Tales from outer turnip head...

Tales from outer turnip head...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Something Eternal


This weekend I watched some seniors of mine (and their cast 'n crew) perform a play. It was student directed. And it was very good. It is a play I am quite fond of, Our Town. If you have the time this morning (of course we do not think we ever have the time), but if you can find the time to realize you might spare the time, perhaps you can take a few minutes to read the opening few pages from Act III of Our Town by Thorton Wilder. No commentary today beyond the title of the blog entry. Just Wilder's words:

During the intermission the audience has seen the STAGE-HANDS arranging the stage. On the right-hand side, a little right of the center, ten or twelve ordinary chairs have been placed in three openly spaced rows facing the audience.

These are graves in the cemetery.

Toward the end of the intermission the ACTORS enter and take their places. The front row contains: toward the center of the stage, an empty chair; then MRS. GIBBS; SIMON STIMSON.

The second row contains, among others, MRS. SOAMES. The third row has WALLY WEBB.

The dead do not turn their heads or their eyes to right or left, but they sit in a quiet without stiffness. When they speak their tone is matter-of-fact, without sentimentality and, above all, without lugubriousness.

The STAGE MANAGER takes his accustomed place and waits for the house lights to go down.


STAGE MANAGER:

This time nine years have gone by, friends—summer, 1913. 

Gradual changes in Grover's Corners. Horses are getting rarer. Farmers coming into town in Fords.Everybody locks their house doors now at night. Ain't been any burglars in town yet, but everybody's heard about 'em.

You'd be surprised, though—on the whole, things don't change much around here.

This is certainly an important part of Grover's Corners. It's on a hilltop—a windy hilltop—lots of sky, lots of clouds,—often lots of sun and moon and stars.

You come up here, on a fine afternoon and you can see range on range of hills awful blue they are up there by Lake Sunapee and Lake Winnipesaukee … and way up, if you've got a glass, you can see the White Mountains and Mt. Washington—where North Conway and Conway is. And, of course, our favorite mountain, Mt.Monadnock, 's right here and all these towns that lie around it: Jaffrey, 'n East Jaffrey, 'n Peterborough, 'n Dublin; and

      Then painting down in the audience.

there, quite a ways down, is Grover's Corners.

Yes, beautiful spot up here. Mountain laurel and li-lacks. I often wonder why people like to be buried in Woodlawn and Brooklyn when they might pass the same time up here in New Hampshire. Over there—

       Pointing to stage left.

are the old stones, —1670, 1680. Strong-minded people that come a long way to be independent. Summer people walk around there laughing at the funny words on the tombstones … it don't do anyharm. And genealogists come up from Boston—get paid by city people for looking up their ancestors. They want to make sure they're Daughters of the American Revolution and of the Mayflower.… Well, I guess that don't do any harm, either. Wherever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense.…

Over there are some Civil War veterans. Iron falls on their graves … New Hampshire boys … had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together, though they'd never seen more than fifty miles of it themselves. All they knew was the name, friends—the United States of America. The United States of America. And they went and died about it.

This here is the new part of the cemetery. Here's your friend Mrs.Gibbs. 'N let me see—Here's Mr. Stimson, organist at the Congregational Church. And Mrs. Soames who enjoyed the wedding so—you remember? Oh, and a lot of others. And Editor Webb's boy, Wallace, whose appendix burst while he was on a Boy Scout trip to Crawford Notch.

Yes, an awful lot of sorrow has sort of quieted down up here. People just wild with grief have brought their relatives up to this hill. We all know how it is … and then time … and sunny days … and rainy days … 'n snow … We're all glad they're in a beautiful place and we're coming up here ourselves when our fit's over.

Now there are some things we all know, but we don't take'm out and look at'm very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain't houses and it ain't names, and it ain't earth, and it ain't even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that somediing has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you'd be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being. 

     Pause.

You know as well as I do that the dead don't stay interested in us living people for very long. 

Gradually, gradually, they lose hold of the earth … and the ambitions they had … and the pleasuresthey had … and the things they suffered … and the people they loved.

They get weaned away from earth—that's the way I put it,—weaned away.

And they stay here while the earth part of 'em bums away, burns out; and all that time they slowly get indifferent to what's goin' on in Grover's Corners.

They're waitin'. They're waitin' for something that they feel is comin'. Something important, and great. Aren't they waitin' for the eternal part in them to come out clear?

Some of the things they're going to say maybe'll hurt your feelings—but that's the way it is: mother'n daughter … husband 'n wife … enemy 'n enemy … money 'n miser … all those terribly important things kind of grow pale around here. And what's left when memory's gone, and your identity, Mrs. Smith?

     He looks at the audience a a minute, then turns to the stage.

Well! There are some living people. There's Joe Stoddard, our undertaker, supervising a new-made grave. And here comes a Grover's Corners boy, that left town to go out West.

     JOE STODDARD has hovered about in the background. SAM CRAIG enters left, wiping his forehead from the exertion. He carries an umbrella and strolls front.

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