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Peter Grimes Libretto

PROLOGUE  


(Interior of the Moot Hall, arranged as for Coroner's
Inquest. Coroner, Mr. Swallow, at table on dais, clerk
at table below. A crowd of townspeople in the body of
the hall is kept back by Hobson acting as Constable.
Mr. Swallow is the leading lawyer of the Borough and
at the same time its Mayor and its Coroner. A man of
unexceptionable career and talents, he nevertheless
disturbs the burgesses by his air of a man with an
arrière pensée)

HOBSON
(shouts)
Peter Grimes!

(Peter Grimes steps forward from among the crowd.)

SWALLOW
(reading)
Peter Grimes, we are here to investigate
the cause of death of your apprentice William Spode,
whose body you brought ashore from your boat,
"The Boy Billy", on the 26th ultimo.
Do you wish to give evidence?

(Peter nods.)  

Will you step into the box. Peter Grimes.
Take the oath.
After me. "I swear by Almighty God"  

PETER
"I swear by Almighty God"

SWALLOW
"That the evidence I shall give"

PETER
"That the evidence I shall give"

SWALLOW
"Shall be the truth"

PETER
"Shall be the truth"

SWALLOW
"The whole truth and nothing but the truth."

PETER
"The whole truth and nothing but the truth."

SWALLOW
Tell the court the story in your own words.

(Peter is silent.)  

You sailed your boat round the coast
with the intention of putting in at London.
Why did you do this?

PETER
We'd caught a huge catch,
too big to sell here.

SWALLOW
And the boy died on the way?

PETER
The wind turned against us, blew us off our course.
We ran out of drinking water.

SWALLOW
How long were you at sea?

PETER
Three days.

SWALLOW
What happened next?

PETER
He died lying there among the fish.

SWALLOW
What did you do?

PETER
Threw them all overboard, set sail for home.

SWALLOW
You mean you threw the fish overboard?...
When you landed did you call for help?

PETER
I called Ned Keene.

SWALLOW
The apothecary here?

(indicates Ned)  

Was there anybody else called?

PETER
Somebody brought the parson.

SWALLOW
You mean the Rector, Mr. Horace Adams?

(The Rector steps forward.
Swallow waves him back.)  

All right, Mr. Adams.

(He turns back to Peter.)  

Was there a certain amount of excitement?

PETER
Bob Boles started shouting.

SWALLOW
There was a scene in the village street
from which you were rescued by our landlady?

PETER
Yes. By Auntie.

SWALLOW
We don't call her that here...
You then took to abusing a respectable lady.

(Peter glares.)  

Answer me... You shouted abuse at a certain person?

(Mrs. Sedley pushes forward. Mrs. Sedley is the widow
of a retired factor of the East India Company and is
known locally as 'Mrs. Nabob'. She is 65, self-assertive,
inquisitive, unpopular.)

MRS. SEDLEY
Say who! Say who!!

SWALLOW
Mrs. Sedley here.

PETER
(fiercely)
I don't like interferers.

(A slight hubbub among the spectators resolves itself
into a chorus which is more like the confused muttering
of a crowd than something fully articulate.)

CHORUS
When women gossip the result
Is someone doesn't sleep at night.

HOBSON
(shouting)
Silence!

SWALLOW
Now tell me this.
Who helped you carry the boy home?
The schoolmistress, the widow, Mrs. Ellen Orford?

(Renewed hubbub. Ellen steps forward to Swallow.)

WOMEN'S
O when you pray you shut your eyes
And then can't tell the truth from lies.

HOBSON
(shouts)
Silence!

SWALLOW
Mrs. Orford, as the schoolmistress, the widow,
how did you come into this?

ELLEN
I did what I could to help.

SWALLOW
Why should you help this kind of fellow - callous,
brutal, and coarse?

(to Grimes)  

There's something here perhaps in your favour.
I' m told you rescued the boy from drowning
in the March storms.

(Peter is silent.)  

Have you something else to say?
No? - Then I have.
Peter Grimes, I here advise you -
do not get another boy apprentice.
Get a fisherman to
help you - big enough to stand up for himself.
Our verdict is - that William Spode, your apprentice,
died in accidental circumstances. But that's the kind
of thing people are apt to remember.

CHORUS
But when the crowner sits upon it,
Who can dare to fix the guilt?

HOBSON
(shouts)
Silence! Silence!

(Peter has stepped forward and is trying to speak.)

PETER
Your honour! Like every other fisherman
I have to hire an apprentice. I must have help -

SWALLOW
Then get a woman help you look after him.

PETER
That's what I want - but not yet -

SWALLOW
Why not?

PETER
Not till I've stopped people's mouths.

(The hubbub begins again.)

SWALLOW
(makes a gesture of dismissal)
Stand down! Clear the court. Stand down!

PETER
"Stand down" you say. You wash your hands.
The case goes on in people's minds
The charges that no court has made
Will be shouted at my head.
Then let me speak, let me stand trial,
Bring the accusers into the hall.
Let me thrust into their mouths,
The truth itself, the simple truth.

(He shouts this excitedly against the hubbub chorus.)

CHORUS
When women gossip, the result
Is someone doesn't sleep at night.
But when the crowner sits upon it,
Who can dare to fix the guilt?

(Against them all Constable Hobson shouts his:)

HOBSON
Clear the court!

(Swallow rises with slow dignity. Everybody stands up
while he makes his ceremonial exit. The crowd then
begins to go out. Peter and Ellen are left alone.)

PETER
The truth - the pity - and the truth.

ELLEN
Peter, come away!

PETER
Where the walls themselves
Gossip of inquest.

ELLEN
But we'll gossip, too,
And talk and rest.

PETER
While Peeping Toms
Nod as you go.
You'll share the name
Of outlaw, too.

ELLEN
Peter, we shall restore your name.
Warmed by the new esteem
That you will find.

PETER
Until the Borough hate
Poisons your mind.

ELLEN
There'll be new shoals to catch:
Life will be kind.

PETER
Ay! only of drowning ghosts:
Time will not forget:
The dead are witness
And fate is blind.

ELLEN
Unclouded,
The hot sun
Will spread his rays around.

BOTH
My/Your voice out of the pain,
Is like a hand
That you/I can feel and know:
Here is a friend.

(They walk off slowly as the curtain falls.)  

Interlude 1

Dawn


ACT I


Scene 1

(Street by the sea: Moot Hall exterior with its outside
staircase, next door to which is "The Boar". Ned
Keene's apothecary's shop is at the street corner.
On the other side breakwaters run down to the sea. It
is morning, before high tide, several days later. Two
fishermen are turning the capstan, hauling in their
boat. Prolonged cries as the boat is hauled ashore.
Women come from mending nets to take the fish baskets
from other fishermen who now disembark. Captain
Balstrode sits on the breakwater looking out to sea
through his glass. Balstrode is a retired merchant sea
captain, shrewd as a travelled man should be, but with
a general sympathy that makes him the favourite rentier
of the whole Borough. He chews a plug of tobacco
while he watches)  

CHORUS OF FISHERMEN AND WOMEN
Oh hang at open doors the net, the cork,
While squalid sea-dames at their mending work
Welcome the hour when fishing through the tide
The weary husband throws his freight aside.

FISHERMEN
O cold and wet and driven by the tide,
Beat your tired arms against your tarry side.
Find rest in public bars where fiery gin
Will aid the warmth that languishes within.

(Several fishermen cross to "The Boar" where
Auntie stands in the doorway.)

FISHERMAN
Auntie!

AUNTIE
Come in gentlemen, come in.

BOLES
Her vats flow with poisoned gin!

(Boles the Methodist fisherman stands aside
from all this dram drinking.)

FISHERMAN
Boles has gone Methody!

(Points and laughs.)

AUNTIE
A man should have
Hobbies to cheer his private life.

(Fishermen go into "The Boar". Others remain
with their wives at the nets and boats.)

WOMEN
Dabbling on shore half-naked sea-boys crowd,
Swim round a ship, or swing upon a shroud
Or in a boat purloined with paddles play
And grow familiar with the watery way.

(While the second boat is being hauled in,
boys are scrambling over the first.)

BALSTRODE
Shoo, you little barnacles!
Up your anchors, hoist your sails!

(Balstrode chases them from the boat. A more
respectable figure now begins, with much hat-raising,
his morning progress down the High Street. He makes
straight for "The Boar".)

FISHERMAN
(touches cap)
Dr. Crabbe.

BOLES
(points as the swing door closes)
He drinks "Good Health" to all diseases!

Another FISHERMAN
Storm?

A FEW FISHERMEN
Storm?

(They shade their eyes looking out to sea.)

BALSTRODE
(glass to his eye)
A long way out. Sea horses.
The wind is holding back the tide.
If it veers round, watch for your lives.

CHORUS OF FISHERS
And if the spring tide eats the land again
Till even the cottages and cobbled walls of fishermen
Are billets for the thievish waves which take
As if in sleep, thieving for thieving's sake -  

(The Rector comes down the High Street. He is
followed as always by the Borough's second most
famous rentier, the widow, Mrs. (Nabob) Sedley. From
"The Boar" come the two 'nieces' who give Auntie her
nickname. They stand in front of the pub taking the
morning sun. Ned Keene, seeing Mrs. Sedley, pops out
of his shop door.)

RECTOR
(right and left)
Good morning, good morning!

NIECES
Good morning!

MRS. SEDLEY
Good morning, dear Rector.

NED
Had Auntie no nieces we'd never respect her.  

SWALLOW
Good morning! Good morning!

NIECES
Good morning!

MRS. SEDLEY
Good morning, your worship, Mr. Swallow.

AUNTIE
(to Keene)
You jeer, but if they wink you're eager to follow!

(The Rector and Mrs. Sedley continue towards
the church.)

NED
(shouts across to Auntie)
I'm coming tonight to see your nieces.

AUNTIE
(dignified)
The Boar is at its patron's service.

BOLES
God's storm will drown your hot desires!  

BALSTRODE
God stay the tide, or I shall share your fears.  

CHORUS
For us sea-dwellers, this sea-birth can be
Death to our gardens of fertility.
Yet only such contemptuous springtide can
Tickle the virile impotence of man.

PETER
(calls off)
Hi! Give us a hand!

(Chorus stops.)

Haul the boat!

BOLES
(shouts back)
Haul it yourself, Grimes!

PETER
(off)
Hi! Somebody bring the rope!

(Nobody does. Presently he appears and takes the
capstan rope himself and pulls it after him [off] to the
boat. Then he returns. The fishermen and women turn
their backs on him and slouch away awkwardly.)

BALSTRODE
(going to capstan)
I'll give a hand, the tide is near the turn.

NED
(Going to capstan.)
We'll drown the gossips in a tidal storm.

(Peter Grimes goes back to the boat. Balstrode
and Keene turn the capstan.)

AUNTIE
(at the door of the Boar)
Parsons may moralise and fools decide,
But a good publican takes neither side.

BALSTRODE
O haul away! The tide is near the turn.

NED
Man invented morals but tides have none.

BOLES
(with arms akimbo watches their labour)
This lost soul of a fisherman must be
Shunned by respectable society.
Oh let the captains hear, let the scholars learn:
Shielding the sin, they share the people's scorn.

AUNTIE
I have my business.
Let the preachers learn:
Hell may be fiery
but the pub won't burn.

BALSTRODE, NED
The tide that floods will ebb, the tide, the tide will turn.

(The boat is hauled up. Grimes appears.)

NED
Grimes, you won't need help from now.
I've got a prentice for you.

BALSTRODE
A workhouse brat?

NED
I called at the workhouse yesterday.
All you do now is fetch the boy.
We'll send the carter with a note.
He'll bring your bargain on his cart.

(shouts)

Jim Hobson, we've a job for you.

HOBSON
(enters)
Cart's full sir. More than I can do.

NED
Listen, Jim. You'll go to the workhouse
And ask for Mr. Keene his purchase.
Bring him back to Grimes.

HOBSON
Cart's full sir. I have no room.

NED
Hobson, you'll do what there is to be done.

(It is near enough to an argument to attract
a crowd. Fishermen and women gather
round. Boles takes his chance.)

BOLES
Is this a Christian country?
Are pauper children so enslaved
That their bodies go for cash?

NED
Hobson, will you do your job?

(Ellen Orford has come in. She is a widow of about 40.
Her children have died, or grown up and gone away,
and in her loneliness she has become the Borough
schoolmistress. A hard life has not hardened her. It
has made her the more charitable.)

HOBSON
I have to go from pub to pub
Picking up parcels, standing about.
My journey back is late at night.
Mister, find some other way
To bring your boy back.

CHORUS
He's right. Dirty jobs!

HOBSON
Mister, find some other way...

ELLEN
Carter! I'll mind your passenger.

CHORUS
What! And be Grimes's messenger? You?

ELLEN
Whatever you say, I'm not ashamed.
Somebody must do the job.
The carter goes from pub to pub,
Picking up parcels, standing about.
The boy needs comfort late at night,
He needs a welcome on the road,
Coming here strange he'll be afraid.
I'll mind your passenger!

NED
Mrs. Orford is talking sense.

CHORUS
Ellen - you're leading us a dance,
Fetching boys of Peter Grimes,
Because the Borough is afraid
You who help will share the blame.

ELLEN
Whatever you say…
Let her among you without fault
Cast the first stone
And let the Pharisees and Sadducees
Give way to none.
But whosoever feels his pride
Humbled so deep
There is no corner he can hide
Even in sleep!
Will have no trouble to find out
How a poor teacher
Widowed and lonely finds delight
In shouldering care.

(as she moves up the street)

Mr. Hobson, where's your cart?
I'm ready.

HOBSON
Up here, ma'am. I can wait.

(The crowd stands round and watches.
Some follow Ellen and Hobson. On the
edge of the crowd are other activities.)

MRS. SEDLEY
(whispers to Ned)
Have you my pills?

NED
I'm sorry, ma'am.

MRS. SEDLEY
My sleeping draught?

NED
The laudanum
Is out of stock, and being brought
By Mr. Carrier Hobson's cart.
He's back tonight.

MRS. SEDLEY
Good Lord, good Lord -

NED
Meet us both at this pub, "The Boar"
Auntie's we call it. It's quite safe.

MRS. SEDLEY
I've never been in a pub in my life.

NED
You'll come?

MRS. SEDLEY
All right.

NED
Tonight?

MRS. SEDLEY
All right.

(She moves off up the street.)

NED
If the old dear takes much more laudanum
She'll land herself one day in Bedlam!

BALSTRODE
(looks seaward through his glass)
Look! The storm cone!
The wind veers
In from the sea
At gale force.

CHORUS
Look out for squalls!
The wind veers
In from the sea
At gale force.
Make your boat fast!
Shutter your windows!
And bring in all the nets!

ALL
Now the flood tide
And the sea-horses
Will gallop over
The eroded coast
Flooding, flooding
Our seasonal fears.
Look! The storm cone
The wind veers.
A high tide coming
Will eat the land
A tide no breakwaters can withstand.
Fasten your boats. The springtide's here
With a gale behind.

CHORUS
Is there much to fear?

NED
Only for the goods you're rich in:
It won't drown your conscience,
it might flood your kitchen.

BOLES
(passionately)
God has his ways which are not ours:
His high tide swallows up the shores.
Repent!

NED
And keep your wife upstairs.

ALL
O Tide that waits for no man
Spare our coasts!

(There is a general exeunt - mostly through the swing
doors of "The Boar". Dr. Crabbe's hat blows away, is
rescued for him by Ned Keene, who bows him into the
pub. Finally only Peter and Balstrode are left, Peter
gazing seaward, Balstrode hesitating at the pub door.)

BALSTRODE
And do you prefer the storm
To Auntie's parlour and the rum?

PETER
I live alone. The habit grows.

BALSTRODE
Grimes, since you're a lonely soul
Born to blocks and spars and ropes
Why not try the wider sea
With merchantman or privateer?

PETER
I am native, rooted here.

BALSTRODE
Rooted by what?

PETER
By familiar fields,
Marsh and sand,
Ordinary streets,
Prevailing wind.

BALSTRODE
You'd slip these moorings if you had the mind.

PETER
By the shut faces
Of the Borough clans;
And by the kindness
Of a casual glance.

BALSTRODE
You'll find no comfort there.
When an urchin's quarrelsome
Brawling at his little games,
Mother stops him with a threat,
"You'll be sold to Peter Grimes!"

PETER
Selling me new apprentices,
Children taught to be ashamed
Of the legend on their faces -
"You've been sold to Peter Grimes!"

BALSTRODE
Then the Crowner sits to
Hint, but not to mention crimes,
And publishes an open verdict
Whispered about this "Peter Grimes".
Your boy was workhouse starved -
Maybe you're not to blame he died.

PETER
Picture what that day was like
That evil day.
We strained into the wind
Heavily laden,
We plunged into the wave's
Shuddering challenge
Then the sea rose to a storm
Over the gunwales,
And the boy's silent reproach
Turned to illness.
Then home
Among fishing nets
Alone, alone, alone
With a childish death!

BALSTRODE
This storm is useful. You can speak your mind
And never mind the Borough commentary.
There is more grandeur in a gale of wind
To free confession, set a conscience free.

PETER
They listen to money
These Borough gossips
I have my visions
Fiery visions.
They call me dreamer
They scoff at my dreams
And my ambition.
But I know a way
To answer the Borough
I'll win them over.

BALSTRODE
With the new prentice?

PETER
We'll sail together.
These Borough gossips
Listen to money
Only to money:
I'll fish the sea dry,
Sell the good catches-
That wealthy merchant
Grimes will set up
Household and shop
You will all see it!
I'll marry Ellen!

BALSTRODE
Man - go and ask her
Without your booty,
She'll have you now.

PETER
No - not for pity!...

BALSTRODE
Then the old tragedy
Is in store:
New start with new prentice
Just as before.

PETER
What Peter Grimes decides
Is his affair.

BALSTRODE
You fool, man, fool!

(The wind has risen. Balstrode is shouting
above it. Peter faces him angrily.)

PETER
Are you my conscience?

BALSTRODE
Might as well
Try shout the wind down as to tell
The obvious truth.

PETER
Take your advice -
Put it where your money is.

BALSTRODE
The storm is here. O come away.

PETER
The storm is here and I shall stay.

(The storm is rising. Auntie comes out of "The Boar"
to fasten the shutters, in front of the windows. -
Balstrode goes to help her. - He looks back
towards Peter, then goes into the pub.)

PETER
What harbour shelters peace?
Away from tidal waves, away from storm
What harbour can embrace
Terrors and tragedies?
With her there'll be no quarrels,
With her the mood will stay,
A harbour evermore
Where night is turned to day.

(The wind rises. He stands a moment as if
leaning against the wind. Curtain.)  

Interlude II

Storm

Scene 2

(Interior of "The Boar", typical main room of a
country pub. No bar. Upright settles, tables, log fire.
When the curtain rises Auntie is admitting Mrs. Sedley.
The gale has risen to hurricane force and Auntie holds
the door with difficulty against the wind which rattles
the windows and howls in the chimney. They both push
the door closed)  

AUNTIE
Past time to close!

MRS. SEDLEY
He said half-past ten.

AUNTIE
Who?

MRS. SEDLEY
Mr. Keene.

AUNTIE
Him and his women!

MRS. SEDLEY
You referring to me?

AUNTIE
Not at all, not at all.
What do you want?

MRS. SEDLEY
Room from the storm.

AUNTIE
That is the sort of weak politeness
Makes a publican lose her clients.
Keep in the corner out of sight.

(Balstrode and a Fisherman enter. They struggle
with the door.)

BALSTRODE
Phew, that's a bitch of a gale all right.

AUNTIE
(nods her head towards Mrs. Sedley)
Sh-h-h.

BALSTRODE
Sorry. I didn't see you, missis.
You'll give the regulars a surprise.

AUNTIE
She's meeting Ned.

BALSTRODE
Which Ned?

AUNTIE
The quack.
He's looking after her heart attack.

BALSTRODE
Bring us a pint.

AUNTIE
It's closing time.

BALSTRODE
You fearful old female -
why should you mind?

AUNTIE
The storm!

(Bob Boles and other fishermen enter. The wind howls
through the door and again there is difficulty in closing
it.)

BOLES
Did you hear the tide
Has broken over the Northern Road?

(He leaves the door open too long with disastrous
consequences. A sudden gust howls through the door,
the shutters of the window fly open, a plane blows in.)  

BALSTRODE
(shouts)
Get those shutters.

AUNTIE
(screams)
O-o-o-o-o!

BALSTRODE
You fearful old female, why do you
Leave your windows naked?

AUNTIE
O-o-o-o-o!

BALSTRODE
Better strip a niece or two
And clamp your shutters!

(The two 'nieces' run in. They are young, pretty enough
though a little worn, conscious that they are the chief
attractions of "The Boar". At the moment they are in
mild hysterics, having run downstairs in their night
clothes, though with their unusual instinct for
precaution they have found time to don each a wrap.
It is not clear whether they are sisters, friends or simply
colleagues: but they behave like twins, as though each
has only half a personality and they cling together
always to sustain their self-esteem.)

NIECES
Oo! Oo!
It's blown our bedroom windows in.
Oo! we'll all be drowned.

BALSTRODE
Perhaps in gin.

NIECES
I wouldn't mind if it didn't howl.
It gets on my nerves.

BALSTRODE
D'you think we
Should stop our storm for such as you -
Coming all over palpitations!
"Oo! Oo!"
Auntie, get some new relations.

AUNTIE
(takes it ill)
Loud man, I never did have time
For the kind of creature who spits in his wine.
A joke's a joke and fun is fun,
But say your grace and be polite for all
that we have done.

NIECES
For his peace of mind.

MRS. SEDLEY
This is no place for me!

AUNTIE
Loud man, you're glad enough to be
Playing your cards in our company.
A joke's a joke and fun is fun,
But say your grace and be polite for all
that we have done.

NIECES
For his peace of mind.

MRS. SEDLEY
This is no place for me!

AUNTIE
Loud man!

(Some more fishermen and women come in.
Usual struggle with the door.)

FISHERMAN
There's been a landslide up the coast.

BOLES
(rising unsteadily)
I'm drunk. Drunk!

BALSTRODE
You're a Methody wastrel.

BOLES
(staggers to one of the nieces)
Is this a niece of yours?

AUNTIE
That's so.

BOLES
Who's her father?

AUNTIE
Who wants to know?

BOLES
I want to pay my best respects
To the beauty and misery of her sex.

BALSTRODE
Old Methody, you'd better tune
You piety to another hymn.

BOLES
I want her!

BALSTRODE
Sh-h-h.

AUNTIE
(cold)
Turn that man out.

BALSTRODE
He's the local preacher.
He's lost the way of carrying liquor.
He means no harm.

BOLES
No, I mean love!

BALSTRODE
Come on, boy!

(Boles hits him. Mrs. Sedley screams. Balstrode
quietly overpowers Boles and sits him in a chair.)

BALSTRODE
We live and let live,
And look we keep our hands to ourselves.

(Boles struggles to his feet. Balstrode sits him
down again, laying the law down.)

BALSTRODE
Pub conversation should depend
On this eternal moral;
So long as satire don't descend
To fisticuff or quarrel.
We live and let live, and look
We keep our hands to ourselves.

(And while Boles is being forced into
his chair again, the bystanders comment)

CHORUS
We live and let live, and look
We keep our hands to ourselves.

BALSTRODE
We sit and drink the evening through
Not deigning to devote a
Thought to the daily cud we chew
But buying drinks by rota.

ALL
We live and let live, and look
We keep our hands to ourselves.

(Door opens. The struggle with the wind is worse
than before as Ned Keene gets through.)

NED
Have you heard the cliff is down
Up by Grimes's hut?

AUNTIE
Where is he?

MRS. SEDLEY
Thank God you've come!

NED
You won't blow away.

MRS. SEDLEY
The carter's over half an hour late!  

BALSTRODE
He'll be later still:
the road's under flood.

MRS. SEDLEY
I can't stay longer. I refuse.

NED
You'll have to stay if you want your pills.

MRS. SEDLEY
With drunken females and in brawls!

NED
They're Auntie's nieces, that's what they are,
And better than you for kissing, ma.
Mind that door!

ALL
Mind that door!

(The door opens again. Peter Grimes has come in.
Unlike the rest he wears no oilskins. His hair looks
wild. He advances into the room, shaking off the
raindrops from his hair. Mrs. Sedley faints.
ed Keene catches her as she falls.)

NED
Get the brandy, aunt.

AUNTIE
Who'll pay?

NED
Her. I'll charge her for it.

(As Peter moves forward the others shrink back.)

CHORUS
Talk of the devil and there he is
A devil he is, and a devil he is.
Grimes is waiting his apprentice.

NED
This widow's as strong as any two
Fishermen I have met.
Everybody's very quiet!

(No-one answers. Silence is broken by Peter,
as if thinking aloud.)

PETER
Now the great Bear and Pleiades
where earth moves
Are drawing up the clouds
of human grief
Breathing solemnity in the deep night.
Who can decipher
In storm or starlight
The written character
of a friendly fate -
As the sky turns, the world for us to change?
But if the horoscope's
bewildering
Like a flashing turmoil
of a shoal of herring,
Who can turn skies back and begin again?  

(Silence again. Then muttering in undertones.)

CHORUS
He's mad or drunk.
Why's that man here?

NIECES
His song alone would sour the beer.

CHORUS
His temper's up.
O chuck him out.

NIECES
I wouldn't mind if he didn't howl.

CHORUS
He looks as though he's nearly drowned.

BOLES
(staggers up to Grimes)
You've sold your soul, Grimes.

BALSTRODE
Come away.

BOLES
Satan's got no hold on me.

BALSTRODE
Leave him alone, you drunkard.

(Goes to get hold of Boles.)

BOLES
I'll hold the gospel light before
The cataract that blinds his eyes.

PETER
(as the drunk stumbles up to him)
Get out.

(Grimes thrusts Boles aside roughly and turns away.)

BOLES
His exercise
Is not with men but killing boys.

(Boles picks up a bottle and is about to bring it down
on Grimes's head when Balstrode knocks it out of his
hand and it crashes in fragments on the floor.)

AUNTIE
For God's sake, help me keep the peace.
D'you want me up at the next Assize?

BALSTRODE
For peace sake, someone start a song.

(Keene starts a round.)

AUNTIE
That's right, Ned!

(The round is)

ALL
Old Joe has gone fishing and
Young Joe has gone fishing and
You Know has gone fishing and
Found them a shoal.
Pull them in handfuls,
And in canfuls,
And in panfuls
Bring them in sweetly,
Gut them completely,
Pack them up neatly,
Sell them discretely,
Oh, haul a-way.

(Peter comes into the round: the others stop.)

PETER
When I had gone fishing
When he had gone fishing
When You Know's gone fishing
We found us Davy Jones.
Bring him in with horror!
Bring him in with terror!
And bring him in with sorrow!
Oh, haul a-way.

(This breaks the round, but the others recover in a
repeat. At the climax of the round the door opens
to admit Ellen Orford, the boy and the carrier. All
three are soaking, muddy and bedraggled.)  

HOBSON
The bridge is down,
we half swam over.  

NED
And your cart? Is it seaworthy?

(The women go to Ellen and the boy. Auntie
fusses over them. Boles reproaches.)

ELLEN
We're chilled to the bone.

BOLES
(to Ellen)
Serves you right, woman.

AUNTIE
My dear
There's brandy and hot water to spare.

NIECES
Let's look at the boy.

ELLEN
(rising)
Let him be.

NIECES
(admiring)
Nice sweet thing.

ELLEN
(protecting him)
Not for such as you.

PETER
Let's go. You ready?

AUNTIE
Let them warm up
They've been half drowned.

PETER
Time to get off.

AUNTIE
Your hut's washed away.

PETER
Only the cliff.
Young prentice, come.

(The Boy hesitates, Ellen leads him to Peter.)

ELLEN
Goodbye, my dear, God bless you.
Peter will take you home.

ALL
Home? Do you call that home?

(Peter takes the boy out the door into the howling
storm. Curtain.)