Belowstairs

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Speeches from the plays  -  2.

from Strasbourg Goose

 

[Kate & Packy meet the Belowstairs Crowd:]

 

Packy

Well there's this

philosopher, like, a Frenchman, back our way,

and he's bringing a case against the Universe, like,

so if ye've got any complaints, like, against

the Universe, like...

Serena Aurelian

No, no, no complaints, we're quite all right

as we are thank you very much.

Packy

Well any bit

of oul' music like, any session?

Serena Aurelian

If you go round the side, Lord Maulte keeps some

traditional musicians in the basement. You know

I have one complaint: No More

West of Ireland please. It's written out.

Richard says it always was, and he's

brulliant! I'm closing this door now,

it's starting to rain, you don't mind do you?

 

Narrator

It stopped as soon as she shut the door. A blackbird sang

in the sudden stillness of the afternoon. Their footsteps

crunched on the gravel at the corner of the house.

Kate

Bitch!

Narrator

muttered Kate.

Kate

    Put in a complaint about her!

Narrator

A little way along there was a low entry

in the style of a Georgian coalhole and

a surprising fiddle music coming from it

like you'd hear on a Galway forenoon when you'd be

passing a little window you never even thought

was a snug at all let alone one with sessions.

Kate and Packy bent down and looked in

and sure enough there was a hooly in progress,

fellas and wans in bags and sacks and fustian and tatty linen,

some playing some dancing and a bodhrán and a flute and spoons.

 

Packy

Mighty!

Narrator

  says Packy,

Packy

will we go in? Ara why

wouldn't we!

Narrator

A stout, comfortable-looking man

standing near the door nodded to them.

The Dagda

Sound affair.

Narrator

They could hardly hear him!

After a while Packy has the bodhrán out

and is over contributing to the din, and Kate

is chatting up the oul' fella in the lulls.

Kate

Tell us this much, how did ye get to be here?

The Dagda

Well it's like this ma'am, it goes back a long way.

Kate

Well go back with it, where do ye come from?

The Dagda

We started life as rituals, some  of us.

Kate

Rituals? What of?

The Dagda

Ara we don't rightly remember,

we're not interested in them things nowadays,

all we go for now is the bit of music like,

glad to be rid of th'oul' ritual to tell you the truth.

'Twas all to do with gettiin' beaten up

and bled an shkinned and disembowelled and all that.

Kate

What for?

The Dagda

For nothin', moshtly, just for bein' there.

Doesn't happen nowadays, not so much.

Kate

That'd be great in the Court!

The Dagda

What's Court?

Kate

Nothing. Go on about the ritual.

 

The Dagda

It had to do with spring and harvest and... making sure

the rains fell and the crops grew and the sun shone -

it was a shtart in life anyway.

Kate

Doesn't sound like a great start to me.

The Dagda

I don't think you follow me. We didn't do anything.

You asked me where we came from. We were the ritual.

We had to be that before we became what we are now.

Kate

O I see. And what are ye now?

The Dagda

Well... gods.

Kate

Ye don't have the appearance of gods.

The Dagda

We're retired. Out on pension like. For the last

two thousand years.

Kate

Ye were the gods of the early Celts?

The Dagda

Before the Celts. We're not all the one, you know.

Some of us came with the Firbolg, and more with the

Fomorians and the Nemedians and the Milesians and the Parthalonians.

But it was the Tuatha Dé Danaan set us in order,

the people of the goddess Danu. She's not here,

comes an odd time, round Horse Show Week,

mostly she's in Cyprus,

lovely place she has up there I believe.

But it was her people set us up, the Tuatha Dé Danaan.

Kate

And when the Celts came ye were sidelined?

The Dagda

Not at all!

The Celts didn't give a goddam! Sorry people!

O the Celts would go a bit of the road with anyone.

No it was Patrick that did for us. Patrick the Second.

Paddy Slemish. Well not entirely either.

Set up a kind of a welfare scheme.

Said we'd been at it long enough and

it was time we were being properly looked after.

Kate

And ye've been here ever since?

The Dagda

They moved us out of the fairy mounds when the slate

roofs were introduced. So we're here under the eejits.

Kate

Under the aegis of His Lordship upstairs?

The Dagda

Eejits I said.

Kate

     Under the aegis of the eejit?

The Dagda

Ar'he's all right. I was a Lord too once you know.

Kate

And what were you lord of?

The Dagda

Every feckin' thing! I rose to be

Tutelary Deity of the Tuatha Dé Danaan! Now!

Kate

And what did they call you?

The Dagda

The Dagda! - or Dawya,

or whatever the hell way they say it nowadays.

There was a professor down from Dublin

trying to tell me it used to be Dawya.

Kate

And used it?

The Dagda

     Sure how the hell would I know?

Dagda I call it! I don't remember.

Kate

And what did you do, as Dagda?

The Dagda

Kept an eye on things.

Sometimes I had only the one eye,

but it was usually enough. The Morrígan there,

see her dancing, like an oversize crow,

Goddess of Death she was, she had two eyes,

and if she looked at you out of the right one you were game ball,

but if she fixed you with the left you were manxed -

a dead duck, you were a goner all entirely!

Kate

Well do you miss the old days?

The Dagda

I do miss the oul' cauldron.

I used to have this cauldron, wherein, let me tell you,

wherein there bubbled, perpetually, a highly nutritious stew.

None who came to the house ever left it hungry.

Nor sober either. It was handy.

Kate

It sounds great.

The Dagda

It was mighty.

Kate

And how do ye make out now -

have ye any complaints, like?

The Dagda

Ara we have of course, but what's the point?

Your man upstairs

does fill in the forms for us and sends them off.

Kate

O. Ye can't manage the writing is it?

The Dagda

Not at all. Other way round. They can't read runes.

O we had all that stuff sorted out. Oghma there,

see him dancing, baldy fella in the lion's skin,

he invented the Ogham script.

Kate

I wouldn't've guessed it was a lion's skin,

all dusty.

The Dagda

It was a very old lion.

Mind what you say about him. That's his club

leaning against the stove.

Kate

I didn't mean

anything deleterious.

The Dagda

Ah but you should have seen him in his prime,

leading crowds of people after him on slender

golden chains fastened to the end of his tongue.

Eloquence! A powerful man with the words.

O we had our own alfabbit.

Kate

What?

The Dagda

     Ah Bee Cee. Only it didn't begin like that.

Beth Luish Nion. 'Twas all based on trees.

What I was saying though. Complaints. Your man upstairs -

Kate

The eejit!

The Dagda

The gom. Thinks my name is Dagad.

That's what he puts me down as. Dagad! Me the tutelary

Deity, Dagda, or Dawya of the Tuatha Dé Danaan.

Dagad, ha! The Tuatha Dé were a prickly little people,

they'd grouse about a thing like that,

having their prime symbol of good cheer and prosperity

scribbled off as a footnote in a Sanskrit grammar -

the 2nd person plural of the aorist subjunctive passive

of a Tokharian deponent verb! But sure

who could you complain to about a thing like that?

Kate

And what about the beating, the ritual?

The Dagda

What about it?

Kate

The flaying, the castration, the bleeding, the disembowelling?

The Dagda

Ara that was only to make the world go round,

they didn't mean any harm by it. And we

wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for that!

What I was trying to tell you! We had to be rituals first

before we got to be what we are now!

And we all started off in the same boat.

Didn't we do well, though? Take a look around. See that.

Heroes, every one of us. Herakles types -

you've heard of him, haven't you? Except for the women.

They were Great Mothers.

The Man from the Department was explaining it all to me.

There were Transcendents too. They came later.

The Little One, where is it? Must be gone out playing.

The Divine Wise Child - now there's a Transcendent.

Kate

Is it a boy or a girl?

The Dagda

        Do you know I couldn't tell you…

 

 

 

Tokharian

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