The New Parsifal: An Operatic Fable

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The New Parsifal: An Operatic Fable

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

THE PHOENIX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a Divinity
CIRCE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a Goddess
KLINGSOR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a magician
GURNEMANZ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .leader of the chorus
PERCIVAL SMITH. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .an Anglo-Philistine
PROFESSOR BRUCE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a classical archaeologist
GIGADIBS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a literary man
HARTLEY QUELCH. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a journalist
THE GHOST OF WAGNER
A LORD CHAMBERLAIN
AN EXAMINER OF PLAYS
CHORUS of quondam Grail-knights and flower-maidens

INDUCTION

(The LORD CHAMBERLAIN's office. An Examiner of Plays is seated at a desk before a pile of manuscripts. A Lord Chamberlain is lounging in an easy chair, smoking a cigarette.)

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
Well, Herbert, what's the next play? Will it do?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
I suppose so. I can't say I've read it through

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
Oughn't you to?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
                            No, really I'm not able.

(He hands a manuscript to the LORD CHAMBERLAIN.)

LORD CHAMBERLAIN. (Reading the title.)
"The New Parsifal. Operatic Fable."

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
To judge from the few samples that I took,
It seems a harmless footling sort of book.
The author must be a queer kind of ass.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
Why, it's in verse! Of course we let it pass.

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
I searched in vain for anything in the least
Spicy or blasphemous. It's true "high-priest"
Is biblical: but "high-priestess" sounds all right.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
Of course.

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
                  But Philistine and Ascalonite,
Isn't that rather strong?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                                        Mere literature.
There's nothing really offensive? You're quite sure?
No illegal operation, abuse of war,
Loose talk against the army or the Czar?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
Not a word.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                        No characters political
Or scriptural? No incest?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
                                           Nothing at all:
Not even pyjamas or an artist's model.
It's all the merest literary twaddle.
Verse never acts, bar Shakespeare; and even his
Best plays don't really go. But stuff like this!
Come, we'll have lunch; then let's slip in together
To the rehearsal of my "Peacock's Feather"--
P'rhaps a bit risky: but I hadn't the heart
To stop it. Nina's got a ripping part.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN. (Rising.)
Yes: but lunch first.

(The GHOST OF WAGNER rises through the floor. The LORD CHAMBERLAIN subsides into his chair.)

                                 Angels and ministers
Defend us! Who the devil are you?

WAGNER.
                                                          Sirs,
Know you not me?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                                 Are you the author?

WAGNER.
                                                                    What!
I the author of this blasphemous foul plot
Against my majesty, and the sanctitude
Of the Bayreuthian Grail!

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                                           Now don't be rude.
Pray calm yourself, and say whose ghost you are,
And what's your business here.--Have a cigar?

WAGNER.
Ye miserable bureaucratical clerks, gross irresponsible asses!
What, verily, know ye not me, the divine successor of Aeschylus and Gluck,
The revealer of supra-musical art, the supreme cosmic dramaturgist?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS. (Aside to the LORD CHAMBERLAIN.)
Who the deuce is this?--Mascagni, or Gounod, or Bizet?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN. (Aside to the EXAMINER OF PLAYS.)
                                                                                        Isn't he a German?

(To WAGNER.)

We're heartily sorry: we meant no offence. But what can we do for you?

WAGNER.
                                                                                                                 Idiots!
Blind strainers at butterflies, gnats and fleas! What camel is this you would swallow?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
But what do you mean? What camel? Is it this, this unreadable farce you object to?
There's not an improper or scurrilous line from the first to the last, I assure you;
Not a blasphemy even.

WAGNER.
                                      Blasphemy, fools! when it's one long blasphemous outrage
On the holiness of the Wagnerian Grail, and the sacred gospel of Bayreuth!

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
Has the stolen or parodied one of your plots, or adapted a drama without leave?
But why not then bring an action at law for infringement of rights?

WAGNER.
                                                                                                       Frivolous fools!
What then do you draw your salaries for? Hear me! From the realms of Elysium
Myself will I banish, and haunt your souls, a remorseless, vengeful Alastor,
In office or motor, stall or pew, dining, shaving, manicuring,
Acknowledging and spending two-guinea fees, pot-boiling or licensing ordures,
Till you do your duty and ban this filth, this foul sacrilegious abortion.

EXAMINER OF PLAYS. (Aside.)
Shall I 'phone for the p'lice?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN. (Aside.)
                                             No, that's no good with a ghost. Better try to placate it.

(To WAGNER.)

Come now, keep calm. Pray state your case. Explain what sections offend you.

WAGNER.
Talk not of sections; I speak of the foul metamorphosis and degradation
Of the Grail's true myth by this ape, who has had the facetious effrontery to argue
That the Knights of the Grail, grown weary at length of a chaste and holy religion,
Yea Gurnemanz even, have fallen a prey once more to the filthy seductions
And sorcerous arts of that Anti-Christ, Klingsor, that abominable eunuch.
So become now lord of the sacred Grail, the profane irreligious enchanter
Conceives this sacrilege incredible: from the temple of holy Monsalvat
Disenshrining the Grail, he embarks forthwith on a sea-going yacht with a vile crew
Of apostate knights and flower-damozels. Long storm-tost over the ocean
They wander afar, till at length they arrive--Oh adulterous hybridization
Of incongruous myths!--at the faery shores of Circe's Hesperid island:
And there, fulfilling his devilish schemes, this abhorred Nietzschean impostor
With unholiest litanies and black rites invokes the Arabian Phœnix--
Oh blasphemous insinuation!--in lieu of a white dove's purity, a gay-plumed
Pagan cockatoo Paraclete to appear, and hovering o'er the divine Grail
To unchristianize and innoculate it with venomous heathen infection,
Transformed to I know not what, to a vile Dionysiac emblem, a frivolous
Aesthetical drawing-room toy, a profane criterion of taste and of beauty.

EXAMINER OF PLAYS. (Aside.)
Oh hang it! I want my lunch.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                                                So do I.

(To WAGNER.)
                                                            My good sir, let me assure you
That before we decide, your views shall receive our most respectful attention
But the fact is, when there's a difficult case like this, we're obliged to refer it
To a useful little advisory committee of Stage-managers and Professors,
And prominent Silks, busy men of the world, who may take months, or perhaps years.
But I beg your pardon, before we part, would you be so kind as to tell us
Your name.

WAGNER.
                    My name?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                                      And the title too of the work you assert to be injured
And parodied by this play.

WAGNER.
                                            My name! Wagner is my name.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN
                                                                                               What, Wagner!
Can you be the author of that splendid wedding-march in Lohengrin? I'm proud
To have made your acquaintance.

(He offers to shake hands. The GHOST vanishes.)

                                                     Why, he's gone! What on earth did I say to offend him?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
I don't know.--Well!--That was a queer to-do.
Do you believe in ghosts?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
                                           Not I. Do you?

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
Of course not. Come along. It's half-past two.
I want my lunch.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN. (Seating himself at the desk.)
                           Just wait a minute first.
I mean to pass that stupid play.

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
                                                  You durst?

LORD CHAMBERLAIN.
Neither by man nor devil, Shaw nor ghost
Will I stand being bullied.

EXAMINER OF PLAYS.
                                           Don't you boast.

ACT I.

(A hall in CIRCE's palace. The whole further side is open from roof to floor, and between the supporting pillars is seen a wide grassy lawn surrounded by trees, and beyond that a distant glimpse of the sea. At one side of the hall there is a long table with dishes and wine cups set out upon it. Enter from within the Goddess CIRCE).

CIRCE.
Asses they were in mind and spirit. Now
Asinine shall their outward semblance be.
'Tis well.--And yet,
Methinks I have been too hasty with my wand,
Thus to embrute their silly tongues, ere first
I had questioned too closely who they were, and whence.
But such fantastic asses did they seem,
I could refrain no more, but changed them straight
To their own proper skins.
I scarce gave heed to their disjointed chat
About magicians, cups of happiness,
Oracles and so forth. But this I learned:
Their captain is a sorcerer of renown.
The more need then to use all wariness.

(Looking out between the pillars.)

See, here he comes, alone.
I must withdraw, and for him too prepare
A drug of onomorphic potency.
He looks less simple than his crazy followers,
And far more formidable.

(Exit within the palace. Enter KLINGSOR in ancient Greek dress. He stands outside on the steps, looking cautiously within the hall.)

KLINGSOR
Hither their footsteps lead me, to this palace
Of antique mystery and Hellenic grace.
Yet no life stirs.

(Entering the hall.)

                         A table, richly spread;
Goblets and dishes tasted and then left;
Wine spilt, stools overturned, as though in revelry
Broken by wild disorder or alarm.
Poor rash fools! Into what Circaean snare,
What classic beast-shapes have ye been bewitched?
But I, by the Grail's secret magic armed
Against the sorceress, why should I fear
Her wand and philtres, charm she ne'er so nicely?
Here then will I await her.

(Several men and women in classical costume are seen peering timidly round the pillars into the hall.)

                                           Begone, fools!
Back to your ambush till I call you forth!

(They disappear.)

Thus with disciples will it always be:
Then most in evidence, when least required.

(Re-enter CIRCE from within.)

CIRCE.
Stranger, I bid thee welcome to my halls.
I pray thee, tell me who thou art and whence.
By sea, I deem, not by land hast thou come
To this lone isle.

KLINGSOR.
                            True is thy word, fair lady.
O'er ocean hither did I fare by ship,
Of mortals the most sorrowful and forlorn.

CIRCE.
Sit, woeful stranger. Eat and drink your fill.
Feast and forget your cares.

KLINGSOR.
                                             Ah, gentle lady,
Not so may I forget my comrades lost.

CIRCE.
Alas, how lost? In battle were they slain?
Or have they drunk of the wine-coloured sea?

KLINGSOR.
Through drinking were they lost, yet not the sea--
Full half my crew.

CIRCE. (Furtively emptying the contents of a phial into a cup of wine that stands on the table.)
                               Poor sailors! So 'twas drink.
Wine is the seaman's bane.

KLINGSOR.
Something was this more strong than wine.

CIRCE.
                                                                      Indeed!

(The long-drawn bray of an ass is heard within.)

KLINGSOR.
What groans were those, as of a soul in agony?

CIRCE.
Were there no asses, stranger, in the land
Where thou wast born?

KLINGSOR.
                                      Asses of every breed.
Indeed I have on board a cargo of them.

CIRCE. (Offering him the cup of drugged wine.)
Come, drink this cup.
'Tis ancient Pramnian, and will cheer your heart.
Have not a doubt but you shall soon rejoin
Your comrades, safe and sober every man.

(KLINGSOR drinks the wine. CIRCE strikes him with her magic wand.)

On all fours! Down! Change thy skin and begone.
Thou ass, go join thy mates in Circe's stalls.
There eat thy belly-full, bray to thy heart's content.
Thou tarriest! Oh despair! My charms fail me!

KLINGSOR.
Less easy wilt thou find it, gentle lady,
Than thou hadst hoped, to make an ass of me.

CIRCE. (Kneeling.)
Slay me not, stranger! on my knees I pray.
Pity me. 'Tis but wretched Circe's way,
Forced by a fatal curse against my will
Ever to put to proof my magic skill,
Transforming every stranger's god-like shape
To braying ass, mule, hog, or gibbering ape,
Unless kind fate send hither o'er the sea
Some wise and valiant hero, such as thee,
One than myself more subtle, who may quell
My accursed sorceries by a mightier spell.
Ah, pity me! Wherefore should we be foes?
Tell me thy name, thy country, and disclose
Armed by what secret witchcraft in such wise
Thou hast mocked and vanquished Circe's wizardries.

KLINGSOR.
My name, my country will I not declare,
Nor shalt thou learn what secret charm I bear,
Till thou produce my metamorphosed crew,
Each re-translated without more ado
From bestial semblance and shape asinine
To human form and cuticle divine.

CIRCE. (Rising.)
It shall be done.

KLINGSOR.
                            Tarry not, but despatch.

(Exit CIRCE.)

So once more, Circe, hast thou met thy match,
Thanks to the Grail. Methinks a craftier guest
Than Odysseus shalt thou find in Klingsor. A jest
Most apt in very truth was this of hers,
Into asses to transform my followers.

(Enter from within half of the CHORUS, ass-headed, CIRCE following.)

CHORUS.
Hee-haw! Hee-haw!
Oh horrible, horrible! Faugh! Faugh!

KLINGSOR.
What's this! What, asses still! Earthquakes and thunderbolts!

CIRCE. (Striking them with her wand.)
Off with your heads! Obey my spells, you brutes, you mules, you dolts.

CHORUS.
Hee-haw! Hee-haw!
Give us our old heads back once more,
Thou cursed woman!
Our own clean chins, our soft cheeks, we implore.
Restore to us, oh please restore
Our hair, and make us wholly human.
Hee-haw! Hee-haw!

CIRCE.
Ah me! Alas! I can no more.

KLINGSOR.
Oh thou vile wretch, thou cursèd whore!

CHORUS.
Our tongues too are bewitched:--Hee-haw!--
We cannot speak three words or four,
But out comes belching a loud Hee-haw.

(Enter from without the rest of the CHORUS, human-headed.)

SEMI-CHORUS TWO.
What means this horrible hullabaloo?
Are these the lost half of our crew?
Master, master! What is this?
What miserable metamorphosis?
Oh vile translation! Can these be
Our comrades dear, by hellish sorcery
Of some charmed Circaean cup
Transformed to asses from the shoulders up?

SEMI-CHORUS ONE.
Yes it is we. Ah woe is me!
Hee-haw! Hee-haw!

SEMI-CHORUS TWO.
Their limbs, their figures, their costume
We recognise: but oh, what doom
Has replaced with a brutish mask
Each god-like countenance?

KLINGSOR.
                                              You well may ask.
Woman, for this thou diest.

CIRCE.
                                            Oh mercy! Kind Sir, spare me. My charms fail.

KLINGSOR.
Off with those damned masks! Shame on you, knights and ladies of the Grail!

CIRCE.
They are fixed. No force can rend them. Miserable me! what power,
Mightier than my own, yet baffles all my art, alas the hour?
Easily did I change their lower members back; but there my skill
Ceased, and from the shoulders upwards onocentaurs are they still.

KLINGSOR.
Thrice-accursèd witch, thou liest, and shalt perish in the flames,
If at once thou wilt not wholly disembrute these squires and dames.

CIRCE.
Listen! Have patience! Know'st thou not some power whose will perchance could thwart
Utterly my sincerest efforts to revoke the wrong I wrought?
Oh bethink thee.

KLINGSOR. (Bethinking him.)
                            Ha! Can it be?--Perchance.
Soon will I see.

CHORUS.
                            He stands rapt as in trance.

KLINGSOR. (Solemnly.)
I will unveil
The Grail.

CHORUS. (Awe-stricken.)
He will unveil
The Grail.

CIRCE.
The Grail! What's that?--A name I ne'er yet heard.
Is it a prophetess, or perchance a bird?

KLINGSOR.
It is a mystery. Thou sinful woman, kneel;
With reverent ears and awed regard attend, while I reveal
This hallowed talisman, whose powerful magic quelled
Thine, and preserved from thy foul arts my manhood unbespelled.
And ye my followers, thus shamefully encowled,
Worship in silence, lest these rites by brutish brays be fouled.

(From a wallet slung over his shoulder KLINGSOR takes an object swathed in a veil of gleaming samite; unfolding this, he reveals the Grail, a large ancient cup of crystal. He places it upon the table, and stretching forth his hands in adoration, addresses it in solemn hieratic tones.)

Thou vessel undefiled of life and joy and youth!
Thou divine fountain ever fresh of beauty and of truth!
Who through long shameful years, thy nobleness forgot,
To superstitious use enthralled by fools that knew thee not,
Yet now at length by me, your champion and true knight,
From dreamlands of ascetic gloom rescued to gladsome light...

SOME OF THE CHORUS.
Hee-haw!

KLINGSOR.
Close your vile snouts, you loons, you long-eared losel slaves!

(Recommencing his invocation.)

If from vulgar world's profane contagion o'er the waves
I have borne thee hither safe to this island's enchanted strand,
This fabled paradise on earth, this classic faery-land,
Deign then, thou Vase of Grace, thou the world's true hope and weal,
Deign in oracular response thy purpose to reveal:
On still from sea to sea is it our fate to roam?
Or here shall our toil cease? Oh here, in this blest island home,
Within these magic halls wilt thou not dwell enshrined,
Inviolate and aloof with us from the base swarm of mankind?

VOICE FROM THE GRAIL.
When out of the mystical Hesperian unapproachable art-cuckoo-land paradise,
Risen forth from his nest on the incense-tree compact of Arabian myrrh and spice,
The self-propagating, fire-insured, five-centuried, fabular Phoenix flies,
And over remote seas mightily wingeth his destined way through calm and gale,
Till pausing he circles down from the sky with pinions poised and outspread tail,
With divine re-consecratory might close-hovering over the magic Grail,
Then alone, then shall ye attain the blissful term of your homeless toilsome quest,
Yea then in aesthetic Elysian glory enshrined shall the Grail at length find rest.

CHORUS.
O wondrous voice! Sublime reply!
Yet dark, alas, thine oracle!
Its meaning who may comprehend?
Oh how, by what blest miracle,
Shall the Phoenix from the sky
With healing wings on us descend?
'Tis but a fable, a fond lie,
A poet's mythopoeic theme,
A beauteous superannuated dream.

KLINGSOR.
O gross, prosaic, unintelligent fools!
All is not false that's taught at public schools.
The classic fire-born Phoenix is no myth,
But a factual entity to conjure with.
Nay if perchance this were not so indeed,
Are not the best philosophers agreed
Truth is man-made, manufacturable at need?
If with strong faith we invoke the magic bird,
Doubt not our supplication shall be heard,
And the great Phoenix forthwith from the skies
Descending with poised wings and out-spread tail,
Hovering dove-like shall revitalize
To new and glorious life the aesthetic Grail.

(Turning back to the Grail.)

But O thou blessed voice, vouchsafe once more reply:
Is it thy will, or through this woman's wicked sorcery,
That these thy worshippers before thy very shrine
Remain degraded to foul shapes dimidiate-asinine?
Oh when and by what means, dismasked and undisguised,
Is it their fate to sing thy praise through lips rehumanized?

VOICE FROM THE GRAIL.
When the juvenile pride of Goliath's race, the redoubtable fire-armed Ascalonite,
From the wingless wheeled loud-snorting swift cloud-cruising aerial car shall alight,
And with truculent hand at the Phoenix' flight take iconoclastic blasphemous aim,
Then alone shall the symbolic ass-eared masks, penitential emblems of folly and shame,
Firm fixt by the Phoenix' will, drop off from the shoulders of dedicate squire and dame.

CHORUS.
O blessed voice! Response divine!
Yet dark, alas, thy will!
Extinct we deemed Goliath's race,
Nor knew Philistia had place
Among earth's nations still.
Yet soon, soon may the destined sign
Appearing in the skies
From penal semblance asinine
Release thy votaries!

KLINGSOR.
Would that not only to the outward view,
But inwardly in mind and nature too
You might be changed. But that's too much, alas,
To hope for. Once an ass, ever an ass.
Since then the Grail so wills that these awhile
Remain thus vizarded in monstrous style,
Thine outrage, Circe, will I now forgive.
Well didst thou merit death; yet shalt thou live,
To be my hostess. Nay perchance, if here
At the incantation of our blended prayer
The legendary Phoenix shall appear,
The queen then and high-priestess shalt thou be
Of the grand aesthetic Grail, conjunct with me,
Its pontifex and king to all eternity.

CIRCE.
Most generous hero, yea right willingly
Thy hostess will repentant Circe be.
Oh soon may the blest Phoenix with swift flight
Wing hitherward and o'er thy Grail alight,
That so I may become of this divine
Mystery the priestess, and my house its shrine.

KLINGSOR.
Come then, forthwith in delicate lyric phrase,
And solemn-chanted litanies of praise
Fervently to the Phoenix let us lift
Our supplication that his approach be swift.

Thou eternal, increate,
Solitary, self-consumed,
Self-begotten, fire-enwombed,
Quintaesthetic Celibate!

Thou the Father, thou the Son,
Thou the world-consoling Bird,
Mystic auto-spoken Word,
One in three and three in one!

By thy nest of myrrh and spice;
By the cosmic song thou pourest,
When reborn aloft thou soarest
From thy pyre in Paradise;

By the thunders of thy beak;
By the splendours of thy wings
Plumed with lambent lightnings,
Hear, O hear us, thou unique

Unapproachèd Sanctity,
Beauty's sacred Fount, whence flows
All verse, all poetic prose,
Plastic art and melody!

Hear, O hear us! Make thou no delay!
Swiftly to Circe's isle wing thou destined way.

CHORUS.
Hither across the waves, voyaging far and few,
A devout, chosen band,
At the will of the Grail leaving for ever behind
The degenerate vulgar swarm of profane humankind,
Following the oracle's voice, sea-wearily on we roam,
Without rest and without home,
A dedicate idealistic storm-tost crew,
Bearing the sacred Grail
Unhouseled, disestablished, unenshrined,
From land on to land.

Listen, O best of birds! Listen, and spread thy wings!
O speed, speed thy flight!
From thy secular nest spiced with Elysian myrrh,
Paradisiac odours sweet, with a swift strong-winged whirr
Winnowing the infinite air, soar grandly aloft and sail
Without pause through the vast sky,
Till hovering close with mystic tail outspread,
Down on the Grail thou shed,
Like manna dropping gently from God's eye,
Divine healing might.

Listen, O best of birds! Listen, and spread thy wings!
O speed, speed thy flight!
Hither, fly hither O Phoenix dear!
Thou hapax-legomenon!
Perfect auto-spoken word!
Sexless ideated bird!
Eggless ornitherion!
Appear! Appear! Appear!

CHORUS. (Severally.)
Hark!
What sound is that from afar?
What vehement rhythmic pulse
As of mighty wings violently wuthering and rushing?--
Is it he, he that cometh?
More near! Hark! More near!--

Tremulously with terror my heart drummeth.--
With eyes veiled and with bowed head,
Human or asinine,
Kneel we in holy dread.--
Louder and louder it whirrs and hums.
He comes! He comes!
The Phoenix, the divine!

(A loud whirring noise is heard, and suddenly a monoplane descends violently onto the lawn a few yards from the steps of the hall. A YOUNG MAN in grotesque airman's costume scrambles out and stares about him bewilderedly.)

YOUNG MAN.
Christ, what a bump! Well, that was a close shave!
Silly old Bleriot, I'll teach you to behave.
Now by the living Jingo what's on here?
Great Scott! It seems we're in for something queer.
Is it the Pope upon his honeymoon?
Or a pageant rehearsal? Well, we'll find out soon.
I say, you people, what's up? What's the joke?
Don't stare like that. Answer, you silly moke.

(He has entered the hall, and now shakes by the arm one of the ass-headed Grail-worshippers, who gape upon him in astonishment.)

GURNEMANZ.
Forbear, rash sacrilegious youth! Unhand
Yon minister of the Grail! Know thou dost stand
On holy ground?

YOUNG MAN.
                            You don't say so! Well, I'm blowed!
Is this a church?

GURNEMANZ.
                            It is the Grail's abode.

YOUNG MAN.
The Grail!--Ah yes!--Sorry, old man! I swear
I meant no offence. But do please tell me where
On earth have I been stranded. 'Pon my soul,
These three days, ever since I left the Pole,
I've lost all reckoning. This isn't, I suppose,
One of the South Sea archipelagos?
You can't be cannibals, since you all wear clo'es--
Damned queer ones though.

GURNEMANZ.
                                              Silence, thou profane youth!
With reverent mind hear now the wondrous truth--
This isle is Circe's.

YOUNG MAN.
                                 Circe's island? What?
I never heard of it.

CIRCE. (Smiling.)
                               I dare say not.

YOUNG MAN.
In the Pacific? A Philippine perhaps?
Please show me.

(He pulls out a map from his pocket and opens it.)

CIRCE.
                            You won't find it in your maps.

YOUNG MAN.
Uncharted then?--One of some coral group?
Now that's romantic: a wrecked travelling troupe
Of players, rehearsing on a desert isle
Selections from their repertoire, to beguile
The holy boredom of waiting for a sail.
What's your piece called? I think you said the Grail.
Musical farce or pantomime: I see.
What jolly life-like masks! Pray don't mind me.
I'll sit here in the stalls and smoke my weed,
If the ladies don't object. Do please proceed.

CHORUS.
Veil, oh veil
From profane eyes the Grail!
Oh ribald sacrilegious tongue! Oh base
Impudent vandalism!
Here in the holy place
To sit and smoke a pestilent cheroot,
Oh the foul brute!
And scoff at our symbolic ritualism,
As though the Grail's high mysteries were a play,
Mere frivolous histrionism,
And all its knights and damsels merely players.

YOUNG MAN. (During Chorus.)
They seem annoyed. What the deuce did I say
To rub them the wrong way?
Is it all because I called their prayer-meeting a play?

CHORUS.
From the Grail's holy shrine
Let us thrust forth this uncircumcisèd dog,
This graceless hog!

CIRCE.
Beware! What if this be the destined Philistine?

CHORUS.
So it may be. Best wait and see.
(To KLINGSOR.) But at least veil the Holy Grail.

KLINGSOR.
Peace, long-eared fools! You ass-born mules!
No eyes behold the sacred vase, but they
Whom its high will permits and guides upon the way.

(CIRCE now advances towards PERCIVAL, carrying a bowl of wine.)

CHORUS.
What's Circe up to? Has she drugged that wine?

YOUNG MAN.
Here comes the leading lady. I say, she's fine.

CHORUS.
If this be he, the bold
Cloud-cruising Philistine,
By the oracle foretold,
From semblance asinine
Fated to set us free,
Oh if this indeed be he
Let not the accursèd witch before
Our former shapes he first restore,
Be at her old tricks once more,
And with drugged wine transmute
His limbs and brain to brute.

CIRCE.
Whoe'er thou art, Grecian or Philistine,
Welcome, bold youth, to Circe's halls. This wine
I pray thee take. Drink: it will cheer thy soul.

YOUNG MAN.
Thanks, lady. But when I set out for the Pole,
I swore I wouldn't touch wine for a year.
If you had some whisky now, or stout, or beer--

CIRCE.
For such gross liquors here we have no use.
But wherefore dread this generous Pramnian juice,
Sacked Troy's coaeval? A draught so divine
Thy vow ne'er contemplated. This is no wine,
But very nectar.

YOUNG MAN.
                            Well, since you insist,
I own I'm far too thirsty to resist.

THE ASS-HEADED SEMI-CHORUS.
Beware! Drink not! The wine
Is drugged. Abstain! Abstain!
Unless thou too wouldst fain
Be transformed to a beast.
Our shameful fate thou see'st.
Beware, bold Philistine!

YOUNG MAN.
What do these donkey-headed gentry mean, I'd like to know?
Why do they shake their ugly mugs and jabber round me so?
A Philistine! What silly rot! Do you mean a kind of Jew, or what
The devil is your meaning, pray? You'd best be careful what you say.

CHORUS.
Art thou not then that Philistine, scion of great Goliath's line?

YOUNG MAN.
A Philistine! Oh, drop it, do. Can't you see? I'm an Englishman.
There's my card: I'm Percival Smith--of the Aero Club and the Travellers' too.
You'll find all about me in Who's Who. Not let it alone please, if you can.

(He drinks, then turns to CIRCE.)

Lady, your wine's the sort of stuff
Of which one can never have enough.

CIRCE.
Wise is thy trust, fair youth. Within the bowl
There lurked no treacherous spell, but some few drops
Of cordial quickening poison, whose kindly might
Shall medicine thy soul, kindling therein
Desire unfelt before, a generous thirst,
Which Beauty contemplated and possessed
Alone may quench; that so thy spirit, which now
Through its divine inheritance wanders blind
And without comprehension, like a child
Through a gallery of old masters, may attain
Its perfect scope and godlike amplitude
Of visionary intelligential power.
Now with awed contemplation silently
Watch, listen, and understand, if so thou mayst,
While we in solemn psalms and litanies
Following our great hierophant, once more
Hither from its Elysian nest invoke
The divine fire-born bird. Reverently
Await thou the event.

(She returns towards the altar.)

PERCIVAL. (Aside.)
                                   Yes, she is fine.
What a figure! What a neck! And what a voice!
I understood scarce half of all she said:
But things don't seem somehow
Quite what they were before I drank that wine.
I suppose it must have got into my head.
What a filthy mess I'm in! She must have loathed
My horrible get-up.
Everyone here seems so daintily clothed.
Oh, what a lovely cup!
I'd like to buy that now.
I wonder if they'ld sell it me. I've got
My cheque-book with me: but I fear that's not
Much good on this queer island. Anyhow
I can come back next year on my steam yacht.

KLINGSOR.
Come now, my comrades, again let us lift our adorant canticles of praise
To the self-generating self-consumed lone sexless Wonder of Wonders.
Singing how in the backward abysm of Time, in the dim preglacial eras,
From grovelling soulless bestial lumps, mankind were redeemed and ennobled
By the Phoenix bird's compassionate grace to divine speculation of Beauty.
   When erect and tailless at length emerged from the ape and the grisly gorilla,
Our primitive sires, proud then was the heart of the wise and crafty Prometheus.
For alone he, pitying their abject state, insensibly impenetrating
The obscurity of their witless minds, had kindled therein the divine birth
Of Reason, a fitful flickering flame, and of Reason's infinite offspring,
Vague luminous hopes, dark stealthy desires, unquiet dream-vast meditations,
Love's passionate star, hate's smouldering glow, shames, virtues, sins, heroisms,
Tyrannous self-torturing thoughts, despairs, idols of fear and devotion.
Thus evil and good in ruinous flex evermore confusedly mingling
Conflicted and strove, till the soul of Man was a grim fuliginous hell-pit
Of seething anarchical hatred and ire, horror, desolation and anguish.
Sorrowful was the heart of Prometheus then, as he viewed the disastrous abortion,
The beloved first-born of his own proud thoughts. No remedy, no reparation
Could his wise wits find for the woe he in folly had wrought. Long dismally brooding
Through the earth he roamed, till before him, lo! the majestical Hesperian tree,
And there in the bowery whispering boughs sat the Phoenix loftily embost,
In prophetic sibylline trance dreaming. Yet he roused him beholding the wanderer,
And his speech was an orphic rapture of song as he cried: "Hail, mighty Prometheus!
Thou friend and liberator of mankind! The revolving years are accomplished.
Nobly hast thou done. Yet learn that alone by the light of Reason illumined
Man's frail somnabulant earth-bound soul thrives not, but dazzled and wildered
Staggers aimless and joyless, spectre-pursued deathward. So baleful a pilot
Is heaven-born Reason alone. But thou, despair not: dark though the night seem,
Yet the dawn of Man's salvation is night.--O heart with divine fire laden!
Too long in lonely oblivious joy thou hast dwelt trance-rapt an enchanted.
Mene! Thine hour is come. I have weighed, I have judged thee.--Tekel Upharsin!
Break blossoming forth: unfold thee in fierce spontaneous autocombustion.
O glad self-holocaust! O blest throes of sublime volcanian anguish!
Burn! Burn! Melt! Rise in dissolving clouds of rich world-comforting incense,
Impregning the vast ubiquitous air, that inhaled with the breath of his nostrils
My Deity entering Man's vexed mind may awake therein the serene-eyed
Transfiguring Spirit of Wonder and Love, the august revelation of Beauty."
   Faint sinks now the song, fierce rages the fire in flagrant mastery exulting.
In vaporous incense clouds upborne vanishes the divine immolation.
But lo! from the womb of the flame-girt pyre with a wild birth-paean, a bright-plumed
Strong-pinioned splendour zenithward sprang, very Phoenix of very Phoenix.
Awe-stricken in wonder Prometheus stared on the incredible resurrection.
Glad presage of hope uplifted his heart pondering the portentous announcement.
And thenceforth Man, inbreathing the air with vapour of Deity pregnant,
Ofttimes in his fevered turbulent heart would feel strange eager emotions,
Contemplative ecstasies and calm joys, Beauty's harmonious offspring.
Yea thenceforth, when five times the revolving cycle of centuries endeth,
Once more for the regeneration of Man's lapsed soul doth the heart of the Phoenix
Break forth into fragrant blossom of fire, love-kindled, self-immolating.

(During the preceding incantation the Phoenix has entered unnoticed with noiseless flight, and is now hovering on spread wings under the roof of the hall, directly above the Grail.)

ONE OF THE CHORUS.
Lift up your eyes! Behold!
It is he! It is he! Lo, he is come! He is here,
Hovering on gorgeous wings and outspread tail,
The Phoenix, the divine!

KLINGSOR.
Nay veil, veil we our eyes!
Bow we in holy dread,
Knights and damsels of the Grail!

PERCIVAL.
Lord, what a ripping bird! What plumage! What a swanky tail and crest!
Birds of paradise and peacocks are not in it. Well I'm blest!
Lucky I've just one cartridge left. I must have a shot. Steady now! Take time!
Keep still, my beauty! Only a moment! To miss you would be a downright crime.

(He takes careful aim at the Phoenix with his revolver: at the same instant the ass-heads vanish from the shoulders of the SEMI-CHORUS.)

SEMI-CHORUS.
Io! Io! They are gone, they are vanished in air!
O Joy! We are (men/women) once more, cheek, (beard/chin), and hair,
Rehumanized, rehabilitated,
Recapitated, disasinated,
By thee, O noble Philistine,
From unutterable onocephalic shame
Incredibly liberated!

(They crowd joyfully round PERCIVAL.)

PERCIVAL.
Confound it, you've gone and spoilt my aim.
Get out of my way, you stupid swine.

GURNEMANZ.
Hold, madman! Check thine impious hand!

(PERCIVAL fires.)

PERCIVAL.
                                                                     Got him!

CHORUS.
Oh woe! woe!
Horror, oh horror! The Phoenix is slain!
Otototoi!

CIRCE.
                  You wretched boy!
What have you done?

PERCIVAL.
                                      Why! Oughtn't I to have shot him?

CHORUS.
He is slain! He is slain!
Fast o'er the Grail the sacred blood-drops rain.
Feebly he flutters down. The fiery bolt
Clean through his heart has gone.

CIRCE.                                         You stupid dolt!
Why did you shoot? You should have aimed, not fired.

CHORUS.
Ah! Misery and horror! The Phoenix hath expired!

(The Phoenix has now fallen upon the Grail, and lies there motionless. They swarm menacingly towards PERCIVAL.)

Where is that dog-souled, sacrilegious, uncircumcised blasphemer?--There!
Tear him in pieces! Seize him, spare not! Rend him limb from limb!

CIRCE.
                                                                                                          Forbear!
He knew not what he did. Oh spare him!

CHORUS.
                                                                  Hence, false sorceress!

CIRCE. (To PERCIVAL.)
                                                                                                          Fly, oh fly!

CHORUS.
Stand not between us and our vengeance, else with him thou too shalt die.

PERCIVAL.
Back! unhand her! Back, you brute! Keep your distance, or I'll shoot.
Yes by Heaven, I'll make a Phoenix of the first of you who stirs.
What have I done? Come now, speak plainly. What's your complaint against me, Sirs?
Have I shot your tribal totem?--violated some taboo?
Is it a case for compensation? Name any sum you think will do.
Here's my cheque-book--Hundreds?--Thousands?--Whatever you consider fair.

GURNEMANZ.
O vain fool, dost thou suppose...

PERCIVAL.
                                                       Of course I'm not a millionaire,
But within reason--

GURNEMANZ.
Put up thy cheque-book, fool, nor insolently dream
Thus by traffic of base wergild a God's murder to redeem.
No, death, death by dilaniation for thee, thou deicide accurst!

PERCIVAL.
Just as I feared; I've shot their totem. I think they might have warned me first.

CIRCE.
Oh how could you be so stupid? You should have merely taken aim,
Not shot your bolt.

PERCIVAL.
                                 They never told me: then how the deuce was I to blame?

CHORUS.
Seize him! Rend him!

PERCIVAL.
                                   Back, you ruffians!

CIRCE.
                                                                    Oh, look, look! Lithe tongues of flame
Shoot forth from the Phoenix' feathers, leaping, quivering, higher, higher!

CHORUS. (Turning towards the Grail.)
Yea, behold! O mystic wonder! The Grail is now the Phoenix' pyre.
Kneel, oh kneel in adoration round the world-consoling fire!

(The CHORUS abandoning PERCIVAL, hastily assemble about the Grail and the flaming Phoenix).

CIRCE. (To PERCIVAL.)
Fly now, fly! But take me with you.

PERCIVAL.
                                                          I am so sorry; there isn't room.

CIRCE.
Good youth, leave me not thus loveless to my lone eternal doom.
Take me with thee to the vast and boundless world where heroes dwell,
Noble and great of soul as thou art. Leave we here these miserable
Brainsick Grail-adoring asses. Take me with thee, I entreat.
I am Circe: yea, I love thee. Spurn not a goddess at thy feet.

PERCIVAL.
I'm so sorry. Indeed there isn't room for more than one, I swear!
For your own sake I dursn't do it. We'ld just turn turtle in mid air.

CIRCE.
Wilt thou then forsake me?

PERCIVAL.
                                             Yes, dear. But I'll be back soon on my yacht.
To fetch that crystal cup and you; (I've set my heart upon that too;)
Then straight for England.

CIRCE.
                                           Ah, my noble hero!

PERCIVAL.
                                                                             Stay! I quite forgot.
How am I to re-find this island? It's uncharted, is it not?

CIRCE.
Yes: but take this Phoenix' feather: wear it o'er thy heart. Its spell
Back hither across the pathless waves shall guide thee true. Now fare thee well!

PERCIVAL.
Good-bye.

(PERCIVAL now busies himself with the engine of his aeroplane, while the CHORUS kneel around the Phoenix, chanting at first in low tones, but with gathering volume as the hymn proceeds.)

CHORUS.
Thou eternal, increate,
Solitary, self-consumed,
Self-begotten, fire-enwombed,
Quintaesthetic Celibate!

Thou the Father, thou the Son,
Thou the world-consoling Bird,
Mystic auto-spoken Word,
One in three and three in one!

By thy nest of myrrh and spice;
By the cosmic song thou pourest,
When re-born aloft thou soarest
From thy pyre in Paradise;

By the thunders of thy beak;
By the splendours of thy wings
Plumed with lambent lightnings,
Hear, oh hear us, thou unique

Unapproachèd Sanctity,
Beauty's sacred Fount, whence flows
All verse, all poetic prose,
Plastic art and melody!

O martyred deity, dolorously slain
By the savage and outrageous spite
Of the cruel Ascalonite,
Deign, oh deign,
Ere the sacred flames have dwindled,
Ere the clouded incense languish,
Forth from the passion of thy fiery anguish,
Forth from the glowing embers of thy fragrant heart love-kindled,
From thy body's crumbling tomb,
From the Grail's ash-hallowed pyre, as from a womb,
Reborn and self-engendered to arise,
And leap a living splendour, very Phoenix of very Phoenix, to the skies.

(The reincarnated Phoenix emerges from the core of the flames with a piercing birth-cry, and springs skyward on rushing pinions through the pillars of the hall.)

Io! Io! The Phoenix!
The Phoenix is reborn!

PERCIVAL. (Leaping into his aeroplane, and starting the engine.)
Why, there's the selfsame bird I shot, once more.
I wish I'd another cartridge. What a bore!
But it must have been confoundedly hard hit.
It can't fly far. I'll give it chase a bit.

(The aeroplane begins to rise.)

CHORUS. (Hurrying out fiercely onto the lawn.)
Ha! Seize the imperious deicide! Drag him forth
From his winged chariot! Hurl him down to the earth!...

(Turning from their vain pursuit.)

Too late! Beyond our vengeance, lo, he soars!
Horribly his dread air-steed snorts and snores.
Behold, fast, fast, high over the sea's surges
After the Phoenix furiously he urges
His fell pursuit. Now shall he overtake...
Now shall he slay him...Fearfully my knees quake!...
No, no! For behold!
Easily with strong measured stroke of wing
The mighty bird outstrips its blustering
Demon pursuer, who now with flagging pace
Swoops southward, swerving baffled from the race.
Io! Io! The Phoenix, the divine!
Foiled is his foe, the bloody Philistine.

(KLINGSOR, who ever since the appearance of the Phoenix has been standing beside the Grail, contemplating the tumult with an unmoved countenance, now comes forward and addresses the CHORUS with majestical serenity.)

KLINGSOR.
Marvellously, O my comrades, have ye now beheld
The auspicious oracles of the Grail fulfilled: for now,
Chosen by the Phoenix to be the pyre of his sublime
World-quickening holocaust, the holy Vase of all delight
Reconsecrated and revitalized to new
And nobler operant powers and uses, here at last
Peacefully within these magic halls cloistered aloof
From the vulgar world's profaning eyes, in aesthetic
Unviolated sanctitude shall dwell enshrined.
And ye, by Circe's truth-revealing sorceries
Shamefully to asinine semblances transmogrified,
With thankless hearts blame not the bold Philistian youth,
The uncomprehending, fate-appointed instrument
Of your deliverance, and of the lone eternal bird's
Fiery resurrection. All that hath befallen is well.

CHORUS.
Many shapes do divine-wrought marvels take,
Many deeds unhoped do the Gods ordain,
And events men looked for are not fulfilled,
And to things undreamed Fate findeth a way.
Even so this mystery endeth.

END OF ACT I

ACT II.


(A lawn before the Palace of CIRCE. In the background is the pillared front of the open banqueting hall. Trees and bushes surround the lawn on either side, and in the middle is a small marble altar, beside which CIRCE is standing meditatively.)

CIRCE.
Twelve months, and he returns not! Twelve slow months!
Am I forgotten then? Ah witless Circe!
Hadst thou no love-potions in thy store,
That thou must needs intoxicate his soul
With the mere lust of universal Beauty,
As though thereby to seal him for thine own,
And lure his wandering fancy back to thee,
Beautiful and a Goddess as thou art?
A Goddess!--Oh eternal irony
Of deathless, loveless godhead, to this curst isle
Time out of mind stupidly thus condemned!
Nor even in mine own house am I now mistress,
Since I was vanquished by this mountebank,
Forced to become the priestess of a sect
Of asses, and their senseless cult--I, Circe,
Daughter of Helios. O my Sire, take back,
Take back my birthright, this lone, wearisome
Heritage of divinity. How fain
Would I forgo it, so for some brief years
I might but mingle with that vast, unknown,
Sociable and Philistian Universe
Of life and youth and mortal beauty, there
Love and be loved awhile, grow old and die.

(She starts.)

Who are those?--I am watched!--Yes, there
Lurking ambushed among the myrtles!--Ah,
He comes forth!--Can it be, oh can it be
My Philistine, my own beautiful hero!
It is he! Oh joy!

(Enter from the bushes PERCIVAL SMITH, in yachting costume, followed by three friends, who remain standing at a little distance.)

PERCIVAL.
                            So here I am once more.
Well, have I kept my promise?

CIRCE.
                                                  O my deliverer,
Nobly hast thou kept faith. Come, haste we hence,
Down to the shore where waits thy sail. Oh haste!
I am ready; I am thine. Quick, let us fly,
Ere they discover us.

PERCIVAL.
                                     Yes: but first do help me.
That crystal cup--you know--that charming bowl--
It's that we're after.

CIRCE.
                                 The Grail? Oh madness, madness!

PERCIVAL.
Won't they sell it, not for a fancy price?
Then we must take it.

CIRCE.
                                   Tempt not thy death assured.

PERCIVAL. (Showing his revolver.)
Oh nonsense! Look! We know what we're about.

CIRCE.
Fond youth, vain were thy sulphurous bolts against
This subtle necromancer, armed and talismaned
By the Grail's prophylactic power. Oh come;
Fly ere it be too late.

PERCIVAL.
                                    Without this cup?
No, my dear. Ever since I drank that bowl
Of charmed wine, there was born within my soul
A kind of--I don't know really what it meant--
But a vague uneasy sort of discontent
With what I was and had been, and am now.
All that I used to care for seemed somehow
Ugly and stupid. Things that bored me once
Now seemed quite charming. I saw what a dunce
And fool I'd been, a Philistine in fact;
And felt the want of all the things I lacked,
Like taste and culture. And then I thought of you,
And of this feather you gave me for a clue.
Well, here I'm come to fetch you on my steam-yacht.

CIRCE.
Haste then! let us embark!

PERCIVAL
                                             Yes, dear; but not
Without this Grail. Really I don't quite know
The reason I've set my heart upon it so.
I expect it's that drugged wine of yours. Anyway
Do help us get hold of it.--Oh I say,
What was I doing? Let me introduce
These friends of mine.--Goddess: Professor Bruce.

(PROFESSOR BRUCE comes forward. He is a small, neat, middle-aged man, wearing spectacles.)

Comparative mythology's his line:
Author of "Circe's Wand," "Aegaean Swine-
And Ass-Totems," and "Palaeolithic Cults":
Would love to have a talk and test results
At first hand.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                       Goddess, might I, so to speak,
Presume to take advantage of this unique
Opportunity to bring some four or five
Important problems in comparative
Mythology to your notice. First no doubt,
As to your origin, you'll bear me out
In my contention that the Homeric myth
Is late, in fact contaminated with
Medea's, who was the child of Helios,
Whereas your mother was the moon, because,
As I and Brown have proved...

CIRCE.
                                                  The moon! No, Sir.
Indeed you are quite mistaken. My mother
Was Perse: Helios was my sire.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                                                     No, no.
You'll pardon me for I'm sure for saying so,
But these things happened, well, so very long ago,
No wonder you've forgotten. But please look--

(Producing from his pocket a large octavo volume.)

I think you'll see I've proved in my last book
That the moon-goddess--Lang too quite agrees;
Though Schmidt...

CIRCE.
                                 No doubt.--Do introduce me please
To your other friends, dear Mr. Percival.

PERCIVAL.
Here's Gigadibs. Now he's what I should call
A regular first-class critic, a real swell.
Does literature and art, music as well.
In all the latest stuff he's up to date;
And by Jove he can write; and can't he slate!

(GIGADIBS advances. He is a tall, whiskered man, between forty and fifty. He speaks with embarrassment at first, but gains confidence and fluency as he proceeds.

GIGADIBS.
Goddess, to say the truth, I hardly know
How to express the imaginative glow
With which my soul is lyrically thrilled,
When I realise how destiny has willed
This unbelievable miracle, that I,
I, Gigadibs, in the twentieth century
Phraseology, psychology and costume,
Should stand here talking with Circe at her loom--
I mean, before her portico--I too
Thus tête-à-tête in privileged interview,
Like wise Laertes' son, or like that strayed
Reveller, whom our Matthew Arnold made
The subject of, I think, the finest piece
Of inspired re-creation of ancient Greece
Our time has seen.

(QUELCH comes forward, pushing GIGADIBS aside. He is young, clean-shaven, and overbearing in manner.)

QUELCH.
                                 There, Gigadibs, that's enough.
This lady's not your typist; and your stuff
Can quite well wait till we're on board. Madam,
It will save time to tell you I am
Myself. I'm Hartley Quelch, the realist;
A super-shavian post-dramatist
Formerly, now a conversationist,
Since conversations are an art-form higher
Than plays. A poet too, none of your quire
Of Georgian song-birds, but a futurist
In thought and phrase, the perfect modernist;
What Gigadibs would like to be, but can't,
Because he's a literary hot-house plant,
And never sees things as they are. I do;
So Gigadibs thinks I must be mad.

GIGADIBS.
                                                        That's true.

QUELCH.
You see!--But now to business. We're not here
To discuss me and Gigadibs...

GIGADIBS.
                                                  Hear, hear!

QUELCH.
But to apply a little common sense
To a simple case of pounds, shillings and pence.
For reasons I don't fully comprehend
This cup has caught the fancy of my young friend.
Like all such things, no doubt it has its price,
And that he'll pay. He's rich, though none too wise.

PERCIVAL.
It won't do, Quelch. She says it's not for sale.

QUELCH.
We'll soon see about that.--Now since this Grail
Has lost, it seems, what slender interest
Mystical and religious it once possessed,
(Which at least gave it some respectability,)
And is now reduced to this mere imbecility
Of a humbugging aesthetic drawing-room toy,
Its price of course...

CIRCE.
                                    It's price!

PERCIVAL.
                                                       Quelch, can't you see?
It's no use. They won't sell.

QUELCH.
                                             Now my dear boy,
Do leave this thing to me.
Why, even a National Gallery trustee
Will come to terms after the usual bluff,
If the nation or the dealers offer enough.--
Now for a cheque for seven thousand, I suggest;
Or shall we say ten?

CIRCE.
                                 Set your heart at rest.
Not the treasury of Atreus could avail
To tempt Klingsor. Believe me, it's not for sale.

QUELCH.
Very well, madam; if that's so, you must
Help us to steal it. You must eat your crust,
Before you touch the crumb. By hook or crook
We intend to have this Grail. To you we look
To find the means: so use your wits. If not,
You won't set foot upon our young friend's yacht.

CIRCE.
Listen. I will help you. But not by violence,
By craft only may the Grail be mastered.
Hope not with fiery bolts to vanquish Klingsor.
Humbly must you entreat him to receive you
Initiated into the Grail's sublime
Aesthetic fellowship and mystic knighthood.
So alone, by such dissembling, may you hope
To lay your hands upon the magic vessel.
Easy is then your task. Reft of his talisman
Powerless will be the wizard, and the lordship
Of the Grail shall be thine, O my deliverer.

PERCIVAL.
What! Must we make up to that old ruffian?
Lick his boots? I'ld rather kick his...

CIRCE.
                                                          Yes, dear;
So you shall. But first you must dissemble.
This day is our great pentecostal feast,
Anniversary of the Phoenix' fiery death
And resurrection. Soon through yonder doors
The Grail-idolators issuing in glad troops
Shall weave their choric dance around this altar,
Where, elevating the life-quickening Grail,
Calm as Iacchus midst his Maenad rout,
Superb in hierophantic pose stands Klingsor.
Their thiasus must I, his priestess, lead.

(Singing and ecstatic cries are heard from within.)

But hark! They come. Crouch 'mid the myrtles yonder,
Till I give sign: then come forth, and with feigned
Humility entreat to be received
Into our callaesthetic rites and brotherhood.
Quick, hide, else they discover you.

(Enter the CHORUS riotously from the palace. They are dressed in Bacchanal costume, with thyrsus and fawn-skin. Shouting, singing and dancing, they assemble round the altar. CIRCE joins them, while PERCIVAL and his friends hide themselves among the bushes.)

CHORUS.
Io! Io!
Evoi! Saboi!
Come is the glad and holy day.
Iacchus! O Iacchus!
Festive and eager, swift and free,
Set we our choral dance in array
Round the ritual altar.
By the timbrel's pulse and the cymbal's ring,
And the wild flute's maddening ecstasy,
Let our souls be thrilled and our feet be stirred,
Then lift we a frivolous Euripidaean
Frolicsome unwagnerian paean
To the praise of the rejuvenated Grail and of its king,
To the glory of the resurrected Phoenix bird,
Of the pierced and martyred beast, of the love-enkindled fire,
The passion and the pyre, and the swift upsoaring wing.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
This seems a full-dress dithyramb, a genuine survival,
Danced by a true Greek thiasus, with thyrsus and fawn-skin.

GIGADIBS.
It is indeed a stunning show, and beats the morris-dancers,
The Russian ballet too, by Jove. But where's the Grail and Klingsor?

CHORUS.
But come thou forth; delay no more;
Join our mystic revelry,
Thou the hierophant and priest
Of our Dionysian feast.
Our Iacchus shalt thou be,
Klingsor! Godlike Klingsor!
With thy forehead ivy-wreathèd, in thy pied fawn-skin attired,
To the rapt eyes of thy Bacchanals reveal thee,
And with countenance inspired uplifting in thy hand
The Vase of life and youth, of culture and of truth,
At the altar take thy stand;
While around thee and about, upon dithyrambic foot
Timed swiftly to the Corybantic rapture of the flute,
Leap we and whirl we in a complicated rout,
Backward and forward, in and out,
Young and old and slim and stout,
Vehemently borne along
By the madness and gladness of dance and song.

(Enter KLINGSOR from the palace, pacing with slow, stately tread towards the altar. He holds aloft a silver tray upon which are two exactly similar Grails.)

Io! Io! The Grail!
Evoi! Saboi!
Klingsor, our beloved Iacchus, hail!

(They crowd round KLINGSOR, who is now standing by the altar, solemnly elevating the Grails.)

But what, oh what
Is this I see?
Ah wherefore not
One Grail but two?
Or can it be,
By Circe's wine my sight
Is intoxicated, tipsily troubled,
Duplicated, shamefully doubled?
But no! 'Tis true.
There is one Klingsor, but the Grails are two,
Uplifted on one tray. What means this wonder new?

GIGADIBS.
But how the deuce are we to know which of the two to go for?
They seem as like as pea to pea, or Dromio to Dromio.

(KLINGSOR has now placed the Grails upon the altar. He speaks in an impressive hieratic manner.)

KLINGSOR.
Let nought save holy and reverent words, precious and Grail-worthy locutions,
Flowerlike and delicate phrases alone be spoken to-day in our hearing.
And to these our mystical rites let none draw near but the exquisite and pure
In spirit and taste; yea, far from our midst be expelled and shamefully ejected
All museless, dark, uncivilized souls, Belial's vulgarian offspring.
Stage-managers and censors, pedagogues, editors, stylistic reviewers,
Art critics and dealers, billionaires, Marinettists, Chantrey-bequestees,
Dons, Strindbergsonians and Straussists, virtuousos, musical agents,
Professorial owls and clerical moles, bookworms, loud puritan asses,
All they who delight not in Pater's prose, nor in Max Beerbohm's revelations,
Who scoff at post-impressionist art, and presume to demand of a picture
Perspective or sense, who prefer Pentapolitan scruts, New Machiacorellis,
To a tenebrous James, who find salvation in Nivinsky-Strajinsky-Scriàbine:
To all such I proclaim, O children of darkness and wrath, pack hence and profane not
Our pure Dionysian orgies! Avaunt, foul brood! But ye, my beloved ones,
Your choral dances again weave round the divine Grail's mystical altar.

ONE OF THE CHORUS.
Yet, O most neo-hellenic of men, Klingsor, deign first to inform us
What mean these indistinguishable twin Grails? Identical are they
In substance, virtue and magical might? Or is one the authentic and holy,
The other but a false and spurious fake?

KLINGSOR.
                                                Timely is thy question. Attend now.
Unto all eternity sole, unique, without rival or peer is the Grail: yet,
Lest haply it fall into base barbarian hands by piracy or stealth,
To be priced and exhibited, sold to the temple of Christ or Mammon or Dagon,
This politic burglar-baffling plan have I found: by occult operation
Of sorcerous art a spurious Grail in the true Grail's image have I fashioned,
In design, in visible shape and glory a replica seemingly perfect,
But in all else false.

CHORUS.
                              Yet, alas, how then mayst thou, or we, the initiate,
Distinguish the forged from the genuine Grail any more than the sons of Goliath?

KLINGSOR.
Easily: for whoe'er with a question of art, fine taste or nice connoisseurship
Testeth the oracular vase, truth's voice forthwith shall he hear: but the false Grail
Ever answereth falsely; and thus shall the gross barbarian aeroplanist
With a worthless loot, our treasure untouched, speed Gathward fooled and deluded.

CHORUS.
Oh wisely and subtly devised. Yet, master, by one small doubt am I troubled.
Who am I to decide 'twixt Grail contradicting Grail? Thus say that I question
Concerning the green-eyed minx of Matisse, or the cake-walk dance of Electra,
And the one says this, and the other says that, then what criterion have we?

KLINGSOR.
Criterion! have you not me, Klingsor, your pontiff?

CHORUS.
                                                                                   Pardon us, master.
But then for the Grail what need, with thee for our prophet and arbiter?

KLINGSOR.
                                                                                                               O fools!
Irreverent quibblers, enough! Though I, the oracular infallible Grail's
Infallible prophet and priest, need not for my private use to consult it,
Yet, pitying your weakling fashion-led souls, unstable of taste and of judgment,
This Grail, from superstition and gloom by the Phoenix-bird's immolation
Hellenized and redeemed, in this classic isle have I here enshrined and established,
That so your thirsty impoverished souls at the fountain of beauty and culture
May drink and live. Now turn ye anew to your Grail-Dionysiac orgies.

(They recommence their dithyramb around the altar, where KLINGSOR stands majestically surveying them.)

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
I can't refrain, but come what will,
For just one minute I must join in.

PERCIVAL.
Now, Bruce, you silly ass, do keep still.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
At the flute's mad strain and the cymbal's din
Bromian raptures through me thrill,
And a corybantic spirit is in my toes.

QUELCH.
What the hell do you mean, you blasted fool,
You molecule! Keep quiet, do.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
I'm off! Here goes! Won't you join too?

(He breaks away from them, and mingling with the dancers accosts CIRCE.)

Dear Goddess, will you dance this waltz with me?

CIRCE.
Mortal, this is a dithyramb, not a waltz.
We have no partners in these Bacchic balls.
Iacchus is our only partner.

(She dances away from him.)

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                                                  I see.
I'll shift for myself all right. But what a chance
To take part in a genuine Bromian dance!

CHORUS.
Protect us now, ye Muses nine!
What see we here? A Philistine?
The death of Pentheus let him die!

(They begin to crowd menacingly round the Professor.)

KLINGSOR.
Nay let him be, my Bacchanals.
He seems some harmless oddity.
Mar not our rites with savage brawls.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
The myth of Pentheus even in print looks grim.
Though it might be interesting to be present,
Yet to be torn in person limb to limb
Were an experience useless as unpleasant.

(The dance continues, the Professor joining in.)

GIGADIBS.
By Jove, I think I'll join the fun.
I must.

QUELCH.
             Hi, stop, you son of a gun!

GIGADIBS.
Unhand me, Sir. Quick, let me pass.

PERCIVAL.
Now Gigadibs, don't you be an ass.

GIGADIBS.
I must: I will. I would not miss
This chance for worlds. Indeed it is
My duty to the Daily Pill.
It is my duty, and I will.

(He rushes away and approaches CIRCE.)

Bright Goddess, may I have this dithyramb,
Since you seem free? You remember who I am--
Gigadibs, editor of the Daily Pill.
I can't talk Greek, but I can read it still,
Homer, and even Greek plays, without cribs.
May I have--

CIRCE. (Dancing away from him.)
                       No thank you, Mr. Gigadibs.

GIGADIBS.
Confound! I've said the wrong thing, I suppose.
Or can it be I'm wearing the wrong clo'es?

(He too joins the dance.)

QUELCH.
We being neither daily journalists
Nor classical anthroparchaeologists,
Can keep our heads, I hope.

PERCIVAL.
                                                Well, Quelch, I'll try.
But I feel these queer dance tunes, I can't tell why,
Playing the devil with me. Oh I just
Must have one fling: I positively must.

QUELCH.
Et tu, Brute? Well then let's all go mad
In company. I'll make one too, by gad.

(They both join the dance. PERCIVAL addresses CIRCE.)

PERCIVAL.
Circe, I mean to dance with you.

CIRCE.
Oh that's a thing we never do.
We never dance in couples.

PERCIVAL.
                                              What!

CIRCE.
It's not the Greek style.

PERCIVAL.
                                      May be not.
But I'm not Greek; so that's all right.

CIRCE.
Dear Mr. Smith, please let me go.
Don't hold me round the waist so tight.
They are staring so.

PERCIVAL.
                                  Then let them stare.

CIRCE.
Well, dear, if you don't, I won't care.

CHORUS.
Who is that? See, oh see!
Horrible, horrible! Can it be he,
The fire-armed youth, Philistia's pride,
The Ascalonite, the deicide?
With a wicked arm Circe's waist
(Oh sacrilege!) he hath enlaced.
What is his dire, blasphemous hope?
With the Grail's high-priestess would he elope?
A Pentheus! A Pentheus!
Him and his comrades seize and dismember them!
Guy them and Faux them and fifth-of-November them!
Lynch, massacre, pogram, Dewitt and September them!

(They all swarm angrily round CIRCE and PERCIVAL.)

PERCIVAL.
What a fiendish, grisly row! Well, it seems we're in for it now.

CIRCE.
Leave it to me, dear. I will save you. But first take away your arm.
Klingsor, noble Klingsor, hear me! Spare this youth. He meant no harm.
He but came to crave admission to our high aesthetic rites,
He, and these his three companions, humble and guileless proselytes.

KLINGSOR.
Bacchanals of the Grail, be still. Calm your riotous savagery.
Though he be a second Pentheus, yet unheard he must not die.
(To PERCIVAL.)
So, 'tis thou. Dost thou plead guilty to attempted deicide?

PERCIVAL.
If you mean: did I shoot your totem--yes I did; at least I tried.
I hit him hard and brought him down. Yet he seemed none the worse for that.
When I gave chase, he beat me hollow. Has he nine lives like a cat?

GURNEMANZ.
Infinite, O thou blasphemous stripling, are the Phoenix' lives.

PERCIVAL.
                                                                                                 What stuff!
Anyhow, if I couldn't kill him, why all this preposterous bluff
About deicide?

QUELCH.
                          Take care, Percy. Don't get talking. Leave your case
To this excellent lady-lawyer. Cheeking a jury never pays.

CHORUS.
Death to the Phoenicidal monster!

CIRCE.
                                                        Good friends, hear me! Is it sense
To convict him for committing an uncommittable offence?
Nay, though blasphemous his deed, yet was not he the heaven-designed
Instrument of your deliverance from ass-headed shame, the blind
Unconscious minister of the Grail's rehallowing as the glorious pyre
Of the martyred bird upsoaring from the sacred womb of fire?

CHORUS.
She speaks truth: his crime was needful. None the less should we mistrust
Goliath's race even when they bring us benefits.

CIRCE.
                                                                            But is it just
To reject sincere repentance? Hellenized and changed of heart,
This is now his only longing, in our mysteries to take part.
Then receive him as a brother. Are not all of us, O my friends,
Goliath's offspring born, till o'er us pentecostal grace descends?

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
Might I offer a suggestion that may throw light on the case?
Modern oriental scholarship proves that the Philistian race
Was in fact the Purasati. Well this people, we now know,
Were Pelasgians or Minoians, from the Archipelago
And from Crete, a horde of rovers, driven from their homes by stress
Of the Dorian folk-migration. Thus it seems they were no less
Than true Greeks.

GIGADIBS.
                             The devil were they! Was Goliath then a Greek?
Shades of Heine and Matthew Arnold! What did Ariadne speak
Philistine or something like it?

QUELCH.
                                                  I congratulate you, Bruce.
That's the very best thing archaeology's so far managed to produce.

CHORUS.
If this in very truth be so, and the fact be well established
That Greek and Philistine are one, in origin, speech and culture,
Why then we must confess the case would seem distinctly altered,
And we could scarcely then object to welcome them as brothers.
And yet beware. It well may be, fear of the death of Pentheus
Compelled this man to extemporize this strange and novel theory,
A doctrine surely never taught at Gath, nor yet at Eton.
Fine talk and spectacles alone make not a Greek Professor.
What if he prove a fraudulent vulgarian impostor,
A laidly journalist, a wolf in academic clothing?

KLINGSOR.
Circe, thou hast argued well: and thus far shall thy pleas prevail,
That I consent to test these men upon the touchstone of the Grail.
So may we learn if verily their organs of aesthetic taste
By change of heart are purified, or remain banausic and debased;
Whether they be worthy here in brotherhood with us to dwell,
Or such that from our paradise with ignominy we must expel.
Unto the altar now draw near. Behold these twin bowls, the exact
Similitude and duplicate each of the other, yet in fact
Dissimilar and opposite in function, worth and attribute,
Conflicting oracles of Delphi and Ashdod, Dagon in dispute
With Apollo and the Muses. Test them in what style you choose,
With verse and prose and musical quotation, or provoke their views
On plastic art. To every question either Grail will make reply
In discords unresolved of praise or scorn. From such disharmony
Between the true and spurious chalice it behooves you to discern,
And thus if ye yourselves be false or true men, I, your judge, shall learn.
Go some and hither fetch the least cacophonous of our phonographs,
With specimen records of all styles from Bach to Reger, and photographs
Selected out of every school, Classical, Post-impressionist,
Oriental, Cubist, Byzantine, Peruvian, and Futurist.
Meanwhile, I pray you, gentlemen, begin with poetry or prose.

PERCIVAL.
Who's the first man in?

QUELCH.
                                       Gigadibs, I propose.

(GIGADIBS approaches the altar with a self-important air, and and stands reflecting for some moments.)

CHORUS.
Come now with a humble and reverent mind
To the duplicate,, unwagnerianized,
Oracular Grail's high altar let each
Would-be proselyte in turn draw near
With Arnoldian interrogation.
Whatsoe'er to this critical sense may seem
Most delicate, weighty, superb, monumental,
Original, atmospheric, intense,
Poignant, kinetic, vital and grand,
Of his own composing, or with nice taste
Culled forth from the opulent anthologies
Of Georgian and Victorian verse,
Or the shelves of the Poetry Bookshop,
Let him whisper it low, or thunder it forth,
As the case may be, or Florence-Farr it
In Dolmetsch-dulcimer monotone chant
In the ears of the true and the spurious bowl,
That so, from the choice each makes between Grail
Contradicting Grail,
May appear whether false or true his claim
To be numbered among the initiate.

(GIGADIBS now stretches forth his hands over the two Grails, and recites in solemn parsonic tones.)

GIGADIBS.
"God of our Fathers, known of old--
Lord of our far-flung battle-line--
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!"

(Suddenly a loud hiss and a cloud of steam issues from the Grail under his left hand. A faint sigh of rapture is heard from the Grail to his right.)

GIGADIBS.
Confound it all! My hand's quite scalded.

PERCIVAL.
                                                                   Serves you right for quoting bosh.
Oh scald us yet, lest we forget the difference between genuine stuff
And blithering pharasaic tosh!

CHORUS.
                                                  Didn't you hear the angry hiss,
As from a kettle boiling over? But from the other a sigh of bliss,
Such as swells from a congregation at a favourite hymn's first line.

GIGADIBS.
Well, I choose this right-hand candle.

QUELCH.
                                                             What, Gigadibs! you've had enough?
Don't be afraid: just keep your distance. Try it with something really fine;
Something of Crowley's, or of mine.

(GIGADIBS, standing at a safter distance, chants in a bardic manner.)

GIGADIBS.
It blows from the land where dreams brood wearily folded,
Like gulls asleep on the wave,
Where visions drift like mist by the wind moulded
To forms as beautiful and grave
As kings, old orgulous kings, terrible and sapphire-bearded,
Lone tear-pale queens, proud Maeve,
Sad Deirdre, Etain, Niamh of the hundred swallows,
Whose shadowy harp-lulled eyelids Oisin kissed.
Like white, fluttering leaves from the pallid poplars,
Gloomily, slowly they float, and pause, and twist
Down through my solitary heart's dark crag-encinctured hollows,
Where passionate memories echo and rave.

(A loud laugh and a sigh are heard from the Grails.)

ONE OF THE CHORUS.
That's hardly fair on Yeats. That's not his best.

GIGADIBS.
Yeats! That's my own.

CHORUS.
                                     Well, really!

GIGADIBS.
                                                             I protest
Yeats couldn't have written that to save his soul.

QUELCH.
I should suppose not.

GIGADIBS. (Pointing to the Grail on the right.)
                                    Well I choose this bowl,
The one that sighed for rapture, not the one
That laughed so impudently. There, I've done.

CIRCE.
Percy, could that be modern poetry?
Or is the poor man mad?

PERCIVAL.
                                         Pray don't ask me.
I don't profess to know what's what.--Who's next?
Professor!

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                  No thanks. Poetry's not my line.

QUELCH.
Oh, anything will do: an Orphic text;
A psalm.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                Well, there's the Psalm of Life. That's fine.

(He approaches and recites in a Victorian manner.)

"Tell me not in mournful numbers,
'Life is but an empty dream!'
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!..."

GIGADIBS.
No really, that will hardly do.

CIRCE.
                                                 Why not?
It was most beautiful, most Greek, in thought
And form and feeling, so direct, so grand.

GIGADIBS.
Well, I presume you ought to understand
What's truly Greek better than we can do.
I suppose our taste has grown too decadent, too
Sophisticated--and really when one comes
To think, it is a fine thing. "Muffled drums!"
What verdict did these Grails deliver?

PROFESSOR BRUCE. (Testily.)
                                                              None.
They had the grace to wait till I had done.

PERCIVAL.
Well, try once more.

PROFESSOR BRUCE. (Pacified.)
                                    My memory's grown so weak,
I can remember nothing now save Greek.
Ah! Once I learnt by heart,
To say myself to sleep, all the last part
Of our greater English Vergil's Guinevere.
"I cannot take thy hand; that too is flesh,
And in the flesh thou hast sinned; and mine own flesh
Here looking down on thine polluted, cries
'I loathe thee:' yet not less, O Guinevere,
For I was ever virgin save for thee,
My love thro' flesh--"

CIRCE.
                                   Oh fie, Professor, fie!
I don't think that's quite nice.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                                               Not nice! But why?
Now there you've gone and put me out.

PERCIVAL.
                                                               But Bruce,
D'you mean to say you like that?

PROFESSOR BRUCE. (Angrily.)
                                                     Yes!

PERCIVAL.
                                                                  The deuce!

ONE OF THE CHORUS.
How interesting! Do tell us whose
Those verses are, Professor Bruce.
Some member of the Fleshly School?
Rossetti or Swinburne?

GIGADIBS.
                                        Oh you fool,
They're Tennyson's of course.

CHORUS.
                                                   Not really? Well!
I never realised he was such a swell.

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
"'Farewell!' And while she grovell'd at his feet,
She felt the king's breath wander o'er her neck,
And in the darkness o'er her fallen head
Perceived the waving of his hands that blest."

VOICE FROM THE RIGHT-HAND GRAIL. (Using the English public school pronounciation.)
Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
Quale sopor fessis--

VOICE FROM THE LEFT-HAND GRAIL. (Using modern reformed pronounciation.)
                                   Procul, O procul este profani!
Semper ego auditor tantum? Numquamne reponam,
Vexatus toties?

CHORUS.
                         What! can the Grail quote Latin?
This must be the true Grail, that gave its benison
Upon the soft Vergilian Muse of Tennyson.
That vile crock's only worthy to be spat in.

GIGADIBS.
It's odd. This right-hand bowl that praised my verse
And Kipling's, likes this too.

QUELCH.
                                                Well, it's no worse
Than yours; though that's not saying much.

GIGADIBS.
                                                                      It's queer.
I thought we all agreed that Guinevere
Was hardly Tennyson at his best.

QUELCH.
                                                        No doubt.
Now, Gigadibs, it's my turn for a spout.

(He pushes his way up to the altar and recites with gusto.)

"They drove (a dodge that never fails)
A pin beneath my finger nails..."
"O Jesus, drive the coulter deep
To plough my living man from sleep..."
"They poured what seemed a running beck
Of cold spring water down my neck..."
"The brook, the one of two which rise
In my green dream in Paradise..."

GIGADIBS.
No, that's not how it goes. You've got
It all mixed up--

QUELCH. (Snappishly.)
                            No, no, I've not.--
"Jim with a lancet quick as flies
Lowered the swellings round my eyes..."
"O patient eyes that watch the goal,
O ploughman of the sinner's soul..."
"His eyes for ever on some sign
To help him plough a perfect line..."

CHORUS.
That is indeed a perfect line.

QUELCH.
"They gave my calves a thorough kneading,
They salved my cuts and stopped the bleeding..."
"O wet red swathe of earth laid bare,
O truth, O strength, O gleaming share..."

CHORUS.
O truth, O strength of just expression!
This is indeed a precious lesson.

QUELCH.
"During the wait my Jemmy said..."
"O clover-cops half white, half red,
O beauty from beyond the dead..."
"'Straight left! Straight left!' and 'Watch his right!...'"
"O blessed gift of inner sight..."
"O!..." Ugh! Ugh-ugh! Ugh-ugh! Ugh-ugh!

(Dense vapour issues from the left-hand Grail, and QUELCH's recitation is interrupted by a choking cough.)

Ugh-ugh!...I say!
What an infernal stink!
Like a constipated sink!
It's enough to knock one down.

ONE OF THE CHORUS. (Sniffing at the right-hand Grail.)
                                                   Nay turn this way.
Such odorous whiffs shalt thou inhale as rise
From molabathrum and rich Syrian spice.

QUELCH.
Of course this is the genuine Grail, and not
That miserable pedantic old stink-pot,
That's shocked out of its manners (damn it!) to hear
The music of the future. Yes, by God,
I'll stake my reputation, it's a fraud.

CIRCE.
Pause, madman, ere thou choosest.--Percy dear,
No, this abomination cannot be
The music of the future.

CHORUS.
                                         But don't you see?
'Tis simple, sensuous, and passionate;
The root of the matter's in it. Oh, it's great!

CIRCE.
Nay, friends, I know not: only this I know;
The simple, sensuous Syrens sang not so;
Nor so passionate Orpheus, at whose wild
And lawless notes the heart of Hell grew mild.
Not such Cassandra's mantic agonies;
Nor the proud chant of boastful Thamyris,
And the sweet wild-wood lays of Marsyas,
That brought them both to such a hapless pass.
Ah me, against the Gods they strove, and lost,
As all must; and their noble rashness cost
The faun his life and skin, the bard his sight.
Yet in their hearts the root of all delight
Grew deep, and in their singing flowered forth
The gladness and loveliness of earth.
But these loud raucous crows, these big-swollen frogs,
What rookeries have they haunted, what foul bogs?
With what degenerate Gods do they compete?
What slum-bred Muses strive they to defeat
In gracelessness? And dare you thus give wings
Of fashion, fame and flattery to such things?
Percy, I beseech thee, ere it be too late,
Reject, contemptuously repudiate
That false barbarian Grail. Be it not said
That thou by museless dunces wert misled,
From the prize thou hadst grappled blown far off
By a gust of fashion, a profane fool's scoff.

PERCIVAL.
It seems to me,--I speak with all due deference:
I can't pretend to have a violent preference--
But it does seem to me that Circe's right,
Upon the whole, I mean. For that prize-fight
I rather liked, although you'd got it mixed
With all that queer stuff sandwiched in betwixt.

QUELCH.
Do you mean to tell me that you want to choose
That wretched humbug of a Grail, whose views
On poetry and aesthetics, take my word,
Are utterly academic and absurd?
No, if you want the genuine Grail, that's it,
The one to the right.

GIGADIBS.
                                  My dear Quelch, wait a bit.
Don't let's decide on poetry alone.
Here come the photos and the gramophone.

QUELCH.
But what's the use of waiting, if we agree?
You're on our side, Professor: that makes three.
So, Percy, you're outvoted.

(Aside to GIGADIBS.)

                                                Don't you see?
We must act quick, or the plot will all go wrong.
If we stand footling here the whole day long
With gramophones and photos, ten to one
Klingsor will find us out before we've done.
Yes, now's the moment. When I tip the wink,
Just whip out your revolver. Not that I think
They'll show fight: so don't shoot.

GIGADIBS.
                                                          Shoot! No indeed!
Not if I know it.

QUELCH.
                            Cheer up: there'll be no need.

CHORUS. (While QUELCH and GIGADIBS talk aside.)
Now is the fateful moment come, the choice that must determine
Whether these alien proselytes are worthy of admittance,
Or merit stern and summary expulsion from our island.
Which they will choose, 'tis hard to say, still harder which they ought to.
For I must own that I myself am not a little puzzled.
The modernists declaimed with such conviction and assurance,
The lines they quoted had such charm, such vigour, and distinction,
That I can hardly deem them quite in error. Yet if Circe
Prove really right, then they must be disastrously mistaken.
Best wait and see. An attitude of cautious non-committal
Is soundest and most dignified. The arbiter is Klingsor.

(QUELCH now advances to the altar and takes up the right-hand Grail.)

QUELCH.
Our mind is now made up. This is our choice,
This Grail, that seems so perfectly to voice
Our joint opinions on aestheticism--

PERCIVAL.
Quelch, I protest--

QUELCH.
                                 No, Percy, you're a schism,
A mere outvoted heresy.--Since moreover
By the lady of this house 'tis so despised,
And its true virtue quite unrecognised,
I here proclaim it ours by right of trover.

(He produces his revolver and covers KLINGSOR with it. Consternation and fury of the CHORUS. KLINGSOR stands his ground calmly, with a scornful smile. GIGADIBS also timidly brings out his revolver, and fumbles with it awkwardly).

CHORUS.
Ai-ee! Ai-ee!
Robbery! Sacrilege! We are betrayed, undone!
Villainous hounds of hell!

QUELCH.
                                           Back, or I shoot! Back!

CIRCE. (Pointing to the Grail upon the altar.)
Quick, Percy! Snatch it up--the true Grail--'tis there!

CHORUS.
Oh haste, Klingsor, haste! To the Grail's rescue, come!

KLINGSOR.
Fools! This is the Grail.

(He snatches up the remaining Grail, just as PERCIVAL darts forward to seize it.)

CIRCE.
                                         He has missed it! O butterfingers!

(PERCIVAL collars KLINGSOR in Rugby-football fashion, with both hands on the Grail.)

PERCIVAL.
Held! I've collared you now.
Confound it all! He's gone!

(KLINGSOR levitates rapidly through the arms of the astonished PERCIVAL. About ten feet from the ground he remains suspended with the Grail clasped in his hands.)

CHORUS.
High in the air he soars, oh wonderful wonder of wonders!
Over our heads and beyond our reach.

PERCIVAL.
                                                            Oh blunders of blunders!
Why upon earth, you fools, despising the wisdom of Circe,
Why did you choose that spurious Grail?

CIRCE.
                                                                  And you, silly Percy,
Why, when you knew which it was...

QUELCH.
                                                           No, no! I deny the assumption.
This is the true Grail, this, levitation or no levitation.

CIRCE.
While you still had the chance, oh why did you not...

PERCY.
                                                                                     Have the gumption
To seize it, you mean. Well I was a damned fool. Yes, botheration!

KLINGSOR.
Hear me, O ye treacherous, piratical violators of all that is holy,
Ye proud, burglarious conspirators, who said, "Come now, let us outwit
This Klingsor, yea let us rob him of his cup, as a spoil for the altar of Dagon";
Ah little indeed, you o'erweening fools, did you know of the Grail or of Klingsor.
With a humbugging anti-aesthetical bowl hence with you, disgraced and deluded!
To the drawing-room public of London or Gath display your stolen imposture:
Bully, pose, dictate, infallible priests of a spurious Urim and Thummin.
And you, my followers, male, female, ass-headed of old, parrot-voiced now,
By the twin Grails' test exposed and proved unworthy to be my disciples,
No more in the callaesthetical rites of mysteries orphic and holy
With me for your hierophant and priest shall you share henceforth as initiates.
Farewell, found wanting in faith and works, fine taste and true connoiseurship!
Joy-minishing, life-disenhancing souls, farewell! To the worship of false Gods
And bogus grails I leave you and go, thus bearing away from profane eyes
The authentic Vessel of grace, thither where no unlicensed aeroplanist
May follow, nor steam-yacht steer; where flake of journalism never falleth,
Nor withering winds of fashion blow; but Spring everlasting abideth,
In delicate loveliness and bright air clothing those lawns of Elysium,
Where in gladsome troops, or retired in calm contemplative ecstasy, wander
Through the garden and groves of bliss the serene and saintly communion of aesthetes;
All they who, smit with the love of beauty, of form and value enamoured,
Upon earth have endured in the Muses' name toils, pain, tribulation and insult,
Prosecution, martyrdom, ingratitude; great spirits despised and neglected,
Or heroic rebels unconquerably striving with fate and the world's wrong;
Flaubert, Poe, Marsyas, Arnold, Keats, Wilde, Wordsworth, Whistler and Orpheus,
And many of renown inferior, but all by merit and saintliness equalled
And beatified alike by the omniscient, just-favouring love of the Phoenix,
Round whose roost-shrine in the incense-tree ever nightly beneath the serene stars
In torch-lit choral thiasus joined, or at dawn by Pater and Orpheus
In solemn and clear-voiced paean led, they renew their ritual adorings.

CHORUS.
Oh leave us not, master, leave us not!
Stay with us! Ah, do not abandon us!
Reft of thee and the Grail,
Alas, alas, nought are we,
Nought but the credulous dupes of boom and error,
And sixpenny journalism,
Frail victims of modernity and imposture,
The sport of every veering and bullying puff of ephemeral fashion.
Oh pardon us our blindness, our imbecility,
Our weak faith, our involuntary asininity.
Oh go not from us, master, we beseech thee.

KLINGSOR.
Nay, friends, I needs must go.
All things decay and change, and this base world
Hath grown unworthy of the Grail and me.
Profaned and violated now hath been
The last asylum of Perfection's Vase.
Yet, friends, I pardon you. Ye were born so.
Ye knew no better. The fault was not yours,
But Nature's that produced mankind and you.
Now must I go. The Phoenix waits. Farewell!

(He resumes his levitation, at first rapidly, then more slowly, till about thirty feet from the ground his ascension halts.)

CHORUS.
Ah me! Alas! He levitates once more.
Gently he rises skyward. Ah, Klingsor,
Come back to us, come down...Oh see, more slow,
And yet more slow! He scarcely moves...Lo!
He pauses, he stands still.

PERCIVAL.
                                            My stars, he's stuck.

CHORUS.
Relent; come down to us, master, we implore.

KLINGSOR. (Aside.)
My magic fails. Oh inopportune ill-luck!
Great Phoenix, save me! In thee rests my trust.
(Loudly.) I pause but to shake off yon world's vile dust,
Ere Phoenixward I mount, from my chaste feet.

CIRCE.
Shame on thee, thus discourteously to treat
Thy so kind hostess.

PERCIVAL.
                                    Look at him; he still sticks.
It's my belief the fellow's in a fix.
The engine of his monoplane won't work.
(Shouting up to KLINGSOR.)
Hi, you there! Is your motor a Gnome, old Turk?
I'll right it in a minute without fail,
If you'll come down and let me have that Grail.

GIGADIBS.
This should make first-rate copy for The Pill,
When once we're safe in Fleet Street--by Jove, it will.

PERCIVAL.
Don't be too sure Gigadibs, or you'll find
Your reputation gone, unless you mind.
You don't suppose you'll be believed?

GIGADIBS.
                                                                 Why not,
In this Bergsonian age?

QUELCH.
                                      Come, take your shot.
Bring him down, Percy, since you want his pot,
Though it's the spurious one. Now's your time; shoot.

PERCIVAL.
No, no. That's not fair play. I couldn't do it.

KLINGSOR. (Aside.)
What stays me, what immobilizing curse?
(Loudly.) This Oxford treasury of Victorian verse,
Heavy with leaden trash, to the earth I fling,
Lest it weigh down my bold upsoaring wing.

(He produces and flings down a copy of the Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.)

O Phoenix, hear me! Swiftly waft me hence
From this dark world to thy pure residence.

PERCIVAL.
He's throwing out ballast now.
(To KLINGSOR.)                   I say, why not
Jettison that old Jonah of a pot?

CHORUS.
Still he hangs fixed and motionless.
He seems in genuine distress.

KLINGSOR. (Aside.)
By what malign charm am I paralysed?
(Loudly.) Lo, this accursed miniature score
Of Parsifal I jettison, before
With the true Grail, cleansed and de-Wagnerized,
To Paradise I soar.

(He produces and drops a three-volumed miniature score of Parsifal.)

CHORUS.
Oh secret vice, clandestinely indulged,
Now shamefully divulged!
It shocks and grieves me to the core.
Who would have thought that Klingsor's chlamys bulged
With Parsifal in miniature score?

KLINGSOR. (Aside.)
It avails nought. O mighty Phoenix, hear.
Deliver me, thy votary, thy slave,
Suspended in mid-air a laughing stock,
For my Philistian foes a scorn and mock.
Hear me, oh hear, and save!

(KLINGSOR begins jettisoning various objects as described by the CHORUS.)

CHORUS.
See, his garments desperately he throws
Priceless art-treasures, cherished curios:
His ivory French Virgin, and that browned
Byzantine plaque: now slowly turning round
Flutters a Conder fan: and now behold
Cameos, Greek coins, jewels of jade and gold,
A precious hail!

PERCIVAL.
                            Look out! Heads!--What a bang!

CHORUS.
A Chinese roll! Is it his Sung or his Tang
Dynasty painting?

PERCIVAL.
                               This is an A.1. show.
Keep it up, conjuror.--Oh Jericho!
What's that?

CHORUS.
                       A panel, all to pieces smashed!
Found, found! But oh, she's ruined!

GIGADIBS.
                                                         Well, I'm dashed!
It's Monna Lisa the old thief's disgorged.

QUELCH.
Nonsense! Just look here. Can't you see? It's forged.

KLINGSOR.
Thus do I cast my pearls before you, swine.
Up Circe! Once more use thy wand. Porcine
This day must be their shapes. My farewell word!
(Aside.) O Phoenix, holy Phoenix, hast thou heard?
Save me! I faint! Ah me, I fall! Oh come,
Waft me to bliss from this dire martyrdom.

(The divine voice of the Phoenix is heard from far overhead. The awestruck crowd of mortals below gaze up wondering into the sky.)

THE PHOENIX.
Yes, Klingsor, I am here. Fear not. Until this cup
Of shame and penance thou hast drained, my power shall hold thee up.
Back to this world thou scornest I will not that thou sink.
This night in my far Paradise of nectar shalt thou drink,
And in staid chorus joined round my Hesperian tree
Shalt move with Pater and the rest, chanting chaste hymns to me,
Monotonous litanies, stale prayers without result
To me the indifferent idol of your tedious, tepid cult.
Why, thou preposterous man, such overweening haste
That sterilized, equivocal beatitude to taste?
Better hadst thou lived out more tolerantly thy span
In charity with thy still submerged, less cultured brother man.
Better hadst thou ne'er won that kingship of the Grail,
Or had I ne'er vouchsafed with hovering wings and outspread tail
Over it to shed down new life and magic power,
For thee its pontiff and high-priest alas in evil hour
As Beauty's oracle cleansed and resanctified,
A perilous and corrupting trust for intellectual pride.
Yet do I love thee well. My prophet unashamed
Long hast thou been, in fortitude and truthful zeal unblamed.
Therefore, since so thou wilt, thy meed of frigid bliss
In my art-cuckoo-paradise this day thou shalt not miss.
Nevertheless 'tis not in mortals such as thee
That most my Godhead takes delight, but rather in those free
Unconscious souls, in whom, yea though they know it not,
My spirit dwells and moves and works, unheeded or forgot,
A secret kindling power, a serene influence,
Quickening to loveliness and life the pastures of each sense.
'Tis such blithe candid souls whom most I love. And now,
Ranging humanity to find the worthiest, it is thou
To whom in trust for life the Grail I would assign,
Thou Percival, the Phoenicide, the perfect Philistine.

CHORUS.
O divine bird, with awe we hear thy sacred voice.
Yet unforeseen thy providence, inscrutable thy choice.
Is this bold kleptograil, this Phoenicidal youth
Alone found worthy to possess the Vase of grace and truth?
Then to this rising sun on reverent knees we fall,
To worship and felicitate thee, the New Parsifal.

PERCIVAL.
Well really--I fear you'll think me quite absurd--
Of course, I know, it's too kind of the bird,
After the way I treated it last year;
Yes, I know--but the trouble is--oh dear!
I can't express myself--but it's quite clear
I oughtn't to accept this bowl; although
I quite admit that half an hour ago
I'd set my heart on having it if I could.
But now I feel I'm not the sort who should.
You see, I didn't realise in the least
All it would mean. I'm not cut out for a priest
Or hierophant. Thank you, that's not my line.
As the bird says, I'm a mere Philistine,
And quite unfit...

CIRCE.
                            Do you mean that you refuse
The kingship of the Grail? Percy, you goose!
Of course you must accept it.

PERCIVAL.
                                                It's no use.
The responsibility's too great. I can't;
I really can't accept it.

CIRCE.
                                    Then I shan't
Sail with you on your yacht.

PERCIVAL.
                                                I can't help that.
I'm sorry; but my mind's made up; that's flat.
It's a museum piece. My dear, 'twould be
An absolute white elephant to me.
I'ld never do it justice. With Klingsor
It's another thing. He'ld value it far more
Than I could do, or Quelch or Gigadibs even.
Do let him take it off with him to heaven.

CHORUS.
This seems more serious than a mere nolo episcopari.
Insensate youth, canst thou intend to make the grand refusal,
And reject this great historic trust laid on thee by the Phoenix,
Of sacerdotal majesty and more than papal kingship?
Oh poor of spirit, blind alike to interest and to duty!
Your pusillanimous folly too is like to lose you Circe.
Look, she is making up to Quelch and Gigadibs already.

PERCIVAL.
Well, if she does, that's her affair. Her island's a free country.

CHORUS.
No, no, it's not, for you at least. You must, you shall take office.

PERCIVAL.
Well then I won't. I'm going now. I can't stand all this blather.

CHORUS.
Go then, thou craven Celestine, thou mean-souled non-conformist.

PHOENIX.
Well hast thou chosen, my son. Heed not their senseless wrath.
Rightly dids't thou refuse the Grail. 'Twas but to prove thy worth
I tempted thee therewith. Nobly hast thou endured
Thy trial, firm in wisdom, by the glittering bait not lured.
Unwholesome for mankind and perilous now are proved
Religious and aesthetic Grails alike. Far then removed
To mine Elysium, there the comfortable sense
Of culture-mandarin holiness safely shall it dispense.
From penance now released, Klingsor, I bid thee rise,
And bear the Grail to its last home in my prigs' paradise.

(KLINGSOR rapidly levitates skyward. The subsequent aerial phenomena proceed as described by the CHORUS.)

CHORUS.
Lo, now once more he levitates.
But who are these, oh who,
Swiftly like angels gliding down
To meet him through the blue?

Not foes, but friends they seem, sent forth
To welcome and escort.
See how his flight on either side
Hovering they support!

Oh, can't it be? Yes, it is he,
Goethe, the wise and mild.
Who is that other? Baudelaire?
Pater? Or is it Wilde?

No, it is Nietzsche, the sublime,
The supermaniac.
Oh blessed sight! Oh sacred hour!
As on the eagle's back

Ganymede to Olympus soared,
As Elijah fiery-coached,
As multicentenarian Enoch,
Whose spirit Death ne'er broached,

So now alive to Paradise
Our Klingsor glides--
                                   Ah me!
What demon shape from the ground doth shoot
After them in vehement pursuit,
With a terrible cachinnatorial hoot?
Is it Wagner? Is it he?

(During the last line of the CHORUS, the earth opens, and the GHOST OF WAGNER shoots up skyward in the track of KLINGSOR, uttering fierce yells and imprecations.)

WAGNER.
Zurück vom Grale!
Verfluchter Klingsor!

CHORUS.
Like a rocket he shoots through the sky. He is gaining upon them.
He has reached them, alas! They are grappling and wrestling and hurtling:
They are mixed in the scrum of a desperate anguish of conflict.
O Phoenix, Phoenix, hear us! Swift to the rescue
Of the Grail from the demon clutch of the fiendly marauder!
See, fiercely to the right and to left he layeth about him.
He planteth a punishing blow in the belly of Nietzsche.
But aloof, surveying the fight in Olympian grandeur,
Stands Goethe detached and serene. Now Nietzsche is done for.
He is fled. Along Klingsor is left for the monster to deal with.
One-handed he fights; with the other he wardeth the Grail-cup.
Oh horrible! The fell fiend closes and collars and cuffs him.
Ah, now he has shaken him off, high-towering above him.
In the ravisher's grasp is the Grail. Loud laughs he in triumph.
Ah me! The Grail is stolen! The Grail is stolen!
The earth gapes. Down through cleft rocks he descends.

(The GHOST OF WAGNER, with the Grail in its hands, sweeps downwards into the chasm whence it rose, but at the sight of CIRCE pauses a moment, hovering with head and breast still visible.)

WAGNER.
Du weisst--
Wo einzig du mich wiedersieh'st!

(CIRCE stretches out her arms with a gesture of desire toward the Grail, as WAGNER vanishes with it into the chasm.)

CHORUS.
Oh misery! Into what pit of Hell
Is sunk the Vase of our felicity!

(CIRCE has approached the edge of the chasm, and now turns and speaks with self-conscious dignity.)

CIRCE.
Mortals, lament no more. Rapt though it be
Beneath the earth for ever from your eyes,
Yet with the Grail shall it be well. For know,
Deep under cavernous mountain-roots enwombed
There lies another nobler land of bliss,
The abode of proud free spirits, where the flame
Languisheth not of genius and desire,
But ever burns unquenched: and there, within
The Venusburg, not in that passionless
Sad paradise whither now Klingsor speeds,
There with the Maenads and the Muses dwell
Orpheus and Dionysus, there Tristan,
Tannhäuser, Oisin, Blake and Aeschylus;
And thither, from all sacerdotal taint
Hellenized and cleansed, the Grail shall Wagner bear,
A gift for Aphrodite and Iacchus,
To be the glory of their festivals,
The cup whence deities and immortal men
May quaff the Wine of Life; whereof I too
Must hasten now that I may share. The Grail
Calleth me; I must follow. Fare thee well,
Lone isle of my imprisoning solitude!
The spell is broken. Palace, lawn and wood,
Farewell! And thou, my Parsifal, adieu!
Too pure a fool, too simple-souled wert thou
To keep the Grail and Goddess thou hadst won.
Yet, as it now befalleth, so 'tis best.

PERCIVAL.
Stay, Circe, stay! Come with me in my yacht
To England. There we'll marry. Yes, why not?
London's a better place than any Hell.
Or dismal Venusburg.--She's gone!--Oh well!

(CIRCE deliberately assumes a sybilline attitude, and descends slowly into the chasm.)

CHORUS.
Through the gaping gulf she descends. Now it closeth above her.
She is gone in the subterrene track of the Grail and of Wagner.
To the realm (is it heaven or hell?) of the classical Venus.
O foolish and blind young man! See, away like a sunbeam
Has passed your chance of possessing the Grail-cup and Circe.

QUELCH.
What nonsense! Here's the true Grail. It's absurd
To suppose Klingsor and that Phoenix bird
Know better than myself and Gigadibs.
As to the Venusburg, why that's all fibs.
It's my belief she's just gone down to Hell,
And a good riddance too.

GIGADIBS.
                                            It's quite as well
She didn't come on board. Who knows what game
The witch might there be up to?

PROFESSOR BRUCE.
                                                     All the same
I do regret I couldn't have it out
About her parentage. She was quite wrong;
There's not the slightest doubt.
Besides, I did so long
To make her read my book, and have a talk
On totems, and whether metamorphosed pork
Tastes much the same as...

PERCIVAL.
                                            Come, Bruce, let's be gone.
At least we've had our money's worth of fun,
Although we've missed the Grail.

QUELCH. (Holding up the pseudo-grail.)
                                                      Nonsense! We've not.
Look here--

PERCIVAL.
                       No offence, Quelch. It's true you've got
The Grail you deserved, though I've missed mine. Come then,
Let's start. (To the CHORUS.) And you, ladies and gentlemen,
Will you consent to be my guests on board?
It's a tight fit: but we can just afford
Room for you all. At any port you choose
We'll call and put you off. Now don't refuse.

CHORUS.
O noble and generous Philistine youth, with joy we accept thy proposal.
From Graildom and culture-Brahminism by thee rescued and delivered,
To the common-or-garden workaday world henceforth we revert disillusioned,
Yet marvelling at bright memories still, as though from a midsummer-night's dream.
Many shapes do divine-wrought wonders take,
Many deeds unhoped do the Gods ordain,
And events men looked for are not fulfilled,
And to things undreamed Fate findeth a way.
Even so this drama is ended.

THE END