Who’s come to slay the dragon?
Come to watch him fall?
Making arrows out of pointed words
Giant killers at the call?
Too much fuss and bother
Too much contradiction and confusion
Peel away the mystery
Here’s a clue to some real motivation
All there really is
The two of us
And we both know why we’ve come along
Nothing to explain
It’s a part of us
To be found within a song
(Different Strings, Rush)
In highschool, I played the role of Nicola in a production of Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw. It’s a story which asks the question of whether there really can be heroes in a war, and who those heroes really are. Nicola is the servant of the house, who believes that he will marry Louka, who is a servant girl. Louka was played by Yvonne, who, although I wouldn’t say was my first girlfriend, was certainly the first girl I kissed.
NICOLA. Be warned in time, Louka: mend your manners. I know the
mistress. She is so grand that she never dreams that any servant
could dare to be disrespectful to her; but if she once suspects
that you are defying her, out you go.
LOUKA. I do defy her. I will defy her. What do I care for her?
NICOLA. If you quarrel with the family, I never can marry you.
It’s the same as if you quarrelled with me!
LOUKA. You take her part against me, do you?
I can still see the fire in her eyes when she said that. I, the humble, subservient servant, content, even happy with my place. She, the much younger, feisty servant girl, but with dreams of being something more.
Louka, in turn, is in love with Sergius. And Sergius is pledged to marry Raina. Sergius is the great war hero, come back from the war with great gallant stories of leading a charge into the teeth of the enemy. Or, if we believe the tale of another man who was at the charge, his horse got spooked and charged, while Sergius tried unsuccessfully to stop its charge.
MAN. You never saw a cavalry charge, did you?
RAINA. How could I?
MAN. Ah, perhaps not–of course. Well, it’s a funny sight. It’s like slinging a handful of peas against a window pane: first one comes; then two or three close behind him; and then all the rest in a lump.
RAINA (her eyes dilating as she raises her clasped hands ecstatically). Yes, first One!–the bravest of the brave!
MAN (prosaically). Hm! you should see the poor devil pulling at his horse.
RAINA. Why should he pull at his horse?
MAN (impatient of so stupid a question). It’s running away with him, of course: do you suppose the fellow wants to get there before the others and be killed?
Sergius was played by Modupe, who went on to join his country’s army, and, as far as I can gather, served at least bravely enough to make some dangerous enemies.
We would sit back stage between scenes, and this was the song that was playing. How we could completely ignore the play when we were not on, I’m not quite sure. We would sit on the mats which were on the little side-stage, off stage right, and whisper and joke while the show went on, on the main stage.
I liked the soft boot so much that I wore them much of that school term, even when not in practice. They were soft black leather boots, with soft soles. Very comfortable. And one day, Ms. Bakhda caught Modupe and me wearing our boots, rather than shoes which she considered more appropriate for school uniform, and gave us quite a talking to. Modupe was never one to take gently to being told off, and was more than a little disgruntled at this treatment. I wonder where he is, and what he’s doing now.
I don’t remember who played ‘The Man’. He, of course, ends up winning Raina’s heart, and Sergius marries Louka. Poor Nikola.
What happened to our innocence
Did it go out of style?
Along with our naivete
No longer a child
Different eyes see different things
Different hearts beat on different strings
But there are times
For you and me, when all such things agree