by Taro Kimura
BY ALBERT CAMUS
TRANSRATED BY STUART GILBERT
SCIPIO: And how horrible a loneliness like yours must be!
CALIGULA: [in a rush of anger, gripping the boy by the collar, and
shaking him]: Loneliness! What do you know of it? Only the
loneliness of poets and weaklings. You prate of loneliness,
but you don't realize that one is never alone. Always we
are attended by the same load of the future and the past.
Those we have killed are always with us. But they are no
great trouble. It's those we have loved, those who loved us
and whom we did not love; regrets, desires, bitterness and
sweetness, whores and gods, the gang celestial! Always,
always with us! [He releases Scipio and moves back to his
former place.] Alone! Ah, if only in this loneliness, this
ghoul-haunted wilderness of mine, I could know, but for
a moment, real solitude, real silence, the throbbing still-
ness of a tree! [Sitting down, in an access of fatigue.] Solitude?
No, Scipio, mine is full of gnashing of teeth, hideous with
jarring sounds and voices. And when I am with the women
I make mine and darkness falls on us and I think, now my
body's had its fill, that I can feel myself my own at last,
poised between death and life - ah, then my solitude is
fouled by the stale smell of pleasure from the woman
sprawling at my side.
CALIGULA: All ready?
CAESONIA: Yes. [To a soldier] Bring in the poets.
[Enter, two by two, a dozen POETS, keeping step; they line up
on the right of the stage.]
CALIGULA: And the others?
CAESONIA: Metellus! Scipio!
[They cross the stage and take their stand beside the poets.
CALIGULA seats himself, back stage on the left, with
Caesonia and the patricians. A short silence.]
CALIGULA: Subject: Death. Time-limit: one minute.
[The POETS scribble feverishly on their tablets.]
THE OLD PATRICIAN: Who will compose the jury?
CALIGULA: I. Isn't that enough?
THE OLD PATRICIAN: Oh yes, indeed. Quite enough.
CHEREA: Won't you take part in the competition, Caius?
CALIGULA: Unnecessary. I made my poem on that theme
THE OLD PATRICIAN [eagerly]: Where can one get a copy
CALIGULA: No need to get a copy. I recite it every day,
after my fashion.
[CAESONIA eyes him nervously. CALIGULA rounds on her
CALIGULA: Is there anything in my appearance that dis-
CAESONIA [gently]: I'm sorry ...
CALIGULA: No meekness, please. For heaven's sake, no
meekness. You're exasperating enough as it is, but if you
start being humble ...
[CAESONIA slowly moves away. CALIGULA turns to Cherea.]
CALIGULA: I continue. It's the only poem I have made. And
it's proof that I'm the only true artist Rome has known -
the only one, believe me - to match his inspiration with
CHEREA: That's only a matter of having the power.
CALIGULA: Quite true. Other artists create to compensate
for their lack of power. I don't need to make a work of
art; I live it. [Roughly] Well, poets, are you ready?
METELLUS: I think so.
THE OTHERS: Yes.
CALIGULA: Good. Now listen carefully. You are to fall out
of line and come forward one by one. I'll whistle. Number
One will start reading his poem. When I whistle, he must
stop, and the next begin. And so on. The winner, natur-
ally, will be the one whose poem hasn't been cut short by
the whistle. Get ready. [ Turning to Cherea, he whispers] You
see, organization's needed for everything, even for art.
[Blows his whistle.]
FIRST POET: Death, when beyond thy darkling shore ...
[A blast of the whistle. The POET steps briskly to the left.
THE OTHERS will follow the same procedure. These move-
ments should be made with mechanical precision.]
SECOND POET: In their dim cave, the Fatal Sisters Three ...
THIRD POET: Come to me death, beloved ...
[A shrill blast of the whistle. The FOURTH POET steps for-
ward and strikes a dramatic posture. The whistle goes before he
has open his mouth.]
FIFTH POET: When I was in my happy infancy ...
CALIGULA [yelling]: Stop that! What earthly connexion has
a blockhead's happy infancy with the theme I set? The
connexion! Tell me the connexion!
FIFTH POET: But, Caius, I've only just begun, and ...
SIXTH POET [in a high-pitched voice]: Ruthless, he goes his
hidden ways ...
[Whistle. SCIPIO comes forward without a tablet.]
CALIGULA: You haven't a tablet?
SCIPIO: I do not need one.
CALIGULA: Well, let's hear you. [He chews at his whistle.]
SCIPIO [standing very near Caligula, he recites listlessly, without
looking at him]:
Pursuit of happiness that purifies the heart,
Skies rippling with light,
O wild, sweet, festal joys, frenzy without hope!
CALIGULA [gently]: Stop, please. The others needn't com-
pete. [To Scipio] You're very young to understand so well
the lessons we can learn from Death.
CAESONIA [terrified]: No, it's impossible! How can you call
it happiness, this terrifying freedom?
CALIGULA [gradually tightening his grip on Caesonia's throat]:
Happiness it is, Caesonia; I know what I'm saying. But for
this freedom I'd have been a contented man. Thanks to
it, I have won the godlike enlightenment of the solitary.
[His exaltation grows as little by little he strangles Caesonia, who
puts up no resistance, but holds her hands half-opened, like a
suppliant's, before her. Bending his head, he goes on speaking,
into her ear.] I live, I kill, I exercise the rapturous power of
a destroyer, compared with which the power of a creator
is merest child's-play. And this, this is happiness; this and
nothing else - this intolerable release, devastating scorn,
blood, hatred all around me; the glorious isolation of a
man who all his life long nurses and gloats over the joy
ineffable of the unpunished murderer; the ruthless logic
that crushes out human lives [he laughs], that's crushing
yours out, Caesonia, so as to perfect at last the utter
loneliness that is my heart's desire.
CAESONIA [struggling feebly]: Oh, Caius ...
CALIGULA [more and more excitedly]: No. No sentiment. I
must have done with it, for the time is short. My time is
very short, dear Caesonia.