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Libretto list

Billy Budd Libretto

ACT ONE


Prologue

(Vere is revealed as an old man)

VERE
I am an old man who has experienced much. I have  
been a man of action and have fought for my King and  
country at sea.
I have also read books and studied and pondered and  
tried to fathom eternal truth.
Much good has been shown me and much evil, and the  
good has never been perfect. There is always some flaw  
in it, some defect, some imperfection in the divine  
image, some fault in the angelic song, some stammer in  
the divine speech. So that the evil still has something to  
do with every human consignment to this planet of  
earth.
Oh what have I done? Confusion, so much is
confusion! I have tried to guide other rightly, but I have  
been lost in the infinite sea. Who was blessed me? Who  
saved me? In the summer of seventy-hundred ninety-
seven, in the French wars, in the difficult and  
dangerous days after the Mutiny at the Nore, in the  
days when I, Edward Fairfax Vere, commanded the  
"Indomitable". I, Edward Fairfax Vere, commanded  
the "Indomitable".

(The lights go up on the main deck and
quarter deck of H.M.S. Indomitable)

Scene One

(Early morning. A cutter has gone to board a passing  
merchantman. An area of the main-deck is being  
holystoned by some sailors (the first party), in the  
charge of H.M.S. in the charge of the First Mate)

FIRST MATE
Pull, my bantams! Pull, my sparrow-legs! That's right!  
Pull with a will! Bend to it, damn you!

(He hits one man a crack with a rope's end)

CHORUS  
(First Party)
O heave! O heave away, heave! O heave!

(A second party of men, including Donald, arrives
dragging holystones. It is led by the Second Mate)

SECOND MATE
Here is the spot, men! Look at the main deck!  
Stains on the deck of seventy four.  
Get' em off, you idle brutes!

(His men set to work. The First Mate  
gives orders to his Party)

FIRST MATE
Belay! Belay! You bantams, belay!  
Up your anchors and forrard a fathom!  
Move! Move!  

(The men move painfully to a new patch of deck)

CHORUS
O heave! O heave away, heave! O heave!

(The Sailing Master comes along the quarter-deck)

SAILING MASTER
Hi, there! You, you are faking your pull!

SAILOR
I'm sorry, sir- hurt me arm.

SAILING MASTER
Can't help that, my man. Can't help that.  
Life's not all play upon a man-of-war.

CHORUS
(first party)
O heave! O heave away, heave! O heave!

SAILING MASTER
Mr. Bosun! Mr. Bosun!

(Enter Bosun)

BOSUN
Yes, sir!

SAILING MASTER
Hands to braces!  
Man the yards!

BOSUN
Ay, ay, sir!

(Exit Bosun)

CHORUS
(second party)
O heave! O heave away, heave! O heave!

(Four young Midshipmen cross the deck, hands on
dirks. Some of the men holystoning lift their heads  
to see what is happening)

MIDSHIPMEN
Toplights down there, and scrub! Scrub!

FIRST MATE
Toplights down, you swabs!  
Eyes on the deck!

(The Midshipmen go off jauntily)

MIDSHIPMEN
Can't idle you know, men.  
Life's not all play upon a man-of-war'!

DONALD
Cocky young bastards!  
Send 'em back to mammy.  
I'll mammy 'em!  
Teach 'em to 'play upon man-of-war'!

FIRST MATE
Pull, my sparrow-legs! Pull!  
Bend to it, damn you!

SECOND MATE
Toplights down, you bantams! Toplights down!  
Pull with a will!

CHORUS  
(Both parties)
O heave! O heave away, heave! O heave!

(The Bosun's whistle shrills off stage. Two parties  
of men hurry on stage pulling halyards with them.  
The Novice is among them)

MAINTOP  
(Off)
All manned above!  
Yards manned!

BOSUN
Lead those halyards aft - at the double!

DECK
Halyards aft!

(As the downstage party reaches its position, one of  
the men, the Novice, accidentally collides with Bosun)

BOSUN
Who did that?

NOVICE
I did. I'm sorry, sir.

BOSUN
Don't you answer an officer back.  
You take care, I've me eye on you.  
You need a taste of the cat.

MAINTOP
(Off)
Ahoy there, deck! Lively there!

SAILING MASTER
Stop belly-aching and hoist that yard.

BOSUN
Ay, ay, sir!  
Take your purchase: and sway!

(Under the direction of the Bosun, who signals the  
rhythm with his whistle, the men pull on their lines  
hand over hand to hoist the yard)

MEN  
(Pulling)
...and sway! ...and sway! ...and sway!

MAINTOP  
(Off)
Belay hoisting, deck!

SAILING MASTER
Belay there. Don't lose!

(The Bosun signals "Make fast" on his pipe. The two
parties of men move to the braces and make off their  
lines)

BOSUN
Fall in forrard!

(The hoisting crews run swiftly off stage.  
The Novice slips as he runs, and falls)

BOSUN
You again, you novice! That's done for you!  
I'll teach you!

NOVICE
I didn't mean to slip, sir!  
Seems I can't do anything right here.

BOSUN
Squeak!

(Squeak crosses to them)

SQUEAK
Yessir.

BOSUN
Take this man away, and list him for twenty strokes.
See it's done at once.

SQUEAK
Yessir! Yessir!

(He seizes the Novice)

NOVICE
Sir, no! Not me!

SQUEAK
Yes - you

NOVICE
Don't have me flogged -  
I can't bear it - not flogging!

SQUEAK
Forrard you!

NOVICE
Not flogging! No that!

(Squeaks pulls the Novice out.
The Bosun follows them)

FIRST MATE
Toplights down there!  
If anyone else wants the cat,  
he can go slipping.  
Get forrard!

SECOND MATE
Pay attention, you!  
Take your bibles and get forrard!

CHORUS  
(Both parties)
O heave! O heave away, heave! O heave!

(The two parties go out slowly, dragging their
holystones. The stage is empty except for the
Sailing Master on the quarter-deck)

MAINTOP  
(Off)
Boat ahoy!

VOICE  
(Off, answering from the distant boat)
Guard boat! Indomitable!

MAINTOP  
(Off)
Ahoy, deck!  
Boarding-party boat to larboard.

(Four Midshipmen run across the deck  
and up to the quarter-deck to the Sailing Master)

MIDSHIPMEN
Sir!  
Boarding-party boat to larboard!

SAILING MASTER
Ay, ay!  

(The First Lieutenant enters along the quarter-deck)

Mr. Redburn!  
Boarding-party boat returning.  
I see we've three recruits.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Very good, Mr. Flint. We'll go on deck.

(They descend to the main-deck)

SAILING MASTER
Bosun!  
Clear gangway! Jump to it.

(Bosun re-enters with men)

BOSUN
Gangway, lads, gangway!

(His men set to work clearing the gangway-rail)

SAILING MASTER  
(To a Sailor)
Bring table and chairs and muster-book.

MAINTOP  
(Off)
Cutter alongside!

(A Sailor sets a table and chairs for the officers)

FIRST LIEUTENANT  
(To the sailor)
Send for John Claggart!  
Send for the Master-at-Arms!

(The Sailor goes. The First Lieutenant and Sailing
Master seat Themselves at the table on the main deck)

Well, what have we got his time?

SAILING MASTER
We seem to have the devil's own luck. Nothing  
worth have these days. Diseased, hungry grumblers,  
sweepings of the stews and jails, lackeys and pimps,  
mechanics and lickspittles. -  
Ah!  

(He thumps the table)

It's wearisome!  
But it's war, we must be content.

(Lieutenant Ratcliffe appears at the head of the  
gangway and salutes. He is followed by three  
impressed men, Red Whiskers, Arthur Jones and  
Billy Budd, under guard. They fall in on the deck)

RATCLIFFE
To report having boarded  
the British merchantman
Right o' Man,  
homeward bound to Bristol.  
Three men impressed.  
No resistance.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Very good, Mr. Ratcliffe.  
We shall proceed at once to question them.

(John Claggart, Master-at-Arms, comes on deck,
salutes and crosses behind the table)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Master-at-Arms, we have three recruits.  
We require your assistance.

CLAGGART
Your honour, I am at you disposal.  
First man forward!

(Red Whiskers is pushed forward)

CLAGGART
Your name?

RED WHISKERS
I object, I object!  
You've no right to press me.

CLAGGART
Your name?

RED WHISKERS
I'm a decent tradesman,  
I've a wife and family...

CLAGGART
Your name?  

(He leans forward and threatens him with his rattan)

RED WHISKERS
No! No! Joseph Higgings.  
I protest. I object.

CLAGGART
Your age?

RED WHISKERS
I won't give it - I refuse...

CLAGGART
Your age?

(Claggart threatens him again)

RED WHISKERS
Forty-eight. It's no fair.  
I'm too old. It's against the law.

CLAGGART
Your trade?

RED WHISKERS
I'm a butcher.

CLAGGART
Your home?

RED WHISKERS
Bristol, and I wish I'd never left it. I'm no sailor.

CLAGGART
Silence!  
I believe that is all you require, your honour.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Forepeak,  
I think, Mr. Flint?

SAILING MASTER
Little use to use, but we must keep him.  
We seem to have the devil's own luck.  
Take him away.

CLAGGART
Next man.

RED WHISKERS
I protest. I object. I only went to oblige.  
I'm no sailor.

(Red Whiskers is hustled away protesting. The  
second pressed man, Arthur Jones, is pushed forward)

CLAGGART
Your name?

JONES
Arthur Jones.

CLAGGART
Your age?

JONES
Thirty-four.

CLAGGART
Your trade?

JONES
Weaver.

CLAGGART
Your home?

JONES
Spitalfields.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Forepeak again, I think, Mr. Flint?

SAILING MASTER
Nothing special,  
but we must be content.  
Oh, it's wearisome! Next man.

(Jones is marched away)

CLAGGART
Next man forward.

(He calls to Billy)

 Now you. Come here! Your name?

(Billy Budd comes forward)

BILLY
Billy Budd, sir.

CLAGGART
You age?

BILLY
Don't know, sir.

CLAGGART
Don't know? Your trade?

BILLY
Able seaman.

CLAGGART
Can you read?

BILLY
No - but I can sing!

CLAGGART
Never mind singing.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
He looks better. It'll hearten us.

SAILING MASTER
Better fortune at last, and it's welcome.

CLAGGART
Sound in wind and limb?

BILLY
O yes, sir, yes indeed!

CLAGGART
Where's your home?

BILLY
Haven't any. They say I was a... a... a...

FIRST LIEUTENANT
He stammers! That's a pity!  
Fine recruit otherwise.  
Fine recruit all the same.

SAILING MASTER
He stammers! That's a pity!  
Fine recruit otherwise.  
There is always some flaw in them.  
Always something.

BILLY
a... a... foundling!  
Ay, it comes and it goes... or so the chaps tell me.
Don't you worry. Foundling,  
that's the word. Foundling. I'm a fou-ou-ou-oundling.
Found in a basket tied to a good man's door,  
the poor old man.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
(To the Sailing Master)
A pretty good find.

BILLY
That's all right, sir.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
What d'you say, Master-at-Arms?

CLAGGART
A find in a thousand, your honour.  
A beauty. A jewel.
The pearl of great price.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
We need many more like him.

CLAGGART
Your honour, there are no more like him.  
I have seen many men,  
many years have I given  
to the King, sailed many seas.  
He's a King bargain.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Now where shall we place him?

SAILING MASTER
Foretop, I think.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Foretopman, be off and good luck to you.  
Mind you behave yourself and do as you're told.

BILLY
Thank you, sir. Foretopman! Thank you!

(Exultant)

Billy Budd, king of the birds!
Billy Budd, king of the world!
Up among the sea-hawks,  
up against the storm.
Looking down on the deck,  
looking down on the waves.
Working aloft with my mates.  
Working aloft in the foretop.
Working and helping, working and sharing.
Goodbye to the old life. Don't want it no more.

(He shouts seawards)

Farewell to you, old comrades!  
Farewell to you for ever.
Farewell, Rights o' Man.
Farewell, old Rights o' Man.
Farewell to you for ever,  
old Rights o' Man.

(The Chorus echoes Billy off stage)

SAILING MASTER, FIRST LIEUTENANT,
RATCLIFFE
What's that? "Rights o' man"?  

(To Billy)

Down, sir!  

(To sailors)

How dare you! Clear the decks!

CLAGGART
Clear the decks!

(the deck is cleared of Sailors)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Dangerous!  
"The Rights o' Man" indeed!

SAILING MASTER
Always something, always some defect.

(Exit Sailing Master)

RATCLIFFE
Fine young chap, but we must keep a watch.

(Exit Ratcliffe)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Master-at-Arms,  
instruct your police.  
You heard what he called out.

CLAGGART
I heard, your honour.

(The First Lieutenant goes out)

I heard, your honour! Yes, I heard.  
Do they think I'm deaf?  
Was I born yesterday?  
Have I never studied men and man's weaknesses?  
Have I not apprenticed myself  
to this hateful world, to this ship, accursed ship? And  
oh, the fools! These officers! - they are naught but dust  
in the wind.
Squeak!

(Squeaks pops on the main deck)

SQUEAK
Yessir.

CLAGGART
Keep an eye on that man.

SQUEAK
Yessir! The one who grumbles.

CLAGGART  
(Rounding on him)
Infernal idiot. Let me finish.  
Grumblers aren't dangerous.

SQUEAK
No, sir.

CLAGGART
Keep an eye on the big lad with the stammer -  
Billy Budd.

SQUEAK
Yessir, yessir!

CLAGGART  
(Bullying)
"Yessir, yessir". And how? You hadn't thought, you  
wouldn't think, you can't think. Now listen! Go and  
play all your little tricks on this Budd, - tangle up his  
hammock, mess his kit, spill his grog, splash his soup,  
sneak about him.  
And if you see anything of his you fancy -  
I'll make no trouble.

SQUEAK
Thank you, sir, thank you. Grand!

CLAGGART  
(malevolent)
Look out for his temper. Look out for those fists.
You're playing with fire, Squeak, with fire...

SQUEAK
Oh, dear!  

CLAGGART
He'll kill you if he catches you. Be off!

(Squeak goes, leaving Claggart alone)

Yes, be off! And be damned! Oh, what a ship!  
One piece of dirt after another.

(A Sailor (the Novice´s Friend) enters and salutes)

What now?

SAILOR
The flogging, sir.  
All duly over and King's Regulations observed.  
But the offender took it badly.  
He's only a boy and he cannot walk.  

CLAGGART
Let him crawl.

(Claggart goes out along the deck. The Novice comes in  
half-supported by a small group of Sailors. His Friend  
goes forward to help him)

FRIEND
Come along, kid!

NOVICE
I'm done for, I'm done for.

CHORUS
Yes, lost for ever in the endless sea.

FRIEND
The pain'll soon pass.

NOVICE
The shame'll never pass.

CHORUS
Ay, he's lost for ever on the endless sea.

FRIEND
Yer bruises'll heal up, kid!

NOVICE
But my heart-broken!

CHORUS
Ay, he's heart broken,
We're all broken!

FRIEND
I'll look after you!

NOVICE
They've caught me, my home's gone.

CHORUS
Ay, his home's gone.
They've caught us,  
they've caught all for us!

FRIEND, NOVICE AND CHORUS
We're lost all of us lost,  
lost for ever on the endless sea.

(The Novice is slowly helped away by his companions.
Billy and Dansker, an old seaman, come quickly out of  
the shadows)

BILLY
Christ! The poor chap, the poor little runt!

DANSKER
Never seen blood, Baby?

BILLY
I've never seen shed for no reason.

(Red Whiskers and Donald follow Billy and Dansker)

RED WHISKERS
I protest! Let them try it on me!

DONALD
They will, chum, be sure. Wallop!

RED WHISKERS
I'm a respectable tradesman.  
They dursn't!

DONALD
Wallop, wallop, wallop!

DANSKER AND DONALD
Only twenty. Fifty... hundred sometimes.  
Hurts!

BILLY AND RED WHISKERS
I'll give no offence, I'll get no punishment.

DONALD
You'll see, Whiskers.

DANSKER
You'll see, Baby.

BILLY
No I won't, and my name ain't Baby,  
asking your pardon.

WHISKERS
No I won't, and my name ain't Whiskers,  
asking your pardon.

DANSKER AND DONALD
Object to it?

BILLY
Nay.

RED WHISKERS
Yes.

DANSKER
Object to Beauty?  
Not a bad word, beauty.

BILLY
Me a baby? There's name for me.  
Call me what you like, chum!  
I don't mind.

DONALD
Whiskers!  
Pull his bloody whiskers!

RED WHISKERS
Oh! Oh! Lemme go! I won't be pulled around;  
and I won't called out my name.

DONALD
Sh! That's the one to study  
if you want to dodge punishment.  
That's Jemmi Legs.

DANSKER
Billy, be warned. Keep clear of the Master-at-Arms.

(Whistles (distant))

DONALD
Hear that? Captain's muster.

(Whistles again)

RED WHISKERS
What's like the captain? Who is he?

DONALD
Starry Vere they call him. Starry Vere.

(Whistles shrill nearer and the deck begins to fill with
men. The First and Second Mates and the Bosun enter)

CLAGGART
Come on! All of you. Fall in at once!

FIRST AND SECOND MATE
Come on! Fall in!

BOSUN
Fall in at once!

CLAGGART  
(halting Billy)
Foretopman!

BILLY
Me, sir?

CLAGGART
This is a man-o'-war.  
That off that fancy neckerchief!

(He pulls off Billy's neckerchief)

BILLY
Very good, sir.

CLAGGART
And... look after your dress. Take a pride in yourself,
Beauty, and you'll come to no harm. Now fall in.

(Billy joins his mates. The Officers arrive on the  
quarter-deck. The main-deck is filled with informal  
groups of excited seamen)

CHORUS  
(main-deck)
Captain's muster!  
Storms ahead.
Getting near the Frenchies.
Double grog or a flogging.  
Double grog!

A SAILOR
Yes, for the officers!

ALL
Orders to rejoin the fleet!

A SAILOR
Nay, we're scouting.

(Captain Vere walks through a file  
of officers to the rail of the quarter-deck)

CHORUS
Here he comes! Starry Vere! Starry Vere!  
Here he is, lads!

BILLY
O, God bless him!

CHORUS  
(main deck)
Vere!

(the men doff their hats and press closer to listen)

VERE
Officers and men of the Indomitable, I greet you.

CHORUS
(main-deck)
Bless you, Starry Vere!

VERE
Officers and men, we are nearing France. We sail  
hostile waters towards a hostile shore. We sail into  
action alone. We meet our dangers alone, and we'll  
meet'em like true British seamen.

CHORUS  
(main-deck)
We're with you.  
We don't fear, Starry Vere.

VERE
I speak to all. Veteran and novice, sailor and marine,  
officer and man, we share a common duty, we fight a  
common foe.  
And I'm with you.

CHORUS  
(main-deck)
You'll do best for us and we'll do our best for you.
We're with you, Vere.

VERE
The French are bold enemies and bad masters.  
They want all the world to be slaves. They have  
enslaved their neighbours and killed their King.  
But we'll fight'em to a finish.  
We'll take no quarter.  
Death rather than surrender. Down with them.

CHORUS  
(main-deck)
Down with the Frenchies.  
Death or victory!

VERE
Ay! Death or victory!  
Expect action at any time.  
Double vigilance on watch.  
Sleep with your eyes open.  
Listen for the drum beating to quarters -  
and then the chase, then the fight for freedom.
Then to destroy the foreigners  
who threaten us with slavery.  
Then to destroy the French.

CHORUS  
(main-deck)
That's we'll said. We'll follow you.  
Sink or swim!
Down with the French.

BILLY
I'll follow you, I'll serve you, I'm yours,  
I'll die for you, Starry Vere.

CHORUS  
(main-deck)
We'll follow you, Vere.

ALL VOICES  
(main- deck)
Starry Vere, We'll fight!
We'll drive'em from the sea!
We're for the King!
It's death or victory!
We'll fight for you!
We'll die for you!
Starry Vere!

ALL VOICES  
(quarter-deck)
Long live our Captain!
Here's to our Navy!
Long live our Sovereign!
Good bless our enterprise!
We're proud to serve you, Starry Vere!

BILLY
I'll follow you, I'll serve you, Starry Vere!  
I'll serve you, I'll die for you.

ALL VOICES  
(main-deck & quarter-deck together)
We're proud to serve you, Starry Vere!

(Upon a scene of great excitement, the curtains falls)

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO


Scene One.

(Captain Vere's cabin. Evening, a week later.  
Vere is still reading)

VERE
Boy!

(The boy enters)

My compliment to Mr. Redburn and Mr. Flint,  
and will they take a glass of wine with me.

(The Boy goes out. Vere resumes his reading.
He lays down the book)

Plutarch - the Greeks and the Romans -  
their troubles and ours are the same.  
May their virtues be ours, and their courage!  
O God, grant me light to guide us, to guide us all!

(The Boy opens the door to admit the  
First Lieutenant and the Sailing Master)

BOY  
(Speaking)
Mr. Redburn and Mr. Flint, sir.

(The Boy sets a bottle and glasses  
on the table and goes out)

VERE
Gentlemen, I'm glad to see you. Be seated.

(They sit)

Gentlemen, the king!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
SAILING MASTER
The King!

ALL
God bless him!

(They drink)

VERE
Well, my friends, here we are -  
nearing Finisterre - approaching enemy waters.  
We may be in action at any time.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Glad when we are, sir, very glad!

SAILING MASTER
Any moment now, sir,  
we may sight a French sail and chase her.  
For show her heels she will to a certainty.

VERE
You are right, Mr. Flint, shell fly from us.  
We've hard times before us,  
but there'll be victory in the end.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
May we soon be at'em.  
Glad for a crack at the French.

SAILING MASTER
Yes, action's coming.  
The whole ship's wanting it to start.

SAILING MASTER
Don't like the French.  
Don't like their Frenchified ways.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Don't like the French.  
Their notions don't suit us, not their ideas.

SAILING MASTER
Don't like the French.  
Don't like their bowing and scraping.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Don't like their hoppity-skipetty ways.

SAILING MASTER
Don't like the French.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Don't like their lingo.

SAILING MASTER,
FIRST LIEUTENANT
These damned mounseers!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
England for me. Home and beauty!

SAILING MASTER
Beg pardon, sir.  
We ought to express ourselves differently.

VERE
No, gentlemen, I feel as you do.  
Fill your glasses. Another toast.  
The French!...

FIRST LIEUTENANT,
SAILING MASTER
The French!...

ALL
Down with them!

(They drink)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Any danger of French notions  
spreading this side, sir?

VERE
Great danger, great danger.  
There is a word which we scarcely dare speak,  
yet at moments it has to be spoken.  
Mutiny.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
SAILING MASTER
Mutiny.

SAILING MASTER
Spithead, the Nore, the floating republic.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Oh, the Nore! The shame of it! I remember.  
I served there, those days are clear in my mind.  
I saw the disgrace and the sorrow.  
I saw wickedness and its merited punishment.  
O God preserve us from the Nore!

SAILING MASTER
The Nore!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
SAILING MASTER
The floating republic!

VERE
Ay, at Spithead the men may have had their grievances,  
but the Nore - what had we there?  
Revolution, sedition, the Jacobins,  
the infamous spirit of France...  
France who has killed her King and denied her God,  
France the tyrant who wears the cap of liberty,  
France who pretends to love mankind and is at war with
the world, France the eternal enemy of righteousness.  
That was the Nore.  
Ay, we must be vigilant.  
We must be on our guard.  

FIRST LIEUTENANT
We are, sir.  
Claggart is an able man.  

VERE
He is a veritable Argus.  

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Beg pardon, sir?

VERE
He has a hundred eyes.

SAILING MASTER
Need of him with that chap  
who shouted out "Rights o' Man".

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Yes - "Rights o' Man". He need watching.  
"The rights o' man" indeed!

SAILING MASTER
Dangerous one! We must be vigilant.  
"The Rights o' Man indeed"!.  

(The sound of a shanty is heard from below decks)

VERE
Oh, that's nothing. I've noted the fellow in question -  
Budd, Billy Budd, foretopman. Nothing -  
just youthful hight spirits.  
Don't let that worry us.  
No danger there, gentlemen.

CHORUS
(off)
Blow her away

VERE
And listen to them singing below deck.  
Where there is happiness there cannot be harm.  
We owe so much to them -  
some torn from their homes.

CHORUS
Blow her away.  
Blow her to Hilo, Riley.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
SAILING MASTER
More reason we should watch them.

(There is a knock at the door. Lieutenant  
Ratcliffe enters)

RATCLIFFE
Land on the port bow, sir.  
Cape Finisterre. Enemy waters!

(All rise)

VERE
Gentlemen, you'll be wanting to leave me.  
Work for us all before long.  
Good night, my friends.

OFFICERS
Good night, sir.

(The Officers go out. Vere sits again  
and takes his book)

VERE  
(reading)
"At the battle of Salamis the Atenians,
with vastly inferior numbers against the power of Xerxes...  
the Athenians..."

(He lays down his book and listens to  
the men singing between decks)

CHORUS
Blow her away.  
Blow her to Hilo, Riley.

(The curtain falls slowly)

 Scene Two

(The berth-deck, showing a vista of gun-bays, in each  
of which a group of seamen stores its kitbags on slings  
its hammocks. The same evening. The watch below is  
ending a shanty. Billy, Donald, Red Whiskers and  
Dansker are in the nearest gun-bay)

ALL
Blow her away.  
Blow her to Hilo, Riley.
Say farewell, we've a long way to go!

SEMI-CHORUS
Blow her away.  
Blow her to Hilo, Blow her away.

(The shanty slowly dies out)

DONALD  
(briskly)
Here, lads! Here! Come here!  
Remember this one?

(The Semi-Chorus from the other bays crowds  
round and joins in the chorus of the new shanty)

We're off to Samoa
By way of Genoa,
Roll on Shenandoah
And up with the line and away,
Up with the line and away.  

(with chorus)

RED WHISKERS
We're towing to Malta
The rock of Gibraltar
With only a halter
And Davy Jones lying below,  

(With Chorus)

So pray to Devil below.

BILLY
We're off Savannah,
O sing Polly Anna,
My lovely Susannah!
A bird flying high in the sky.
She's only a bird in the sky.  

(with chorus)

Oh, Anna Susannah!
I'll find you a bed by and by.

DONALD
We're off to Nantucket,
Kick over the bucket,
So muck it and chuck it
A dunducket look in the eye.  

(With chorus)

RED WHISKERS
We're riding the ocean,
A dippetty motion,
O give me a potion,
No fish in the locker for me!  

(With Chorus)

BILLY
We're off to Bermuda,
The Sultan of Judah
Can eat barracuda,
Including the weevils and all.  

(With chorus)

DONALD
We're anchored off Scilly,
My aunt willy nilly,
Was winking at Billy,
She'll cut up her Billy for pie.

RED WHISKERS, BILLY,
DONALD, CHORUS
She'll cut up her Billy for pie,
For all he's catch on the eye.

(The Semi-Chorus go back to their own  
bays in the distance and intersperse the  
following dialogue with snatches of the shanty)

BILLY
Come along, Dansker, and sing!

RED WHISKERS
Come along, Dansker, join the fun!

DANSKER
Na, na, too old for fun,  
too old for dancing, too old for women.  
I know how fun ends.

RED WHISKERS
That's no proper thing to say.  
Don't spoil the sport.

DANSKER
No, leave me alone. I'm finished.  
There's only one thing in the world  
that I want and I ain't got it.

BILLY
What is it, friend?

DANSKER
Bacca, Baby Budd, plug o'bacca.

BILLY
That's easy put right. I'll lend you a chew.  
I'll give you the whole bar. It's in my kitty.  
Back in a moment.

(He goes over to a corner-bay to hunt in this kitbag)

DONALD
He's a good cuss is Billy.

DANSKER
He's too god.  
There's his whole trouble.

BILLY
Hi! You... a... a...!  

(He stammers)

DANSKER
What did I tell you?

RED WHISKERS, DONALD
He's a-stammer! He's upset!

CHORUS
He's a-stammer!
What's up?

SQUEAK
No... Ah!

DANSKER
What did tell you?

RED WHISKER, DONALD, CHORUS
Billy's a-stammer!

BILLY
Come out of that!

SQUEAK
No!  

(Billy pulls Squeak forward)

BILLY
What you meddling there for?

SQUEAK
I warn't.

BILLY
You liar! I caught you.

SQUEAK
Don't, Billy, you're throttling me.

BILLY
Yer stinking little vermin.

(Billy marches Squeak out into the light)

CHORUS
Squeak!
Got him at last.  
He took them ear-rings of mine.
Always at it!
Sneaking swine. Look out! - He's got a knife!

BILLY
So that's it! Very well!

(Billy and Squeak fight)

CHORUS
Go it, Beauty! Look out! Careful.  
Get his knife arm.

(Billy catches Squeak by the knife  
arm and struggles to disarm him)

CHORUS
Oh be careful, Billy! Get him down.  
Go it, Beauty! O Baby, get him down!  
Careful! Look out, Baby!

(Billy chases Squeak round the deck and  
knocks him down as Claggart appears with  
this Corporals. Whistles shrill loudly)

CLAGGART
Avast, there! How did this start? Silence!

CHORUS
Careful, Baby Budd! Look out!  
Look out! Well done.

CLAGGART
Get back there. Dansker, you speak.

DANSKER
Billy went to his bag. Squeak there.  
Billy lugged him here. Squeak drew a knife.  
Billy floored him.  
That's all.

CLAGGART  
(to the Corporals)
Seize him.

(They pull Squeak to his feet and hold him)

SQUEAK
I wasn't..

CLAGGART
Put him in irons.

SQUEAK
Sir, it was you told me...

CLAGGART
Gag him!

(Claggarts turns on Billy)

As for you..!  

(he smiles)

Handsomely done, my lad.  
And handsome is a handsome did it, too.

(Distant whistles are heard)

Sling hammocks and turn in.  
Lights out!

(Claggart turns away. A boy stumbles against him.  
He lashes savagely at him with this rattan)

BOY
(crying out)
Ah...!

CLAGGART
Look where you go!

(The men sling hammocks in the bays and the  
battle-lanterns are turned low except for one by  
the companion-way. Claggart walks slowly along  
the deck and slowly back again)

CHORUS, TENOR SOLO
(off)
Over the water,
Over the ocean,
Into the harbour
Carry me home.

CLAGGART
Handsomely done, my lad. Handsome indeed...

CHORUS
(a few voices)
Over the water,
Over the ocean,
Into the harbour
Lying at anchor,
Carry me home.

(the deck is silent and dark. Claggart stands alone  
in the small pool of light by the companion-way)

CLAGGART
O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness!  
Would that I never encountered you!  
Would that I lived in my own world always,  
in that depravity to which I was born.  
There I found peace of a sort, there I established  
an order such as reigns in Hell. But alas, alas!  
The lights shines in the darkness comprehends  
it and suffers. O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness!
Would that I had never seen you!

Having seen you, what choice remains to me?  
None, none! I'm doomed to annihilate you,  
I'm vowed to your destruction.  
I will wipe you off the face of the heart,  
off this ship where fortune has led you.  
First I will trouble your happiness.  
I will mutilate and silence the body where you dwell.  
It shall hang from the yard-arm,  
it shall fall into the depths of the sea,  
and all shall be as if nothing had been.  
No, you cannot escape!  
With hate and envy I'm stronger than love.

So may it be!  
O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness!  
You surely in my power tonight.  
Nothing can defend you.  
Nothing! So may it be!  
For what hope remains if love can escape?
If love still lives and grows strong where I cannot enter,
what hope is there in my own dark world for me?  
No! I cannot believe it! That were torment to keen.

I, John Claggart,  
Master-at-Arms upon the "Indomitable",  
have you in my power, and I will destroy you.

(the Novice come slowly down  
the companion-way and salutes)

CLAGGART
Come here. Remember your promise.  
Are you ready?

NOVICE
Yes, sir.

CLAGGART
Tonight - this night -  
this very minute I've work for you.  
Will you do it?

NOVICE
Yes, sir, yes, I'll do anything!  
Oh, the flagging and the misery!  
and you've said you'll protect me, spoke so fatherly to  
me when you found me crying. I can't stand any more.  
I'll do anything you want. Yes, yes.

CLAGGART
Come here. Come nearer.  
I'll protect you if you don't fail. Squeak has failed.

NOVICE
I shan't fail. I'm not like Squeak. I'm clever. They all
said so at home - and then the press-gang caught me.  
I'll do anything to serve you, anything.

CLAGGART
Would you betray a shipmate?

NOVICE  
(immediately)
Yes.

CLAGGART
Get evidence against him?

NOVICE  
(immediately)
I'll get it.

CLAGGART
Come closer. A shipmate who's disloyal - go and talk  
to him and tempt him. Pretend you're disloyal too,
tempt him to join you with this,  

(he show some coins)

compromise him.  
Then come and tell me.

NOVICE
I'll do it, trust me. I'll do my best.  
Who is he?

CLAGGART
Billy Budd  

(after a pause)

Billy Budd. Why do you hesitate.

NOVICE
No that one.

CLAGGART
Why?

NOVICE
He's good.

CLAGGART  
(striking him)
"Good"? What is goodness to you?  
You've had twenty strokes. Do you want worse?

NOVICE
No, sir! Don't - don't hurt me again, sir,  
I can't bear it. No!

CLAGGART
Will you - or will you not work for me?

NOVICE
(blubbering)
Yes, I'll work for you. I've no choice.  
Give me the money.

(Claggart hands him the coins and goes)

Why had it to be Billy,  
the one we all love?  
Why am I in this cruel hateful ship  
instead of safe home?  
Oh, why was I ever born? Why?  
It's fate. I've no choice. Everything's fate.  
There's no end to it, and may God forgive me.

(he pulls himself together and goes to  
the bay where Billy is sleeping in his hammock)

Billy!... Hist! Billy Budd!

BILLY  
(asleep)
Dreaming, drowsing...

NOVICE
Hist! Billy, wake up!

BILLY
It's a-dreaming that I am - fathoms down, fathoms...  
Who is it? Can't see your face, and dark, is isn't it?  
Christ, I dreamed I was under the sea!
Who are you? Whatever's in the wind?

NOVICE
Speak quietly! Don't wake the others.  
It's a friend.  
I've got something to say.

BILLY
Nay, I'm sleep again -  
I feel it stealing on me now... dreaming...

NOVICE
Billy, listen! Come over here.

(Billy climbs from his hammock, aided by the  
Novice, and they move into an empty gun-bay)

NOVICE  
(hurriedly whispering)
It's unjust, it's unfair! These press-gangs are unfair.  
I was taken from my home, and you pressed too -  
pressed on a homeward-bound.  
It isn't fair, it isn't fair, Billy.

BILLY
Never gave it a thought.  
Still, you're right in a manner of speaking.  
Doesn't seem fair -  
and you're only a boy.

NOVICE
But you were pressed too,  
Billy, and there's others like us too.  
A whole gang. We can't stand it any more.  
The dirt and the stinking food,  
the floggings and the lashings... It's gone too far.  
We talk and plan together,  
and I thought I'd talk to you, Billy Budd.  
Couldn't you help us at a pinch?  
There's twenty, thirty in our gang,  
and we're wanting a leader.

BILLY  
(fully awake at last)
What do you mean?

NOVICE
Look at this! Guineas!  

(He holds them up)

Look at them! Touch them. They're for you.

BILLY
Ay, they twinkle pretty. Why for me?

NOVICE
Hist, quietly! See the pretty pair...  
don't they twinkle lovely in the night-light,  
shining all gold in the moonlight. See they're yours,
Billy, and more like them if you'll lead us.

BILLY
Ay, they twinkle pretty. Why for me? Why d'ye think  
I'd... a... a... a...

NOVICE
Billy!

(Billy clenches his fist with rage as the stammer chokes
his utterance. The Novice flies in terror. Dansker comes  
forward the hammocks) }

BILLY
a... a...  
Dansker, old friend, glad to see you!

DANSKER
What's the matter, Beauty?  
Heard you stammer, saw that novice slipping away...

BILLY
Novice, was here?  
Thought he might be a spirit the queer things he said.  
Oh, Dansker, keep me company, stay here a bit!

(Dansker turns up the lantern in the gun-bay and sits)

BILLY
I was dreaming in my hammock -  
fathoms down, fathoms...  
and didn't rightly wake until  
he offered me them guineas.

DANSKER
Ah!

BILLY
Mutiny, that's what they were for,  
to make me mutiny,  mutiny!  
Still I have sent him back where he belonged
(dreaming, drop me deep).  
Anything wrong, Dansker?  
You're so silent. Want anything of mine?  
Shall I fetch you another plug?  
Dansker, old friend! Want anything o' mine?

DANSKER
I want nothing of yours, Baby, no, nothing -  
nor your youth, no, nor your strength, no,  
nor your looks nor your goodness,  
for Jemmy Legs is down on you.

BILLY
Jemmy Legs? - The Master-at-Arms?

DANSKER
Ay, he's down on you!

BILLY
But Jemmy Legs likes me.  
He calls me that sweet pleasant fellow.  
He gives me the smile and easy order when we meet.
And when I gave Squeak that drubbing,  
"Handsomely done" was all he said and he smiled.  
No, he likes me. They all like me.

DANSKER
No use - he's down on you.

BILLY
And the life suits me, it suits me.  
I couldn't wish for better mates.  
Ay! and the wind and the sails and being  
aloft and the deck below so small and the sea so wide  
and the stars seeming all to sway.

DANSKER
Beauty, you'd better go back. For Jemmy Legs is  
down on you, he's down on you!

BILLY
I wouldn't go back where I was for nothing.  
It suits me and I'm suited.
And Dansker, old friend, I've heard a tale.  
I'm to get promotion -  
captain of the mizzen top.  
Think of that - near Captain Vere himself,  
God bless him! Billy Budd late of the Rights o' Man,
and soon to be captain of the mizzen!
 
Oh, I'm content, I'm content. Everyone loves me,  
Jemmy Legs and all. Here's my life, my own world.  
Here's my friends, and here's you, Dansker, old friend,  
here's you!

DANSKER
Beauty, you're a fool, and I've told you before.  
Jemmy Legs is down on you.

(The curtains fail)

ACT THREE


Scene One

(The main-deck and quarter-deck some days later. A  
few men are at work. Vere stands on the quarter-deck  
with the First Lieutenant and other Officers. He is  
looking out sea. The air is grey with mist)

VERE
I don't like the look of the mist, Mr. Redburn.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
No more do I, sir. It may lift, but not for long.

VERE
Time we came to action. Time indeed.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
The men are getting impatient with this long waiting

VERE
That I well understand.

(Claggart enters slowly along the main-deck. He stops  
and removes his cap as a sign that he wishes to speak  
to the Captain)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
The Master-at-Arms is here to see you, sir.

VERE
No, I don't like the look of the mist!  
Send Mr. Claggart up.

FIRST LIEUTENANT  
(calling)
The captain will see you.

(Claggart ascend to the quarter-deck, cap in hand.  
The Officers withdraw, but remain in sight)

VERE
Well, what is it, Master-at-Arms?

CLAGGART
With regret do I disturb your honour. Duty compels me.
Nothing but my duty could bring me here  
to interrupt your state.

VERE
I don't doubt it. What is it?

CLAGGART
Your honour, I have served my country long,
My king and country, and zealously I think
Have I served you upon the Indomitable
And striven in all ways to deserve your trust.

VERE
Master-at-Arms, your work is satisfactory.  
What do you want to say?

CLAGGART
Would that I need not to say it. Would to God
I could keep silent, but there is danger, sir,  
danger from one who...

(Claggart is interrupted by a wild cry  
from the maintop)

MAINTOP  
(off)
Deck ahoy! Enemy sail on starboard bow!

(The mist begins to lift; the scene brightens)

BOSUN  
(pointing)
Enemy sail on starboard bow!

(The Officers hurry forward to where Vere is standing
The Sailing Master and Lieutenant Ratcliffe join them.  
Claggart descends to the main-deck, looks for a  
moment in the direction of the sail, then goes quickly  
forward)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
The French! The French! And the mist is gone!

SAILING MASTER
Enemy sail! The French! The mist is gone!

RATCLIFFE
By God, the French! And the mist is gone!

CHORUS ON QUARTER-DECK
Enemy sail! The French!
By God, the French! And the mist is gone!

CHORUS ON MAIN-DECK
The French at last!

RATCLIFFE
It's a Frenchman, sure enough.

SAILING MASTER
A frigate fully-rigged!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
She's a four miles at least.

SAILING MASTER
No, three.

FIRST LIEUTENANT, RATCLIFFE
No, four!

(Vere seizes a telescope from the  
Sailing Master and sights it)

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
We'll blow her from the water!  
She's a Frenchman, sure enough!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
She'll outsail us! She's a fifty-gunner.

VERE  
(putting down the telescope)
A Frenchman, seventy four and new rigged.  
Three miles off. Course Nor'-nor'-east.  
Man the braces, Mr. Flint.

(Whistles sound off the stage)

SAILING MAST.  
(shouting trough a megaphone)
Man the braces! At the double!

BOSUN
Ay, ay, sir.

(A team of haulers rushes in and  
takes ropes, and hauls with the Bosun)

Come on, you lubbers!... and sway!
 
HAULING PARTY
...and sway! ...and sway! ...and sway!

CHORUS
This is our moment we've been waiting for  
these long weeks.

VERE
Make sail, all sail!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Make all sail!

SAILING MASTER
Make sail - set royals and sky-rakers!

VERE, FIRST LIEUTENANT, RATCLIFFE
SAILING MASTER
O God, keep the mist away and the breeze fresh!

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
A Frenchman at last! A Froggy!  
Our first fight. We'll blow her from the water.

ALL VOICES
Hooray!  

VERE
Action, Mr. Redburn.

VERE, FIRST LIEUTENANT, RATCLIFFE
SAILING MASTER
Beat to quarters.
Beat to quarters!

ALL ON QUARTER-DECK
Beat to quarters!

ALL VOICES
Hooray!

QUARTER-DECK, MAIN-DECK CHORUS
This is our moment,
The moment we've been waiting for
These long weeks.

(The Gunners run to their guns and start loading)

GUNNERS
Come on, boys! Here she is! Grab the breechings!  
Back with the guns!  
Give'em a taste of good English shot, lads!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Gunners! Ready for loading! Stand by to your guns!

(Seamen run to the nettings with lashed hammocks  
and stow them as a rough screen against shot)

SEAMEN
Quick, lads, there's a battle in the wind!  
Fetch your hammocks, stow'em tight. Quick, lads!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Bring those hammocks forrard! Stow'em tight!

(After-guardsmen drag water-tubs amidships and lay
matches across their brims. Some scatter sand on deck  
and bring buckets on ropes for dousing fires)

AFTERGUARDSMEN
Tubs ahoy! Sand the decks! We'll put out the fires!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Monkeys! Where's those monkeys? Double up!  
Double up! Bring the powder and charges.

(A crowd of powder-monkeys run in  
with cases of powder over their shoulders)

POWDER-MONKEYS  
(chattering)
Look out! Look out!  
Make way for the powder-monkeys!

ALL ON THE MAIN-DECK
Now we'll see action!
We're through with waiting.
Now for deeds.

(Marines march along the main-deck  
and up to the quarter-deck)

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Hey, Marines!

MARINES
Left right, left right, left right. Marines!  
Make away for Marines!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Fore-and-afters! Staysails and jibs!  
Strain by starboard. Sheet'em home.

VERE
Volunteers! Call for boarding volunteers!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Men! Who'll volunteer to board'em in the smoke?
Who'll be the first on board the Frenchie ship?  
Sing out your names! Good men and hearty!
Brave men and true!

DONALD
Take me, sir! Donald, I don't mind.

RED WHISKERS
Very well, I'll go too!

DANSKER
Take an old salt. I'll go.

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Red Whiskers - good for him! And good old Dansker!
Board'em in the smoke.

DONALD
Good old Dansker!  
Board'em in the smoke.

DANSKER
Board'em in the smoke!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
One more!  
Four to be the firs to board'em.

BILLY  
(off)
Here's another. I'm coming down to you. Billy Budd!
I'll come down from the birds!

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Billy! Billy Budd! He's the one! He's with us!  
He'll come down to us!

(Billy climbs down the rigging to the main-deck)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Fall in there! Budd! Donald! Red Whiskers! Dansker!
Report for arms!

BILLY, DONALD, RED WHISKERS
DANSKER
Now we'll see action.
We're thought with waiting!
Now for deeds!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Report hammocks set, seamen!

SEAMEN
Ay, ay, sir! Ay, ay, sir!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Report tubs and sand, afterguardsmen!

AFTERGUARDSMEN
Ay, ay, sir! Ay, ay, sir!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Report powder ready!

POWDER MONKEYS
Ay, ay, sir!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Marines! Report muskets loaded!

MARINES
Ay, ay, sir!

ALL VOICES
This is our moment,
The moment we've been waiting for
These long weeks!
Now we'll see action.
We're through will waiting.
Now for deeds!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Report guns ready, gunners!

GUNNERS
Ay, ay, sir!

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Hooray!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
All guns ready, sir!
We wait to fire.

VERE
Wait yet! We're out of range.

SAILING MASTER
Report all canvas set. Maintop!

MAINTOP
(off)
Ay, ay,! All sails set.

SAILING MASTER
All canvas set, sir!

MAIN-DECK  
Wind, wind, fill our sails!  
Help our fight!

VERE
Too little for his breeze, I'm afraid.  
Are we making, Mr. Redburn?
 
FIRST LIEUTENANT
Barely, sir.

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
Wind, wind, fill our sails!  
Follow us fast!

SAILING MASTER
Maintop! Do you reckon we're making?
 
MAIN DECK  
(all voices)
Bring us victory, now, victory!  
Now, our victory!

MAINTOP  
(off)
We're making slowly.

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
Wind, wind, fill our sails!  
Help our fight!

VERE
We must be patient.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
We're making, sir!

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
Being us victory, now, now, our victory! Wind, wind.

VERE
Mr. Redburn, sight the long eighteens.  
We'll try a shot.

FIRST LIEUTENANT, SAILING MASTER,
RATCLIFFE, QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Stand by, forepeak! Matches ready!

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
We'll send a brace of flying shot  
to sink the swelling bastards in their pride!

VERE
Mr. Redburn, fire!

FIRST LIEUTENANT, SAILING MASTER,
RATCLIFFE, QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
By the long eighteens! Are you ready?  
Fire!

(there is a tremendous explosion off stage.  
Smoke drifts aft)

ALL VOICES
¡Hurrah!

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
This is our moment!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
That's got'em! There's a dumpling for Froggy!  
Hot from the oven!

MAINTOP  
(off)
Short, deck!  
Short by half a mile.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Short, sir!  
Out of range.

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
Ah! Back to our waiting!

VERE
Out of range - and the wind dies.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Ay! She's dropping.

SAILING MASTER,
RATCLIFFE
Curse the breeze!

(Slowly the mist closes in round  
the ship. The scene darkens)

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Wind, wind fill our sails!  
Help our fight!

MAINTOP
(off)
She's making!  
The Frenchie's making fast!

GUNNER'S MATE
Carronades ready to fire, sir!
 
FIRST LIEUTENANT
Wait for orders, deck!

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Wind, wind, fill our sails!

FIRST LIEUTENANT, SAILING MASTER,
RATCLIFFE, QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
The mist!

MAIN-DECK  
(all voices)
The mist!

VERE
Ay, the mist is back to foil us.  
The mist creeps in to blind us.  
Our chase is foolish, gentlemen.  
Give orders to dismiss.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Abandon chase, all hands!
Down one watch!

SAILING MASTER, RATCLIFFE
Down one watch!

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Down one watch!

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Ah!  

(The men slowly and gloomily leave  
action posts and dismiss)

MAIN-DECK CHORUS
Gone is our moment,
The moment we've been waiting for
These long weeks!
Now we'll see trouble.
Back, back to waiting.
Nothing's done.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
The mist won't break again to-day.  
We've lost her for good.

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
Ay, we've lost her!

SAILING MASTER, RATCLIFFE
It's bad for the men.

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
They're taking badly.

RATCLIFFE, SAILING MASTER
FIRST LIEUTENANT
Day by day things move to the worse.

QUARTER-DECK CHORUS
We must keep a watch.

(All Officers leave the quarter-deck except the First  
Lieutenant, Sailing Master and Ratcliffe, who remain  
in the background, and Vere, who stands thoughtfully  
in the foreground. Claggart comes along the emptying  
main-deck and stands cap in hand as before. Vere sees  
him)

VERE
There you are again, Master-At-Arms.  
Come up if he matter's urgent.

(Claggart climbs the companion-way  
to the quarter-deck and stands before Vere)

Well?

CLAGGART
With regret do I return to vex your honour.
Duty compels me. Nothing but my duty  
could bring me back at such a time as this.
Zeal for my country's welfare must excuse me.

VERE
What is it? What is it? Speak you! -  
Oh, that cursed ship! This damned fog!  
Mr. Redburn!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Sir?

VERE
Double grog for all.  
They did their best.  

(to Claggart)

Now be brief, man, for God's sake.

CLAGGART
As brief, your honour, as my theme allows.  
I dare not cut it short. The matter's grave,  
and I must ask your patience.  
There's a man on board who's dangerous. I say again -
who's dangerous.

VERE
Dangerous? What mean you?

CLAGGART
Disaffected, sir,
Ripe for the crimes  
of Spithead and the Nore.
A common seaman, but a subtle schemer,
plotting between decks, sapping loyalties,
corrupting messmates: yes -  
even in this fight when all hearts should promote  
our common purpose: fomenting -  
pardon me the foul word! -  
mutiny.

VERE
Mutiny? Mutiny?  
I'm not to be scared by words.  
Your evidence for this?

CLAGGART
Perhaps your honour would inspect these guineas.  
He crept and offered them at dead of night
To a young novice. You will understand
How their bright wonder and pretty twinkling
Would tempt a simple boy. But he held firm
And came at once and handed them to me.

VERE
How came the boy by gold? - a common seaman?
Strange story. What's his name?

CLAGGART
His name -
Is William Budd.

VERE
Budd, Billy Budd, foretopman?

CLAGGART
The same.

VERE
Nay! you're mistaken.  
Your police have deceived you.
Don't come to me with so foggy a tale.  
That's the young fellow I get good reports of.

CLAGGART
Ah, pleasant looks, good temper -  
they're but a mask.
He is deep, deep.

VERE
Master-at-Arms, I cannot agree. Nay, nay.  
I have seen very men in my time,  
and I trust him.

CLAGGART
You do but note his outwards,  
the flower of masculine beauty and strength.  
He is deep, deep.  
A man-trap lurks under those ruddy-tipped daisies.

VERE
Claggart! Take heed what you say.  
There's a yard-arm for a false witness.

CLAGGART
Sir! Sir! Your honour!

VERE
No more.  
I'll see the fellow at once.  

(He calls)

Boy!

(The Boy enters)

BOY  
(speaking)
Yes, sir?

VERE
You know William Budd, foretopman?

BOY
(speaking)
Oh, yes, Billy Budd, sir!

VERE
Find him, bring him aft to my cabin.  
Do you understand.
You, Master-at-Arms, when you have seen Budd enter,
follow him quietly.  
I have heard you speak;  
I wish to speak with him. In a few minutes  
you will be admitted and confront him.

CLAGGART
Thank you, your honour.  
I trust that nothing I have done...

VERE
Be so good as to leave me!

(Claggart salutes and goes)

Oh, this cursed mist!

(The First Lieutenant, Sailing Master and  
Ratcliffe come forward to Vere)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Yes, sir, it's got us! It's lost us the Frenchie.  
The Frenchie's escaped us.

SAILING MASTER
It may lift later, sir, but too late for our purpose.

RATCLIFFE
Sadly disappointing, sir.  
It's here for good.

VERE
Disappointment, vexation everywhere -  
creeping over everything, confusing everyone.  
Confusion without and within.
Oh, for the light, the light of clear Heaven,  
to separate evil from good!

(The curtain falls)

Scene Two

(The Captain's cabin. A few minutes later.  
Vere is alone)

VERE
Claggart, John Claggart, beware!  
I'm not so easily deceived.  
The boy whom you would destroy, he is good;  
you are evil. You have reckoned without me.  
I have studied men and their ways.  
The mist are vanishing - and you shall fail!

(He goes to the door and opens it. Billy enters)

BILLY  
(radiant)
You went to see me.  
I knew, I knew I'd be called.  
Captain of the mizzen!  
Oh, the honour! - and you telling me!  
I shouldn't speak so quick,  
but the talks got around.

VERE  
(watching him)
Would you like to be captain of the mizzen,  
Billy Budd?

BILLY
Yes, or to be your coxswain.  
I'd like that too.

VERE
Why?

BILLY
To be near you. I'd serve you well, indeed I would.
You'd be safe with me.  
You could trust your boat to me.  
Couldn't find a better coxswain - that's to say,  
I'll look after you my best.
I'd die for you - so would they all.
Aren't glad to be here!
Didn't know what life was before now,  
and O for a fight! Wish we'd got that Frenchie I do,  
but we'll catch her another day. Sir!  
Let me be your coxswain! I'd look after you well.  
You could trust your boat to me,  
you'd be safe with me. Please, sir!

VERE  
(aside)
And this is the man I' m told is dangerous -  
the schemer, the plotter, the artful mutineer!  
This is the trap concealed in the daisies!  
Claggart, John Claggart, beware!

(to Billy)

You must forget all that for the present.  
I do not want to see you about promotion.

BILLY  
(good humoured)
That's all right, sir. I'm content.

VERE
Very well, but now listen to me, Budd.  
We want to question you -  
I and the Master-at-Arms.

BILLY
Yes, sir!

VERE
Answer us frankly and show all proper respect.  
Now stand to attention.

(He calls)

Boy! Admit Mr. Claggart.

(The door opens. Claggart enters)

VERE
Master-at-Arms and foretopman, I speak to you both.
You stand before your Commander as accuser  
and accused under the Articles of War.  
Remember both of you the penalties of falsehood.
Master-at-Arms, stand there.  
Tell this man to his face what you have already told me.

CLAGGART  
(staring at Billy)
William Budd,  
I accuse you of insubordination and disaffection.
William Budd,  
I accuse you of aiding our enemies and spreading  
their infamous creed of "The Rights of Man".
William Budd,  
I accuse you of bringing French gold on board  
to bribe your comrades and lure them from their duty.
William Budd,  
you are a traitor to your country and to your King.  
I accuse you of mutiny!

VERE
William Budd, answer. Defend yourself!

BILLY  
(unable to speak)
... a... a... a... a... a...

VERE
Speak, man, speak.

BILLY
... a... a... a... a... a...

VERE
Take your time, my boy, take your time.

(Vere lays his hand on Billy's shoulder. Billy's right  
fist shoots out, striking Claggart on the forehead

BILLY
... a... a... a... devil!

(Claggart falls and, after a  
couple of gasps, lies motionless)

VERE
God'o mercy!  

(He kneels by the corpse)

Here, help me!

(Billy does not move. Vere raises the body. It falls back)

He's dead. Fated boy, what have you done?  
Go in there. Go!  
God help us! Help us all.

(Billy obeys Vere and goes into a small stateroom at the
back of the cabin. Vere goes to the door and calls to the  
Boy)

Boy! fetch my officers at once.
The mist have cleared.  
O terror! What do I see?  
Scylla and Charybdis, the straits of Hell.  
I sight them to late -  
I see all the mists concealed.
Beauty, handsomeness, goodness coming to trial.  
How can I save him?  
My heart's broken, my life's broken.  
It not his trial, it is mine, mine.  
It is I whom the devil awaits.

(The First Lieutenant, Sailing Master  
and Ratcliffe enter the cabin hurriedly)

Gentlemen,  
William Budd here has killed  
the Master-at-Arms.

FIRST LIEUTENANT, SAILING MASTER
RATCLIFFE
Great god! For what reason?

FIRST LIEUTENANT
We must keep our heads.

SAILING MASTER
Oh! What unheard-of brutality.

RATCLIFFE
The boy has been provoked.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Why did he do it?  
What is the truth?

SAILING MASTER
Claggart is lost to us -  
we must revenge him!

RATCLIFFE
There's no harm in the boy. I cannot believe it.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Justice is our duty, justice is our hope.

SAILING MASTER
Claggart, he's dead -  
give the murderer the rope.

RATCLIFFE
Mercy on his youth -  
there's no harm in the lad.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Here and now we'll judge the case.

SAILING MASTER
Neither Heaven nor hell suffer  
villainy to rest.

RATCLIFFE
Heaven is merciful - let us be merciful.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Call him to trial!

SAILING MASTER
We must have revenge, revenge!

RATCLIFFE
Let us show pity, show pity!

VERE
Struck by an angel of God.  
Yet the angel must hang.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Sir, command us.

SAILING MASTER
Unheard-of in naval annals.

RATCLIFFE
What's to be done?

VERE
Justice must be done.  
I summon on drum-head court.
The enemy is near.  
The prisoner must be tried at once.  
Mr. Redburn presides.  
I myself am present as witness -  
the sole earthly witness.  
Gentlemen, the court sits.

(The Officers prepare the cabin for the court-martial.  
Vere stands rigidly at the side. They carry the body  
into another stateroom, set table and chairs, and then  
summon Billy before them)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
William Budd, you are accused by Captain Vere  
of striking your superior officer, John Claggart,  
Master-at-Arms, and thus causing his death.

(Billy is silent)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Captain Vere?

VERE
The Master-at-Arms...  
denounced the prisoner to me...
for spreading disaffection...  
sympathy with our enemies...  
and trying to start a mutiny...

BILLY
No, no!

VERE
... having French gold for bribes. I asked the prisoner  
to reply. He stammered, then struck out,  
struck John Claggart on the forehead,  
and the rest you know.

LIEUTENANT  
(to Billy)
Captain Vere has spoken.  
Is it as he has said?

BILLY
Yes.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
You know the Articles of War?

BILLY
Yes.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
And the penalty?

BILLY
Yes.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Why did you do it?

BILLY
Sir, I am loyal to my country and my King.  
It is true I'm nobody,  
who don't know where  
he was born, and I've had to live rough,  
but never, never could I do those foul things.  
It's a lie.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Did you bear any malice against the Master-at-Arms?

BILLY
No, no. I tried to answer him back.  
My tongue wouldn't work,  
so I had to say it with a blow,  
and it killed him.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
You stammered then?

BILLY
Ay, it comes and it goes.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Why should the Master-at-Arms  
accuse your wrongfully? Why?

BILLY
Don't know, don't know such things.  
Ask Captain Vere. Ask him.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Do you, sir, know any reason?

VERE
I told you all I have seen.  
I have no more to say.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Prisoner, have you any more to say?  

BILLY
Captain Vere, save me!  

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Go in and wait.

BILLY
Captain, save me!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Go in.

BILLY
I'd have died for you, save me!

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Go in.

BILLY
Save me!

(The other Officers Lead Billy back
to the small stateroom)

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Poor fellow, who could save him?

SAILING MASTER
Ah, he must swing.

RATCLIFFE
Ay, there's naught to discuss.

TOGETHER
We've no choice.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
There's the Mutiny Act.

SAILING MASTER
There are the Articles of War.

RATCLIFFE
There are the King's Regulations.

TOGETHER
We've no choice.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Claggart I never liked.  
Still, he did his duty.

SAILING MASTER
No-one liked Claggart.  
Still, he's been murdered.

RATCLIFFE
Claggart was hard of them all.  
How they hated him.

TOGETHER
We've no choice.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Baby Budd the men called him.  
Billy Budd they loved him.

SAILING MASTER
Billy Budd! Billy! He might have been a leader.

RATCLIFFE
Billy Budd - I impressed him -  
a king's bargain.

TOGETHER
But we've no choice.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
What, then, is our verdict?

OFFICERS  
(to Vere)
Sir, before we decide, join us,  
help us with your knowledge and wisdom.  
Grant us your guidance.

VERE
No. Do not ask me. I cannot.

OFFICERS
Sir, we need you as always.

VERE
No. Pronounce your verdict.

OFFICERS
Guilty.

VERE
And the penalty.

OFFICERS
Death.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Hanging from the yard-arm.

VERE
I accept your verdict.  
Let the Master-at-Arms be buried  
with full naval honours.  
All stand to witness punishment  
at one bell in the morning watch.  
I will myself tell the prisoner.

FIRST LIEUTENANT
Gentlemen, the court rises.

(The Officers salute and leave quietly)

VERE
I accept your verdict. Death is the penalty  
for those who break the laws of earth.  
And I who am king of this fragment of earth,  
of this floating monarchy, have exacted death.  
But I have seen the divine judgement of Heaven,  
I've seen iniquity overthrown.  
Cooped in this narrow cabin I have beheld  
the mystery of goodness -  
and I am afraid.

Before what tribunal do I stand if destroy goodness?  
The angel of God has struck and the angel must hang -  
through me.  
Beauty, handsomeness, goodness,  
it is for me to destroy you.  
I, Edward Fairfax Vere,
Captain of the Indomitable,  
lost with all hands on the infinite sea.  

(He goes towards the door of Billy's stateroom)

I am the messenger of death!  
How can he pardon?  
How receive me?

(He goes towards the small stateroom and enters it. The  
curtain remains up until the end of the music, and them,  
slowly fall)

End of Act Three