God, I beg you, let my son live. I can understand only one thing, I can say only one thing, only one thing—God, let my son live. I have no other words, all is dark around me, everything is falling. I understand nothing, and there’s such a terror in my heart, O Lord, that I can say only this one thing—God, let my son live! Let him live! Forgive me for praying so poorly. But I cannot pray in any other way. You understand, O Lord, I can’t. Look at me! Just look at me! Do you see? Do you see how my head shakes, do you see how my hands shake? But what are my hands, O Lord! Have pity on him. He is so young—he has a birthmark on his right hand. Let him live, even if only a little while, a little while. He is so young, such a mere foolish child—he’s still fond of sweets. I bought him grapes. Pity—have pity!
[She weeps in a subdued way, covering her face with her hands. Man speaks without looking at her.
Here I am praying, you see. I’ve bent my old knees. I’ve prostrated myself in the dust before you. I’m kissing the ground, do you see? Maybe I have sometimes offended you. If so, forgive me, forgive me. It is true, I was haughty, arrogant. I demanded and did not beg. Often I condemned—forgive me. And if you wish, if this be your will, punish me, but spare my son. Spare him, I beg you. Not for mercy, not for pity do I pray you. I pray for justice. You are old, and I am old too. You will understand more easily than I. Bad people wanted to kill him, people who insult you by their deeds and defile your earth—bad, heartless people, who throw stones from behind corners. From behind corners, the scoundrels! Do not then, I pray you, permit the fulfilment of this evil deed. Stay the blood, give back the life—give back the life to my noble son! You took everything away from me, but did I ever ask you like a beggar: “Give me back my wealth, give me back my friends, give me back my talent”? No, never. I did not even ask you for my talent, and you know what his talent means to a man. It is more than life. I thought perhaps that’s the way it ought to be, and I bore everything, bore everything with pride. But now I ask you on my knees, in the dust, kissing the earth: “Give back my son’s life.” I kiss your earth!
[He rises. Someone called He listens indifferently to the father’s and mother’s prayers.
I’m afraid your prayer was not humble enough. There was a certain tone of pride in it.
No, no, my wife, I spoke well to Him, the way a man should speak. He cannot love cringing flatterers better than brave, proud men who speak the truth. No, wife, you cannot understand. Now I believe also and feel reassured—in fact, I am happy. I feel that I too still signify something to my boy, and it makes me glad. Go and see if he’s asleep. He needs a lot of good, hard sleep.