Selections from the Writings of Lord Dunsany, by Lord Dunsany, , at sacred-texts.com
SCENE: The Metropolitan Hall of the city of Kongros. Citizens, etc. Enter the seven beggars with green silk under their rags.
OORANDER Who are you and whence come you?
AGMAR Who may say what we are or whence we come?
OORANDER What are these beggars and why do they come here?
AGMAR Who said to you that we were beggars?
OORANDER Why do these men come here?
AGMAR Who said to you that we were men?
ILLANAUN Now, by the moon!
AGMAR My sister.
AGMAR My little sister.
SLAG Our little sister the Moon. She comes to us at evenings away in the mountain of Marma. She trips over the mountains when she is young: when she is young and slender she comes and dances before us: and when she is old and unshapely she hobbles away from the hills.
AGMAR Yet she is young again and forever nimble with youth: yet she comes dancing back. The years are not able to curb her nor to bring grey hairs to her brethren.
OORANDER This is not wonted.
ILLANAUN It is not in accordance with custom.
AKMOS Prophecy hath not thought it.
SLAG She comes to us new and nimble remembering olden loves.
OORANDER It were well that prophets should come and speak to us.
ILLANAUN This hath not been in the past. Let prophets come; let prophets speak to us of future things. (The beggars seat themselves upon the floor in the attitude of the seven gods of Marma.)
CITIZEN I heard men speak to-day in the market-place. They speak of a prophecy read somewhere of old. It says the seven gods shall come from Marma in the guise of men.
ILLANAUN Is this a true prophecy?
OORANDER It is all the prophecy we have. Man without prophecy is like a sailor going by night over uncharted seas. He knows not where are the rocks nor where the havens. To the man on watch all things ahead are black and the stars guide him not, for he knows not what they are.
ILLANAUN Should we not investigate this prophecy?
OORANDER Let us accept it. It is as the small uncertain light of a lantern, carried it may be by a drunkard but along the shore of some haven. Let us be guided.
AKMOS It may be that they are but benevolent gods.
AGMAR There is no benevolence greater than our benevolence.
ILLANAUN Then we need do little: they portend no danger to us.
AGMAR There is no anger greater than our anger.
OORANDER Let us make sacrifice to them, if they be gods.
AKMOS We humbly worship you, if ye be gods.
ILLANAUN (kneeling too) You are mightier than all men and hold high rank among other gods and are lords of this our city, and have the thunder as your plaything and the whirlwind and the eclipse and all the destinies of human tribes, if ye be gods.
AGMAR Let the pestilence not fall at once upon this city, as it had indeed designed to; let not the earthquake swallow it all immediately up amid the howls of the thunder; let not infuriate armies overwhelm those that escape if we be gods.
POPULACE (in horror) If we be gods!
OORANDER Come let us sacrifice.
ILLANAUN Bring lambs.
AKMOS Quick, quick. (Exit some.)
SLAG (with solemn air) This god is a very divine god.
THAHN He is no common god.
MLAN Indeed he has made us.
CITIZEN (A WOMAN) (to Slag) He will not punish us, Master? None of the gods will punish us? We will make a sacrifice, a good sacrifice.
ANOTHER We will sacrifice a lamb that the priests have blessed.
FIRST CITIZEN Master, you are not wroth with us?
SLAG Who may say what cloudy dooms are rolling up in the mind of the eldest of the gods. He is no common god like us. Once a shepherd went by him in the mountains and doubted as he went. He sent a doom after that shepherd.
CITIZEN Master, we have not doubted.
SLAG And the doom found him on the hills at evening.
SECOND CITIZEN It shall be a good sacrifice, Master. (Re-enter with a dead lamb and fruits. They offer the lamb on an altar where there is fire, and fruits before the altar.)
THAHN (stretching out a hand to a lamb upon an altar.) That leg is not being cooked at all.
ILLANAUN It is strange that gods should be thus anxious about the cooking of a leg of lamb.
OORANDER It is strange certainly.
ILLANAUN Almost I had said that it was a man spoke then.
OORANDER (Stroking his beard and regarding the second beggar.) Strange. Strange certainly.
AGMAR Is it then strange that the gods love roasted flesh? For this purpose they keep the lightning. When the lightning flickers about the limbs of men there comes to the gods in Marma a pleasant smell, even a smell of roasting. Sometimes the gods, being pacific, are pleased to have roasted instead the flesh of lamb. It is all one to the gods: let the roasting stop.
OORANDER No, no, gods of the mountain!
OTHERS No, no.
OORANDER Quick, let us offer the flesh to them. If they eat all is well. (They offer it, the beggars eat, all but Agmar who watches.)
ILLANAUN One who was ignorant, one who did not know, had almost said that they ate like hungry men.
AKMOS Yet they look as though they had not had a meal like this for a long time.
OORANDER They have a hungry look.
AGMAR (who has not eaten) I have not eaten since the world was very new and the flesh of men was tenderer than now. These younger gods have learned the habit of eating from the lions.
OORANDER O oldest of divinities, partake, partake.
AGMAR It is not fitting that such as I should eat. None eat but beasts and men and the younger gods. The Sun and the Moon and the nimble Lightning and I, we may kill, and we may madden, but we do not eat.
AKMOS If he but eat of our offering he cannot overwhelm us.
ALL O ancient deity, partake, partake.
AGMAR Enough. Let it be enough that these have condescended to this bestial and human habit. ILLANAUN (to Akmos) And yet he is not unlike a beggar whom I saw not so long since.
OORANDER But beggars eat.
ILLANAUN Now I never knew a beggar yet who would refuse a bowl of Woldery wine.
AKMOS This is no beggar.
ILLANAUN Nevertheless let us offer him a bowl of Woldery wine.
AKMOS You do wrong to doubt him.
ILLANAUN I do but wish to prove his divinity. I will fetch the Woldery wine. (Exit)
AKMOS He will not drink. Yet if he does, then he will not overwhelm us. Let us offer him the wine.
(Re-enter Illanaun with a goblet.)
FIRST BEGGAR It is Woldery wine!
SECOND BEGGAR It is Woldery!
THIRD BEGGAR A goblet of Woldery wine!
FOURTH BEGGAR O blessed day!
MLAN O happy times!
SLAG O my wise Master! (All the Beggars stretch out their hands, including Agmar. Illanaun gives it to Agmar. Agmar takes it solemnly, and very carefully pours it upon the ground.)
FIRST BEGGAR He has spilt it.
SECOND BEGGAR He has spilt it. (Agmar sniffs the fumes.)
AGMAR It is a fitting libation. Our anger is somewhat appeased.
ANOTHER BEGGAR But it was Woldery!
AKMOS (kneeling to Agmar) Master, I am childless, and I....
AGMAR Trouble us not now. It is the hour at which the gods are accustomed to speak to the gods in the language of the gods, and if Man heard us he would guess the futility of his destiny, which were not well for Man. Begone! Begone! (Exeunt all but one who lingers.)
AGMAR Begone! (exit one) (Agmar takes up a piece of meat and begins to eat it: the beggars rise and stretch themselves: they laugh, but Agmar eats hungrily.)
OOGNO Ah, now we have come into our own.
THAHN Now we have alms.
SLAG Master! My wise Master!
ULF These are the good days, the good days; and yet I have a fear.
SLAG What do you fear? There is nothing to fear. No man is as wise as my Master.
ULF I fear the gods whom we pretend to be.
SLAG The gods?
AGMAR (taking a chunk of meat from his lips) Come hither, Slag.
SLAG (going up to him) Yes, Master.
AGMAR Watch in the doorway while I eat. (Slag goes to the doorway) Sit in the attitude of a god. Warn me if any of the citizens approach. (Slag sits in the doorway in the attitude of a god, back to the audience)
OOGNO (to Agmar) But, Master, shall we not have Woldery wine?
AGMAR We shall have all things if only we are wise at first for a little.
THAHN Master, do any suspect us?
AGMAR We must be very wise.
THAHN But if we are not wise, Master?
AGMAR Why then death may come to us ...
THAHN O Master!
AGMAR ... slowly. (All stir uneasily except Slag motionless in the doorway.)
OOGNO Do they believe us, master?
SLAG (half turning his head) Someone comes. (Slag resumes his position.)
AGMAR (putting away his meat) We shall soon know now. (All take up the attitude. Enter one.)
ONE Master, I want the god that does not eat.
AGMAR I am he.
ONE Master, my child was bitten in the throat by a death-adder at noon. Spare him, Master; he still breathes, but slowly. AGMAR Is he indeed your child?
ONE He is surely my child, Master.
AGMAR Was it your wont to thwart him in his play, while he was strong and well?
ONE I never thwarted him, Master.
AGMAR Whose child is Death?
ONE Death is the child of the gods.
AGMAR Do you that never thwarted your child in his play ask this of the gods?
ONE (with some horror, perceiving Agmar's meaning) Master!
AGMAR Weep not. For all the houses that men have builded are the play-fields of this child of the gods. (The man goes away in silence not weeping.)
OOGNO (Taking Thahn by the wrist) Is this indeed a man?
AGMAR A man, a man, and until just now a hungry one.