'And so ad infinitum' (The Life of the Insects)/Epilogue



Scene: Interior of the forest. Pitch-black night. The Tramp sleeping in the foreground.

Tramp. (Speaking in his sleep) Chuck it, General! (Wakes) Been nappin’, ’ave I? Crumbs, I feel cold. I’m sick—shiverin’ all over . . . Where am I? Can’t see me ’ands, it’s so bloomin’ dark . . . ’Oo ’s that speakin’? . . . (Shouting) ’Ullo! ’oo ’s talkin’? . . . Nothin’—no one anywhere. Gawd! I’m skeered. Where ’s the sky got to? There ain’t no sky! Can’t be dead, can I? Feel sick enough. For ’eaven’s sake, a bit of light—jest a glimmer!

A Voice. Wait, wait. The light is coming.

Tramp. I can ’ear voices—everywhere, voices! ’Ark!

Voice of Ant-Soldier. I’m wounded . . . I’m thirsty.

Voice of Ant-Commander. Army of Occupation, advance!

Voice of Mr. Beetle. My pile! Where ’s my little pile?

Voice of a Butterfly. Iris! Iris!

Tramp. Give us a bit of light! I’m skeered!

Voice of Cricket. Another cricket lived here a long time ago. Careful, mumsy, careful!

Voice of Ichneumon Fly. Aha! Got them!

Voice of Ant-Soldier. Water, water!

Voice of Ant-Commander. And see that you take no prisoners.

Voice of a Butterfly. Iris! Iris!

Voice of Mr. Beetle. My pile! Where ’s my lovely pile?

Tramp. What ’s ’ere? A flint! If only I could strike a spark from it, jest one, one little spark o’ light!

[He strikes it upon another stone. Sparks burst forth. The forest is lit up.

Thank ’eaven, ’ere ’s light!

Voices. Escape! escape!

Chrysalis. Who is that calling me? I come, I come!


My wings begin to sever:
My outer sheath is torn . . .

Voices of Moths. (Rapidly coming near and nearer)

Into it, into it, into it! Wing your flight
Into the ecstasy, into the heart of the light!

Chrysalis. I shall have life for ever;
I shall at last be born!

[Moths in a bevy fly into the midst of the light. They whirl round.

Moths. Into it, into it, into it! Wing your flight
Into the ecstasy, into the heart of the light!

Tramp. What are you? Moths? What yer want? Is it life?

First Moth. (Separating from the others) Ah . . .! (Stands still)

We are struck from the dark
And again we expire.
Each is a spark
Of an infinite fire. . . .

[She falls dead.

Chorus. And to flash from the forge for a moment, and perish, is all our desire.

Tramp. Why ’s she dead? She didn’t want to die.

Second Moth. (Separating, &c.) Ah . . .! (Stands still)

We are drops on the crest
Of a fountain that leaps—

[She falls dead.

Third Moth. (Separating)

We dance without rest
And return to the deeps,—

Chorus. For life is eternal, and rises from death where you think that it sleeps.

Third Moth. Life is eternal. It cannot fail.

All hail to life—

[Falls dead.

Moths.All hail, all hail!

Tramp. Life and death—seems they’re both good if we know how to treat ’em. I’m a battered old moth, I am, but I’ll dance with yer! All hail to life!

Moths. All hail, all hail!

[Moth after Moth falls dead.

Tramp. Butterflies, beetles, moths, and men—why can’t we all live ’appy together? The world’s big enough, and life could be ’appy for everythink—if we ’ad a bit o’ sense.

Moths. All hail, all hail!

Chrysalis. (Shrieking) Out of my way! Behold! Moths. All hail, all hail! Chrysalis. (Shrieking) Out of my way ! Be hold !

[She rends her husk and leaps forth as a Moth.

Tramp. What? You, Chrysalis? Reely born?

Chrysalis-Moth. (Whirling) Ah! (Stands still)

O light! O love! O! ecstasy
Of being! Life has entered me!

A Few Last Moths. Eternal life—all hail to thee!

[They fall dead.

Hearken, O heaven! O earth, give ear!
I will proclaim a mystery here.
I will solve all things. I will tell
The whole world’s meaning. Hearken well. . . .

[She falls dead.

Tramp. (Kneeling by the dead Chrysalis) Dead. She ’s dead too. Pore Chrysalis—and you ’ad sich ’opes. What was yer going to say? I wonder! They don’t seem skeered o’ death, these little mites don’t. Life ’s a rapture to them, and death ’s a rapture. It ’s queer. Pore little mites—all done for. . . . ’Ere—what ’s this? My turn, is it? Get off my chest, damn yer! I won’t die. ’Aven’t I jest learned ’ow to live and let live? Gawd, I feel sick. I can’t be dyin’? It can’t ’ave come to me? . . . Chuck it—yer stranglin’ me. I know ’oo it is—you’re Death. Yer want to count me out—I know. Take that!

Enter Two Snails.

First Snail. Thtop—Thome one ’s makin’ a noith.

Second Snail. Come back, come back.

Tramp. That’s for you, rattlebones! You felt that, eh? ’Ere, get yer knee off my chest—I only want to live. I won’t give yer my life, yer old skull and crossbones yer.—Ow! it’s ’is foot on my head.


First Snail. I thay, thnail.

Second Snail. What?

First Snail. ’E ’th thtruggling with death.

Second Snail. We’ll have a look, eh?

Tramp. Let me live—what will it matter to you? Only this once—till to-morrow. Let me breathe—stop, don’t strangle me—I don’t want to die—I ’aven’t enjoyed life yet—not ’alf—


First Snail. What fun, eh?

Second Snail.I thay, thnail!

First Snail. What?

Second Snail. He’th done for.

Tramp. You strangle a man when ’e’s down, do you, coward? Stop, let me tell you—all I want’s another moment—let me live—go away—I’ve more to tell you—I’ve learned how to live.

First Snail. Well, it’th all up with him.

Second Snail. Oh dear, oh dear! What a mithfortune! How we shall mith him, my dear.

First Snail. What are you talkin’ about? It’s nothing to do with uth.

Second Snail. That’s what people thay when thomebody dies.

First Snail. Oh yeth. Well, we won’t futh about it.

Second Snail. No! No! Ith the way of the world.

DawnBirds awaken.

Enter Woodcutter.

Woodcutter. (Singing)

As I went down to Shrewsbury Town
I came by luck . . .

(He sees the Tramp’s corpse) Hallo—what’s this? Boozed, is he? Here—wake up, mate. My word he’s dead. Poor old chap. . . . Well, anyway, he’ll have no more trouble.

Enter a Woman, carrying a new-born baby.

Woman. Morning, Peter Wood. Why, whatever’s the matter?

[Church bells.

Woodcutter. He’s dead.

Woman. Dead? Who is it?

Woodcutter. Only a tramp by the look of him.

Woman. It gives me a turn. It’s bad luck, you know. Here am I taking my sister’s baby to be baptized, and—ugh!

Woodcutter. One’s born and another dies. No great matter, missus.

Woman. It means bad luck.

Woodcutter. What’s death? There’s always people enough. (Chucking the baby under the chin) Gi-gi-gi-gigg, baby! Wait till you’re grown up!

Woman. I hope he’ll be better off than we are, that’s all. These taxes!

Woodcutter. Plenty of work—that’s what he’ll need.

[Voices of School Children approaching.

Woman. Here come the girls on their way to school. Quick, Peter Wood—cover up that! They mustn’t see it, poor dears.

Enter some School Children. They file across the stage singing:

‘As I went down to Shrewsbury Town,
I came by luck on a silver crown:
And what shall I buy with that, said I,
What shall I buy in Shrewsbury Town?

As I went down to Shrewsbury Town
I saw my love in a dimity gown:
And all so gay I gave it away,
I gave it away—my silver crown.’

[During the song one little girl gives a flower to the baby. This, after the singers have left the stage, the Woman takes and lays on the body of the Tramp.


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