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She's young, O god, she's young

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1400 either more or less or exactly, or about an hour later. An innyard.

RICHARD:          Innkeep!  Soul!

INNKEEPER:        [Opens the window] Not at home!

RICHARD:          Body!  Oh, what is that line?
       Clay!  Calculating clay!

INNKEEPER:        I said I’m not at home.  Do you see the cock
       Come creeping out to blazon the air with his soundings?
       The small hours are handiwork for the devil.
       No, my young cockerel, I’ll not open up for a pair of runaways,
       This is a respectable house.

ALIZON:                                     But sir-

RICHARD:                                                We’re wed.
       My old priest, one ivory tooth laid to precious rest,
       Rousted up in the chill midnight to clasp our hands
       In pious matrimony.  The service called for a ring
       And Alizon offered a golden twist of her hair.  But no,
       The vicar in place of poor box leavings had an annulet
       Of his own.  He said it was his mother’s.

INNKEEPER:        A pair of penniless runaways.  Vagrants, damp as church mice.

RICHARD:          I have money.

INNKEEPER:                              Stolen from your master, the old story –

RICHARD:          I’ve stolen more precious than gold fair as barley,
       Or stones of periwinkle blue.

ALIZON:             [to RICHARD]                          I’m remade as a new penny.

INNKEEPER:        There, where there’s smoke there’s mud below.  Or
       Do the fires of hell form their own confabulation?
       I forget.  Good night.                     [closes the shutters]

                          [JENNET and THOMAS enter]

THOMAS:                                                     Good morning,
       The rains do rain on sinner and saint alike,
       But here’s an April inundation.  It’s a heathen
       Kind of sacrament, I expect.

RICHARD:                                   They won’t let us in.

ALIZON:             The innkeeper, you see, he has a suspicion
       That all is not quite upright and correct.

THOMAS:           Upright’s a poor configuration.  Look up! Twin stars
       Do circle the pole of inconvenienced expectation.
       Weeping nymphs hover on the horizon crying
       At the turn of the season.  The turgid moon
       Swells gibbous over footsore pilgrims who seek,
       Sighing, the vexed horizontal.

RICHARD:          I- I- I-

THOMAS:                          I meant I’m tired.

ALIZON:             Master Mendip, you are a holy sort of beggar,
       Who puts my poor Richard quite out of countenance.

THOMAS:           What’s this?  The milk pale maid has a spine?

ALIZON:                                                                                 She does.
       Sir.  Richard helped save you from death; I, too,
       My own small part of it.  That should be worth a single day
       Free from taunts while the moon fills with honey
       And the gentle humblebee sighs in her nest.

THOMAS:           But who will save me from life?  There’s the crux
       Of it.  Sweet maid, I will quit thee:
       Three wise men, and countless shepherds,
       Not to mention a carpenter’s bone weary mother
       Travelled long miles to hear the words:
       “No room at the inn.”  Perhaps the youth
       Of today’s soggy congregation could assay
       A similar solution.

RICHARD:          Look, Alizon, there’s a window to the barn.

THOMAS:           There is a window.  Let the newly weds alight:
       Escalate, infenestrate and, most importantly, conjugate.

ALIZON:             You’re laughing at us.

THOMAS:                                              I am
       But in recompense I offer you bended knee
       As ladder.
       [RICHARD and ALIZON climb through the window]
                         There, love’s young dream is assembled:
       Husband, wife and bridal bed.
       Let the fires of youthful innocence beat back
       The dreary deluge of April.
       [to JENNET]                           And now you laugh at me, madam.

JENNET:             I do.  I do.  Humid steam you may exhort,
       But damp snores I think will be served up instead.
       [She sits on a bench]  O God, I am tired.

THOMAS:           That’s not the personage to apostrophise -
       It was the Great Deceiver punctuated our lives.

JENNET:             I saw my life disrupted by middle class
       Bourgeoisie, not Satan.

THOMAS:                            Indeed.  Venal greed, hypocrisy
       And the polite cough were the cause of your undoing.
       The gentle pause of a comma has the devil in it.

JENNET:             You need a better grammar.

THOMAS:                                          Try to get some sleep, Jennet.
       There’s shelter here, and the incessant rains
       Of April can pour on another’s head
       While we huddle under eaves.  Old Noah
       May have this to say for our lesser flood:
       I do like the smell of it.
       [JENNET takes off her cloak and lays it on the bench to dry]
       There, you’ve doffed your outer shell.
       Let the damp cocoon of musty wool spread wide
       Wings.  The lady must not get cold -
       What guardian would allow that? 

JENNET:             The inside of me is dry.  I’ve already
       Sloughed off my borrowed finery,
       Not to mention that profusion of poodles, peacocks-

THOMAS:           And painted money masquerading as essential gold?
       Let the soul of you shine free of carnal flesh.
       Carne vale, good bye to meat, sucking pig,
       Cranberry tart, jellied eyeballs…

JENNET:               The party ended with a fast.

THOMAS:             And the fast with a rising.

JENNET:               There’s a horror in your eyes…
       You should sleep, Thomas Mendip.

THOMAS:                                             I had a plan-

JENNET:               You planned to extinguish the precious crown
       Of restless intellect.  Sorrow sleeps eternal.

THOMAS:             I had a starry quilt pulled up to my chin,
       Ripped away by courtesy.  Night’s pall
       Had a comfort all its own, purpled with
       Nightmares.  Oh, I’m a gimcrack guardian, sweet Jennet,
       You’ve run away with a fraud.

JENNET:               Life is the first alchemy.  The white and the red
       Dance in marriage bed; the humours condense,
       Distill, expand, crystallise and quench a mother’s wail
       And la! there stands a boy, whose only cry is “I am”.
       Exhaled into the world, transmuted by books and childhood
       Taunts, compressed by soldiery, calcined by war, the dross
       Of mundane existence worn away by walking, leaving
       To my sight a man who begs “I am not”, despite
       The universe’s continued interest in him.  I’ll take
       The temper of you, my Tom.

THOMAS:             O Jennet.             [he wrings his hands]

JENNET:                               Your poor thumbs -

THOMAS:                                                           Hoyden,
       Witch child, scratchèd knee, draggled hair, thou
       Abuser of patience and garden walls, the bane
       Of rag and bone men from Land’s End to Far Cathay,
       You were never so beautiful.

JENNET:               Come come, poor Tom, a bed is made for you.
       You hesitate, your hands tremble – Poor Tom,
       Night’s Terrors are too dreadful
       And the pallid flame of virginal Diane
       Is no fit nightlight for such as we.  The mewling infant,
       Milk fed, hushed in arms, might settle for such
       Fool’s silver, but Poor Tom’s gone to war.  A soldier
       Wearied of cold porridge, staled blood, and the tyranny
       Of a holed sole in one’s right boot.
       The subtle silences of the night are too loud
       To bear, one might hear one’s own breath
       And the jangle against the eyelids -

THOMAS:                                               I saw
       A man burn once; no witch he, a Lollard mumbler. 
       His skin crackled, and he held his hands, so…
       He cried, Jennet, he cried.

JENNET:               Phaeton’s Chariot was set in the cobalt dome,
       A brighter lamp, for the wilder dreams of one
       Well seasoned in the ways of the world.
       I see, there, the warning glow of false dawn.
       The daylight will warm you soon enough.
       Settle here, there is no need to wake
       The infants from the first deep sleep of marriage.
       Settle here and make yourself a cloak
       To cover a girl new naked to the wider creation.

THOMAS:             My bottom lip, my left eye; how can I use as pillow
       A woman who does not reach my chin?

JENNET:               Hush.  The children sleep.

[She puts her head on his shoulder.  They sleep.]