(An Elizabethan tragedy in five scenes written upon the train from London to Bath after seeing a dreadful performance of Macbeth at Regent’s Park.)
Scene i. The battlements. Fellatio enters from the left, Retardo from the right.
Fel: What ho, Retardo—Hast thou brought me news?
Ret: First grant me leave to pay you such respects
As Eyeass falcons give unto their sires
Or would, if their unhappy lot . . .
Fel: The news?
Ret: Alas, the figures’s incomplete, my Lord.
I have not dwelt upon . . .
Fel: Just give the news!
Ret: When I did leave Nintendo, he did seem
All straitened by the word he had received,
And wiping rheumy tears from off his cheeks,
He quite proclaimed the grief that he did feel.
Fel: Get to the news, I pray!
Ret: He had been told
Old Clyster, setting sail with twenty ships,
His proud demeanor overawing wind
And sea alike, must in his quondam pride
Have given bold and untoward offense
To Neptune or to Triton, for the wind
Did so increase in fury that the sea
In piléd waves did surge and wrack upon
The wreck’s high carnage made among the fleet.
In frumious badinage it offered forth . . .
Fel: Just give the news, old man! The news! The news!
Ret: I do, My Lord, but there is matter here
For many minutes thought—or speech at least . . . .
Nintendo, vaunting forth his straitened state,
The rumpled fustian of his whilom speech
Did over-reach the vacant stewardship
Of mind and tongue. Whereon . . .
(In an excess of frustration, Fellatio throws Retardo from the battlements.)
Scene ii. Soliloquy.
Fel: How short a thing is life, though not as short
As is a short beer on a summer’s day.
But long or short, the ferment of its yeast
Can make it seem as though it doth increase,
Though that increase, itself, is diminution,
A step upon the road to being drunk.
Scene iii. Enter Dementio, a clown.
Dem: What pains thee, goodly sir?
Fel: Aroint thee, wretch.
I feel the torpid burden of my life.
Dem: What uppence will you give me if I show
By careful steps, your burdens are but light.
Fel: I warn thee, knave. Just get thee hence, I say.
Dem: For life’s a thing, or else it isn’t one,
And if no thing, it’s light, and if a thing . . .
(Fellatio throws Dementio from the battlements.)
Scene iv Soliloquy.
Fel: How hot we are in haste to do an act,
While yet our lives before us stretch away,
Like roads unto a distant country, where
Diminishing unto a point, they’re gone.
Our lives are like rude maps whereon we trace
A single route, while others open lie.
Such roads not taken might have meant a change
Of scene, of vista, view, or prospect fair,
Or then, again . . . might not. Each lane or street
Is different seen close up, but at a distance
All ways are just alike, grown indistinct.
‘Tis solely our ambition makes us think
Our roads lie solid red, not dotted blue.
Why do we move, why don’t we stay
In one fair spot, and watch life come to us?
Scene v. Enter Diminuendo with henchmen and underlings.
Dim: Dementio is dead, and so, alike,
Is poor Retardo. Young Fellatio
Has gone to spend his years in pious work,
In studying the malt and bringing aid
To thirsty travelers on the roads of life.
Enough remains to do. We set ourselves
To tie up all the raveled ends and bring . . .
Good governance—or else to be a king.
(Exits with henchmen.)
(Grasshopper steps forward to sing a song.)
Gra: ‘Twas when I was a tiny lad,
I saw a pretty maid,
A hood upon her maiden head,
Her hair tied in a braid.
With a hey and a ho
And a Ho Ho, so
And a Ho, Ho, Ho she said
‘Twas when I was a tiny lad,
Irrelevance was my trade,
And when . . .
(The underlings throw Grasshopper off the battlements and exit.)