Hoodening Play 1976

Martin:
Come, move aside, my friends, and let us in
Joe:
We'll not take up much room. We've grown so thin
So haggard are our cheeks, our sides so lean
And hunger, friends, has picked our limbs so clean
Martin:
Like to a stick washed up upon the shore
Which many years and tides erode and gnaw
Joe:
That one square foot will serve to house us four
Coll:
Come, give us room — we'll not be here much more
Martin:
For want of nourishing my teeth go dead
Decay and fall. The hairs upon my head
Curl up like young, parched grass in the hot sun
Wither and die, and fall out one by one
Moll:
His belly too, which once rose round and stout
For want of flesh inside to fill it out
Is like a dried-up apple — withered, old
On which the loose old skin hangs, fold on fold
Coll:
From my strong thighs I've seen the firm flesh go
As if you'd plucked an ancient carrion crow -
All scrawny, hairless and with many a pimple
Joe:
Each cheek of my behind is one big dimple!
For ne'er a bite or sup I've had this day
Except a swede I pinched down Monkton way
And took back home and, boiled up with some fat
Shared with the wife and kids
Martin:
          … We ate the cat!
Joe:
And my poor missus, too, has gone so thin
And where she should protrude, goes in
Her bosom, once so fine and white, which swelled
And gave such pleasure each time I beheld
Now, like a Twelfth Night balloon that's gone deflated
Is withered, wrinkled and emaciated
(Or like two plums left hanging on the bough
Which through the winter frost are frozen now)
Now gives no resting place for head or hand -
Through that or weakness I can't hardly stand!
Coll:
A deep concavity's between each hip
As hunger pinches with a tightening grip
Martin:
For want of sustenance we groan and squeal
As hunger squeezes with a grip like steel
Moll:
Ah well, 'tis no use standing here complaining. That won't do us any good. Let's rest here for a while in the warm and wish these people a better year than this one's been. Lead old Dobbin round, Boy
Coll:
Here, help me, mates, he won't stand still
And I've no strength nor yet the will
To hold the jade…
Martin:
          … And he's so strong
He's pulling both of us along
Here, Molly, hold on to his rein
Moll:
He's pulling us along again
Come on now, Joe, you lend a pound
Martin:
The four of us are swirled around
Like hempen sacks half full of straw
Coll:
Now, damn it, I can't take no more
(They resume their places squatting or sitting on the floor)
Martin:
Nor iron bit nor leading rein
Can penetrate that bone-locked brain
Moll:
Nor tame the wildness of that eye
That's flashed untamed since infancy
Martin:
See the soft pink skin withdraw
From off his mighty mouth and jaw
And wide-set teeth beneath the skin
Forming a supercilious grin
Express as clearly as he can
Superiority to man
Moll:
He stands there, sides so fat and sleek
Martin:
And I've had nought to eat this week
Moll:
His mighty bulk weighs half a ton
Coll:
My kids are starving, every one
Moll:
In clover he lives, on finest oats
Joe:
But scarce a morsel through our throats
We've had since tea-time Saturday
Moll:
He's fed upon the finest hay
Martin:
'Tisn't right, you know. And it sets you thinking. 'Tisn't as if there was just us. I married a wife two months since and there's our first due next month — and you've got family responsibilities too, haven't you, Joe?
Joe:
Ah, my dear little Katie, the poor little mite
Was crying with hunger all yesterday night
Our Tom and our Bertie was both feeling the pinch
And our poor little Ada is scarcely eight inch
And a half round her waist; and our Dick, and our Teddie
And Walter, and Joseph, Bess, Sue, Sall, and Freddie —
Coll:
Here, hold on a bit, Joe. How many 'a' you got?
Joe:
'Bout a dozen, I think, Coll. I think that's the lot
Well, their great round eyes opened in silent desire
For a taste of the gruel cooking over the fire
Which once on their plates they devour very slow
As if sad and reluctant to see each drop go
Then for lack of the vigour for talk or for play
They creep up to bed to wake hungry next day
Whilst my missus and me, we can't sleep in our bed
Martin:
I reckon I knows, Joe, what you does instead!
Joe:
We're like some kinds of plants found in infertile soil
Which quite fails to reward the skilled gardener's toil
Which, in place of one big one, gives many fruits birth
In hope one will survive until after the dearth
Now, shrewd nature makes good use of my missus and me
In the same kind of way
Martin:
          Well, you could have fooled me!
I did think that your constantly filling your cot
Was through keen cultivation of one fertile spot
Joe:
Howsoever they came, there they are and in need
And just how we, with more than a dozen to feed
Can last through the winter I'm sure I don't know
Martin:
Well, friend, for a start, let's lay this bastard low!
(All except Coll surround Dobbin and indicate his various features)
Martin:
Full half a ton of fine red meat
For us and for our kids to eat!
Moll:
His hide our families to shoe
Martin:
His bones to sell for making glue
Moll:
And from his hide we'll use the hairs
For stuffing beds and padding chairs
Martin:
His tail for making fiddle bows
Joe:
His guts and eyes to feed the crows
(Joe produces a poleaxe. Molly and Martin stand aside)
Coll:
What've you got that for?
Joe:
What do you think?
Coll:
You're not going to kill him!
Martin:
Aren't we, boy? I see
Coll:
No, you can't! Listen…
[over soft fiddle music]
Since I was a lad he has been my best mate
He'd stand with his head leaning over the gate
And, whilst I caressed him, so patient he'd stand
And take the lush grass from my soft little hand
And nuzzle his nose against my soft tender skin
And his great teeth would grip me but never sink in
With kingcups and daisies around him in May
He'd lie on his side at the end of the day
With the cuckoo still singing his two fluty notes
And the ring doves a-bubberling deep in their throats
And the blackbirds and thrushes dropped their hard glossy sound
In the still pool of evening which rippled around
And I'd clamber upon him as prostrate he lay
And see in the west how the pink dregs of day
Lingered, delaying the time when brown dusk could flood in —
Martin:
Come! 'Tis time to rise up and do this bastard in
Hold the boy back, Joe; and Molly, you hold Dobbin
Moll:
All right — but watch you don't hit me
Martin:
He stands there pawing at the ground
Responding to the merest sound
Joe:
The small fly settled on his hide
That fouls the cirrus of his side
He instantaneously dismisses
As gracefully his tail he swishes
Moll:
This noble creature made so fine
And finished by a hand divine
Joe:
That feels the merest, tiniest fly
And heeds the smallest stimuli
That hears, that feels, that tastes, that smells
That stands renewing dying cells
Must soon with hard iron in its head
Fall gasping, quiver — then lie dead
Blood gushing from a wound all fresh -
A huge heap of insentient flesh

Hit him then!

Moll:
I can't hold him much longer
Joe:
And I can't hold Coll. Now, Martin, now!
(Martin aims a mighty blow at Dobbin and misses, narrowly missing Molly)
Martin:
Damn! I missed him. He's got away
Moll:
You nearly got me!
Joe:
Christ, he'll kill somebody! Catch him, boy!
Martin:
He'll control him, if anybody can
Moll:
He's landed on him — and he's hit his head — hard! Drive him off
Martin:
Ugh, look! He's done for him
Moll:
Ugh, what a mess!

His bones are all twisted and broken and shattered
And the teeth from his head are all fallen and scattered

Martin:
And his pelvis has taken a fearful great crack
And here's a patella forced right round the back
Joe:
And here is a bone which is teasing my wit
For wherever I puts it that won't seem to fit
Moll:
Here's a bit like a nose — come, I suppose, from up top
Martin:
If you knew what that was, Moll, you'd soon let it drop
Joe:
'Tis the bit which, misused — or so says St Paul -
Causes wickedness, wantonness, chamb'ring and all
Moll:
Well, whatever it is, it is quite without life
So pick up the bits to take home to his wife
(They arrange the body with due reverence, wrap it in a sheet, and speak over it the following dirge)
Moll:
Scarce twenty years have passed since birth
The latter end in time of dearth
And now the lad returns to earth
Martin:
His poor young wife will sit alone
His aged mother weep and moan
His ancient father curse and groan
Joe:
A concourse of wise worms will sit
Distributing each little bit
Judiciously as they think fit
Moll:
Dispersed and scattered in the ground —
Martin:
How, when the final trump shall sound
Will all his earthly parts be found?
(Joe and Martin pick up the body and, with Molly walking reverently behind, begin the funeral procession)
Joe:
You can't say he's heavy this year. Nothing but skin and bones 'e is
Martin:
No, he's not heavy, but 'e's all loose and won't hold together. I shall have to put him down else I shall drop him
(They deposit Coll roughly upon the ground)
Joe:
My God, isn't he thin!
Martin:
Yes mate, just like the rest of us — just skin and bones. Probably wouldn't have lasted long anyway
Joe:
What about searching in his pockets? You never know — he might have some grub on him, or else a coin to buy something with
Moll:
What, Joe? Would you rob the dead?
Joe:
Why not? He can't take it with him. Parish'll bury him and he's got no kids
Joe:
Ah, that's where you're wrong, mate; he's just had a brat -
Roughly three months ago
Martin:
          Well, I didn't know that
Moll:
'Tis no beauty, I'm told — not a bit like its mother
For one ear is smaller and lower than t'other
And one shoulder is twisted; the mouth wry and wonky
Joe
But you can't breed a racehorse when the sire's a jack donkey!
Moll:
Still, however ill-favoured, grotesque and ill-bred
The poor little -------'ll have to be fed
So put back his purse and his corpse re-arrange
Martin:
Just enough for a drink, Moll. We'll put back the change
Moll:
Here, put back his money and do not upset it
If you don't, you bad bastards, I'll see you regret it
Joe:
Why, you vicious old dame, you vilest of crones
With your legs like old broom-sticks and arthritic old bones
And your goat-like old breasts and your gait like a duck's
Your sparsely-haired chin — a hen's arse someone plucks
But fails to complete…
Martin:
          … Scrawny hag and foul shrew
You may cackle away, Moll — but what can you do?
Moll:
I'll show you what I can do. He killed the wrong one last time. Up, Dobbin!
Joe:
Good God, she's setting Dobbin on to us
Martin:
And he's coming too! Come on, let's get out. Leave the boy. He can't hurt him no more
Joe:
It looks as if he's going to try. He's kneeling on him
Martin:
No, he's kneeling by him
Moll:
He's licking his face. He moved!
Joe:
He groaned! He's getting up! How d'ya feel, boy?
Coll:
Better'n I have for months!
Martin:
That's strange. I feel well too
Joe:
Still, we've been here long enough. Let's get along home

Well, masters, now's the time to go

Moll:
Our play is almost done and so
We'll take our leave…
Martin:
          … For charity
Forgive us our simplicity
Coll:
And listen, friends, whilst we remind
All but the hard, the wilful blind
Joe:
How in these drear and darkest days
Unlightened by the sun's pale rays
Just at the moment hope seems dead
One comes among us with great dread
To scatter all the clouds of night
And lead us forward into light
Martin:
His wish it is that men should be
In perfect peace and charity
Joe
We who came supplicant to your door
Empty should not depart, friends; for
If ye the Hooden Horse do feed
Throughout the year ye shall not need

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