Speeches from the plays 1
From How To Roast A Strasbourg Goose
[At the Court of Tir nanOg, Reason is Suspended]
But he did miss it... In goes Packy
and what does he see? Middling crowded courtroom.
Bert Stump at his table on the left,
dragging on the butt of a cigarette -
Gauloise, of course!
- Tomes, texts and reports
piled around him; energy coiled inside,
ready at a touch to zap out
forked lightning arguments -
- exponential expertise -
C'est absurde, quoi!
What is absurde?
Life is absurde!
How do you prove that?
'Ow? On my
phenomenological trampoline! Zair you 'ave eet!
(Makes loopy gestures, arriving as it were to a perch high above the intellectual circus.)
Allez-oup! Q - E - D: et voilà!
And in the benches on the right, the Angelic Delegation,
itching in their tweedy britches,
propped in front of them a large oblong card,
their monogrammed motto -
Not Angels But Angles!
Colliding with the panelling, knocking the table-legs,
joggling each other, all
elbows, buckteeth, goofy gossagacity -
Anyone for tennis? Why not?
What a language! Bumping like jackhammers
from emphasis to preposterous emphasis,
absolute total conviction of utterly
Where is this
little man Stump? How dare he drag us here!
Chockful cheeks gobbling profuse
post-positivist propositions -
And on the bench, Lord Reason, a study,
a face all crags, cross-hatched with the
endurance of a thousand fine arguments
- set against fraud, pitted against treachery,
entrenched against exasperation, adroit
luminary, Lord Reason himself; hero of
the story as it has been understood
so far, but alas about to depart
from at any rate our view for
the immediate future. Have a good look at him.
It was the city that made him. When he speaks
it is the voice of all cities,
the world-weary voice, the touch-tolerant voice -
We know all that!
And now he is about to depart,
at the fine Grecian zenith of his career,
the peak, the apogee by azimuth and almacantar,
with the most death-defying case
ever to be scrutinised before him,
one that would tax - to the discreet limit -
the cool susurrus, the lightly-breathing refinement
of his all-Aristotelian resources,
one that would put his renowned interpretive faculty
to the pin of its succinct, legal cravat.
He raises his gavel, ready to enunciate
the time-bedraggled phrase:
The Court - of
Tír na nOg - is now - In - Session!
And what happens? Enter a Messenger.
Hurry. Gasping. Last gasp. No, second last.
Tripping over himself. Stumbling at the coaming.
Battering the panels of the dock.
Fetching a quite accidental
kick on the ankle of an Angelic Delegate -
Boss! Judge! You Honour! For you! A note!
He hands it to his Lordship. Who reads;
and the gavel descends, slowly
- three times -
Plock! Plock! The Court - of Tír na nOg
- is hereby ad-journed - for three - months!
A stunned silence. Then - pandemonium!
Flashes - shots - photographers jockeying for position
- oaths and imprecations from the plaintiff:
Sacre bleu! Merde alors!
The wrangling Angles in their box,
jostling contusions and contortions, like
a brace of giant squid that'd got mixed up
in a school outing; panic-stricken squid
that had scoffed the bag of bones intended for
the janitor's dog and didn't know how to get rid of them
- shake a leg - all gone down the wrong way!
...So how did all that come about?
Earlier that morning, in the ante-office
of His Reality Ultimate the First and Last -
enter backwards: Chancellor Serious,
retreating from the presence, fighting it off -
His Reality Ultimate the First and Last (off)
Sì, Realità! No, Realità!
Whatever you say, Realità!
- struggling to hold
rearguard shreds of order and good discipline -
Right away Realità!
- closes the door behind him,
gingerly but with relief -
Chancellor Serious tiptoes heavily to the phone,
'Ello. Number T'ree. Dis is
Serious - Chancellor Serious! Me!
We got trouble on our hands. He wants a New Illusion.
Is what 'e said-a - design a New Illusion.
'E t'inks dey're getting too close-a.
I tell you Meaning, I'm serious... yes I know -
you're Meaning and I'm Serious, but I'm serious too -
blast this name! O o! No blast, OK? No blast...
Spot of bother - in a spot of bother, heh?
Not just-a one spot! An epidemic!
A cageful of ravening leopards with smallpox!
Suspensions - that's what he wants.
You make 'em out, I sign 'em. First to go
Belief - Belief is suspended. I tell you, Meaning,
Specific orders from His Reality Ultimate the First and Last!
Belief is suspended! Hope stays, but only just. Love?
Hasn't been heard from for years except in bad movies.
Reason goes too. No I'm deadly serious!
Aha. Dead serious. Lethal. R.I.P.
Shaddap! You and your Oxford levity!
A word in your ear, Meaning. You were
nearly for the chop yourself. He wanted you
stuffed away in semiology.
I didn't mince my words - I told him
we can't carry on without Meaning!
I said it was unthinkable! O don't thank me!
Thank... well, who else?... We are none of us safe!
Now - about-a de New Illusion.
The guidelines as I seem to remember them were:
must be plausible, but not too plausible -
explain enough but not everything -
allow for the divine... discontent I think it's called.
Seventy-thirty split was it or eighty-twenty?
Eighty-twenty split between satisfaction and frustration.
Lucidity? Yes. Brilliance. The gilded puddle.
A pool of light amid the encircling gloom
- a clearing in the jungle with trails leading off
but they peter out. Ecco! You have the idea
get cracking on it... What's 'at? Say that again -
you already have - seven - why seven? -
philosophical systems made out? Each with its own
microphysics, cosmology and ...soul?
Auto-levitational bootstraps - spell that out for me...
They lift themselves up by their own bootstraps,
I see. And they could all - say that again -
they could all be true at the same time - could they?
Really?! Meaning, you are a genius!
You are mee-raculous! You really kept
the thinking cap on there, Meaning, you old
pen-pusher! Real substance there, boy!
Genuine creative abstraction! And you have all this
worked out ahead of time? That's grand!
We just bring those in to the Boss and... I see.
Not to let too many of them out the bag at once,
right of course. But about this other business,
put the lid on Reason first, will you?
And that is how it came to pass
that Lord Reason, with gavel suspended,
astride the hearthstone of his career
before a blaze of wisdom,
read the order to abandon ship
and, gravely counting himself out:
to the judicial obscurity of a disrobing room
backstage under the stairs; where he fell,
as will sometimes happen, into not
unconvivial company, and where
at a later date, we may hope to rediscover him.
On his way out he passes the table
stacked with manuals, tracts and citations,
where a by now disconsolate Bert Stump sits
- a hand to his temple; who glances up
and with a more than modish angst
murmurs his by now immortal
bon mot on the rustication of Reason -
Ze verdict -
said Bert Stump
innocent. Ze sentence: birth.
The ghost of a smile crossed Reason's face.
He went outů