Saturday, September 03, 2005

What you, Will?

Act II. Scene 1.

The forest of Comm Ents. Enter Prince Hal and Falstaff.

Hal: Falstaff?

Falstaff: Here, my Lord.

H: Marks't thou this silence?

F: Ay, my lord. It captives my ear
Like a gilded cage, from out which
Some magnificient bird has flown
But lately.

H: What bodest this, think thou?
Does calamity, like a sly hyena,
Dog our footsteps through this pleasant wood
Hoping to do us present harm?

F: Nay, my lord. 'Tis but the silence of Lothlorien
Blessed abode of the high elves of Noldor.
It is not silence, my Lord, but Peace
That most magical of all music
Too tender for human ear to taste.

H: Be it so. I stand amazed.
But hark! Are these not cannons I hear?
The sound is but faint
Much like the thin drift of some tide
That, but lipping the edges of the world
Speaks in such portents of gnarled wood
As bear witness to the ocean's roaring.
Hears't thou this, Falstaff,
Is it cannons, say you, or but a bashful thunder?

F: Cannons, my lord.
The report has it that the armies of the gnomes
Have laid siege to Lothlorien
And even now attack it.

H: What manner of creatures are these gnomes?

F: Low ones, my lord.
Though their hearts and bellies be filled with fire
Their minds alas are as pliant as water
That takes on the form (only reversed)
Of any passing thing it happens to glimpse.
They are machines, my lord,
Furnaces of self-hatred
That heavy with the fuel of their own doubt
Would consume all the world's righteousness
And be destroyed with it.

H: How comes it that I have heard naught
Of these fiends?

F: They are afraid to be known, my Lord,
Much as the shadows are afraid of the noonday sun.
Their bravest leaders, ay, those very brigands
Who will crow the loudest in the fray of battle
Remain unnamed, so it please you,
Hiding their undoubted ugliness
Under a visor of obscurity.
Such is the nature of the beast.

H: Shall the elves fight these monsters
And rid us of their presence then?

F: Not they, my Lord.
For the elves fight only with each other
Or hold dispute with the immortals;
Such low adversaries are not to their liking.
See how even now they sit
Placid in their lofty homes,
Peaceful as the moon
That looks down in scorn from the sky
Knowing well that no branch the earth may raise
Shall do it harm.

H: Are the Elves afraid, then?

F: Nay, my Lord.
It is only that they know that these advances of the gnomes
Are as empty as the wind that blows
From one corner of the earth to the other
Seeking things to shake -
One does not fight with the wind
Because the wind has no direction to fight for
And once the hot air that swells its wings is spent
It shall prove passing and insubstantial.

H: But could the gnomes not harm the elves betimes?
Do they not come armed?

F: Armed, my Lord, but with such weapons
That the Elves wreck not the slightest.
They have arrows, barbs of twisted matter
Poisoned with venom on the tip
With which they hope to pierce the Elvish armour
And get them under their skins.

H: And can they?

F: Nay. For the armour of the Elves
Is as tough as the dewdrops
That glory in the leaping dawn,
And naught but light can pierce it.
The Elves have nothing to fear from the gnomes, my Lord,
That is why they sit thus, in silence,
Waiting patiently for these unbidden guests
To tire of their unwelcome courtesies
And so leave.

H: Good Falstaff, now I see it all.
How truly mighty are these Elves
Whose contempt, now clear to me,
Shows itself not in the petty bickering of swords
But in the silence with which they greet
Their foes' raucous cries.
Say I foes? Not foes, sirrah,
But parasites, for is not this the silence
Of the hunter who, bitten by mosquitoes
Lets them drink their fill of his blood
Knowing there is greater game afoot.
But where now, Falstaff?
I grow weary of this place
And crave new appetite for the senses.

F: Onward, my Lord, wherever Fancy,
That most seductive of all mistresses
May lead us. Fear not -
The gnomes shall not bar our way.

H: Lead on, Falstaff.

Exeunt Right.

(With apologies to The Bard and JRRT. It's been one of those slow Saturday mornings and I needed something to do.)