The firemens forecastle of an ocean lineran hour after sailing from New York
SCENEThe firemens forecastle of a transatlantic liner an hour after sailing from New York for the voyage across. Tiers of narrow, steel bunks, three deep, on all sides. An entrance in rear. Benches on the floor before the bunks. The room is crowded with men, shouting, cursing, laughing, singinga confused, inchoate uproar swelling into a sort of unity, a meaningthe bewildered, furious, baffled defiance of a beast in a cage. Nearly all the men are drunk. Many bottles are passed from hand to hand. All are dressed in dungaree pants, heavy ugly shoes. Some wear singlets, but the majority are stripped to the waist.
The treatment of this scene, or of any other scene in the play, should by no means be naturalistic. The effect sought after is a cramped space in the bowels of a ship, imprisoned by white steel. The lines of bunks, the uprights supporting them, cross each other like the steel framework of a cage. The ceiling crushes down upon the mens heads. They cannot stand upright. This accentuates the natural stooping posture which shovelling coal and the resultant over-development of back and shoulder muscles have given them. The men themselves should resemble those pictures in which the appearance of Neanderthal Man is guessed at. All are hairy-chested, with long arms of tremendous power, and low, receding brows above their small, fierce, resentful eyes. All the civilized white races are represented, but except for the slight differentiation in color of hair, skin, eyes, all these men are alike.
The curtain rises on a tumult of sound. YANK is seated in the foreground. He seems broader, fiercer, more truculent, more powerful, more sure of himself than the rest. They respect his superior strengththe grudging respect of fear. Then, too, he represents to them a self-expression, the very last word in what they are, their most highly developed individual.
YANK[For the first time seeming to take notice of the uproar about him, turns around threateninglyin a tone of contemptuous authority.] Choke off dat noise! Where dyuh get dat beer stuff? Beer, hell! Beers for goilsand Dutchmen. Me for somepn wit a kick to it! Gimme a drink, one of youse guys. [Several bottles are eagerly offered. He takes a tremendous gulp at one of them; then, keeping the bottle in his hand, glares belligerently at the owner, who hastens to acquiesce in this robbery by saying:] All righto, Yank. Keep it and have another. [YANK contemptuously turns his back on the crowd again. For a second there is an embarrassed silence. Then]
Py Yesus, I vish somepody take my first vatch for me!
Gittin seasick, Square-head?
Drink up and forget it!
Whats in your bottle?
Dots nigger trink.
Absinthe? Its doped. Youll go off your chump, Froggy!
Whiskey, thats the ticket!
Sing us that whiskey song, Paddy. [They all turn to an old, wizened Irishman who is dozing, very drunk, on the benches forward. His face is extremely monkey-like with all the sad, patient pathos of that animal in his small eyes.]
PADDY[Blinking about him, starts to his feet resentfully, swaying, holding on to the edge of a bunk.] Im never too drunk to sing. Tis only when Im dead to the world Id be wishful to sing at all. [With a sort of sad contempt.] Whiskey Johnny, ye want? A chanty, ye want? Now thats a queer wish from the ugly like of you, God help you. But no matther. [He starts to sing in a thin, nasal, doleful tone:]
YANK[Again turning around scornfully.] Aw hell! Nix on dat old sailing ship stuff! All dat bulls dead, see? And youre dead, too, yuh damned old Harp, ony yuh dont know it. Take it easy, see. Give us a rest. Nix on de loud noise. [With a cynical grin.] Cant youse see Im tryin to tink?
ALL[Repeating the word after him as one with the same cynical amused mockery.] Think! [The chorused word has a brazen metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a general uproar of hard, barking laughter.]
YANK[Fiercely contemptuous.] Shut up, yuh lousey boob! Where dyuh get dat tripe? Home? Home, hell! Ill make a home for yuh! Ill knock yuh dead. Home! Thell wit home! Where dyuh get dat tripe? Dis is home, see? What dyuh want wit home? [Proudly.] I runned away from mine when I was a kid. Ony too glad to beat it, dat was me. Home was lickings for me, dats all. But yuh can bet your shoit noone aint never licked me since! Wanter try it, any of youse? Huh! I guess not. [In a more placated but still contemptuous tone.] Goils waitin for yuh, huh? Aw, hell! Dats all tripe. Dey dont wait for noone. Deyd double-cross yuh for a nickel. Deyre all tarts, get me? Treat em rough, dats me. To hell wit em. Tarts, dats what, de whole bunch of em.
LONG[Very drunk, jumps on a bench excitedly, gesticulating with a bottle in his hand.] Listen ere, Comrades! Yank ere is right. E says this ere stinkin ship is our ome. And e says as ome is ell. And es right! This is ell. We lives in ell, Comradesand right enough well die in it. [Raging.] And whos ter blame, I arsks yer? We aint. We wasnt born this rotten way. All men is born free and ekal. Thats in the bleedin Bible, maties. But what dthey care for the Biblethem lazy, bloated swine what travels first cabin? Thems the ones. They dragged us down til were ony wage slaves in the bowels of a bloody ship, sweatin, burnin up, eatin coal dust! Hits thems ter blamethe damned capitalist clarss! [There had been a gradual murmur of contemptuous resentment rising among the men until now he is interrupted by a storm of catcalls, hisses, boos, hard laughter.]
YANKStanding up and glaring at LONG.] Sit down before I knock yuh down! [Long makes haste toefface himself. YANK goes on contemptuously.] De Bible, huh? De Captlist class, huh? Aw nix on dat Salvation ArmySocialist bull. Git a soapbox! Hire a hall! Come and be saved, huh? Jerk us to Jesus, huh? Aw gwan! Ive listened to lots of guys like you, see. Yuhre all wrong. Wanter know what I tink? Yuh aint no good for noone. Yuhre de bunk. Yuh aint got no noive, get me? Yuhre yellow, dats what. Yellow, dats you. Say! Whats dem slobs in de foist cabin got to do wit us? Were better men dan dey are, aint we? Sure! One of us guys could clean up de whole mob wit one mit. Put one of em down here for one watch in de stokehole, whatd happen? Deyd carry him off on a stretcher. Dem boids dont amount to nothin. Deyre just baggage. Who makes dis old tub run? Aint it us guys? Well den, we belong, dont we? We belong and dey dont. Dats all. [A loud chorus of approval. YANK goes on.] As for dis bein hellaw, nuts! Yuh lost your noive, dats what. Dis is a mans job, get me? It belongs. It runs dis tub. No stiffs need apply. But yuhre a stiff, see? Yuhre yellow, dats you.
YANK[Half good-natured againcontemptuously.] Aw, take it easy. Leave him alone. He aint woith a punch. Drink up. Heres how, whoever owns dis. [He takes a long swallow from his bottle. All drink with him. In a flash all is hilarious amiability again, back-slapping, loud talk, etc.]
PADDY[Who has been sitting in a blinking, melancholy dazesuddenly cries out in a voice full of old sorrow.] We belong to this, youre saying? We make the ship to go, youre saying? Yerra then, that Almighty God have pity on us! [His voice runs into the wail of a keen, he rocks back and forth on his bench. The men stare at him, startled and impressed in spite of themselves.] Oh, to be back in the fine days of my youth, ochone! Oh, there was fine beautiful ships them daysclippers wid tall masts touching the skyfine strong men in themmen that was sons of the sea as if twas the mother that bore them. Oh, the clean skins of them, and the clear eyes, the straight backs and full chests of them! Brave men they was, and bold men surely! Wed be sailing out, bound down round the Horn maybe. Wed be making sail in the dawn, with a fair breeze, singing a chanty song wid no care to it. And astern the land would be sinking low and dying out, but wed give it no heed but a laugh, and never a look behind. For the day that was, was enough, for we was free menand Im thinking tis only slaves do be giving heed to the day thats gone or the day to comeuntil theyre old like me. [With a sort of religious exaltation.] Oh, to be scudding south again wid the power of the Trade Wind driving her on steady through the nights and the days! Full sail on her! Nights and days! Nights when the foam of the wake would be flaming wid fire, when the skyd be blazing and winking wid stars. Or the full of the moon maybe. Then youd see her driving through the gray night, her sails stretching aloft all silver and white, not a sound on the deck, the lot of us dreaming dreams, till youd believe twas no real ship at all you was on but a ghost ship like the Flying Dutchman they say does be roaming the seas forevermore widout touching a port. And there was the days, too. A warm sun on the clean decks. Sun warming the blood of you, and wind over the miles of shiny green ocean like strong drink to your lungs. Workaye, hard workbut whod mind that at all? Sure, you worked under the sky and twas work wid skill and daring to it. And wid the day done, in the dog watch, smoking me pipe at ease, the lookout would be raising land maybe, and wed see the mountains of South Americy wid the red fire of the setting sun painting their white tops and the clouds floating by them! [His tone of exaltation ceases. He goes on mournfully.] Yerra, whats the use of talking? Tis a dead mans whisper. [To YANK resentfully.] Twas them days men belonged to ships, not now. Twas them days a ship was part of the sea, and a man was part of a ship, and the sea joined all together and made it one. [Scornfully.] Is it one wid this youd be, Yankblack smoke from the funnels smudging the sea, smudging the decksthe bloody engines pounding and throbbing and shakingwid divil a sight of sun or a breath of clean airchoking our lungs wid coal dustbreaking our backs and hearts in the hell of the stokeholefeeding the bloody furnacefeeding our lives along wid the coal, Im thinkingcaged in by steel from a sight of the sky like bloody apes in the Zoo! [With a harsh laugh.] Ho-ho, divil mend you! Is it to belong to that youre wishing? Is it a flesh and blood wheel of the engines youd be?
YANKAw, yuh crazy Mick! [He springs to his feet and advances on PADDY threateninglythen stops, fighting some queer struggle within himselflets his hands fall to his sidescontemptuously.] Aw, take it easy. Yuhre aw right, at dat. Yuhre bugs, dats allnutty as a cuckoo. All dat tripe yuh been pullinAw, dats all right. Ony its dead, get me? Yuh dont belong no more, see. Yuh dont get de stuff. Yuhre too old. [Disgustedly.] But aw say, come up for air onct in a while, cant yuh? See whats happened since yuh croaked. [He suddenly bursts forth vehemently, growing more and more excited.] Say! Sure! Sure I meant it! What de hell Say, lemme talk! Hey! Hey, you old Harp! Hey, youse guys! Say, listen to mewait a momentI gotter talk, see. I belong and he dont. Hes dead but Im livin. Listen to me! Sure Im part of de engines! Why de hell not! Dey move, dont dey? Deyre speed, aint dey? Dey smash trou, dont dey? Twenty-five knots a hour! Dats goin some! Dats new stuff! Dat belongs! But him, hes too old. He gets dizzy. Say, listen. All dat crazy tripe about nights and days; all dat crazy tripe about stars and moons; all dat crazy tripe about suns and winds, fresh air and de rest of itAw hell, dats all a dope dream! Hittin de pipe of de past, dats what hes doin. Hes old and dont belong no more. But me, Im young! Im in de pink! I move wit it! It, get me! I mean de ting dats de guts of all dis. It ploughs trou all de tripe hes been sayin. It blows dat up! It knocks dat dead! It slams dat offen de face of de oith! It, get me! De engines and de coal and de smoke and all de rest of it! He cant breathe and swallow coal dust, but I kin, see? Dats fresh air for me! Dats food for me! Im new, get me? Hell in de stokehole? Sure! It takes a man to work in hell. Hell, sure, dats my favrite climate. I eat it up! I git fat on it! Its me makes it hot! Its me makes it roar! Its me makes it move! Sure, ony for me everyting stops. It all goes dead, get me? De noise and smoke and all de engines movin de woild, dey stop. Dere aint nothin no more! Dats what Im sayin. Everyting else dat makes de woild move, somepn makes it move. It cant move witout somepn else, see? Den yuh get down to me. Im at de bottom, get me! Dere aint nothin foither. Im de end! Im de start! I start somepn and de woild moves! Itdats me!de new dats moiderin de old! Im de ting in coal dat makes it boin; Im steam and oil for de engines; Im de ting in noise dat makes yuh hear it; Im smoke and express trains and steamers and factory whistles; Im de ting in gold dat makes it money! And Im what makes iron into steel! Steel, dat stands for de whole ting! And Im steelsteelsteel! Im de muscles in steel, de punch behind it! [As he says this he pounds with his fist against the steel bunks. All the men, roused to a pitch of frenzied self-glorification by his speech, do likewise. There is a deafening metallic roar, through which YANKS voice can be heard bellowing.] Slaves, hell! We run de whole woiks. All de rich guys dat tink deyre somepn, dey aint nothin! Dey dont belong. But us guys, were in de move, were at de bottom, de whole ting is us! [PADDY from the start of YANKS speech has been taking one gulp after another from his bottle, at first frightenedly, as if he were afraid to listen, then desperately, as if to drown his senses, but finally has achieved complete indifferent, even amused, drunkenness. YANK sees his lips moving. He quells the uproar with a shout.] Hey, youse guys, take it easy! Wait a moment! De nutty Harp is sayin somepn.
YANK[Good-natured himself in a flash, interrupts PADDY with a slap on the bare back like a report.] Dats de stuff! Now yuhre gettin wise to somepn. Care for nobody, dats de dope! To hell wit em all! And nix on nobody else carin. I kin care for myself, get me! [Eight bells sound, muffled, vibrating through the steel walls as if some enormous brazen gong were imbedded in the heart of the ship. All the men jump up mechanically, file through the door silently close upon each others heels in what is very like a prisoners lockstep. YANK slaps PADDY on the back.] Our watch, yuh old Harp! [Mockingly.] Come on down in hell. Eat up de coal dust. Drink in de heat. Its it, see! Act like yuh liked it, yuh betteror croak yuhself.
PADDY[With jovial defiance.] To the divil wid it! Ill not report this watch. Let thim log me and be damned. Im no slave the like of you. Ill be sittin here at me ease, and drinking, and thinking, and dreaming dreams.
YANK[Contemptuously.] Tinkin and dreamin, whatll that get yuh? Whats tinkin got to do wit it? We move, dont we? Speed, aint it? Fog, dats all you stand for. But we drive trou dat, dont we? We split dat up and smash troutwenty-five knots a hour! [Turns his back on PADDY scornfully.] Aw, yuh make me sick! Yuh dont belong! [He strides out the door in rear. PADDY hums to himself, blinking drowsily.]