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Words and Music

A Play by SAMUEL BECKETT (1962)


MUSIC: Small orchestra softly tuning up.
WORDS: Please! (Tuning. Louder.) Please! (Tuning dies away.) How much longer cooped up here, in the dark? (With loathing.) With you! (Pause.) Theme ... (Pause.) Theme... sloth. (Pause. Rattled off, low.) Sloth is of all the passions the most powerful passion and indeed no passion is more powerful than the passion of sloth, this is the mode in which the mind is most affected and indeed-(Burst of tuning. Loud, imploring.) Please! (Tuning dies away. As before.) The mode in which the mind is most affected and indeed in no mode is the mind more affected than in this, by passion we are to understand a movement of the soul pursuing or fleeing real or imagined pleasure or pain pleasure or pain real or imagined pleasure or pain, of all these movements and who can number them of all these movements and they are legion sloth is the most urgent and indeed by no movement is the soul more urged than by this by this by this to and from by no movement the soul more urged than by this to and-(Pause.) From. (Pause.) Listen! (Distant sound of rapidly shuffling carpet slippers.) At last! (Shuffling louder. Burst of tuning.) Hsst!

Tuning dies away. Shuffling louder. Silence.

CROAK: Joe.
WORDS: (humble). My Lord.
CROAK: Bob.
MUSIC: Humble muted adsum.
CROAK: My comforts! Be friends! (Pause.) Bob.
MUSIC: As before.
CROAK: Joe.
WORDS: (as before). My Lord.
CROAK: Be friends! (Pause.) I am late, forgive. (Pause.) The face. (Pause.) On the stairs. (Pause.) Forgive.(Pause.) Joe.
WORDS: (as before). My Lord.
CROAK: Bob.
MUSIC: As before.
CROAK: Forgive. (Pause.) In the tower. (Pause.) The face. (Long pause.) Theme tonight ... (Pause.) Theme tonight... love. (Pause.) Love. (Pause.) My club. (Pause.) Joe.
WORDS: (as before). My Lord.
CROAK: Love. (Pause. Thump of club on ground.) Love!
WORDS: (orotund). Love is of all the passions the most powerful passion and indeed no passion is more powerful than the passion of love. (Clears throat.) This is the mode in which the mind is most strongly affected and indeed in no mode is the mind more strongly affected than in this.

Pause.

CROAK: Rending sigh. Thump of club.
WORDS: (as before). By passion we are to understand a movement of the soul pursuing or fleeing real or imagined pleasure or pain. (Clears throat.) Of all-
CROAK: (anguished). Oh!
WORDS: (as before). Of all these movements then and who can number them and they are legion sloth is the LOVE is the most urgent and indeed by no manner of movement is the soul more urged than by this, to and -

Violent thump of club.

CROAK: Bob.
WORDS: From.

Violent thump of club.

CROAK: Bob!
MUSIC: As before.
CROAK- Love!
MUSIC: Rap of baton on stand. Soft music worthy of foregoing, great expression, with audible groans and protestations- "No!" "Please etc.-from WORDS. Pause.
CROAK: (anguished). Oh! (Thump of club.) Louder!
MUSIC: Loud rap of baton and as before fortissimo, all expression gone, drowning WORDS' protestations.

Pause.

CROAK: My comforts. (Pause.) Joe sweet.
WORDS: (as before). Arise then and go now the manifest unanswerable-
CROAK: Groans.
WORDS: ... to wit this love what is this love that more than all the cursed deadly or any other of its great movers so moves the soul and soul what is this soul that more than by any of its great movers is by love so moved? (Clears throat. Prosaic.) Love of woman, I mean, if that is what my Lord means.
CROAK: Alas!
WORDS: What? (Pause. Very rhetorical.) Is love the word? (Pause. Do.) Is soul the word? (Pause. Do.) Do we mean love, when we say love? (Pause. Do.) Soul, when we say soul?

Pause.

CROAK: (anguished). Oh! (Pause.) Bob dear.
WORDS: Do we? (With sudden gravity.) Or don't we?
CROAK: (imploring). Bob!
MUSIC: Rap of baton. Love and soul music, with just audible protestations-"No!" "Please" "Peace" etc.-from WORDS. Pause.
CROAK: (anguished). Oh! (Pause.) My balms! (Pause.) Joe.
WORDS: (humble). My Lord.
CROAK: Bob.
MUSIC: Adsum as before.
CROAK: My balms! (Pause.) Age. (Pause.) Joe. (Pause. Thump of club.) Joe!
WORDS: (as before). My Lord.
CROAK: Age!

Pause.

WORDS: (faltering). Age is ... age is when ... old age I mean... if that is what my Lord means ... is when ... if you're a man were a man ... huddled ... nodding ... the ingle waiting-

Violent thump of club.

CROAK: Bob. (Pause.) Age. (Pause. Violent thump of club.) Age!
MUSIC: Rap of baton. Age music, soon interrupted by violent thump.
CROAK: Together. (Pause. Thump.) Together! (Pause. Violent thump.) Together, dogs!
MUSIC: Long la.
WORDS: (imploring). No!

Violent thump.

CROAKS: Dogs!
MUSIC: La.
WORDS: (trying to sing). Age is when ... to a man...
MUSIC: Improvement of above.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). Age is when to a man . . .
MUSIC: Suggestion for following.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). Huddled o'er . . . the ingle (Pause. Violent thump. Trying to sing.) Waiting for the hag to put the ... pan ... in the bed...
MUSIC: Improvement of above.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). Waiting for the hag to put the pan in the bed...
MUSIC: Suggestion for following.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). And bring the ... arrowroot (Pause. Violent thump. As before.) And bring the toddy.

Pause. Tremendous thump.

CROAK: Dogs!
MUSIC: Suggestion for following.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). She comes in the ashes ... (Imploring.) No!
MUSIC: Repeats suggestion.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). She comes in the ashes who loved could not be ... won or...

Pause.

MUSIC: Repeats end of previous suggestion.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). Or won not loved ... (wearily)… or some other trouble ... (Pause. Trying to sing.) Comes the ashes like in that old-
MUSIC: Interrupts with improvement of this and brief suggestion.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). Comes in the ashes like in that light ... her face ... in the ashes . . .

Pause.

CROAK: Groans.
MUSIC: Suggestion for following.
WORDS: (trying to sing this). That old moonlight ... on the earth... again.

Pause.

MUSIC: Further brief suggestion.

Silence.

CROAK: Groans.
MUSIC: Plays air through alone, then invites WORDS with opening, pause, invites again and finally accompanies very softly
WORDS: (trying to sing, softly).

Age is when to a man
Huddled o'er the ingle
Shivering for the hag
To put the pan in the bed
And bring the toddy
She comes in the ashes
Who loved could not be won
Or won not loved
Or some other trouble
Comes in the ashes
Like in that old light
The face in the ashes
That old starlight
On the earth again.

Long pause.

CROAK: (murmur). The face. (Pause.) The face. (Pause.) The face. (Pause.) The face.
MUSIC: Rap of baton and warmly sentimental, about one minute.

Pause.

CROAK: The face.
WORDS: (cold). Seen from above in that radiance so cold and faint...

Pause.

MUSIC: Warm suggestion from above for above.
WORDS: (disregarding, cold). Seen from above at such close quarters in that radiance so cold and faint with eyes so dimmed by . . . what bad passed, its quite . . . piercing beauty is a little...

Pause.

MUSIC: Renews timidly previous suggestion.
WORDS: (interrupting, violently). Peace!
CROAK: My comforts! Be friends!

Pause.

WORDS: ... blunted. Some moments later however, such are the powers of recuperation at this age, the head is drawn back to a distance of two or three feet, the eyes widen to a stare and begin to feast again. (Pause.) What then is seen would have been better seen in the light of day, that is incontestable. But bow often has it not, in recent months, bow often, at all hours, under all angles, in cloud and shine, been seen, I mean. And there is, is there not, in that clarity of silver ... that clarity of silver ... is there not ... my Lord ... (Pause.) Now and then the rye, swayed by a light wind, casts and withdraws its shadow.

Pause.

CROAK: Groans.
WORDS: Leaving aside the features or lineaments proper, matchless severally and in their ordonnance-
CROAK: Groans.
WORDS: -flare of the black disordered hair as though spread wide on water, the brows knitted in a groove suggesting pain but simply concentration more likely all things considered on some consummate inner process, the eyes of course closed in keeping with this, the lashes . . . (pause) . . . the nose ... (pause) ... nothing, a little pinched perhaps, the lips...
CROAK: (anguished). Lily!
WORDS: ... tight, a gleam of tooth biting on the under, no coral, no swell, whereas normally...
CROAK: Groans.
WORDS: ... the whole so blanched and still that were it not for the great white rise and fall of the breasts, spreading as they mount and then subsiding to their natural ... aperture-
MUSIC: Irrepressible burst of spreading and subsiding music with vain protestations-"Peace!" "No!" "Please!" etc.-from WORDS. Triumph and conclusion.

Pause.

WORDS: (gently expostulatory). My Lord! (Pause. Faint thump of club.) I resume, so wan and still and so ravished away that it seems no more of the earth than Mira in the Whale, at her tenth and greatest magnitude on this particular night and shining coldly down-as we say, looking up. (Pause.) Some moments later however, such are the powers-
CROAK: (anguished). No!
WORDS: -the brows uncloud, the lips part and the eyes ... (pause) . . . the brows uncloud, the nostrils dilate, the lips part and the eyes ... (pause) ... the lips part, a little colour comes back into the cheeks and the eyes (reverently) ... open. (Pause.) Then down a little way (Pause. Change to poetic tone. Low.)
Then down a little way
Through the trash
To where ... towards where...

Pause.

MUSIC: Discreet suggestion for above.
WORDS: (trying to sing this).
Then down a little way
Through the trash
Towards where...

Pause.

MUSIC: Discreet suggestion for following.
WORDS: (trying to sing this).
All dark no begging
No giving no words
No sense no need...

Pause.

MUSIC: More confident suggestion for following.
WORDS: (trying to sing this).
Through the scum
Down a little way
To whence one glimpse
Of that wellhead.

Pause.

MUSIC: Invites with opening, pause, invites again and finally accompanies very softly.
WORDS: (trying to sing, softly).
Then down a little way
Through the trash
Towards where
All dark no begging
No giving no words
No sense no need
Through the scum
Down a little way
To whence one glimpse
Of that wellhead.
(Pause. Shocked.) My Lord! (Sound of club let fall. As before.) My Lord! (Shuffling slippers, with halts. They die away. Long pause.) Bob. (Pause.) Bob!
MUSIC: Brief rude retort.
WORDS: Music. (Imploring.) Music!

Pause.

MUSIC: Rap of baton and statement with elements already used or wellhead alone.

Pause.

WORDS: Again. (Pause. Imploring.) Again!
MUSIC: As before or only very slightly varied.

Pause.

WORDS: Deep sigh.

END