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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Dregs of Humanity
By Maksim Gorky (1868–1936)
 
From ‘The Lower Depths’: Translation from the original Russian by Laurence Irving

SATINE—When I’m drunk … I like everything. Yes…. He—prays? Fine! A man can believe or not believe … that’s his affair! A man is free … he pays for everything himself!… for belief, for unbelief, for love, for wisdom. A man pays for everything himself, and therefore is—free!… The man—that’s the truth! What is man?… It’s not you, not me, not them—no! It’s you, I, them, the old ’un Napoleon, Mahomet … in one!  [Draws in the air the face of a man with his finger.]  That’s prodigious! In that is the beginning and end of all. All is—in man, all for man! There exists only man, all the rest—is the work of his hands and of his brains! Man! That’s magnificent! That sounds … mighty. Mankind! You must respect mankind! Not pity him … not lower him with pity … must respect him! Let’s drink to mankind! Baron!  [Gets up.]  It’s good—to feel yourself a man! I’m a ticket-of-leave, a murderer, a scoundrel—yes, I am! When I walk the streets people eye me for a crook … and they draw away, and they glare after me, and they often say to me, “Loafer! blackguard! work! work!” Why! to fill my belly?  [Laughs.]  I’ve always despised people who worry too much about stuffing themselves. It isn’t that, Baron. That isn’t it. Man is higher than that. Man is higher than repletion!  1
  The Baron  [nodding his head]—You’re getting at it … that’s prime … that’s the thing to warm one’s heart. I haven’t got that…. I don’t know how!  [Looks round—then softly, cautiously.]  I, brother, I’m afraid … sometimes. D’you see? Get in a funk … because—what after?  2
  Satine—Rubbish! There’s nothing that a man should fear?  3
  The Baron—Yer know … from when first I can remember … there’s been inside my noddle a sort of fog. Never anything have I understood. I’m … in some way—I’m clumsy. It seems to me all my life I’ve done nothing but dress up … and why? Went to school—wore the uniform of the Institute for the Sons of the Nobility … but what did I learn? Don’t remember…. Married—in a frock-coat, and an overcoat … but I picked out the wrong wife and—why? Don’t understand…. Squandered all I had, wore some sort of a gray pea-jacket and red trousers … but where did it all get to? Never noticed…. Entered the Court of Exchequer … uniform, and a cap with a cockade … made away with some Government money—they put me into the convict’s gown … then—I got into this lot here…. And all … like in a dream … ah? That’s funny….  4
  Satine—Not very…. I should say—stupid….  5
  The Baron—Yes … and I think it’s stupid…. But I must have been born for some reason…. Eh?  6
  Satine  [smiling]—Probably…. Man is born for the better man!  [Shaking his head.]  So … it’s all right!  7
  The Baron—That … Nastya!… Where’s she run off to? I’ll go and see … where she is? For after all … she …  8
[Goes out.  A pause.]
  The Actor—Tartar!  [Pause.]  Prince!
  9
[The Tartar turns his head.]
  The Actor—For me … pray….
  10
  The Tartar—Why?  11
  The Actor—Pray for me….  12
  The Tartar  [after a silence]—Pray yerself!  13
  The Actor  [gets quickly from the stove, goes to the table, pours himself some vodka with trembling hands, drinks, and almost runs into the passage]—I’m off!  14
  Satine—Hi, you, off where?  15
[Enter Myedvyedyeff in a wadded woman’s jacket, and Boobnoff, both drunk, but not very drunk.  In one hand Boobnoff is carrying a packet of cracknels; he has a bottle of vodka in one armpit, and another sticking out of the pocket of his pea-jacket.]
  Myedvyedyeff—A camel—it’s a kind … of a donkey! Only with no ears….
  16
  Boobnoff—Chuck it! Yerself—yer a kind of a donkey.  17
  Myedvyedyeff—A camel, it hasn’t got no ears at all … it—hears with its nostrils….  18
  Boobnoff  [to Satine]—Chum! I’ve been looking for yer in all the trakteers—all the stills! Take the bottle, all my ’ands is full!  19
  Satine—You—put the cracknels on the table, then you’ll have one hand free….  20
  Boobnoff—True! You’re right…. Jumble, look at it all! So there, eh?… Wire boy.  21
  Myedvyedyeff—Sharpers … they’re all clever … I know! They ’ave got to be clever. A good man he—may be stupid and good, but a wrong ’un, ’e’s bound to ’ave wits. But, about the camel. Yer know … yer can get me up on ’im … ’e ’asn’t no ’orns, nor no teeth….  22
  Boobnoff—Where’s everyone? Why’s there no one ’ere? ’Ere, get up … it’s my treat!  23
  Satine—You’ll soon drink all you’ve got, blockhead.  24
  Boobnoff—Soon, yer say? This time I’ve gathered some capital—a little pile…. When! Where’s When?  25
  Klesshtsh  [going to table]—Not here….  26
  Boobnoff—Ooo-r-r! Yer peacock! Don’t bark, don’t growl! Drink, be jolly, don’t turn yer nose up…. I treats everybody! Why, mates, I loves to stand treat! If I was rich … I’d … I’d build a free trakteer! Yes, my God! With music, and a troupe of singers…. Come, drink, eat, listen to the singers … gladden yer ’earts. A man’s a sad creature … come along to me to my free trakteer! Satine! For you … you … ’ere, take ’alf of all my capital! This way!  27
  Satine—Give it to me all in a lump!  28
  Boobnoff—The ’ole capital? At once? Right! Then … here’s a rouble … and here’s a twenty kopyeks … a five kopyeks … a two kopyeks … all….  29
  Satine—That’ll do! It’s safer with me. I’ll play cards with it!  30
  Myedvyedyeff—I am—a witness … the money is placed in your keepin’ … ’ow much is it?  31
  Boobnoff—You? You’re a camel … we want no witnesses….  32
  Alyoshka  [comes in barefooted]—Fellows! my feet are soaking.  33
  Boobnoff—Go and soak yourself … only all over! I like you. You sing and you play … that’s very good! But, drinking—that’s a poor game! That does ’arm, brother; drinking does ’arm!  34
  Alyoshka—Why, I look at yer! And it’s only when yer drunk yer anythin’ like a man…. Klesshtsh! My concertina—mended?  [Dances and sings.]
  If my nozzle weren’t so bonny,
Then my gossip wouldn’t love me….
I’m frozen, fellows! Cold!
  35
  Myedvyedyeff—Um…. If one was to ask: ’Oo is that gossip?  36
  Boobnoff—Keep still. You’re no one now, brother…. You’re no “bobby” in these days…. You’re done with! No “bobby” nor no uncle….  37
  Alyoshka—You’re just—auntie’s darling hubby!  38
  Boobnoff—One of yer nieces is—in gaol, the other’s dyin’——  39
  Myedvyedyeff  [proudly]—Yer lie! She’s not dyin’: she’s disappeared without tellin’ no one!  40
[Satine laughs.]
  Boobnoff—All the same, brother! A man with no niece—’e’s not an uncle!
  41
  Alyoshka—Your Excellency! The retired drum-major!
  My gossip—has ’er savings,
And I’ve not got a penny!
Oh, aren’t I a merry boy?
Oh, I am so good!
It’s cold!
  42
[When enters; then—until the end of the act—some other male and female figures.  They undress, get on to the planks, snore.]
  When—Boobnoff? What made yer ’ook it?
  43
  Boobnoff—Come ’ere! Sit down … let’s sing, mate! My beloved … eh?  44
  The Tartar—In the night yer must sleep! Sing songs in the day!  45
  Satine—That’s all right, Prince. You—come here!  46
  The Tartar—How—all right? There’ll be a noise…. When there’s singing, it means a noise….  47
  Boobnoff  [going to him]—Prince! ’ow’s—yer ’and? ’Ave they cut it off?  48
  When—Means the gutter for you, Hassan! Without a hand—what er yer good for? A man’s valued by ’is ’ands and ’is back…. No hand—no man! Go and drink! Nothing like it!  49
[Kvashnya comes in.]
  Kvashnya—Ah, my dear good people! Out in the yard, out in the yard! The cold, the slush—is my man here? Mannie!
  50
  Myedvyedyeff—Me?  51
  Kvashnya—Got on my jacket again … and it seems to me … a bit on, ah? What d’yer mean by it?  52
  Myedvyedyeff—On account of the birthday … Boobnoff … and—the cold … the slush!  53
  Kvashnya—Look at me … the slush! No foolery…. Come to bed….  54
  Myedvyedyeff  [going into the kitchen]—Sleep, yes … I will…. I want to … it’s time!  55
[Exit.]
  Satine—Why are yer so beastly strict with him?
  56
  Kvashnya—It’s the only way, my friend. A man like ’im ’as got to be kept strict. We keep ’ouse together, now: I thought ’e would be a ’elp to me … seein’ as ’e’s ’ad discipline, but you—you’re a disorderly crew…. I’ve got my woman’s view … let ’im go gettin’ drunk. That don’t suit my book!  57
  Satine—You’ve chosen your help wrong….  58
  Kvashnya—No—better than you … you’d never live with me … a fellow like you! I’d see yer one week in twenty … you’d gamble away me and my very insides!  59
  Satine  [laughs]—That’s true, my girl! I would….  60
  Kvashnya—So now! Alyoshka!  61
  Alyoshka—Yes—here am I!  62
  Kvashnya—What’s this you’ve been saying about me?  63
  Alyoshka—I? No ’arm. I’ve said, there, I’ve said, there’s a woman! Wonderful woman! Flesh, fat bones—good forty stone, and brains—not a ha’porth!  64
  Kvashnya—And there you’re wrong! I’ve got a deal of brains. No, and why did yer say that I beat my man?  65
  Alyoshka—I thought that was beatin’ ’im when you seized ’old of ’s ’air….  66
  Kvashnya  [smiling]—Fool! Then just you don’t see! Why do you carry tales out of school? And yer ’urt ’is feelin’s too…. It’s cause of your talk ’e’s took to drinkin’.  67
  Alyoshka—Then the sayin’s true, then, even a bear likes drink!  68
[Klesshtsh and Satine laugh.]
  Kvashnya—You’re a pretty sort of man, you are, Alyoshka!
  69
  Alyoshka—I’m the very first superfine sort of man for any job! I just go where my eyes lead me!  70
  Boobnoff  [by the Tartar’s planks]—Come along! It’s no use … they’ll not let us sleep! Come and drink … the night through, When!  71
  When—Drink? Why not?…  72
  Alyoshka—And I’ll play to yer!  73
  Satine—Let’s ’ear yer!  74
  The Tartar—Well, Boobnoff, yer devil—fetch the wine! We’ll drink, we’ll rollick—death comes … we’ve got to die!  75
  Boobnoff—Pour ’im out, Satine! When, squat! Ah, pals! Does a man want much? I’ve drunk a bit and—happy! When! Strike me … lad! I’ll sing…. I’ll pay!  76
  When  [sings]
  The sun it rises and it sets
  77
  Boobnoff  [going on]
  In my prison all is dark!
  78
[The door is opened suddenly.  Baron on the threshold.]
  The Baron—Hi … you! Go … go over there! On the waste … out there … the Actor … he’s hanged himself!
  79
[Silence.  All look at the Baron.  Nastya appears behind his back, and slowly, with wide-opened eyes, goes over to the table.]
  Satine  [in a low voice]—Ah … he’s spoiled the song … the fool!

THE END
  80
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
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