- Wise Man.
- Bridget, his wife.
- Teigue, a fool.
- Children and Pupils.
Pupils come in and stand before the stage curtain, which is still closed. One pupil carries a book.
He said we might choose the subject for the lesson.
There is none of us wise enough to do that.
It would need a great deal of wisdom to know what it is we want to know.
I will question him.
I'd as soon listen to dried peas in a bladder, as listen to your thoughts.
Give me a penny.
Let us choose a subject by chance. Here is his big book. Let us turn over the pages slowly. Let one of us put down his finger without looking. The passage his finger lights on will be the subject for the lesson.
Give me a penny.
Spread it on Teigue's back, and then we can all stand round and see the choice.
Make him spread out his arms.
Down on your knees. Hunch up your back. Spread your arms out now, and look like a golden eagle in a church. Keep still, keep still.
Give me a penny.
Is that the right cry for an eagle cock?
That's it, and then he cannot blame us for the choice.
There, I have chosen. Fool, keep still and if what's wise is strange and sounds like nonsense, we've made a good choice.
The Master has come.
Will anybody give a penny to a fool?
We have chosen the passage for the lesson, Master. 'There are two living countries, one visible and one invisible, and when it is summer there, it is winter here, and when it is November with us, it is lambing-time there.'
That passage, that passage! what mischief has there been since yesterday?
Oh yes, there has; some craziness has fallen from the wind, or risen from the graves of old men, and made you choose that subject.
Had we not better say we picked it by chance?
No; he would say we were children still.
I have found a sentence under that one that says—as though to show it had a hidden meaning—a beggar wrote it upon the walls of Babylon.
Then find some beggar and ask him what it means, for I will have nothing to do with it.
To be sure—everybody knows, everybody in the world knows, when it is Spring with us, the trees are withering there, when it is Summer with us, the snow is falling there, and have I not myself heard the lambs that are there all bleating on a cold November day—to be sure, does not everybody with an intellect know that; and maybe when it's night with us, it is day with them, for many a time I have seen the roads lighted before me.
The beggar who wrote that on Babylon wall meant that there is a spiritual kingdom that cannot be seen or known till the faculties whereby we master the kingdom of this world wither away, like green things in winter. A monkish thought, the most mischievous thought that ever passed out of a man's mouth.
If he meant all that, I will take an oath that he was spindle-shanked, and cross-eyed, and had a lousy itching shoulder, and that his heart was crosser than his eyes, and that he wrote it out of malice.
Let's come away and find a better subject.
And maybe now you'll let me choose.
Were it but true 'twould alter everything
Until the stream of the world had changed its course,
And that and all our thoughts had run
Into some cloudy thunderous spring
They dream to be its source—
Aye, to some frenzy of the mind;
And all that we have done would be undone,
Our speculation but as the wind.
I have dreamed it twice.
Something has 'troubled him.
Twice have I dreamed it in a morning dream,
Now nothing serves my pupils but to come
With a like thought. Reason is growing dim;
A moment more and Frenzy will beat his drum
And laugh aloud and scream;
And I must dance in the dream.
No, no, but it is like a hawk, a hawk of the air,
It has swooped down—and this swoop makes the third—
And what can I, but tremble like a bird?
Give me a penny.
That I should dream it twice, and after that, that they should pick it out.
Won't you give me a penny?
Such a great, wise teacher will not refuse a penny to a fool.
Seeing that everybody is a fool when he is asleep and dreaming, why do you call me wise?
O, I know,—I know, I know what I have seen.
Well, to see rightly is the whole of wisdom, whatever dream be with us.
When I went by Kilcluan, where the bells used to be ringing at the break of every day, I could hear nothing but the people snoring in their houses. When I went by vanach, where the young men used to be climbing the hill to the blessed well, they were sitting at the cross-roads playing cards. When I went by Carrigoras, where the friars used to be fasting and serving the poor, I saw them drinking wine and obeying their wives. And when I asked what misfortune had brought all these changes, they said it was no misfortune, but that it was the wisdom they had learned from your teaching.
And you too have called me wise—you would be paid for that good opinion doubtless—Run to the kitchen, my wife will give you food and drink.
What is eaten is gone—I want pennies for my bag. I must buy bacon in the shops, and nuts in the market, and strong drink for the time the sun is weak, and snares to catch the rabbits and the hares, and a big pot to cook them in.
I have more to think about than giving pennies to your like, so run away.
Give me a penny and I will bring you luck. The fishermen let me sleep among their nets in the loft because I bring them luck; and in the summer time, the wild creatures let me sleep near their nests and their holes. It is lucky even to look at me, but it is much more lucky to give me a penny. If I was not lucky I would starve.
What are the shears for?
I won't tell you. If I told you, you would drive them away.
Drive them away! Who would I drive away?
I won't tell you.
Not if I give you a penny?
You will be very lucky if you give me two pennies, but I won't tell you.
Four, and I will tell you.
Very well—four, but from this out I will not call you Teigue the Fool.
A strange place that to fish in.
They spread them out on the hills that they may catch the feet of the angels; but every morning just before the dawn, I go out and cut the nets with the shears and the angels fly away.
(Speaking with excitement) Ah, now I know that you are Teigue the Fool. You say that I am wise, and yet I say, there are no angels.
I have seen plenty of angels.
They are plenty if you but look about you. They are like the blades of grass.
They are plenty as the blades of grass—I heard that phrase when I was but a child and was told folly.
You have fallen asleep upon a hill, yet, even those that used to dream of angels dream now of other things.
I saw one but a moment ago—that is because I am lucky. It was coming behind me, but it was not laughing.
There's nothing but what men can see when they are awake. Nothing, nothing.
I knew you would drive them away.
Pardon me, Fool,
I had forgotten who I spoke to.
Well, there are your four pennies—
Fool you are called,
And all day long they cry, 'Come hither, Fool.'
Or else it's, 'Fool, be gone.'
Or, 'Fool, stand there.'
Or, 'Fool, go sit in the corner.'
And all the while
What were they all but fools before I came?
What are they now, but mirrors that seem men,
Because of my image? Fool, hold up your head.
What foolish stories they have told of the ghosts
That fumbled with the clothes upon the bed,
Or creaked and shuffled in the corridor,
Or else, if they were pious bred,
Of angels from the skies,
That coming through the door,
Or, it may be, standing there,
Would solidly out stare
The steadiest eyes with their unnatural eyes,
Aye, on a man's own floor.
Yet it is strange, the strangest thing I have known,
That I should still be haunted by the notion
That there's a crisis of the spirit wherein
We get new sight, and that they know some trick
To turn our thoughts for their own ends to frenzy.
Why do you put your finger to your lip,
And creep away?
(Wise Man sees Angel.) What are you? Who are you?
I think I saw some like you in my dreams,
When but a child. That thing about your head,
That brightness in your hair that flowery branch;
But I have done with dreams, I have done with dreams.
I am the crafty one that you have called.
How that I called?
I am the messenger.
What message could you bring to one like me?
That you will die when the last grain of sand
Has fallen through this glass.
I have a wife.
Children and pupils that I cannot leave:
Why must I die, my time is far away?
You have to die because no soul has passed
The heavenly threshold since you have opened school,
But grass grows there, and rust upon the hinge;
And they are lonely that must keep the watch.
And whither shall I go when I am dead?
You have denied there is a purgatory,
Therefore that gate is closed; you have denied
There is a heaven, and so that gate is closed.
Where then? For I have said there is no hell.
Hell is the place of those who have denied;
They find there what they planted and what dug,
A Lake of Spaces, and a Wood of Nothing,
And wander there and drift, and never cease
Wailing for substance.
Pardon me, blessed Angel,
I have denied and taught the like to others.
But how could I believe before my sight
Had come to me?
It is too late for pardon.
Had I but met your gaze as now I met it—
But how can you that live but where we go
In the uncertainty of dizzy dreams
Know why we doubt? Parting, sickness and death,
The rotting of the grass, tempest and drouth,
These are the messengers that came to me.
Why are you silent? You carry in your hands
God's pardon, and you will not give it me.
Why are you silent? Were I not afraid,
I'd kiss your hands—no, no, the hem of your dress.
Only when all the world has testified,
May soul confound it, crying out in joy,
And laughing on its lonely precipice.
What's dearth and death and sickness to the soul
That knows no virtue but itself? Nor could it,
So trembling with delight and mother-naked,
Live unabashed if the arguing world stood by.
It is as hard for you to understand
Why we have doubted, as it is for us
To banish doubt—what folly have I said?
There can be nothing that you do not know:
Give me a year—a month—a week—a day,
I would undo what I have done—an hour
Give me until the sand has run in the glass.
Though you may not undo what you have done,
I have this power—if you but find one soul,
Before the sands have fallen, that still believes,
One fish to lie and spawn among the stones
Till the great fisher's net is full again,
You may, the purgatorial fire being
Spring to your peace.
'Who stole your wits away
And where are they gone?'
My pupils come,
Before you have begun to climb the sky
I shall have found that soul. They say they doubt,
But what their mothers dinned into their ears
Cannot have been so lightly rooted up;
Besides, I can disprove what I once proved—
And yet give me some thought, some argument,
More mighty than my own.
For I am weary of the weight of time.
Master, master, you must choose the subject.
Here is a subject—where have the
Fool's wits gone? (singing)
'Who dragged your wits away
Where no one knows?
Or have they run off
On their own pair of shoes?'
Give me a penny.
- The Master will find your wits,
And when they are found, you must not beg for pennies.
They are hidden somewhere in the badger's hole,
But you must carry an old candle end
They are up above the clouds.
Give me a penny, give me a penny.
'I'll find your wits again,
Come, for I saw them roll,
To where old badger mumbles
In the black hole.'
'No, but an angel stole them
The night that you were born,
And now they are but a rag,
On the moon's horn.'
Can you not see that he is troubled?
What do you think of when alone at night?
Do not the things your mothers spoke about,
Before they took the candle from the bedside,
Rush up into the mind and master it,
Till you believe in them against your will?
You answer for us.
Be careful what you say;
If he persuades you to an argument,
He will but turn us all to mockery.
We had no minds until you made them for us;
Our bodies only were our mothers' work.
You answer with incredible things. It is certain
That there is one,—though it may be but one—
Believes in God and in some heaven and hell—
In all those things we put into our prayers.
We thought those things before our minds were born,
But that was long ago—we are not children.
You are afraid to tell me what you think
Because I am hot and angry when I am crossed.
I do not blame you for it; but have no fear,
For if there's one that sat on smiling there,
As though my arguments were sweet as milk
Yet found them bitter, I will thank him for it,
If he but speak his mind.
There is no one, Master,
There is not one but found them sweet as milk.
The things that have been told us in our childhood
Are not so fragile.
We are no longer children.
All, all, all, all, in you, nothing but you.
I have deceived you—where shall I go for words—
I have no thoughts—my mind has been swept bare.
The messengers that stand in the fiery cloud,
Fling themselves out, if we but dare to question,
And after that, the Babylonian moon
Blots all away.
I take his words to mean
That visionaries, and martyrs when they are raised
Above translunary things, and there enlightened,
As the contention is, may lose the light,
And flounder in their speech when the eyes open.
How well he imitates their trick of speech.
Their air of mystery.
Their empty gaze,
As though they'd looked upon some winged thing,
And would not condescend to mankind after.
Master, we have all learnt that truth is learnt
When the intellect's deliberate and cold,
As it were a polished mirror that reflects
An unchanged world; and not when the steel melts,
Bubbling and hissing, till there's naught but fume.
When it is melted, when it all fumes up,
They walk, as when beside those three in the furnace
The form of the fourth.
Master, there's none among us
That has not heard your mockery of these,
Or thoughts like these, and we have not forgot.
Something incredible has happened—some one has come
Suddenly like a grey hawk out of the air,
And all that I declared untrue is true.
You'd think the way he says it, that he felt it.
There's not a mummer to compare with him.
He's something like a man.
Give us some proof.
What proof have I to give, but that an angel
An instant ago was standing on that spot.
I was awake as I am now.
I may be dreaming now for all I know.
He wants to show we have no certain proof
Of anything in the world.
There is this proof
That shows we are awake—we have all one world
While every dreamer has a world of his own,
And sees what no one else can.
Teigue sees angels.
So when the Master says he has seen an angel,
Both may still be dreamers;
Unless it's proved the angels were alike.
What sort are the angels, Teigue?
That will prove nothing,
Unless we are sure prolonged obedience
Has made one angel like another angel
As they were eggs.
The Master's silent now:
For he has found that to dispute with us—
Seeing that he has taught us what we know—
Is but to reason with himself. Let us away,
Yes, yes. Find me but one that still believes
The things that we were told when we were children.
He'll mock and maul him.
From the first I knew
He wanted somebody to argue with.
I have no reason left. All dark, all dark!
Here, Master, is the very man you want.
He said, when we were studying the book,
That maybe after all the monks were right,
And you mistaken, and if we but gave him time,
He'd prove that it was so.
I never said it.
Dear friend, dear friend, do you believe in God?
Master, they have invented this to mock me.
They know well, Master,
That all I said was but to make them argue.
They've pushed me in to make a mock of me,
Because they knew I could take either side
And beat them at it.
If you believe in God,
You are my soul's one friend.
Mistress or wife
Can give us but our good or evil luck
Amid the howling world, but you shall give
Eternity, and those sweet-throated things
That drift above the moon.
How strange he is.
The angel that stood there upon that spot,
Said that my soul was lost unless I found out
One that believed.
Cease mocking at me, Master,
For I am certain that there is no God
Nor immortality, and they that said it
Made a fantastic tale from a starved dream
To plague our hearts. Will that content you, Master?
The giddy glass is emptier every moment,
And you stand there, debating, laughing and wrangling.
Out of my sight! Out of my sight, I say.
I'll call my wife, for what can women do,
That carry us in the darkness of their bodies,
But mock the reason that lets nothing grow
Unless it grow in light. Bridget, Bridget.
A woman never ceases to believe,
Say what we will. Bridget, come quickly, Bridget.
Wife, what do you believe in? Tell me the truth,
And not—as is the habit with you all—
Something you think will please me.
Do you pray? Sometimes when you're alone in the house, do you pray?
Prayers—no, you taught me to leave them off long ago. At first I was sorry, but I am glad now, for I am sleepy in the evenings.
Do you believe in God?
Oh, a good wife only believes in what her husband tells her.
But sometimes, when the children are asleep
And I am in the school, do you not think
About the Martyrs and the saints and the angels,
And all the things that you believed in once?
I think about nothing—sometimes I wonder if the linen is bleaching white, or I go out to see if the crows are picking up the chickens' food.
My God,—my God! I will go out myself.
My pupils said that they would find a man
Whose faith I never shook—they may have found him.
Therefore I will go out—but if I go,
The glass will let the sands run out unseen.
I cannot go—I cannot leave the glass.
Go call my pupils—I can explain all now,
Only when all our hold on life is troubled,
Only in spiritual terror can the Truth
Come through the broken mind—as the pease burst
Out of a broken pease-cod.
Say to them,
That Nature would lack all in her most need,
Could not the soul find truth as in a flash,
Upon the battle-field, or in the midst
Of overwhelming waves, and say to them—
But no, they would but answer as I bid.
You want somebody to get up an argument with.
Look out and see if there is any one
There in the street—I cannot leave the glass,
For somebody might shake it, and the sand
If it were shaken might run down on the instant.
I don't understand a word you are saying. There's a crowd of people talking to your pupils.
Go out and find if they have found a man
Who did not understand me when I taught,
Or did not listen.
It is a hard thing to be married to a man of learning that must always be having arguments.
Strange that I should be blind to the great secret,
And that so simple a man might write it out
Upon a blade of grass or bit of rush
With naught but berry juice, and laugh to himself
Writing it out, because it was so simple.
Give me something; give me a penny to buy bacon in the shops and nuts in the market, and strong drink for the time when the sun is weak.
I have no pennies. (To Wise Man) Your pupils cannot find anybody to argue with you. There's nobody in the whole country with belief enough for a lover's oath. Can't you be quiet now, and not always wanting to have arguments? It must be terrible to have a mind like that.
Then I am lost indeed.
Leave me alone now, I have to make the bread for you and the children.
Your father wants you, run to him.
Come to me, children. Do not be afraid.
I want to know if you believe in Heaven,
God or the soul—no, do not tell me yet;
You need not be afraid I shall be, angry,
Say what you please—so that it is your thought—
I wanted you to know before you spoke,
That I shall not be angry.
We have not forgotten, Father.
Oh no, Father.
Foolish people used to say that there was, but you have taught us better.
Go to your mother, go—yet do not go.
What can she say? If I am dumb you are lost;
And yet, because the sands are running out,
I have but a moment to show it all in. Children,
The sap would die out of the blades of grass
Had they a doubt. They understand it all,
Being the fingers of God's certainty,
Yet can but make their sign into the air;
But could they find their tongues they'd show it all;
But what am I to say that am but one,
When they are millions and they will not speak—
But they are gone; what made them run away?
Look at me, tell me if my face is changed,
Is there a notch of the fiend's nail upon it
Already? Is it terrible to sight?
Because the moment's near.
I dare not look,
I dare not know the moment when they come.
No, no, I dare not. (Covers glass.)
Will there be a footfall,
Or will there be a sort of rending sound,
Or else a cracking, as though an iron claw
Had gripped the threshold stone?
What are you doing?
Wait a minute—four—five—six—
What are you doing that for?
I am blowing the dandelion to find out what hour it is.
You have heard everything, and that is why
You'd find what hour it is—you'd find that out,
That you may look upon a fleet of devils
Dragging my soul away. You shall not stop,
I will have no one here when they come in,
I will have no one sitting there—no one—
And yet— and yet— there is some-thing strange about you.
I half remember something. What is it?
Do you believe in God and in the soul?
So you ask me now. I thought when you were asking your pupils, 'Will he ask Teigue the Fool? Yes, he will, he will; no, he will not—yes, he will.' But Teigue will say nothing. Teigue will say nothing.
Tell me quickly.
I said, 'Teigue knows everything, not even the green-eyed cats and the hares that milk the cows have Teigue's wisdom'; but Teigue will not speak, he says nothing.
Speak, speak, for underneath the cover there
The sand is running from the upper glass,
And when the last grain's through, I shall be lost.
I will not speak. I will not tell you what is in my mind. I will not tell you what is in my bag. You might steal away my thoughts. I met a bodach on the road yesterday, and he said, 'Teigue, tell me how many pennies are in your bag; I will wager three pennies that there are not twenty pennies in your bag; let me put in my hand and count them.' But I gripped the bag the tighter, and when I go to sleep at night I hide the bag where nobody knows.
There's but one pinch of sand, and I am lost
If you are not he I seek.
O, what a lot the Fool knows, but he says nothing.
Yes, I remember now. You spoke of angels.
You said but now that you had seen an angel.
Oh no. How could poor Teigue see angels? Oh, Teigue tells one tale here, another there, and everybody gives him pennies. If Teigue had not his tales he would starve.
The last hope is gone,
And now that it's too late I see it all,
We perish into God and sink away
Into reality—the rest's a dream.
I know enough, that know God's will prevails.
Waiting till the moment had come—That is what the one out there was saying, but I might tell you what you asked. That is what he was saying.
Be silent. May God's will prevail on the instant,
Although His will be my eternal pain.
I have no question:
It is enough, I know what fixed the station
Of star and cloud.
And knowing all, I cry
That what so God has willed
On the instant be fulfilled,
Though that be my damnation.
The stream of the world has changed its course,
And with the stream my thoughts have run
Into some cloudy thunderous spring
That is its mountain source—
Aye, to some frenzy of the mind,
For all that we have done's undone,
Our speculation but as the wind.
Wise man—Wise man, wake up and I will tell you everything for a penny. It is I, poor Teigue the Fool. Why don't you wake up, and say, 'There is a penny for you, Teigue'? No, no, you will say nothing. You and I, we are the two fools, we know everything, but we will not speak.
O, look what has come from his mouth! O, look what has come from his mouth—the white butterfly! He is dead, and I have taken his soul in my hands; but I know why you open the lid of that golden box. I must give it to you. There then, (he puts butterfly in casket) he has gone through his pains, and you will open the lid in the Garden of Paradise. (He closes curtain and remains outside it.) He is gone, he is gone, he is gone, but come in, everybody in the world, and look at me.
'I hear the wind a blow
I hear the grass a grow,
And all that I know, I know.'
But I will not speak, I will run away.