,
His heat shall grow intense; his spark has caught.
An optimal employment I would give,
I'd despise all the world that he might live.
Thou art a changer for an ancient bird.
Twice have I asked, but you have not yet heard.
I knew not the situation, and did not bother to ask the questions. Art thou of the name Brisby?
I did not know I were known in these parts.
Of what importance was my husband you,
That you might know his name to say it now?
I know not what to tell you, I know not
What might pass after thou know'st who I am,
For if thou know'st my name, thou mightst work grief
Far worse than if thou stifled my voice ere
I told thee, halting, meekly, who I was.
But thou hast not yet acted, nor hast thou
A motion taken to my poor life end,
And I suppose thou art no worse a fiend
If thou know'st now that I'm that name indeed,
For if I told thee not, and thou wouldst know,
Thou hast, I'm sure, far viler ways to see.
Thou art, I tell myself, in league with Dark,
And I do know the shadows doth conceal
No secrets from their master. Hear ye now,
I am the very soul of which you speak,
The widowed Brisby, wife of Jonathan.
Seest thou that I am not thy enemy? If I spoke hard words afore, it 's best to forget them, and toss them away! I knew not thy name before, and I believe it makes a difference here.
My name shall save my son?
No, not thy name,
Tho' mayhap things thy legal name entails.
There is a story subtext thou seest not,
And all thy motions take without the know,
But I see both sides still, honest thou art,
And innocent of motives otherwise.
Thou shalt not leave yet, but shalt leave me safe
And a new-flamed hope in thee shall consume
Thy loss and sadness, and the tyrant's fist
Shall tremble in thy regained confidence.
'Tis not a thing said fore, pin not thy hopes
On the outcome, but do only because
'Tis never wise to say what's ahead done.
But if I know this true, I say aside
This new deliverance should effective prove,
And it shall find a way thy family move,
With thy too-sickly son along as well,
And thy relief and theirs it should betide.
Set thyself down, sit, we shall talk an hour,
And I shall tell thee these things thou needst know,
In knowledge should thy fearsome despot cower,
In tutoring thee, thus I best thy foe.
Let thine eyes widen at this new egress,
This happy escape from thy fearful liege,
And wring thy hands in nervous eagerness,
To implement scape from thy prolonged siege.
And then thou shalt proctor a lesson me,
And thy path to thy wisdom me divest,
For I have acted like a boiling fool,
And in my hotness my own way transgressed.
Soft mysteries, where luster lacks, may hide,
Grey norms and silvered wonders oft collide.
2.2 - At Mrs. Brisby's house
[Enter Martin and Teresa]
Thou hast been performing needlepoint, say'st thou?
Aye, though a hot spring's day's a'coming. In darkening hours last winter, I found it a good pass-time; quick days grew quicker, and the cold went speedier.
A pleasurable diversion. I did that for a season.
What, Martin? I would not expect to discover such an interest in thee.
Yea, though it weren't in the winter, 'twere the summer last. I found it made long days last longer, and the heat linger awhile more. My interest in the craft had a life story much like the interest in an usurer's loan: every time one asks of it, it is smaller.
I kid thee. It were a noble profession; that is why I do not taint the needle.
Good morrow, Cynthia - thou rise an hour late.
Not late, Teresa, not late. Good morrow, Martin.
Good noontide, Cynthia - thou rise an hour too late. Befriend thee a rooster.
I did not hear thy morning bustle, nor Martin's complaint of the day. How could I rise on time?
We were out walking in the calm. 'Twere most unusual.
'Twere a sleepy morn, any how. I do not like it better that I am awake.
'Tis the sound of death, good Cynthia, that is how our good patron the shrew would make it. All is quiet in preparation of the reaving.
Where is the shrew?
I know not. Though Martin would guess.
She's out with our mother, no doubt. Perhaps inciting us to light a bonfire of Timothy, or make him offer burnt incense, that Nero Caesar might be appeased.
I love the shrew dearly. I am not bound to love the shrew dishonestly.
Thou art the shrew, Martin, the very...
[Enter the shrew]
O, death, doom, and woe!
Here comes Martin's prophecy.
The very word!
O, calamity, resignation, and foul loss!
I do not know if I want to be with this person.
Hark, hail, shrew stoic! What means this low mourn?
It is a day but devoted to death.
No, your words, why are they smeared so with soot?
Thy mother slew herself, and then, knowing I could not bear living without her friendship, she had the good grace to slay me, too.
If she is twice so dead as you are, I suppose she could manage it quite well.
What does this mean, shrew? Tell us.
She told me she bleeds inside.
Aye, I'm quick to believe it - she's quick too, is she not?
It is to be fervently hoped.
Let Timmy fervently hope 't, he's as hot as Vulcan's hammer. My, but you're ponderous! All this talk of speed and quick and hotness has brought it out an' enhanced what - heaven knows, they can certainly see you! - needed no elaboration. Methinks it is lamping the sun, or fanning a hurricane, or fueling Etna.
Or perhaps it is more to giving Martin a browbeating. I am not in the mood I was formerly in; thy clever jests of my wide carriage are not in place today. Please, I bid thee, let us speak of thy mother.
What is this insistence? I've never known you to be more serious, nay, no, but twice before I have seen you something like this. First, when you speak of my father, and second, once when I used your kerchief for a washcloth. Is this more akin to the first instance, or the second? How did my mother kill herself? How am I orphaned? I would know; it should go in my book.
On a crow.
On a crow... I know no blade by such name sharp enough.
Thou knowest it not, only because thou canst not see thy tongue.
Thy jibing speech of my too-willing wit is also not welcome. Please let us speak of my mother.
If you would make jokes in this black hour, with the plow at our tails and heavy stones on our heads, can you not make jokes of each other, and not of my mother?
I knew her not as a joke.
And I love her far too much to jest about her. I am deadly serious, deadly serious, I am afraid. Tho' I did not see her cold, this is not a premature report. Last I saw her, she was merrily gallanting off, whistling as she skipped to Doom.
Dead she is of a crow; I know no more,
But I at least am sure of what I know.
Likewise, I love her far too much to joke about her death. It is, however, equally true, I love my mother far more than does the shrew, for these two causes: one, I love her enough to joke of her life, if the occasion arose, although I am agreed this is not the time. The second proof is that I love her enough, and wisely enough, to hope.
Hope? Liar, you are jesting even now!
Canst not thou mourn, for any cause or cost?
Canst thou not take an account of the loss?
I hope. Thou sayest she is cold? Betwixt the cold and Timothy's heat, I believe we shall find the medium.
You hope in her death?
No, no more than I would joke in her death. But, just as I would joke, I would hope in her life.
[to the shrew] I understand him. Thou hast not seen her dead.
Aye, but I cannot see how it can be otherwise. She has gone to speak to an owl.
Why would my mother do such a thing?
I am afraid to say what I have thought.
I cannot tell.
I have a third reason discovered. If I believed for a passing instant, if I assumed for a fraction of a thought, that my mother was lost, I should let a pitiful mourning and wailing so bereft that all the world should hear and be deflated, and all the stars should shake upon their globe, and every living thing would breathe by force, and terror would uproot the deepest truths. I hear no such horrifying thing, nay, I can hear the grass growing. It is peaceful; she must not be dead. For our sakes she would play trepidore to the edge of the earth; she has many times so said. Let her live, shrew, she's breathing still. I have not done her drum to death.
Good heavens, child, get thee back to bed!
O, shrew, I must needs first know who is dead!
[to the shrew] Now see what fruit a gossiped harvest brings?
Thou hast roused Timmy for but rumoured things.
[to Timothy] O, blessèd infant, to my vast regret,
I must parlay some sorry news to thee,
For with a carnal owl she's bravely met -
Thy mother's ventured where none living see.
List not to her, she winds mistaken tones!
I have two; stay not our false prophet's stones.
Is the answer, then, my mother?
Thou art the victim of a doubled mall,
A complement to thy twice-warmèd bed,
Thou hast in stormy loss partaken bitter gall,
And now by basest stony pods are fed.
Death! Doom! Dear halting passion, I feel not!
Where have I left my rising, sleeping, sick'ning, cot?
Despair not, gentle kind, I shall thee take,
And foster thee for thy dead mother's sake.
O, that should do it!
Take 'way! Take 'way! Give way, thou lasting legs!
Where has my vision gone? I'm dizzy, light
Of head, I gasp! I speak! I... I feel sick,
Giddy, giddy! Warm, but, O, so giddy!
He is taken by a spirit! Come, I shall exorcise it.
[Martin goes to Timothy and stoops over him]
Art thou there, foul devil, conduit of filth, precursor of evil? Aha! I ha' discovered thee! Now, Frotherfool, perhaps thou canst tell me, know'st thou my mother? Thou say'st 'nay'? But is she dead? 'Nay', again? So much I thought.
O, thou fool.
I know no demons as would know thy mother; if there were one there, 'twould do thee no good to interrogate him.
But thou admit'st thou knowest demons? I should have thought.
What means this sorry buzzing in my head?
Good Martin, help thy brother to his bed.
I am thy constant stayguard when I'm right,
To thou, fair child, I bid a good-night.
[Exit Martin, carrying Timothy]
I wonder what kind of devil crow it was.
O, the foulest type, a brutal, senseless rogue
Who kills sweet innocents as he can snare
And make them think him their true bosom friend.
Some demon conjured from the pits of Hell,
Who traces sulfur ev'rywhere he goes,
And halos all about with nauseous stench,
And curses those who do but bid him well.
A foulest, evil lord cacophonous,
That excels cursèd hierarchy's ladder,
Doom's portent, and Death's cup I know he brings,
And serves unwitting ache to trusting things.
He must truly be a horrendous villain. How did he look? For if I should ever see him, I should hope to escape his burning curses.
A fire burned unholy in his eyes,
And in his glowing embers Brisby saw
A hope of rescue for her dying son,
Who issues too much smoke and little flame.
Black, black as sin! and feathers sharp as blades!
His tongue were forked, and painted venomous shades!
His beak a spear! and legs of crushing clay!
I fear I have lost all my wits today.
And what of poor Timothy? I hope Martin is attending to him rightly.
Martin attends at the crow's shirt-tails, and tailors impish pranks to please his master.
O, don't be silly.
I should think my mother should be scared to sense if she ever saw such a horrible beast. He makes the cat seem hospitable.
I wished then that I were in the cat's belly, for the safety there.
Surely you're exaggerating. My mother would not entrust herself and her family to a hellbeast.
And such I said, but had I not it seen
With these two eyes, I would forswear again
That ever Brisby would a friend there see.
But, shrew, my mother sees a friend in thee.
What, child? Speak again, I did not hear.
That was not a task I find becoming,
Nor can I see the good in worried loss.
Thou art a rogue to tease the poor boy so,
And steal away his health as it did grow,
To delegate him sorrow in his youth,
And lock him to his olding bed for aught.
Thou art a baser rogue to wax his hope,
On objects that will never satisfy,
Thou art hell-breathed to advise him to cope,
Instead of bidding him to let hope die.
One of your finer jokes, that. I should remember it. I spent the time trying to clear his head of your poison; I could not well do it. He was pale and nigh on comatose; I carefully listed to his breathing hard, and found I made out many a whispered word. 'Twere verbations that did bring tears to my eyes. A quiet, muted natal call he whined; pitiful despairings, I heard him call our mother, and take me for her, in his heat, and did I play the part? I tried my best.
But only she shall take his moans away,
And his pneumonia's not the greater ill.
I am but by thy mother's death depressed;
Heed not my busy mouth, I can not tell
What I should do, or whither I should go
From thee and thy calamity's mute day.
Thou speak'st of poison, and my actions fell,
Look'st thou about, and see I love you all,
An inadvertent hap is Timmy's ill,
An' if I worsened it, then let me die
Instead of him; I'd not for all the world.
I fear my life, now that I'm left with him.
I cannot raise my hand to strike the child
With new disaster, such is laid upside
By new-plowed soil, turned up in the rain.
As for Martin and his ill antidote
Connived by villains and poor mountebanks,
Complain thy case, and thy half pence retrieve,
For thou hast gentleness inferior,
And thou wert given less than thou didst need,
And I yet question that a player's there.
Perhaps thou canst sue Nick for half thy soul.
I tried growing an ivory horn from my head in a minute, but this was a harder endeavour than I took it to be. Thou couldst do no better; and I would rue letting the viper near the slightly mouse. Thy spittle would but spatter him with venom; and speckle him with ichor, and smear base bilious humours excelling disgusted description all about his pillow. I would not make clean such a mess; therefore, I bar you reprieve to better me. Let him sleep, 'tis a day for 't.
There is too little good in thee, Martin, to dispel evil; yea, even the good thou hast revels in the drinking-pubs with thy worser parts, and between the two of them, they find there's little difference one to the other.
Ah, but true good is that name enough to discern only when dry. If good cannot see when it is drowning in beer, steal away its mug and nim its harder brew, and let it be good. 'Tis easy for you to say I cannot evil dispel, but if you admit there is indeed evil there, and it is the evil I speak of, it is evil that you have placed, and bred and calculated. Thou meanest well, I am sure. Say no more.
I would not shorten Timmy's sickness by breaking his life. Good day.
It still has not come yet, begone!
[Exit the shrew]
That was not a pleasant visit.
Ah, dear Teresa, thou art more gentle
Than Martin e'er could be. 'Twere a disease! -
Besmirching, enfouling all in this house.
It near killed Timmy, and did sore my soul,
And I know not if I a mother have.
Thou know'st not? Were she not alive?
Aye, she were. An' is now, I hope. An owl!
An owl... tho' it is day yet. It seems not so.
The sun is sinking 'neath the vapours now.
Ah, how they glow and burn a fiery red!
I've just come up!
Thou rise an hour too late.
And two suns set upon this quiet day
One who is content that it remain thus,
One who will not bear it close silently,
But brings the calm to cry in hacking cough,
And leads the still to shout in sickly moan.
Enclosed in fog, and by this obscura
Resigned to suffocate, and pleasured so,
He takes his bow, and smiles for the day
That would quiet us all, but which does not:
Observe ye now the shrew! She chatters on,
And in her noises violates this age,
And all the time before is winding down,
And the new morn shall break in a rebirth.
The quiet dawn precedes a day of noise,
With leads to days of peace, not fraught with death.
And for my mother, if she's silenced now,
She fell a victim of contagious calm,
And not of owls that raccour up the night.
But if she lives - and, this, I take, is true -
She bested Time and fooled this daft-dumb day,
For Timmy, that no martyr he should be
But rather should escape this heathen foe
Foreign to time, speech, and continuance.
Insidiously wronged, undone's this day.
2.3 - At a rosebush, elsewhere on the field
[Enter Jenner with Sullivan]
And how was that?
I tell myself, Sullivan, at times I say that I am indeed the vilest rogue that ever walked this earth.
Ha! why speak'st thou thusly?
Have I a friend?
Yea, one here, who'd trust thee to death, who lives in thy life.
Aye, patron, aye, I have a friend under my cloak today for the Council.
I guess not thy meaning. Who is thy friend, Jenner?
A blade, sir, a sword.
Strapped under thy cloak?
[Jenner shows Sullivan his sword]
How vicious! But what's it for?
'Tis for safety; if I mark nuance well, I am not popular in our old men's club.
But thou art so a rogue?
A rogue and a runabout. Why should, Sullivan, I ask again, why should a rat bring a sword into peaceful assembly?
He fears it is not pieceably assembled.
You joke, but you are more correct than you think. But I know that the Rat Council is indeed a peaceful assembly.
Than thou seek'st to shape it otherwise.
Ah! and I love the threat in it.
Ha! I see thou art indeed a rogue.
Aye, a most dreadful, terrible rogue.
And I'm sure thou'rt a villain, too?
Of the worst shade.
And thou seek'st war and death, loss and calamity?
I proclaim them my knit brethren.
I have never understood thee, Jenner, but I've enjoyed thy company for longer than I can remember. We have been close friends since childhood, and I worry for thee now. Why search for danger? Why live reveling in risk? I live in thy faithfulness, and what is death but loss, dear friend? And if thou art so unfaithful a friend to die, thou didst die in unfaithfulness, and I die too, and not by shedding blood.
Shedding your blood, stilling your heart, and drawing your last breath is Death, dear Sullivan. Death is death, untrueness is untrueness, fidelity is fidelity: words mean words, and words mean things. If I am an unfaithful friend, I am an unfaithful friend. I am not dead. I'm ruddy yet, and take breath, as well.
Words mean words, Sir Jenner, and "unfaithful friend" means nothing to my ears.
Go on. I meant to patrol the grounds an hour cackling to myself 'fore I went to Council. I could miss service today.
Said like a true rogue, but surely thou wantest more produce from thy time than an hour's allowance of gloating.
Why should I go? I need no assistance as going to a church would give me; it wouldn't further my designs at all. No produce would it bear me; I know no deacon as sows tares, nor can I trust a priest to till corruption: though if I found such men, I'd recruit them in a dog's modesty.
Ha! Thou art evil, good friend, sore evil!
Aye, I am.
I've always loved thee for thy wit.
'Tis biting sharp, isn't it?
Sharp as a dagger.
And stabs dangerously, doesn't it?
Now, com'st thou with me to sanctuary?
Aye, though I still don't see the good it will do me.
The Church can only be more incorrupt than her saints.
Yea, I know. I still see no good of my stencil. But I shall follow in a moment. Go off.
Thou wilt be putting away the sword for an hour?
Of course. [aside] Nay, I'll keep't. Justin will be there.
Good, then. Thou know'st the way.
Sullivan, thou friend! Thou seest but what thou wilt,
And dangerously trust all that thou seest,
Thou admit what appears to do thee good
And loves thee, and in cozy company,
A cozening wretch doth notice nature there:
A fool, but true, and useful in thy name,
Thou hop'st for friends, and faithful souls who do
Tell thee what's fit - thou hop'st they're what they say.
Hope on! I only applied for thy heart,
And only I am noble in thy mind,
Thou stand'st or fall on me, thy dual fate
Depends entirely on my sweet whim,
I decide what thou dost, and whether thou
Go down in memory as true or base,
Or whether any shall note thee at all.
I am thyself, thou art a faithful friend
To give me all thy trust and trust in me
Thine assets and goodness I hide behind.
Good Sullivan, I know none knows thy name,
And thou art hollow of all things but me.
I'll use thee, and when I discard thy shell,
The world will still continue just as well.
2.4 - At the owl's oak
[Enter Brisby and Owl]
'Tis cold here.
Winter chilled doth have a place,
Though you it leaves, still we're in its embrace.
Death doth impend upon me, o'er me doth loom,
Its breath doth chill my house, to make a tomb.
I have lived long enough to know Death well,
I cannot send him 'way, nor as a stranger shall.
Thou hast heard all, and all amazement is
Dropped at thy feet, unlike its wilding worth;
Tak'st thou it on? It brings a fearsome price,
The strange discoveries thou mak'st if thou
Venturest to pick it up, it lays there still;
What mak'st thou of my brave adventurous tale?
I have heard all, but what I hear is not
So foreign to my nature as thou say'st;
Indeed, if true, this should come no surprise.
Pleas redirected! Such transit I make,
From Ages, to thee, to these recluse rats.
They know my plight? They did know Jonathan?
Then they know me, these are my two great points,
Defining that which begs before thy foot,
That entreats thee to disclose all to me.
For I have opened all of me to thee,
And to thy moon exposed my inner pleas,
Thy glaring eyes to 'certain who I am,
Thy glowing face to assay me as true:
If I am as I say, then do me this,
Let all thou know'st on this be known to me,
And let my timid proofs be laid to thee.
Have I proved true?
Yea, uncommon thou art,
And fair in worth and purity, by grains
No better than this owl. Thou art assayed,
Thou art as said. I must do thee thy boon.
When thou meet'st Nicodemus, let him know
Thou hast my approve, and certificate
Of legitimacy - 'tis true, I can't give
A better proof to thee of guarantee,
To forward to the rats for approval.
And as thou art to me laid out, I say
I shall let thee know what thou need'st to know,
As I did promise. Thy Loss lost himself.
Thou must ask of their head Nicodemus,
Or thou wilt not admittance gain at all;
In knowing his name, thou mightst yet squeak in.
Thou must of Timmy tell the rat of name,
And he shall with his council it discuss,
And bring thee and thy kin to their escape.
They must discuss a way to bring thy house
Leeward of the stone in the farmer's field,
As halting plows and time is not their craft,
But with they can, they'll aid thee as they can.
Good Owl - thou art good! - I'm debted to thee,
Thou art my friend, of power such as I
Could comprehend only in ecstasies;
Thou art far wiser than I e'er could be,
Thou hast lived longer than I e'er will breathe,
Thou hast seen much more than I e'er shall know,
In weave and work thy wisdom's wrapped and wound,
For all thy rapting days doth tombure round
An inspiring, noble stature of an owl
Kept on Athena's jess in ancient tree.
Such reverence is not made necessary
By doing what I promised thee I'd do,
If I'm thy friend, I'm very glad of it,
And be assured, when next I eat a mouse
I shall think upon thee. Now go along!
The night is dawning, and my morning comes.
I am not wise, if I suppose I'm all,
Thou hast some wisdoms I do not possess;
From slightest things I can learn volumes yet.
Howe'er thou cam'st, return by that means now.
My thanks are ever with thee, and my son's,
For every breath he takes from now has been
Ransomed from Loss by thy wise feathered head,
Good Owl, I take back every wrong I've said.
What now? I'm hearing echoes! I have said
Something worthy of repeat, I am glad.
Good-bye, friend Owl.
How of it? What'd he say? Art thou alive? Art thou now dead? Is all turned well? Is all turned sour?
All's turned round.
All is turned round, and e'en the fixèd stars
Do turn and fumble 'bout the quiet nights.
The planets move, and all beneath us moves,
And all comes to the place it was again...
Yes, all is back to...
The waters move from mount to sea and back;
The migrant birds do fly 'way and return;
The seeds are planted, grow, are harvested,
But leave behind a rain of like-kind seeds,
Which call the ancient cycle up again...
What hast thou concocted? Yea, all is mobile, e'en the year, and time runs short - the plow comes!
The sun doth move from eastmost rise to west,
And bounces up to zenith as it goes,
But yet returns as morning breaks once more;
Our blood doth course through channels to our heart
Which pumps it back, and forceful it does flow,
But to its haven it must come anon,
To be pushed 'bout in circuits through ourselves...
Yes, but dear Timmy...
All things play prodigal and dance about
For show of defiance to Heaven above,
For all has fallen, but all that does fall
Must one day to its primal source rise up.
The eagles move, the slightest mites do move,
The stones make motions, and the weary winds
Push their way 'bout around this girthy world,
The sands do move, the lighty bees do move,
The trees are moving too...
Thy mouth doth move.
Ha, ha, he, ho, ho!
O, thou art Jeremy still. Come, we must go.
For we've impinged our owl a day too long;
His day's soon coming, so he says, and I
Would not bear witness to his fearful shape
In flight, in body, in his moon's dawn's light!
Owls eat mice still, and I am a mouse still,
And Timmy's sick still - heavens, we must go!
I've gone too late; I've made a daylong trip
For speech a minute long - ah, if I knew!
The secrets of this earth are pent up well,
And all a sage's ken is quite condensed,
'Tis but a story told. What glorious sight!
He told me of a sovereign group of rats,
Who possess knowledge far above their state,
And profess wisdom rivaling this owl's.
In secrecy in hallowed rosebush's gnarls,
They live in silence, and achieve dispatch
Through mediaries such as Ages and
Our owl, but I digress, that's not the point,
The effect lies in their intelligence,
And if I them petition, they shall help
For sake of th'tinted memory of old
Of friends and followers who knew them well,
For my husband was in these brackets, too,
A moderate for them, he Ages knew
From there, and counseled with this agèd owl,
Ah, all the things I know and never knew!
Then we must be off then on this uplifting current.
Aye, we must go. A joyous swell's in me,
I feel a lack of worry on this eve,
As this day dawned on trouble turbulent,
Odd in the quiet and the morning's still,
Its contrast is reversed, in tired night,
My hope is increase, and my problems nil.
Good Jeremy, thou portent of ill things,
And omen of a darker night ahead,
Thou art the product of imaginary weave,
Possessing no traits such as sayings said.
My vehicle, thou art a faithful friend
In carrying me to my vast reprieve,
And lessening my troubles' myriad hosts.
A potent warrior contends my relieve.
I'm but thy friend, no demigod as such.
I've never bested thousands, nay, not three.
Both two and one are quandaries less than three,
Room is afforded in thy modesty.
My horrors fly away not as a whole,
But foes are vanquished singly, soul by soul.
For countless small falls does a company lose,
And country's armies fall by ones and twos.
Thou art my friend, blush not at this design,
A hearted fender, truthful to the line.
Ne'er was an ill a trifle, did I think,
But in thy rosy praises I turn pink.
Leave we then thus, on such a pleasing note,
There's time to act, but never time to dote.
Act the Third
Freely we serve,
Because we freely love, as in our will
To love or not; in this we stand or fall.
—John Milton, Paradise Lost
3.1 - At Mrs. Brisby's house
A beauteous morn! What shall I do today,
The shrew in her regalia's not yet here,
But in her woven finery's fantasy
Such as should us enthrall anew this day.
What new invention shall she carry to our door,
To excite us or make us mystified
By her industrious, ever-busy mind?
What new fable in dunkel silk shall she
To our specifics friendly fabricate,
And natures undemanding, easily
Hurt, as her stories have ability?
I live in quiet solitude today,
My siblings are asleep, my mother too,
And when she wakes I have no inform of.
I'll sit a while, and mull upon this time
Such as I have before the babbler comes.
Good morning, Martin.
A good morning to thee. How didst thou sleep?
I slept a'lying down, for but a couple hours, or so I suppose. I may as well have watched me pass the time.
Aye, but I slept well, until I an omen heard: an owl's hoot, a loud and piercing call, as he had found some prey to feed upon. It gave a rise me, and my sleep after was plagued by hunted dreams, most disquieting, but at the same, the morning's come.
Can the shrew possibly know half of what she says?
I know not; such brave report deserves a lawyer's hand. Had she it seen?
No, she said so much.
Had she heard it of reliable witnesses?
No, it is formed entirely in her inimitable mind.
And where's our demon bird?
No beast nor bird of any such description I have seen, or I should know it.
Has she a proof of it at all?
'Tis all conjecture, far as I can tell.
Aye, she does need a lawyer's rewrite; as it is, it could never stand.
Good morrow, day's a'here.
Good Cynthia! We need thy scrutiny. What think'st thou of our shrew's horrible revelation yesterday?
Remind me not, I thought 'pon it all night.
And thy conclusion?
It is but ranting, best as I can tell,
But Timmy did not take the ill news well.
Dear mother! We need thy scrutiny, as well. What think'st thou of our shrew's storytelling last eve?
And no 'good morning'?
Thou wilt excuse us, a good morning to thee, as well. They are astounded at thy presence here. They half expected thee not to return; I made about a farthing to the crown on 't.
Is that why Timothy is mourning me?
I heard it passing the arcade, a soft
But sorrowed sigh as made me fear, perhaps
He'd issued out his fidgeting soul, perhaps
His fledgling dawn were dimmed. I sidled to
Him lightly, gently, and his forehead felt,
I in my concern checked his sluggish pulse;
He spoke a bit on berries in a dream;
He woke and saw me through encrusted eyes,
So aqueous and watery as made them weak,
He muttered something 'bout his dying ill,
And seeing me again in eternity,
And asking me if I did feel my death,
And whether I died happier than he.
He did take the shrew very hardly last night.
I told him he were sick and feverish still,
And that he professed life in the dead world,
Of impure curses, filled with sinful things,
And black-cold currents, sweeping heat away.
He whimpered then, and told me of my death;
I assured him, 'twere but a fever dream.
He asked why he had still to struggle on,
Why he, my fondling, had not floundered yet.
I said, I had not, too, and I did have
New hope for him and his unpeaceful life,
A babying calm to satiate his ill,
And quell his fitful struggle victoriously.
O, my poor brother! An' what has happened, to give thee shining hope?
What glorious pacifier has been provided thee? An' hast thou indeed seen the owl?
I've a ravenous hunger. An' hast thou something in mind to feed us?
All's provided for. Though I'll be off again soon.
Ah, 'tis just like a haunt to appear in fleeting apparition, give us hope, and disappear in air 'gain.
I must meet the substance and actuation of our moving.
Art thou not acquainted of our feet?
[to Martin] O, stay a minute.
I've seen the Owl, the bird of famed repute.
Directions he's provided of such worth
As may procure us all a joyous year.
Of what nature is this wonderful advice? Of what specifics?
To that, I cannot tell, I'm bound to keep
The secrets he's disclosed to but myself,
Thou mayst find out when all is fair resolved,
And when we and they both away have moved.
Who are they? I am confused.
I cannot utter more than they are they,
Exacting anymore's of no import,
If thou know'st not, 'tis of no consequence,
For we'll be moved e'en in thine ignorance.
More shades, more mysterious creepings and soundings in night, more trifles! Teresa, hold out in braveness, we'll be moved by shadows! We're entrusted to rumours and unknown certainties! But let us not doubt our brave mother. Let us have faith, but also strong chins.
The Owl has said it, and I need no more,
For in deceit he has nothing to gain,
But what's more, I have sure and certain proof;
He knew my name, and he knew Jonathan.
Such piercing knowledge, void of fabricate!
His instances were beyond frame of doubt,
And, Martin, could withstand thy scrutiny,
For grounded in the roots of ancient oaks
He spoke his words, and revealed truths to me
As were unknown, and did uncover facts
As did revoke his credit, for his tree
Were vastly lying in its standing tall,
For it by rights should now a nurser be,
A mother to a million ferns today.
But laying all out so, he did display
His honesty, and in his weak externs,
Did prove a stronger wisdom for himself,
And did prove nothing's said in appearance.
In wisdom, he his reputation used.
[Enter the shrew]
A new diversion!
O, a miserable morn has dawned again!
I would the break of day would crush my head,
And all the lights of heaven me would scorn.
Good children of my friend, how does the morn?
It's a beautiful morn.
Replies in number four befall my ear.
Is Timmy out of bed? Pray, is he here?
Nay, 'tis simply Cynthia, Teresa, I, and my mother. Timothy has not lighted out of bed; nay, he's feverish and under the strange delusion that his mother is dead.
Ay, the poor child. Reft and rancored's he.
'Tis good my mother's here to comfort him.
So stands she always, in our memory
Our hearted reminiscence comforts Tim.
[aside] 'Tis cold comfort, just as you would say.
[aside, to Martin] What's this about?
[aside, to Teresa] I've heard of this afore. The poor devils as contract this disease are just as the shrew: they believe as they will, and play infidel affronted by the firmest proofs. They're one pole as destroys this unhappy world, a stifled and stifling party. She thinks our mother is dead still, and I'd put good money down she'll continue thinking it past all hilarity.
[aside, to Martin] If I know the shrew, a good teasing is the clearest medicine for this disease, and it would be worth the try, if all it yields is a giggle.
Then we shall as said. Good shrew, pray, who is speaking to you?
I'd know thy speaking disposition if
I'd passed my reckoning's capacitate,
Thou art young Martin, Brisby's second child,
Her oldest son, and, yea, her rudest fool.
Good guess, gentle shrew. Who am I, pray tell?
Thou art Teresa, first yield of the fruits
Of Brisby's happy marriage obviate
Which since thy birth, has vanished from both sides.
Thou art let unattached, I'll gather thee
For thou, good sweeting, call pity in me.
This is not such a difficult game, good shrew. But can you identify me? This is harder, good parent. Try me.
Thy voice I'd recognize the first of all.
Thou art Cynthia, youngest of the troupe,
Thou art beset as to exceed thine age,
I love thee in thy strength, thou'lt grow to good.
Now comes the test, Martin, and we shall see if thy sources are as good and accurate as mine. Good shrew, who speaks to thee now?
I'd think thee Martin, thou art next in turn
And yet thy voice betrays no Martin there,
I'd think thee Cynthia, but for the size,
Maybe Teresa, were it for thine ears.
Begone, thou vagrant! Thou art none I know,
Thou art no friend as I should see alive.
Good children, hurry to me for keeping,
A stranger's crept into our secure hall!
She's no stranger to me, good shrew. She's my mother.
Ah, she is known to thee? A friend as knows thy ken?
She's my mother, and Teresa's, Cynthia's, and Timothy's also.
I know no relations to all four of you as are alive. Jonathan and his wife are all I can honestly associate with all of... may mercy be granted upon us, our kindred and our souls!
Does she see?
I don't know.
She frightens me.
The shades walk! The spectres speak! 'Tis an ill portent! Hurry, children, come to me for security!
'Tis terrific. Shadows shall move us and whimpering shall shield us. I hope we shall ever see summer, or even mid-spring.
My heart beats still, good shrew, I am alive!
Art thou not overjoyed, thy friend to see?
Aye, of course; how hast thou come here? Didst thou find thy better mind, and not go to the owl, as thou spoke yesterday morning?
I've come to the owl and returned again!
Good heavens, I have waxed like to the crow.
I should take more care in my speaking thoughts.
To the owl!
And away again, I must be off.
She goes to 'they.'
She goes to them.
I'm not sure who you mean by 'them' and 'they',
The owl again, perhaps, or Ages now?
But Ages is but one... I must him see
And tell him of thy newfound misery,
Thou hast escaped a harrowing demise,
But to intrepid off to shadowy Doom.
That thou canst him tell, though it were not true.
The owl has told her how to move us all.
Indeed? This news falls light upon my ears,
It gently lifts the burden from my back,
And lessens my responsibilities.
It calmly removes all my worried strife.
Thou wilt be staying, while mother is away?
We shall a watching need.
O, figs and swill!
The children need a willing eye to watch.
Dear Martin, worry not, I'll fill thy trough.
Good, then, I'll be off, and I'll see thee soon.
Dear shrew, calm thy tongue, spread no rumours of
My demise, or my tragic cutting off,
And while I'm warning, I'll add to thy list,
Refrain from spending words on stories of
My meeting good King John upon the road;
Do not spin yarns on how I met a good
Magician, giving me philosopher's stone
And Midas' secret, or elixirs
Effecting instant health, and giving youth;
Do not tell how I met the poet great
Who then took leisure to whisk me away
On a daytour of Paradise and Hell,
And how we lunched in Purgatory between;
Do not publish report of my affairs
In Arthur's court - how I did advise Kay
And Gallahad upon their noble quest,
And how I hid the chalice of their search
Behind my back, as I gave coy direct.
Hold only to thyself the venture of
How I obtained a cape of virtues such
Could make a mouse a swan, when rightly used,
But caused all manner of familial discontent
When seized upon by ninnies ignorant,
Who please themselves to use it as they may,
And patch its tatters with their own invent.
As way of fact, speak not of me at all,
If thou canst only wax elaborate,
Don't opulate me, or make up events
As should destroy my children's well and warm,
Cold winds kill Timmy, such did Ages say,
Ope not thy mouth, if only cold it blows,
If thou car'st for me, or for good at all,
Or for but life, as any rogue does well.
Well, I shan't be bothered. Such rebukes! I only told thy children what I thought was true.
And thou hast displayed no matter of tact or reason at all.
As she believes tact and reason are qualities of no matter.
He has a barbed tongue; I should think he is forked at the wrong end.
He loves thee. How else should he make such a display of his character?
Yea, Martin, we know thou art beautiful.
I love thee all. Think not, but that I should
Make swift return, as I would not find thee
In pieces, rent and shaven by thy speech.
Good Timothy makes such amazing pains
As should urge thee to truce thy quarreled bouts
And bound him 'bout with love, and blanket him
In warming charity, and calm his fears
With loving medicine, a lozenge factoried
With herbs so rare and spices so refined
That no lone merchant, nor a sole packer
Has ever seen, not in long history.
For only in collaboration it
Is made, and in its manufacture is
Such tender feelings, as does calm an ill.
Love is not found in singularity,
But in itself it eases malady.
Good-bye, I'll see thee soon.
Good-bye, good luck, and good cheer, mother, thou shalt help Timmy up yet.
Farewell, have thee a good time, see many things, and bid King Arthur a 'good morrow' for me.
See them, whoever they are, and as this earth moves, move them about, and move us about. Keep us in safety, and faith, mother, good faith.
Faith, indeed. Good-bye, mind the shrew, and worry not a minim!
So, off she goes.
May I the dais have?
May I the dais have? Pray, speak thy mind.
Last night my mother suffered cold at the
Hand of a conspired crow and owl, but she
Has made escape, and heard their knowing words,
She made step of her fell and enjoined birds.
This morn she woke and took at Timmy's bed
His pulse, and felt upon his fevered head,
She heard her death, and nullified report,
For Timmy's beating heart in brave contort.
And now she leaves to meet those we don't know,
For hopes that maybe they a way can show,
In search of leave she never met nor knew,
And hopes 'gainst malling they a way might shew.
My mother, who resolved to bear the calm,
Has gone, I pray that she may do no wrong.
3.2 - At the rosebush
How, halloo? I've come, and I hope to speak to somebody. I've seen the owl! There's someone here, I know!
[Enter Ages, with a marked limp]
Is't you again, Brisby?
O, a friendly voice! Good Ages, thou art there?
I am here! Art thou here? Or, I mean, why art thou here?
I've come to seek Nicodemus' help.
Where did you pick up his name? It cannot be, dear Brisby.
I've come on the owl's directions.
Is that the case? Unless thou hast something of great importance I can't do anything for it, even with the owl's approval. This bush is no joke; it is to be jealous of.
Good Ages, trust thou not our friendly bonds?
Am I a one to trifle with thy most
High secrets kept and sacred, as thou hast?
Thou art my trust, and I would not throw thee
Through ringers of uncourteous contempt
And heckler's games, such as might taunt a fool.
I don't go in for curiosity,
Good friend, know I would ne'er make light of thee.
Aye, but shall I let thee for petty cause
Make entrance to our guarded, silent lair
As does protect itself from bothersome
Worries undomestic, if it is a cause
That has thee to this dreadful action brought,
Explain to me, quite calmly and concise,
What is the issue now at thy command:
I must be assured of its worthiness.
I have not come here on capricious act,
Nor was I led here by a lark or whim,
I've risked my self and being for my child,
I come on recommendation of the owl,
And all I stand to lose is but myself.
For all I've done and heard to brave this bush
I must demand, I deserve audience
With Nicodemus, leader of thy rats.
Thou know'st my cause is worthy, it's my son
Again who prods me to thy stoop to beg,
And all I've wrought these days has been for him.
Good Ages, pity for thy cornered friend
Who has no recourse but to go to them.
I am leary yet. What car'st thou for this bush? Why think'st thou there is any help within?
Dear Ages, this is the time of the plow! We must move my son, and should he be moved... should we move... O, Ages, my hope depends on entering this bush!
Then I prognose thy disheartenment.
Good Ages, think what you are saying! Does a doorman take jus gladii upon himself? If it is an offense for me to enter, show me in and let me be thrown out! Is the cost of admittance into this bush a life? Ages, show me in, else I've nowhere to seek, and Timothy is in mortal danger! Would you doom my son?
Well then, I shall you to the head rat see,
But hear me now, my fast and bounded friend,
Search thee thy soul, and mind thee who thou art,
For once thou'st seen the wonders of our nest,
Thou wilt forget with startling quickness
Thy position, thy fate, and all thy care,
And in what we've been granted, thou shalt be
Engulfed amazingly, and in the wonder lost
In seas of mystery, and be absorbed
For what thou'lt know will be greater than thee.
Who art thou? Shalt thou remain dissolute,
And not dissolve in mares of foamy sea
Composed of knowledge and intelligence
As should exceed a lowly, common mouse,
Wilt thou be lost? Is there such character
In that light frame as should buckle in stress
Once found? Art thou of material made
As can withstand the shock within these thorns?
Lose not thyself! I lay my cankers down,
And show myself: I love thee as thou art.
Be not destroyed, if thou art as thou seem;
But if demeanor's show, be thee now gone,
Thy daemons can not hide from our insight.
I ask to be now answered: who art thou?
What does this mean? Thou know'st me, good friend, as much as thou lik'st, anyway.
Before thou goest further in, I demand... no, I supplicate thee, as a friend, as a kinsman, as the watcher of thy children, as the doctor of thine and their ills, tell me now, I beg, lay to me who thou art! For once thou seest what thou wilt see, and once thou'st heard what thou wilt hear in this place, thou wilt never speak to me the same, and I would know thee as thou wilt know me, and thou might'st indeed come out completely changed, and in that case I would preserve who thou wert. I prithee, first, but hear me!
I hear, and I must answer thee thy plea.
Who am I? At first, by my name, the wife
Of Jonathan defined, but he's now dead;
The mother of four children, who may soon
Be three, if wrong and wild the story turns;
The one who stands before thee is now she,
Although she seeks admittance to a place
Which shifts and alters all, as she might hope,
Would change the year, or cure her heavy wrongs,
But which could mean the end of all her hopes,
For if they cannot help, I'll seek new turns
And turn about in fear, not knowing where
To look, and I'll be fervently undone.
I'm still composed, and all the music plays
So sweetly to my ear, I have accord;
I'm but my worry, step aside and let
Me seek the resolve of my gruesome plight,
Then answer questions of identity.
Good friend, and taker in my each design,
The answer thou giv'st's not as punctuate
As thou wouldst make it seem; list well to me.
Thou claim'st to be described but in thy cares,
By worry's strict define: then I am thou.
For ev'ry worry that thou tell'st to me
Is mine and shared alike, so then, I fit
The prescript as thou dost, or perhaps more,
For I am made of other things besides.
Who art thou, Brisby? Evade not my cries,
Speak in thy tears, and make me realize.
Speak easily, good breath; wind lightly, sweet pipe; breeze calmly, warm current. What I ask is what thou art, the most natural thing as should come without effort. If thou art truly but thy cares, thou shalt indeed be lost for good in our care. Thou wilt them quickly forget in their solution, and in thy problem's solution, thou wilt be lost in the solution. What, a glisten? God bless you for brine! Thou hast scoured thy cheeks with it; I'd not have thee drown decomposed in sevenfold pools of it now!
What have I done, to come to thee? I'm beset upon with accosting; thou seek'st only what I am; how do I know myself to thee? 'Tis hard to describe something one's never seen; 'tis hard to bring to light things which one know'st himself only in shadows; 'tis hard to open a heart filled with worry, for protected designs. I cannot make my mind's intricacies known to thee, for I myself do not them know; I cannot unroll the map of my imagination to thee, for in every day's mulling I come upon thoughts which expand its frontiers, extend its parchment, and push the unknown lands at the edge into full familiarity; every night's flying dreams broaden my sight, and extend my vision to orange horizons beyond the bounds of my former speculation. Every day brings another bristle to my brush and a new grain of pigment to my paint, so every day I make my strokes broader and brighter than the day before. Every day's rising sun, as it reddens my visage with its
shine and gilds the world in golden light, reveals things about myself to me I never knew. I am a book with new leaves being pasted in at both ends, especially in this tumultuous time, with new uncoverings at every corner, new annotations and footnotes to scrawl into the margins of chapters I believed were long since completed in my history, but all is not yet said. I am, then, the study of a lifetime; I have not yet mastered me. When one is so deep a well of care and want and lack as I am, it can only be so. There are depths in me only God can fathom.
Aye, aye, in us all. Thou art a well of want, and thou wantest well. Live, dear Brisby, be brave, take heart, carry thyself through, and survive this fire. It burns with an unnatural fierceness, as thou shalt hear.
I am full of encouragement and well-wishers today. All that is left is for the cat to send warm regards.
He sends them thee in giving thee thy problems to begin with. Death to his kin and litter! An end to his health and worth!
Thou sound'st like a braggart who wouldst slander the dragon to his face.
Aye, I've fought the dragon before, though of that thou wilt hear also, and that story shall bring thee unknown pains. Come, I shall lead thee to Nicodemus, although we must first go to the Chamber; I fear I shall be late for the rat's council meeting; there's no helping it; I shall introduce thee to those who shall be there. Come along, tarry not behind! Stay by my side, steady me if I should fall. I'll tell thee of the limp later, or thou shalt hear of it, though that, too, is tinged with hurt, and makes its paint of blood red, as beats by a loving, caring, and compassionate heart. Thou shar'st that heart, and its scarlet token as is coloured by its lack is Didymus' prize. Be then thou of a good heart as thou hast and did have.
A salute to age!
A salute to youth!
[They shake hands]
And a salute to all that passes in between!
[to Brisby] Ah, this is noble Justin, who brings the silly, adventurous lad out of everyone, even the cadger from the old codger.
Thou art but Youth exponentiated.
And he is a charmer, with a mouth of sugared words and a throat full of carefully-packaged confections.
I only hope my words do not mislead my actions.
You're one to trust, Justin. You haven't met my companion, acquaintance and twained friend through and through; I am pleased to introduce her to you: this is Mrs. Jonathan Brisby, and she has come through many inconveniences for her sick child. As she is an old friend of the Rats in name, if not in confidentiality, she is to be helped in any manner possible.
So it shall be.
So it shall be, indeed.
I'm glad of meeting you in such familiar circumstance, even though what I know is suddenly ensconced in such bewildering wonder. It's all very homey, as Ages is here, and to meet you, friend of my husband, is a pleasure.
And a recovered jigsaw piece; I've heard much of you, an' never seen you. Things have been very active adays, I believe, for both of us.
What's a day for doing, if it isn't for friends and family?
And for the needy: and when the two of them interlope, as they do now, it is indeed a day for most solemn and urgent action, even though it may be cloaked in the warm and well-worn custom and attainments of home.
[away, in song]
To the spindle take and the darning yarn,
To the screaming kettle and the wailing bairn,
To the washing care, and to tend the flue,
I'd fly before I missed a single taste of brew.
Such wholesomeness referenced to in ignoble meaning!
Aye, that is our Jenner, to the word.
Jenner, hail! What is the meaning of these pottle-songs?
To disgust old men, and to tie in knots
All the gentle craft and woven lace of pretty fops,
To penetrate a show, cut wraps with natural sight,
For behind all noble parliaments are knavish knights.
Who in all history has ever attained something of worth without blood?
Who has ever kept something of worth without civilised deliberation?
Stop your words: they are only wise in the world of men. I do not know if either of you have noticed yet, but it is plainly so that we are indeed rats, and not men; we steal what we need. We live by Nature's law.
Natural law is the prompting of our morality.
Too many philosophies, dear young Justin, eager and too-educated! You've the means, but not the sense. How you've taken the rank of Captain of the Guard defies my comprehension.
I'd know not, and guess Nicodemus' happy generosity. He seems to think the qualities of a captain are in me; perhaps he has a distorted looking-glass.
That is exactly what I would suppose.
I am sorry; I have not introduced you to this strange guest. This is the wife of our belated Jonathan Brisby.
It is a pleasure.
This is Jenner, an addition to our ranks. He's not the Captain of the Guard, and a little sour there; I'd not talk about it longer. He is the reason last night's council was postponed, of that's a story you'd not want ear of. He is, however, an imposing edifice to genteelness. He's a stalwart fellow, although I suppose at times a little hard to reach. I'm never too sure how he thinks.
That is to be easily understood. The difference 'tween stolid and solid is but a common letter.
Aye, the letter before you.
Nay, the letter in front of thee.
Retorts! Nobody answers Jenner; Jenner speaks the truth as it is, plain, but often unseen, with no elaboration. Those as would answer him, would add to the unembellished truth, and are therefore full of falsehood.
Quiet, Jenner! If you meant to impress the good lady with a show of your formidable wit, you've done it. If she returns a like volley displaying a spark of intelligence her own, it is not yours to glee impertinent on.
True, I apologize. 'Twere, indeed, the indication of some learning. Intelligence I know not.
Pray, could you tell, why Fate wears a thickly-gilded crown?
I would imagine it is because Fate has a thick head.
Nay, I meant the regal crown, a laurel, gilded of gold.
Ah! I see. 'Tis true that Fate wears such a gilded crown, mayhap to enfortress a gleaming tonsure. 'Tis also true that the gilded crown, however brightly it shines of wealth, is tin to the heart.
Tin lacks a heart.
Alack! and so does Fate. Canst thou read?
Yea, my husband taught me, although I never took to it well.
Thou hast displayed a body of knowledge unusual in thy kind, although thou clearly lack the means to substantiate it. Gentlemen, what we have here is a crockery shrine, or a posterboard strongbox. If we scratch her wax wrapper, there's a gleam of gold beneath. This, dear companions, is but an educated trick, worth no further play; I'd spend no more time on her.
Jenner! Take some quieting measures, for I cannot stand thy elocutions; they reveal vile exudings at thy side seams. Thou art coming apart.
In pieces, in partitions, I should hope.
If there were any other way to come apart, Jenner, I'm sure thou wouldst be the one to invent it, thou dissenter! Thou crooked, vile sporter, parader!
I see I am not well liked.
Thou art not...
Nay, stay! 'Twould be a poor fighting match, and I'd not watch. How stands the plan to your mind, Jenner?
Still sickly, I'm afraid. I cannot see a benefit, there's a hard labour to perform, and we cannot even receive Hercules' reward. When we're finished, we'll have all we have now. Cannot you see the deficiency in your account?
All's in balance.
Nay, all's imbalance.
Same and sure enough.
Nay, some and sour enough. Thou hast not an ear for unheard wisdoms.
Aye, games! Thou hast a twisting mind, Jenner, a gift for distortion!
I've a contemplative, content, and conservative mind, dear Ages. I am quite happy to live as we have, as we have to live.
O, quite fairly, in a grand and manifest diversity, any food or product of the ground as we desire. We've a vast cornucopia of goods, quite a fair assortment, to say the least.
Jenner, relax thy tongue! Thou hast said nothing yet in the least, but everything with a hidden dissension, or cunning manoeuver of a tactician's plot. Thou conniver! Thou hidden agenda!
I see I am not only disliked, but rather contemptible.
Flattering with 'rather' is a common ploy.
I see I am not only disliked, but of little favour, then.
Favour is a darling employance of politcians.
Then I am a base swine, a conniving, wretched, perverse, slime-willing, bloodthirsty, degenerate blackguard.
You even have a talent with muck. I see, Jenner, that your mother raised you well.
Jeers and common cat-calls are a cowardly means to duel. Carousing fists drunkenly mumbling threats and invocations out of a stupor are neither meaningful nor noble. I'd challenge you both to stow the admirable regaling and save your disgust for council, when you may delineate it in a slow, deliberating, calculated fashion so as to cause the most pain to the other. Such odd organs, mouths! They play fugues out of meaning, and lay the strongest sforzandos in a pastorale. Cripple not my ears, but make me content in this, at least.
Well then, thy rebuke is good enough for me, dear Justin.
In council hall shall I see thee again,
On fighting grounds, we'll joust our argued cause
We'll lift our coloured standards for the day,
And sound urgent alarums for the call,
We'll see who has the forces on whose side,
We'll know whose favour is majority,
Though civilised proceeds cannot decide
With finality, for there shall always be
Some cunning wretch, who was unsatisfied
By grindings politic. Where shall he turn?
To opposition? They have the support
Of most, of all. Perhaps recourse to law?
The law of politics will stand decise;
To new election? It is not allowed
By those numbered demotic forces who
Muster against this unfortunate man.
Where shall he turn? To war! To Nature's realm
Where strength is found in sword and not in mind,
Where bite and claw must struggle to the top
To win the basic prize: to stay alive.
I love that carnal world, fourscore of years
Then dust; thou let'st thy tired breaths in wafts
Sing to th'eternal stars, oblivion.
Thy stars' swan song is unheard, Jenner.
No star stands eternally, Jenner.
Soulless wretch! Thou think'st but of thyself.
So I have my insults from the giddy boy with glory on his head and the sightless old fool who leans on the pillar of a wise mutterer. I shall win an easy victory in council today. Good day.
It is, indeed, a good day when foul night takes his leave.
Then address me as Foul Sir Jenner, and let the moon admire my squirehood, and the dawn attend to my goings out. Such a compliment after such abhorrence! May the day be good, indeed.
His words are flowery, but baseless and hollow. Nothing is certain in the way one appears; that is the object lesson.
I'm afraid Jenner believes as he does as strongly as we believe as we do.
But Nicodemus believes he can be saved yet. We shall see.
When starts the council; when can we discuss
The problem that does rend my heart in two,
I leave a part at home, to Timmy vouched
And kept amongst my generate in love.
O, how I miss them! I must rear them all
So they might grow to firm adulthood, then
They may see mixed the sorrow and the joy,
In life's fresh casting, in stressed alloy found,
Such shock as sometimes breaks one into tears,
Which wash away its gats which cause the pain,
That they might live and be multiplicate,
Find for themselves a stronger bond than that
Which ties them close to me; well might one ask,
Why life begins at all; why first we breathe;
Is it to die, as Jenner makes it so?
Who are the cackling fates or vengeful gods
As who would form a life on icy soil,
Would blow a seed on infertile receipt,
On turning orbs barren to life in cause,
Which long to vomit the intruder out,
And throw it 'way, expelled in fearful Death;
He's wrong! for all the life that crawls upon
The surface, and does swim below, or flies
Above the toolèd sun-warmed, knobby hills
Is kinned in Nature, seen in open books
As all creation opens forth that we,
Those souls as literate, with eyes to see,
May look upon the words and then rejoice;
For all the day's a small imperfect model
Of greater things extant, a Will enforced,
As all does breathe does breathe in harmony.
My children live, my children live in me,
My son is ill, but all's the weary world.
If all the ancient plague as ails each one
Of us has been kindly adjusted for
In warm benevolence, I'll worry not,
For Timmy's sickness is but minor to
The problems shared by all alive alike.
When shall I Nicodemus' chamber see?
Good child, council first, but we'll allow
Thy story to the officers be told,
Before we tell the leader, then may he
With all in mind the factors tabulate,
And figure out a way to effects take
To live thee all, and all thy troubles make
Immobile, then in blithe fashion thou mayst
Dance in thy joy, and leave gaped wrongs behind,
As thou and thy might step in pace thy move
And flirt thine eyes and thumb thy nose at Doom.
Such speech contemptible doth fly from open lips
Perfumed with sage reform and wizardry
As does affect we rats, most wrong Jenner!
How canst thou spurn with an unblushing face,
Thy gifted wisdom which came free to thee?
How canst thou waste thy mind and seek to live
Low as thou wert, before thou wert raised up?
Thou art accursèd by thine unabashed
Ill-speaking tongue, which wags banners unfurled
Of cowardice, empty of manliness
And unable to, in thy calling, charge.
Such paintings filled with order come from the
Speech of a one who drinks of not the same
Enlightening fount, which oddly darkens minds;
I'd guess it not, I'd guess it not, nor fill
A story with such character as can
Such turning efficate! With a wide brush
She astounds me in their stark opposites:
How she doth contrast our high officer;
Look to her, Ages, could there not one be
So fashioned to be Jenner's polar end?
How she reminds me of her Jonathan!
I'll till a smile there, and yet, we'll see
Who Jenner is, and who was Jonathan,
And where betwixt the two of them stands me,
When all my telling trauma's sealed and done.
For only in compress a spring is sprung,
And only taut can test a worker's spin,
The Pyx tries all the coin when year is done,
And sticks are frayed when flung from leary linn.
[off-stage] All hear, O, council! Council has begun!
The days of carefree offsets find their end,
No more can we steal of the farmer's farm,
Our penance rules the hour, demanding mend!
[Enter the rats]
All here, O hear! May we no longer fend,
Nor feed our children corn of workless gain,
Plush magnanimities of witless men,
The husband's yield's not ours, we must abstain!
Our conscience binds our troubled hearts in low
Servility, to insufferable thrall,
Relief's deliberating how we'll go,
Now ope ye wide the doors of council hall!
We'll draw a plan to leave our coddling knee
And suckling teat of illegicit yield,
The only bond of writ as sets us free,
Is contested today, in council's field!
[Exit rats, with Justin leading Ages]
My word! and forth they leave, in shouts of state,
For all of Ages' frets, he was not late;
Inside's a battle, so much I construe,
Away they'll fly, although a fevered hue
And protest comes from Jenner, darkened knight,
For all his illumed words, he has no sight,
As he would let them all to nim and steal
The farmer's work, and goods in grain and meal
Could feed him, as he gluttoned off his way
To doom and wrath in mortal, bloody fray
As would destroy the children and the wives
Of warriors, and make claim to half their lives.
And when good Jenner's fourscores fail and done,
He'll sadly search for days when he was young,
To recollect his innocent attire,
In hopes of sneaking past a roaring fire
That's glad of fuel in purloined meal and grain,
And licks with flaming tongues those off the main.
If penant he'll not be, he'll fight and plot
To attain that which is, and then is not,
And lasts but floats of moons, and wastes away,
Is spoiled in a moment and a May.
For all his troubles, if he should succeed,
Persuade the rats to revel in their greed,
And sway them all to linger where they are,
His gains advance him wishingly afar,
But his transporting hour's not so long,
How slightly far he'll fly on wings of wrong.
3.3 - In the Rats' council hall
[Enter Ages, Justin, and rats, and Jenner and Sullivan from another way]
The council has begun, and of proceeds
I know we're not away until it's said
By Nicodemus, council has begun.
The council of the Rats is under way.
Pray, let assembly hear what you will say.
[Enter Brisby behind Ages]
[aside] Good Ages! I'd supposed you'd lost your crutch.
[aside, to Brisby] Nay, not lost yet, still standing up besides.
The frothing ocean's calm, as whipping winds
Are still, and still thou remain'st buoyant yet.
Aye, I am here, not lost yet. I deigned to go where the people were.
Here are but thoughts, and speakers chosen so
Their words are swift, without a careful edge.
Thou art of care, and politics of gold,
The former's rare, the latter soon grows old.
The speaker's Jenner, take ye to the floor,
And counsel all the Council all the more.
Oyez! Jenner takes the floor!
[Jenner takes the floor]
Good rats, and masters of our own estates,
We come today to choose our children's fates,
And how our darling waifs shall find their food,
And whether we care for our gentle brood
Enough to let things stay, as staying has
Kept us with warming bellies 'till today,
When Nicodemus' chanting turns them cold,
And makes us sick for food and family.
I'll drive my disgust down, as I command
Those echelons who hold a gleam of sense
And gen'rally a bit of wit to hold
Survival grippingly betwixt their paws,
Who will not let it go, not for the dreams
And follies of senile old churning-rats.
What do we fear? A punishment of our
Own design? Shall we reprimand ourselves?
Shall we of tears and weakness fetters bind
Which any brave revolter soon may break?
We contracts build in haste, and plans inscribe
That we might scurry pell-mell 'cross the moor,
Or flee and fly in a well-choreographed way
And might retreat to do a ballet shame.
Thou prudes! I hate thy grotesque, pompous ways
Of whimsy, join with me, and we will stay.
A most impassioned crying for your case.
Shall anybody answer to his face?
I make the motion, Nicodemus.
The Captain of the Guard will statement make.
May Justin, man-at-arms, the hall's floor take.
[Justin takes the floor]
Good Council, you in chamber came today,
To hear of controversy, and advise;
The rosebush until now has sheltered well,
And kept our secrets, but can this remain
As it has been before? I say, nay, no!
The Rats are growing, and our children, as
My comrade Jenner made allusion to,
Are quickly populating every nook
This thorny house can offer. Shall we stay
To be revealed? Then we will quickly leave,
And bear a dim gleam of a chance to keep
Survival in our homeless, fumbling paws.
If dance it be, the step had better start
Tomorrow, and not after Jenner's dead.
For whether he does know it, he's alone,
And there's no shadow of an argument
To discuss. We shall move, there is no more
To say, when we know destiny demands.
The future is not here, we are not safe,
Tomorrow's weave is waiting at the lathe,
We may it work, and see our plan's effect,
Or we may let it crumble with neglect.
[Justin steps down]
Futility's in things posterity!
You'll speak of plans until the elements
Do melt, and once your means have been consumed,
You'll seek to play them out; I see no force.
If all's been worked upon, then tell me this:
When shall our plan be made to manifest
Itself, if earnest, you may then explain
How ever morrows mesh into todays,
And how by putting off what we should do
By council, we shall ever make an act.
I say, discussion's foul! and plans are but
The dreams of moppets and aspiring hopes
As can be quickly crushed. Who here has e'er
Attained a goal with shy propriety?
Who here has gained a goal, nay, tell me first,
Earth's wells are dry, and all alive must thirst.
The lofty skies as veil the frustrous Fates
Doth sloppily conceal a vale of hopeless hates.
[aside] He goes again! A rat of pouting moans
And selfish pities, which do clothe his greed
As shoddily as his constructed skies,
What vulgar ends can start in bootless sighs.
The words of sense shall drill with touching bore,
And caustic words may test a shining knerl,
To see what base composite it contains,
So take I to our plan discerning touch.
Good rats, and choice performers of good sense!
List to my loud dissension, I alone
Have eyes to see the folly of our plan,
Why should we not deprive of any man?
The farmer knows us not, and as that's so,
He'll never note the loss, or, if he does,
He'll blame it on some other name or cause
Than hiding rats of strange and new design!
Where should he seek us? Where could he begin
As we have wit above our common kin,
And leave no trail for men of brutal sense.
He'll find us when we're limp, and all come 'way
In cold, to make to move our colony out.
But if we shield ourselves, and condescend
To keep content with tooth and cheek's contain,
And feast on all we've taken, when we had
The opportunity to make a quick grab for't,
We'll glow in wealth as grabbed by sharp-kept claws.
Why should we not steal food? Did he not steal
It first, from its sprung-up root in the ground?
If we take grain, it's but a secondary sin,
We're taking feed from viler, baser men.
Good Jenner's said the same he's said before,
Would any other member take the floor?
I'll make the motion, and quickly!
A gyrate welcome, and a frenzied shout,
Calmly step forward; play your motion out.
[Ages takes the floor]
Good fellow member of our revered state,
And all my kindred friends, I've come today
As I have knowledge you've no notion of,
With my distinctions, I will have my say.
Where is a pure soul? Let me ask of you
If there are faults in any member here
So grievous as to follow this sobbing
But grinning crocodile, to standard with a
Maleficent infidel, traitor to
Our cause, and firm ingratiate, a cheat
And swindling steward, of a manner as
Has ne'er been given trust with stores he has,
As this is so, his crime's much greater than
Common impunity, much greater than
The peasant insurrectionist, and more
Than any badman of but average skill;
He pushes evil where it soft avoids,
And leaves it marooned, howling in the wind.
He's Judas, one of twelve who attained grace
And blessing from its solitary source,
One of the first to receive new insights,
And he deceived and lied, and lief betrayed
The Maker of the world! But that small group
Of twelve did multiply, and became hosts
And forces as fight with bright Michael's sword,
So all the more's the shame. He is condemned
By his own brooding on our increased young,
For they'll be faithful, more likely than not,
Of Nuncle Jenner, they'll have stories of
Such shall give young ones nightmares, which dissolve
When sunlight sifts through shutters as shall side
Our mansion new, which lies across the moor.
I'll pity him, but as th'epistle says,
This one shall die, that all the rest may live.
[Ages steps down]
Such allegory! Mind not my hot friend,
He is a bit upset, he's lost a game
To me at dice. And, no, I don't throw casts
For untorn robes! I'll take what I can get,
And as for Judas, he made ill missteps
By taking on opponents greater than
Himself. Who am I to now so opposed?
The stumbling fool! The lord, caught up in eld,
Of rats of newfound brains! I'll laugh at that,
And cackle at my fortune, for I've found
An adversary, that I bowl at in
One strike; he'll tumble like a bobbling pin.
Another speech about my overthrow,
It's stuff we've heard, and sayings we well know.
Good fancier of all things curious,
I must admit, to you an enemy's rare,
But if you find one, shall you let him be,
And let him set him near your seat of power?
Why make him privy to your plans and wills?
I've yet a point to make...
[to Brisby] And who is this?
What does this mean?
Oho! He's decided the trick is worth the play, after all.
Aye, and trump is hearts.
[to Jenner] Why, I'm...
Step forward! None can hear you.
[Brisby takes the floor]
[aside] Here is thy chance to lay thy designs out.
[aside] Why, I'm deeply grateful!...
[aside] Posh! Just tell them who thou art, what thou mean'st, and anything else.
[aside] Thank you.
[aloud] Good Rats, and friends... O, I'll not speak like you;
I'm not to argue 'bout your hotly contested plan; I've not the blow to beat swords into plowshares. But think! The sword and the tiller are made of the same material, one to kill and rend, one to prepare soil for the infiltration of life. One invades the body to cut, one invades the earth to steal the life away it's taken before... from dust, the substance of dust. I come to plea the sun and the wind to stop the coming thaw, or to beg Winter one last graspinghold to make of the day... to keep its frosty grip a week! Or for a summer heat, to warm us to health. But at the balance line, for a spring of life, and not for a spring of death. Both are made of the same things, Marches and Aprils, sultry southerlies, sparrows making the reacquaintance of their October nests, and rushing bourns, swelled by the mountain's melt - these are both. But the components are not the whole, and the sweet smell of new-blooming hyacinths has no charm against quick and sudden death, nay, Saint Christopher was not born in May. The first spring, a new spring, springs life up, and balms a cut body; the second spring frostkills fragile flowers. Two springs! of the same construct; I'm not wise in the taxonomy of springs, nor am I an architect of seasons; I am no master of Time, I cannot call its march. If I could, I'd have no need of you, I'd turn it full reverse... oh, days of newly fulfilled nubility... of healthy children, gleams in their eyes, sheens on their cheeks, days of... of... I'm weak. I'm so weak.
The winds are not here to make of a boon,
Nor is the summer sun or harvest moon.
I've come for you, Nicodemus. To your braky bush I've come, in the hope that 'tween thorns and beneath briers, I might find help... help the Owl has ordained for me. Help that Ages has prescribed me. Hope I'm promised... hope for Timmy, ill at home, swathed in spring... deadly spring. Its melting erlking has him an object of cruel recreation. He's ill, Nicodemus. He's pneumonia. But we must move from our winter home, for the farmer is coming to plow the earth up again... we'll not live through't, not without help. He cannot move, Nicodemus! Where else shall I turn?
[to Jenner] What?
I said, 'ha!', and if you'd like, I'll say it again: ha!
What say you, Jenner, to this mother's plea?
What make you of the words of Dam Brisby?
I listed caref'lly to her colourful words,
In prose deposit, not in noble time,
I listened to her obscene faltering,
And her weak moaning... and I scarce could bear
The weight of her speech for but half a minute.
Look to our Nickie, council! See how weak he is!
He hears her whining, and is not unmoved!
He's generous, to waste the precious time
We have in chamber, for our motioning,
In forfeit to a widow's sorry lacks!
How can we help her, how can we her move
When we aren't even leaving our safe bush,
The cat's out there, the farmer and his wife,
And all our nat'ral enemies as well,
And yet our leader perks his ears for this!
Thy plans aren't hatched, and yet ano'er procraste
Is come in train; O, how does folly last!
Did we not take her husband to our vests
In care, and tender our best worth in him?
He was too weak! We should have known it then,
And our investure's lost, O, what a waste!
We can't trust reeds, let's no addition make
In such a suff'ring weep, as would us drive
To spend, and be no worth at all to us.
For once, let us keep ends pragmatic in
Our minds, when we in calm collection do
Decisions ordinate! We need no soul
So simpering and sickly as this case
Of falling to the murine lot of life!
Her husband, whom she venerates in love
And honours after death, was far too weak!
He died because he was not fit, and did
Not keep the vital prize close to his breast,
He did not let his mind rest on his wife
And children, as he should care and protect,
Or he would never let his life fall through
His guard so easily; he was too weak!
He died unworthy, at incipient,
For he was puny by nature, and had
Honour too much, that there is left besides
Such surplus after death! As for his wife,
If Jonathan was of no use to us,
Why should we benefit her, she is bound
To be of similar stuff; she's said as much,
If we should never have promoted our
Late Jonathan, why should we then his wife,
The mouse's mouse? Why should we favour her?
[Jenner, with an eloctory flourish of his arms, reveals the sword under his cloak to Brisby]
[aside] O, mercy! Is that how it is?
And now, good staller, I'll advise thee well.
Thy life, not yet in moiety unfurled,
Is still ahead, think not upon thy son!
Leave us alone, and value thyself well;
Mak'st thou not the mistake thy husband did:
To put another in front of one's self.
A soul like thee, so fragile and so small,
Muliebrial and gentle in her ways,
Does not fit well in body politic,
So avaunt thee away from council hall.
I ne'er did hold you suspect, I ne'er did hold you suspect as...
Ah, thou trust! Thou shalt be readily hurt,
And find phantasms legion that once wert
Thy husband; follow not to his domain,
A noisome col and valley of deep pains
As wreak a blighted soul, and sting a wight
Till day's unwanted, and relief is night.
Nay! Take thee up the dark to battle first,
As only better follows after worst.
Take up the sums of a declining health,
And make comparison of accrued wealth.
It's more? It's less! And thou art less, indeed!
Never as... nay, ne'er as suspect as thy...
Now, what? Never as suspect as what?
Thy friends!, who found suspicion in each turn
And syllable of your unbridled speech,
And wanton flogging, flaunting out your ken
And subjecting to hurt those as did not
Give you a means or cause!
Now, be thee gone!
I've nothing more of this, thy speech is done!
Thou'st made thy beggings, seek thee a new porch
To victimize with thy guilt making pleads,
And throwings of thyself! See me no more!
I've no respect for thee or simple words
Like 'charity' or 'friends', such things timeworn!
I've heard them all afore, a thousand times,
Like well run-into boots, they're comfy, though
Not fitting here, they've not a share at all,
And to them now employ throws gauntlets brave,
That thou use to us taunt. Begone, away!
Avaunt, exeunt, be off, depart, take leave!
Thou art not as thou seem, thou winding pipe!
How gleg of you. Bailiff, come see her out!
I am away, but Jenner, keep in mind,
I ne'er said word against thee, ne'er did breathe
A curse cross thee betwixt my grieving sighs,
And I shall bar it e'er from being so.
Hale not me out, for willing I will go.
Thou'st ruled the day in council, Jenner, for
Thou art a show, I'll see it so no more.
I've done as my kind should deserve to do.
Such souls as I, who am a willing knave,
Brutish with words - I use my lengthened tongue
To snap those who oppose me any way -
Are proper here. I am a soul
Egregious and calloused in my ways,
I do fit rightly well in body politic.
Thy body's politic, as thy mouth, thy arms, thy legs, thy teeth, thy cancerous mind are all of one accord - to thy wealth!
A toast I sing every day, good Ages.
Thy body politic nearly trampled Madame Brisby with its legion demons.
So, it is true that my cancerous mind has a claw to it. Ah, but I do what is required.
Thou villain! Thou welting horsefly! Thou green-backed, vilifying...
Ages! Not here in council.
Thou'rt right, I'll save it for a more seeing body.
Or an epigram calendar. May we go on?
Nay, not with you in forefront anymore.
I trust thou hast naught else before the floor.
Then leave thee from thy pedestal, where from
Thy turrets of unletting brickbats come.
I'll fly down from my newly-branded coop,
And saddle such as nae will come again
To take it up with likewise circumspect
And ride with such a grand imperious manner
Across the faceless moor. Ah, ne'er again!
Thy thoughts doth like thyself, pray, weigh thee down
And set thy key steps lower, I've no sound
Nor ear for chimes so dissonant and high.
I'll see no shine upon thy speaking face
Which gleams in braggart manner, and in not
A humble fashion, as thou so suggest'st.
Thou spoke of shining knerls, I'd scratch thy wrap
To see myself what wax and poster may conceal.
Abscond, thou turning prater of repeat!
[to Jenner] Thou hast the floor no more, thou must step down!
[Jenner steps down]
The floor is empty, all our ears are keen
To take new contributions for our bein.
Can I motion that we close the session?
First you must provide proof it e'er was apert.
I second. Let the meeting be closed.
Good scrivener, thou page, hast thou today?
Hast thou down all the words we had to stay?
Yea, it's a sorry story.
Our words are written down. We must so live
To play our parts, for we our outlines give
To all who come anon, set down in script
Our character, leaves from a tome ripped
Set down by Time, and in our piecemeal page
We bit by bit redress our story's stage.
Those later may our words for wisdom read,
They'll come for counsel, and we shall them lead,
From our dead council, set in scriben song,
We may lend aid to right a greater wrong
Than that which evilly gloats on us today,
And threatens to sweep all our plot away;
Our plan is laid out, may it us suffice,
But may it sooner best a future vice.
3.4 - In the rosebush's hollows
[Enter Jenner with Sullivan]
I'd say that was the finest Council we've had since we've last finished one.
I'd say it were cut a bit short by thy lashing scourge.
What? An' what were that? It was finished! They would not agree.
Jenner, we will move! It is decided!
Aye, but I've a brave recourse. Do you think my sword's to prick little pests? Do you think it a sultan's scimitar, to slice a pillow a'twain? Perhaps a butterknife, fit for slicing no resistance firmer than muffins?
Nay, it's a hot, impatient blade, whose only fit scabbard's in thy enemies.
But is it for intimidation, as thou used it for in Chamber?
You saw the sword!
No, but I knew it was there. Thou hast it hidden from all in the council; they were transfixed on the dangerous acrobatics of thy mouth. But the poor woman!
O, she'll live, if she doesn't die. Hark! wait a moment. What's that sound?
[They listen to it]
I should think that a soft cry. Rather sad, I'd not think it something to be shared, nor a fine matted accompaniment for our private plan. Let's away, and let the crier be alone. A soft cry, 'tis all it is.
Soft as my foot! That's an undampered sobbing if I've heard it.
[They listen to it awhile longer]
It would only have been better for me had she salinated in Chamber.
Jenner, are you saying what I am hearing?
Quite possibly. Now, quiet!
[Jenner listens to the crying]
What was that about an accompaniment? She is my orchestra, and I am her conductor. Watch me direct her tears, one to the left, one to the right, ha! Watch me wave my hands for her serenade, ah! A sweet accompaniment for our plotting, Sullivan, fine music. I'll let her meet her much missed maestro yet, yes, I shall indeed.
Jenner, thou art waving thy hands in the air, and I know not what to make of the breeze.
Soft! Do you not hear it getting louder? That is what I am motioning. Louder, wail! Yea, I'll show Ages an assortment of keys!
Of course she's louder; she's getting nearer, Jenner!
O, yea, we shall then now be off!
She'll set you to flight, Jenner?
You wanted to be away, let's away!
[Exit Jenner with Sullivan]
[Enter Brisby, from the other direction, weeping]
Why can I not just leave...? There's no comfort for me here, no, none for Timmy either, and I've left him alone when I should keep him close in charge. I've an option. Yea, somebody else can help, there's a less troublesome... O, that's silly talk. It's not for naught that the Owl directed me here; it's not for naught that I was brought before that infernal council body. But one thing's sure, not e'en Ages is here for me, and I know not where Nicodemus is.
Aye, halloo, hail, ho! Dear abba, I've my prey! Tally-ho! To the hunt! Away and off! Let us ride to the capture, and swiftly!
Who are you?
I, dear victim, am Patrick, Nicodemus' clown, and yea, his only son.
Yea, I'm the leader's son, which rightly means
A noble prince I should forever be,
And enjoy boons of aristocracy,
But Nick's not for the court, nor does he care
For drapes and trappings, frothings bothersome,
And coats of varnish as hide mortal rein,
For under ev'ry velvet mink's a man.
So I'm a clown, but if I were a prince,
I'd have a crown, my father gives me paint,
I'd have a stole of vole, my father gives me rags,
I'd have a ball and feast, he gives me all the least,
But only so I'll make more of my gain,
A prince's station's but to wait for death,
To seize a throne of power - not for me!
I'll dance in masks, and make a life more 'live,
My bergamasque's not folly, I am pleased,
As boring, tawdry pleasantries of state
Hold no allure for me. The fool's the royal life,
As I make no pretense of being more
Than I'm, a pile of impotent dust
Painted in gaiety, in hopes to make
Our passing hour more pleasurable, I am
Patrick, the clown. The regent's child as
Does please the king does also him advise,
And he who pleases children is a king.
I know no princedom offers such rewards.
But who are you?
I've heard that question once before today, and I'm just beginning to understand it. I don't know; I've always been what I was at the moment.
Are you the widow of Jonathan Brisby? For such a one I am to find.
Yes, I am.
A glad start! or sad, perhaps. And you've an ill and a child?
Yea, my son is deathly ill.
My father sent me first to answer your venturesome riddles. He said you're a veritable chestnut tree, raining riddles upon any poor pondering soul as came for your shelter on your grassy hillock, to hear the wind. He said you're full of curious conundrums and contradiction; I have come to witness your prodigy.
He did not mention your prolix paradox? Such a wordy fool!
I've a rare and selected breed of wordwrighting. I'll turn a phrase on his head quick enough to... well, I'm a jester. What could you expect?
You're a pantaloon to give any common loon uppance.
Aye, don't pun! Last night I was harangued by the punning muse in my sleep, and as I rose, she had me earnestly believing that an impress was an empress, a garnet a small garn, a beach a tree, and a herald an old growth beard. But my father sent me first to proffer comfort in the form of lunacy, and secondly to usher you to him personally. I know his chamber, and Ages is away on a mission of importance, with the captain along. You must be attended to, dear mother! You must be attended to!
I'm not forgotten?
Forgotten! Such a foolish word: as long as you've children, you're ne'er forgotten, you're in their prayers at the moment. But they must know you to forget you, and to know you is to always remember you. I never knew my mother. She made a grand exchange: her life for mine, and Death's commission on the trade was an hour of pain. This puts me in deficiency, but I would set the records even by sparing you woe.
If Death owed me a favor, I'd ask for greater things.
Aye, but he's a stupendous haggler. If righteous Hezekiah could get but twenty years, with oscillations of sundials aside and divine favour, I could hope to get a frayed shoelace for myself. But for you, perhaps more. What say you? A mother's misery for a mother's misery. Should the ransom be made?
Such a sour trade for you. But what know you of me?
What I've gleaned from our scribe's foul notes. I know you'd plea the sun and the wind for your child; how if Sister Moon? But of your being, I know so little. Perhaps this will clear it up. What do you do, when you've no dire preoccupation to consume you?
What is the lot and privilege of all
Things mortal, as laid out implicitly,
I came a'thrust, I've learned to pull and tug
At life's thin rope, and when I've wearied out,
I've learned to cry, I've learned to keep my grip
As I'm alive; I have four children who
Were sired by a one who's left away,
The pass of my departure's not in hand,
I'll wait, for as I've learned from life, it's true
Along with push-and-pull, the end's reward,
The end of stern preoccupation's grim
But afterwards is all the meaning as
This life can hint at. I'm alive, I work
At things of quality, when I'm allowed:
I'll teach my daughters, and I'll teach my sons
What wisdoms I may know, so when I board
With Charon, they might what I've taught share on,
With children theirs, and children theirs, and on
The ropes do go, enlinked, braided and twined,
To fathom depths in Time's ink-jetty well.
My life's my children, that is who I am:
For I'm a half of them; I'll wisdom give
As I'm entrusted, as I still shall live.
So it's so, good Brisby, and I'll ask, what riddles am I to unravel for you?
O, riddles? I suppose... can you tell me why Fate wears a thick-gilded crown?
[He takes her aside]
Who revealed this to you?
A friend of mine, a shrew; she said it in hotness: how Doom is found in both Death's toothsome maw and Fate's thickly gilded crown.
This shrew of yours 's a sage, with more teeth than Death's grin. Let me speak of Doom. Why do you suppose the spring has come?
I've ne'er reflected upon that before.
Is it in part to bring you here?
Perhaps, in part, though a small part, I'd suppose.
And do you know of our story, and the story of your husband?
My husband's story I've taken up much in the middle, and of you I'd know more.
Then you must the story hear, though I'm not to tell it. My father shall, if you will come with me, and the clown shall see you to the leader's chamber, as it were.
As it shall be, you mean; the son shall see me to the father.
The rat shall see you to the rat, when all the scrapings are off.
Then take me to the leader, Nicodemus,
Clown of rags and juggler of words,
And set me 'fore the mortal in his rein,
To see what jewel's entrusted to his care,
And of his stories tell, I'm keen to hear
How you did come to be here, how you did
In secrecy this place in covers keep,
When in the open plain it stands erect
So obviously hiding more than stems
And shootings of a rose, much more than thorns,
For in this bush much sharper thorns have cut
Me, and I've witnessed evils that, if known,
Would bring the arms of good in sweeping force
From all terrestrial nations, and from each
And ev'ry shining body, hosts would come,
With gleaming blazons shouting for the cause;
Were they but known! I've caught my cape upon
A thorn, which tore it; I've no like-worn cloth
To patch it up, it's doomed to rend. I have
Found there's no comfort in sweet falsities
As spoke by sugared tongues, they'll bane you as
A nightshade or a yew. Yea, it is so
The truth, which can in retroflection hurt,
Hurts as a childish dream gives rise to pains.
It's done! it's gone! it's passed away in night!
The moment's passing wafts away the sigh
Of making one's self more than one's self is,
The flower transit, spark ephemeral,
Which flies struck from the flint, flares, and is gone,
What is our past? Smoke clearing in the wind,
A trace of memory, a fond keepsake,
The itch of faded kisses, and the sting
Of speech that's spoken, which in sonorous waves
Flies swiftly through the night, and's heard no more.
If thinking back does hurt me, I need but
Turn my direction frontward! such a sound
Effective answer to imagined ills.
I'll keep on problems that try us today,
Remind myself on Timmy, he's alive,
But yet I'll hear examples from your books
Of written history: they teach today.
Let me my husband know, I would have known
Him when I saw him, when I heard his voice;
I'll know him now, and trust your kind recall.
The Owl's his sources, and I have my own.
Take me away, and tell me of my past;
Do not make pause at the awkwardities,
The truth may cause a sore, mayhap an ache,
To patch the cloth is to the needle take,
But these are but the growings of the soul
That cleave the frayed, and make the partial whole.
3.5 - In Nicodemus' chamber
[Enter Patrick and Brisby]
Well, naught to do but wait.
It would be empty when I came here.
It's not empty: it contains us!
I'll keep it to myself no longer.
What were that?
Good Patrick, you know of the ill which lurks
Within this bush, and how its plague doth show
No symptoms but an unsatisfied soul,
Please, if you love your father, let him know!
There's danger in these thorns, and tho' they're sharp,
Much keener are the blades of cunning swords
As wrought by stony hearts! Yea, let him know,
Let Nicodemus ope his glazened eyes
And see the check and threat upon your lives!
For if he holds a jewel, a pearl of price
Or deftly crafted wisdom of some worth,
He's keen to judge, he's keen to set it right!
Evil is seen by the loftiest stars, and where's the host to fight? Aye, if it's a battle, it's death, and out of death's watering blood, more evil springs up with thicker thorns. My father knows the ill of which you speak by name: he's high in rank, and not discreet.
And naught's to do for it?
No, something is,
And that's to glibly gape upon his face
And wonder at his wryness; ha! the fool,
He'll lap it up with such amazing strokes
His tongue would take the Thames; his fitful lash
Is only tamed with much amenity.
While in his prideful buckets, he will find
No need to thirst - so he'll let up his plots,
All we need do is swallow our equine call,
And stay our neighs away for but a while:
To him say 'yes', while yet our hearts say 'no',
Let those who see him not continue on
In bringing forth our plan, in fractions where
He has no interest! Work it without his wis,
For if he saw all good come charging down
He'd turn his back and lose himself posthaste;
Divert his eyes with flattery, and play
The palming pass your shill standing behind
His back, and he won't know what steps he took
Out of his turn! He'll have to come along,
Or swift abandonment's the following result.
To speak on high's to speak as those would follow.
If we'll say 'yea' and work a tall impasse,
He'll have the time to scale it; if we work
Covertly, to repress his ill designs,
What shall prevent him from continuing like,
Constructing plans in air, and writing words
In milk, not ink? If we work secretly,
He's ev'ry right and reason to the same,
And in his silent obverse, he shall see
How our parroting prating's inversely
In meaning true, he'll see right through our weak
And trivial cipher, and our coding break,
And peek right to our centres, which he'll take,
He'll read our hearts for books.
Yea, it is so.
I'm but the clown, and may his reading eyes
Reveal a work of riddles and of jokes.
I will not hide my work, nay, I shall be
Painfully obvious to all, except
Myself. I've but a question to be soon
Answered, a problem which must find resolve.
By Loki's beard, aye! It is a most ill situation, and Father is restlessly considering it, disheveling himself for't, forswearing food and losing sleep for't. His evil mustn't break our plan; his evil mustn't cross yourself.
I don't know what to make of one like Jenner. I'd say there is no safe pigeonhole to keep him.
Rarely ever is a condor kept in a canary's cage, however, a canary's cage might feasiblely hold a nobler bird.
'Tis Nicodemus! O, shall we hail?
Nay, not yet. Let him wobble to his chair. Watch his motions.
He seems so old.
You'd be surprised. He's seen things most of us have never let our minds fear. He's struggling under the weight of the day; his burden's his limp.
My Patrick, hast thou brought her unto me?
Hast thou in train the one I sought to see?
She's come, she's here.
I cannot see her; motion her to me,
I use my heart to speak, but eyes to see.
Here is the trial of my day.
[They walk to him]
I've never seen thee, confidante of woe,
Why is it thou hast come, what need'st thou know?
Thou seest me, Nicodemus, may thy heart
Reveal my inward lackings, as I am
Quite trifling to look at, as my heart's
So anyone may know me, as I am.
I heard thee say it, and I know thy mind
As I've been granted one of sim'lar kind.
In rhyming duples shall I now relate
Of the rats of NIMH, and how they found their fate;
How they in sordid comeupon met ken,
Entrapped in the treacherous meshes of men.
The days were once encloaked in stifling veils,
The yellow sun were hazy on the dales
We swarmed upon with but Ate's reflect,
We worked our ways without a mind's direct.
We did not think, were brutal in our ways
And stayed content in our minds' gauzèd haze.
Then came the nets with shades in hooded form:
Composite men, without our sense's warn,
They made claim to ourselves and took us for
Their alchemy, their ancient chemist's lore.
Pythagoras ruled o'er their outlawed state
Their secret commune excommunicate,
They knew of things which ne'er a man had known
And understood the make of blood and bone.
They raised their germane cords and ropes of splice
And took upon we fourscore rats and mice,
Subjecting us in ventures altercate
To see th'effects transform of Adam's take.
Our sun, which were a shaded blot of ink
And haloed by concentrics indistinct,
Was suddenly through us impermeant made
Our newfound sight illumined their foul glade;
We saw with blinding vision our new light
And burned with furious fires of new sight.
The pains of changing scarred us from within
And left a gaping schism from our kin;
Between us and our mothers, sons and wives,
We read a writ of exile on our lives.
So we withdrew from capture and our field
And took a new residence that did yield
A hope of isolation, which was found
In these thick tangles, tunneled nether the ground.
Here we in solemn solitude have stayed
And haunched in fearful loneliness have laid
From all the world; we're tenanting these delves
For we have become foreign to ourselves.
And my husband?
He paved the clearing road for our retreat,
And let us from our shackles pull our feet,
And gave us rich allowance to be gone,
Deep purses to be blown 'way in the fon.
'Tis odd that he who let us be alone
Was married, had a wife and happy home.
He had a doubled life of day and night,
One lain in shadows, one reposed in light.
One never met the other, nor did he let
The wife concern the colony, never met
His children our endearing youth's delights;
Our innovations for young tots' insights
Ne'er could they learn. We were alive incaged,
Though nearly dead in our mind's instanced change.
He had a strength and presence in his mind
That were unseeming, ne'er did I expect to find
In such a tiny thing, without our doubled strength;
While we laid languid, he held his height's length.
The lentils, of the fraterns made their stew,
Of which they composed their foul, fetid brew
Were stayed near close our second nets befall
From which, unlike the first, we ne'er could gnaw.
Then Jonathan made poke his smallish head
Through our frames, which no other one as said
Could venture. He made our surrounds explore,
That he might know our riddle well, and more
Could seek to solve it. His experiment made
Discovery: the bag of food near laid,
And he could through the captors' feedbag chew
And add contamination to the stew,
The only problem was what to obtain.
Good Jonathan made light of this, he fain
Would to us comforts serve, not sorry seed.
He found, I know not how, a powdered weed
In paper packaged, that would induce sleep
That grew in Hypnos' cave's forgotten deep.
His obstacle a philtre solved, he brought
It to the meal's itinerary unsought.
O, how they fell! they brought the beer out, and
Made reverie, and soon their subverse band
Was laughing in their drink. They fell like stones!
Dropped to the ground, to all the other's moans,
Leaned over in their chairs in fits of snores,
The others saw it, and burst all the more
In fits of guff. It were a sight to see,
The bouts of sleep - it won - we knew it'd be
Attributed to drink, imbibing fools!
Such are the ways of studiers of schools
Unmeant, heretic, too oft uncontrolled,
Yea, are those who in evil ways are schooled.
Then Jonathan, in his unnoted size
Made open ev'ry cage, and therein lies
The story our escape, now legend, for
The hero of that day is now no more.
That is a tale. But, I'd know him when I knew him, his exploits beforehand are but the makings of him whom I loved and could speak to, and I could guess what he was before.
His charcoaled, mid-cleaved branch of ill-used time,
Is too unseeming to be set in rhyme;
I cannot speak that story, read it there,
For books illume that too heavy for air.
My Latin's not good.
I've Wycliffe for a friend, I condescend
To write my prose in words of common men.
That reassures me.
[She goes to read the book]
'Ah, the undying concerns and plight of mortal things! How it is, we absurdities, that have been given sapience and bull of release from Folly's fist, are still under bond of Death, and how it is that we are composed of the same stuff as before! But naught's to be done by the lament, it is a load no created thing may throw off. Today Jonathan Brisby performed such astounding acts at the pipe that I would write it here, lest I forget the sound. O, if but words were as easily music as a phrase of piccolo! If I could draw out the sound, I'd spend the entire book on it. But, alas, the sounds cannot go down here, and no amount of notation may describe the wonder of any of his improvisations, nor convey his litheness. And his is a flute I shall hear wind of no more; it is an astounding thing how quickly one's composition may be set anew, I wonder at the speed with which the composer makes his segue of transition. Ah, but what music! It brings pains to my heart, and Jonathan's part in the ensemble is done; he's taken his instruments and left. Drugging the cat was a disaster today; it is a great deal of work to administer balms, and easy to intoxicate, but those who deliver poisons must expect to take some poison in return. We have taken our soul sickening tonic all at once today, our mortal colic's none the better. Jonathan! May thy music never fade in my mind; the cat is the instrument of thy demise. One stroke! such in forte is all a violin needs to drown out the pipe, one swipe! Thou art a part to play no more, and yet thou hast a quintet without accompaniment. I fear for them... I fear for them all. They've no way to know; they are sitting behind the eaves. But such a resonant sound must continue, and the hall is a social place. Mayhap they will someday become acquainted with the works of their Jonathan, and it may be that someday his children will study the works of this master, marvel at the setting in the symphony of this cosmos, and raise a pipe to their mouths. I would hear thy music again. Thou hast set a fine example, and left such a body of études to confer to the hardest student. For thy widow, farewell, Jonathan. Farewell.'
...O, O, Jonathan! it were the cat; we'd guessed, but never known!
The cat is all our fates, in diverse form,
Attend thee to thy sorrows while warm.
I shall, O, Nicodemus, I shall! But, O, Nicodemus, why was this ever hidden? Pray, how was this ever hidden?
'Tis hidden in that inviolable sea,
The mind. The memory fails those who would be
Back in NIMH's clutches, yea, the opaque mind
Would nevermore acquit what it's assigned,
The evils that may pass by mortal's eyes
Impress themselves upon our soon-doffed guise,
How strange that he who cannot keep breath's pace
Is hostaged by the wrongs before his face
And lets his blessings blend into a blur,
And gleefully ignores all he should incur.
Five foolish maids are we, with lacquer none
To let the glories soon resolve to one,
And wonderless miracles in life's wedding procession
We let eas'ly fly by in a sundry succession.
These ingrown horrors wring my umbraed soul,
Our captors' hubris wrung an unbred toll
And, then, in pain they man-cares did impart
For which I paid the price of half my heart.
They grafted us a cubit's lifespan length
Proverbially by fretting out our strength,
And cruelly set us e'er to keep our youth
To dwell upon the mis'ry of this truth:
Those fools as smuggle life through dying lands
Must see their loves die, drownèd in Time's sands.
Though now, I'm pressed, there's something still said not:
This may thee aid, though it thou never sought,
But, nay! The morrow's brighter, the calming day
Shall hear these things; I'm not too sure to say
Whe'er I have said too much to say no more,
Or let tomorrow brave my rarified lore.
[to Brisby] You have heard from him what you came to know
Except one thing, how you might make to clear
The farmer's plow your children and yourself.
I'll tell you that. We've spoken friendly rats
And pled them move your house, Arthur and his
Guild's architects are rigging now the means
To move your house, and Archimedes shall
Be proud, it's quite the scheme, you'll need not know
Of it much further, except that it shall
Deliver your son from his sickly ills
And keep him from the blades of scythes and tills
As would him quickly lose, his raging flame
The frost will kill, O, how it's such a joy
To see the ending of another's trials!
The night shall look down from her starry loft
And witness, awestruck, him escape her grip;
She'll grope for other means, what shall she find?
We're here for you, and we shall for you fend;
For your love's fortune, this is not the end,
Your Jonathan's provided after death
A team of allies to assistance give
Your children move, may that your children live
And how their tones shall sound! There'll be such noise
That there's no lark will find help but to join,
The throats of men shall echo our refrain,
The only way to deafen not your ears
Will be to shout along. O, such a song!
The lyrics... they shall find us in the end,
But 'fore then, we'll just do without, and be
Led honestly as we're meant to be led,
Batons shall fill our eyes, the music fill our ears,
And when it's over, all will quiet be
Except for night's applause. Our orchestra
Is waiting, keenly, rocking in its chairs
And, restless, tunes its tempers for the sign
Of the impending start. Let's take our first
Positions, and obediently refrain,
The day's for ransom; all shall redeemed be,
If we'll but wait... if we'll but wait... if we'll
But pause. How impatient I'll grow
'Tween now and then. I shall my fingers train,
They'll find compulsive exercise.
What part play I?
Aye, is that yet assigned?
How I know little! I'm unsure: I've asked
You who you are - you'll sing and play aside
Your children astute and by Jonathan:
Mark my words! What a glorious noise there'll be
I know naught of the tune nor of the words,
But injoined are the people and the birds,
The winds - such chimes! - the waters - such a sound! -
The time is Time itself, it's conducted by
Who's been conducting concert all along,
The world is being ushered to its end,
Let's shout along with it. Life is so short,
But we will move your house, ere we do die,
The song's the kind as makes new turns, which can
Not be expected, let us forward be,
And sing our song with grace, while yet we can.
Fair mortals, thou wert brought up of the ground,
Take thine attendance in our jubilant throng,
No el'vate king's too prideful for this sound,
Nor life's too lengthy to take up our song.
Act the Fourth
Resolve to be thyself, and know that he,
Who finds himself, loses his misery.
—Matthew Arnold, Self-dependence
4.1 - At Mrs. Brisby's house
[Enter Martin and Teresa]
How were that?
I was contemplating the roundness of an egg.
Yea, it's prolate, - the egg and the question, - tho' what does it mean? Shall I contemplate the granularity of corn? the pucker of a crab apple? the toughness of capes?
Fine things, those.
I'll enjoy an egg when I can have it, and let its roundness my stomach philosophize.
[Enter the shrew]
Good evening, fair friend!
It is a good evening, but I'd know where thy mother is. The wind's a nip, I've come out of its chill for th'day.
Ay, it's a tough whispered threat on Timmy's life.
But thy mother'd shake fists at the wind. O, such hard breath!
[to Cynthia] How is he?
Not so well.
What a life, indeed, one for another.
He's in a painful fit; speaking of... of strange things. Stygian substances; the shielding of demonic fires in an angel's garb. He spoke of tottering on the world's bank, fearing a dangerous alluvial transport... and yet, he's in such a transport now I would not touch him. Perhaps he is not in a fit after all.
Tell him he need not fear disguised demons, and that he may trust his eyes.
Those are good words, Martin, but to say them to him is another thing.
So I shall, as always.
I wonder that such a one ever saw the light of day.
That such an product may be made from thy parents pulls me aback. I should think his a prime number.
Yea, so is thirteen.
There are thirteen notches on the door.
Thirteen silvers are set on the mantel.
I'd fain check them for tarnish.
I wonder at you all. That boy's placid as Dulcinea on a Sunday. I spoke to him about you and Mother, and he began counting the patches on his warming quilt. There's one more red than yellow, and one more white than black. Let anyone interpret these humours as he will, I'd ask Ages about it.
Thou wouldst weary Ages with it.
Only until he told me what it meant - I am not unreasonable.
Perhaps it has more to do with the blanket than with Timmy.
Or perhaps more with the one as sewed it.
Wise words. But he's under the blanket now, sleeping soundly. I'd find it unfollowing that he were ill if my mother wasn't consternated.
Crestfallen mothers, when the wrong's their child,
Are always wont to guard them from their chill,
By no unhopeful word they'll be defiled,
Nor may unbalanced blankets great their ill.
Yea, 'tis Mother as keeps his soul still; his worrying tremors shake life off as a cloak.
Then what's a sister to do? O, I should make more tea!
Teresa, you emulate our mother's care with uncanny aptitude.
Mother keeps the gears running. The shrew's to substitute her governance...
[to the shrew] What are you nosing at?
O, never mind me, child.
Aye, Timmy's in such bristly care, when I
With glabrous smoothing lotions would attend
His paused pneumonia, which ne'er abdicate
Would be, but must be forcefully o'erthrown.
Force found in care! Aye, such's the lever as
Could displace all the world; things move by care:
Would Antony do but a thing by care?
How long for Menelaus did Helen wait?
Would art be made, would comely sounds exist,
Would poets lift their pens except by love?
For but in care's a force, the physics of
The world, the world unseen, the world to come;
Love only is effective in all spheres
And love, so gentle, bears a lion's claw,
A gorgon's stare, a viper's bite, and is
The sphinx's riddle to us daily posed,
Our outcome's in how we make our return:
We'll live in hate, or else we'll die in love,
For love's far greater than the substance of ourselves,
It us eliminates. We're nothing when
We're took by love: for then our efforts are
Wraught for another's well, we're nothing when
We're caught in love, it's stuff accumulate.
We're members of the same, when found in love,
No matter in what role it finds it cast:
The melding of the hawk and turtledove,
Or eagles nurturing the small eyas.
4.2 - In Nicodemus' chamber
[Enter Brisby, Nicodemus, and Patrick]
Of trials of the weary and the worn
The ragged minstrel makes his songs forlorn:
His motley costume's patched of weary woes
Contributed by victims poor, their foes
Are Time and Frost and Evil; how can turns
Be made against such adversary? Burns
There such a fire in an icy night
To best Frost, yet will not cause burning blight?
How shall we slow Time's plodding march? It leaves
Our songwrite's friends but scraps of cloth and grieves
To tell him, then they give their relate's swathe
To stitch his sagaed song in gentle faith;
His traveling songs, that echo off the hills
Are mournful wailings of unmeaning wills;
The jester's pleasure's show, he's full of pain
But joy may be in sorrowed sighs maintained.
Joy's one source only, and is the wordless, inexplicable answer to many a question. I'd sing thee a song, father, and this needs no music; indeed, fits better without it:
'One day the farmer took his cat away,
The rats and mice made in the field a day
Of revel, and did in their folly steal
A pottage mess of proprietary meal...'
Nay, let thy voice not dwell upon those notes,
They mold too seemly to our present rotes.
Then I shall sing another.
'On Pegasus a man once made a ride
To hear effects poetic that betide
The mounting of this stallion: he waved goodbye
Apollo, Cronus, and those who came nigh
Olympus to bid well his faring steed...'
No, sing thee not that song; it seems too far
Moved from the time and place in which we are.
Now this is a demand. I'll search high and low, from the heathers' harmony to the mountains' melody, from the deepest note of the bass to the airiest strike of the soprano, but what's to do with an alto in a tree? Many want songs of their miseries; many want songs of pomp and myth to take their dwelling off the moan o'the day; very few want songs of happenstance they may not know, but may access at any moment.
[Enter Ages, Justin, and a priest]
It matters not anyway. Here comes a new audience.
A hail, Brisby! I suppose Nicodemus has told thee everything.
Well, it has been a telling, that's true.
Ah, this is the one I am to aid?
Aid, yea, I suppose. Such an odd thing to demand of a kettled fish.
And here is Nicodemus' comical son.
Yea, here am I, and I am here.
Who is this, Patrick?
Why, this is the priest, and also our finest medicinary and gallipot.
He's a drugger! Cackle and glee-guffaw!
And you are as you've always been, a rosary of jokes: decades of the same.
Aye, but read with heartfelt devotion.
Yea, you read their worn roundness faithfully, and fumble them through your fingers.
I handle them with due reverence. Anything that's served many a clown so long's quite the relic.
[to Brisby] Everybody needs to learn their craft, and this has been a great source for me. This rat's archiving ability is phenomenal. He'll tell you in a split hair, what...
[to Brisby] We'll have you for our perdue.
Pray, what, Patrick?
Ages, I am a bit more direct than you are. You'd fright coveyed quail with a pair of sticks; I'd just light a charge. I am to the point. That is what you were going to ask her, isn't it?
'Perdue' is such a harsh word. It makes us sound ungrateful... to send the widow of our late warrior into the battle alone!
You were going to appoint the wife to fill the dead husband's place. That's not ingratitude, but it would be well for the contracted to know what she was in.
[to the priest] Father, tell me strait what I'm to do... and let it be as round as one of Patrick's jokes.
We've need to stay the cat for work tonight;
If he'll attack our party, all our plans
Are naught, thy house will stay, and we shall stay
And meet anew thy husband; we shall have
Occasion not to set aside the task,
The cat must be detained! Herein's thy ploy:
I've packaged half a dram of sleeping powder,
Thou shalt it take, and from its drowsy grains
The mutton dust of which the cat shall eat.
Thou'lt make thy entrance to the farmer's house
A narthex on the setting sun's shine's side
An aperture to which thou'lt gain admit
The vestibule in which thy name's reposed.
Take care, be quick! But if thine errand fails,
If he'll eat thee, he'll eat the package too,
To think the last, think how thy children are
Saved in thy death; but if thou shouldst succeed,
All's well. There is no substitute for thee,
The op'ning's small, too small for all but thee.
When it's accomplished, return the same way
To take rewards of dangerous dispatch,
Enjoy a heroine's feast. 'Tis such a night!
You need not her intimidate.
I understand, and am not taken back,
Though rounder could the explanation be.
I'll hear it from the fumbler of the beads.
[to Brisby] Jonathan's role, though beautiful, was repetitive. His phrase of melody was continually the same, which left him ample room for innovative variation. His size - his small size - which allowed him to drug NIMH's food, allowed him also to drug the cat's food. The only entrance to the farmhouse we have unseen is a knothole on the side: and that too small for any of us, except Jonathan and Ages.
The first is dead, the last is incapacitated.
Although Jenner may command echelons of sense, take to our front ranks! He has
no such sense, for we have all of our motives intact, and in our presence, he is senseless.
Child, we have no choice, and it is with grave apology that we present this to thee.
I'd take a part, the saving of my son's
Too large to exclude me, who is quite small,
I've done what I could do, yea, ev'ry thing,
And would not pause at danger; I am lief
To take thy perdue's armour on, may it
Brave service do me, make me who I am,
Who I was meant to be. I'll do thy chore
As I've no choice, I'd die before my son!
For if all'd been well, and I'd live to age
I'd die before him with no regard to
My safety. Now that I'm with Doom and Death
I'll say four words before I'd do their bid,
Make free my son; I'd sacrifice myself
For tinier things than this, and as it was
That Jonathan for thee did do this, too,
I find it fitting. Lead me to the place
I'll enter, and the shining, setting sun
Shall warm my turnèd back, as I take leave
And enter icy catacombs of Fate,
The grave and crumbling stones of ancient fears
As house my husband's death, my child's ill
And keep me from myself. I'll come alive,
And shall return to my heart's promised feast,
The keeping of my child, my brave rescue;
I'll take my share in glories as accede
The office of a soldier, who, if dead
Ne'er lets the glories become obvious
To any, but does know them to himself
And keeps them to him only, and to God.
But I shall live, I shall, if for my son
And other children, as they have no need
To be abandoned, I shall taunt the cat
And feed him drams of powdered potent sleep
If I must force them down its throat, if I
Must pull its tail to draw it to its food:
I'll drug the cat, I'll feed the dragon bane,
I have no lance, O, and on George's errand!
No lance, no horse, aye, and I shouldn't think the purdue has any armour, correct?
I'd need not them, I'd make up for the lack,
For all I'll need's a clutch, a steeling will,
A means to add the potion to the food -
Still me no more! I'll take it, let's be off!
I need not hear these prophesies of doom,
I'll set my visor down, then I'd not fear
Nor hear thy words, nor see the dragon's face;
I'll trust no horse to guide me, and no spear
Nor truncheon to support me, such enforce
Is sickly, not a source of firm reliance
As courage, love, the products of a heart
Which know that tasks are set before to do
And know no questing means are worth neglect;
It's all to ends, the goal narrows my sight;
I venture forth to keep it, in my plight
I've naught to keep me, but my living kin
And they would not lose Timmy as gain sin,
I'll slay the od'rous dragon for the night,
He'll shadow not thy work in preying flight,
I'll honour pacts my husband bound himself
For I know well he'd never take on gyves
Too weighty for his wife, or for her health
Nor which could keep his children from their lives!
Keep your clutch for now, but when the time comes, lose it before your life!
The trench is cut, the melt has only one
Direction to fluate, I'll brave its flow
And seek to ford the currents that away
My hopes might sweep, but once the stream is crossed
I'll never need to suffer it again.
That's the talk!
And so, the beset are beset e'en more
Much further, and unpressed oppress the poor,
The minstrel's song ne'er ends, it seems to those
Who must its chords repeat, and to their foes
No protest venture, but to meekly sing
A phrase of which tune's theirs, a tinny thing
Which makes the violent laugh, the victims cry,
It drives the virtues down, and vices high.
The wailing cannot cease, for holding in
The pleading of one's soul is to begin
The stifling of the spirit in its see.
The motley minstrel's music's melody
Is medley, to his costume one accord,
And to this soul whose misery would ford,
May she a brave divulgence from that flow
Make, and off wails repeating staunchly forego
To touch e'en once, so briefly; I do pray
This list'ning soul, who builds of care her day,
May hear the promised coda in her life
And may soon see the end of all her strife.
4.3 - At Mrs. Brisby's house
[Enter the shrew]
The even lumbers to our door to cast
In shadows all the joy we knew of last
And throw with doubt and laden with distress
The garnish of our former happiness;
The night soon makes its leave, and sets our lives
To light, to hobble hurt and sewn of shives.
My brother's ill... O, O, he is so ill; good shrew, I know I've been hope's very mirror, but I cannot keep a reflection much longer... the only reflections I make give me pain. O, Timothy! How I've played with him; how I've teased him; how I've loved him!
Do not despair; that is the only irreparable damage that might be done. Remember thy mother's admonition for faith.
Faith... O, that I had something easily believed in!... but wait. Let me pace about you. Heavens! Glorious heavens - you have sent me a vision that fills my eyes! Surely I can easily believe in this great and massive sign before me; I have the evidence of it before my eyes. The less empirical evidence becomes me in the vision.
That is the Martin I know; that is the Martin I know, the sly, wicked taunter I love. Thou hast one modoc and one aim only, but a violent and versatile throw to thee.
What's the wrong?
Nothing; we are vastly enjoying ourselves.
Aye, 'tis thy spectator's game, Martin. How's the score?
Bright and brilliant. 'Tis a fine music.
Lyres don't have the bite of the tongue. It is as is written, the smallest members may control the entire body.
Just as a thin baton leads the entire orchestra... lyre and all, and sees the score through the bright and glum parts, the speedy and slow, the glorious and gloomy... the fleet and the ostentatiously ponderous.
To wit, I am always at the keel.
More noise? O, it's mother!
I'm glad to see you in one piece. Did you decide not to go to the thornbush, and scavenge for dinner instead?
No, I've been to the bush... and I must leave shortly.
This is, indeed, a story of repeated themes.
Yea, Nicodemus said something to that effect...
Of matter of fact, the Rats' leader. He told me how they were sought by mysterious recluses with ill-gotten knowledge, and how their resource lent them measures of sapience...
That's a bed-story; you might entertain Timmy with it.
And I attended a rather unpleasant parliament with great pomp and half a degree of eloquence... and a fine blade to hurt. The sharpest thorns cannot be seen with the eye.
You've learned some lessons today.
I was even seen by a clown!
Do you want a cold poultice, or some wintergreen to chew, or perhaps both?
But I am away. I came first to reassure you. I'm glowing! Timmy, I think, has a safe and sure sleep.
A safe and sure sleep is the last thing to be wished upon him.
I came secondly to tell you something important. If anybody strange should come to the door, let him in.
Now this is madness, plain madness!
I'm leaving for the house, the farmer's home
Wherein the tiger takes his food, when no
Appropr'ate fare is found among this grass
And caught; I shall within his hauntings slip
To sneak the fiend scant scruples of a mix
Which should him set to sleep; when that is done
The Rats shall come to move our house away:
The house, a whole! no more the need to move;
The answer's fast and firm, and could not be
A'more made tidy; it was told to me
My husband was caught in this very snare:
He ventured it too soon; he knew not when
The hour was struck, he could not tell the time
Nor gauge the blown direction of the wind,
'Twere north for him, but yet it's south for me.
The winds that would warm Timmy save our home
And house, our hearts, our lives, our family.
She'd shoot the hare and ignore the hart! She'd wipe the mote away and fasten the plank in! Aye, she'd save Timmy in losing the rest of us!
She is a brave one, shrew. Remember, 'tis such a life, one for another.
One for another - one for another! Who for whom? I've had doubts afore, I could not speak my venturesome worries, I could not breathe suspicion; now, I'd pile my speculation to the stars and let it topple in my wind or stand blatant as the truth! First, the Owl: he did not accomplish Brisby's seeking, then secondly the Rats, who did not claim her life either. Two unsure dangers she's sought to fall by, and neither has done so much as slap her wrist. So, for her charmed third attempt, she'll brave a sure danger: one she's known before, the very one her husband fell by. The cat gives her an open promise. He'll be glad to gobble her away; he'll be glad to crush her into voidity. A stark and unveiled nihilism I see; I fear her nobleness is a show; I fear her weakness is untempered by any braveness. That is the record as the shrew reads it; that is the story as the shrew sees it.
That is a fine bed-story to destroy Timmy with. Didn't you do this before?
I saw then as in a dark glass.
Leave my mirror out. I will not return the reflections of ghosts, and I don't know whether to believe.
Believe if I live. Believe if I die. Believe if the shrew tells thee every dark tale between here and Khartoum. Believe if Timmy burns like a furnace. Believe if the rain should come down dry and the snow searing. Believe if an apple should taste like an eggshell. Believe if the stars shine by day and the sun by night. Believe in God, believe in thyself, believe in thy mother; I love thee! If thou canst not believe, nothing lives for thee. If thou believest not, no wonder's overt, only those as might catch thee off-guard, in a moment of weak doubting. A dead world welcomes no life; an unsanctioned, unblessed, unmeaningful life can offer no worth. It cannot lend of goods it was never given. Believe, believe, or thy life is gone. It is a simple lesson; learn it well, dear Martin.
A good study; I should start by believing it.
Is't true? Is anything the shrew says true?
Whether anything here is true, first I'd know. We can easily remember how Martin's swearing can wear; Gibraltar might be a'tumbling. It is easy for a letter at the front to be slaughtered.
You know I've meant what I did swear to you,
My erstwhile promises bind me today,
If I were vilesome, I'd rue the true
And ne'er set 'nay' nor 'ay' to what I say.
That is an easy trick for devils' minds,
The brave would blather, grace is running swift,
Mice freeze like water, bowls are wise like owls,
A mother's other, and to speak's a spire,
Lot to a swale for wale he did decry,
Such nonsense! Speak like thou art listening;
Thy mother's mad, and I am following;
I've had two restless nights, and as it seems
I'll have a triad, afterwards a life
Quite lonely, and a laboured year to follow,
Thy jokes are now displaced! Take on a face
Of mourning, let thy scry be led to cry,
Set foolish games to more appropriate things.
I see that you can keep yourselves amused,
I shall be swift, if nothing does convene
To slow return, and if that should occur,
Mourn not for me, I'm caught in deeper bliss
In death than I could e'er attain in life.
Spoken like a true disdainer of life.
My goal's to greater life than was before,
Why should I otherwise give birth at first?
My masterstroke to end my fev'rish work
Must only be to portal unto death
And passage seek through strait and narrow gates,
I'll crawl to see the instate of the world,
I'd end to see the instigation first,
Not that I enjoy death, nor seek to speed
Its coming, aye, it's passage that should now
Come but at cost, my children are still young;
But I must seek to end our annual curse
And to strike 'gainst the cat with forceful blows
Shall not be done with little enjoyment.
Then I shall play my rotund part. Be as thou sayest! Let me never catch thee going back on thy word.
What good is speaking words, without a mind
To do as one gives voice? Breath's store's too small
To waste on unsound words, I'd ration it.
Such a rondo I hear played! If the ending is still set in the major key, all shall still be well, I should think.
Thou shouldst think indeed - but thou rarely dost.
I've no mind left for such sport. I should think you both are asleep. Do you hear our mother?
I hear thy mother, and I'll live as if
I'd never heard a word, nor heard her voice,
I shall live henceforth by necessity,
So as her fading wick sputters for last
I'll turn my face aside in shadowed veils
Of widow's weeds, I'll see this hateful world
Through sieves of black, with darkened pangs of lack,
How I shall hurt!
We're hurting even now
For Timothy is caught in sick'ning spin
In webs of darkness pitch, and to thy gown
He'll wear it for thee first, thy raggedness.
Be gone no more! Stay, if this house is moved, stay, if Timmy is saved, stay, if we've no more worry!
I cannot. I've said I shouldn't. If I should forget my task, and play idle, many may die, and Timmy almost certainly shall. Call me not benevolent. I could not live with myself should I manifest such a fault.
Then away, before I say a hateful word, and let the sun set for aught on a grieved friend. I love thee, and shall miss thee!
Good mother, thou wert brave beyond my know;
I've felt believing, this is something like -
Ha! Cats and chill, the spring and sorrow's reign!
A simping sickness, and a limping threat,
What care I for? Thou'rt brave, all's better for't.
And when the morrow dawns, this promised end
Is past, I'll rise from groveling to Death
And Loss, they shall no edict speak to me,
No pow'r to damp the joyspring within me,
No pow'r to halt a spring of joy and life;
I live, I live for what's of right, I'll stay
Too pure for this world's rule, I'll pray for thee
For hastening the chastening their reign;
What was that speech about the trick of devils' minds?
I'm greater them, I'm lit by Heaven's lamp
Of holy love, I'll see this to its end!
Mad! All mad!
I'd think the cat's mad. Good faith, mother! This night's the press. Live one night, mother, one night! Thou hast slept many nights through... live this night as easily.
I'll try. You three have faith e'en more than me.
We've sought to be good children, and take our mother at her word. If thou must go to the farmer's house, the cat's house too, I only wish I could attend, also.
O, I love thee; hours! Just a matter of hours!
If not the watch of men, by Heaven's watch,
Hours die; the passing of our lives is but
The ticking of the gears which process on,
Our kin press on, our love is vapour not,
Nor aether, stuff of fabled search and thought,
'Tis marked on wheels, and shall come 'round again,
But hours! This life's not ours to fend
Nor parry, we must bravely take our due
And live our love, I shall see thee again
In hours; live as I have promised thee.
So leaves intrepid her I'll never see,
Nor did I see. I thought I knew her mind.
Mayhap you know it better than you suppose, but fancy thine emotions more.
I wish I knew Love better, how it seems
So flighty, stuff for birds and airy men!
Love must know Brisby better than a trove
Of poets, must e'er court and flirt that one
Who's known him softly, shortly, and at length
With Jonathan, and with thine adored souls.
A markèd mind! She were e'er meant for this,
It does intrigue and doth beguile my sense.
It would approach thy giddy mind of sense.
I have thee still, Martin, such rough consolation! Sorrow shall now envelop me in the night. Be off to bed, such young souls should not bear this sight.
I hope she is happier tomorrow.
She would quote the danker writ. 'Joy cometh in the morning.'
[Exeunt, manent the shrew]
I know no eve as dimmed so lossfully,
The sun which sets bears off another soul
Which cared and loved her children tenderly,
But who could not bear living half a whole.
I know no ancient moon nor glist'ning stars
That shall their pallid shine and chillèd glow
Bear counter to the fiery heat that chars
My being, and assumes that which I know.
I know no sign nor star in heav'n above
Which can yield for my worries right explain,
But in her sadness and her misplaced love
I find more answer than could sight obtain.
I know no noon so searing as to burn
To earth the fading grasses of the field,
But with the bleaking of my friend's discern,
My plain is left without a sproutling yield.
I know no wind that could my saying blow
To ears enough, I'd shout for souls to hear
That any living creature's love might know
My warning: life's a toy for changing years.
I know no dream that met uncaring hours
Which could unwary catch me of the night,
No shadows may retract my trustless cowers,
Nor may illusion stray me from my sight.
I know no rain that e'er in turrents down
Could match the downpour of my falling tears,
Which run to wash my trav'lling-dusty crown
As weathers passing of life's fitful years.
4.4 - In the farmhouse
This domed cathedral's walled, there is a limit its expanse,
To me it exceeds wonder, but its tall inhabitants
Think nothing of its breadth, nor find an awe in surveyed size;
So small a chapel theirs it must be measured through their eyes.
[off-stage] How! Speak'st thou? Who's there?
This does a bit offset me. Where art thou?
I've spoken, come follow my voice! I see thee not.
Art thou behind the wall, the mud and straw?
Not I. Art thou behind the wall, forsooth?
I see a wall before me, whether side
Confuses me, but let it stand record
I'm on the peopled side, or so I thought.
I heard thee speak of our vast cathedral. To the sufficiently large, everything's small. A brave and beautiful night 'tis, but there's a cat about.
I've ne'er a mind for chatter; I've a sombre task before;
I've ne'er took breath 'till now, nor have I lived aright,
I've come with choler and a timid gait,
I've taken no guess if more day I'll see,
Or whether time shall frozen into night
Be evermore for me, until the day
When earth and heaven topple from their stands
When stroke eschaton draws down streaking stars.
List well to me, my voice you shall hear more
When I first see your face, you've woke to see
The morning star sink shyly from your view,
Time still plods on, I'm not superior it
To stay its force, I'm but a chapter in its book,
And I'm not great to be remembered long.
You've come belated, witnessing the flow
Walburga cease in its fashioned allot,
In March to seek the snow to keep in frost
September's strawberries, you take appoints
With Time upon his patience's extreme.
You've jumped the startled swallow in depart;
You've held the ferry's aft to cross the stream,
Time stops for me, thou'st found me yet alive,
Speak swift to me! at any time I'm dead,
My husband here, in shine of likewise moon,
Gasped songs of passing tongue, embracing calm
To sing his praises in a higher form;
Our sorry stonèd altars are so small
For worship of Infinite, when we can
In pace mark out the circuit of our shrine!
In higher spheres my husband's measured out
A circled love, which is ne'er fully trent.
I am sorry. I would doff my cap, if you could see me - but if you could see me, you could also see that I am not wearing any cap.
Is't dark and lonely on that side of the wall? Stuffy, perhaps?
You've no idea.
I'd wonder at this dwelling, for I live within a case
So large for me; this room'd attain a king;
This room'd attain a Pope...
My room's of mud
And hollowed breadth which surveys set
At inches; yet this space is kind accourt
For social comment, and the present friends
Swift drive the murk from heavy air aloft;
When angels touch my chamber, and alight
My house for entertainment, I'd not waste,
Greater demands than that should never find
Their asking; they'll no need for kingly drapes
Or papal regiments express, for in
Themselves they've every quality and worth
And they'll have too much virtue to surfeit.
For friends, there's nothing shameful in my home,
By reason of its contents.
Yea, that's true.
You seem a sorry soul. What drives you here?
The cat's a'prowl, I'd ne'er show face within
A deft-dreamt two-rod's possibility
The cat. You have a sterling motive here,
An urgent need, or else you are a fool.
My forfeit hangs beyond my reach, I'm trothed
A crow my crook, to poke 'mong dying leaves
A life that's sheltered there; I only found
An owl more wise than is alive; I'd ask
My ransom him, my bluff is not yet through,
What actions spring demands in evil games!
Spring set me to my husband's tomb; spring led
My lacking blindness to repository
Where keepers of my token's held redeem
Should set me to the cat to beg! What life
That taunts its members and its players test,
If it is cruel, no fondness have I for
It yet, I'll catch its prize, or first I'll die,
I jump for it, and what a bobbling pole
Spring holds, it'd catch a narwhal with its sway,
Why can it not a mouse? I grope in air,
Such stern and childish games the ancients play,
Who see more than we mortals, and less say.
That is a mystery.
My child is ill.
I've not a child my own.
My life is torn,
I must move soon, the farmer comes to plow!
I that assert my own example, yea,
I've moved my lodge, I cannot bear a nook
Of mud more than a fortnight's swift array.
Once passed, I take the nomad's wand'ring stance,
I'll search to make of my new chalets home,
And lay my purveyed satchel down; there set
My measured stake for but another month,
O! Yes, I understand the wanders of the man
Found homeless; I may visibly conceit
How mis'rable life is for pilgrims ill
Who seek chapels their own; but see more length
And hope someday to set their ivied staff
Or crook at rest by altars circled 'round
With prophets, lovers, sainted souls and those
Who have lived weary, and hold no great love
The world, but set their longings after God.
Yea, staff or crook - how easy's flight! - or cane,
Their wont is only on life's longing lane.
This is even the great cynic's conclusion: 'Fear God, keep his commandments; such is the entire duty of man.' I've never lived as a cynic, how emphatically I must repeat the same in my conclusion!
So must we all, to vapour I must go,
How soft a singing was our voiced exchange!
Now softly may I take my leave of thee,
Tho' ne'er I saw thee, yea, therein's no lack,
I know more of thee for't. Stay thee alive,
Swift get thee to thine errand! else thou'rt dead,
The cat's no furthering end for pilgrimage,
By crook or crow or trespass in its house,
But not by it! Heed me, farewell!
[She turns away from the wall]
This world's alive! There are things to learn everywhere... and there also is the food dish I must venture. If only I could be closer to heaven!
[She scurries to the food dish and adds the drug]
And so I coat its meat with breezy calm,
And add its gluttonous lust a gentle peace,
Its suffered victim is imbued in balm,
Reciprocary fast into the feast,
Byway the gentle may yet best the beast.
Eat that, ye cat!
[A knock comes at the farmhouse door]
Hark, thunder at the door!
A vault, a giant sepulchre, a tomb,
A monolith, but yet, indeed, a door!
What news this brings must only be as great.
[Enter the farmer, shaking his head in annoyance]
Oy, I'd make it eight of the clock; I need be in bed! What, is it raining?
[to herself] But a drizzle.
Yes, it is, but a drizzle.
[He opens the door]
But the sky is foreboding. A salute, good sir; come in.
[Enter a messenger, dressed in a glum but long traveling cloak]
Good evening, kind bauer. If you are uneasy, that is a good thing. Tonight, the sky is more than foreboding, and it has seen everything from one horizon to the other.
That may be the case, but how can any such calamity involve me? What am I caught in?
It rises from the paradoxes of men. We own our land; in doing so we own some measure of responsibility for those dumb creatures in our land.
[to herself] Hm. This kind of talk might put Jenner straight.
Taking land our own! It is 'round the forest to your neighbor, is it not?
Aye, is this his complaint? O, it's not those rats, is't?
Nay, it is not your neighbor's complaint. Of the rats, I shall not say more than is necessary.
They've made colony in my sprawling rosebush, that much I know.
Listen, listen! I care not about your rats. I have come to tell you of a visitor who shall come to this door tonight... or more than one visitor, I do not know the number. You will know them by the talisman they will present you. On the front it will bear the letters N-I-M-H, some intaglio scrawls and a design that could well be a cartographer's curlicue. On the back will be assorted legends, the name of the token's bearer, and a warning: it is death to counterfeit, it is death to give to another.
I am to be shown a criminal's signet! Why are they not in prison?
There is no gaol as could hold these men... the king knows it is safer to give them a supervised parole. I pray that you shall never met an unholier man than he who will come to you tonight. He may have nets; he may have some assorted trappings of capture. If you should hear strange speech or unidentifiable noises come from this man, attribute it to the buzzing of an insect. Do not affront your visitor, he is your guest... but do not turn your back on him.
They are polite to send a herald ahead to announce their coming.
I am no herald. I am a sentry of the king, and I have come to warn, not announce! Remember my words, if you have to carve them into your palm! It would be better for you to have a sore hand for a week than to forget one word I have said to you tonight. It is my duty to observe their comings and goings, and I'd trade my post with a decoy on the front if I could.
Hear me, indeed. Five hundred years from now your house may be a cairn of gloom for weary travelers, and a grim foreboding edifice less temporal than tonight's ill-sheening sky. God's blessing upon thee! Thou art in need! Thou'rt in need, good man.
I am slightly overcome. You are from the king; such a wonder! Pray, what is this matter? You may tell me, I am a gentle man.
Substances hellish. The foulest, most infernal affair I have ever been blighted with, cursed with, ah! I am bound my life to watch these fiends; they show me spectacles that would steal the breath away from lesser men. See the furrows on my face! I am half the age you'd expect, or a third; life is so dilated for me I cannot tell. But I must be gone. There are two fewer eyes watching this band, and that is a curse on England greater than Gallic legions five thousand strong. I now take my leave, but, O, I pray and plea that you shall condition yourself wisely! Be guided from above, or be lost!
I shall pray for your relief.
Pray for yours, at first.
[Exit the messenger by the door]
[to herself] NIMH... roving malignancies! Not in my house!
O, the cat! I nearly forgot. I must set him in for his food, the arrant beast! If he were of any worth, he'd have caught the whole lot of those rats. 'Tis all right anyhow, I shall be up all night, I fear, waiting for some ghoul. I wonder if I shall be rested enough to break the ground tomorrow.
[to herself] Breaking the ground! O, but that is now the least of my worries... wait, I am alive! All's well, I'd best be off if the cat is coming; all's well! Can I really say that? All's well. How that sounds well!
'Tis going to be a night. How strange a man
To stop here, to announce a horror's flight!
And speech of rats and forest, odd a man!
'Twere mad, I guess, but yet, I'm bound to him,
I shall sit up the night.
And waking hours
Have boundaries set by no rigorous day
For me, I'll sit through greys of dawn and blues
Of day, and purples of the eve.
The royal night has bright a starry host,
What words speaks she tonight? Shall I be brought
Her court's attention, or shall I escape
Her boundaries still unscathed, if so
Shall Timmy me accompany? To ask
Such questions is impertinence, air shall
Breed answers none. Rhetoric's not my size
Nor is a sophist's chair my own, I'll leave
Such musings to the farmer by his fire
He kindles. Long a night it is! My flame
Such blaze! Methinks I've caught a dryer clutch
Yesternight's moss-green fuel; its earthy smell
Still hangs about this place with lichen-cling,
But such a heat tonight!
Yea, may sputter, and, if so,
I've not a tale to tell, I'm but another phrase
The minstrel's song. Now, quickly I'm away!
The song's not over, but the coming day
May hear a blissful eclogue in our field
As sung by its inhabitants, which steeled
Their souls and voices, and did calm their tongue
In air suspended, for above there hung
Their young, such forfeit! such a game to play!
The life pastoral may in songs convey
A shine of stillness, O, where life belongs
There only can be multitudes of songs
Of sorrow, and yet psalters set in joy
Such meld is found in Love's heat-cast alloy!
It takes in calm collection offered souls,
An oblation to the Maker of the whole.
As hand to hand, but closer set, in prayer,
Love binds life as one body to forbear
The strength'ning of the hateful, which do fight
As singles, not with merely doubled might
They're scattered in the wind as winnowed chaff,
So end the wrongly ardent, by the staff
Bucolic shall they pass on sinister side
Ashamed, and with no recourse shall abide
Alone, as they did wish, were't only they
Could find the motions to their call obey,
Love sounds the call at once, the hunt will start,
And Happiness shall trap and take the heart,
Love sounds her trumpet twice, the tonic call
Expectance laden, that may draw us all,
She'll sound her trumpet thrice, a hastening blast
She begs rush-force upon the lagging last,
She'll pass her trumpet to the mouth of Death
But yet shall sound it while we souls take breath.
4.5 - Outside of Mrs. Brisby's house
[Enter the shrew, in haste]
Help, O, help! This is an astonishing day for all! Help! Our field is being overrun with evils I cannot comprehend!
[Enter Jeremy, much entangled]
Help! I seem to be at a heavy inconvenience! O, help!
Stay thee where thou art, lest I trip thee.
I shall trip me. [He stumbles] A good stop, that.
It is not often that one can conquer such a foul beast. Thou'rt a stunning trophy.
I am a stunning sleeper.
O, be muffled. I caught thee nobly well. [aside] Help! Help! [to Jeremy] Be still; I know thou'st demons encroached upon thee.
Take up a tally.
Thou vehicular monstrosity! Ill omen or no, I should think demons could find better lodges. Pray tell, who cast thee into thee? Was this a matter of will or of force?
Kind shrew, if you should ever come upon a genuine demon, I believe you should speak him into stark madness.
O, thou wouldst weaken my resolve with flattering - a fine trick, but I am too wise for't. Thou must perjure thyself now. Didst thou sweep Mrs. Brisby to her death today?
Good lady, I am sure I do not understand you.
Thou art evasive. Speak something definitely.
I definitely wish to be away from here.
Nay, something stronger than that... the Nicene Creed! Recite ye the Nicene Creed!
Help! Help! I'm taken by an inquisition!
O, I have not put on my gendarme's cap yet. Help! Help!
How is this call... O, no!
Brisby! O, thou art alive! But new shadows have fallen upon this field... O, we are lost! Timmy shall die! The plow shall destroy us, for it has a masthead in the shape of a devil to guide it, and evil eyes set all around it - O, it shall plow its waves deeply, and set a wake tall enough to cover us all decisively, bury us... drown us... O, it drives through hurricano winds unabashedly! We are lost! We are lost! O, Brisby... I... I...
Perhaps thou'rt seeing the grasses' dark shadows. It is a pitch night, but there is a brilliant moon out, and full.
Full misery! It shines on full misery!
Calm, now. I say, sometimes I have five children.
Thou hast been brave until now, but in that black pile thou'st a roll of convoluted demons, black spirits, a spiral of night's forces, who live by rapine. They shall take us! They shall take us all!
Who's taken whom?
[continually to Brisby] The plow has lasted through thy storms, thy challenges, and yet has kept her keel steadily. This field is an ocean, and shall take us all!
Thou hast a shrew's acuity, indeed. Wishing to remain good, I shall not say more than that.
Good Jeremy, what is this matter? She's taken thee in ribbons; to whom shall she present thee?
She means to take me for herself.
I mean to take it for the scrutiny of all that is good.
She took to my neb with a riding crop!
A switch of sounder means than thy tongue... this corbie's a harpy, and I'd sooner set it away than prattle with it, tea with it, befriend it!
Good Jeremy, let me apologise. I fear having me for a friend has caused thee more grief than good, and I'd cut thy fetters once more.
Cut my wingfeathers first!
To take the screaming flight from banshee's right,
To ground a gloating roc's a matter of might,
To cord a demon round's to regain sight,
To weigh down clouds is to unveil the light.
To be a clipped and helpless crow's a plight.
Aye, I suppose. As Mrs. Brisby is still alive, I shan't be harsh with you.
Then I shall take to these strings again - what was that about an orchestral theme? I fear my part's a tad redundant. But if I bow the violin, I've bested the cat; if I pluck the harp, I join the angels; if I play the cello, 'tis a reverbant sound that should swell throughout the hall, and reveal its secrets to me.
I hear a ringing in my ears. Pray, cut these strings.
I play the strings; I cut the ribbons. Yea, that makes the round complete and consistent. Here, to new freedom I set thee. Shrew, shall you help me?
My rapiers are set to the vast taunting of evil... and thy son.
True enough. For such an oceanic beast, shrew, these knots would turn any sailor to laughing.
He cannot well undo them.
A proud achievement. Thou hast him in bonds which he could set himself in.
Pray, do not fray the cords too badly. I may use these for my nest.
The freedman is always welcome to keep his former chains.
I spent the last hour collecting that bird's snare-stuff, but don't ask me!
Remind me to ask you two sometime where you collect all of these bits of twine and cord. My entire life I've lived in the same field as you, and I've found very little such hempy miscellany. Thou'rt natural accumulators.
I've known pack rats to envy before.
I have just about freed thee... there, 'tis off. I should think thou canst shake them away now.
[rising] I can! Escape, I'm free again, and off -
I'll bundle up my cords, with thanks - I shall
From here my post up in the air retake;
A post which freely moves, my captive strings
Are cut! Now I shall fly free through the air;
Such bliss to ride the evening's dying sigh
Which lofts her off to heaven, I'm unpent
To ride the warming updrafts of the wind,
Soon night's chilled misting vapours seize their hold
On the temporal moment! I know no
Barred obstacles to keep me my traverse
To do my pleasing - life's a laughing flight
Which may in all directions grow, up, down
Or swaying to the side, I shall view from
My altitude's long visage for thine ills.
But I am tiring, I my vigil keep
Too faithfully, I'll take me to my nest,
But rest assurèd, as I travel there,
My wings shall whip the evil from the air.
Now, shrew, art thou not jealous?
I mourn the evening bound to the ground. I must now go home and convince myself this was a dream - my friend letting go of captured evil; such taint must stain her soul, I am afraid.
Thou art afraid of shadows, as thou said,
Thou seest the living as those not yet dead,
Thou view'st those dead as remnantless today,
Thou say'st a shallow bight's a tractless bay,
Thou sail'st our millpond as an ocean sea,
Thy man-o'-war is but a plow to me,
Thy demon bird is a bedeviled crow,
Who wings above thy sinking shape below;
Thy sun forewarns a furnace afternoon,
And in thy deep-cored ear confides the moon,
A winter comes tonight!, pray, get thee, shrew
And take thy friends and quarrelers with you,
Nay, thou canst never sit an hour still,
For fear of tremulous earthquakes, which thee will
Take thee up to a fault, and pull thee down
Below the circumference trod around,
And in infernal darkness, share thy woe
The companied busybodies there below.
If I am afraid, I take it as my business. Truly, thou speak'st like one insane! I will away now; I am tired, too. Take thee some rest, if thou canst set aside thy ratty inventions; if not, stay thee up the night and converse with the moon while full.
Good night, friend shrew.
Good night, friend mouse.
[Exit the shrew]
O, why have I such ache? Ah, if it weren't I, it would be somebody else, I suppose, somebody greater than I. How ductile is the soul! Mine's been stretched over this entire field, to the deeps of the forest, to the hollows in the ground; that is well enough. May it someday be golden tinsel for a spotless gown. Hark! The crickets play!
[She listens to it]
When music sings from unseen things,
Deeps well from common springs,
When unknown acts are open facts,
The smallest life's errings,
From meekest things the hero brings
To take from grace's being.
If they be friends which purvey ends
To faith, to freely take
What we first lost, and lift our cross
To die for living's sake,
These friends are true, who cloy for you
The cup of mortal ache.
[She sits to wait]
Yea, paucity have I, but not in friends.
No instrument I lack, for every quest
Demands the help of others, how assured
I make myself in lacking nothing yet!
But buttressed wills are set upon the road
Of pride, so I shall not enforce these friends,
For friends for using ne'er were friends at all,
I plead them, yea, I beg, I set on knees,
I do whate'er they ask - to keep 'way pride -
For once I'm prideful, I have naught at all,
No person proud has e'er attained a friend.
To use a friend's to make them enemies,
Though they may love thee, and may you love them,
Their love is forced and purchased in their deeds
So ne'er was love, nor friendship true, alas!
'Twas fiction from the start. How fraught with fear
To nullify the actions of the past,
To sink to barbarism low, to break
A sculptured art, to vandalise the meet
And beautiful! But there's redemption yet,
'Tis found the person named Forgiveness, though't
Requires another quest - he is the means,
The one to seek - but should you value him
No more than what he gives thee, e'er shall thee
Naught find, and live in fragments of the past.
Forgiveness is the greatest friend thou'lt have.
Yea, friends are wealth, not to be spent or used,
For once the coin is spent, you shall it lose.
Act the Fifth
He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
5.1 - Outside of Mrs Brisby's house
I'm performing for a great audience tonight: all of Abram's children, O, what they see! They are an attentive congregation still; they know my entire story from the start; Algol, thou winking demon, thou know'st all of the shrew's exciting tales, thou art very attentive to the wrong and the ill on this globe. There is the herdsman; thou'st an interest in this earthy stuff, I suppose. No king wears a crown with so many jewels, nor can he boast of such adventures as the stars may tell: Pisces, tell me a tale of giants, and Heracles, tell me again how thou didst fight and best the Hydra... what a puny tale have I to tell in return, but perhaps in the poor light and great distance it will be somewhat magnified in the telling. You watch me from an Arthurian theater, and need not vie for seats; you are all groundlings an hour, and guests in the balcony another hour, as you are all great in your stories, and I am not. I need look up to see you, and I, in the theater pit, could not see your rising or setting were it not for the flat moor. Such a grassy curtain have I! And how vast and plain a field it is, and then the lackluster moor. Stars, please forgive me if I meander; I cannot feint iron; it is because I am merely examined, and you the entities as view me, and how many before me, and how many after - I vanish tomorrow, as a perhaps pleasing diversion, but new glories shall hold your eyes captive. Perhaps warring countries? O, the drama, kind stars! - or the heartache of two lovers? O, pity, and a subject that may be wearisome - but, no. Sorrows are not at all the same, but, O, how all tears look alike! A sadness is as personal and unrepeated as a snowflake - comparison is hard drawn between any two - but when it melts through teary eyes, how same it is! What a bond, to cry as everybody has cried since the dawn of creation... an ocean of tears, salty, bitter tears, is our field, and at its end, a waste of a moor, miles long, no features, marshy, cold, hostile ground... a plain and plaintive place. This is a cold land. That is why we die; we were not meant for cold land. If God should place us in primaeval joy, why should we choose to habit frost? O, it hurts to pace on this chilled ground; the ice would cut me, or if it didn't, feel as if it were cutting me; all the difference is a matter of penitence. Shall I be humble in this life? Shall I have a choice? Look at me now, ye stars! You are the windows of the cold world; thou'rt the eyes. See me now! I am humbled, not by thee, but by all I do not know in this world. O, but where is Jonathan's star? Ah, right above; thou'rt at zenith, my dear, thy star sits at the very pip of the celestial sphere. Tell me, how shall I satiate these undimmed eyes? yea, from time past they've sat above, devouring the actions and the actors o'the night - such faithful theater-goers! What say'st thou yet, how is this story? Aye, primally Timmy's sickness, and primarily Timmy's sickness... may night's speckled blanket warm him. And subjugatally me, these rats... thou'lt see their reentrance soon, and in their entrancing, let us weave a tale entrancing... Hail, a wind? 'Tis the wave of the crowd, mayhap. Where is Teresa's star? the gentle thing; I should find it set tonight. But Cynthia's alight, ah! fair Alkaid, thou art the plow handle, omen or no. And what of... Spica shines dimly tonight. Not this night, of any night! O, you rise too soon! You but rise too soon!
It's a cold night, Mother. Why stand'st thou here alone? Are you waiting for them?
I am waiting for them, and am plagued by poor divination and a mother's brooding persistence. I am afraid of nonsense, I should take a seat with the shrew.
O, dear heart, yes, indeed. There is Cynthia's star, above; remember how we would give ourselves stars?
When we have little to give, yea, we would give ourselves stars. There is Father's, way up there. He's set on the roof tonight.
I was just there.
Where's my star, mother?
Over, just yond that sod clod, not Castor or Pollox, but the shier star behind them, to the right.
O, yes. Not Castor or Pollox, but the one next to them. I feel for the shrew, mother. She's had a difficult day. She woke thinking thou wert no more; she'll wake tomorrow thinking thou art no more. I wonder if she shall ever expect thee at breakfast again.
Yea, tomorrow. She saw me tonight.
That means nothing. She'll find something even in the inactivity of this night to convince her. She's one of the evinced sightless... you saw yourself this morning this property.
True... I am sleepy.
Exceedingly sleepy, I should think. Today has been a day for annaling.
The almanacs speak nothing of thirty-hour days.
Come to bed, mother. 'Tis warm... and think, to wake tomorrow safely! Aye, to sleep past any disappointment or worry, whichever comes tonight. It should be a horror to stay here; some mist is rolling in. I should warm me... what am I saying? Life is still to constructed! and I can whittle from work more than I can from a kind word, however encouraging it may be. May I warm myself by saying 'all is warm tomorrow, or not'? I have advised thee ill; I now sleeve my apology to thee. It is of course a certainty that thou shouldst tonight have no sleep, it is a manner of necessity that thou shouldst wait tonight, no matter how cold it is - this mist is but thy distraction; thou must here, to the very punct, stand! Stay thee, mother, waver not either way, here thou art safe, here Timmy is safe; this is written, meant, decided; it shall be this way, no other!
Art thou indecisive, Martin?
I shall tell thee the truth, mother: I have feared. Nay, fear is not the word. Fear is a puny, logical thing in itself - when the verification of sight invalidates it, its pangs subside. This is not fear, this is an odd doubt... an unwavering doubt - near as stayed as thee - I know not what has begotten it. I know I do not let easily on, but I am wringing myself inside; I am my worst critic. Yea, here is a flaw, Martin; thou dost find that life is too important to hang on shoelatchets, and at no cost canst thou bring thyself to belief.
Thou wilt find belief tonight, Martin. I understand this, but believe me, thou hast believed before. Here is the fact: belief is at its easiest when thou seest with clarity what life truly is.
This is an oddly obscured matter to me. What is life, but a battle?
A battle? It would be a battle if we were fighting it.
Then what are we, but casualties?
Casualty means but that which is caused; hear this, Martin, I knew not who I was, and I know now, as I nearly lost what I had; now, myself and my children are preserved, so I am newly discovering the qualities of my substance: pain is not something to fear, Martin, it is an abysmal character fashioned with no suffering. Pain is no pleasure, but joy can coexist with pain, if you know its outlet.
Joy in pain, aye! just as the highest power's in love.
Martin, thou hast a few misaccounted flasks of faith!
Yea, my internal prosecutor ignores underaccounting, but pulls to task overaccounting... why, if I would chuckle at the machinations lex, I should chuckle at myself! I have doubted due to no reason, and if thou'st a seat with the shrew, dear mother, I am couched in thy lap.
Be happy, Martin! 'tis more than content, content is the holding of what we have; be happy! 'Tis more than pleasure, we may seek it and find it at will; 'tis more than the simple blush at a beautiful day; the glow of today may be ashen tomorrow; the rain may quick sweep all thy comfort away, and all of thy smiles may someday be sorrow. Be happy, dear Martin. Though I tell you to be happy in suffering and pain, happiness is not constitution! That is what it is the least, Martin, if you must keep your smile up with Atlas' shoulders, thou'st an accessory worth setting to better tasks. If thou must be dubious for something, never let granted be the coming day. Why, see! We are a pair of coyish doubters! Tonight, dear Martin, Gideon's fleece shall warm us, and no matter how wet the night condenses, we shall be dry! dry as dead doubts; an odd but conclusive sign to this world. We shall live, and live truly!
I am instantly attentive, and my worries calmed; I may now sleep soundly!
My attentive sleepyhead, be off to bed, if thou'rt so.
Good night, dear mother, the stars love to be sifted through.
The world is elder me, the stars the world,
Yet they are silent, and my soul may sing,
They turn about indifferently, while I
May in my poor intelligence their course
Delineate; the heathens worshiped thee,
Why so, for when thou art far less than we,
The conscious mind the world doth set to flame,
Do we control the stars, or do they we?
Are we the function of their witless pace,
Their quiet revolutions, their radial place
If so, at birth? why then, not at our death?
Thou art misunderstood, ye very stars,
Do I bow down? Nay, Joseph were a man
Thou couldst bow down for him; do I thee plead?
Nay, Joshua orders thee, watch'st thou tonight!,
Stay in thy seats!, take not the playwright's chair!,
All Nature's less the cosmos, children's sums
Reveal the tense deficiency, how didst
A terse and thoughtless world mother a mind?
Thy testimony's of a fluent world
Which changes as thou still remain'st the same,
How fidgetless thou tak'st terrestrial things!
Thou art impotent spectators, no hand
Hast thou in doings of this chilly night,
Thy part's to march our ordered stage around,
Lights of the night, let not thy duty down!
[Enter a rat]
Are you Mrs. Jonathan Brisby, or am I to seek further tonight?
Is Mr. Ages with you?
He is just behind; he directed me here.
Confound this impish breath, I see only by swimming! Why can you not return? Thou'st left an incumbent in the damp!
Ages, can you verify this face? I know her not.
I should think any lonely mouse you see standing still in this inclement weather would be she.
I see a lonely mouse before me, standing still in the mist, is't I? O, Mr. Ages, I know thou dost share my concerns, and thou dost still fit the prescript well. Thou'rt like a father to me.
Yea, Ages paternal, I am as fatherly as I am asked. Brisby, what art thou doing?
Bantering with Urania, but that's over.
We should get to our task, Ages. This mist is but a shard of a cloud.
Where are the other rats?
Behind, and shall be here soon. Attendant, am I to lean on grass?
Ages, I am here.
[He walks to Ages]
Good Ages, thou hast no precedent here
But the forgotten past! This doomèd ground
Shall be laid open by the driven blades
That Earth may be bled of her evil bile,
Internal treachery! If we shall die,
'Twill be sufficient medicine. I'd not
Stand on this night bestricken's sod afflict,
Druidish devils make convention here,
Their profane troddings I'd not follow from,
Tonight assembles temured evils stark
As cannot be contained within the mind;
Thou'st seen them and ejected violently
What thou didst see; thine erst and painful grounds
Thou hast been swift to let pass on ignored;
These grounds are cursèd! Make thee swift away,
Now, Dian's oracle doth issue forth
A mist of mis'ry! - earth opens in fault! -
When occult daemons wither at the night,
Mortals need fief, or falter, fly, or fight!
Yea, NIMH is coming, NIMH arrives tonight,
Their company comes to take thee all by force,
I was not told what mean they, but - my soul! -
I am not curiously pressed.
The immane horror of it!
NIMH comes tonight? How shall we her move?
We shall move her still, but afterwards come out with the Plan.
What, against Nicodemus' express hush?
If NIMH comes tonight, Nicodemus shall be the first to shout the affected alarm.
I say, there are some who will not like this.
There are none who will prefer to stay. We must tell him of this, and now... Madame Brisby, thou'rt ever in my unlessening gratitude. Thou'st perhaps saved us from the end of the world.
Ages, we pace the end of the world in our most unthoughtful hours.
[to the rat] That's Mrs. Brisby... as fine a Copernican as you shall ever meet. Fleet, now!
[Exit Ages and the rat]
The world continues. What think you, stars? Shall you stay for the end? Will you see the new wonders? Cassiope, Andromeda, thou'st a family; shalt thou rest for the final act? Polaris, thou point, thou changeless, distant index, hast thou intimidated to stay? O, the clouds come! I'm not finished yet, my story's not played out, and you're shutting the curtains? 'Tis a dark night, how brightly may my spark glow?
To those in secrecy dark kept, in darkness are the rest;
The cerise dawn is complemented in the greying west,
When light is cut off, it is there the dark is to be staged,
And only by the dearth of light may dark be firmly gauged.
Noontide doth share her glories with Midnight,
I stand here awestruck, taken with the time
Which Heaven set astart, these evening lights
Are shining with a luminance sublime.
The night and day are sisters! much the same,
With Time their father, commonly beget,
The year's their playtime, equally shared, ordained;
They romp o'er all, and merry with the met.
The light and dark are different, adjoined things,
Prometheus' flame by eagles' wings
Is shadowed. For the dark as day grows late
Is advantageous in Sol's dead estate,
When night assumes its berth, horizons wide,
The stellar orbs and darkness sit aside,
The brightest lights and darkness are akin,
Thou canst not see when thou'rt in either of them.
5.2 - Outside of Mrs Brisby's house
[Enter Justin with Ages, and Jenner on the separate side, and a vast assemblage. Sounds of working.]
O, Arthur, bless th'imagination firm
Which set these pulleys and these gears to play,
To move this house, the mason's atom, a brick;
Per what the owl has said, divert the stone
From the point compass where the billows of
The plow-sails catch the wind, the leeward side!
All looks in order, smoothly has this run;
Why power's pride should fill me I know not,
Although I feel its swellings in this rain.
Hark! Hear the shouts, what can we not achieve?
Now, Pride, turn thee away! A brick a yard
We've moved, it takes five and three score to do't,
Our youth's too yearly to be caught in pride;
The answered task is simple, 'tis but how
That one administers seems that of weight,
Have I a sun gi'en fire? gi'en shape to earth?
Have I distilled a sea in barren troughs?
May I these falling drops to stay subdue,
Or scold the wind the other way retreat?
How little rats achieve, how little men,
How little giants; yea, how little Pride.
Ho, Arthur! Must thou keep the oil's course
So generous, as't were a Caesar's wine?
The gears need not so much! Yea, staunch the cruse,
Let rust encrust the gears! Leave her alone,
She has a private session with her tears,
Leave her to mourn, her children young to weep,
Her house to moulder, them to brave their plow.
This scaffold looks too frail! Best risk it not,
Thy beds are warm, thou workers! Get thee home!
[Enter Brisby, Patrick and Ages by Justin. Patrick and Ages converse with Justin.]
This lot in life is burdensome alone,
But to disperse it others isn't done
With even spread, I've multiplied my loss
By sharing it with others who interest showed,
How can I them repay? 'Tis premium
To Death imbursed, why keep we souls in Life?
We are in forfeit, yea, we pay our due
And yet remain in debt to Death, alack!
Tonight's the rain, tonight's our saving hand;
I'll keep my grounded soul firm on this night,
But, yea, the ground is muddy wet, I shall
Take vestured cares to be not swept away,
The plow shall drive an ocean on th'morrow,
She'll turn up swamp to sow unasked-for tares
Of seasonal life, 'tis reft with trials and cares!
Reflections of an unsure soul! I shall
Her percepts poison, while I may so opt,
I may breed great confusion. Whither, now,
Doth thy derivates ramble? Canst thou see
That I have fewer troubles mine than thee?
'Tis why I've strayed. I seek my constant joy,
Unfailing pleasures to be mine, at what
Cost others pay, or from my filching purse;
I beg of no man, nay, I plea no being,
For I shall find them not so free in mind
Than would they be, had I them never asked.
Take ye the farmer! Should he give us grain
Or handfeed us with corn, if we him asked?
No currying pickthank ever lived so long
To transmute his prostrations, which he ne'er
Did mean, one always loves himself the most;
Consignment to humility's debase
And vulgar lot is far from me, 'tis true
I hate that cause - no riches that befit
A master of the mind may it me give!
In all, I take no pain, and ever can
Find greater pleasures than doth honest Man.
But pain's withstandable, joy rarely is.
O, how I wish I'd be joy, or within,
I'd seek to seize my joy - my joy! Not e'er
Can joy be called one's own, not on this earth -
I'd clothe myself in it, and therein fold
My sorrow, but the joy doth spring away
Before I knew its kernel to the full,
Its essence doth escape me.
Nay, never known to thee, thou startling fool!
It sought salubrious air, or healthful rest
Away from thee with fools more onto me;
Look! I find comfort in material things,
That which I see, or touch, and can observe,
Or that which I may reasonably attain,
What care I for the vapid stars above?
Thou seek'st thy comfort, or thy pleasure, such
Intangibles are ghostly to the touch.
'Tis real because thou seest it? Wherefore, now,
May blind men find their worth in visible things?
Is't real to them, or only so to thee?
'Tis good because thou touch'st it? How 's it so?
Thou art insensitive, is anything good?
Or art thou Midas, and may gold compose
Instate in any object with thy will?
Thou spoke of Reason's touch on counterfeit,
Doth Reason tabernacle in thy touch?
Say'st thou that earthly things are little use?
Say'st thou that love might feed thy wasting soul?
Say'st thou that life's the weight of higher things?
Say'st thou that pain doth matter not at all?
A pain of life may instants dwell, but e'er
It vanishes, and likewise comforts pass,
And pleasures are but standards we doth draw
For fattening up our fleshy wants and whims,
Though earthly things are useful to the earth,
And pain's apparel I'd not don by will,
And, yea, I'm flesh, I love those things thou dost,
But I can never seek these things, as though
They were my providential call in life -
We were not meant to linger at earth's inn,
We're meant for longer tables far ahin.
I'd pub at filthy shantys as I choose.
Then thou'st no candor as thy state behooves.
I'd cloy my flesh, and glutton it in feast!
Then thou'st no reason, and art but a beast.
I'll seek my wont, and die before be old!
Then thou shalt have it, e'en as thou'st foretold.
Ah, seek'st thou an argument, little one? I shall draw an observer to adjucate this. We shall see who is correct. Elders! Here, we seek you! We need officiation!
[Justin, Ages and Patrick come nigh]
Fools! Didn't you think to follow her on her most important errand?
We came, but only to give her brief instructions, and then set her on her own. She could find her way; the farmhouse is too large to miss.
I had the good sense to follow her, and what did I see? She went to the mill! and there, lost our carefully-prepared confection in the pond, the mill's bathed ewer!
You heard well enough, and don't deny it!
Have you kept not a scrap of your decency, sir?
Nary a sliver of it. If Madame Millet has nothing more to say, let's now be done with her.
It is untrue! You know it to be untrue!
All hear! The cat is prowling, and shall come to eat us all tonight! If you value your lives, or the great trust which has been bestowed upon us, then there is nothing to do but stop the move, return to our thornbush, and be content!
This is a trouble.
It cannot be so! But, now that Jenner's said it, there's nothing to do.
I have faith in her, to be sure, but also my terror of the cat.
Nature, thou impulser, thou imposer, I am divided, divided against my friend, divided against my honour! How does one balance one's mind and instinct?
One doesn't! You may be strong enough to set aside your fears, with your tact and noble quality, but what of the consensus? See? Already they've let off the move!
Let off! They cannot let off the move! The shrew was right, but no demon in the shape of a crow leads the plow this year. What care you for the cat? 'Tis the cat, 'tis asleep! What ill shall it do you? What risk take you tonight? Is not this heavy stone enough a risk to embolden your hearts? Let your answer ne'er be nay! O, murdered! Murdered is my son! Timothy, O, thou sunlight, thou art murdered!
O, canst thou say something worthy of my company?
Thou'st caught me, thou Minotaur, thou'st cornered me in thy maze, and my thread, my string, is cut!
No, no, 'tis sensible as she says. NIMH is coming into the field for us sometime this night, or tomorrow morning, and the cat is nothing to that, I say. Indeed, what care we of the cat? I've no fear there.
NIMH? Now, that holds great curiosity for me. There is a successful band who lives deviantly, ne'er letting thy morals or philosophies or sense stagger them. And the ceaseless wonder of something that has always only tinged my memory! Nay, I am not afraid of them, I embrace them, and so should... now a minute, where is he?
Nobody, 'tis nobody of weight. Besides, how do you know she isn't telling mistruths? She knows not NIMH, from whom did she hear this? Besides all, I fear the cat may be behind any of these rustling grasses... there is a wind tonight, 'tis enough to make me jump. Better to jump, though, before the cat, I say.
No cat comes tonight!
'Tis worse than a cat.
No cat need keep a portion of my thoughts,
'Tis true, for I to ponder was gi'en sense
More worthy of the wise man - I may fear
No death, for death comes at the end of life;
While I'm alive, 'tis better a concern
To ask why one should live: no crouching cat,
Though e'er how close it may impend, may to
This temper give probate; should it me kill,
The question stands still o'er my paused inquest,
Though ne'er my breath should answer in demise.
And, Ages, thou'st a mind of weighty things;
'Tis good for you to settle this for me.
What mean'st thou, Jenner? What does this portend?
What means this life? How do we manage breath?
Why keep we it? Why are we passionate things?
For once, may we apply our drawing-skills
Upon a lemma which our children may
In innocence problematic find, or else
What good's a half of know? Were I once told
A plant may poison be, were I content?
Am I to stay, and wile on this earth,
While knowing any day might be the last?
What shall I know? What good's our greated sight
When all the future seems to be in night
When only half is so, and half a know
Is not the answer - say't for yea or nay,
How is the future dark, when half is day?
Were't now the final night, all'd be in dark.
There's questions many there, I'd say, 'tis not
The time to evocate the stuff of Fates;
What Muse inspired philosophy in the rain?
In mud, you come to ask of primal things?
You mock the great consortiums of the mind
Who meet in sunlight, to disclose the truth,
Not in the mud, not even on the earth,
No marble's worthy of the thinking mind,
No ivory has the purity of humble souls.
Then I'll the treasure take, if you're too meek
Or humble to assume that which you're worth
There is thy mind, thy fitful mind!
Thou seek'st no meaning in thy greedy breath.
I could not bear th'depression, should I not
Find any meaning, had I for it sought.
Then thou say'st, to look is to lose?
Is dangerous, and may waste thy fleeting hours.
I've sharpened teeth which easily could fray
My means, and then my solemn obituary
Would be a coward's grave, and there no cross
Would mark my rest, except the cross of roads.
My epitaph would be sharp punctuated
With stakes of iron... my life's my own to keep
Or take, and he who'd wrest my prize from me
Had better be a desp'rate deprivate
Far worse than me. In clines the world is prod
To clamber to its peak, unwilling mired,
The tour de force of fortune sets it on,
We have not Fate nor Doom to fret upon,
The cruelty of Earth shall beat us home.
Thou cavalier, and unbenign! What purpose
Inundates witless sod? What great machine
Can set this earth to birth herself, the forms
Which etched upon her surface crawl, or set
The sky on pillars, and which builds itself?
What need have I explanatory notes
With which its credence foreword? I know not.
Speak ye with terrible wind, I'll hear you not.
I live as I shall live as I shall live,
There's further naught to say. I need thee not
But to agree, and shouldst thou consent not,
I care not.
Nay, I'm true.
I do as I please, I'll please howe'er I do.
No answer has the wise and good me gi'en,
I shall my course continue, in this e'en
The virtuous stay silent, stony still;
The vicars of the light may no space fill
With reasonable brightness; 'tis thy neglect,
And should I die for hate, and doubly perish
'Tis how I'm doomed, look! How can e'er I be,
When Life's appoint share little trust with me?
When was a question carried first? When was
The notion absolute enough to bother one
To task, to answer it? Aye, in the rain!
I shall now live for death, for but this goal
Is easily met, and reckons with life's whole.
But, good Jenner, why should you live so?
Because it allows me measures of independence, a word you'd know not.
That is fresh to me. What is a 'measure of independence'? Surely, you are either independent or you are not. Such speech carries along shades of confusion.
Spoken astutely, Lord Lexicon. Such trifles are only worth the attention of ancient, spectacled, desiccated old men. I shall please thee and please me by practicing the punctilios of good speech: Because it allows me independence, truly, to do as I please.
It gives you independence? Then you are forever dependent on it, for without believing it, you were restrained beforehand. Indeed, we are always most dependent to that very thing which takes independence away.
If it's as you say, how are we to be independent?
We never are, Jenner. Does our will give us independence? Tomorrow we are sick and needy. Does a state give us independence? Tomorrow they shall take it away. Look at me: do I go about doing as I please? Nay, I am a mother. My children say, "Go hither, the day needs thee there," and I go. Life is a matter of choosing what we are dependent on.
Then, how are we to be free?
Ah. Independence and freedom are different things. Independence is the wish of godless men; freedom is the wish of every living being. Does the swallow in a snare wish to be independent? No, she wishes to be free!
Let it be as it is, I am free enough a soul to know that the move is let, yea, the move is let off! They cannot be convinced of any freedom outside of the keeping of life: look, thy blessed children are pitilessly left in th'mud. Moving a hollow rock in the rain, in the danger of death! Hah, you'd give us all pneumonia, if not have us eaten by the cat! What help is there for't, Justin? Where is gallantry? They love themselves more than anything else; now we shall all hide together in our bush. Madame Brisby, thou'rt more than welcome to come with we noble cowards, to come out of the rain! Take thy minors, if thou must. Ages, this is not the weather for thee. All admit defeat!
Defeat cannot be admitted by all until all have arrived.
I'd not speak to him. You may all agree on your weakness, I am away.
[He walks aside]
What see I? What's the difficulty here?
May honour be discouraged in the fear
Of Loss, of Death? Should we the move abort
Loss shall us oversee, Death's his cohort.
Ho, Arthur! Thou'rt a shining tower, call
The move's renewal from this evil lull;
The night is wasting! Should we now retreat
And make nilpotent th' mightily pled entreat,
The child dies, at the condemning dawn
NIMH takes our lives, and we will follow on.
Who shall we beg of on that final day?
She may subject to help, who shall we sway?
We move the house! Let honour have its due!
Should we be brave tonight, then in the blue
Of day we'll brave the torments of our past,
But, still the work, 'tis loafish we are last.
For Jonathan is dead, who helped his wife?
There was for her no herald in his life,
She knew naught of his sad, untimely death,
We are the worse, for who knows of our breath?
[aside] Shall I now be undone by the charisma of our head? I should have a winning gait, I have a cunning mouth.
Stay thee no fear of cats or preying birds,
You'd work tonight, had that you never heard,
And nonetheless you'd die, work thee with skill,
Should any come tomorrow, then they will
See greatness in thy death, and breathless shall
Wonder the wrong which breathlessness did fell.
[aside] I care not how great or ancient the tree is, a cut, a chop! and it shall fall!
If we must die, then let us die tonight
As we'd be seen forever, in the sight
Of after-generations, greatness is
In serving unto death, not how one lives,
For living's truly done by evil men and stout,
How we breathe in is nothing to how we breathe out.
[aside] Yea, one cut, one chop, and Nicodemus' trunk shall fall, and whither shall he go? He is not resigned to stay in his tree, he can fly away should he please. What good shall wisdom do him? Die now, good soul, stay thyself the ignominy of a villain's blade!
Once from the plow this earthy home's away,
We shall be gone, NIMH on the following day
Shall find an empty bush, and wonder then
If rats there ever were which thought as men.
The Plan's come out tonight! Heed not the threats
And formless implications Pride begets;
From factions few consideration's brought,
Not to consider, but postpone our plot.
[aside] Thou couldst have fled, thou martyr! Thy roots are corrupt, and yet thou stay'st! Art thou too wise to live? Aye, fill our newly-enlightened Athenian youth with revolution and roaming hearts, and thou mayst fly or drink thy death to the dregs!
We shall be fled! This field we'll leave behind,
Upon the marsh we'll venture, there to find
Some unknown corner, someplace we may rest
And ne'er let NIMH nigh near our native nest.
This world holds little place for creatures new,
Where in the plan initial are our few?
When were we scheduled in that happy week
Which saw inception of our brothers meek?
What globe or sphere was meant to be our home?
By what signs as-yet unseen do we roam?
What stars divest our fortune? In the throng above,
Who represents us? Do we petition of
Specific saints, or are we odd or prime,
A heartbeat hung in space, and out of time?
The sun doth shine on us as singly strange:
A life of pieces patched, and other lives arranged,
We are not new; we're new as ancient rain,
But waters old make fresh the earth again.
[aside] Revolution! The wheels turn, the daemons, the planets turn by Sisyphus' shove, the ropes pull! Our lives pull until they snap afray. The house moves! and tomorrow our house shall move! Night! O, thou dark! Death is dark, the vapours of Hades bathe us tonight! Die, Nicodemus! Let me see thee dead, that I may pride myself for outliving thee!
Sullivan, thou'st arrived!
Yes, Jenner. I am sorry I am come late.
This is the great night, Sullivan!
Yes, it is indeed, friend. We finally have seen this done.
The moon is bright! 'Tis light enough to set
This stone insured where ne'er an ill shall let
Unoccupance, Luna looks unabashed
And in amazement at our turning task,
And though the rain pours down in voluminous flow
It cannot drown out honour's cause below.
O, ev'ry drop of rain tears through the air
And sends forth shudd'ring ripples through the ground
Which never end; the world doth swell with them.
Let this still brick alone, 'twould move itself;
One drop of water may misshape the world!
One little drop of rain! but once it falls,
The universe is n'er the same. What is
This dwelling baked of? Mud, this soupy dirt;
What is life's substance? Dust, water and dust;
What is our medium? Life crawls on mud
And breathes the vessel of rain; she takes the way
Of watery pellets, which on the earth do pound
Incessantly, and in this fusillade
The world is made to mud; what mean our lives
To any toad? Hey, Sullivan, stay near,
This day of soppy emissaries has
For you, a task. Stay near, I'll speak Night's words.
I am here, Jenner.
Look up! For there stands witness to this deed
The clouds, and hear! the wind has now decreed
How rightly we doth stand; these watery falls
Are just expressions of the sky's applause.
The right we do! The widow's wealth we seek
And mean to prop the posits of the weak,
And there's no emperor who'd speak a word
Against this plan, no king, not e'en a bird.
The birds shall make an army for me. Te--wit! Te--wit!
This night is but the darkness which precedes
Our lives, for soon, the light is born and needs
Forth come, for peacefully the dawn is due,
And afterward, these lives begin anew,
Look eastward! catch a tentative beam of light,
A prenatal morning of this motherly night.
Bah! The blessed pox! The magnanimous Pontus Euxinus! The pacific ocean occidents! We ward them off with courting words, and play victim when the dejected wretches accept our advances. A sorry, sorry maiden is the human soul! I was born a rat, and man's path isn't the only to trod, nay, I'll burrow if I must. Sullivan, thou'rt too wicked for all these high ideas, yea, thou'rt too bad. Fending with words - I'd sooner die than defend myself with a weak hope; nay, I'd cross myself with iron.
Even iron's no strength against a heart aflame.
What are you saying?
What you know only.
Then thou'rt no use.
What is the truth.
I'd not live in such a world of truths.
Then, what is most seeming to the hour.
As you read the clock, poor flatterer!
Then I said naught! Surely, thou, my fast and bonded friend, couldst forgive a random rumbling. I was merely attaching words, one to the other, with no import, no purpose!
Words mean words, Sullivan. The first you spoke to me led to the next, and that to the next, and that linked in a long-cast survey to what you just have said. Say I that there is meaning in your words? No, lest I become like thee. But you have attached words upon words, and your final chain's conclusion is that I am wrong. Your final period is that the links are brittle, and meaningless. Say I am wrong!
I, I... ne'er meant such a...
Imperceptible truths! Unseeable mysteries! Such is my trade, Sullivan, I know none who can see! Blind babblers! Harried hopers! Lying, lying links in penetrable ringmail coats, aye, I'll drive my sword straight through their minimal hoops, and receive better than a jouster's prize. Look at them measuring, casting cord and plank about, scaffolding; they are little formic mechanics, swarming about, all to move this consumptive's half-extinguished house; then we - we, Sullivan! - shall be away... off in the moment, to flee from that which interests me the most. If it weren't for our marvel, all would be lost for her; she would be torn apart again. Sullivan, I hate fantasy.
Thou sound'st resolute.
Look, Sullivan! All is coming into readiness. The mist is concealing. The great leader has his back turned to us, to oversee his folly. This moment is pregnant with possibility, Sullivan, can we grab it?
I mean that the night has come for us, Sullivan, she has come to aid her minions, and the mist shall shroud us! We are the outcome of impalpable forces, Sullivan, we must live up to our generation!
Jenner, thou art inescapable. What is thy conclusion?
The coneys are a'digging. The table's laid. The table's laid, Sullivan, I've a mind to grasp all I can.
[He unsheathes his sword]
Is this an occasion for momentous ceremony, Jenner?
Yea, Sullivan, it is. I lift this blade high, Sullivan, to sanctify it. Now, take it. Take't!
[He thrusts the sword at Sullivan, who takes it]
'Tis heavy. What brave consecration shall I make with the ornament?
Thou shalt make a present of it to Nicodemus.
But, 'twere him who gave it to you at the first, Jenner!
Aye, you're right. Best to make it a surprise present, then.
I think that the mist is obscuring your words. What do you mean?
Good poppet - it is not too late in life to call you that, is it? - I've a distaste for leaders who would send us out in the cold to die.
Any such leader would die in the cold, as well.
True, any such leader would die. Such a blind old thing! - he would slide dictums under his cuff and assume that he that he trusted to his power could not see at all. The king as would impose his superiority upon me and wave his jus divinum about me tauntingly as a rattle surely must die gruesomely. This glorious sword has a longing to meet my enemy, Sullivan, it is yearning to cut Nicodemus in two. Aye, Nicodemus is th'end of this blade, Sullivan, and you are at the hilt of it.
[Sullivan reels back in terror]
What are you afraid of? You've my sword, he has only his Aaronic rod; it is a swift operation. This is the time, Sullivan!
Dear Jenner, isn't there something we could do here? Some construction to work on, some trowl to wield, some compass or pulley to operate?
There is nothing we can do here. Tomorrow we wander, Sullivan.
Jenner, Jenner, this is evil, not evil as thou wouldst admit to, nay, I never did find earnest wrongdoing in thee!
To kill us all is far worse... Sullivan, we've fought to stay with ardence. You know well enough that the only way to keep Nicodemus here is to pin him down.
Only in its greatness, only in its nobility! Sullivan, rampant yourself, take the hero's arms. You're the herald of tomorrow, Sullivan. This is no night of any birth, nay, this is static, a night as before, the uninterrupted crickets will thank you. For chirruping, in itself, is far greater than any of the establishments of men or sage rats, and lasts far longer. Night is death, Sullivan; I know naught otherwise.
Jenner, should I do it, it is but at thy bequest.
Be quested, knight.
Then this sword is my only salute.
Go to it.
Aye, but I must ready myself.
Ready yourself heated, and strike in a wild temper.
I have never killed anyone, Jenner.
But you have caused your mother and father much pain, and, O, Sullivan, I cannot say how many hours in the night I have worried for your good. The time you've stolen from a thousand souls is a lifetime, and far worse than murder, for it is years of heartache.
May I recant by taking a life at once?
How can you recant, Sullivan? You've wronged, wrong again!
I am off, it is too wet to stand still. The rain shall wash me to this act, 'tis the drizzle that causes the ill, not I. I am delirious in the cold.
[Sullivan turns to kill Nicodemus]
[aside] I could not trust him to cut lettuce, far less a great delusional demagogue. I'd have him adopt the sword on his own. Delirious in the cold! Such a chilled mein, nothing to kill by. [aloud] Sullivan, if the task doesn't fit you, you needn't bother.
[returning] Ah! Thou'st sense again! Good friend, thou worried me sorely.
Dearest friend, thou'st never failed me, as thou knowest. No one knows how good a friend thou'rt to me.
And thou'rt such a dear friend to me, too, Jenner.
How long we've known each other! How well we know each other!
Since we were infants.
And no living soul knows how good a friend thou'rt to me.
Thou'st said so, Jenner.
No living soul, not Nicodemus... not Justin... not Patrick... why, not even Sullivan knows.
Eh? What's that? Who is this friend no one knows, Jenner?
Sullivan, put your hand to your heart.
[He does so, and Jenner likewise slips his hand over his heart]
I should introduce you.
Glorious, but surely I am to put away this sword? To be introduced at the point of a weapon is to be made instantly foreigners, if not enemies.
Sullivan, you sound hopeful. Do not put away the blade. Best to keep it; I know not what I might do with it tonight. You are about to be inducted, Sullivan, and my friend is a jealous sort. Keep the sword, Sullivan, that he might, when removed from thy company, boast to himself:
[He stabs Sullivan in the back with a concealed dagger]
'Let no one say I stuck him unarmed.'
O, O! Thy words mean actions... and such an intimate friend!
O, Jenner! Thou know'st that I lived in thy faithfulness.
Then, Sullivan, you need not live anymore.
Yes, dear Jenner. How right and good it is when friends agree! ...I need not live anymore.
Such bloodless clamor! Sullivan, thou couldst
Not whet my lust with calamitous throe?
I need another winch my soul to lift,
Thou wert no hoister baldworthy of my
Evil soul, for I feel Night's hand tonight,
I need be lifted high above this mist,
Above this house, I need another winch,
Conspicuous in its measure, in its length,
Thou frayed-out cord! Know now thou had no friend,
Good soul, why laist thou stupidly in the rain?
Good bond, where is the friendship of our youth,
Annulled in Earth's ambition? Yea, it is,
Good friend, I've killed thee, and doth any see?
Not one in all the world has noticed thee,
Not one shall see thee now, down to the mists!
How great's the strength of urgency, this night
'Fore over, shall see lessened this world's plight;
How kept in mercy is this house! and we
Are but those who would still this friendly plea.
[Jenner retakes his sword]
[aside] Good Sullivan, thou couldst not take Cain's mark,
E'en though tomorrow we to death embark,
Though I an outcast would elect to be,
For there's no presence in this company.
O, Nicodemus! How's the move to go?
Methinks the air is cold, the wind should blow
Forth from the ocean, best to turn aside
And bear to th'west, this tendency should find
Us near the mountains, where there's many a chink
Or space to hide in, therewith we should sink
Too deeply too be found, Earth's treasures' store
Should take us from this unabetting moor
Where we are easily snatched; the jealous earth
Penuriously steals the stuff of worth.
Speak'st thou of moving, Jenner; wherefore so?
Thou art the one that never spoke to go.
Indeed, but NIMH knows much, should they we find
I should then find myself in different mind.
Thou shouldst, indeed, thou hast already before.
I thought to make directly through the moor,
But th'mood doth find me differently tonight,
We should there be too facile to the sight.
Maybe in indirection is this ill
Resolved, let fancy drive the animate will:
Look! Can you see the Caesars on the waste?
Is that ghoul Euripides? They make haste,
For they've no need to tarry, centuries
Sweep them across the meadows and the seas,
On an inscrutable errand, mortals' day
Reveals them not on their covert foray.
Thou hast a rather discomfiting say -
How may dead visions guide us on our way?
I see no spectres gliding on the moor,
Nor can I venture what thy speech is for.
You see them not? 'Tis good, I cannot, either.
That is the very point. We cannot see them hie there,
Nor can a cat see! Safely ghosts may tread,
Ne'er can the light bring sight unto the dead.
'Tis true, the dead pass unheeded in hosts;
How may that aid us, when we are not ghosts?
A fatal flaw! My plan is ruinèd.
It seemed a jesting object; what's that gleam?
I knew thou should'st not think as thou wouldst seem...
Yet horror steals my heart, what is thy plan?
Hast thou the evil with the know of Man?
Aye, trivial ciphers, enigmatic lines!
Thou wert so open with thy scheming signs;
Thou meant just as thou say'st! Yea, friendly foe,
Unveil your purpose, and project your blow.
What mean'st thou? Seest thou here an enemy?
My leader, thou'st suspicion where should be
An unexclusive, inexempt embrace -
Why shouldst thou seek to read my calloused face?
My firm devotion's seen in what I fie,
The answer to the riddle: 'Who am I?'
Thou wouldst me muddle; as if this thick mist
Were not obscurant enough. Is Judas' kiss
Kin in accustoming, unquestioning allow?
Thou'rt foreign, I know not thee as thou appear'st now,
For I know Jenner disagreeable,
And were he not as I know him, the whole
Is acting; though polemic he may be,
The genuine Jenner I would seek to see.
You cannot see the ghosts, nor see the wind;
Nor can you see the image wraiths may cast -
I spoke of necrid souls floating unseen,
And I spoke only words that I should mean.
Join'st thou their party! Proff the ancient brew
Of Death, sip'st thou their poison, feel its flu
Polluting all thy humour, 'till thy vital vaunt
Is but th'immortal ichor of the hidden haunt
Which reaves us; take thou fondly to thy doom,
Prepare thyself to recline in thy tomb.
Tak'st thou thy toddy, set thy soul to sleep;
The foamy tide of Death laps at thy heel,
Thou'st lived in this dry desert, fall to thy knees,
In grateful scoops imbibe thy toast to Time,
And ever revel in his company.
The morn, the morrow, the day doth make thee ill;
Down yet again a swallow of the swill
Which shall deprive thy eyes fore'er of sight
And finally thwart the prying shafts of light -
The dead need not delight in any dawn;
Die, Nicodemus, in this ruthless rain;
Thou leader, fashion thee as example,
Thou model, set delimiters for me,
Thou wouldst have us to die, to satisfy
The lust of later ages! Take across
The moor, thou fear'st the cat? Fear not the cat,
Fear not the weight NIMH carries in thy dreams,
Fear thee tonight! Night, dark, I have my quarry!
The strength, the blow, the treachery of Night!
Dark doth conceal her allies, I'm revealed;
Now, leader, mak'st thou ready, thou art dead,
My words have been fulfilled... die, faithful fiend!
[He staves Nicodemus with his sword]
Am I redeemable? Thou foolish lord,
Thy serf would not be saved by thee, I need
No such obedience, now, demure to me!
Thou shalt do as I thee command, now, die!
I feel the stab of treason betwixt my blades,
And there the pointed truth my hope dissuades
And all my happy intents doth dispel:
To guide towards Heaven he who's bound for Hell,
Though, yea, here's pain, come forth, my mortal yelp:
For thou didst love him who disdained thy help,
No cravenous stroke, however keen, 's the hurt
Of what thou mayst have been, but never wert;
I've learned of dabblers as I never should:
NIMH did for worse, what I'd have done for good;
No dilettante should tamper with the heart,
Lest he should end before his cause should start,
This wound is ling'ring! Stay, no second thrust
Is needed to transform this flesh to dust -
Thy sharpened blade now drives me from my shanks,
So thou describ'st the extent of thy thanks:
To steal the body him whose will's too strong,
Who longed to heal, yet could not heal too long;
I'm cut! and prove affected mortal life
Is fickle at the first, but takes his wife:
I leave my former love, with term'nal breath
Unlatch from Life, and newly embrace...
Dizzy fool! Hast thou no object to embrace?
'Tis all about thy weapon! Help, 'tis death,
Our Nicodemus' fallen! Help, alack!
Howl, wind! Howl, night! I'm not without defense,
Think'st not that somewhere in this freezing rain
There lays not someone worse for heaven's issue?
Still, wheezing, choking, drowning in this storm,
And ev'ry rain claims dozens of lives; 'tis true
That here's a demon I don't associate with
And answerable to none; and Time is elder,
There're villains abroad which none can apprehend!
Think'st me the greatest evil on Time's stage?
No, I am wise to know that fendible blows
Are just the player's failsafes. Puny part,
Call not in horror, thou art friendly to
Those greater villains me, hate not my act,
Thy owl's far worse than any cat could be,
Thy owl's a murderer.
Though, yea, I know he kills my kind, the heart
Is true and faithful; and he saved my son.
'Tis good for him, he keeps his cupboard stocked
That he might feed well later. Stay'st thou still?
If he knew not thy husband, well could he
Have met his death between two talons' clutch,
And shouldst thou see the cat then for thy son?
Thou art the benefactor of great wrongs,
Thou art a homicide's hook. Thou'rt party to
An evil, thou'rt not good; thou'st fallen to fault;
And I admit it, I am honest still.
I've fallen to fault, alas, so have we all;
The owl's block-fit? So railed to ruin are we,
If all are evil, so I gauge myself;
But evils come in shades of sympathy
To good; imperfect e'er are Heaven's tokens,
Were it not so, they would not be disjoint,
But every good would gleam with glorious grace.
Here wrong doth show its splendor. Behold good!
The mindful heart lies nuzzled in the mud
For want of wicked wiles, breathless, dead!
He's dead for lacking breath, but thou, thou fiend
Die wanting heartbeat, for thy criminous ways!
Death is but death; I'm rosier than him.
But your friends are parties to a murderer, themselves!
I have no friends to speak of.
My Jonathan was friendly towards a villain,
How is this wrong? Forgiving the quailant's sins
Is admirable, the ancient Jonathan
Was bound th' heart upon a devious rogue,
Was David a murderer? Yea, one day of his year,
All souls have guilt; and Jonathan did limp
Not for a lack of grace, but for his friend,
And Ages limps, to save thee from the cat,
My Jonathan limps even worse than he,
May I then wobble? Beat, thou heartless fiend!
Thy time's not taken, snare thy measured blow!
I should think this, indeed, a night as should know no sleep. Hey, villainy! O, mother, art thou here? This night knows sleep, in all.
Martin! 'Tis misty and cold, go to bed!
I would, for finding my bed.
Brave the mist, follow its shameful recoil! Go to bed!
I should, but it wisps all about. I cannot catch a cold; I must be in bed. O, my, I have found something. Good night, fiend!
What is this?
Your conscience, puny pipsqueak that he is!
Ah, my pernicious little advisor. For a moment, I did not know thy face. Hast thou come to accuse me? Tell me, hast thou come to curse me?
I could curse you from here to the Pleiades and back if I wished.
And in thy starry curses, blind all who see yet what I am. Do thy best.
The day grew cloudy on the morn that birthed thee,
And Heaven's shining eye did shut her face
And hid herself, for sobbing thine arousal,
'Should such a one come,' wept she on that day,
'I thought the earth should break to pebbled shards,
And now, no such embarrassment see I,
The earth doth welcome him; O, ne'er such shame
In th' undying ages, now is sorrily kept
This fatal birth.' When you of schoolage came
She wept again in form of sorrowing rain
And sobbed, 'Ne'er give him knowledge! He'll but will
Disastrous conflicts on some innocent field,
He'll turn a child's playground to the fields
Of stratagem, on his Ulysses' text,
To kill the mass of earth.' But you lived still,
And though in ignorance, innocent you stayed,
You were in knowledge desperately arrayed.
'Now, he's his hour!' Sol cries in despair
And in unletting torment tears her hair,
Those golden rays fall in the lightening's crash,
And Earth herself mourns that she gave her lap
A midwife's apron, welcoming your soul -
'Look at him,' cries Europa and the Earth,
'Look at our fiendish son, what have we furthered?
O, stars, portend a heavy death for him -
Though it may mean fixation's out of place,
Bend 'way thy lights, withdraw his glorious fortunes,
Make short his life, and painful his life's space,
Do so, that Sol and Earth may ever be
Amended, that she may shine, and ne'er may we
Sow seeds of soiled souls, we now exhume
The last, commend these to unending doom!'
The stars, who saw miscarriage from the start
Delight in this, and take their task to heart,
For Nemesis cackles, and thy sentence speaks,
Tonight she innovates, and terrors wreaks.
Very harrowing. I should fear my life.
Life isn't to be feared for.
I should fear my immediate death, then.
If I were you, I'd fear my distant death.
Nature and Earth may condemn me, but how do you?
No curse I could lay on you could top the one Nature herself hath inflicted in your face.
An evil face for an evil soul.
And a plain face for an truth-telling soul. Elaboration's not one of your faults, I note.
That's one that should stick, methinks.
They're all adamant, affixed to your goo.
Vinegar for salt - sour words for a salty mind.
'Tis salt enlivens this bland world.
And salt undoes the slug.
Ah, I feel my flesh melting away!
I should not notice it - I told you, you were ugly.
A mean retort, here's another - a sneer an' a cackle an' a flash of tooth! I could rend thee to pieces - what say'st thou to that?
You bear passing semblance to a jack.
Is this Jonathan's child? Such an endearing waif; I may see why your mother's a mess.
I believe that you're indeed fated ill.
And can you affirm such a belief? Fate's but myself to me.
So seems it to the man as sceptres seized
Regardless of the rules directory,
Who grappled them, and wrongly supercedes
The cod'fied step, the circumventing plea -
The straightest way's the seemly one to yearn
Although it cannot take precessing sops
Or bob-abouts, or foolish cartwheels' turn,
Cavorting rakes and those as swing as tops;
Thou hypocrite, thou liar, thou hast said
So many things truth controverts, thy mouth
Is so unfettered, it works upon thy head.
The circular shape is taken as a form,
Perfection rounds about th' unfolded lands
That straighter minds may straighten wordly harm
Encountered, as the sorrowful understands
The suff'ring of the indisposed, hurt soul;
'Tis taken in the rounds of wordly life,
A circle's set and bound, made in the whole
Of countless straightened lines, and so the strife
Of countless breathers makes our rondo song;
Shall crooks, in but themselves, undo these turns?
To impose darling wrongs upon the whole,
Shall so they commandeer truth for themselves
And boast of straightness, where they crooked be?
'Tis Fate been wronged? Ay, justice is usurped,
Thy single soul supplants the sacred writ,
The rules of order, ordained as they wert
Upon the chance of thee, and those like to't.
No one may e'er the crown of Fate lay hold,
Nor can they excise from Death's files gold.
Pish, posh! You'd say I am again' the order, claiming that fit only for my greaters? I am not the only, rather, I'd say I were in the order, and supply the writ myself. And we majors may take truth for our own; why, shouldn't we, so high in rank, do so? Here, I hold the badge of my order before me, and Sol may bemoan it, if she so wishes. I have taken a vow of resolution, and I am staunch and unmovable, and appropriately so. I alone realize truly our greatness. So, affirm ye such a belief still?
You have answered the question for me; yes! I can affirm such a belief.
Such a shame. I had been taking a shine to you.
O, that is the most insulting thing you've directed yet. I could hardly outdo such a heinous jibe.
Begone, then, starling! I shall explain to thee later. Off!
I leave, then. Perhaps I shall come upon Nero Caesar also in this mist.
Did he leave?
There is some mercy in the mist.
I thought it odd. But, aye, let's pick things up.
Flame in the night, the wansome stars do laugh!
Think'st thou there's any remedy to have
Beneath their supervision? Hah! They steal
Their light from smaller sources, yet, the circuit's cut;
Hear! Easier and easier 're the ways
To fortune; thou mayst have made thee happier days
Without us; look! A spark! I make a spark,
I slash the stone, I beat my blade, a spark!
This flint may fire a flame as such may take
The world ablaze.
The world ablaze. Pray, set your weapon down.
I take my force upon the thorns, they're cut;
No compromise need I from miserly coils.
Thou seek'st thy well, thou'rt pay- and employ-ready,
But once you've bought your health, you've spent your life!
Please, I prithee, set it down!
Please, I prithee, set it down! This blade's
The path of thy happiness - O, martyrs prim,
O, sickly saints, the straight-and-narrow good,
How life'd be easier them, had they a sword!
'Tis physic for thine ills.
'Tis physic for thine ills. What cure's in death?
What cures, but cures in death? Thou'rt tougher for't.
The dead suffer no ills.
The dead suffer no ills. Stay, set it down!
Condemnable, condemnable thou art!
Thou murderer, far worse than any owl!
Play not upon this poor, defenseless soul -
Takes she the mist up for a shield? Thou rogue,
Condemnable thou art! And thou'rt condemned,
Thou'st raised thy sword, thou'st fell thy sword
And now thou tak'st thy sword to me, and thou
Shalt die upon it - this shield is thy shroud,
The evil may no refuge find within
The bulkhead of the good. Thy mists conceal,
Thy mists conceal thy soul, conceal thy life;
Thou'rt doomed to die.
I was to ask thy companion for a dance, that's all.
She's not a likely fencing companion for thee, Jenner.
Then I need find another. Envoy Epee, am I so honoured?
I could not say no. But may I strike to hurt?
That was my sole intention.
Then let it be thy soul's detention, although it would be honourable to let me search for a sword.
Alack! I seem to have lost my honour in the mud. Thou'lt have to fend with thy friend, or a stone, or a glob of muck... en garde!
[He begins advances upon Justin]
Ho! I've a sour bout to fight tonight.
Forgive me, regent, I need take thy staff.
[Justin takes Nicodemus' rod and parries with it]
'Tis not a weapon for this feudal Night.
'Tis not a weapon for an even joust,
Then, 'tis not a weapon for me, here, have thy death!
Ah! Hear the startled caption of the crowd -
This were the end we all assured ourselves
Would come in jest. Good Jenner, though I'm pleased
To take thee in this bout; where hast thou failed?
Why couldst thou not thy torments stay - aught else
Thou'lt stay - fair, Jenner, fairly thou shalt fall,
And I'll be sorry for thy trippings all.
I feel the hardened, merciless stare of Death,
His gladiator I shall reign or fall,
The blood as surges through my restless lobes
Speaks e'er to me in roars o'the sporting crowd,
I e'er was meant to live in combat's heat,
What good is life, if thou'st no portion in
Its endless battle? Peh, when I'm of age
Embrittled in the crumbling brace of Time,
And finally buckled as one who bears the stone
And onus of Responsibilty,
I'd skirt it with my year-bound honourage,
Leave it for vitaler souls, and take my cane
And stave my thirst upon Death's carmine base
And in this brew Draconian regain
My youth, my strength, to fin'lly murder Time
And liason with Death, my faithful love;
Though one that cackles, sees through cloudy eyes
And barely stills his loosely tarpèd frame
To Death remain I beautiful, and young;
As to a dry and voiceless platte of sand
A brook is gorgeous, and most sing'larly.
From thence I'd seek embattling souls; what good
Is life, without the chance to meet life's end
Or make it? Should I live to see those years,
The final thing that e'er should fill my ears
Will be the echo of the dying foe
Caught in vociferous embroglio.
Stop it! I understand you less every minute.
If 'tis important I should hear, then say't,
If it is dun, then there's no need to light it,
If mottled, stripe it with your colourful lash,
To frame it to compliance. Vent thy words;
Let out! if you've aught left to say before
You leave the living. Use your words as speech,
Speak plainly, if you've something plain to say,
For people speak in foreign tongues each day.
I've witnessed troupes of pantomimes, but I must say, this is the sloppiest sword fight I've ever seen. Such jumping and motioning! They need their rope-training again.
Once I've dispatched our captain, I'll be after you, juggler!
Is it the business of a clown to answer such a portentous riddle?
Fool, what mean'st thou?
I mean'st only, that clown's saw. 'The flightiest bird catches the hunter's eye.'
What semblance of me is in that?
Ha! Keep hopping, knave, let no clown keep thee pondering!
Or, to another effect, 'He set in one spot sees the world pass by him, it he waits long enough.'
And how have I strayed from that?
Not at all, dear Jenner... you would never stray to stray. The difference between 'stay' and 'stray' is a common letter, indeed.
Thou art a common letter, buffoon!
Aye, though I would let up. - Justin, you're an honourable lout. - Thou wouldst stay, thou say'st?
I would stand to this spot.
That is a most foolish decision. I wouldn't stay your battle.
[aside, to Ages] Friend, fetch my sword while he is detained.
I would stay this very battle, indeed.
Consistence, O, thou mother of all folly! Would you stay solid, on this night of pudding?
[Ages gives Justin his sword]
I say, even this blade cannot cut this conversation.
Aha! Propounder, set thyself away. -
I know what I shall do. [to all]
All hear! List well!
Yea, Jenner, all already have your attention.
This clown has put me to't. These shackles here,
Which I would fain present to every one
That they might freely live, and freely please
Themselves are turned on me, as Nicodemus
Would prove his passion us by his true form.
Look! Here I stand, and here this grainy slime
Shall suck upon these feet; I shall return
Embracingly to that first substance which
Gave all us birth, as Earth could never move
I say, I shall not move! I stand, I stay,
This needle I withal defend myself,
And as we fight, this dear and motherly earth
Shall hold me here, breech-first. Here, I am dust,
And dust shall swallow me. She locks these ankles,
For hopes to reclaim me. Now, of the challenge,
This is the forfeit: Should I fall in death,
Then staying, you shall all result the same
And as foul Death, twice satisfied tonight,
Should not recur once he's had his three meals,
We shall decision make, and by it vow
Such that resolve could not e'er arched be
Were archons pouncing on its rigid nave.
Should I, in my most noble adamance -
Taken in truth, and honour for one's faith -
Make triumph o'er this scurrying little elf,
Then moving means our death, and we should all
Make penitence before our country's state
And beg forgiveness, and see me as our best,
And thus exult, exalt me over all.
Should I apostate to take any step,
You have a stone, and may this widow's house
Crush me to powder, mingled in the mud,
For my self-nullifying blasphemies -
Consistence is my judge.
I take my stand, to death! Is any here
So faulty as to match my evil good?
I'll not see Goodness sullied, nor so Faith,
And Nature shies at your pretentious show.
Good Jenner, O, foul Jenner! I may match
Your stance on evil with a stance for good!
[aside] Now, I'd say, he's the one galoshing in the muck, and I with a free hand and a free mouth have better leverage than he with a free body. [to all] It is decided. None other being willing to fight one standing still, our Captain of the Guard has volunteered to make an example for his protégé. The challenge is accepted, should I die, we move, should Justin die, we stay, and should no one die, we let it to the Fates. Shall we begin?
Yea, but how to begin?
Lunge! Demean sanctity! Discount life! Come, Justin, throw off thy high ethics, be as thou art, thou animal, thou rat!
I cannot even say so much.
Come! Bayonet me! Surely, Justin, you're not as bad a sword fighter as this?
Your soul, so black and perforate,
Lets Night so cattily seep in;
Compunction stays, I need not puncture more
Nor saturate thee, nay, thou art condemned
Should I condemn thee now - say thou art moved!
I may say I am moved, but displacing me requires more force.
Good Jenner - shall you answer to that name? -
This weather's not hospitable to health,
How shall a fev'rish child be moved for life?
May you ennoble yourself to mobile be,
When Spring herself lies sickly in her bed,
And cannot bring herself to take her station;
Why, see! The clouds, the evil parties come
To rob the live of life. Your models move!
How, then, mayst thou still stay? Say thou art moved!
If thou wouldst evil be, say thou art moved!
Say thou art moved, if thou reformed wouldst be!
O! sob at thy words! They'd make a cockatrice leap, but Justin, my heart is stone - she was widowed from my mind long ago - and Arthur's pulleys can't move her.
Then, what? Shall I cut thee in the back, like a brigand?
My, you've a trouble, haven't you? Kill me, and you become me. Live me, and you appease me, and shall live like me fore'er.
Only till tomorrow, and then we die.
Ha! My favourite pubbing toast.
Or, worse, they shall take us, NIMH shall take us, and we'll move, regardless of your highness. To men, no rat's a lord.
O, they shall take us! This is a fear. No, fear me, now! Stow forbearance! Let me stand condemned, so long as I stand! Let me stay doomed, so long as I stay! I will not give to any other, no part of me's any's but mine, no life's my life but my own, and should I savour Death tonight, it is my death, my death only.
Thou'rt consigned to Fate?
I am my Fate. Once I die, I am no longer, and I care not what comes afterwards. I would not live anywhere else, but here, I would not die anywhere but this bush, nor any time but that I should deign fit. I have sealed me with a wound, and this wound on my soul shall never seal.
I will not stay, not now, for as you say,
The water falls, the earth itself is changed
And 'tis no character that rebuffs a pain
Which is but meet, the virtues to maintain.
The hero must be true to all but him -
My task tonight, to save the colony's fate
Is but to do what I may sorely hate.
Nay, nay! Thou art thy most precious treasure, do not let thyself alter!
You will stay, you know you shall stay the same,
I care not what happens after, I must perform
The answer to thy grievance. Look, if I
Did never enter into any brier,
For fear what may within their barbs transpire,
Or what might make me to redo myself,
Then I should never bravely face my trial,
And in complacence fruitless I would wile -
In introversion I'd bebusy me -
Until I'd studied my changeless self so well
My stunted soul I could in one word tell.
Prithee, stay, thou sound'st like a suicide!
Nay, I sound like an imperfect wretch, who seeks to better not only himself, but all. Have at you!
[Justin runs Jenner smartly through]
A mortal wound! I am murdered!
Dead! All are dead, my heart, my life, my soul,
Who took my front yard for their battleground?
I've led thee, Death, I've led thee to this field,
That thou mightst reave, before the planting's done!
Mrs. Jonathan Brisby, soft! Thy husband once said to me, 'My wife is distraught, yea, my wife is the scrambly sort, Jenner. How poor am I, too poor to cause her worry.' He said then, 'But she is faceless, we all are shades, Jenner. We are not beings until we are seen; we are not beings until we are loved, yea, not 'till we serve, Jenner!'
Jenner, speak soft, thou'rt shortly dead.
If I am shortly dead, I shall be loud alive, my speech will survive me. Thy husband were a low branch on Time's tree, yea, easily taken by bullibrats and used as a mongrel switch; I once braved to think that I was one of those boys, but, nay, those were my dying days... I've given thee gall for gravy, bane for broth! Brisby, hast thou ever hated me?
No, I ne'er have.
I am condemned!
By thy conscience? He's a troublemaker himself.
The very devil! Brisby, love thy children. I could have lived in my one friend's faithfulness... but, yea, words mean words, and they've never spoken of my heart. I long, yea, I wish that I could have been freed. A summons!
I know that rogue's death better than my husband's. Indeed, I'd ne'er heard a word of it until today, yesterday his death was something taken in trust - how often the good die without an epitaph! How often do the kind disappear without letting their loves know whither they go... they are snatched up jealously by God. The evil leave behind every wronged person, every mistreated soul to witness their death. When one goes up a mountain, those standing at the base see nothing of him. When one goes down thence to the valley, everybody can see him easily.
If any think me wrong for this, then let them follow him.
I cannot but pun at his death. I say, 'twould be to follow a fallow fellow. That is the epitaph he deserves.
Let it be written down.
'Tis true, when death defeats our enemy,
It is the season for our levity.
O, mud! Convey this blood-tarnished silver to Sheol, let this unsacred taint begone, gulp it beyond any mortal reprieve, and let your subcutaneous argue with its ill-brandished blade! Let Death have't!
[Justin discards his sword]
Here stands an elder and his noble friend,
Death gladdened one, one's sorry for the end.
Were I not clown-apparent, you would know
The young is eager, age is sad to go;
As high officiary lets free a rung
Upon the death of age, and for the young:
But as I jest, we see a novel change:
Youth sees advancing stations as too strange,
And age, confronted with Death's pearly gate,
Laughs at his grin, and trusts on better fate:
And though he gloats upon his golden crown
Death's smile to him will soon become a frown
And all his august power, once deployed
Will find itself to be with base alloyed:
The shine of earthly honours dazzles men
But Death can see, below the gold is tin.
I admit it, and am sorry for't.
Of every dastard's scheme or hapless mall
Which could upon our yearling state befall,
These are the worst, these are the worst of all,
And ills are stronger when their wrongs combine!
NIMH comes tonight, our master's dead, our sire
Is pedestaled upon purveyance higher
Than fewest angels e'er could hope aspire.
Now that the good and righteous have withdrawn
The glory-seek's a post to latch upon,
And when an opening's made in happenstance
The evilest knects prepare to make advance,
Not better villains, which should come by will
But those of manner fit the space to fill.
These evil stars have not occulted yet,
Nor have these rushing parties here converged,
We're warned, that we may utilize the sense
We have still, come, pack up, the house is moved:
We leave, and let no heart harbour regret.
The palace will collapse o'er any time,
But bricks that may be used are left behind.
For e'en the smaller perched upon the large,
Once their giant has fallen, find themselves
No lower than they were before, that so,
We have not made our show and sigh for no;
We'd let our nation be dissolved before
The family. We've done what we were bound;
And Nicodemus honourably died.
Ho, toss me now his rod, I need it see.
[He is thrown Nicodemus' staff]
Yea, here's his instrument of foment ill,
The carved initial 'J', the name of power,
His one success, his one accessor, yea,
His one mistake: for, yet, it means two names!
Now should I drive this rev'rence in the sod,
Should Aaron's rod take blossom in the place
Of its proponent? Nay, this stake's too shy;
'Tis good and well. Who shall our leader be?
I nominate Justin, for Nicodemus named him first.
Is there any dissension?
[There is none]
Good, I'd not have there be any dissension. I shall take thy laurels. But that is but at this time a mean nicety, and courtliness has little use without a court. Ages, the plan may be taken out, and as it may, it should, methinks.
I have greatly studied all that is to be said of the common life. I've pored over Plato and Paul for very, very short centuries; I dare say, all may be intelligently directed.
Ages, you exhaust me. Of Mrs. Brisby?
She is well.
She merits an addition to the widow's list, and whatever benefits should come of that.
She is well, and that at Death's promise.
Patrick, I know no brace is strong enough for thee tonight... though e'en the brace of Death is dissimilated, given the time; aye, though it be all of time.
Indeed, all is to change; one day we shall be no more, if indeed we ever were. So is this night to be understood - if e'en a star may plummet, we might fall - e'en though it be weakly. We are all dangerously plumb... but one cannot ascend without having the entire earth beneath.
None will be able to say.
An orphan 'm I, though older, I suppose -
O, Father! May I straddle on thy knee?
I have no father; thou hast no father, son;
O, Mother mayst console me in her lap!
You have no mother, son, thou'rt not my child,
Had I Death's favour, could I my loss recoup?
A master of his trade! He commissars
While eking out his due - O, violent Death!
Could not thy blade be softer? Fatal sting,
Couldst not thou sense that him thou entered were
Too gentle to be torn apart, thou ravenous Death!
Dost thou not feed on carrion enough
To ease thy hunger, that thou mightst consume
My father with mercy? Nay, thou ruthless Death!
No tact have thee, no grace have thee, thou dost
Arrange in law, then skirt about its fringe
To give th'critical pricks - sadistic Death!
Look, Jenner, thine instrument, lays dead at hand,
He died for doling Death, for dueling Death,
For hopes of living in accord with Death,
Now he's at one with Death, breathe not, thy chains are forged!
And Death himself is fatherless - who may
His doings command? Who mandates him? Who might
Alternately, then, mother Death? Not one,
For who indulges Death? But those who die -
Of those, not all. How were't conceived? In death,
And he, that ingenuous soul, of sympathy,
That sacristy to which my soul did trust,
And open to, to which I did divulge
My ev'ry longing, eldless Death - thou fiend!
Thou understood, for thou wouldst mold me thee,
An orphan 'm I, the bargain's struck, and yet,
I've yet to pay - someday, I'll be just as
My partnered Death. For now, tak'st thou a good
And thou must take a virtueless along,
To keep the balance - though, if evil died,
How could shy Death continue? Say thee to
Thy Jonathan, his wife is faithful, he
Would ne'er consent to express love for thee,
No matter how's manipulate the law.
Eternal souls may love eternal souls,
And Death is temporal, rules but for time,
Was nothing yesterday, but now removes
What yesterday did glow upon, tomorrow
Shall keep 't, but, yea, once time doth end
Death ends with it... how, then, are there tomorrows?
Sad Brisby's but a widow for today,
Two months ago no appellation such
Could her describe, but once tomorrow's o'er
The best of yesterday shall stay alive
As it could keep life always, e'en through death.
So, Father, rain still wets thy child's face,
Tonight, for time, no rain can e'er thee damp,
Thou'st rose through time, to see thy dream complete,
The Rats need find a home, farewell, house thee -
Where mak'st thine eternal nest? Choose as thou wouldst,
Thou hast attained a higher knowledge in death,
I cannot thee advise - though we've to go
In ignorance, thou must take thee alone
To find the form of our base, earthly home;
Take thee away, and search thee out thy rest
In bliss paternal on Elysian shores,
And manage thee across the heavenly moors.
He let his life go willingly,
Death had a soul determined. He passed life
Unto my child, one soul for another,
I know no price too costly which I could
Not painfully yield to Death - I know him well,
The bargain's struck, and Nicodemus' fallen,
If Ages kindly images me, this one
Bore me to obsolescence.
One thing, our widow.
My father was too long in life, I fear;
His age were ageless, by befallen Fate,
But death cares not for age. He planned too long
And saw too far, this field's deceptive, for
An endless plain doth flange it, 'tis a stage
So broad it may contain the plans of greatest minds,
And may be furnished by a bright imagination.
Though, scene by scene shall see us scurry through,
The boister and the play, however strong,
Dissolves before the coming players' throng,
Look deeply, and how far I see upon
This moor - why, he did call that we should watch
The sun upon 't. He thought he had the life
To it subtend. Why would he cross this waste?
To see some foreign mountains? No, not so,
No holiday needs such diplomacy;
To visit unknown beaches, or to sip
At founts of former myth? No, though these sights
May pleasant be, e'er lusty for the end
We troubadours will surely make. What end
Might Nicodemus see? The rising sun
Is too adjunct to satisfy his duty,
And is nearby to make his call fulfilled.
This is the one thing that might him relieve.
He now has traveled further than we e'er
Might, on the greatest mission for our world,
He died that we might never happy be
For soaring on another's way and work
And stilled himself far better than we could
That stilled we'll never be. O, such a song
When good is martyred in an ardent wrong -
Though ev'ry brave ambition evil may account,
And though it may entail the deepest pow'rs,
When once it trounces on a parriless good
Its hands fore'er will strike on perilous hours,
And though it has a friend in ev'ry burg,
Ten thousand phalanges have it circummured
And may it strike a light and tenorous chime,
Death seals it 'till the timorous end of Time.
No sabered dragon shall us now impede,
But, O, his fiery fall consumed our reed,
And not a wisp of wind from him we hear
Though as this worm did fall, his wings did break
Such soundings on the wailing air, I thought
No airy nymph deserved such punishment;
Our reed was brought to writ, his song is done,
And all the ills we suffer forge as one,
And though my songs to me appear innate
To sing them now is singing them too late.
O, life's too short to speak of too late's.
Upon this mare derise and sea of mist
Which on this night the cloudy heav'ns have kissed,
We learned to mourn and glower at the same,
For we were caught with love and goodly aim,
And though the nation's free, and so's her son
We cannot help but wonder how 'twas done.
May we have kept the object and our soul?
May we have used a portion, not the whole?
May we, poor siegements captured in the storm
Hence 'way ecome, and let them play their norm?
Though whe'er 'tis best that we abide or hide
The battle lets no luxury to decide.
Dual missives fire upon us, in the warring
Elements, the fixèd and the soaring,
We now address two parties in reply:
To Night with 'pfaigh!,' and to our friend, 'goodbye.'
5.3 - Outside of Mrs Brisby's house
[Enter, in an orderly, solemn procession, Justin, Ages, Patrick, and Brisby]
Vital children of the hour, bless thy loss!
For heroes may fall only for true cause,
In right the cozener's sword is bent askew,
Its iron scalded with reproach by love,
And softened to its shatter. Fright aside,
Once trouble's beat and bested in the good,
'Tis obligation to a victory feast!
But proud extolling has no virtues here,
The hero's vengeance cost his wizened life -
How evil hearts are jealous of the good -
For relished fancies did the villain fight,
And sad, sad victims view the whim-spilt blood.
I took this stance not to the evil nod
But rightly to its master; that is good
Can even devils' dismal doings distract.
The emperor Loss is fashioned to Love's court
And thence its mischief wrings, but swift recall
Shall call it, panting, lackeying to the foot
Of Hope and Mercy, courtiers Love, who crush
Its rowdy games with sceptres cut of truth.
Only in Love's first musings Loss has sway,
Love supernal shall deign to win the day.
Our clutch is shortened, and our fledgling race
Is gently winnowed, that no pest'lent trace
Of evil stains our lucent regal robes;
Just as in much disturbance Neptune's wroth
And in the trepidation foams the broth,
Yet battles fought upon the sea must e'er
Have uncontested victors. Mist or no,
Or thickened seas, we've faced this prurient foe
And now, we're tempered, sharpened for the day
When we shall only take our arms in waves,
As one meet, and away from instilled harms,
In one beat oar our way from NIMH's ill charms.
How true! I know the sage's son is wise,
And only pith and thrust becomes his eyes;
For parried was the thrust against our souls,
By hearts a'heavied by our civil wrongs,
And e'en in rescue did this hero die.
How rightly did he live! How long, to see
The story of his birth repeat itself;
In tripled ages did this warrior fight,
Once rhyme was wreathed in stillness, and the days
Our extant knowledge, gotten unawares
Was even new to us, now only that
Is timely to the world; the epoch third
Was coming to the knowledge of yon friend,
Her husband was our grateful servant from
The recalled outset of our mastery's hour;
The inset of our mystery's map, its key,
Needs shall and be fore'er our Jonathan.
These three and lengthy ages are now read,
The opened volumes speak of noble deeds
Amongst permuted good, which soared awry
And Helios did bid it to the sea!
The evils which can spring from vagrant good
Are reapplied to vicious wayward deeds
Which sadly are directed its forbears.
Now, truly, dead's the day of evil lore,
No requiem Nicodemus is complete
Lacking eager interment of evil days
Which e'en but they have age to remember,
Though time is stopped for them, they'll age no more
Not cumbersomely in NIMH's youthful droughts,
But haling health shall boast eternally
And reunited shall they blessings sing
Their iambs fashion to the heavenly court;
Tend supinations heav'nward!
Aye, and praise
Should ring in death, if e'er in life we raise
Our comfort past the rim of stagnant calm,
To pain, where action seizes reins; if alms
Are made of works stayed unaware the world,
Then must the bells of heaven toll; yet if
We set another heart condemned, for sith
We want no pain, then we've undone ourselves
Undoing someone else, the end's the cause.
So vile a shadowed being Sullivan was,
And yet so innocent.
A pall! a pall! Yea, gentle on my back
It's lain, I'd let it know some peace for change.
Nugae, it's small to make a head kerchief;
Good Brisby, nay, thy colours wear; how long
The light doth linger on the setting sun.
Let him uncovered lay, a witness to
His mourning eulogy. The night's his pall,
He'd have it so, he was unwilling snatched
From stations low, exalted high; he shone
Just as a star, and rightly he did die
At hands sim'larly raised, who failed to shine
With reason's brightness, he belongs his God,
He did not ask to rearrange the stars
Nor for a constellation in his image made,
But for his dells of innocence, and fields
Of warmth and wealth, and blest, untainted love
Which were him stolen, as when one is gi'en
The knowledge of evil, how swift one is wont
To utilize it! Earth's a hateful sphere
Of mud to those who love her most,
How could she lend the lowly precious things,
And yet deny them simple ways? Unfair
Are Nature's indiscretions, Earth's withhold;
Jenner's her foster child, let us return
Him to her care and warm earthen embrace.
Thou pair, thou Jenner and thou Sullivan!
Earth's children, thou art lost forever in
The endless flat of broad unsavory moors.
Wert thou a phylactery worthy of
Her pious brow, we should thee on a hillside set
Tho' we should march for miles, to the right
Reverence do, that we and she should both
Remember thee, but, nay, that never was;
Thy wretched wrongness should we hast'ly drop
Where thou first fell! Let earth accept you there,
But Nicodemus, O, no mountain, ne'er
How mighty, could thy peaceful form env'lop,
Nor could the broadest canyon swallow thee,
We shall then dig a shallow grave for thee,
That thy flame, tho' extinguished, should shine on
To ages visibly, a monument here,
We'll leave thee just behind a gauzy veil,
It shall be just as we were never parted,
Though, yea, thin veils are punctured easily,
The veil shall parted be, and then we shall
Parted be no more. All that lives, know life
Is living on - know sure and central hope,
It was our Lord who first said Lazarus was dead.
Expectant days, when Life speaks word of Death,
Are sure to follow. We can live no more
Near to our hero, we in rites bequeath
These spirits three to God, and then we shall
Take out the Plan, and then evaporate
Into the morning's mist, we are a myth!
We shall be vapourous figments of the night,
Of aether wisped and of strange dreams bedight.
How life's a dream for us! We never were,
It does exasperate, at that, exonerate,
Ex, ex, it never were! The mirrored world's
A dream to us, as we are naught to it,
But sanctuary's raiment coffs its fee;
For we are not exceptions Logos' plan -
The words we speak were lent Him from the first -
Nay, we were never new, yea, altered, then
We were here never meant.
Not here, perhaps.
The witness is this restless death. Silent
But never falsified; O, Jonathan!
Thy wife! thy children! Jenner, thou auld fool!
And Sullivan, thou ewest instrument
Which could be simply mewed! now mute,
And Nicodemus, tribute ill to speak
In glorious words, if thou art presently dead;
No breath I give thee in my using breath,
The air's a chill!
Thou hast spoke well, dear friend;
Yet other heartaches need we to attend,
Thou'st said thy share, I know that Death is cold,
And that thy reverence is matchlessly bold.
This small atoll we have well marked to stand
Is fine a place to see no distant land,
Let his unhindered ghost glide 'cross this sea.
We have seen Nicodemus to his death,
All here assembled were his instant friends,
We shall him mourn, for he had noble love
Which sought to save the sword he was for doomed.
'Twere true, he was his house, he was a rose,
Too good to cut ere picked, sharp after life.
The pink of health! the red of blood and life,
The snowy pallor cut from blood by death,
Are to be found in petals of a rose,
Though Nicodemus had fair many friends
To greater recruits was his spirit doomed,
He gave the demon bouquets in his love.
What was the outcome of his gracious love?
'Twere spurned, and for the bloodied flowers of Life -
For loving long, he was a mortal doomed -
The demon unrelenting gave him Death,
Now sprinkled white his grave is made his friends,
His house became too red for any rose.
How often can the token of a rose
Speak words emotive, and insinuate love!
Bedecked with flowers did he make his friends,
These followers who trod the ground of Life
Are but behind in crossing into Death,
'Tis expulse that all creatures are for doomed.
Say I, then, that we lossful souls are doomed?
Glance but again my object study, the rose;
First any flower meets her common death
To then betoken with her peers true love,
And as they grew together in their life
These blooms die chorally, e'en dry as friends.
No life takes worthy breath without good friends,
And those who cannot be a friend are doomed
To live as one bereft of any life;
For if a bud refuses to yield its rose,
This jealous flower's but thorns, with no one's love,
And irrevocably is sent with Death.
Yea, Nicodemus rose to heav'nly grace,
Though cut and dead, in life we're far the worse:
His friends are doomed to love him until death.
The concert's reached a silent measure of pause
To mourn its loss: the period of the piece
Which Nicodemus played; his bounteous reign
Was open-palmed to momently maintain.
I speak above his sleeping, lifeless face
Which no more may curiously investigate
The loves and lives of many a subject soul,
His law was lenient to be let control.
No more may he speak words in rhyming verse
To bind our measures to our given time
And to assure the truth throughout the whole,
His potency was poetry to rule.
But, we are done tonight with bricks and ropes,
And we are three in number less, but we
Have let the family of a friend remain,
Our loss is lessened in these others' gain.
Now we shall be away, the trauma's bound,
My nostrums ancient have proved wholly sound,
Though they were partioned in their implement,
They still, in every act, did benefit:
A placant drug, the wisdoms of an owl,
A court of high accourt and no accord,
The revelation of a hurtful doom,
And now, I've naught to give but a poor salve,
The highest skill is poor when loss is love.
No more's to do, we may our limbers lave;
If Loss is dead, then let us dig his grave.
5.4 - Outside of Mrs Brisby's house, on the morning
Foregone's the chill! Time, there's halt for thy means!
I thought today another day, a life
Now new, but nay, by Time the selfsame gov'rned,
By Time subdued. Halt for thy means! Reared up,
To there the lengthy past survey, and pluck
The tract of land we judged the wealthiest;
But tho' 'tis stopped, tho' Time's ill means are stayed,
And as a punished child he retreats,
Time can't undo the wrongs he's done before,
And's subject to the state of th' presidor,
One only rules, to change the world's affairs,
One power takes, to shape Life for themselves.
One modest stays, to share it with another,
And when one parents, powerless are we,
But grasped in power's vice, and gi'en a charge
With virtue and importance such the world
Seems petty. Time can't undo what he does,
Loss has no counterpart, for were Loss void,
Loss loses then himself, and to regain
What one has lost, is then and there to find
'Twas never lost at all.
[Enter Teresa, Martin and Cynthia, together]
Coming down from the mountain?
Coming down from thereabouts.
'Tis beautiful out, mother.
The fog has settled, and I see the mist retracted; the ocean lets forth her secrets. Were such a day a sunken continent? The seas cover more mystery than we could read into a dozen dreams. A fine day! A fine time to live.
Not such a quiet day, but not a day as would lose us.
The farmer's tasking day's at hand.
Indeed, it is. Up comes the hardened ground, Mother. Off comes the crust of a long winter, off comes the accretion of many weathered months. Below 'tis fresh and new, below it all, it is spring again! though, in a way, this is a winter scarring; we do not reclaim last autumn, but spring new.
So is the goal of every life, it seems.
What one desires, one wants but cannot get,
When one may get, one wants allowance more,
Contentment seems a foreign word to we,
Where is the end-all of the longing life?
Show me unto some savory meal, or whey,
It matters not, if it my longing quells,
Though wanting so grants temper of its own.
The seeds are planted, then; the ocean is evaporated; I see only clouds too sorry for the heavens taking it up. And the waters as fed this ocean... where are they? Drawn into the solitary deeps again, I suppose.
I should not ever cross that raging stream
So straightly, did I not take it off-kilt
Or arrow-straight, and orient myself
Towards other targets - why, this rushing melt,
Made mainly of my sorrow - how it drained
Our ocean field - 'twas not so swift at all,
But conjured was the brave illusion by
Our mobile passing. How if I did stay?
How if I should stay, and I silent should
Decide the sickness were a passing thing,
And not buttress against it, and if I,
Upon this lazed and idle resolve, did decide
That moving thee alone was how to stay?
When Selfishness doth clothe herself in Love,
Her baubles speak of serving, but her friends
May tell you that her jeweled finery
May not be spent to help them in their need,
But rather did they purchase them as gifts
And Selfishness her misnomer attired.
But Love, I say, 's the chasiest game there is,
And when thou'rt railed against the quiet side
Where some might find relief, give them it there,
But should thy playmates heckle from the field,
My children, pray, be all things to all men.
My children, take ye care when you're in love,
'Tis Love tears down what is, sets up what's not,
And makes uncertain that you were sure of
And drives to folly all that you were taught.
May rich men die in squalor? Nay, you say;
But rich men die in squalor every day,
Yet poor men die for Love, this final fire
Perfumes the province of their peasant's pyre.
Collate, collect, my children, all thy charm,
For life and living shield no one from harm,
Though scores of heartaches wreak thee, make thee well -
As body waxes, so shall wax the heart -
And Love, once finished, sets you forth to tell
How changed thou wert to better fit thy part.
[off-stage] O, this third time has me clapped for sure!
Is that what my toothache portends? Aye, should that be Jeremy as says 't, I should be taken ill today.
No, no, he comes on his own feet!
Although he swaggers strangely.
Seven by seventy! O, seven by seventy times!
Four hundred ninety, why, then?
Seven by seventy times I've passed her unnoticing, now she refuses the forgiveness any longer, and I'm legally bound to her indignation!
Thou'rt in love? And, thou'st a love?
O, is that what I shall call it? O, bound am I! and this time, I am clapped a'sure. Be mournful not, I am a wretch as should deserve this punishment, I am a fool as feels for this fate kindly. Ah, I am locked by the cords of law, pity me not... and never set me free again! O, never set me free again!
The shrew's confused, and so am I; what's love?
Kind children, I would tell you something - something I only now have learned, and something which is better learned only once.
'Today's secure, but never is tomorrow' -
When present gain-safe met uncertainty
I worried muchly, even as a child:
For what could happen? Should deficiency
Be thrown uncovered in me, what am I?
The very thought did tantalize my soul,
And did my youthful heart in bond consign:
Not valuable bonds, but chains of slavery,
The slavery of obsession. When I enjoyed
The warmth of life, this chill did seize my heart;
How if tomorrow did a cause upbring
To master me, prevent my furtherance
And seize my joy and life, as also passion?
For southerlies give way to arctic winds
When once their bellows let, therefore each joy
That dances lightly on a soul may bring
A tramping villain in the pace it trod,
And my heart's pace did race upon the sorrow, still:
But not the sorrow's self, its prospect, 'til
The visitor struck me, did I make the house
For his arrival prepared: first, children, Love
Becomes disclaimer; this, now, know at first
She is ye borrowed with but one guarantee:
And that the certainty that you'll be changed
Though always for the better. If you love
Yourself too much to be transformed, then you
Did never love, to love one's self is base
And may be managed by the lowest beast;
If you're in Love, she'll give you greater joys
And beyond greater joys, but ev'ry one
Doth leave thee vulnerable, open for
The poisoned shafts of Cupid's demon foe;
When any joy is lost, then momently
You shall bewail the loss, and notice then
That Love is but a stranger in Loss' lands.
But though in company Love racks your heart,
And though each joy doth bring immeasurable ache
Traject not off Love's path, part not thy ways
To seek asylum, once a foreigner found,
If you're estranged, think what you're wrested from
By Love: the option's vassalage to Loss.
A citizen in Loss is poorer than
A refugee in Love. Why dressed in rags
Do lovers peddle through Loss' domain?
Why stay they with this curious friend, this Love
Who slapped of joy and pain her articles makes,
And difficultly makes articles terse
For her forever-courtiers to obey?
The road they march's a main, through kingdom bleak
And at its end there stands a high-wicked gate
Which marks the boundaries of Loss' reign.
That road is Life, my children dear, and at
The gate a sentry stands, who's Death himself,
And beyond that are realms, where Loss is found
E'er powerless, these lands are ruled by Love,
And here are countless servants found of Love
Which Loss discovered, seeing them unfit
To slave for him, he exported them in wrath
Saying, 'These are your servants, they were mine
But idle wert, and seemed to hate my ways,
They ne'er did bring themselves to stem a friend
Nor did they comfit killing, nor did they
Derive great pleasure from the copping games;
No lust did fill their eyes, but lust for you:
Nor did they covet riches, gold nor gems
Nor comfort, pleasure, power, nor good food,
Nor dress, nor mind, nor body, nor estate;
Here, punish as you may, no craft's severe,
These useless targets, take ye for your aim,
And use them as you may - adopt your sons.'
Dispatch, dispatch, Love, thy vaunt-courier
To Death negotiate our crossing terms
And ope his toothsome gate, to us disclaim,
Decry, deny, in disassociation,
And then we shall denounce our love for him
And then, the more important: disavow our fear.
'Tis Fear's a villain, think ye on his ways!
And ponder now on his exemplaries:
The soul who is afraid of growing old
The soul who is afraid to have belief
The soul who is afraid to change himself
Finds repose in eternal changelessness,
And callouses himself to Love and change.
But shall I fear what I did fear before?
The past secure's tomorrow is the present's
And is there to be found deficiency
In me, in Love? What can't I do? To those
In love, the world becomes a fashioned toy
And all of life is sung where there resides
No end to certitude, no end to wealth,
No end to possible, no end to search,
No end to find; it does with ease what Pride
Would ne'er attempt.
Can I the earth upon her course o'erturn?
Can I the sun send spinning as a top?
Why would I desire 't? Then, Love's no place
For fear, and upon these delined regards
And recommendations, never employ fear.
'Today's secure, but never is tomorrow' -
But Love, the master of the insecure
And timid hope, who does not guarantee
A wealth of unbound joy, or even pleasure,
In claiming not to vow, she promises
With strength beyond the mortal's highest oath,
For God is love, and His creative joys
Do conquer in the end. - What of the rats?
What of these friends? They make across the mead,
Why do they it? Because they love themselves?
Not so - to die, for them, might be release,
For they are strangers, not only to Loss
But also to this very earth, to life
And so can bear their breath as we bear ill,
And name each day with new, original curses,
And greet each friend as but another trial
Unheard. They move because they love each one,
And for the whole, they do it for the duty,
And also that they may live morally
Because they honour the farmer's day and due.
Are they not like our caravan in Love?
Why, see them! On the flat, they stay along
Someday shall Love lead them where they belong
For ne'er such stable creatures she'd ignore,
For Death can never hinder life in Love
As Death's a spectre as holds little sway.
When large may see the smaller eye to eye,
They both will glean some truth they ne'er could scry:
The glass as shows the tiny to the tall
Doth oppositely make the larger small;
The wonderous see what they would never know,
And motier sorts condense the high to low.
But so, what is the addend of this tale?
Were I a history of these days conflate,
What should I say, how may I sum the words,
And how I may these mysteries relate?
As I am Loss and Fear's expatriate,
I shall it tell, tho' not as one turn'd green,
Nor as one first green, but one as knows truth,
And one as holds no whit of jealousy,
Though, truthfully, lack at what Loss expunged,
It is a story of life, but more, of faith;
A curious multiweb, spun from the lathe;
And to perplexities woven: hear this truth:
The oldest wisdoms e'er are sought in youth;
Those things too small to thresh, those things of size
And things too large for intake may comprise;
The brilliant lights which luminate the night
Consigns their captors, steals away their sight;
'Tis often sickness cuts away a wrong,
And often health that may the ill prolong;
'Tis oft the wise too prideful to be poor
And oft a fool who prides his wisdom more;
A quate and stilly day's a day of death,
A rushed and forceful day is full of breath;
To rest's to die, to move's to live, to stall
What you might say today's said not at all;
The dead whisper more intently than the living cry out.
That which is painful in the memory's set
Is often that too glorious to forget.
Adventures go unnoticed every day.
So meek and unimportant is my lot,
I'm small a purse of breath, of no import,
The world's abustle, trade and truth go on,
Yea, life and laughter take no note of me,
The tasks of men have little care for me,
We sleep, we struggle, still no pace was missed,
The ancient world we stand upon has blinked,
No more. But there's an anchored truth to this:
One must be truly great to take upon
One's self the trials of the small and weak.
For if God were not God, why should He pay
Attention to the prayers of penniless souls?
Though, now when thee the heather doth traverse,
Be thou acute and keen-eyed in thy walk,
Look'st thou upon the smallest thing thy path,
There may be epic fortunes in its train.
Ask thee from now the waters why they laugh,
Did they some happy resolution see
To some long mortal struggle near their banks?
Adventures go unnoticed, but I've lived
As Love directed me - Love doth give sight
To see the plight of others, and for them care -
Love doth derive the splendor from the rote,
From ordinary shows exceptional things,
And if I've truly lived as I was meant,
I can grow old now with no great regret.
The rats have moved us to another world,
What models make Man, that Nature can't undo?
They build an empire, with feet fashioned in clay,
The Golem falls, no piece is on another!,
Babylon's idolatrous caryatid
Doth tremble over time. Should Man grasp life?
Nay, e'en in his success he fails, for his
Innovations sponsored fall to dust,
And soon no soul can arguably tell
The crumbled remnants natural from of man;
Have they intelligence? Aye, so do I;
But they, ablaze, their fire is ablate,
The strongest futile mind is worth its price.
Have they a power? Aye, and so do I;
Their hidden flame may but illume their souls,
That they might suffer, and deny their acts,
Mourn, grieve upon the loss of doing good!
And, yea, these words, my children fair, one day
Will but in hardened ears be occupied,
Arraign for witness but the silent earth,
And be then borne by only mischief's Muse
As whispers on the coy and giftless wind
Which shall these wisdoms weather wittingly
'Til travelers passing don't discern which patch
My tiny insights e'er were cooped upon,
But, then, my children, Earth takes back her prize.
Was I some knowledge leased? It shall return,
Was I a talent loaned? May't interest bear,
We till the earth, to finger at its till,
We ply the earth, we gently, meekly, plea
That she might let our past return again,
And all we have is substance to stay on
As if she hates her swains, but then she lets
A pension for them, that they may suits keep
In persistence and diligence. What sight
Is given Man, but sight to persevere?
And what reward's in life, this world to flirt?
When Man steps forward, Nature's bar steps back.
Swift, off! Thou hast the turning earth beneath,
And no vainglorious, sensual detour seek,
Swift, to thy post! Thou'rt taken on a mare
Who masters thee, thou'st set thy strokes, take care:
When traveling legs doth falter thee and fail,
When terns may find no way upon a swale,
When faithful carriage cannot carry more,
When thou'st forgotten what reposition's for,
Sit down, dismount! When dizzied by thy head,
When members tingle, screaming for their bed,
When weak ye fall, when thou'st let in at last,
Then Time, yea, Time, thy mount, turns toward thy past.
Then in thy labour, revel - though stand ye can't,
When thy course finds its running's end, ye shan't.
Look long, and there thy traveling length survey,
And to another rider, life relay.
I've learned that love's a life as knows no death,
Nor does it let the subjects in its rule
Retreat in queasy greys and misty fogs
Of forgetfulness, which can blur the strength
Of its fiats and rule. What of life, then?
What cadence have I? Chords for all my life,
Conduction as I've never had before,
What music as I gracefully should sound
I'm not inculpate for - it is a round
And what I sing is but what I repeat.
The mournful strains we strained to sing before
Are lost upon the empty, endless moor
And we are left, a grateful pulse to beat,
And may not worry for that behind these feet,
It is the past, and past shall ever be,
An act now passed, a thing already done
And now our chorus echoes what the One
Did say at first, as one we sing again:
These are the ways of marlins, mice, and men.
Befriended, loved, bewildered and betrayed!
I'm now a life as has been multily stayed,
A station as a love, friend, envoy, wife,
No curtains e'er can close on such a life.
Though change makes, change comes swiftly to the stage,
I've not a tenant in the fantasies
I sometimes pleased myself upon an afternoon -
Why, is it not his trump upon the door?
Why, has he come again upon his step -
One hour, one balmy hour in the spring,
Would then release him, in that afternoon,
The hour dies, e'en if the hour came,
That hour dies, but, aye, I know the truth.
Stern, cold, keen, shivery, tempered, fire-iced sharp
May be the truth, ungiving, hard, without
An answer, bleak, unswervingly at post,
And unaccomadating in itself;
Life stays, and still goes on; a tiny thing
It is, too small to hold our largest loves;
This life's a child's plaything, and it tricks
Our minds, if we can not the outcome see:
It doth concern us little, but in love
There's answers many. Think that we would live
Except by Love, and thou deceiv'st thyself,
As children toy we on the name of Love,
It fascinates us, as the knowledge of
Adulthood makes us wonder, want and long;
Our life is nat'ral childhood, here we know
Love but as play, a hard, ungiving study;
We make it names, we paint it forms
But Love may always something to these add,
Some amendation make, some firm annote,
Some reason answer, or new insight give;
We then return the lesson in our play,
And learn we know no more of Love than before,
And in so knowing, find the lesson true.
My children, educated! Find this sage
No more or less in wisdom than you are;
Love is our childhood plaything in this life
Though afterwards we know it fullerly,
And 't always stays a true compatriot,
A playmate never lost, though better played,
A lesson never learned, though better known,
A unioned soul never in us a'twained,
And never one, but always all in all.
How can I love contain? I've told you all,
I've told you naught, I've told you as I've known,
But Love, dear children, speaks these things to you,
Would know you, love you, merrymake with you,
And fill Life's day with many diverse games;
Love is today a bauble, thing, a thread
To use unknowingly, unwittingly;
Nay, what speak we? 'Tis Love as tells it better,
My tale I let to Love, mark ye my speech,
If you do not well take it, whoso shall?
What when the kind do noxious things? What when
The nations move, and mutable ones stay?
How do we bear to lack our fondest loves?
What when the trees are tired, and birds are flown
To seek to warmth of other ambience?
How do we carry on, when living's drawn
Or evil overcomes the wisest good?
Is it not brutal, as the cynic saith?
We bear by love, continue in this faith,
By it we live, by it we stay, for all,
And when I love, it makes me feel so small.