Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Scarecrow’
By Percy MacKaye (1875–1956)
Act IV.
  [Night.  The moon, shining in broadly at the window, discovers Ravensbane alone, prostrate before the mirror.  Raised on one arm to a half-sitting posture, he gazes fixedly at the vaguely seen image of the scarecrow prostrate in the glass.]

RAVENSBANE—All have left me—but not thou. Rachel has left me; her eyes have turned away from me; she is gone. And with her, the great light itself from heaven has drawn her glorious skirts, contemptuous, from me—and they are gone together. Dickon, he too has left me—but not thou. All that I loved, all that loved me, have left me. A thousand ages—a thousand ages ago, they went away; and thou and I have gazed upon each other’s desertedness. Speak! and be pitiful! If thou art I, inscrutable image, if thou dost feel these pangs thine own, show then self-mercy; speak! What art thou? What am I? Why are we here? How comes it that we feel and guess and suffer? Nay, though thou answer not these doubts, yet mock them, mock them aloud, even as there, monstrous, thou counterfeitest mine actions. Speak, abject enigma!—Ah! with what vacant horror it looks out and yearns toward me. Peace to thee! Thou poor delirious mute, prisoned in glass and moonlight, peace! Thou canst not escape thy gaol, nor I break in to thee. Poor shadow, thou——
[Recoiling wildly.]
Stand back, inanity! Thrust not thy mawkish face in pity toward me. Ape and idiot! Scarecrow!—to console me! Haha!—A flail and broomstick! a cob, a gourd and pumpkin, to fuse and sublimate themselves into a mage-philosopher, who puffeth metaphysics from a pipe and discourseth sweet philanthropy to itself—itself, God! Dost Thou hear? Itself! For even such am I—I whom Thou madest to love Rachel. Why, God—haha! dost Thou dwell in this thing? Is it Thou that peerest forth at me—from me? Why, hark then; Thou shalt listen, and answer—if Thou canst. Hark then, Spirit of life! Between the rise and setting of a sun, I have walked in this world of Thine. I have gazed upon it, I have peered within it, I have grown enamored, enamored of it. I have been thrilled with wonder, I have been calmed with knowledge, I have been exalted with sympathy. I have trembled with joy and passion. Power, beauty, love have ravished me. Infinity itself, like a dream, has blazed before me with the certitude of prophecy; and I have cried, “This world, the heavens, time itself, are mine to conquer,” and I have thrust forth mine arm to wear Thy shield forever—and lo! for my shield Thou reachest me a mirror—and whisperest “Know thyself! Thou art—a scarecrow: a tinkling clod, a rigmarole of dust, a lump of ordure, contemptible, superfluous, inane!” Haha! Hahaha! And with such scarecrows Thou dost people a planet! O ludicrous! Monstrous! Ludicrous! At least, I thank Thee, God! at least, this breathing bathos can laugh at itself. At least this hotch-potch nobleman of stubble is enough of an epicure to turn his own gorge. Thou hast vouchsafed to me, Spirit,—hahaha!—to know myself. Mine, mine is the consummation of man—even self-contempt!
[Pointing in the glass with an agony of derision.]
Scarecrow! Scarecrow! Scarecrow!
  The Image in the Glass  [more and more faintly]—Scarecrow! Scarecrow! Scarecrow!
[Ravensbane throws himself prone upon the floor, beneath the window, sobbing.  There is a pause of silence, and the moon shines brighter.  Slowly then Ravensbane, getting to his knees, looks out into the night.]
  Ravensbane—What face are you, high up through the twinkling leaves? Why do you smile upon me with such white beneficence? Or why do you place your viewless hand upon my brow, and say, “Be comforted”? Do you not, like all the rest, turn, aghast, your eyes away from me—me, abject enormity, groveling at your feet? Gracious being, do you not fear—despise me? To you alone am I not hateful—unredeemed? O white peace of the world, beneath your gaze the clouds glow silver, and the herded cattle, slumbering far afield, crouch—beautiful. The slough shines lustrous as a bridal veil. Beautiful face, you are Rachel’s, and you have changed the world. Nothing is mean, but you have made it miraculous; nothing is loathsome, nothing ludicrous, but you have converted it to loveliness, that even this shadow of a mockery myself, cast by your light, gives me the dear assurance I am a man. Yea, more, that I too, steeped in your universal light, am beautiful. For you are Rachel, and you love me. You are Rachel in the sky, and the might of your serene loveliness has transformed me. Rachel, mistress, mother, beautiful spirit, out of my suffering you have brought forth my soul. I am saved!  3
  The Image in the Glass—A very pretty sophistry.
[The moonlight grows dimmer, as at the passing of a cloud.]
  Ravensbane—Ah! what voice has snatched you from me?  5
  The Image—A most poetified pumpkin!  6
  Ravensbane—Thing! dost thou speak at last? My soul abhors thee.  7
  The Image—I am thy soul.  8
  Ravensbane—Thou liest.  9
  The Image—Our Daddy Dickon and our mother Rickby begot and conceived us at sunrise, in a Jack-o’-lantern.  10
  Ravensbane—Thou liest, torturing illusion. Thou art but a phantom in a glass.  11
  The Image—Why, very true. So art thou. We are a pretty phantom in a glass.  12
  Ravensbane—It is a lie. I am no longer thou. I feel it; I am a man.  13
  The Image
  And prithee, what’s a man? Man’s but a mirror,
Wherein the imps and angels play charades,
Make faces, mope, and pull each other’s hair—
Till crack! the sly urchin Death shivers the glass,
And the bare coffin boards show underneath.
  Ravensbane—Yea! if it be so, thou coggery! if both of us be indeed but illusions, why, now let us end together. But if it be not so, then let me for evermore be free of thee. Now is the test—the glass!
[Springing to the fireplace, he seizes an iron cross-piece from the andirons.]
I’ll play your urchin Death and shatter it. Let’s see what shall survive!
[He rushes to strike the glass with the iron.  Dickon steps out of the mirror, closing the curtain.]
  Dickon—I wouldn’t really!  16
  Ravensbane—Dickon! dear Dickon! is it you?  17
  Dickon—Yes, Jacky! it’s dear Dickon, and I really wouldn’t.  18
  Ravensbane—Wouldn’t what, Dickon?  19
  Dickon—Sweep the cobwebs off the sky with thine aspiring broomstick. When a man questions fate, ’tis bad digestion. When a scarecrow does it, ’tis bad taste.  20
  Ravensbane—At last, you will tell me the truth, Dickon! Am I then—that thing?  21
  Dickon—You mustn’t be so skeptical. Of course you’re that thing.  22
  Ravensbane—Ah me despicable! Rachel, why didst thou ever look upon me?  23

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