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    Act II

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    Chapter 3
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    SONG-PRELUDE

    [Spring's Heralds try to rob Winter of his outfit of age.]

    Rear stage lighted up, disclosing Old Winter teased by the boys and girls representing Spring's Heralds.

    SONG OF THE HERALDS OF SPRING

    We seek our playmates, Waking them up from all corners before it is morning. We call them in bird songs, Beckon them in nodding branches. We spread our spell for them in the splendour of clouds.

    We laugh at solemn Death Till he joins in our laughter. We tear open Time's purse, Taking back his plunder from him. You shall lose your heart to us, O Winter. It will gleam in the trembling leaves And break into flowers.

    SONG OF WINTER

    Leave me, let me go. I sail for the bleak North, for the peace of the frozen shore. Your laughter is untimely, my friends. You turn my farewell tunes into the welcome song of the Newcomer, And all things draw me back again into the dancing ring of their hearts.

    SONG OF THE HERALDS OF SPRING

    Life's spies are we, lurking in ambush everywhere. We wait to rob you of your last savings of withered hours to scatter them in the wayward winds. We shall bind you in flower chains where Spring keeps his captives, For we know you carry your jewels of youth hidden in your grey rags.

    (Noon)

    [The rear stage is darkened. The band of Youths enters on the main stage. No actual change in the scenery is necessary--this being left to the imagination of the audience.]

    Ferryman! Ferryman! Open your door.

    Ferryman

    What do you want?

    We want the Old Man.

    Ferryman

    Which old man?

    Not which old man. We want the Old Man.

    Ferryman

    Who is he?

    The true and original Old Man.

    Ferryman

    Oh! I understand. What do you want him for?

    For our Spring Festival.

    Ferryman

    For your Spring Festival? Are you become mad?

    Not a sudden becoming. We have been like this from the beginning.

    And we shall go on like this to the end.

    (They sing.)

    The Piper pipes in the centre, hidden from sight. And we become frantic, we dance. The March wind, seized with frenzy, Runs and reels, and sways with noisy branches. The sun and stars are drawn in the whirl of rapture.

    Now, Ferryman, give us news of the Old Man.

    You ply your boat from one landing stage to another. Surely you know where----

    Ferryman

    My business is limited only to the path. But whose path it is, and what it means, I have no occasion to enquire. For my goal is the landing-stage, not the house.

    Very well. Let us go, let us try all the ways. (They sing.)

    The Piper pipes in the centre, hidden from sight. Ah, the turbulent tune, to whose time the oceans dance, And dance our heaving hearts. Fling away all burdens and cares, brother, Do not be doubtful of your path, For the path wakes up of itself Under the dancing steps of freedom.

    Ferryman

    There comes the Watchman. Ask him. I know about the way; but he knows about the wayfarers.

    Watchman

    Who are you?

    We are just what you see. That's our only description.

    Watchman

    But what do you want?

    We want the Old Man.

    Watchman

    Which old man?

    That eternal Old Man.

    Watchman

    How absurd! While you are seeking him, he is after you.

    Why?

    Watchman

    He is fond of warming his cold blood with the wine of hot youth.

    We'll give him a warm enough reception. All we want is to see him. Have you seen him?

    Watchman

    My watch is at night. I see my people, but don't know their features. But, look here, every one knows that he is the great kidnapper; and you want to kidnap him! It's midsummer madness.

    The secret is out. It doesn't take long to discover that we are mad.

    Watchman

    I am the Watchman. The people I see passing along the road are all very much alike. Therefore, when I see anything queer, it always strikes me.

    Just listen to him. All the respectable people of our neighbourhood say just the same thing--that we are queer.

    Yes, we're queer. There's no mistake about that.

    Watchman

    But all this is utter childishness.

    Do you hear that? It's exactly what our Dada says.

    We have been going on with our childishness through unremembered ages.

    And now we have become confirmed children.

    And we have a leader, who is a perfect veteran in childhood. He rushes along so recklessly, that he drops off his age at every step he runs.

    Watchman

    And who are you?

    We are butterflies, freed from the cocoon of Age.

    Watchman

    [Aside.] Mad. Raving mad.

    Ferryman

    Then what will you all do now?

    Chandra

    We shall go----

    Watchman

    Where?

    Chandra

    That we haven't decided.

    Watchman

    You have decided to go, but not where to go?

    Chandra

    Yes, that will be settled as we go along.

    Watchman

    What does that mean?

    Chandra

    It means this song.

    (They sing.)

    We move and move without rest, We move while the wanderers' stars shine in the sky and fade. We play the tune of the road While our limbs scatter away the laughter of movement, And our many-coloured mantle of youth flutters about in the air.

    Watchman

    Is it your custom to answer questions by songs?

    Chandra

    Yes, otherwise the answer becomes too unintelligible.

    Watchman

    Then you think your songs intelligible?

    Chandra

    Yes, quite, because they contain music. (They sing.)

    We move and move without rest. World, the Rover, loves his comrades of the road. His call comes across the sky. The seasons lead the way, strewing the path with flowers.

    Watchman

    No ordinary being ever breaks out singing, like this, in the middle of talking.

    Chandra

    Again we are found out. We are no ordinary beings.

    Watchman

    Have you got no work to do?

    Chandra

    No, we are on a holiday.

    Watchman

    Why?

    Chandra

    Lest our time should all be wasted.

    Watchman

    I don't quite understand you.

    Chandra

    Then we shall be obliged to sing again.

    Watchman

    No, no. There's no need to do that. I don't hope to understand you any better, even if you do sing.

    Chandra

    Everybody has given up the hope of understanding us.

    Watchman

    But how can things get on with you, if you behave like this?

    Chandra

    Oh, there's no need for things to get on with us, so long as we ourselves get on.

    Watchman

    Mad! Quite mad! Raving mad!

    Chandra

    Why, here comes our Dada.

    Dada, what made you lag behind?

    Chandra

    Don't you know? We are free as the wind, because we have no substance in us. But Dada is like the rain-cloud of August. He must stop, every now and then, to unburden himself.

    Dada

    Who are you?

    Ferryman

    I am the Ferryman.

    Dada

    And who are you?

    Watchman

    I am the Watchman.

    Dada

    I am delighted to see you. I want to read you something that I have written. It contains nothing frivolous, but only the most important lessons.

    Ferryman

    Very good. Let us have it then.

    Watchman

    Our master used to tell us that there are plenty of men to say good things, but very few to listen. That requires strength of mind. Now, go on, Sir, go on.

    Dada

    I saw, in the street, one of the King's officers dragging along a merchant. The King had made up a false charge, in order to get his money. This gave me an inspiration. You must know that I never write a single line which is not inspired by some actual fact. You can put my verses to the test in the open streets and markets----

    Ferryman

    Please, Sir, do let us hear what you have written.

    Dada

    The sugar-cane filling itself with juice Is chewed and sucked dry by all beggars. O foolish men, take your lesson from this; Those trees are saved, which are fruitful.

    You will understand that the sugar-cane gets into trouble, simply because it tries to keep its juice. But nobody is so foolish as to kill the tree that freely gives fruit.

    Watchman

    What splendid writing, Ferryman!

    Ferryman

    Yes, Watchman, it contains great lessons for us.

    Watchman

    It gives me food for thought. If only I had here our neighbour, the Scribe! I should like to take this down. Do send round to tell the people of the place to assemble.

    Chandra

    But, Ferryman, you promised to come out with us. Yet, if once Dada begins to quote his quatrains, there will be----

    Ferryman

    Go along with you. None of your madness here. We are fortunate now in having met our master. Let us improve the occasion with good words. We are all of us getting old. Who knows when we shall die?

    All the more reason why you should cultivate our company.

    Chandra

    You can always find another Dada. But when once we are dead, God will never repeat the blunder of another absurdity like us again.

    (Enter Oilman.)

    Oilman

    Ho! Watchman.

    Watchman

    Who is there? Is that the Oilman?

    Oilman

    The child I was bringing up was kidnapped last night.

    Watchman

    By whom?

    Oilman

    By the Old Man.

    Youths

    [Together.] Old Man? You don't mean it. Old Man?

    Oilman

    Yes, Sirs, the Old Man; what makes you so glad?

    Oh, that's a bad habit of ours. We become glad for no reason whatever.

    Watchman

    [Aside.] Mad! Raving mad! Have you seen the Old Man?

    Oilman

    I think I saw him in the distance last night.

    First Youth

    What did he look like?

    Oilman

    Black. More black than our brother here, the Watchman. Black as night, with two eyes on his breast shining like two glow-worms.

    That won't suit us. That would be awkward for our Spring Festival.

    Chandra

    We shall have to change our date from the full moon to the dark moon. For the dark moon has no end of eyes on her breast.

    Watchman

    But I warn you, my friends, you are not doing wisely.

    No, we are not.

    We are found out again. We never do anything wisely. It is contrary to our habit.

    Watchman

    Do you take this to be a joke? I warn you, my friends, it is dangerous.

    Dangerous? That's the best joke of all.

    (They sing.)

    We are neither too good nor wise, That is all the merit we have. Our calumny spreads from land to land, And danger dogs our steps. We take great care to forget what is taught us, We say things different from the book, Bringing upon us trouble, And rebuke from the learned.

    Watchman

    Ah, Sir, you spoke about some Leader. Where is he? He could have kept you in order, if he were with you.

    He never stays with us, lest he should have to keep us in order.

    He simply launches us on our way, and then slips off.

    Watchman

    That's a poor idea of leadership.

    Chandra

    He is never concerned about his leadership. That is why we recognize him as our Leader.

    Watchman

    Then he has got a very easy task.

    Chandra

    It is no easy task to lead men. But it is easy enough to drive them.

    (They sing.)

    We are not too good nor wise, That is all the merit we have. In a luckless moment we were born, When the star of wisdom was the dimmest. We can hope for no profit from our adventures, We move on, because we must.

    Dada, come on. Let us go.

    Watchman

    No, no, Sir. Don't you get yourself into mischief in their company.

    Ferryman

    You read your verses, Sir, to us. Our neighbours will be here soon. They will be greatly profited.

    Dada

    No. I'm not going to move a step from here.

    Then let us move. The men in the street can't bear us.

    That's because we rattle them too much.

    You hear the hum of human bees, they smell the honey of Dada's quatrains.

    Youths

    [Together.] They come! They come!

    (Enter Village folk.)

    Villager

    Is it true that there is going to be a reading?

    Who are you? Are you going to read?

    No. We commit all kinds of atrocities, but not that. This one merit will bring us salvation.

    Villager

    What do they say? They seem to be talking in riddles.

    Chandra

    We only say things which we perfectly understand ourselves, and they are riddles to you. Dada repeats to you things which you understand perfectly and these sound to you the very essence of wisdom.

    (Boy enters.)

    Boy

    I couldn't catch him.

    Whom?

    Boy

    The Old Man, whom you are seeking.

    Have you seen him?

    Boy

    Yes, I thought I saw him going by in a car.

    Where? In what direction?

    Boy

    I couldn't make out exactly. The dust raised by his wheels is still whirling in the air.

    Then let us go.

    He has filled the sky with dead leaves.

    [They go out.

    Watchman

    They are mad! Quite mad! Raving mad!
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