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´╗┐Title: Swan Song
Author: Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Swan Song" ***

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SWAN SONG

by Anton Checkov



Plays By Anton Tchekoff


Translated From The Russian, With An Introduction By Marian Fell



CONTENTS
     Introduction
     Chronological List of Works
     The Swan Song



INTRODUCTION

ANTON TCHEKOFF

THE last years of the nineteenth century were for Russia tinged with
doubt and gloom. The high-tide of vitality that had risen during the
Turkish war ebbed in the early eighties, leaving behind it a dead
level of apathy which lasted until life was again quickened by the high
interests of the Revolution. During these grey years the lonely country
and stagnant provincial towns of Russia buried a peasantry which
was enslaved by want and toil, and an educated upper class which was
enslaved by idleness and tedium. Most of the "Intellectuals," with no
outlet for their energies, were content to forget their ennui in
vodka and card-playing; only the more idealistic gasped for air in the
stifling atmosphere, crying out in despair against life as they saw it,
and looking forward with a pathetic hope to happiness for humanity in
"two or three hundred years." It is the inevitable tragedy of their
existence, and the pitiful humour of their surroundings, that are
portrayed with such insight and sympathy by Anton Tchekoff who is,
perhaps, of modern writers, the dearest to the Russian people.

Anton Tchekoff was born in the old Black Sea port of Taganrog on
January 17, 1860. His grandfather had been a serf; his father married
a merchant's daughter and settled in Taganrog, where, during Anton's
boyhood, he carried on a small and unsuccessful trade in provisions.
The young Tchekoff was soon impressed into the services of the large,
poverty-stricken family, and he spoke regretfully in after years of his
hard-worked childhood. But he was obedient and good-natured, and worked
cheerfully in his father's shop, closely observing the idlers that
assembled there, and gathering the drollest stories, which he would
afterward whisper in class to his laughing schoolfellows. Many were the
punishments which he incurred by this habit, which was incorrigible.

His grandfather had now become manager of an estate near Taganrog, in
the wild steppe country of the Don Cossacks, and here the boy spent his
summers, fishing in the river, and roving about the countryside as brown
as a gipsy, sowing the seeds of that love for nature which he retained
all his life. His evenings he liked best to spend in the kitchen of the
master's house among the work people and peasants who gathered there,
taking part in their games, and setting them all laughing by his witty
and telling observations.

When Tchekoff was about fourteen, his father moved the family to Moscow,
leaving Anton in Taganrog, and now, relieved of work in the shop, his
progress at school became remarkable. At seventeen he wrote a long
tragedy, which was afterward destroyed, and he already showed flashes of
the wit that was soon to blaze into genius.

He graduated from the high school at Taganrog with every honour, entered
the University of Moscow as a student of medicine, and threw himself
headlong into a double life of student and author, in the attempt to
help his struggling family.

His first story appeared in a Moscow paper in 1880, and after some
difficulty he secured a position connected with several of the smaller
periodicals, for which, during his student years, he poured forth a
succession of short stories and sketches of Russian life with incredible
rapidity. He wrote, he tells us, during every spare minute, in crowded
rooms where there was "no light and less air," and never spent more
than a day on any one story. He also wrote at this time a very stirring
blood-and-thunder play which was suppressed by the censor, and the fate
of which is not known.

His audience demanded laughter above all things, and, with his deep
sense of the ridiculous, Tchekoff asked nothing better. His stories,
though often based on themes profoundly tragic, are penetrated by the
light and subtle satire that has won him his reputation as a great
humourist. But though there was always a smile on his lips, it was a
tender one, and his sympathy with suffering often brought his laughter
near to tears.

This delicate and original genius was at first subjected to harsh
criticism, which Tchekoff felt keenly, and Trigorin's description in
"The Sea-Gull" of the trials of a young author is a cry from Tchekoff's
own soul. A passionate enemy of all lies and oppression, he already
foreshadows in these early writings the protest against conventions and
rules, which he afterward put into Treplieff's reply to Sorin in "The
Sea-Gull": "Let us have new forms, or else nothing at all."

In 1884 he took his degree as doctor of medicine, and decided to
practise, although his writing had by now taken on a professional
character. He always gave his calling a high place, and the doctors in
his works are drawn with affection and understanding. If any one spoke
slightingly of doctors in his presence, he would exclaim: "Stop! You
don't know what country doctors do for the people!"

Tchekoff fully realised later the influence which his profession had
exercised on his literary work, and sometimes regretted the too vivid
insight it gave him, but, on the other hand, he was able to write: "Only
a doctor can know what value my knowledge of science has been to me,"
and "It seems to me that as a doctor I have described the sicknesses of
the soul correctly." For instance, Trigorin's analysis in "The Sea-Gull"
of the state of mind of an author has well been called "artistic
diagnosis."

The young doctor-writer is described at this time as modest and grave,
with flashes of brilliant gaiety. A son of the people, there was in his
face an expression that recalled the simple-hearted village lad; his
eyes were blue, his glance full of intelligence and kindness, and his
manners unaffected and simple. He was an untiring worker, and between
his patients and his desk he led a life of ceaseless activity. His
restless mind was dominated by a passion of energy and he thought
continually and vividly. Often, while jesting and talking, he would seem
suddenly to plunge into himself, and his look would grow fixed and deep,
as if he were contemplating something important and strange. Then he
would ask some unexpected question, which showed how far his mind had
roamed.

Success was now rapidly overtaking the young author; his first
collection of stories appeared in 1887, another one in the same year had
immediate success, and both went through many editions; but, at the same
time, the shadows that darkened his later works began to creep over his
light-hearted humour.

His impressionable mind began to take on the grey tinge of his time, but
much of his sadness may also be attributed to his ever-increasing ill
health.

Weary and with an obstinate cough, he went south in 1888, took a little
cottage on the banks of a little river "abounding in fish and crabs,"
and surrendered himself to his touching love for nature, happy in his
passion for fishing, in the quiet of the country, and in the music and
gaiety of the peasants. "One would gladly sell one's soul," he writes,
"for the pleasure of seeing the warm evening sky, and the streams and
pools reflecting the darkly mournful sunset." He described visits to
his country neighbours and long drives in gay company, during which, he
says, "we ate every half hour, and laughed to the verge of colic."

His health, however, did not improve. In 1889 he began to have attacks
of heart trouble, and the sensitive artist's nature appears in a remark
which he made after one of them. "I walked quickly across the terrace
on which the guests were assembled," he said, "with one idea in my
mind, how awkward it would be to fall down and die in the presence of
strangers."

It was during this transition period of his life, when his youthful
spirits were failing him, that the stage, for which he had always felt a
fascination, tempted him to write "Ivanoff," and also a dramatic sketch
in one act entitled "The Swan Song," though he often declared that he
had no ambition to become a dramatist. "The Novel," he wrote, "is a
lawful wife, but the Stage is a noisy, flashy, and insolent mistress."
He has put his opinion of the stage of his day in the mouth of
Treplieff, in "The Sea-Gull," and he often refers to it in his letters
as "an evil disease of the towns" and "the gallows on which dramatists
are hanged."

He wrote "Ivanoff" at white-heat in two and a half weeks, as a protest
against a play he had seen at one of the Moscow theatres. Ivanoff (from
Ivan, the commonest of Russian names) was by no means meant to be
a hero, but a most ordinary, weak man oppressed by the "immortal
commonplaces of life," with his heart and soul aching in the grip of
circumstance, one of the many "useless people" of Russia for whose
sorrow Tchekoff felt such overwhelming pity. He saw nothing in their
lives that could not be explained and pardoned, and he returns to his
ill-fated, "useless people" again and again, not to preach any doctrine
of pessimism, but simply because he thought that the world was the
better for a certain fragile beauty of their natures and their touching
faith in the ultimate salvation of humanity.

Both the writing and staging of "Ivanoff" gave Tchekoff great
difficulty. The characters all being of almost equal importance, he
found it hard to get enough good actors to take the parts, but it
finally appeared in Moscow in 1889, a decided failure! The author had
touched sharply several sensitive spots of Russian life--for instance,
in his warning not to marry a Jewess or a blue-stocking--and the play
was also marred by faults of inexperience, which, however, he later
corrected. The critics were divided in condemning a certain novelty
in it and in praising its freshness and originality. The character of
Ivanoff was not understood, and the weakness of the man blinded many to
the lifelike portrait. Tchekoff himself was far from pleased with what
he called his "literary abortion," and rewrote it before it was produced
again in St. Petersburg. Here it was received with the wildest applause,
and the morning after its performance the papers burst into unanimous
praise. The author was enthusiastically feted, but the burden of his
growing fame was beginning to be very irksome to him, and he wrote
wearily at this time that he longed to be in the country, fishing in the
lake, or lying in the hay.

His next play to appear was a farce entitled "The Boor," which he wrote
in a single evening and which had a great success. This was followed by
"The Demon," a failure, rewritten ten years later as "Uncle Vanya."

All Russia now combined in urging Tchekoff to write some important work,
and this, too, was the writer's dream; but his only long story is "The
Steppe," which is, after all, but a series of sketches, exquisitely
drawn, and strung together on the slenderest connecting thread.
Tchekoff's delicate and elusive descriptive power did not lend itself
to painting on a large canvas, and his strange little tragicomedies of
Russian life, his "Tedious Tales," as he called them, were always to
remain his masterpieces.

In 1890 Tchekoff made a journey to the Island of Saghalien, after which
his health definitely failed, and the consumption, with which he had
long been threatened, finally declared itself. His illness exiled him to
the Crimea, and he spent his last ten years there, making frequent trips
to Moscow to superintend the production of his four important plays,
written during this period of his life.

"The Sea-Gull" appeared in 1896, and, after a failure in St. Petersburg,
won instant success as soon as it was given on the stage of the Artists'
Theatre in Moscow. Of all Tchekoff's plays, this one conforms most
nearly to our Western conventions, and is therefore most easily
appreciated here. In Trigorin the author gives us one of the rare
glimpses of his own mind, for Tchekoff seldom put his own personality
into the pictures of the life in which he took such immense interest.

In "The Sea-Gull" we see clearly the increase of Tchekoff's power of
analysis, which is remarkable in his next play, "The Three Sisters,"
gloomiest of all his dramas.

"The Three Sisters," produced in 1901, depends, even more than most of
Tchekoff's plays, on its interpretation, and it is almost essential to
its appreciation that it should be seen rather than read. The atmosphere
of gloom with which it is pervaded is a thousand times more intense when
it comes to us across the foot-lights. In it Tchekoff probes the depths
of human life with so sure a touch, and lights them with an insight so
piercing, that the play made a deep impression when it appeared. This
was also partly owing to the masterly way in which it was acted at the
Artists' Theatre in Moscow. The theme is, as usual, the greyness of
provincial life, and the night is lit for his little group of characters
by a flash of passion so intense that the darkness which succeeds it
seems well-nigh intolerable.

"Uncle Vanya" followed "The Three Sisters," and the poignant truth of
the picture, together with the tender beauty of the last scene, touched
his audience profoundly, both on the stage and when the play was
afterward published.

"The Cherry Orchard" appeared in 1904 and was Tchekoff's last play. At
its production, just before his death, the author was feted as one of
Russia's greatest dramatists. Here it is not only country life that
Tchekoff shows us, but Russian life and character in general, in which
the old order is giving place to the new, and we see the practical,
modern spirit invading the vague, aimless existence so dear to the
owners of the cherry orchard. A new epoch was beginning, and at its dawn
the singer of old, dim Russia was silenced.

In the year that saw the production of "The Cherry Orchard," Tchekoff,
the favourite of the Russian people, whom Tolstoi declared to be
comparable as a writer of stories only to Maupassant, died suddenly in
a little village of the Black Forest, whither he had gone a few weeks
before in the hope of recovering his lost health.

Tchekoff, with an art peculiar to himself, in scattered scenes, in
haphazard glimpses into the lives of his characters, in seemingly
trivial conversations, has succeeded in so concentrating the atmosphere
of the Russia of his day that we feel it in every line we read,
oppressive as the mists that hang over a lake at dawn, and, like those
mists, made visible to us by the light of an approaching day.



CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF THE PRINCIPAL WORKS OF ANTON TCHEKOFF

     PLAYS

     "The Swan Song" 1889
     "The Proposal" 1889
     "Ivanoff" 1889
     "The Boor" 1890
     "The Sea-Gull" 1896
     "The Tragedian in Spite of Himself" 1899
     "The Three Sisters" 1901
     "Uncle Vanya" 1902
     "The Cherry Orchard" 1904

     NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES

     "Humorous Folk" 1887
     "Twilight, and Other Stories" 1887
     "Morose Folk" 1890
     "Variegated Tales" 1894
     "Old Wives of Russia" 1894
     "The Duel" 1895
     "The Chestnut Tree" 1895
     "Ward Number Six" 1897

     MISCELLANEOUS SKETCHES

     "The Island of Saghalien" 1895
     "Peasants" 1898
     "Life in the Provinces" 1898
     "Children" 1899



THE SWAN SONG



CHARACTERS

VASILI SVIETLOVIDOFF, a comedian, 68 years old

NIKITA IVANITCH, a prompter, an old man


The Swan Song

The scene is laid on the stage of a country theatre, at night, after
the play. To the right a row of rough, unpainted doors leading into
the dressing-rooms. To the left and in the background the stage is
encumbered with all sorts of rubbish. In the middle of the stage is an
overturned stool.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. [With a candle in his hand, comes out of a dressing-room
and laughs] Well, well, this is funny! Here's a good joke! I fell asleep
in my dressing-room when the play was over, and there I was calmly
snoring after everybody else had left the theatre. Ah! I'm a foolish
old man, a poor old dodderer! I have been drinking again, and so I fell
asleep in there, sitting up. That was clever! Good for you, old boy!
[Calls] Yegorka! Petrushka! Where the devil are you? Petrushka! The
scoundrels must be asleep, and an earthquake wouldn't wake them now!
Yegorka! [Picks up the stool, sits down, and puts the candle on the
floor] Not a sound! Only echos answer me. I gave Yegorka and Petrushka
each a tip to-day, and now they have disappeared without leaving a trace
behind them. The rascals have gone off and have probably locked up the
theatre. [Turns his head about] I'm drunk! Ugh! The play to-night was
for my benefit, and it is disgusting to think how much beer and wine I
have poured down my throat in honour of the occasion. Gracious! My body
is burning all over, and I feel as if I had twenty tongues in my mouth.
It is horrid! Idiotic! This poor old sinner is drunk again, and doesn't
even know what he has been celebrating! Ugh! My head is splitting, I am
shivering all over, and I feel as dark and cold inside as a cellar! Even
if I don't mind ruining my health, I ought at least to remember my age,
old idiot that I am! Yes, my old age! It's no use! I can play the fool,
and brag, and pretend to be young, but my life is really over now, I
kiss my hand to the sixty-eight years that have gone by; I'll never see
them again! I have drained the bottle, only a few little drops are left
at the bottom, nothing but the dregs. Yes, yes, that's the case, Vasili,
old boy. The time has come for you to rehearse the part of a mummy,
whether you like it or not. Death is on its way to you. [Stares ahead
of him] It is strange, though, that I have been on the stage now for
forty-five years, and this is the first time I have seen a theatre at
night, after the lights have been put out. The first time. [Walks up
to the foot-lights] How dark it is! I can't see a thing. Oh, yes, I can
just make out the prompter's box, and his desk; the rest is in pitch
darkness, a black, bottomless pit, like a grave, in which death itself
might be hiding.... Brr.... How cold it is! The wind blows out of the
empty theatre as though out of a stone flue. What a place for ghosts!
The shivers are running up and down my back. [Calls] Yegorka! Petrushka!
Where are you both? What on earth makes me think of such gruesome
things here? I must give up drinking; I'm an old man, I shan't live much
longer. At sixty-eight people go to church and prepare for death, but
here I am--heavens! A profane old drunkard in this fool's dress--I'm
simply not fit to look at. I must go and change it at once.... This is
a dreadful place, I should die of fright sitting here all night. [Goes
toward his dressing-room; at the same time NIKITA IVANITCH in a long
white coat comes out of the dressing-room at the farthest end of the
stage. SVIETLOVIDOFF sees IVANITCH--shrieks with terror and steps back]
Who are you? What? What do you want? [Stamps his foot] Who are you?

IVANITCH. It is I, sir.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. Who are you?

IVANITCH. [Comes slowly toward him] It is I, sir, the prompter, Nikita
Ivanitch. It is I, master, it is I!

SVIETLOVIDOFF. [Sinks helplessly onto the stool, breathes heavily
and trembles violently] Heavens! Who are you? It is you . . . you
Nikitushka? What . . . what are you doing here?

IVANITCH. I spend my nights here in the dressing-rooms. Only please be
good enough not to tell Alexi Fomitch, sir. I have nowhere else to spend
the night; indeed, I haven't.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. Ah! It is you, Nikitushka, is it? Just think, the
audience called me out sixteen times; they brought me three wreathes and
lots of other things, too; they were all wild with enthusiasm, and yet
not a soul came when it was all over to wake the poor, drunken old man
and take him home. And I am an old man, Nikitushka! I am sixty-eight
years old, and I am ill. I haven't the heart left to go on. [Falls
on IVANITCH'S neck and weeps] Don't go away, Nikitushka; I am old and
helpless, and I feel it is time for me to die. Oh, it is dreadful,
dreadful!

IVANITCH. [Tenderly and respectfully] Dear master! it is time for you to
go home, sir!

SVIETLOVIDOFF. I won't go home; I have no home--none! none!--none!

IVANITCH. Oh, dear! Have you forgotten where you live?

SVIETLOVIDOFF. I won't go there. I won't! I am all alone there. I have
nobody, Nikitushka! No wife--no children. I am like the wind blowing
across the lonely fields. I shall die, and no one will remember me. It
is awful to be alone--no one to cheer me, no one to caress me, no one to
help me to bed when I am drunk. Whom do I belong to? Who needs me? Who
loves me? Not a soul, Nikitushka.

IVANITCH. [Weeping] Your audience loves you, master.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. My audience has gone home. They are all asleep, and have
forgotten their old clown. No, nobody needs me, nobody loves me; I have
no wife, no children.

IVANITCH. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Don't be so unhappy about it.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. But I am a man, I am still alive. Warm, red blood is
tingling in my veins, the blood of noble ancestors. I am an aristocrat,
Nikitushka; I served in the army, in the artillery, before I fell as
low as this, and what a fine young chap I was! Handsome, daring, eager!
Where has it all gone? What has become of those old days? There's the
pit that has swallowed them all! I remember it all now. Forty-five years
of my life lie buried there, and what a life, Nikitushka! I can see it
as clearly as I see your face: the ecstasy of youth, faith, passion, the
love of women--women, Nikitushka!

IVANITCH. It is time you went to sleep, sir.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. When I first went on the stage, in the first glow of
passionate youth, I remember a woman loved me for my acting. She was
beautiful, graceful as a poplar, young, innocent, pure, and radiant as a
summer dawn. Her smile could charm away the darkest night. I remember,
I stood before her once, as I am now standing before you. She had never
seemed so lovely to me as she did then, and she spoke to me so with her
eyes--such a look! I shall never forget it, no, not even in the
grave; so tender, so soft, so deep, so bright and young! Enraptured,
intoxicated, I fell on my knees before her, I begged for my happiness,
and she said: "Give up the stage!" Give up the stage! Do you understand?
She could love an actor, but marry him--never! I was acting that day, I
remember--I had a foolish, clown's part, and as I acted, I felt my eyes
being opened; I saw that the worship of the art I had held so sacred was
a delusion and an empty dream; that I was a slave, a fool, the plaything
of the idleness of strangers. I understood my audience at last, and
since that day I have not believed in their applause, or in their
wreathes, or in their enthusiasm. Yes, Nikitushka! The people applaud
me, they buy my photograph, but I am a stranger to them. They don't know
me, I am as the dirt beneath their feet. They are willing enough to
meet me . . . but allow a daughter or a sister to marry me, an outcast,
never! I have no faith in them, [sinks onto the stool] no faith in them.

IVANITCH. Oh, sir! you look dreadfully pale, you frighten me to death!
Come, go home, have mercy on me!

SVIETLOVIDOFF. I saw through it all that day, and the knowledge was
dearly bought. Nikitushka! After that . . . when that girl . . . well, I
began to wander aimlessly about, living from day to day without looking
ahead. I took the parts of buffoons and low comedians, letting my mind
go to wreck. Ah! but I was a great artist once, till little by little I
threw away my talents, played the motley fool, lost my looks, lost the
power of expressing myself, and became in the end a Merry Andrew instead
of a man. I have been swallowed up in that great black pit. I never felt
it before, but to-night, when I woke up, I looked back, and there behind
me lay sixty-eight years. I have just found out what it is to be old! It
is all over . . . [sobs] . . . all over.

IVANITCH. There, there, dear master! Be quiet . . . gracious! [Calls]
Petrushka! Yegorka!

SVIETLOVIDOFF. But what a genius I was! You cannot imagine what power
I had, what eloquence; how graceful I was, how tender; how many strings
[beats his breast] quivered in this breast! It chokes me to think of it!
Listen now, wait, let me catch my breath, there; now listen to this:

     "The shade of bloody Ivan now returning
     Fans through my lips rebellion to a flame,
     I am the dead Dimitri! In the burning
     Boris shall perish on the throne I claim.
     Enough! The heir of Czars shall not be seen
     Kneeling to yonder haughty Polish Queen!"*

     *From "Boris Godunoff," by Pushkin. [translator's note]

Is that bad, eh? [Quickly] Wait, now, here's something from King
Lear. The sky is black, see? Rain is pouring down, thunder roars,
lightning--zzz zzz zzz--splits the whole sky, and then, listen:

     "Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
     You cataracts and hurricanoes spout
     Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
     You sulphurous thought-executing fires
     Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts
     Singe my white head! And thou, all shaking thunder,
     Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
     Crack nature's moulds, all germons spill at once
     That make ungrateful man!"

[Impatiently] Now, the part of the fool. [Stamps his foot] Come take the
fool's part! Be quick, I can't wait!

IVANITCH. [Takes the part of the fool]

"O, Nuncle, court holy-water in a dry house is better than this
rain-water out o' door. Good Nuncle, in; ask thy daughter's blessing:
here's a night pities neither wise men nor fools."

SVIETLOVIDOFF.

     "Rumble thy bellyful! spit, fire! spout, rain!
     Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters;
     I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
     I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children."

Ah! there is strength, there is talent for you! I'm a great artist! Now,
then, here's something else of the same kind, to bring back my youth to
me. For instance, take this, from Hamlet, I'll begin . . . Let me see,
how does it go? Oh, yes, this is it. [Takes the part of Hamlet]

"O! the recorders, let me see one.--To withdraw with you. Why do you go
about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?"

IVANITCH. "O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too
unmannerly."

SVIETLOVIDOFF. "I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this
pipe?"

IVANITCH. "My lord, I cannot."

SVIETLOVIDOFF. "I pray you."

IVANITCH. "Believe me, I cannot."

SVIETLOVIDOFF. "I do beseech you."

IVANITCH. "I know no touch of it, my lord."

SVIETLOVIDOFF. "'Tis as easy as lying: govern these vantages with your
finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse
most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops."

IVANITCH. "But these I cannot command to any utterance of harmony: I
have not the skill."

SVIETLOVIDOFF. "Why, look you, how unworthy a thing you make of me. You
would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out
the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the
top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this
little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. S'blood! Do you think I am
easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will,
though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me!" [laughs and clasps]
Bravo! Encore! Bravo! Where the devil is there any old age in that? I'm
not old, that is all nonsense, a torrent of strength rushes over me;
this is life, freshness, youth! Old age and genius can't exist together.
You seem to be struck dumb, Nikitushka. Wait a second, let me come to
my senses again. Oh! Good Lord! Now then, listen! Did you ever hear such
tenderness, such music? Sh! Softly;

     "The moon had set. There was not any light,
     Save of the lonely legion'd watch-stars pale
     In outer air, and what by fits made bright
     Hot oleanders in a rosy vale
     Searched by the lamping fly, whose little spark
     Went in and out, like passion's bashful hope."

[The noise of opening doors is heard] What's that?

IVANITCH. There are Petrushka and Yegorka coming back. Yes, you have
genius, genius, my master.

SVIETLOVIDOFF. [Calls, turning toward the noise] Come here to me,
boys! [To IVANITCH] Let us go and get dressed. I'm not old! All that is
foolishness, nonsense! [laughs gaily] What are you crying for? You poor
old granny, you, what's the matter now? This won't do! There, there,
this won't do at all! Come, come, old man, don't stare so! What makes
you stare like that? There, there! [Embraces him in tears] Don't cry!
Where there is art and genius there can never be such things as old age
or loneliness or sickness . . . and death itself is half . . . [Weeps]
No, no, Nikitushka! It is all over for us now! What sort of a genius am
I? I'm like a squeezed lemon, a cracked bottle, and you--you are the old
rat of the theatre . . . a prompter! Come on! [They go] I'm no genius,
I'm only fit to be in the suite of Fortinbras, and even for that I
am too old.... Yes.... Do you remember those lines from Othello,
Nikitushka?

     "Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!
     Farewell the plumed troops and the big wars
     That make ambition virtue! O farewell!
     Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
     The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
     The royal banner, and all quality,
     Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!"

IVANITCH. Oh! You're a genius, a genius!

SVIETLOVIDOFF. And again this:

     "Away! the moor is dark beneath the moon,
     Rapid clouds have drunk the last pale beam of even:
     Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon,
     And profoundest midnight shroud the serene lights of heaven."

They go out together, the curtain falls slowly.





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