Behold him a happy youth. See how brightly the candle burns. From boundless stretches of space the icy wind blows, circling, careering, and tossing the flame. In vain. Bright and clear the candle burns. Yet the wax is dwindling, consumed by the fire. Yet the wax is dwindling.
Behold him a happy husband and father. But see how strangely dim and faint the candle burns, as if the yellowing flame were wrinkling, as if it were shivering with cold and were creeping into concealment. The wax is melting, consumed by the fire. The wax is melting.
Behold him, an old man, ill and feeble. The stages of life are already ended. In their stead nothing but a black void. Yet he drags on with palsied limbs. The flame, now turned blue, bends to the ground and crawls along, trembling and falling, trembling and falling. Then it goes out quietly.
Thus Man will die. Coming from the night, he will return to the night and go out, leaving no trace behind. He will pass into the infinity of time, neither thinking nor feeling, and known to no one. And I, whom all call He, shall remain the faithful companion of Man throughout his life, on all his pathways. Unseen by him, I shall be constantly at hand when he wakes and when he sleeps, when he prays and when he curses. In his hours of joy, when his spirit, free and bold, rises aloft; in his hours of grief and despair, when his soul clouds over with mortal pain and sorrow, and the blood congeals in his heart; in the hours of victory and defeat; in the hours of great strife with the immutable, I shall be with him—I shall be with him.
And you who have come here to be amused, you who are consecrated to death, look and listen. There will pass before you, like a distant phantom echo, the fleet-moving life of Man with its sorrows and its joys.
[Someone in Gray turns silent. The light goes out, and He and the gray, empty room are enveloped in darkness.
THE FIRST SCENE
THE BIRTH OF MAN AND THE MOTHER’S TRAVAIL
Profound darkness; not a stir. Like a swarm of mice in hiding, the gray silhouettes of Old Women in strange headgear are dimly discerned; also vaguely the outline of a large, lofty room. The Old Women carry on a conversation in low, mocking voices.
OLD WOMEN’S CONVERSATIONS
—I wonder whether it’ll be a boy or a girl.
—What difference does it make to you?
—I like boys.
—I like girls. They always sit at home waiting till you call on them.
—Do you like to go visiting?
[The Old Women titter.
—He knows. (Silence)
—Our friend would like to have a girl. She says boys are so restless and venturesome and are always seeking danger. Even when they are little, they like to climb tall trees and bathe in deep water. They often fall, and they drown. And when they get to be men, they make wars and kill one another.