Fiction and Plays


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institute Sesquiotic



A Noh play


I am one of the faithful, who, mov'd by thoughts of pious devotion, have taken it upon me to make the pilgrimage to Becket's sacred shrine in Canterbury. As it is on my way, I have thought to make a stop by the cliffs of such renown which are to be found at Dover.

As I come to this chalky bourn
where far below
ebb and flow by the white moon
lacy froth of tidal waves
make towards the pebbl'd shore
where long ago
the French did land coming from
across the channel
flowing fleece of snowy fog
fills the plain
nothingness of this landscape

past this hovel on the plain
away from the cliff
disappears the horizon
in the plain whiteness
I will make my orison
as light decreases
praying paternosters for
souls in purgat'ry


(enter Shite)
To this place's sheer whiteness
do I still return
to this place's sheer whiteness
do I still return
although nothing stands to speak
in my mem'ry

to this place's sheer whiteness
do I still return
although nothing stands to speak
in my mem'ry

above the pebbl'd strand of time
this heathen cliff
hangs in emptiness of age
time's father face
expos'd against the warring winds
winding wightly
whiteness pure and unadorn'd
dissembling not
my heart returns to silent
love and faith

to this plainness honour's bound
to speak silently
what I feel, not what I ought
to give nothing

and the gulls that fly
like silver'd butterflies
mesh'd in mist returning
hanging in the emptiness
my heart speaks softly
cry out in the emptiness
of pure whiteness
flying out to freedom 'til
it shall break clear
cordially I make this pledge
here to recall
cordially I make this pledge
here to recall


As I say my orisons, my heart grows clear and peaceful. Then, from the mist, a beautiful young lady appears, walking over the heath towards me. Who is this lady who so shimmers as snow fresh-fallen of a morn?

I am one who comes from these parts. Near here is where the French landed, long in the past, and on this plain was a battle fought between them, led by the youngest daughter of King Lear, Cordelia, who had been disowned, and the two elder daughters of King Lear, between whom the kingdom had been divided. In this place was the youngest daughter through treachery hang'd, and here it was that Lear died of grief for her death. I come every year to this site to pay my remembrances.

How very true! I have heard of this legend. But all of this occurred many years in the misty past. Why then do you still come to make remembrance? Are you in some way related to these long-dead figures?

You ask of whether I am related to Lear and Cordelia. But you yourself have heard the story, and know of its antiquity. These figures are near-vanish'd in the past; how then could I be related to them?

What you say is true, and yet
still I feel that
there is something of your presence

like the daughter
in whiteness of purity

coming from the mists
rolling inward

from the sea so far below

surging on the

pebbl'd shore

at this white wash'd place
where the mighty sea, forc'd by
the tide to combat
where the mighty sea, forc'd by
the tide to combat
laps at the lime and leaves thereon
a frosty rime
it seems so much as on that day
in ancient time
in the empty waste on high
when the regals fell
nothing then as nothing now
marks the love unmade
but the stones that stand unmov'd
unable to speak
how silent, cold and empty
is this high place
how silent, cold and empty
is this high place


Will you not tell me all that you can about Lear and Cordelia?

It was long ago
that the French landed at Dover
led by their King
and his Queen, Cordelia
disown'd daughter of Lear
pure and fair as these white cliffs
and this mist
plain in speech and in heart

there she met her father
depos'd by his daughters
ill and wild

his daughters Goneril and Regan
met with force
the French who'd come to save England
from their wickedness
hard-fought was the battle

the French were driven back
Cordelia captur'd was
with Lear her regain'd father

two alone like birds i' the cage
a warrant was issu'd
on their lives hanging in the
balance of power
one daughter dead by two dead
afterward of their own hand

thou shalt come no more
never, never, never

pray you undo this button
he faints—my lord, my lord!

It was in the palace
of Lear the aging King
that his daughters three were call'd
to express their love
in the sharing of his wealth
and betrothal
Goneril's words flow'd like honey
from the stinging bee
her love she said so much
as to make speech unable
Regan's words surmounted
as the rose that grows
thorn-wall'd from what cows have us'd
each receiv'd her share
now, though last, not least, our joy
call'd upon to speak
words in sweet molasses drench'd
what can you dissemble?

Nothing, my lord.

Heart as pure as drifting mist
knows no illusion
as a still deep pond without
surface broken
mend your speech, Cordelia
the skies darken
draw a third more opulent
do not be without
that glib and oily art
to speak and purpose not
I cannot heave up my heart
into my mouth
and so in silence she leaves
with France alone

As I hear the words you speak
lady of the mist
strange and wonderful you seem
not ordinary
are you wandering lady
some lost fair princess?

I am nothing, my lord
that you should want to remember
I am not the first
with best meaning to incur
the worst upon my love
in your prayers remember me
as one pass'd beyond
that am most rich, being poor
and most lov'd, despis'd

Oh, most wonderful!
You are a spirit, I know
of the silent one
who did speak but with her heart

gone are all the regal names
the word that remains

is the fair Cordelia

this is all that I am still

in the nothingness
of this wasted place on high
as the dark falls
suspended in the pale fog
slowly then she turns
and like lace in milk she fades
in the empty air
and like lace in milk she fades
in the empty air

(exit Shite)



The hour grows late
surrend'ring the milky white
to the inky black
surrend'ring the milky white
to the inky black
in this hovel I will lay
my mat on the ground
stretching out on the damp dark
earth of which we're made
in the dimming crepuscule
I will say my prayers
in the dimming crepuscule
I will say my prayers

(enter Shite)

The tide has revers'd
baring now the darkling strand
brings the darkest hour
fading spirits wanting hope
to nothing return

Look where she comes again
restless soul in fading light
wherefore walk you so late
empty night surrounds you yet
you restore your form
is this plain the site that saw

Lear to me return'd
crooked eclipses against
his glory made war
he was met in blackest hour

mad as the vex'd sea
sent out in a raging storm

had you not been their father
these white flakes
had challeng'd pity of them

I should even die with pity
to see another thus

brought low for the sake of nothing

that he could undo


restoration hang
medicine upon my lips
time doth transfix
the flourish set upon youth
bringing to the night
in sequent turmoil all that
lays his glory low
tears do scald like molten lead
look upon me sir
hands in benediction hold
to the silence
be your tears wet? Pray, weep not
if you have poison
I will drain the cup for you
for you have just cause
I will drain the cup for you
for you have just cause

no cause, no cause, nothing, lord
to bring you so low

in the empty night return'd
to Cordelia's love

Jo no mai (dance)

In this hollow night
to this empty place on high
warring winds now rise

blow, winds, rage and crack your cheeks
howl, howl, howl, to stir the dead

out of time suspended
in the wailing winds

still the whiten'd face stands still

o'er the rocky shore

turning tides have drain'd away

ebbing by the moon

all that stirs now is the air
failing light bereaves us
nothing stands upon this heath
but for time's scythe to mow
no breath or mist will stain the stone
vex not his ghost
let him pass beyond the bourn
let her pass into the dead
as earth
passing now the moon
reverses yet again the cycle
all is brought to nothing
raging winds ravage the plain
that hangs beyond the strand
the stones are worn to pebbles
in the glass of time
she turns again
surrendering to emptiness
she recedes
into nothingness
she fades away
leaving nothing



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