Kuno Francke.

The German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) online

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generally. We artists are merely one of bourgeoisie's
luxuries in paying for which they will outbid each
other. If you were right, how would an opera like
Walkiire be possible which deals with things the ex-
posure of which is absolutely abhorrent to the public.
Yet when I sing the part of Siegmund, the most solic-
itous mothers will not hesitate to bring in their thirteen
or fourteen year old daughters. And indeed, as I am
standing on the stage, I know for certain that not one
person in the audience any longer pays the slightest
attention to the action itself. If they did they w^ould
get up and out. That's what they actually did when
the opera was still new. Now they have accustomed
themselves to ignoring it. They notice it as little as
they notice the air separating them from the stage.
That, you see, is the meaning of what you call art!
To this you have sacrificed fifty years of your life!
Our real duty as artists is to produce ourselves to the
paying public night after night under one pretense
or another. Nor is its interest limited to such exhi-
bitions; it fastens itself as tenaciously upon our pri-
vate life. One belongs to the public with every breath
one draws; and because we submit to this for money,
people never know which they had better do most,


idolize us or despise us. Go and find out how many
went to the theatre yesterday to hear me sing and how
many came to gape at me as they would gape at the
emperor of China if he were to come to town tomor-
row. Do you know what the public is after in its
pursuit of art? To shout bravos, to throw flowers and
wreaths upon the stage, to have something to talk
about, to be seen by others, to say Ah and Oh, once in
a while to take a hand in unhitching a performer's
horses — these are the public's real wants, and I
satisfy them. K they pay me half a million, I in
return furnish a living to a legion of cabmen, writers,
milliners, florists, tavernkeepers. The money is made
to circulate. People's blood is made to circulate.
Young girls become engaged, old maids get married,
wives fall victims to their husbands' friends, and
grandmothers get no end of topics for gossip. Acci-
dents and crimes are made to happen. At the ticket
office a child is trampled to death, a lady is robbed of
her pocketbook, a gentleman in the audience becomes
insane during a performance. That creates business
for physicians, lawyers . . . {he is seized by a fit
of coughing.) And to think in this condition I am to
sing Tristan tomorrow! — I am not telling you these
things out of vanity but to cure you of your delusion.
The standard by which to judge a man's importance
in this world is the world itself and not some fixed
conviction one may have acquired through years of
brooding meditation. I did not put myself in the
market either ; they discovered me. There are no un-
appreciated, neglected geniuses. We are not the
makers and masters of our own fate; man is born a
slave !
DiJHRiNG {who has been turning the leaves of his manu-
script). Please, before I go, let me play to you the
first scene of the second act. It's laid in a park, you
know, just like the famous picture: Embarquemenf
pour Cythere . . .


Geraedo. But I told you I haven't the time! Besides
what am I to gather from a few detached scenes'?

DuHEiNG (slowly packing up his manuscript) . I am afraid,
Mr. Gerardo, you are somewhat misjudging me. After
all, I am not quite so unknown to the rest of the world
as I am to you. My person and name are known.
Wagner himself mentions me often enough in his
w^ritings. And let me tell you, if I die today, my works
will be performed tomorrow. I am as sure of that as
I know that my music will retain its value. My Berlin
publisher writes me every day: All that's needed is
for you to die. Why then in the world don't you?

Geraedo. All I can reply to you is this : that since Wag-
ner 's death there hasn't been a call for new operas
anywhere. If you offer new music, you have all con-
servatories, all singers and the whole public against
you from the start. If you want to see your works
performed, write a music which does not differ the
least from what is in vogue today; just copy; steal
your opera in bits and scraps from the whole of
Wagner's operas. Then you may count mth con-
siderable probability on having it accepted. My
tremendous hit last night should prove to you that
the old music is all that's needed for years to come.
And my opinion is that of every other singer, of
every manager and of the whole paying public. Why
should I go out of my way to have a new music
whipped into me when the old music has already cost
me such inhuman whippings?

DiJHEiNG {offers him his trembling hand). I am sorry
but I fear I'm too old to learn to steal. That's the
kind of thing one has to begin young or one will never

Geraedo. I hope I haven't offended you. Sir. — But, my
dear Sir, — if you would permit me — the thought that
life means a hard struggle to you — {speaking very
rapidly) it so happens that I have received five hun-
dred marks more than I . . .


DuHRiNG {looks at Gerardo with his eyes wide open, then
suddenly starts for the door). Please, please, I beg
of you, no! Don't finish what you meant to say. No,
no, no ! That is not what I came for. You know what
a great sage has said: — They are all of them good-
natured, but . . . ! — No, Mr. Gerardo, I did not ask
you to listen to my opera in order to practise extor-
tion on you. I love my child too much for that. No
indeed, Mr. Gerardo . . .

[Exit through the centre door.']

Gerardo {escorting him to the door). Oh please. Sir. —
Happy to have known you, Sir.

Scene VIII

Gerardo {alone, comes forward, sinks into an armchair,
with basket of champagne in front of him, looks at the
bottles). For whom am I raking together so much
money? — For my children I Yes, if I had any chil-
dren ! — For my old age ? — Two more years will make
a wreck of me! — Then it will be:

**Alas, alas,
The hobby is forgotten ! ' '

Scene IX
GERiVRDO, Helen Marowa, later the valet.

Helen {of striking beauty, twenty-seven years, street
dress, muff; greatly excited). I am just likely, am I
not, to let that creature block my way ! I suppose you
placed him down there to prevent me from reaching

Gerardo {has started from his chair). Helen!

Helen. Why, you knew that I was coming, didn't you?

Valet {in the open door which has been left so by Helen;
holds hand to his cheek). I did my very best, Sir, but
the lady . . . she . . . she . . .


Helen. Boxed your ears!

Geeardo. Helen !

Helen. Would you expect me to put up with such an

Geraedo {to the valet). You may go. ]^Exit Valet.]

Helen {lays her muff on a chair). I can no longer live
without you. Either you will take me along or I shall
kill myself.

Geraedo. Helen !

Helen. I shall kill myself! You cut asunder my vital
nerve if you insist on our separation. You leave me
without either heart or brain. To live through
another day like yesterday, a whole day without seeing
you, — I simply cannot do it. I am not strong enough
for it. I implore you, Oscar, take me along! I am
pleading for my life !

Geraedo. It is impossible.

Helen. Nothing is impossible if you are but willing!
How can you say it is impossible? It is impossible for
you to leave me without killing me. These are no
empty words, I do not mean it as a threat; it is the
simple truth! I am as certain of it as I can feel my
own heart in here: not to have you means death to
me. Therefore take me along. If not for my sake, do
it for human mercy's sake ! Let it be for only a short
time, I don't care.

Geraedo. I give you my word of honor, Helen, I cannot
do it. — I give you my word of honor.

Helen. You must do it, Oscar ! Whether you can or not,
you must bear the consequences of your own acts. My
life is dear to me, but you and my life are one. Take
me with you, Oscar, unless you want to shed my blood !

Gerardo. Do you remember what I told you the very first
day within these four walls?

Helen. I do. But of what good is that to me now?

Gerardo. That there could be no thought of any real
sentiment in our relations?
Vol. XX— 25


Helen. Of what good is that to me now? Did I know you
then? Why, I did not know what a man could be like
until I knew you ! You foresaw it would come to this
or you would not have begun by exacting from me that
promise not to make a scene at your departure. Be-
sides do you think there is anything I should not have
promised you if you had asked me to? That promise
means my death. You will have cheated me out of
my life if you go and leave me!

Geraedo. I cannot take you with me !

Helen. Good Heavens, didn't I know that you would say
that! Didn't I know before coming here! It's such
a matter of course ! You tell every one of them so.
And why am I better than they! I am one of a hun-
dred. There are a million women as good as I. I
needn't be told, I know. — But I am ill, Oscar! I am
sick unto death! I am love-sick! I am nearer to
death than to life! That is your work, and you can
save me without sacrificing anything, without assum-
ing a burden. Tell me, why can you not?

Gerardo {emphasizing every word). Because my contract
does not allow me either to marry or to travel in the
company of ladies.

Helen {perplexed) . What is to prevent you?

Gerardo. My contract.

Helen. You are not allowed to . . . ?

Gerardo, I am not allowed to marry until my contract has

Helen. And you are not allowed to . . . ?

Gerardo, I am not allowed to travel in the company of

Helen. That's incomprehensible to me. Whom in the
world does it concern?

Gerardo. It concerns my manager.

Helen. Your manager? — What business is it of his?

Gerardo. It is his business.

Helen. Perhaps because it might affect your voice?


Gerardo. Yes.

Helen. Why, that's childish! — Does it affect your voice?

Gerardo. It does not.

Helen. Does your manager believe such nonsense?

Gerardo. No, he does not believe it.

Helen. That's incomprehensible to me. I don't under-
stand how a — respectable man can sign such a
contract !

Gerardo. My rights as a man are only a secondary con-
sideration. I am an artist in the first place.

Helen. Yes, you are. A great artist ! An eminent artist !
Don't you comprehend how I must love you? Is that
the only thing your great mind cannot comprehend?
All that makes me appear contemptible now in my re-
lation to you is due to just this, that I see in you the
only man who has ever made me feel his superiority
to me and whom it has been my sole thought to win.
I have clenched my teeth to keep from betraying to
you what you are to me for fear you might weary of
me. But my experience of yesterday has left me in
a state of mind which no woman can endure. If I
did not love you so madly, Oscar, you would think more
of me. That is so terrible in you that you must despise
the woman whose whole world you are. Of what I
formerly was to myself there is not a trace left. And
now that your passion has left me a burned-out shell,
would you leave me here ? You are taking my life with
you, Oscar ! Then take with you as well this flesh and
blood which has been yours, or it will perish!

Gerardo. Helen . . . !

Helen. Contracts! What are contracts to you! Why,
there 's not a contract made that one cannot get around
in some way! What do people make contracts for?
Don't use your contract as a weapon with which to
murder me. I am not afraid of your contracts ! Let
me go with you, Oscar! We'll see if he as much as


mentions a breach of contract. He won't do it or I am
a poor judge of human nature. And if he does object,
it will still be time for me to die.

Geraedo. But we have no right to possess each other,
Helen ! You are as little free to follow me as I am to
assume such a responsibility. I do not belong to my-
self; I belong to my art . . .

Helen. Oh don 't talk to me of your art ! What do I care
for your art. I've clung to your art merely to attract
your attention. Did Heaven create a man like you to
let you make a clown of yourself night after night?
Are you not ashamed of boasting of it? You see that I
am willing to overlook your being an artist. What
wouldn't one overlook in a demigod like you? And
if you were a convict, Oscar, I could not feel diifer-
ently toward you. I have lost all control over myself !
I should still lie in the dust before you as I am doing
now ! I should still implore your mercy as I am doing
now! My own self would still be abandoned to you
as it is now! I should still be facing death as I am

Geraedo (laughing). TOiy, Helen, you and facing death!
Women so richly endowed for the enjoyment of life
as you are do not kill themselves. You know the
value of life better than I. You are too happily con-
stituted to cast it away. That is left for others to
(Jo — for stunted and dwarfed creatures, the step-
children of nature.

Helen. Oscar, I did not say that I was going to shoot
myself. When did I say that? How could I summon
the courage? I say that I shall die if you do not
take me with you just as one might die of any ailment
because I can live only if I am with you ! I can live
without anything else — without home, without chil-
dren, but not without you, Oscar ! I can not live with-
out you!


Geraedo (uneasy). Helen — if you do not calm yourself
now, you will force me to do something terrible! I
have just ten minutes left. The scene you are making
here won't be accepted as a legal excuse for my break-
ing my contract ! No court would regard your excited
state of mind as a sufficient justification. I have ten
more minutes to give you. If by that time you have
not calmed yourself, Helen — then I cannot leave you
to yourself!

Helen. Oh let the whole world see me lie here !

Gerasdo. Consider what you will risk!

Helen. As if I had anything left to risk!

Gerardo. You might lose your social position.

Helen. All I can lose is you !

Gerardo. What about those to whom you belong?

Helen. I can now belong to no one but you !

Gerardo. But I do not belong to you !

Helen. I've nothing left to lose but life itself.

Gerardo. How about your children?

Helen (flaring up). Who took me away from them, Oscar !
Who robbed my children of their mother !

Gerardo. Did I make advances to you?

liBL,Bi^ (with intense passion) . No, no! Don't think that
for a moment ! I just threw myself at you and should
throw myself at you again today! No husband, no
children could restrain me! If I die, I have at least
tasted life! Through you, Oscar! I owe it to you
that I have come to know myself! I have to thank
you for it, Oscar!

Gerardo. Helen — now listen to me calmly . . .

Helen. Yes, yes — there are ten minutes left . . .

Gerardo. Listen to me calmly . . . (Both sit down on
the sofa.)

Helen (staring at him). I have to thank you for it . . .

Gerardo. Helen —

Helen. I don 't ask you to love me. If I may but breathe
the same air with you . . . !


Geraedo [struggling to preserve Ms composure) . Helen —
to a man like me the conventional rules of life cannot
be applied. I have known society women in all the
lands of Europe. They have made me scenes, too,
when it was time for me to leave — but when it came
to choosing, I always knew what I owed to my position.
Never yet have I met with such an outburst of passion
as yours. Helen — I am tempted every day to with-
draw to some idyllic Arcadia with this or that woman.
But one has his duty to perform; you as well as I;
and duty is the highest law . . .

Helen. I think I know better by this time, Oscar, what
is the highest law.

Geraedo. Well, what is it? Not your love, I hope? That's
what every woman says ! Whatever a woman wants
to carry through she calls good, and if anybody refuses
to yield to her then he is bad. That's what our fool
playwrights have done for us. In order to draw full
houses they put the world upside down and call it
great-souled if a woman sacrifices her children and her
family to indulge her senses. I should like to live like
a turtledove, too. But as long as I have been in this
world I have first obeyed my duty. If after that the
opportunity offered, then, to be sure, I've enjoyed
life to the full. But if one does not follow one's duty,
one has no right to make the least claims on others.

Helen {looking away; abstractedly). That will not bring
the dead to life again . . .

Geraedo (nervously). Why, Helen, don't you see, I want
to give back your life to you ! I want to give back to
you what you have sacrificed to me. Take it, I im-
plore you! Don't make more of it than it is! Helen,
how can a woman so disgracefully humiliate herself!
What has become of your pride? With what contempt
would you have shown me my proper place if I had
fallen in love with you, if it had occurred to me to be
jealous ! What am I in the eyes of the society in which

Permission Albert Larrjen, Munich



you move! A man who makes a clown of himself!
Would you fling away your life for a man whom a
hundred women have loved before you, whom a hun-
dred women will love after you without allowing it
to cause them a moment of distress ! Do you want
your flowing blood to make you ridiculous in the sight
of God and man?

Helen {looking away). I know very well that I am ask-
ing an unheard-of thing of you but — what else can
I do . . .

Gerardo (soothingly). I have given you all that's in my
power to give. Even to a princess I could not be more
than I have been to you. If there is one thing further
our relations, if continued, might mean to you, it could
only be the utter ruin of your life. Now release me,
Helen ! I understand how hard you find it, but — one
often fears one is going to die. I myself often tremble
for my life — art as a profession is so likely to un-
string one's nerves. It's astonishing how soon one
will get over that kind of thing. Resign yourself to
the fortuitousness of life. We did not seek one another
because we loved each other; we loved each other
because we happened to find one another ! (Shrugging
his shoulders.) You say I must bear the consequences
of my acts, Helen. Would you in all seriousness think
ill of me now for not refusing you admittance when
you came under the pretext of having me pass on your
voice? I dare say you think too highly of your per-
sonal advantages for that ; you know yourself too well ;
you are too proud of your beauty. Tell me, were you
not absolutely certain of victory when you came?

Helen (looking aivay). Oh, what was I a week ago! And
what — what am I now!

Gerardo (in a matter-of-fact way). Helen, ask yourself
this question: what choice is left to a man in such a
case ? You are generally known as the most beautiful
woman in this city. Now shall I, an artist, allow


myself to acquire the reputation of an unsociable lout
who shuts himself up in his four walls and denies him-
self to all visitors? The second possibility would be
to receive you while at the same time pretending not
to understand you. That would give me the wholly
undeserved reputation of a simpleton. Third possi-
bility — but this is extremely dangerous — I explain
to you calmly and politely the very thing I am saying
to you now. But that is very dangerous ! For apart
from your immediately giving me an insulting reply,
calling me a vain conceited fool, it would, if it became
known, make me appear in a most curious light. And
what would at best be the result of my refusing the
honor offered me 1 That you would make of me a con-
temptible helpless puppet, a target for your feminine
wit, a booby whom you could tease and taunt as much
as you liked, whom you could torment and put on the
rack until you had driven him mad. {He has risen
from the sofa.) Say yourself, Helen; what choice was
left to me? {She stares at him, then turns her eyes
about helplessly, shudders and struggles for an answer.)
In such a case I face just this alternative: — to make
an enemy who despises me or — to make an enemy who
at least respects me. And {stroking her hair) Helen!
— one does not care to be despised by a woman of such
universally recognized beauty. Now does your pride
still permit you to ask me to take you with me ?

Helen {weeping profusely). Oh God, oh God, oh God,
oh God . . .

Gerakdo. Your social position gave you the opportunity
to make advances to me. You availed yourself of it.—
I am the last person to think ill of you for that. But
no more should you think ill of me for wishing to
maintain my rights. No man could be franker with
a woman than I have been with you. I told you that
there could be no thought of any sentimentalities
between you and me. I told you that my profession


prevented me from binding myself. I told you that
my engagement in this city would end today . . .

Helen (rising). Oh how my head rings! It's just words,
words, words I hear! But I [putting her hands to her
heart and throat) am choking here and choking here!
Oscar — matters are worse than you realize ! A woman
such as I am more or less in the world — I have given
life to two children. What would you say, Oscar . . .
what would you say if tomorrow I should go and make
another man as happy as you have been with me?
What would you say then, Oscar"? — Speak! — Speak!

Gerardo. What I should say? Just nothing. (Looking
at his watch.) Helen . . .

Helen. Oscar! — (On her knees.) I am imploring you
for my life! For my life! It's the last time I shall
ask you for it! Demand anything of me! But not
that! Don't ask my life! You don't know wdiat you
are doing ! You are mad ! You are beside yourself !
It's the last time! You detest me because I love you!
Let not these minutes pass ! — Save me ! Save me !

Gerardo (pulls her up in spite of her). Now listen to a
kind word! — Listen to a — kind — word . . .

Helen (in an undertone) . So it must be!

Gerardo. Helen — how old are your children?

Helen. One is six and the other four.

Gerardo. Both girls?

Helen. No.

Gerardo. The one four years old is a boy?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. And the younger one a girl?

Helen. No.

Gerardo. Both boys?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. Have you no pity for them?

Helen. No.

Gerardo. How happy I should be if they were mine! —
Helen — Avould you give them to me?


Helen. Yes,

Geeardo {half jokingly). Suppose I should be as unreason-
able as you — taking it into my head that I am in love
with some particular woman and can love no other!
I cannot marry her. I cannot take her with me. Yet
I must leave. Just what would that lead me to ?

Helen {from now on growing constantly calmer). Yes,
yes. — Certainly. — I understand.

Geeaedo. Believe me, Helen, there are any number of
men in this world like me. The very way you and I
have met ought to teach you something. You say you
cannot live without me. How many men do you know ?
The more you will come to know the lower you will
rate them. Then you won 't think again of taking your
life for a man's sake. You will have no higher opinion
of them than I have of women.

Helen. You think I am just like you. I am not.

Geeaedo. I am quite serious, Helen. Nobody loves just
one particular person unless he does not know any
other. Everybody loves his own kind and can find it
anywhere when he has once learned how to go about it.

Helen {smiling). And when one has met one's kind, one
is always sure of having one's love returned!

Geeaedo {drawing her down on the sofa). You have no
right, Helen, to complain of your husband ! Why did
you not know yourself better! Every young girl is
free to choose for herself. There is no power on earth
that could compel a girl to belong to a man whom she
doesn't like. No such violence can be done to woman's
rights. That's a kind of nonsense those women would
like to make the world believe who having sold them-
selves for some material advantage or other would
prefer to escape their obligations.

Helen {smiling). Which would be a breach of contract, I

Geeaedo. If 7 sell myself, they are at least dealing with
an honest man !


Helen (smiling). Then one who loves is not honest!

Gerardo. No ! — Love is a distinctly philistine virtue.

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