Arthur the King; or, The Knights of the Round Table, and other funny-ture. A Burlesque Extravaganza
MERLIN (the Wizard Guardian of Britain, and Protector of the race of Uther Pendragon. Although the great neck-romancer of this big-isle, he is big-eye-ld by the big eyes of Vivien, and secluded for a brief period; however he re-appears in a n*gg*r tune in the very nig o' time)
VIVIEN (the Lady of the Lake, Merlin's mysterious mistress, who having learnt from him how to spell "waving hands and woven paces," shuts up her Tutor)
ARTHUR (son of Uther Pendragon by a fluke, and by another fluke Monarch of Britain, that is to say, Monarch of all he can s-way of it, which is probably more than he can survey of it. A very injured man, but every inch a King)
SIR LAUNCELOT OF THE LAKE (the Mirror of Chivalry and Pier Glass of Nobility; the Pet of the Petticoats. Although Arthur's ally he courts Guenever, and has love passages with E-laine, from whom he rights-a-way, the consequence being that his cognizance is-treated with contempt by all right-minded persons)
SIR KAY (Hereditary Grand Seneschal, a fearless functionary, and a specimen of the mild man of the period; a great chum of Arthur's and a Pal-adin)
SIR MODRED (a Prince with Royal blood in his veins, and accordingly the vainest of the vain; a fellow knight of Arthur, but a felon knight. He hasn't a redeeming quality, especially readym-oney, and doesn't expect to go anywhere)
SIR ANTOUR (Arthur's Foster-father, forced to father Arthur at first; he becomes a kind of Court Guide, and then subsides into obscurity)
SIR CUSS, SIR BURB, SIR CUMLOCUTION, SIR GEON, SIR GERY, SIR POSE, SIR MOUNT, SIR VANT, SIR PRIZE, SIR TAINLY NOT, SIR CUITOUS, SIR PENT, SIR CINGLE, SIR EE, SIR VILE (Knights of the Round Table, not everyday knights, but as the Audience will discover all-turn-it Knights)
KING LOT OF LOTHIAN Competitors for
KING NANTERS OF GERLOT the Crown of
KING URIEN OF REGED the British
KING CARODAS OF STRANGORE Pendragons,
KING IDER OF THE MARCHES who all come
KING ANGUISANT OF SCOTLAND to Griff.
Knights, Squires, Officers of the Court, Huntsmen, &c.
GUENEVER (otherwise Gin-ever, Ginevra, or Geneva – Arthur's renowned Bride and Queen. This Royal Lady loves not wisely, but two well, Launcelot being number one)
ELAINE (the Lily Maid of Astolat – she has a quick ear for the music of Launcelot's voice, but a deaf one for Modred's bass notes – quite a deaf-ear-ent matter. Disguised as her own brother, she follows the favoured being, who, according to some authorities, was ignorant of the imposture)
Programme of Scenery, &c.
Romantic Glade in the Forest of Treesalot.
The Tower of the King's Sword, and Bower of Elaine the Lily Maid of Astolat.
A Handsome Apartment in the Royal Palace of Camelot.
Ruined Grotto and Hermitage near the Field of Avalon.
The Battle-field of Avalon.
SCENE FIRST. –A Romantic Glade in the Forest of Treesalot. Perspective View of the Royal Citadel of Camelot, upon which is mounted the great Pendragon flag; a splendid pavilion with practicable entrance pitched C.
A ROYAL HUNTING PARTY discovered resting after the fatigues of the Chase. As the curtain rises, hunting music is heard; this is followed by a general chorus of "Yoicks!" "Tally-ho!" &c.; SIR KAY, the Grand Seneschal, attired in full hunting costume, comes down, followed by the HUNTSMEN.
Song and Chorus.
While the chorus is being sung Launcelot enters from the pavilion, leading on Guenever – at the same time, Sir Modred comes from behind the pavilion and watches them – Sir Kay goes up stage and converses with Huntsmen.Launc. (to Guenever) And now, adieu! sweet princess –
Guenev. Wherefore? How?
Launc. Here ends my mission; I must show you how,
Commissioned by King Arthur to escort you –
From Carmalide, your father's court, I brought you
To wed with Britain's heir.
Guenev. That heir. Who's he?
Launc. (doubtfully) Well, that you know –
Guenev. I know?
Launc. That is, you see –
Guenev. I see?
Launc. I mean to say, with great regret,
That much particular heir ain't found as yet;
Perhaps he's not born –
Guenev. Poor fellow!
Sir M. (aside) Ah, that's gall.
Guenev. Perhaps he isn't even the rightful heir at all!
Sir M. (aside) Wormwood and bitters.
Launc. Anyhow you bet.
Sweet Guenever, he hasn't turned up yet.
Sir M. (aside) Cod liver oil!
Guenev. No heir, nowhere, sir.
But really, pon my word, I mustn't tarry here.
(to Sir Kay) My royal charge to you I now transfer.
I think you'll own I've done my duty, sir,
And earned my wages.
Sir K. Yes, dear boy, I vow
You've earned your wages.
Guenev. Don't go 'way jus' now.
Launc. Indeed, I must proceed upon my journey
Guenev. And whither bound, Sir Knight?
Launc. Bound to a tourney.
Guenev. Attorney! law, yer not a going among attorney's?
Launc. No, but to a tournament.
Sir M. (aside) Ah! that's em-barrassed her.
Guenev. You've some conveyance, sir? (aloud)
(aside) You won't forget me, will you? Come, your a-answer!
Launc. Two questions at a time – it's rather smart.
Princess, I have my old horse – and – (producing carte de visite)
Sir M. (aside) Her carte.
Launc. Again, farewell to all!
Sir K. Fair knight, good-day.
Hope you'll enjoy yourself –
Sir M. (savagely, aside) I hope –
(Launcelot turns to him, and he alters his tone to one of suavity)
Air, Launcelot. – "Farewell, my gallant Captain" — (Maritana.)
Farewell, my dear companions, I'm going for a spree,
Farewell, my dear companions, I'm going for a spree,
Unto, sirs, the T O U R N A M E N T.
For several weeks, it may be months, you've seen the last of me;
You'll not forget L A U N C E L O T.
Farewell, &c.Launcelot takes an affecting farewell and exit.Guenev. Really a nice young fellow.
Sir M. (aside) Well, that's cool.
Sir K. Yes, Launcelot's of the old British School,
Bold as a lion, though so spruce and jemmy.
Sir M. (aside) The British School! a British cad-dem-mee.
She shall be mine; I swear it! – that of course.
And – equally conclusive – mine by force!
Another oath for early registration.
Guenev. What's to become of me on this occasion?
My present situation is a rum 'un.
I'm summoned here I'm told to marry some 'un,
And marry some 'un certainly I mean to.
(to Sir Kay) As you, Sir Knight, seem boss, let this be seen to.
(to Modred, who has been ogling her furiously) You spoke, I fancy.
Sir M. Madam, you are wrong.
Guenev. (aside) Well, I declare he's ogling. (aloud to Sir Modred) Oh, 'glong –
You ogly fellow, what's to become of me,
Will some 'un say?
Sir K. Will you some hun-ting see?
Guenev. No; cruelty I hate.
Sir K. Pray don't abhor us.
The hunting we do's but a hunting chorus.
You see the king is dying.
Guenev. Poor old cuss!
What's his complaint?
Sir M. Corns on th' œsophagus,
With Prusso-Adriatic cream o' tartar,
And postal chilblains on the dura-mater.
They say he can't recover! (ogles)
Guenev. I should think not.
In the meantime I'll trouble you to wink not.
Sir K. Say, Princess, will you join us in our pleasures? (horn within)
Guenev. Oh, that be blow'd! Who waits?Enter Arthur, R.Arthur. Who waits? I, messieurs.
All. The Prince!
Arthur. (abstractedly) Yes, principally – more or few.
Sir M. What, Arthur! are there any more of you?
Arthur. (à la Macbeth) To-morrow, and to-morrow –
Guenev. How, two more – how?
Who's this young swell? – tell us, without more row.
Arthur. (to Guenever) I am thy father's spirit! –
Guenev. That is rum!
Sir K. (explaining) My squire, Prince Arthur.
Arthur. (to Modred) Did you bite your thumb
Sir M. No, narrer bit. (gun fired from citadel)
Arthur. (aside) Hallo! How's this!
A cannon! Something must have gone amiss,
To cause gunpowder to be fired about
Eight hundred years before it was found out!
(gun fired – the flag on the citadel drops to half mast)
Another gun! – the royal flag half mast!
Sir K. King Arthur's dead! [sic, should be Uther]
Sir M. (aside) Dead! – defunct at last – (sanctimoniously)
Let's comfort the bereaved, whoe'er they be.
Guenev. Once more, I ask, what's to become of me?
Arthur. Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Guenev. You're rude.
Arthur. An amulet about thy neck I'd be!
Guenev. (softening) You would? –
You'd like to be a talisman? Poor lad!
Sir M. (sneering) Every small boy wants to play Am(u)let bad.
But we forget, the king has closed his reign.
Guenev. What's to become of me, I ask again?
Arthur. Why, get thee to a nunnery!
Guenev. Bah, please!
Shut up for life – and be a triste Beatrice!
With ne'er a Benedick – no nunneries, none,
Arthur. Might I suggest a Benedictine one!
Guenev. What's to become –
Sir M. One moment – may I urge,
At this sad juncture an appropriate dirge.
All but Arthur dance off.Arthur. (after ascertaining that he is alone, comes down exultingly.)
The King is Dead, then "Vive le Roi!" say I,
Yes, "Vive le Roi," that's me, shall be my cry;
Although I'm bound to say, that some who've seen much,
Declare that after all, "vive" doesn't mean much;
While others say – such variance I deplore –
That "vive" as shouted, frequently means "mort."
Enough of "viving," as a Cockney muff
Would say, dear boy, ve've surely had enough.
I'm viverish with excitement you must know, for
The Crown and Princess Guenever I go for,
I'm inwardly convinced I'm Arthur's son, [sic, should be Uther]
He never owned me, but that was his fun.
On this same subject I am told by rumour,
That lots of dads have such ideas of humour;
They think me mad, I'm mentally a giant,
No sane man has a sana mens, if I ha'nt!
The difficulty now's to clutch my prize.
I'll call on Merlin, he will me advise.
This ring he gave me – every gem that's here,
Is genuine Brummagem, and awf'lly dear;
The golden setting formed with many a spell,
Was furnished by the gnomes of Whitechapel.
He told me that, if, when in fear or doubt,
I kissed it, he would be somewhere about;
And now, as doubt and fear my notice claim,
Kissin' in the ring shall be my little game.
Music. – Arthur kisses the ring. A part of the Forest opens, discovering Merlin seated at the foot of an oak, as in Dore's picture. Vivien reclining at his feet in a voluptuous attitude.
Halloa! what's this? 'Tis the old man. Hi Father!
Merlin. Who calls on Merlin?
Arthur. I, young Arthur.
Merlin. Well – call again, I'm busy.
Arthur. Yes, that's plain!
One moment, Merlin.
Merlin. I've to catch the train.
(lovingly to Vivien) My charming Vivien!
Arthur. How the witch grimaces!
Vivien. (fondling Merlin) The spell of waving hands and woven paces.
Teach me, you dear old dotard do, I say.
(to Arthur) Waltz off! you boys are always in the way.
Arthur. Oh, if I were the Grand Turk, or, let's see,
The Great Cæsarowitch of Muscovy,
I'd banish witches; now I grieve to say
When I sees e'er a witch I mus' go way.
One final effort. (calling) Merlin! aid me, do.
Merlin. My friend, I really can't attend to you.
(fondling Vivien) I'm balancing my books –
Arthur. O pray assist
The heir of Britain that has long been missed.
Merlin. The air of Britain's always mist.
Vivien. That's right.
Arthur. This heir of Britain is fog-gotten quite.
Vivien. (to Merlin, whose beard she pulls over her face)
Lo! here I clothe myself with wisdom.
Few can whip Merlin, Miss, in hanky-panky.
I hold the fate of nations in this fist.
Arthur. There's egotism – what a he goat 'tis.
Merlin. (handing her a book) Read and be wise.
Vivien. (taking book and reading) I will.
Arthur. What will she do?
Vivien. Merlin, old man, I'll quickly shut up you.
Row upon row, lock-stitch, and chain and woof,
Enclose him with your fancy walls and roof
(as the incantation proceeds, Merlin gradually becomes enclosed in a web of fancy work)And now adieu, young turk!
(the opening closes slowly)
Arthur. That's certainly a pretty piece of work,
Though parodoxical [sic] the terms no doubt;
That closing in of Merlin lets him out.
Merlin. Oh, fool!
Echo. A fool!
Arthur. Away with melancholy.
Vivien. Oh, fool!
Irish Echo. Aw fool!
Arthur. I feel I'm awfully jolly.
SCENE SECOND. – The Tower of the King's Sword, and Bower of Elaine the Lily Maid of Astolat; exterior of an old British Tower with practicable gates, R. and open landscape; a little to the left of the entrance is an anvil of gold mounted upon a pedestal which is approached by steps; in the anvil is thrust a massive sword, the handle visible to the audience; the pedestal bears the following inscription: –
"Who luggethe out this sherpe thinge,
"Yclept Escalibore isse kynge."
On the left of the stage is seen a portion of the Castle of Astolat; practicable door at L. 2 E., and practicable window; pianoforte music of an elementary character heard proceeding from the castle, followed by a discordant noise as if the performer was disgusted with the general effect of the performance; Elaine opens the window and leans out.
Elaine. Bother the scales, I say – I try in vain,
A Londoner, perhaps, would not complain;
For scales are used in weighin' – but I chatter,
In veighin' against scales won't mend the matter.Enter Sir Modred, L., unperceived by Elaine.Sir M. (aside) The fair Elaine!
Elaine. What signifies this flutter?
Why is it that I loathe my bread and butter?
How is it my piano can't delight?
And wherefore is it I don't sleep at night?
Sir M. (aside) The self-same answer will suit every question.
Elaine. Is love the cause?
Sir M. (aside) I'd bet it's indigestion.
Elaine. That stranger knight who left his shield – ah me!
My cardiac region tells me it is he.
The morn seems fine, I'll don another frock –
And take a little stroll around the block.
Exit from window.Sir M. (comes down) I've heard that Launcelot – obnoxious codger! –
While on his way was here one day a lodger.
La belle Elaine, I know, flirts with all fellows;
If Guenny knows he's seen her she'll be all jealous,
And then his chance is up and mine begins.
Yes, jealousy's the usefullest of sins.
In one respect I'm like Carlisle, it's true:
I'm a philosopher of Jeal'sy too.
Enter Elaine from castle, she carries Launcelot's shield.Elaine. He went and left a desert in this part,
Also this horrid shield – alas! poor heart
'Twill ne'er rejoice again.
Sir M. Poor heart!
Elaine. (turning quickly to him) That voice is
Sir M. It's a poor heart that ne'er rich I says,
(pointing to shield) How came you by that article of vertu?
Elaine. That article of what?
Sir M. (indicating shield) That, I refer to.
That shield, that target –
Elaine. Thereby hangs a tale.
Sir M. Suppose we tark it over, young female.
Elaine. You are?
Sir M. Sir Modred.
Elaine. I, sir knight, am that
Unhappy maid, Elaine, of Astolat,
Condemned of yon lone tower to be a denizen,
By no less an authority than Tennyson,
And ever watch this buckler –
Sir M. Watch or wash?
Elaine. Facetiousness in your case is all bosh.
To watch this buckler, and so bad I feel it,
I wish you were a burglar and would steal it.
Sir M. Where did you get it? push along, my dear.
Elaine. A gentle knight, a peerless cavalier;
Called here upon his way –
Sir M. (aside) I have a clue.
(to Elaine) That cavalier, miss, gav a leer at you.
Elaine. Bound for the tournament – he looked so prime,
'Twas jousting time, and he –
Sir M. Was just in time.
Elaine. I flirted with him muchly, did the pert,
And, my good f'ler, I fancy I can flirt. (laughs)
Sir M. Although Columbus isn't born as yet,
It's palpable you are a merri co-get.
Elaine. I danced and sang, played euchre, aye, for hours,
Allowed him to monopolise the bowers.
Sir M. And didn't that have him?
Elaine. No, I even confess,
I cut the sleeve out of my last new dress,
(Magenta samite every yard of it,
Cost thirty dollars, and a splendid fit),
Embroidered it with pearls, and gave him that
To wear around his disagree'ble hat.
'Twas of no use, of all hope he bereft me,
And softly murmuring "Not for Joseph," left me.
Sir M. The great Sir Launcelot of the Lake's your hero,
Elaine. Oh dear, oh dear, oh!
Sir M. (aside) From those red lips like a ripe cherry each,
Sir Launcelot's sipped nectar in, I'll peach.
(to Elaine) Fly! if this reaches Guenever's fair aurals,
Look out, my beauty, for no end of quarrels.
Elaine. But Uther's heir she weds. (Modred laughs)
What is there risible?
Sir M. That heir's like atmospheric air, invisible.
If e'er she's made a wife, that chap'll make her;
Yes, if she goes to church, that chap'll take her.
You'd better follow my advice and fly.
Elaine. You're very kind; but I prefer to die.
(aside) Not I; but like a dog with curly tresses,
I'll follow him, dressed in my brother's dresses.
Duet. – ELAINE and MODRED.
Dance off. – Music changes.Sir A. De mortuis – he died in peace!
Enter Sir Antour and Sir Kay – afterwards Arthur.
Arthur. (aside) In peace, he says;
(ironically) I'm so much cut up, I shall die in pieces-es.
Sir K. An awful cad he was! – he did'nt act jonnak!
Sir A. Vex not the shade of an anointed monarch!
Arthur. Well, who's annoyin' dead monarch's shades and things?
Sir K. Then drop the subject.
Sir A. See, here come the kings.March. – Enter, R.U.F., the Kings Lot, Nanters, Urien, Carodas, Ider, and Anguisant.Concerted Piece and Chorus.
Sir A. My royal friends, good day.
Sir K. How do – how do?
We seldom of six sovereigns get a view.
Arthur. And this ex-pounds our present nervous flurry;
The joke's of British currency.
Sir A. Don't worry.
(introducing King Lot) King Lot, of Lothian.
King Lot. Yes; that haughty tyrant,
Creation, shivers in its shoes when I rant.
Sir K. That autocrat is given to inflation!
Arthur. He thinks he ought to cr'ate a great sensation.
Sir A. (introducing King Nanters) His majesty, King Nanters, of Gerlot.
K. Nanters. (slangily) Yes, I'm the covey, lad – the covey what
Has got a little dawg –
Arthur. Surely he banters.
Young covey Nanters ain't like th' old Covenanters.
Sir A. (introducing King Urien) King Urien of Reged.(Urien dances up, pirouettes and bows)Arthur. He a rival, eh?
Upon my word King Reged looks quite lively.
K. Urien. (lachrymosely) Don't call this a reception, if you please;
I miss the genteel crush, the high-toned squeeze,
The fashionable crowd.
Arthur. What wretched gabble!
He's miserable if he miss-a rabble.
Sir A. (introducing Carodas) The King of Strangore, Carodas.
K. Carodas. For cash
I go – the rest is ornamented trash.
Sir K. Then Carodas for it don't care a dash.
Sir A. (introducing Ider) King Ider of the Marches.
Sir K. Soldier, eh?
Got some ider of marches Ider say.
Arthur. I of the Ides of March have often heard;
But Ider of the Marches sounds absurd.
Ider. I'm a Field Marshal, good Sir Coz.
Sir K. (puzzled) Dear me!
Arthur. Field-Marshal to a circus, don't you see?
Sir A. (introducing King Anguisant) King Anguisant of Scotland –
Sir K. A queer coon!
Arthur. He's lean and slippered, but no pantaloon.
Sir A. Your majesties no doubt are well aware
King Uther died and never left an heir.
Sir K. (aside to Arthur) About a wig you'll make a joke I know;
Sir A. He left no heir, and died –
Arthur. A wig ago.
(to the Kings, and pointing to the inscription on the anvil)
"Who luggeth out this sherpe thinge,
Y-clepte Escalibore, isse kynge."
Sir A. The meaning's plain.
K. Lot. Who draws the sword is king.
Sir A. Yes, that's about it –
Arthur. That's the sword of the thing.
Sir A. Now for the trial; he who would be lucky
In this great contest, must be staunch and plucky;
His character must be without a blot.
Arthur. (to Sir Kay and pointing to Anguisant)
Now there's a kilty look about that Scot.(mysterious music, p. p.)Sir A. Which of this royal lot will first cast in
His lot?(Lot bows and advances to the sword, which he in vain attempts to draw )Sir K. Lot One –
Arthur. Lot hasn't won.
Sir K. (as Lot returns disgusted) Passed in.
Sir A. King Nanters next.
Sir K. Who wants to back King Nanters?
He'll win, gents, in the commonest of canters.(Nanters pulls unsuccessfully)Arthur. He's got no pull of anyone.
Sir A. Don't mock.
Arthur. (as Nanters limps back) Ah, broke down badly queer in the fore off-hock.
Sir A. Now, Urien –
Sir K. You are the chap, no doubt.(Urien pulls in vain)Arthur. I think not this time, Urien. (to Sir K.) You're out.
Sir A. Carodas next –
Sir K. Now Emperor of Cash.
Draw boldly, sir.
Arthur. Don't let his gibes abash;
Draw as if drawing a good bill, I say.(Carodas fails, and falls back into the arms of the other Kings.)It's not accepted, don't endorse it, pray!(King Carodas gesticulates passion)Come, no bad language in your conversation;
Emperor of Cash, let's have no im-pr-e-cation.
Sir A. King Ider, you are next my star of war.
Sir K. I have known worse stars – (Ider fails)
Arthur. Well, that star doesn't draw.
Sir A. Scotty, your turn, and powerful strong you are.
Sir K. Lug and be lucky
Arthur. (as Anguisant fails) There's nae lug at a'.
K. Lot. Vengeance.
All the Kings. Revenge!
Sir A. Why, what's the matter now?
K. Lot. We are insulted –
K. Nanters. Gammoned!
Sir K. What's the row?
K. Urien. Oh, you know well enough.
K. Carodas. Draw, monarchs, draw.(Arthur threatening to kick Anguisant)K. Anguisant. What would ye do, mon? It's against the law.
You mauna kick a monarch – (hiccups) hic!
Arthur. Not kick.
(squaring) Prepare, you monarchs, for a rip-up lick,
Call yourselves kings, do you –
Sir A. They don't abuse you.
Arthur. Here's Bismarck coming!(the Kings rush to the entrances and exhibits [sic] great fear)Ah, my friends, he slews you.
K. Lot. Upon them!
(Kings advance upon the others with their swords drawn. – Sir Antour draws his sword, but neither Sir Kay nor Arthur has one)Sir A. (to Sir Kay) Where's your weapon?
Sir K. (starting) What? Oh, rot it.
Arthur. Oh, my prophetic soul, his uncle's got it.
Sir K. No trusty steel, the prospect is not gay, (retiring stealthily)
To say the truth, I trust to steal away.
Sir A. We'd best capitulate.
Arthur. (excitedly) I never will or can.
(takes off his cap, and throws it at Anguisant, whom it strikes)
If that cap hit you, lay't on me, old man. (crosses round to sword)
Here is my falchion, this enchanted thing. (draws it)
This will soon show who shall be Britain's King!Music. – The sword comes from the scabbard, and flashes fire. – Arthur's dress falls from him, and he appears magnificently attired. The gates of the tower open, and Guenever, escorted by the Knights of the Round Table enters, and is presented to Arthur who embraces her. Elaine, disguised as her brother Lavaine, enters from the Castle equipped for a journey – she starts on seeing Guenever. Sir Modred stealthily enters L., and comes down.Concerted Finale.
SCENE THIRD. – A handsome Apartment in the Royal Palace of Camelot.
Enter Guenever and Sir Modred – Guenever paces to and fro, apparently much excited.
Guenev. This royal etiquette I can't abide,
It keeps the loved one absent from my side.
You saw him –
Sir M. Yes.
Guenev. (haughtily) What was he doing, slave?
Sir M. His best to fancy he'd a beard to shave.
Guenev. How did the darling look?
Sir M. (sarcastically) Well, not amiss.
Something, my Queen, after the style of this.
(grimaces in the manner of a man shaving himself)Guenev. (ecstatically) A filmy moustache of pale carrot hue;
His upper lip fits beautifully true.
Tracing the line of beauty –
Sir M. (aside) Well, I'll lay
I'll give him upper-liptic fits some day!
Guenev. Where did you see my love?
Sir M. Your love, great queen?
In his own room, at forty-five fifteen.
Guenev. You did. Oh, joy! – go quickly, Modred, haste,
And hither bring my love – go, no time waste.
Why don't you fly and here my darling bring?
Sir M. My queen, I go to fetch –
Guenev. Yes, yes.
Sir M. (sardonically) The king.
Guenev. (surprised) The king! Do nothing of the sort.
Sir M. (submissively) I thought
You asked to have your husband hither brought.
Guenev. My husband, no –
Sir M. You said "Bring here my love."
Guenev. I ask you, as a reasonable cove,
If that means husband – (suddenly discovering she has betrayed herself)
Ah, unhappy girl!
I have betrayed myself.
Sir M. (hypocritically) I am no churl;
Your secret's safe.
Guenev. Oh, no it isn't, you'll tell it.
Exchange it, lend it, give it away, or sell it.
You men are all alike in that.
Sir M. Don't whine
And never mind what men are all – be mine.
I'm healthy, wealthy, not bad-looking, clever,
(fondly) Ever my queen – my Guenever.
Guenev. I never!
Sir M. Fly with me – fly, I say!
Guenev. I won't, that's flat!
You see I'm candid.
Sir M. No flies about that.
Were I Sir Launcelot, you'd look less grim;
False Guenever! you'd g'(o)anywhere with him.
Listen; he loves another.
Guenev. Loves an who?
Sir M. Another – meaning some one besides you.
The Maid of Astolat.
Guenev. Some horrid fright!
Sir M. Just sweet sixteen – complexion pink and white,
Fine golden hairs!
Guenev. Goldener than mine are?
Sir M. Than yours? – why her's are many carats finer!
Her sleeve she gave to Launcelot.
Guenev. Oh dear!
Sir M. He wore that sleeve.
Guenev. Ah! I'd as lief not hear.
Sir M. Yes, wore it on his helm!
Guenev. (imploring) Pity my plight!
Sir M. I found her mourning for her absent knight.
Guenev. (kneeling) Be merciful! – I beg it, on my knees!
Sir M. (haughtily) You beg it, ma'am! I'm Beckett, if you please.
Duet and Dance.Exit Sir Modred.Guenev. If Launcelot is false there's no wight blacker!
(noise within) What's that? (listens) A horse?
(looks off, then with enthusiasm) His nag! – it is his knacker!
Enter Launcelot – he runs to Guenever, who repulses him.Launc. My love – my Guenever! Excuse this fussiness!
Give us a buss!
Guenev. (loftily) Stand back, sir! What's your bus-i-ness?
Launc. Is this my welcome?
Guenev. Oh, sir, we are well met.
Where's the girl's sleeve you wore upon your helmet,
When at the jousts?
Launc. Eh! what's that, may I ask?
A piece of ap-parrel, madam, on my casque.
Guenev. A sleeve – with you words I won't bandy.
Launc. I'll not tell you a fib. (aside) I haven't one handy.
(aloud) Lady, I wore that sleeve outside my brain,
At the suggestion of the fair Elaine.
Guenev. At her suggestion – oh, you artful dodger!
You are at me, sir, jestin'.
Launc. Her dad's lodger.
I was at Astolat an hour or two;
This precious sleeve she gave me –
Guenev. Yes –
Launc. For you.
Guenev. This story's difficult, sir, to believe.
And yet an empty sleeve's an empty sleeve.
Launc. You see there was no arm in it.
Guenev. Just so.
Why wear it in your helmet?
Launc. Well, you know,
We haven't any pockets in our armour,
'Twas thine, I wore it as thy knight, my charmer.
Guenev. You love me, then?
Launc. (kneeling) Dearly, – like pie, or dearer.
You're my sweet tart.
Guenev. That's pudden the case clearer.Re-enter Modred, backing, leading in Arthur and Sir Kay.Arthur. Odds fish, and other expletives in vogue,
Would I were gifted with an Irish brogue;
I'd pile up objurgations.
Launc. (rising) What's the matter?
Arthur. The odour of a rat, I smell – oh, dr-at her!
Why were you at her foot, man?
Sir M. Why? you monkey.
Launc. (confused) I flung myself there to –
Arthur. To what, you flung key?
Oh, shame, where is thy plush?
(calmly) However, as a proof all doubts have vanished,
Launcy, your hand, dear boy.
(they shake hands cordially) For life you're banished.
Sir K. There's clemency.
Sir M. (to Sir Kay) The moment that I sees
Him at the foot of them there pair o' knees,
I knew he was as good as Spanished.
Launc. (weeping) Bother!
I'll serve you out for this – I'll tell my mother.(lively music, L.)Arthur. What mean those awful strains?(Enter Sir Antour, L.)Sir A. A barge, or smack,
Draped all in samite of the darkest black,
Has anchored just beneath – a dingy craft,
The only man on board is dumb or daft.
Your majesty, the cargo's very queer.
Arthur. Indeed! What is it?
Sir A. Sire, it is a bier!
And on the bier, a lady lies.
Arthur. What's that?
A lady on the bier?
Sir K. The bier's then flat.
Arthur. 'Tis very strange –
Sir M. Well, 'pon my word, now who'd
Ha' thought a gal on a bier warn't understood?
Sir A. The lady?
Sir K. On the bier.
Sir A. Is dead.
Guenev. (sotto voce) I find,
The oft-asked question, now recalled to mind,
What's to become of me?
Sir A. (handing a paper to Antour) This perfumed note
Was fastened to her fichu at the throat.
Arthur. (reads) "I'm Miss Elaine, my father was a barrying,
"I liked to read about love, and blood, and marrying,
"The Londing Journal was my chief delight,
"I used to read it every day and night,
"Till Launcelot, he came to lodge and board,
"And brought his shield and spear and great big sword;
"My heart he did purloin, and broke quite racent,
"And now, good bye, and please to bury me dacent."
Guenev. (turning fiercely upon Launcelot) A nice young man, I'm sure.
Launc. Well, what's my crime!
Guenev. So steady! – you've not whiled away your time
With Maids of Astolat –
Arthur. (remonstrating) My dear, my dear!
Guenev. (to Arthur) There, hold your tongue, sir! don't you interfere.
What's to become of me? Ah, yes, Sir King,
Remove the head of this immortal thing.
(to Launcelot) Mizzle, begone, decamp, get out, migrate, do,
Yes emigrate to – ah – get out – Oh! (screams)
Arthur. (pulling her dress aside and pointing to her foot, which has swollen enormously)
Guenev. (faintly) In my great toe.
SCENE FOURTH. – Ruined Grotto and Hermitage near the Field of Avalon; practicable door in Hermitage.
(Enter Sir Modred, L.)Sir M. A year has passed since, through my little plot,
Arthur bowled out the Queen and Launcelot.
Startling events have happened since we parted –
First, from the throne King Arthur has been started.
It chanced that I just then around was hovering,
The crown was offering – I became the sovereign;
Next, I annexed Queen, Guenever. The next queen
That ever I annex shan't be an ex-queen.
The fate of beef for boiling I've allotted her –
She's corned me, so I 'saulted her and potted her –
No one can tell her sufferings.
(Guenever is heard crying – "What is to become of me?)
Waking the echoes with her echony.
Enter from the Hermitage, Arthur and Sir Kay, both raggedly dressed, Arthur has a fiddle and Sir Kay a small harp, such as are played by street boy-musicians.Arthur. How are the funds, Sir Kay?
Sir K. To nix gone down.
Not a red cent, indeed, not even a brown –
Arthur. For an ex-monarch a nice state of things;
We're far worse off than other exiled kings,
For they, although their fall may have been great,
Never yet broke like us, I beg to state.
What says our bill of fare?
Sir K. (producing a herring) Salt fish.
Arthur. It's coarse.
Sir K. Well, nothing else.
Arthur. No sauce?
Sir K. The river source.
Arthur. 'Twill stand us in but poor stead,
Salt fish should have egg sauce. I'm quite exhausted.
What's to be done? For music it's quite clear
Isn't appreciated about here.
Sir K. Still, I'm inclined to think –
Arthur. Think! You alarm me.
Sir K. That you'd charm others as, my king, you charm me.
If you'd consent, though only in one case,
To play where there's some sort of populace –
Arthur. (indignantly) Let me not hear of it. No – never – no!
(loftily) Genius refuses to be fettered so.
Here we'll commence our concert, no one's close,
Sir K. What do we play?
Arthur. The Marseillaise, I s'pose;
And yet I'm sick of that aux armes affair;
It's whistled, hummed, and grunted everywhere.
Why, even very serious folks, who've qualms
When singing songs, don't mind singing o' psalms.
Sir K. We're perishing with hunger!
Arthur. Dare you, snob,
Include me in the vile perishin' mob?
Forgive me, youthful friend, this irritation;
The Marseillaise, Sir Kay, on this occasion.
Duet (sung in the manner of the street minstrels) – Arthur playing his violin handle upwards. – Air, "La Marseillaise."Launc. I have no change.
A long song from us you won't hear,Enter Launcelot with accordion, and Elaine with concertina – Arthur, helmet in hand, solicits donations.
So don't you a long 'un expect;
If it happens you do, then we fear,
Disappointment to you's very near,
That fact, if you please, recollect;
And now to our theme, which 'tis clear
Has suffered somewhat from neglect;
But which we have kept in the rear,
That it might have had the greater effect.
Aux armes, citizens!
For me you bet, I'm on;
March on, march on, et cetera,
Follow your nose along!
Solo. – Arthur
When a fellow gets seedy and queer,
And his landlady's looks are unkind;
When his last half-a-dollar he's near,
And he gives up his washing and beer,
And for weeks on a sausage has dined;
When his watch and his rings to a near
Relation have long been consigned;
He takes up the patriot's career,
And howls, as though out of his mind;
Aux armes, &c.(Arthur advances to Elaine, and begs a contribution from her; she with a lofty air waves him off)Elaine. I never pay, I guess;
My good man, I'm a member of the press.
Arthur. The clothes press or hydraulic?
Elaine. You must know
I publish handbills in the streets.
Arthur. (depressed) Just so.
Sir K. (disgusted) A pair o' dead heads!
Arthur. Our luck, every bit;
Our parody did us no benefit.
Launc. My friend, we're only proletarian chaps,
Doing our business in bars and taps;
Solos upon th' accordion, sir, I play –
This gentleman's my agent – I may say
My 'cordion angel – blithe as any lamb,
He cheers me up.
Arthur. A sort of cherub, Sam.
Launc. But we must go; we badly want a dinner;
So come, Lavaine, bring in the concertina,
Lest we shun Charybdis – that's arrest –
We come on Scylla – that's starvation.
That same Charybdis we've shunned too, my buck;
We've never come on siller, though, worse luck.
Like you, we're artists: I the public ear
Assault with violins.
Launc. (politely) To that, I fear,
I must object; I don't believe in vi'lence,
Elaine. Nor I a little –
Launc. Oh! vile-hence! (much agonised)
Oh crimini! or rather, oh Cremona!
I groan with horror –
Elaine. So am I a groaner.
Arthur. (presenting Sir Kay) This gent's a harpist.
Sir K. Yes, sir; shall I twang
This mus'cal weapon?
Arthur. (to Sir Kay) Spare them, pray, a pang!
(to the others) Those who have heard this harpist play, I find,
Are the unharppi'st of human kind.
Sir K. My hide is like an elephant's, stout leather.
Launc. You are irr-elevant, sir, altogether.
Elaine. (aside) How clever! and how beautiful! oh, bless you!
I long, oh Emperor of my soul, t' empress you.
Arthur. We fight the public under the same bunting.
Itinerant musicians dinner hunting.
Let's go in partnership.
Launc. The notion's sensible.
A company – but formed upon what principle?
Arthur. Unlim'ted lie-ability.
Launc. I s'pose
Public credulity no limit knows;
Splendid idea; a fortune it will coin us.
Arthur. Then leave off jawin' us and say you'll join us.
Enter the Knights of the Round Table.Knights. Long live King Arthur!
Launc. (kneeling) Vivat Rex!
Why fat Rex, when you very well must know,
We're but the wrecks of what we were? So rise.
Surely that coat of mail I recognise.
Come hither, sirrah.
Elaine. Dear sir, don't, sir, do sir.
Arthur. 'Tis Launcelot's surtout, the vile seducer!
Draw and set to, sir.
Launc. No, I am a wretch.
Arthur. You am a wretch? I'll have your hemorrhage.
Nay, then, take that! (strikes Launcelot)
Launc. A blow!
Elaine. 'Twas but a tap.
Sir K. A pretty tap-leau.
Launc. (drawing his sword) There, let fly, old chap.(Music. Arthur makes furious passes at Launcelot, who warily parries.)Sir K. (to Elaine) Wilt try a bout with me?
Elaine. I've no objection.
I'm 'bout to be a martyr to affection
(Arthur makes furious passes at Launcelot who disarms him – Sir Kay similarly disposes of Elaine)Arthur. (melo-dramatically) Strike!
Elaine. (to Sir Kay) Oh, don't strike!
Arthur. Strike, I shan't complain.
Elaine. Don't strike a woman.
Launc. You are –
I'll tell you more some other time.
Arthur. That ere gal
Who calls herself E-laine's a thorough-fare gal.
Arthur. (to Launce.) Let us be friends, and join our battle-cries,
Instead of fretting, let us fraternize,
And chastise Modred.
Launc. That suits me to rights,
Soon the Round Table we'll turn on him knights.
Sir K. Agreed!
Elaine. Agreed! why not?
Sir K. For fame and vengeance we're a-greed-y lot.
Concerted Piece and March.
SCENE FIFTH. – The Battle-Field of Avalon. – A heavy mist obscures every object beyond the second grooves. – Music descriptive of a fiercely contested battle. – The sounds gradually die away.
Enter Sir Modred, dragging in Guenever by the hair of her head.Sir M. This way, my dainty dame, my tender minion.
Guenev. Let go, it's my back hair, it ain't a chignon;
Oh dear! you hurt so.
Sir M. Do I? p'raps I do.
Guenev. The man that lays his hand upon a –
Sir M. Pooh!
We've wiped out all that sort of nonsense, ma'am,
The march of intellect's proved it all a sham.
(swings her round by her hair)
Guenev. Be good enough to help, somebody, quick!
Sir M. (swinging her round) I'll stop your pipes with your back hair, my chick.
Already I've provided you with s-c-ars.
Guenev. Unhand me, monster – let me go to Pa's.
What's to become of me? Villain would's murder me?
Sir M. Well, I admit the notion has occurred to me.
Where will you have it? Come. (draws his sword)
Guenev. Have pity, do,
You son of Satan.
Sir M. I mean to sarsnet you.
Enter Launcelot.Launc. I heard a yelp for help – who is it howling?
Sir M. (politely) Only my wife, I'm giving her a tow'lling,
Launc. What do you tell me, fellow?
Sir M. That I were
A towelling my wife I tould you, sir, –
The custom of the country.
Guenev. Help! oh dear!
Launc. Really, I don't see I can interfere;
Besides, the battle's raging, I must go.
Guenev. I'm not his wife, I'm badly off, I know,
But wouldn't be his better half.
Launc. I fancy,
I've heard that voice. What Gwinny?
Guenev. 'Tis my Lancy.
Launc. (to Modred) I'll trouble you to pass that Queen –
Sir M. (scornfully) No doubt.
Launc. I think I owe you one – I'll take it out.
Sir M. You think you can?
Launc. Indeed I do, with ease –
Like shelling peas.(Modred swings Guenever round by her hair)Guenev. Oh, don't!
Sir M. Cease yelling-peace.
(to Launcelot) In that case I'll retire.
Launc. Yes, do your beat.
Sir M. Like Xenophon, I'll do a fine retreat.
To be subjected to an awful whopping,
Like Xenophon, I see no fun in stopping.
I'll to the field while, to avoid dissension,
You two may go to – places I won't mention.Salutes them courteously, and exit, L.Launc. D'ye love me still?
Guenev. Much fonder I have got.
Launc. How much to you love me?
Exeunt, R.Sir K. Turn, hell-hound! turn, dear boy –
Alarum – Re-enter Sir Modred, R., pursued by Sir Kay.
Sir M. I shan't, you loon.Exit, L.Sir K. (coming down) I'll waste no further words except to tune;
Here goes a war song in the key of A,
Chord – Re-enter Sir Modred, L. – he comes down, and as Sir Kay is about to sing passes his sword through him.Sir M. You'd better make it four sharps, dear Sir Kay.(Sir Kay falls in a sitting posture, against wing, L.)Arthur. For one of us, or both, the time has come.
Alarum – Enter Arthur with his sword drawn; he and Sir Modred rush violently at each other from opposite corners; the impetus carries them off the stage – they re-enter, meet in mid-career and throw off.
Sir M. Arty, my little friend, you're going home
The orb o' day you'll see no more, my boy.
Arthur. The orb o' day! though I'm a hobbedayhoy,
I mean to wipe you out.
Sir M. You used-up chirper!
Arthur. Used up or not, you know you're an usurper.
Fall on, old man! (music – he strikes out) Take that!
Sir M. (parrying) Not bad for you!
(thrusts) Now what do you say to that?
Arthur. (parrying) Yes, that will do.
You needn't crow; of you I'll soon make carrion:
(thrusts) Here's to your marble heart!
Sir M. (parrying) That I call parrying.
(both swords are broken) Our blades are broken.
Arthur. (squaring) But our fists are sound.
Sir M. (aside) That squaring up denotes a coming round.
(aloud) I couldn't hit one less than my own size.
My conscience pricks me, I'll apologise.
Arthur. Too late! – come on! – I hope you've made your will!
Sir M. I'm indisposed; in short, I'm rather ill.(Music – they fight – the mist rises – Guenever rushes in between the combatants, and receives a blow from each; in throwing out her arms, she strikes each, and all fall.)Sir M. I'm cooked! (dies)
Guenev. I'm likewise baked! (dies)
Arthur. (à la Hamlet) Oh, direful thing!
I die; here end the Idylls of the King! (dies)The mist is now dispersed, and the battle-field is fully disclosed; the slain Knights are lying about in picturesque groups. Music – Vivien, leading on Merlin, enters from the trunk of a tree.Vivien. (weeping) I've overdone it, Merlin.
Merlin. So I see.
Vivien. I didn't intend so sad a tragedy.
Badly I served you, but (kissing him) there!
Merlin. I'm hard hit.
Vivien. Now see if you can't put things straight a bit,
Just to oblige me.
Merlin. And be sold again.
Vivien. (coaxing) Did she shut up her poor old fogey then,
And was so sorry for it?
Merlin. Were you sorry?
Vivien. 'Twas the idea of Tennyson and Dorè.
Don't be a cross old boy. (embraces him)
Merlin. (delighted) Hey, ho! tantivy!
Vivien. Revivify them, won't you now, for Vivy?
Merlin. Well, well, I yield.
Vivien. That's right.
Merlin. Not to temptation.
This is compulsory, hem! fascination! (music)
Know all men by these presents. (to Vivien) Hold your breath,
We supersede the bankruptcy of death;
And re-establish, let all people know,
The good old firm of Arthur, Knights and Co. (all rise)
Enter Launcelot and Elaine.Sir A. Although, but as a junior I ranks,
I rise to move –
Omnes. Hear, hear!
Sir A. A vote of thanks
To Master Merlin, to whose skill I owe,
The power to rise and move at all you know.
Elaine. (to Vivien) Do I see Mrs. Merlin?
Vivien. (haughtily) Not at present.
Elaine. (to Launcelot) Take me away, my love – dear, how unpleasant.
(scanning Vivien and Merlin through eye-glass)
Perhaps you are related to yon sage?
Sir K. They can't be married till he comes of age,
And he's not quite three hundred yet – she tarried,
Not being in a hurry to get married
Like some we know.
Launc. Oh, Nell, that's rather rough.
(takes off his gauntlet) Does anybody here desire a glove?
If so, here's mine. (throws it down) Five dollars gone I fear;
Still what are ger-loves when a girl loves you dear?
Guenev. No fighting, if you please. I must, I see,
Ask one again what's to become of me?
(to Launcelot) Will you? (Launcelot turns away to Modred)
(to Arthur) Will you? Oh lor, how very penitent.
Arthur, dear Arthur, come home – any tent
With you would be a palace.
Sir M. Bah, what silliness,
I from my youth have doted upon villanies.
My parents were an operatic race;
And when my voice broke, it became so base
I couldn't play a virtuous part.
We couldn't do without a villain, muff,
So don't think of reforming.
Sir M. Well, I'll not.
Arthur. One word with you, as Master Launcelot,
With other people's wives pray leave off flirting,
And get one of your own.
Launc. (embracing Elaine) I will, that's certain.
Arthur. Yes, marry Miss Elaine, you cooing doves,
And don't be miscellaneous in your loves.
(to Guenever) What's to become of you? That phrase you're drumming
For ever in our ears; it ain't becoming.
(to Audience) What's to become of all? Do say, for it's
A vital question. Shall we become favorites?
What is that – yes?
Arthur. It is yes for certain.
Arthur, the King, returns his thanks – now Curtain.
Music – Tableau.