Thursday, April 19, 2007

From "The Lady's Not for Burning," by Christopher Fry

JENNET. . . . But even so
I no more run to your arms than I wish to run
To death. I ask myself why. Surely I'm not
Mesmerized by some snake of chastity?

HUMPHREY. This isn't the time--

JENNET. Don't speak, contemptible boy,
I'll tell you: I am not. We have
To look elsewhere--for instance, into my heart,
Where recently I heard begin
A bell of longing which calls no one to church.
But need that, ringing anyway in vain,
Drown the milkmaid singing in my blood
And freeze into the tolling of my knell?
That would be pretty, indeed, but unproductive.
No, it's not that.

HUMPHREY. Jennet, before they come
And interrupt us--

JENNET. I am interested
In my feelings. I seem to wish to have some importance
In the play of time. If not,
Then sad was my mother's pain, my breath, my bones,
My web of nerves, my wondering brain,
To be shaped and quickened with such anticipation
Only to feed the swamp of space.
What is deep, as love is deep, I'll have
Deeply. What is good, as love is good,
I'll have well. Then if time and space
Have any purpose, I shall belong to it.
If not, if all is a pretty fiction
To distract the cherubim and seraphim
Who so continually do cry, the least
I can do is to fill the curled shell of the world
With human deep-sea sound, and hold it to
The ear of God, until he has appetite
To taste our salt sorrow on his lips.
And so you see it might be better to die.
Though, on the other hand, I admit
It might be immensely foolish. -- Listen! What
Can all that thundering from the cellars be?


(N.B. I discovered The Lady's Not for Burning through the fantasy novel Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. It is one of my very favorite plays, lovely and funny and romantic and wise, and written almost entirely in gorgeous blank verse. One of the reviews calls it "The best Shakespeare play not written by Shakespeare," and Dean compares it to Austen for the perfect balance between the comedy of its actors and the near-tragedy of their actions. I've seen only one staging, on film, with Kenneth Branagh and Cherie Lunghi; if you ever hear of another production, please let me know.)

1 comment:

  1. Cheryl, I'm not sure if you'll get this, but I recently discovered your blog and found this entry--and I thought you'd appreciate knowing about this staged reading of Lady's Not For Burning, in New York, tonight: