Set throughout in poetry, the heart pounding pulse and rhythm of the work undeniably transports the reader or the spectator watching the play to new dimensions. Relish in a work that is unpredictable and unique, a play that will test your own convictions.
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Death and TransfigurationA Tragic Drama In Five Acts
By Istvan Hornyak
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Istvan Hornyak
All right reserved.
The Poet Speaks
He walks on stage in a scholar's robe, the kind worn in the late Renaissance,
and with a book in his hand; he occasionally gestures at the large tome.
Good evening friends and honored guests!
A story told is what I do the best;
So pause from worldly tasks or trade
And read or listen
To these words before they fade
Into some musty dark and dusky place
Where Time forever,
Will these pages soon erase!
So find a glass and sit awhile;
Fill the glass with wine and drink!
These words were meant to soothe ... beguile ...
(pointing to the book in his hand).
Not waste your time with witless ink.
Remember when this book you bought,
Was to enjoy the luxury of thought.
(looking quizzically at the audience and the book).
(becoming very serious again).
Our tale at times is sometimes saddened
By events that never could be gladdened;
Yet from this story much is told:
Your fantasies and visions
Have nothing to withhold.
Then sail with me, as did
A Dutchman lost in legends old,
Who from his curse could never
Land or shores behold,
Until a chaste and sinless love
Shone from a woman's purity
And freed him from damnation's bitter,
(pointing to the book again)
Herein our scenes unfold, as coming pages
Sketch a story fraught with sorrow
Which one day may be recalled in
Distant dim unsure tomorrows.
So our tale begins amidst
A tossing angry churning sea,
About a doctor sailing home
Who exiled love and hope to be
An outcast from his heart and soul.
He sails and sails for endless months, then many years
Enduring brimming wells of unshed painful tears;
Those poisoned teardrops flood and water seeds of woe
Which through his shattered broken spirit rage and flow.
But yet he lives tormented by such foul fears,
Borne from a grievous, tragic anguished misery
Grown in the unkempt, faithless garden of an evil ground
Where bitter fruit and hateful wicked wrath abound.
And as the hopelessness within him grows,
No stillness, ease, tranquility,
No calm, no rest, no peace he knows;
Nor can his shaken soul escape,
From midnight terrors, fiendish landscapes, which
The fearful dreams and sullen shadows shape.
But on one icy cold and gray, drizzling foggy day,
The mad ship harbors, anchors, docks and stays
Close by a nameless seaport town
Many leagues and days away,
From the splendor of an ancient lake
Hidden deep within the Alps,
The doctor wanders in the port alone
And finds a coachman who will take him home.
He pays him well,
With silver, gold and copper coin.
But as they ready for the trip,
The coachman leers and with a trembling lip
Mutters that he knows the traveler's name
And, from whence he came ...
Stunned, our traveler then with guarded words replies
That in this coachman's skill his future lies:
To take him back to his magnificent and gracious land,
His home in splendid spacious Switzerland.
The horses harnessed to the coach now leave,
And with his whip, the driver starts the trip.
But as they travel through the countryside,
The doctor feels but fear ... distrust inside,
And hopes this cryptic coachman soon
Will take him home where he resides:
A manor hewn from wood and stone,
Is where he'll work ... and sleep alone.
During cloudy, gloomy days they travel,
And when evening settles in they soon abide,
In whatever inn or tavern
They happen to from weariness arrive.
The beaten horses froth from sweat:
Heated and exhausted from hard galloping,
Stinging from relentless, reckless whipping,
Drop their heads and finally ... can rest.
But then one ominous and misty day,
The journey soon is close at end,
As twilight falls and evening in its darkness bides,
The doctor bids the coachman ride:
"Ride on, ride on," the doctor groans
And later, at my manor then,
Can rest and to your tired horses tend."
But now the coachman whistles songs:
Songs that conjure visions nigh,
Of the dark night's ghostly throes
As dirt and angry gravel fly
From off the coach's frantic wheels.
And as the coachman whips his steeds
His bent and crooked body sings
An eerie tune that only sorrow brings.
"Ride on, ride on" the coachman shouts;
"Ride on to where the doctor dwells.
Ride on, ride on," he snorts and sings,
"For tonight! ... we visit hell!
His manor has been cursed for years
And there within breed tragic tears;
He has been branded, seared with pain,
As brazen as the mark of Cain!
Ride on, ride on my fiery steeds!
And strain with fury as I lead
You to a cursed and ruthless lake
Where love and hope he did forsake!
And there he let his soul decay
Into unholy gruesome shapes and forms!
What sort of man does his own God defy?
What sort of man does his own Lord deny?!
O let the ghosts of terror now appear,
As I draw nearer, closer and approach
This manor which he seems to hold so dear!"
And so the wretched midnight wails
A wicked trembling fear,
Cloaked in shadows that throughout
Will soon appear....
The Poet stares at the audience and drops his book, the tome, by his side. Then, with anxious hesitation, he also drops his head slightly and slowly walks off the stage as the curtain opens ...
By the Vierwaldstettersee
The coach stops before an old manor, near the medieval town of Brennan. The rustic manor is built beside a cold, icy clear, deep and frigid lake, the Vierwaldstettersee, a lake surrounded by four ancient and dense forests, which lies in the center of Switzerland. The manor nestles close to the mighty and jagged mountains of the Alps, deep within a narrow, hidden valley: cliffs, alpine granite walls and stony beaches abound in this setting. A graveled and partly cobbled road leads to the entrance of the manor and here, the coachman stops. He quits his songs and lets the Doctor out. While paying the coachman again, an old, frail and wizened servant, Engel, greets the doctor with a stiff yet proper bow. They recognize each other but fifteen years have passed since they have seen each other. While opening the large, massive and heavy door of the manor, he gestures to the doctor to enter and moves aside for him. A dying fire from the hearth greets the traveler, Faust, and as he enters, he notices, and remembers, the tall oblong windows, framed in dark and heavy timbers, carved and hewn from the surrounding forests, and draped in dismal, dreary faded curtains, the color of heliotrope. As he enters, he looks around and is uneasy with what he sees. He is extremely worn and tired from his trip, a long and exhausting coach ride from the sea port. And, after many days, sitting and thinking about returning to his homeland, he has become more and more anguished and agitated. Quite anxious, weary and not very sociable, he looks at his servant, Engel, and although he has not seen him for many years, raises his voice at him.
Faust. (distant from weariness and many days in a coach. He is highly agitated and seems unapproachable).
What! What have you done! My home seems as a tomb, I fear: Neglected, lonely sad, unkempt. Why have you not kept joy in here?
Engel. (quite taken aback by his old master's attitude and manner with him and so, is insulted and defensive).
I knew not that, or when you would return, And at this late and trying hour, Did not have much wood to burn. Failing as that dying hearth, I'm old and worn, Quite weak and often ill; I fear now one day soon My eyes will close and be From worry, pains and needless sorrows, Eternally, Forever free. Then finally my hapless soul Can rest and bide with gracious God, Who will embrace me then with loving care, And there in pure and holy light, In paradise, Will my immortal spirit lie. So not much longer, Will you need to hear, My sad complaints, My sullen woes, Or listen to my selfish plaints.
For years with care and love, From duty to your home, I worked and labored hard to keep This manor's timber strong. I could not let the wood decay,
Nor let the stones that built your hearth From age and careless sad neglect, Crumble and then fall apart. The mortar I have sealed again So then the stones and wood could fare, Renewed, repaired, preserved and cured While wedded to the mortar's care.
But then, as time passed by I grew afraid, Uneasy, That your noble face and form, I never once again would see. But rather than returning home, You chose for many years to hide, Amidst this crude and wasted world, By wandering eternally, By stumbling, as it were, In anguish, hate and pain. It seemed to me that there, In colorless and lonely realms, You did And do belong. Not here, Where you could love and hope regain, And feel again the tie and bond You once to home and alpine breath With passion and with marvel cried!
Compassion, Or some courtesy is what I now desire, Not the rude and heartless, Questions you inquire. Some friendly gesture, word or smile Could help me stay here for awhile.
Faust suddenly realizes that he has been rude to Engel and that Engel did not deserve such a greeting at this late hour. In spite of the many long years he has been gone, he quickly regains his composure after hearing the voice of his old friend.
Faust. (much calmer).
Dear man, my old and noble trusted friend; My rude and shallow actions I cannot defend; You're right! For many years I wandered long From land to land, From town to town. Lost! And as you said, I found that nowhere I belong. Then tossed upon the seas and oceans vast, I wished to see my homeland, Here with you, Once more, at last! Know then, That as I traveled through these many years, Sweet thoughts of home crept back to me Of mountains, lakes and valleys deep, And these I yearned, with weary eyes With you, my friend, to see So I could one more time, For but one moment, Close my eyes and reap The pleasant dreams of peaceful sleep. Now let me find more wood to burn, So we can sit and talk, And then together, Speak and learn Of where the many years have fled, And then to where our destinies ... Our untold futures might be led.
Faust, the doctor, tries to find more wood but there is not much left by the hearth. Frustrated, he throws in the few remaining logs and sits close to Engel. They look at each other silently. After a few minutes, Faust glances at the table in front of him and notices a strange black book bound and covered in thin, worn and tattered leather. He leans forward in his chair and grabs the book, stares at the title for a few moments and then opens it, flipping through some of the pages.
Faust. (expressing dismay and some shock at what he is reading).
What book is this? My name which only I possess, Which only I may own, Is here engraved upon this tattered, Blighted, spoiled and soiled cover. How does this unknown author then Dare print my honest, unassuming name On stained and faded pages, Etched, ensconced in stilted, stultifying text, Enhanced by pompous, senseless verses, Everywhere!
He flips through many pages randomly, sometimes stopping to read more thoroughly and sometimes simply glancing at some of the verses.
How could this be Without my nod ...? A written false, Biography!
He becomes indignant and, as he continues to flip through more pages of the book, sarcastic.
This author I have never met; He calls himself Anonymous; He humbles me with verse and rhyme As if I were a song to sing, A puppet, goose or silly thing. I rather that my life be prose So if my reputation grows, My story would be better set.
Faust raises his head quizzically from the book, then, looking at Engel with confusion and surprise, gestures at the strange book.
Who brought such whimsy fiction to my door, Such fanciful and flimsy scribbled lore? And left it rudely resting there As if it were some priceless parchment, old and rare. I sense it should be tossed into the hearth Or thrown with scorn upon our oaken floor! It seems this gesture has a hidden plot Portending something unknown, something foul; A portent shrouded with my Christian name Is something that I do not wish to know about. What kind of tempting game is this? What are the rules, the risks, the moves? It seems to me this ruse, Is cast with meditated schemes, And something that I do not want, To necessarily play and lose. Who dared to leave these worn and withered pages, Written as if they were scratched From long forgotten ages past?
Engel (a little worried about Faust's mood).
A stranger somber and quite gaunt, O somewhat earlier this evening, Handed me this tattered book and said: "Your master will be home tonight, Long after midnight, cold and weary, Feeling wretched and quite dark, Beset with anguished heartless worry, Anxious, rude and rather dreary. Place this book ... Right there! (pointing to the table by the fire) Close by your dying, unkempt hearth, So he can read and comprehend it When from rest and peace of mind His mood and troubled thought Significantly Should be elevated: As well his reasoned abstruse sense, Awakened, as it were, Is more alert, Astute, adept and calm, With finer judgment able."
Faust opens the book again and begins reading intently. He is startled by what he reads. As he is reading, Engel exits and goes down into the wine cellar and brings up some bottles of wine. When he returns, Faust is still reading, transfixed.
Engel (carefully placing the bottles of wine on the table, and as he speaks, pointing to the ones he brought from the cellar).
My dear old friend, Now choose, Then drink! Let me uncork, Before you say another word, A bottle of some rich red Rhenish wine? Some dry white chardonnay, perhaps? Or shall we both enjoy, Some claret or some sweet tokay? Be calm, sit back, relax; Remember what the Romans say: "In vino veritas" In wine is truth!
Engel continues trying to get Faust's attention who simply keeps reading.
Rest and sleep this night is what you need, So do not read, For it is late, Anymore about your fate, But rather let your thoughts, Or even better, Let your mood elate, With ripe fermented fragrant grapes! So drink a glass and be refreshed And let this sullen evening pass; Enjoy with me these midnight hours; Worry not what drunken shape Your weary will this night empowers.
Faust ignores the invitation to have a drink with Engel. Instead, he continues reading the book, scanning through the pages with disgust and heightened agitation. Then, while standing up from his chair, he begins to speak obsessively into the hearth, at Engel or points and gestures at the book, completely ignoring Engel's request to have a glass of wine with him.
Faust (speaking indignantly as Engel opens a bottle of claret anyway).
I see the devil has a role In shaping my sad story's goal. My destiny and fate seem bound By flying on his cape around To strange fantastic visions where No buffoon would even dare. If I am smart as I should be, Why dabble with eternity?
Excerpted from Death and Transfiguration by Istvan Hornyak Copyright © 2011 by Istvan Hornyak. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrologue The Poet Speaks....................3
Scene One By the Vierwaldstettersee....................8
Scene Two Early Easter Morning (the next day)....................24
Scene Three In Front of the Cathedral....................29
Scene Four Auerbach's Tavern....................35
Prologue Ceres' Blessing....................49
Scene One In the Garden....................51
Scene Two At the "Theatre Burlesque"....................62
Scene Three At the Masked Ball....................68
Scene Four In the Drawing Room of the Manor....................80
Scene Five At Auerbach's Tavern....................88
Scene Six Back at the Manor and the Vierwaldstettersee....................94
Scene Seven A Walk to the Meadow....................98
Prologue Iphigenia's Lament....................107
Scene One Alone in the Study....................109
Scene Two Morning....................119
Scene Three In the Bedroom....................122
Scene Four By the Lake....................130
Prologue The Spirit of the Lake....................139
Scene One "The Meditations"....................141
Scene Two A Brief Visit....................164
Scene Three Back again at the "Theatre Burlesque"....................172
Scene Four Montage, The Poet Speaks....................176
Prologue Cassandra's Prophesy....................181
Scene One Alone in the Study....................183
Scene Two Walpurgis Night....................188
Scene Three Back in the Study....................199
Scene Four In front of the Cathedral....................210