MARLOWE. Oh, Goethe! cease these frivolous remarks.
Think you that I, who knew Elizabeth,
And tasted all the joys of literature
And played the dawn to Shakespeare’s larger day,
And heralded a mighty line of verse
With half-a-dozen mighty lines my own,
Am feeling well?
GOUNOD (brightening). Ah! Monsieur
Auteur d’une histoire fine et romanesque
Traduit par Davray; il a des idees
C’est une chose rare la-bas . . .
STEPHEN PHILLIPS. He does not speak of Huysmans;
I thank you, gentlemen, with all my heart;
I thank you, gentlemen, with all my soul;
I thank you, sirs, with all my soul and strength.
So for your leave much thanks. You know my weakness:
I love to be at peace with all the past.
The present and the future I can manage;
The stirrup of posterity may dangle
Against the heaving flanks of Pegasus.
I feel my spurs against the saucy mare
And Alexander turned Bucephalus.
MARLOWE. Neigh! Neigh! though you have
told us what you are,
And we have witnessed Nero several times,
You do not tell us of this wretched Faustus,
Who must be damned in any case, I fear.
S. P. Of course, I treat you as material
On which to work; but then I simplify
And purify the story for our stage.
The English stage is nothing if not pure.
For instance, we will not allow Salome.
So in Act II. of Faust I represent
The marriage feast of beauteous Margaret;
Act I. I get from Goethe, III. from Marlowe,
And Gounod’s music fills the gaps in mine.
Margaret, of course, will never come to grief.
She only gets a separation order.
By the advice of Plowden magistrate,
She undertakes to wean Euphorion,
Who in his bounding habit symbolises
The future glories of the English empire.
As the production must not cost too much,
Harker, Hawes Craven, Hann are relegated
To a back place. It is a compact drama,
Of which spectacular embellishment
Will form no part. The story is so strong,
So rich in all the elements that make
A drama suitable for Alexander,
That scenery, if necessary to Tree,
Shall not intrude on this immortal theme.
GOETHE. Pyramidal! My friend, but you
Now, have you shown the manuscript to Colvin?
MARLOWE. He is a scholar, and a ripe and good
And far too tolerant of modern poets.
ALEXANDER. One of your lines strike my familiar
Surely, that does not come from Stephen Phillips.
MARLOWE. No matter; I may quote from whom I
Shakespeare himself was not immaculate,
And borrowed freely from a barren past.
GOETHE. What thinks Herr Sidney Colvin of your work?
S. P. That he will tell you when he sees it played.