SCENE 9

The scene suddenly changes to the marketplace of the Place de la GrŔve in Paris. The balcony becomes a scaffold, the table a guillotine, beside which stands LUCIFER the role of EXECUTIONER. ADAM as DANTON, addresses a milling crowd from the side of the scaffold. A company of ragged RECRUITS appears to the sound of drums. They form a line around the scaffold. Bright sunlight.

ADAM as if continuing his speech from the previous scene
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! -

CROWD
And death to those who fail to recognize them!

ADAM
I quire agree. Two battlecries preserve
Our great ideal from universal menace,
One we address to those good souls we trust:
“France is in danger”, and that wakes them up,
The other we must thunder out to traitors:
It is but one word, “Tremble” - and they perish.
These rose up kings against us and we threw
A head to them - a head of state - the king’s;
The priests rose up against us, and we wrested
The lightning from their hands and reinstated
Reason, that ancient exile, on the throne.
But neither does our other call grow fainter,
And our best men still heed the country’s summons.
We have eleven armies at the front
And a constant stream of brave young men step forth
To fill the gaps left by our fallen heroes.
Who says that madness and the lust for blood
Must decimate our country in due course?
You smelt the ore, the dross is drained away,
The better part remains, is purified.
And what if here and now we call for blood -
Let them think us monsters, I don’t mind,
My name may be accursed for all I care,
Providing France be powerful and free.

RECRUITS
We only ask for arms and one to lead us!

ADAM
That’s right, that’s right! You only call for arms
Despite the fact that you lack all things else:
Your clothes are ragged and your feet are naked,
With bayonets though you’ll make up your losses
Because you’ll win. The people can’t be conquered.
One general has just been executed
For leading our brave soldiers to defeat.

THE CROWD
The traitor!

ADAM
      Yes, you’re right. The people have
No treasure but their blood which they shed nobly
And prodigally for their country’s sake. -
Whoever has the nation’s sacred treasure
At his command and fails to conquer all
Is deemed a traitor. -
An OFFICER steps Out from the ranks of the RECRUITS

OFFICER
      Put me in his place
Then, citizen. I’ll wipe out his disgrace.

ADAM
Your confidence is honourable, friend -
Before we place such trust in you, however,
You must deserve it on the field of battle.

OFFICER
That trust lives in my soul. As for the rest -
I too possess a head which may be worth
As much or more than that which has just fallen.

ADAM
Who’ll guarantee you’ll bring it if I ask you?

OFFICER
What better guarantor could you desire
Than I myself who hold my life as nothing?

ADAM
That’s not the way that most young people talk.

OFFICER
But citizen, I ask you just once more -

ADAM
Have patience, you have time to reach your goal.

OFFICER
I see you do not trust me. You must learn
To think better of me citizen. -
He shoots himself in the head

ADAM
      A pity -
He deserved the opposition’s bullet.
Take him away, my friends. - We’ll meet again
Once victory is ours.
The RECRUITS march away
Oh how I wish
That I could share your fate. But my lot is to struggle
Without glory - my death in action yields
No honour but a foe who plots and watches
And lies in wait for me and hallowed France.

CROWD
Point him out to us and he shall die!

ADAM
The one I could point out is dead already.

CROWD
What about the suspects then? Whoever
Falls under suspicion is already
Guilty, he is branded: the instinct of
The people is infallible, a prophet. -
Death to the aristocracy. On, on,
Into the prisons, we shall be the judges,
The judgment of the populace is sacred.
The CROWD moves off towards the prison

ADAM
There is no danger there, the bars are strong,
The fetid air that kills both mind and body
Is on your side already. Let them be.
Real bare-faced treason laughs and whets its blade
On benches at the heart of the Convention.

CROWD
To the Convention then - it still needs purging! -
The Convention can come later, we can practise
On the prisons in the meantime. While we do,
Prepare a list of all the traitors, Danton.
The CROWD moves off threateningly. A few SANS-CULOTTES have dragged a young MARQUIS and his sister, EVE, before the scaffold

SANS-CULOTTE
Another pair of young aristocrats:
Their proud faces and this fine white linen
Are clear proofs of their guilt!

ADAM
      A noble couple.
Step up here, young people.

SANS-CULOTTE
      We’ll be off now
To join our comrades. There’s a job to do,
And traitors to be punished.
The SANS-CULOTTES go with the others. The young couple step on to the scaffold. Only a few guards remain behind

ADAM
I do not understand what draws me to you
But I will risk my life to save you both.

MARQUIS
Danton, no. If we indeed are guilty
And you excuse us, then you are a traitor:
If we are not we don’t require your mercy.

ADAM
Who are you to talk like this to Danton?

MARQUIS
I am a marquis.

ADAM
      Wait - are you aware
Our one form of address is Citizen?

MARQUIS
I’m not aware His Majesty the King
Has abolished titles.

ADAM
      Hold your tongue, you fool.
The very guillotine is listening. -
But join us and a new career awaits you.

MARQUIS
I have no royal permit, citizen,
To join a foreign army.

ADAM
      Then you’ll die.

MARQUIS
Then I will swell the ranks of my relations
Who gave their lives defending the King’s cause.

ADAM
Why must you rush so blindly to your death?

MARQUIS
Do you believe this noble privilege
Is preserved only for members of your class? -

ADAM
So you defy me? Good, I’ll take you on.
Who’ll win? I’ll rescue you against your will.
A future and more tranquil generation
In whom the spirit of faction has turned to ashes
Will praise me for this. National Guard! Come,
Take him to my house, look after him.
The MARQUIS is escorted away by a few members of the National Guard

EVE
Be strong, my brother!

MARQUIS
      And God protect you, sister!
He goes

EVE
Here is a head, no worse than Roland’s was.

ADAM
Let not such hard words pass your tender lips.

EVE
More tender words do not become a scaffold.

ADAM
This dread contraption is my daily business.
When you appeared on it a piece of heaven
Alighted there and locked me in its sanctum.

EVE
Even the priests refrain from mockery
When sacrificial beasts are herded past them.

ADAM
It is I who am the sacrifice, believe me.
Though other men may envy me my power,
Joyless and despising life and death,
I see my throne beside which, day by day,
Men lose their heads, and I await my turn -
Knee deep in blood, my solitude torments me;
I long for the relief of loving someone.
If only for a day you could instruct me
In this heavenly science, woman, I would calmly
Lay my head on the block the morning after.

EVE
In a world of terror you still look for love -
Have you no conscience left to terrify you?

ADAM
To possess a conscience is the privilege
Of common people; those who are led by fate
Have little enough time for introspection.
Have you ever known a storm to hesitate
Because some tender rose fell in its path?
Then who would be so foolish as to pass
Judgment on the leaders of the people?
Who can see the wires that move a Brutus
Or Catiline across the public stage?
There might be some who think that famous men
Have altogether quit the human race
And exist in some superior mode of being
Untouched by petty trials and tribulations,
And unaffected by routine affairs. -
Don’t you believe them - the heart continues beating
On the throne: If Caesar had a lover
She might have thought him merely a nice boy
And it probably would not have crossed her mind
That the whole world lay trembling at his feet.
This being so, please tell me, tell me why
You could not love me? Are we not man and woman?
They say whatever loves and hates we bear
Within our hearts we have inherited:
I feel my heart is somehow bound to yours,
Is this so difficult to understand?

EVE
And if I did, what then? You’re led by one god,
My heart is given to another.
How could we ever understand each other!

ADAM
Abandon your outmoded concepts then,
Why sacrifice yourself to exiled gods?
Besides, there is but one befitting altar
For a woman: one ever young - the heart.

EVE
Neglected altars may still claim their martyrs.
Oh Danton, it is nobler to preserve
And tend a ruin lovingly than hail
A rising power; this is the vocation
Most appropriate to woman’s nature.

ADAM
No man has ever seen me moved to tears,
And could they see me now, good friend or foe,
They’d marvel that a man whom fate has driven
To purge the world like an engulfing storm
Should tarry on the scaffold, the tears burning
In his eyes for love of a young girl:
Oh how they’d laugh and prophesy the fall
Of Danton, and not one of them would fear him.
Grant me one ray of hope, I beg of you.

EVE
When once beyond the grave your soul finds peace,
Shakes off the bloody dust of our own age
Then perhaps…

ADAM
      Don’t, don’t go on, dear girl,
I’ve no belief in such an afterlife,
I struggle on with fate in no such hope. -
The CROWD returns in a fierce mood, their weapons bloody, heads are stuck on lances. A few of them push their way onto the scaffold

CROWD
Justice is done - they were a haughty lot.

A SANS-CULOTTE handing DANTON a ring
Here is a ring to swell the country’s coffers.
One of those wastrels pressed it in my hand
As I was about to cut his throat. His type
Believe that we are robbers, pure and simple. -
What, you’re still alive? - Go join your fellows.
He stabs EVE who falls at the back of the scaffold

ADAM covering his eyes
And now she’s dead. - Ah fate, who can resist you?

CROWD
Now on to the Convention. Lead us, citizen. -
Have you prepared the list of traitors’ names?
The CROWD moves away from the scaffold. EVE as a ragged and excited WORKING GIRL. detaches herself from them and rushes to DANTON, a dagger in one hand, a bloody head in the other

EVE
Danton, look at this conspirator -
He would have killed you but I killed him first.

ADAM
If he could have performed my duties better
You did badly - if not, you’ve done well.

EVE
Oh I’ve done well, and I want my reward:
I want to spend a night with you, great man.

ADAM
What sympathy has sprung up in your breast?
What tender feelings can a tigress harbour?

EVE
Really, citizen, it seems you’ve joined
Those blue-blooded aristocrats or grown
Delirious and babble of romance.
You are a man, and I am a young woman.
My admiration draws me to you, great one.

ADAM aside
She sends cold shivers down me - I can’t took,
I cannot bear this dreadful phantasm.
What a miraculous likeness! - Only those
Who have seen angels and looked back to find
The angel fallen can have seen the like.
Her features, figure, voice, and everything
Identical, the difference is so small
That what she lacks could not be written down,
And yet the w-hole effect is alien! -
One’s sanctity protected her from me,
But this repels me with the stench of hell. -

EVE
What are you muttering to yourself?

ADAM
      I’m counting
Madam, and find that I have fewer nights
Remaining than are traitors in the country.

CROWD
On to the Convention - name the culprits!
In the meantime ROBESPIERRE, SAINT-JUST and other members of the Convention arrive with a fresh crowd and set up a new platform

SAINT-JUST
How could he name them? He is the arch traitor. -
The CROWD grows agitated

ADAM
You dare accuse me, Saint-Just! Don’t you know
How powerful I am?

SAINT-JUST
      You were. The people
Made you so, but they are wise - they know
And sanctify the word of the Convention.

ADAM
I recognize no higher authority
Than the people - the people are my friends.
More agitation in the CROWD

SAINT-JUST
Your friends are the opponents of the country.
The noble people will pass judgment on you.
Before them all I charge you, Danton, traitor:
With embezzlement of state funds, sympathy
With aristocracy, and lust for power
Of the most tyrannical, despotic kind.

ADAM
Take care, Saint-Just, my words will strike you down.
Your charges are all false!

ROBESPIERRE
      Don’t let him speak -
You know his tongue is cunning as a serpent’s.
Arrest him in the name of Liberty.

CROWD
Ignore him, let’s not listen, let him perish!
They surround him and take hold of him

ADAM
Don’t listen then, but neither shall I hear
Your accusations. We shan’t convince each other
With speeches, neither shall your actions sway me.
You have simply anticipated me,
O Robespierre, no more, don’t boast of it.
I myself lay down my arms - enough. -
I take this occasion though to summon you
To follow me before three months are out.
Look sharp, headsman, for you dispatch a giant.
He lays his head on the block


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