A play about the words and deeds of Revolutionary Hero Thomas Paine. GREGG GLORY Text File Web Site "...our honored flag... asks no monarch to support her stars...." --- Philip Freneau, 'On Mr. Paine's Rights of Man' **** Top^
In protestation of his time He found the human mind divine, Found the talk that made it up, Spoke aloud, and would not jump. "Clear words beget clear heads." Clarity in life, clarity in death Is the best man has to hope or dread. In protestation of his time Man completes the balance of his rhyme. To rip at the savage face To tear out the tyrant's heart Was his only mellow wish, when once He tottered at his infant start. "Poetry's the soul in the hole Of all our deluded union." Never again to read in dread What any briary tongue Or lashed heart had said. A pauper's son, a poor man's daughter Live their fused lives upon the waters, Bless the vision that lifts them in a trance Beyond their haunted circumstance. A steady voice, a glance like Fate's, "All the million reductive deaths Of a single soul in resistence Find their measure, and their truth in Time In the balance of a rhyme Not otherwise." Top^
[PAINE spins a globe outside of FRANKLIN's London office. Books are scattered all over the floor.] PAINE Spin, spin! Iron ring I am whirled within! Arbitrary midget measure of my unconfining infinite! A span of bands all flicked from flat to this uniform globedness to ring my aching head whose every thought is centered on the latitudes you winningly bend. Dear iron thing pinged from iron ground, rent from flatness to the shape of Earth one man's brain intends, you laurel my lauded humanity when to my invented center and gravity you tend. Spin, spin! Those laws of nature that great minds reveal may in yet greater imaginations strip repealed. Only my blue eye (and my diamond eye within) give credence to the luminous architecture you pretend, flowing shined lines through space and time to end where they begin. Chaplet-circlet of all the circumnavigated seas, it is in my wide eye you thrive and give me the image my imagination divines, plushly hover to deliver there, in picked increments the measure that I had made back to me again. Ah ha! If cold-hearted Columbus knew you through and through I doubt that I'd be splayed here to beg (an impertinent impatient menace to my own peace) old Benny Franklin for his lettered word to push and passport myself through one half of you from the old drab world toiling here to the Edenic new whom that Italian's ballet-tighted stride had mistakenly discovered. Meritorious maritime error! [Inside FRANKLIN's office.] MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT There's too much talk of America for my comfort. FRANKLIN And not enough action for my satisfaction. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT You know full well, Dr. Franklin, that your American interests are represented in Parliament by your worrying English brothers. FRANKLIN Yes. They worry our poor stag of freedom to the poorhouse by their taxes. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT Well, there's not exactly an exactness in the extraction of your tithes, it is true, but there is an approximate proxy of your solemn wants figured in Parliament as near as our charter may permit. Realistically, Benjamin, I don't see that changing any time soon. This policy of ours of virtual representation serves all our colonies around the mounted globe. Soon the British flag-pole shall be her axis; what you ask for is uneven, unfair, and would knock our other more peaceful provinces to rash action by its example. FRANKLIN But we are Englishmen like yourselves, and not a conquered land. Surely that difference penetrates. Our skins are as white as the flag's X-ing stripes. We're blood and blood through and through. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT Our wisest heads here at home have endorsed the virtual representaion policy. And besides, you are free enough in America. What's the point of making trouble? FRANKLIN What's the point of being free? We are virtually represented, you say. And you say well. Would the King be as pleased with us for nearly paying our taxes and almost obeying his laws? MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT I have small doubt that it would be considered a most treasonous rebellion. FRANKLIN A king is under an obligation to those he proposes to rule, no less than those ruled are obliged to him and to observe the laws they make in common. You see my point. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT And I shall take my leave. Proposes to rule? He is our donned soveraign. These words of yours deliver a treasonous treatise. And I, for one, would not have my trunk separated from this crown I wear. FRANKLIN I spoke only, friend Terrence, as is my scientific habit: in hyperbolic hypothesis alone. A junture of conjectures conducted within the safe parenthesis apparatus of our dear friendship, Terrence. I hope you do not take me too amiss, sir, or ferry it too far astray and deliver my words' import into the hellish harbor of another's ears, who may be less disposed to levy my enthusiam with his love. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT Trust my silence, and my self-interest. Goodnight, friend. FRANKLIN As benevolent friends let us always part until these tight-stretched times tear us apart. [MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT exits by far door.] PAINE Ah, Chris, expecting old India and getting America, were you pissed at the switch the whirling world had slipped you? Ah, Chris, Chris, you knew, you knew, didn't you that the whole world is in the mind and no place other; and of the world, and of that mind I am the lonely citizen. FRANKLIN [Entering.] A jake jenny will spin as pretty, son, and you might even do some more useful woolgathering then. PAINE Turn a profit or turn the world: which majestic enterprise do you choose to pursue? FRANKLIN Few revolutions ever rotate to a profit. Those that do most often mis-aim their circles and round on nothing worthy, or had too low and ungolden a stock to start with, sir. PAINE Human happiness is ever the right and highest aim; and doesn't that slap of happiness demand an infinity of wish lived the minute we experience the weird, willed, insistant rush of it wired alive from the prison of skin? FRANKLIN [Laughs.] The blank page in the annihilating brain? Maybe. Sir, I don't believe we've had a proper introduction. I'm.... PAINE Propriety be damned! Perdition it! Have all hell environ its vetted shalls and shall-nots in walls of fire. Propriety, manners, graces sociale, the plume of grooming, and the pander of please-easements: junk all to a rump-superstition trying to tell me by poxed signs how to relate in the uncreated minute I share with my glorying fellow-man. FRANKLIN But what ever should I call you, sir? Mr. Blank? PAINE If I really gave a damn about that... FRANKLIN Even my pussycat purrs to his syllable. Right Rog? Unnamed is nihilism, for we must name to know. PAINE Well, sir, Sir won't do for a start. Neither Lord, nor Your Majesty, nor You Jackass, which my ex was so pricker-burr fond of. All too stratospheric for my loving muddiness; and yet, to say honestly, not high enough for my fired-high Babylon-in-the-sky desire, either, sir. Sire... has a ring to it.... FRANKLIN But... I sense a hesitation in this gestation. Beasts and kings both sire offspring; it seems a wide enough label by all accounts. PAINE Wide indeed. But inaccurate when applied to my amours; all have ended without such tissuey issue, you see. FRANKLIN Perhaps I'll call you rootabaga. And perhaps, like a ruminative root, you could cull your tongue a minute and raise a squalling brood by its intermediate burial. PAINE Point taken. I'll laugh aghast at myself and flap about gashed to uselessness if you keep me in your wit's crossfire longer. FRANKLIN Point taken. I guess I must wait contented in the bathing aftermath of your compliment for you to spit out your alias. PAINE Honest Tom Paine, you may name me, if you wish to follow my mother's custom who had it, as she puts it, from my dire father. FRANKLIN Dire...? PAINE A grim man; internment improved him (his only writerly quality, now that I think of it). Prisons and genius are linked by locks stronger and stranger than any heaven's Destiny. And, well, he did save me from the Navy; that blasted ship went all hands down and had to crawl on their water-buried fingers to hell. FRANKLIN Pray tell. And are you yourself a writer, sir, uhm, Tom? PAINE Given to scribbling. Blood and ink charactering forth the teeming memes of this spade's-worth of pink brain, and all that. FRANKLIN Well. This has been most amusing, but I'm afraid.... PAINE [Looking around impaitiently.] Now where in bloody beavered double hell is that fat bastard Franklin? He's kept me waiting here in his rump room hours now, all afternoon the sun has blazed through those wavy panes, and there's not a tract in his pick I haven't raped over my spry eyes a million times before, an annoying hoard of dead words clapped between these reamed boards. I myself am near as dusty, and near as dead. FRANKLIN Well then, Tom, let me be an Adam to your ignorance here in my habitable Eden, and name myself: Dr. Benjamin Franklin, at your service. PAINE Blimy. I never met an ingenious fellow as fat as you; usually, they're skinny as cadavers and rude to boot. FRANKLIN You seem to fit like a snug glow into your own indandescent description, like a wick nipped into its tallow, Tom. As for me, I've decided my girth should mirror, not mask the chubby depths of my inner resources. PAINE A plummet-line down the bellybutton to the soul... FRANKLIN And there you've got my spiritual and intellectual measure. PAINE A veritable globe unto yourself, eh? FRANKLIN The ladies like a fellow of some substance. PAINE [Laughs.] Well now you've turned the coinage upon its maker and whacked the spitting image home with a vengeance; my trim economy is disastered by your brutal wit. Still, I've never met an opponent I haven't bested yet. FRANKLIN [Pouring.] Scotch and soda? PAINE Ay. FRANKLIN Health, Peace, and Fraternity. PAINE To the survival of the ideal in the real. FRANKLIN An interesting toast. PAINE I always toast that. Nothing else exists worth getting drunk about. FRANKLIN A champagne extreme, it seems to me. PAINE Life's lace and ashes, Doctor, roses and dung. I like what I toast better than that flat Quaker oat bread I was raised up on. FRANKLIN We're both Quakers, then. PAINE Civility, insistent peace (but not a any price), a solemn or wondering longing for God, yes, by those totem tenets shall I keep, and expurgate the speakers from my picked text; winos, mostly, more interested in ass-sniffing civil authority than in living up to the bold moral obligation to treat each reaching individual as your soulful equal. Such cowed cows! FRANKLIN An upright stance before both man and God; and no superstition warps the stature of your bones. Highly commendable in a man sent to myself for commendation's stamp. PAINE I cannot take a compliment while I seek a favor. I'll take this as a taste of your liquorish taint. FRANKLIN Squarely said. Do you have an ample sample of your writing? A quillful will do withal. PAINE A sample pamphlet's on the table. Written on behalf of the King's excise men, of which I was one haranguing his Highness for a raise. PAINE [As FRANKLIN reads.] Maybe here in England we're a little bit clearer who have less spavined freedom from the powdered Parliament than our water-separated neighbors, and so I'll not relent from tugging you a bit nearer health by my stitches, which these bitching words you pull at by your nickering lip in fastidious judgement, are. America's a right yummy ripe prize the mincing king in his house-robe has sworn to squeeze--- scouting the palace for yesterday's newspaper, his shoes a hurry of velvet on velvet while his ministers mangle the masterful quadrangle of his royal foreign policy; But when he with his fey ringed hand, almost a glove of golden mail it is so richly ringed, enrings to wring you with every sort of constricting blockade and strangling tax don't say that I didn't warn of choking, even until I myself did croak! And then your theoretical, heretical, unEuropean Britishness shan't stay his envious, pretty mitts but more merely spike the dregs with a tough clump pulp, soon enough swallowed as a single undissolved sweet in his gargantuan majesty's gargantuan gullet. You'll rebel, we see that plain and clear. Now, you folks won't say as darn much, that's clear too. But when the itching squeeze arrives, most intelligent types on this pitted isle surmise (and not without some sour pips of bitterness) that the reaching King will stretch and find an aching fist of hawthorn thorns adorning his shilling-supple grip, and not a lazy goose or pioneer-reared American turkey on the table hankering to honk: "Where'd ye like yer golden eggies, Majesty?" nor any docile dove cooing full eagerly and baring a plucked pink breast to put a bit of neat meat on his heavily buttered table. FRANKLIN An awful willful quillful. PAINE For a mind to hear its thoughts, they must be said: and no one's howled it loud enough before: my human loves move and near compel me to root and roar in ramping brashness for your cause, which, even if you don't see what that is as yet, yet still it must be shouted about, and louder shouted: for America, for Progress, for Humanity and me: listen, my bespectacled aquaintence: INDEPENDENCY! FRANKLIN [Shaking paper.] Quite a paean to procure a pittance, Paine. A love-libretto to Liberty that might inspire a riot. PAINE The drug of love never slavvered me to much of a lather--- but Liberty!--- Well, I'm her most adoring whore. FRANKLIN I'll write out a note. Take ship with this and find a printer's apprenticeship at harbor for you in my beloved, brotherly big-time backwater, Philosophical Philadephia. Here's my impress. Whomever you deliver it to will know its trueness in that colonial city. Come. Take it. PAINE Thanks! [PAINE exits. Outside office door.] PAINE No reason for me to keep middle-aging in England; to woodlands wild I hie, and to pastures new retire my ire! [PAINE begins to whistle, then sings.] PAINE Cap'n William Death was of bitter worth And he sailed aboard the Terrible; A crow their flapping emblem was And flamed down to the bitter seas. For defeat came blowing in French Vengee's sail Under clouds confused as a bruise: O the dead men's storm-breath was terrible Under clouds confused as a bruise. O Cap'n Death was of bitter worth For when the weather and cannons were wroth He sent his unpaid men ten fathoms down To collect their coral crowns. Beside their chattering skeletons goes, Serene as if in the sky, The burning bodkin of Ol' John Crow Who fluttered high but now's below. Black brother Crow's flap warns us all: For as ye rise, so must ye fall. Dead men's storm-breath blows foul and used Under clouds confused as a bruise. Now to America I wing, Of America I must sing. Top^
[PAINE enters with a fresh copy of the Pennsylvania Gazette.] PAINE All language takes some stain of ill or good from the character of the man that yaps it. In my own zone of rights I write and knight reality, and kneel to no mental soveriegn but the muse imagination I rum-reelingly pursue. Come, blood-potent rum, and serve the prophetic office of a tired Tiresian tit, reveal to me in this minute's less some more consuming All. Come! attendant angel or ministering harlequin to the splay water-palace of my mighty-tided heart! Overwhelming Fate's one gospel of 'Obey,' spill to my glum gullet and trash the fabulous furies' fang-gaped destruction, come and in my pleasant dreaming take up a torching seat, for you in molding fire all shall choir 'I am free!' and I shall spatter out the language to make that freedom ring. ....Ah! Argh-oh how I am spun to dumbness in this walling world that prisions me! Here evil ministers jangle unreachable keys of speech, deny me paper and shout down my rising voice; through the dawn-dashed bars they hack at my words and unstitch my life-lexicon to mere mumbles. Witness well their degredation of-- of themselves! They steal my speech and claim my saying as their own, hollowing out its virture by their rotten lives. How shall my hard-held honor this dishonor sustain? How renounce this attack on the very sound of myself, the very soul of my talking enterprise? Prised apart and pitted empty, my words are spit-spattered away from their durance-resistant usefulness and let to loll unacknowledge in the gutter of common discourse. My words! A told tool I would not trade away for the nothings so plangently proffered me by nothings. I walk and talk these Philadelphia Gazette steps, round-robining all day all the old news-of-the-day with these current estimables, a smashing cash crop of the red-nosed best of America, merchants and others with enough free time to pay their way to freethinking like me! Here's the meritocracy, paying enough to buy the public opinion away from those who tax it royally to their blue-blooded side. Pennies well spent! Their wary copper buys golden souls that would offer themselves for lead--- and some day shall--- some day soon, too soon, mark my history-honest words. I'll tell a tale [Shakes paper.] will kill some men.... Damn, the things I say! Half the time I don't know why I say 'em; half the time they're nothing but all that I've got. What will my penny-a-day words pay me? Let my ripping talk unstitch this trans-oceanic union; it is a challenge to roll a world on one's tongue, non? My loves have disappointed, and my eyes all are maimed to see that kniving inhumanity until they are too much cut to look a moment longer dry, and must perforce weep out a ruin of pure blood on the blood they see. I feel all a bear, and would tear a thing apart. Here's the coffehouse where all the future stife and rule of our not-yet-nation is avidly debated, and yet through some causeless niceness is left to languish unpursued. The noble word finds not it noble counterpart in honorable action, and all lies undone; we speak and spat of self-governance, who have none. [Enter FRANKLIN.] PAINE Come, old tongue, let's talk a new union into its existence by the brashness of our wish. FRANKLIN Paine! Paine! PAINE In the ass. In the ass. I know, I know. FRANKLIN Oh, really now Thomas, I was just wondering how you were getting along here in the city of brotherly love. Not quite the debate pit you're used to. PAINE Much more so actually. Many fine talks indeed. But if you mean, by how I am, how goes the cause of insect-winged locust Liberty (how many years since Athens first heard the wings!) well then, I must say the locust is bursting through the ground in Concord and Lexington; just yesterday as a matter of fact. FRANKLIN What in heaven's name do you mean, man? PAINE Read it in the Gazette, and you'll see soon enough. FRANKLIN Have some shocks in store for us? PAINE Just honesty, Franklin. A common enough trait. FRANKLIN If you say so. I'm on my way to our coffeehouse. PAINE Ah, yes, where all you continentals discuss everything. I think I'll join you. FRANKLIN Here we are. PAINE In, in! What're you waiting for? FRANKLIN Anxious as a slaver with his unsold load of darkies! After you. Top^
[PAINE and FRANKLIN enter the coffeehouse.] ALL [Variously.] Benjamin! Franklin! FRANKLIN Popular as ever, aren't you Thomas. PAINE Gentlemen! The continent has shouted out loud for Liberty, and strikes at the chains that bear away our taxes and our freedoms. And the first heart-blow has landed in Massachussetts! ALL [There is a general outcry at this news.] DICKENSON The man's a tear-sheet specialist. PAINE There's a lady or two who might attest to it. DICKENSON His news is no news. PAINE Which then must be good news too. DICKENSON Would you trade wits with me? PAINE I'd not have your wits with a pound of gold. DICKENSON And if you had 10,000 pounds you could not buy one of them. PAINE No, for there's not one of them to be found. JEFFERSON Of all the noise and bother, man, spit it out! What've you got under your tri-corner? PAINE Hold your horrors, and your tipsy cups contain in steady hands while I my steady tale relate. Listen to me, breathe all silent, and follow on subtle steeds of imagination while I ride to a distant dark that's yet too near our hearts. No tall tale do I trip in here to you to tell, all grenadier and gnash, no not so tall as they are, nor as viper sharp as a Redcoat snaps, all brass and splash and flash, but merely a minor story simply told in amiable note, of small acts and large hearts where a simple standing steady has effected what all the bravado of words never could. Men of the hour? No, not so grand as that, but of the minute? Yes, they'll stretch to that extent and be remembered as they have named themselves: Minute Men. RANDOLPH Isn't that the Massachusetts militia? Those old groaning fellas that put their earlier steel to riotous trial against raping Indian raids and those French incursions of years ago? ADAMS Yes. And they've kept up their drumbeat, the ancients,-- and the youngbloods beside 'em,-- putting away powder and blasting balls against the day. They weekly drill their assembly on the town green "at a minute's notice," as they so baldly claim. JEFFERSON And the Sons of Liberty all call from there, their terrorist pranks and wild high times making the ruinous incursion of the Brits a laughing matter as much as anything else. ADAMS I swallowed all my light laughter the last time they rifled through my havoced house in Boston, and now grind all my guffaws to grist. PAINE While we all dreamed headlong on our pillows in pleasant Philadelphia yestereve, and of shooting heard only the hooting of the rustled town owl or the low growling of a dropped locked-box knocking the cobbles, men awake in Lexington were laying about their harrassed ears with fast hands to stopper-up the deadly bombast of British lead. But wait! I do not want to jump the story, confusing conclusion and lead, spiking titles with the weedy inference of an afterword, but shall lay instead this narration in one row only that corn shall grow by corn in serried succession and we all reap its meaning at once. Well you know that Concord is the provisioning-house of precious gunpowder and hard-caught musketballs for our fierce Northern friends in liberty who look to disengage the English Gage from our Boston's harbor where he's sunk at anchor, bottoming out our hopes of independency. Well, that Gage last night had aweighed anchor and shoved his dumb humpers into longman rowboats to swish the blue inch on our maps from Boston proper to the peaceful Back Bay swamps (see page two of your Pennsylvania Gazettes, gent'men),... [The assembled company all snap thier papers open to page two.] PAINE ...his gross ranks breathing heavy in their bishops' hats and tack pants, faces moony-garish and powdered, squeezed cheeks carmined to set a raucauous red to the parade red of their dandy red coats, moved in uneasy union against the giving mush of marsh, sucking away the calm silence of the night with each bootblack boot's approaching gasp. Who among them, in their defensive tenseness, hunched into the long round hour before dawn, regretted their intention to leave defenseless their outback colonial charges by destruction of Concord's hidden charges? Who among them knew that in quiet Lexington lay a fuse to ignite the night and out-firework all the stars that shined on them? ADAMS [To FRANKLIN.] The garrison's active; this is a solemn business now. PAINE They approached the town with the unwiped mud still clinging guilty on their soles. And then, on the minute, and at the trial telling of a bell a racing Paul Revere, pacing Prescott and daring Dawes set clanging at the redcoats' coming on, some few men assembled on the town green exchanging nervous grins and greetings cheated of their normal charm and pleasure. And as those few stood shouldering difficult guns a reasserted quiet fell from an empty sky from which, it seemed, God's face had turned aside. And then those brave few heard a heartless haloo ranting anarchic through the rumoring wood and the soul of each man-at-ease went bell-wild, ringing each steady steeple to splinters, or nearly, and yet each man still stood his minute stilly to look on coming ruin with the same eyes they used for love. Useless monks spend their closeted lives in sackcloth righting their minds for the divine, but those 80-odd knew more of all of God, and what God might helpfully trumpet down to our skunking circumstance than a million such widowers of miracle, prayering self-abasers crooning to high heaven for just one more fix of some diviner substance. White heaven was in their mustered hearts, which red-eyed Redcoats marched from the scarlet sea to bleed into a single lake of blood. These Minute Men, assembled mixed upon the green whereby a red flood of near-enemy troops must pass and parade, mustered softly in quiet pre-dawn, waiting for the landscape to rouge aroused with their future. All alert, and steady-still as ever their starting hearts might make them, they heard the trooping song: Sam Adams and damn'd Hancock We'll take the bunch and clap the lock! And watch our leaderless colonials scurry Back to our royal order-- in a hurry! Every Englishman cry ho! Ho! We are the law where'er we go! No more talk of rights and shit When Sam Adams and damn'd Hancock are in the pit! DICKENSON How was the conduct of the troops? Did they brandish anger, or seek simply to keep the peace? How lawful was their goal? ADAMS Tell us a story we can live within. My taste is not for such a bloody tartness. PAINE I'll sharpen your ardors to the spur with the whetstone of my story, and nag to neighing our native horse's sleepsome flanks until they hang in bloody flags of victory! DICKENSON Yet, how was the conduct of the troops? PAINE [Pointedly ignoring DICKENSON.] Maximum courage mustered then! Eyes straight, backs clicked, men sixteen to sixty who knew that their stiffness here would put a backbone in their new-made American nation stood steady and at ready when those Redcoats bled into their sight. Old Jonas Parker, spavined captain of the ticking Minutes kept his roll-call of boys at regiment-ready against the bright influx of Major Pitcairn and his men, neither giving offense, nor yet bending his neck to the black boot of wrong law; steady for themselves more than against the troops. "Ye devils! Ye rebels! Lay down your dour arms and disperse! Space to your waste acres! This is Britain, and I am Britain's hand, you the smacked rump of incivility," cried Pitcairn, and Lexington's men, outnumbered two or three to one, did not pretend to obey his voice, but waited with civil incivility in their paitient ranks until they heard good old Jonas Parker call "Dis- missed!" and, patting each shoulder as he spoke, bade his men each one to "Go on home, son," with a "We've taken our stand for today, friend," or "no God's peace'll we break this day, nor yet obey the slimy blackguard limping by." Tis a point easily missed, but vital: no deadly offense was taken, nor none given as our men walked slowly toward their homes and beds or out to reap private fields, arms shouldered and not thrown down, a rifle each by their ears, and no offence given, but all a slow obeyance of their own chosen man, Old Jonas, and none other. And then it came! The glory of this story! An empty shot snapped apart the infant dawn. Calamity! Heart-wrench! Confusion! Death's hovering covenant that seals all pasts and pollutes all futures with its bloody baptismal made his harrowing entrance upon the scene of retreat and came raining vengeful down on that innocent crowd; none knew the source of that discordant noise, all were witness to the shrapnel result of it. Bodies crowned the common ground; gaped corpses, chipped limbs, shouts, distortions imposed by force, wild, angry, bitten faces, lightning arms, trigger clicks, astonished blasts, after-effects of numbing thunder, displacement of peace, fists ramming renewed shot into a musket there, beside a dead friend's final look or dying stranger's howl, the British line all a pall of gunsmoke as if in angel's wings they were enshrouded. A deadly start has this adventure of the heart. Let none shrink from it! Our men fell there blanketed by defeat, and swaled to their final home. ALL [Various expostulations.] RANDOLPH Do my ears hear truth, and that from the long-faced scoundel Paine? PAINE My tongue does bear a true and fruitful report. RANDOLPH Fruitful is it? And bloody hell shall be our orchard. Your words grow from a cannon-mouth. ISIAH Yes. We shall make a strange fruit a hanging from a gallows-tree. PAINE [Throwing his gazette.] You can read about our eventual victory that day on the overleaf. ADAMS Victory? PAINE The British marched on to Concord, destroyed some spoil of goods, a trifle of shovels, and some other warlike items, and were greeted shortly after by some hundreds of our "armed farmers." ADAMS And they fled Concord? PAINE And with a heavy cost. Two-hundred sixty-three British were picked off by our harrassing fire between wronged Concord and their Boston barracks. ADAMS And how many lost we? JEFFERSON [Reading.] Forty-nine. ADAMS It's a miracle. Against crack troops.... JEFFERSON And you think we can carry this fight against the King? PAINE Who can know what is to be? I see not; although my hopes rise with your honors. DICKENSON Yet how was the conduct of the troops; did they seek a lawful goal or no? PAINE Their conduct was wounded, their argument was death, and their goal our sacred Liberty. RANDOLPH I don't know if I've the stomach to digest this talk. PAINE Have you a stomach then to eat the King's balls? For it is your self-assurance of free days that he cuts up on a golden platter you have paid for and then feeds to you. RANDOLPH We are all free Englishmen here. ADAMS The Parliamentary system of government is the best in the world. Peers speak clearly to their causes and interests, and often against the king. Are we without redress in this? Surely our safety clamors somewhat in their mouths. RUSH Was it to the cause of our safety and future that British muskets clamored at dead Lexington, as Paine here reports? ADAMS I don't rightly know.... PAINE Every evil law penned and passed against our interests sped to our shores from that paid den the Parliament. Oh, they parled our parleyed desires into their purses; there's not a man among 'em who wouldn't sell our birthrights to their bidders for one shelled-out shilling! A damned evil bunch, I say! FRANKLIN Overstating the case, perhaps, but this notion of virtual representation hardly seems to hold water. Don't you agree Adams? ADAMS I do. To say that our rights and problems are under the care of those who live in England who have similar rights and problems, is the same as being in England and voting for members of Parliament ourselves, is well, as my Dad says, a stretcher. PAINE Virtual representation is actual tyranny! ADAMS Well, things are not so desperate as all that. PAINE Intolerable! FRANKLIN All our honest merchantmen have been hard hit by these recent taxations and exactions, these duly lawful Acts of Parliament. PAINE These Intolerable Acts impose the King's misrule. ADAMS The Parliament is the best system of government yet devised by mankind. FRANKLIN Surely, though, not perfect. ADAMS Nothing is as perfection would have it. PAINE Let us take our chances as they spasm at us! Democracy's a caffeinated wind in our choiring quarter; let's let an able nerve convince arms to move and not a tongue alone. Our dearest object forever is and must remain: INDEPENDENCY! DICKENSON Revolt! Treason! It's death for us all by your say-so. It's not for honorable English boys, as I swear we are all, to knock so glimmering a thing as a royal crown into rabble-democratic dusts. RANDOLPH I am not ready to dissolve into revolution yet. PAINE Resolve, I think you mean, for all's now certain that had an airy unrealness to it before. ADAMS But what method of independence do you propose beyond the bloody dawn of anarchy? How can these colonies hold together for a common purpose without a common center. This is what the living symbol of a monarch provides. RANDOLPH He's the father, we his children. Let's let our loyalty prove as royal as our parentage. PAINE That fucking rex-hex is a veritable Saturn of paternity. He eats his spawn in the gross pleasure of his table. All monarchy is crime, and steals its air of authority from the soveraignty of the common people, who can only consent to be ruled. That consent denied, all is crime. We have no voice in Parliament, yet must obey their laws. Gentlemen, help! Are your reasons so impaired you see not your chains? Am I not to see where I stand on earth, and make conjecture of my future state from a concern of self? DICKENSON Is not our soveriegn our source of soveriegnty? RANDOLPH To kill a king is no good work for those born beneath the throne. PAINE Kill a king? O to crush a dirty worm is every infected party's part. To cough oneself to health the irretreivable right of every sick man in protesting protection of his natural vigor. And tyranny is a foriegn ill indeed. No thing for men on this untried continent and infinite land, all future from our shores past green-infinite mountains, to... where? We cannot see to the far end of this paradise, sirs! And would you be the wasp-coated servingmen to dish it up as if it were a new sherbert to midget empery's appetite? O tell me you would not docilily serve such self-serving vanity! What faces shall we wear so that our souls start not back appalled? Look to India if you would see how the King will treat us by slavish domination: sell us to a corporation for eons of unendurable lackey-work. Under the elephant's stupid foot! Not a place for me, at least; I'll resign my part on earth before I'd crimp my free white neck beneath such a ton of gross fat greyness. FRANKLIN And killing the king was never seen by me as necessary to assure our own liberty. PAINE Even a moronic ox knows that once he's thrown his yoke he needn't trample out his guide-man to stay ramping free! DICKENSON A moronic ox! PAINE He eats his children! Lexington was a snack, and he's a starving robber defending his filtched appetite. What could be clearer? FRANKLIN An old man gnawing on his pile of bones. PAINE Thirteen piles of bones, make no mistake! FRANKLIN A strong image, Paine. ADAMS A painful one. Do display more taste, Thomas. RANDOLPH The king has promised to hear our late sent ambassador with his good ear, and overview all our penned petitions with a nearer eye. PAINE That eye of his put out Concord in the dark; how shall it see honest parlance in its home-hole? Of his cheap, deaf ear---- ADAMS Paine, Paine, Paine, Paine, there is no easy touch of pleasure in this tough talk. PAINE If it is in the hard touch of truth to hurt you take the wound stoutly, and put into your endurance conviction to hold those bruises honorable. The pain we take for the convictions our best mind judges right enhances the goodness of their ends, and with this right end in view the intermission transmutes itself to a bearable necessity. Pleasure herself is a sort of raunchy taunt when dandled from a master's open toy-box, and not earned by a more decent labor of our brows and backs. A Dad's treat to trick his ranting child to a returning calmness, and then an ignorant sleep. But pain, if deep enough applied, can hack at lies and leave us without those false comforters or with none but that rough comfort-burr of truth: on such a thorny ground I would barefoot go and discount the cheap tinsel promises we have now. [PAINE exits.] RANDOLPH Can we come to no agreement or cordial compromise on these impending matters? RUSH And what of the dead at Lexington and Concord? JEFFERSON I wonder if they'd be pleased to know they died in the spirit of compromise. [JEFFERSON exits.] DICKENSON Independency! Really! FRANKLIN Our old lives lie extinguished by a fiery word. RANDOLPH Shall we make adventure with all our lives and loves, even unto the death, upon the thin subsistance of a word? ADAMS Let us make our banqueting hearts eager to eat up the roaring employment of our days ahead. [PAINE and JEFFERSON outside collide with a PASSERBY.] PASSERBY What do we have here? What's this? JEFFERSON [With a warning note in his speech.] Paine.... PAINE [Blissfully ignoring him.] A moment, my friend, when speech and circumstance might intersect, and the right word tell all. JEFFERSON Well. Now independence is on the tongue. PAINE Soon it shall be in every farmer's hand and each rough-and-ready plow-black hand shall be flexed alive against the tyrant-ranting King! JEFFERSON Well, I don't think everyone's exactly convinced yet. PAINE Oh, but where the able tongue purloins the sense long enough for uneasy conscience to make its essence's slippery entrance, why then how long laggard will the deciding mind remain behind that sets its sharp fence of reasonings against any backward step? This trined tongue of intent but once insinuated into the clear air here where our most honest thinking occurs overturns an eon of inherited predjudice and flatters us to action. JEFFERSON Revolution occurs first in the minds of the people. PAINE And words alone may make the mind revolt! JEFFERSON Total treason. PAINE Common sense. JEFFERSON Paine.... PAINE Are you ready for the revolution? Top^
[The Rush household. PAINE is hunched over an apparatus, intently. RUSH is at a second table.] PAINE Back when I took the book at the Headstrong Club, obnoxiously orating on my dual theme of free and freer, I never thought I'd race to a Rush who collapsed history's wide actions to his narrow minute and then decided to make that pressured minute EXPLODE! Oh ho! I've homed in on the Homer I adore, into American image has the Greek passion passed surpassingly, willful Iliad, all fight and farce; that was the book the most ornery, obstinate talker packed back home from our rum club there in pederasted England. How can you hear a man's ideas clear when all he want's is you to tiddle his slumming bum? Here the air's freer, even the gal-pals I've got would sooner nail me for my abolitionist views, and hear them articulated through and through, than dwell adored in the moony blues of my open eyes. They turn my ocean of appeal into a puddled pond of "whys" and "why nots"--- defending deafeningly-- and deftly!-- each of their own articulate points with finnicky pricks as razor-exact as any man put forth. Rush! Rush! That vile white thing, spin it here. RUSH I've measured it to the grain, Thomas. PAINE Against the grain were better service in our cause. RUSH I've gotten enough splinters trying to get this damned... [PAINE lights a short dry rush upon a tallow and inches it towards the apparatus.] PAINE And now... [A loud blast, fire and light stains them. BETTY rushes in, with needlepoint.] PAINE Ha ha! RUSH We need to run a confirmation trial. BETTY What is all this noise? You and your songs, Mr. Paine, really! PAINE Music it is dear lady; the potent pop of your own soma-dose of freedom, madam. RUSH Betty, you'll never guess. We've probably got a home-source of gunpowder to gag the gaggle of Brits clipper-shipped to liberty-clipping port in old New York. PAINE A practical means of resistance. BETTY Resistance? Oh, like that slow glow that goes along a spiral wire because its fighting the shock-circuit of electricity, like Dr. Franklin showed us that one time. RUSH Uh, yeah, I guess so! BETTY Nice. That's got some potent potential for that handsome, non-spurious, supposed future you reference so sweetly, I suppose. Maybe my granddaughters in that then will reel alive in the freedoms that you scribe, Mr. Paine. PAINE Miss Rush, your brother and I have been systematically eliminating the apparent obstacles to the inevitable separation of the United States, if I may so term it, and heather-buried England. That is all. RUSH I'll be damned-- uh, pardon me sis, if that ain't ALL. BETTY And do you think this swivel-switch from hitched to ditched and unhitched inevitable, too, Benny-boy? PAINE I'll make my glad-handed geopolitical appeal: The interests of two such mighty continents cannot go forever together. Nature's stitching plates pull apart all such useless causes in havoc and catastrophe. RUSH Volcanoes and earthquakes are the makings of such opposite energies; their spumed fumes increase the splendor of our sunsets years after such upsets, and that's a sign. BETTY So now you believe in signs, brother, whose medical studies seek to have the physician's hand rain tender cure upon itself, opposite the stupid superstitions back-land indians chant and leech-hacks quack at the corner? PAINE The coming hail that'll separate us and England shall be in a maiden's mittened mit minted in a trice, a housewifely confection of saltpeter, etc. playing the displayed hand of raging nature on the timescale of one human mind's design. BETTY And how will you pay for your halo, Mr. Paine? PAINE In bliss increments, and laughing all the way. How, dear Miss Rush, will you dividend your sorrow? No thing in nature is sad that follows and fellows its natural qualities. [PAINE hunches back over the apparatus as BETTY and RUSH talk.] RUSH Let's pick unlocked snoring Pandora's sweet locked box. BETTY Would you midwife chaos out of so infolded a coffer? RUSH And stand a panting paterfamilias to a punchy Paine? For shame-- if I would not! BETTY Hmmm. RUSH Sweet sister; think of how all the world would unfurl in that stolen moment's triumphant freedom. BETTY Hmmm. RUSH The blood of Concord is on our souls! BETTY The colonies in congress assembled have not yet resolved for independence. Indeed, they seem more willing to barter back King George's oppressions for some few tax concessions and call it victory. RUSH After the story Paine told everyone today, you wouldn't talk like that, sis. If you had heard it, felt it. BETTY Would you rush to war all alone my imploring little brother? RUSH I'll race to it! BETTY In childhood you were ever an utter terror and leapt to grow up to my mark upon the doorjamb, crying, "I'll be bigger than Betty, ever!" As, indeed, now you are. And I had washed you in the cradle, and given you all my light-touched cares, and tended to you every way-- no matter! You still would raise up your eye at me and say, a very presumptuous seven then, "You are but a woman; I will be a man," as if that made all the difference. As, indeed, it has. For you outpace me every way in the world's affairs, and take the stick to idiocy, where I may merely, indeed, I must creep contented to crosshatch stitch my sayings and put all of my wry commentary, all the luster and insight of my rich story and view-point into needle-pointed pillows for your big feet that have battered back home at a flat run from high deeds indeed, wherein (or where-out, rather) I had been by my sex excluded. RUSH But you are a woman, sister, and all the revolutions of the earth cannot turn that fact about. What do you think of him? BETTY He's a rude man, and a strange. RUSH He's a great man, and right when all of an age lavishes itself in wrong opinions. BETTY A kingly man. RUSH Don't say that, or he himself will blow before ever another report of powder sounds. BETTY Do you not now note how that he hears us not, but is all by his fluid mind engaged awash in the high-tide flooding of his destructive pulse whereby he sees a world engulfed; and yet he sings, and that not humbly and to himself, but loud and tunelessly. Has that hanging face of his ever tied on a smile that was not a one tried out in high irony, a sort of victor's ribbon of sly teeth grinning his awkward opponent down? RUSH There is something in a man's part to love that which sparks some friction in its giving, and thereby's not too slickly conquered. BETTY Indeed, he is a great contrarian, and takes it as his pleasure to be opposed. RUSH And yet he'll answer you point by point in argument, broadsword aside his million rapiers how you will. [RUSH hands PAINE something for the experiment.] BETTY [Aside.] I'll give his wits a trial, and spot out the color of his cholor with my brightness. PAINE Thank you, Rush. There. Now we must wait a minute. Now, what were we discussing? BETTY Why men must make war on their common sense. RUSH Like that soused Davy Rittenhouse who failed to perfect his skyward-aching inch of telescope from his couch? BETTY His Orrery accomplished the opposite, downing downy heaven to the ground. RUSH You can peer at the Plieades from a squatted perch and still reach pleadless your two finger's-worth. PAINE Say, rather, that he and I raise man into his sphere, and there see celestial fire. For man's all vision, a heavenly eye widowed to the earth, an interplanetary planetarium of one. BETTY And what of India, Mr. Paine, what vision operates to manacle that subcontinent in so white a vise? RUSH Everyone knows that its simply appalling over there, all lice and infection, and worse, and more; this sick world itself has how many untreated sores. PAINE Let's get black Sam in on this one: Sam! Samuel Lemuel, alert, arrive, at once, speed, hoist aboard, hop up, jump the gun, jam with us, spike the volley man, and get your ass in here! [SAMUEL enters, stands in solemn silence by the door.] PAINE Listen. BETTY Again, what do you think of the British errancy in India, Mr. Paine? Is it an experiment in increased slavery-efficiency, the turn of mankind on man, a lesson in whips and a pungent moral on productivity, sprung all awry and a-wrong, or is it a thing more simply evil in its derivations? RUSH They really do clobber those people over there something awful; the stories that pour from there. PAINE Is it really much worse than the charmless oppression a moody husband may in law dagger upon his wife? RUSH The white Rajah last month put twenty men to death for disappointing his wife at her afternoon tea-taking. The relatives of the dead men were hard-put to pay their burial fees, since before killing them the white Raj had fined each man the sum total of his back wages to purchase the repair of his wife's "injured tranquility." Can you imagine? BETTY Don't have to, quite obviously. PAINE No more barbarous analog of man's inhumanity to man do I know to shout about. BETTY Is it the worst I've heard, or felt on my flinching skin? I couldn't honestly say. PAINE To honestly say: it's such a treasure. BETTY Wifely obeying, sisterly sashaying, is there not to be more of me than the female means to some redoubtable, spouting male end? RUSH Sin, sin; to so self-slay and self-say so. BETTY And yet I'll still be the one to cook up the skunking gunpowder at home, so you wild boys can be out and shooting off your guns. Hmmm. RUSH Why don't you write it up, Paine? Put out plainly why American and Britain should part ways? PAINE Perhaps I'll start. I foresee a day when the tripartite freedoms of 1), America from Britain, 2) blacks from the whites, and 3) women from the scourging and scouring positions, will occur. A good day. Let's purge the scourged. Why can't the spastic rest of humanity see as me, and know the limitation on the freedom of one consciousness claps chains about the rest? Severe delimitations of the honey of one-one-one-i-oneness. Why the output of every nation would double on the morrow if every slave hand and female back could see an honorable profit in their own actions, ain't that plain? RUSH Sounds like common sense to me. PAINE Common Sense. A good, solid Scot's title. BETTY You're an alarmist. Always shouting wolf when most folks don't feel that bad off. It's a comfort-level thing, and not much else. This tissue of issues tears to nothing when pressed to the pins of daily affairs. This talk and bluster, what's it ever accomplished? PAINE Then let's be precipitate! I'll call all the hail aghast from heaven onto our current crop of snotty not-problems, and crush the grain until all's level! An Alarmist? Yes, I like it. Alaruum!! Unshell the clarion bells in carillion tones, each note echo-honing on its brother tone-- oh ho what a mastery of symphony would America then be! BETTY You want to be under the thumb screaming bloody murder awhile, then you'll see-- most folks, well, if they're not in hell with you, they don't give a damn. When you're in a coma long enough you get inured to the hurt. Worse thing you can do, sometimes, is raise the hopes of the injured. PAINE Well, Samuel, you've been silent as Pylades and cool as a Pharaoh; ywhat's your take on this? SAMUEL Seem Mis Betty got de view o' de oppressed. RUSH True enough. SAMUEL Ain't no easy thing living out in dese times gots everything of yourself shackled to another his words switching you every way which and back running your life around an' no respite no water-break on dem dere hot backbreakin' days. Over your own shoulder go your eyes, instead of front, to see what the future got in store for you at the mad hands of another, no wife-hands there, no chil' touchin' a knee you can keep, no folks or other love-thought guiding the master's hand or tempering dat man's any act; damn no humanity in dem things got all twisted about some who-knows-how! Your eyes all lookin' and no sass passable out ov your mouth no matter: damn, the things I give jest ta say my mind right out once afore I died. [PAINE has been busily re-doing the experiment. A loud blast, fire and light stains him.] PAINE Rush, our hypothesis is uncannily and without con, confirmed! We've got the unlocking formula for cheap gunpowder sifted from shelf-available ingedients! O pretty Betty and damned Samuel-- you'll run free and rack the world with cries of all-ecsatic exultation unassailed soon enough!
[PAINE sits composing Common Sense. He is drinking steadily.] PAINE A searing halo-scab crusts my forehead; I do not know how to make my imaginings real. Not God, but my own luminous mind has brought me here, a shuttle of empty light over tar-dark waters. How intemperate is this life's little tempest that convulses the scarring rictus of my neighbors' hearts? I paddled the black Atlantic on my sheer wings to say the one right word that will flame this marsh-gas bay of waiting rebellion into the manifesting Heaven my vivifying vision begets. Destruction and creation are chopped from but one block: the diamond iceberg of imagination is my worker's pick I pick and choose with, editing the mired files of reality. It chimes and rings against-- against I know not what, but yet it rings-- oh-- it is against itself it rings the hardest, chimes and rings with a futile fury, as if it burned light to so strike itself and be thus made illuminable. And I am a charitable, black matchstick demon chained to the whirling mill-wheel of this work, striking and striking in the blinding brightness of the Pit. Oh, well, I know not how well I am, or yet how well I may be; there's a soapy hope, shall I grab it merely to have it slither from my gripping? Each hour's a blinked link in Life's gold chain: we demand our days be daisies and link them in vain. Every boiling colony seethes hissing against the king; his trans-Atlantic scepter rusts in the salt distance. Wild opinion everywhere is corrosive against this tyranny, this thing mouthing royal order and tradition against a fraying wind. So this is how my magic mist of Liberty begins its insinuations: in the libelous acid-bath of naysaying complaint. Well, you never know what you want until, like a baby denied its nipple, its tickled from you. Sore feet pay the cobbler, as they say. How will the common people my Common Sense ingest? History has its tides, yet I'll surf the crest on my hand-made revolution for the masses, by the mass! I'll be the first to print what they niggling feel and reduce all loyalty from monarch madness to sane themselves--- as infinite human potentiality, nothing less. Hunched in my prision of skin, how insanely rips my ineluctable spirit towards its transcendence! A free bird will shread its wings against a cage, no matter how golden. Men will in one blood-thumped second destroy the finest system of governance devised on earth in all her generations to get back a single whiskey-lick of the uninhibited Liberty they had tasted heretofore. One reckless pulse, and all the noble past is pushed to the stinking heap! Desire is infinite; possibility is finite; but the true, determining actions of men that shape their crowded cowed lives hived striving together, even to the half-done mark half as well as a lazy anthill's improvisational organization are few, few indeed-- and sparely placed in history. This is my minute to push the wisp toward incandescence, my arriving fire's the one to transmute rebellion's bonfires into individual Liberty's multifarious candleabra, the thousand stabs of light burned true out of today's inflammable haystack of discontented "maybes." [PAINE pulls a quill from an inkpot.] PAINE Come, my feather, and fan the damning flame, we're fallen angels all and still squeak at the light like deluded bats in our hopeless caverns: fly, my feather, on hopeful airs and the destruction's daring updraft, on into the sun of reason, a winning Darius fuelled by his whipping ambitions from light to light. Below us, all the old monarchy's fluxed in immolating ruin; above, the reasonable sun draws us on until as sweet mists we rise to his imperishable realm: a radient and radical farmfield of high Enlightenments. Flock to freedom, my angel minions, or perish dully all in hesitation's flames. [PAINE begins to write.] I write in light!
[Before a tavern. Enter three idiots.] JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY These are suspicious times. TIM RIDDLE Then it were well to suspect everything, and keep a watch-out. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And our civic duty too. DICK CIVIC And if you keep a watch out, you shall find the time to be roundly burgled. Watches are rare jewels in a poor place. TIM RIDDLE Well, then, how else to find out the time we're in? DICK CIVIC And if we're suspicious, we can deduct it. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Well, it is night plainly enough. TIM RIDDLE Know you by the dark, or by the lack of daylight? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Why, by the lack of daylight, for there's many seasons for it to be dark in. DICK CIVIC Ay, my wife will put me to 'em oft and oft. TIM RIDDLE It's tyrannous tough to be a bride's thing. DICK CIVIC If the bride have a thing, I would suspect myself, and think me no true man. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Then what if you give her a thing? DICK CIVIC Why then I would respect her under near examination, and have no more doings with her, if a divorce could not settle the peace between us. TIM RIDDLE Absence then would keep the peace. DICK CIVIC And a peaceful piece is a pretty peace. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And the maids will be warring their skirts over their heads again to get out the piece. TIM RIDDLE [Looking around.] This is someplace hereabouts. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY It behooves us to entrance it-- if it is a tavern. DICK CIVIC I have some reading. I shall spy out the sign, if I see any. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Spying is a bad offense, unless it be plain. DICK CIVIC Then, if it be a plain sign, without marks, I shall spy out if I shall read of it, or no. [PATRON exits.] PATRON [Sings drunkenly.] Lib-bert-ty tib-bert-ty tree! Lads of Athens, faithful be to thyself and Mystery! All the rest is perjury. Lib-bert-ty tib-bert-ty tree! TIM RIDDLE Well, is he a spy or no? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY I see he is a plain man with nothing to doubt him above the average. TIM RIDDLE Are you well-knowing of it? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Ay, he is enough like me to leave no assurance. And I am as plain a man as never took note. DICK CIVIC Well, then, if he is as plain a man as you, I shall attempt a reading of him. TIM RIDDLE As long as there is no sorcery about your business. I am from Salem. DICK CIVIC My business has no beginning to source it, sirrah. Not even a passim Salem. TIM RIDDLE Well, and he was as drunk as a skunk, was he not? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY A plain drunkard, as I ought to know who owns a mirror. DICK CIVIC I revelation that he was drunk, sirrah. TIM RIDDLE And what think you well of that? DICK CIVIC Well.... JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Well...! DICK CIVIC Well.... TIM RIDDLE Come, sir, what think you well of it in all these wells? DICK CIVIC Well... I think it be as plain a sign as any that we're come to a tavern. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Oh, well then, let's make a boldly into it, and mark an entrance where he did come out-of-doors. TIM RIDDLE Come; let's subtly then. [They enter. A RECUITMENT OFFICER is signing men up for the war.] DICK CIVIC What are all these men a-standing about and signing? TIM RIDDLE It is a signal that I am suspicious. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Ay, then let's sniff slowly. DICK CIVIC I for one had rather not smell. TIM RIDDLE Then nose about without breathing. DICK CIVIC And thus sufficate? I had rather smell myself. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY No you wouldn't. AMERICAN RECRUITER Why do you men stand in such amazement? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Why, because we've found ourselves in a maze, and cannot wend about of it. TIM RIDDLE As long as there is beer, I shall bear it. DICK CIVIC Ay, in your gullet. TIM RIDDLE As long as my money holds out my arm shall hold out too. DICK CIVIC Ay, and a mug at the end of it. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And your gullet too; pouting out fat and burpish. AMERICAN RECRUITER Are you men ignorant? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY I suspect. AMERICAN RECRUITER Are you ignorant of the news that the Continental Congress has passed a resolution for independence? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY If I am, they have kept it independent of myself, and assorted their cause of independence right well. AMERICAN RECRUITER There's a maze in such a speech. DICK CIVIC Ay, true said, friend. AMERICAN RECRUITER According to the resolution, we are now to be no more of England, but only of ourselves. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And if I am not myself, I am as Englished as any that never spoke a true tongue. AMERICAN RECRUITER Well, then. Have you read the Common Sense by Tom Paine? DICK CIVIC Say yes. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Yes. AMERICAN RECRUITER Then you know he makes the case plain to every faculty, that we should be a separate peoples, and that the king is no more than a brute beast to oppose us. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY The king a brute beast? AMERICAN RECRUITER Ay, and tyrannous. And that we have the power to form a better self-governance than his could ever be. And that we have the power to make the world over again in our lifetimes, if we but put our shoulders to it and follow our hearts and hopes. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Then, if the King rule us, we are no governors, and lack a rule. TIM RIDDLE Why, that's plain anarchy. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And if we would run about under that, it were a dark day. DICK CIVIC Ay. And no light to see a tavern by. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY But I see one plain. Or what else do I spy? AMERICAN RECRUITER Your friends are in some confusion.... JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Ai me! Then it is anarchy come down among us from on high, as they say. TIM RIDDLE It is the crucible of God's will. DICK CIVIC Very plain, very plain. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Then we must be governors at once, and no delay for light to see ourselves by in suspiction, lest the time fly by. TIM RIDDLE That's a truism. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And a friendly one to lead me on. [To RECRUITER:] Say, if I sign this, is governance back among us all? AMERICAN RECRUITER We shall fight for it to be so. DICK CIVIC And blood shall be spilt in the contest? AMERICAN RECRUITER Ay, or else it were no fight. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And all this is Common Sense? AMERICAN RECRUITER Very common. DICK CIVIC Oh. If you read this thing, friend, your eyes are traitors. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY For certain a traitor. TIM RIDDLE Ay, it's very plain, very plain. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And did I say I read this? TIM RIDDLE Ay, you did, and with no little prompting of friendship. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And if my friend lead me on to traitor my eyes, shall the rest of me be anathema? DICK CIVIC Ay, very much so. And if you are anathema, you are no friend of mine to my nose to stick out stinking so. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Oh, and if I am no friend of yours, I am no traitor, since then no friend did lead me on to read this Common Sense. TIM RIDDLE There's the king's man! JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And none no more so loyal as I. DICK CIVIC Then are we ready to look down at your papers and sign up, sirrah, being no eyeing traitors, but that we give out an equal naying to all. AMERICAN RECRUITER Here's quill and ink. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY But yet hold off. And if I sign this, what shall I be? AMERICAN RECRUITER From your loudness, I'll put you down as an ordinance officer. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And if the ordinance be of a great enough caliber to keep the peace easily, I shall be a peace officer too. TIM RIDDLE Only if it break the peace. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Ay, truism enough. And then either way I shall be an officer, which I was in England. DICK CIVIC And that's as sure a truism as ever I heard, or they all be false. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Let them all be false, these truisms, so long as that mine is true. TIM RIDDLE And if it's true, your shooting will go well. DICK CIVIC If it makes others go astray, it shall. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Truism enough, friend. TIM RIDDLE [To RECRUITER:] And what shall I be in the lists? AMERICAN RECRUITER A dead man, most likely. DICK CIVIC You're a true enough large caliber target to get killed. TIM RIDDLE And as long as I count as two hits, I will be satisfied to have played a bigger part than most. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY That you do already, friend. DICK CIVIC And if I witness such purgation, I shall be happy. TIM RIDDLE And I too, if I should live to see my death. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY God save you! And if you should chance to see it not, I'll report it to you in the hereafter. TIM RIDDLE Slow your oath! If God saves me, we shall miss each other in damnation. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Ay, I had forgot that. And I would not miss you for all the world. DICK CIVIC If you miss him, you are no ordinance man at a shot. TIM RIDDLE True. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And if I am true, I am an ordinance man; so I shall not miss you, friend, on either the field of battle here or hereafter; and if I am an ordinance man, then I am a peace officer again as well, and serve the King by example what my loyalty is. AMERICAN RECRUITER Ay, all that, if you sign here. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And then we should be back among the English by your scheme? AMERICAN RECRUITER Yes. And many a man better than you. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Why, there is no better Englishman than myself, God save the King, sign me up. AMERICAN RECRUITER Sign you up, sir. Can you make your mark? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And if I was not as loyal an Englishman as the King, I could sign my name as well in any language, mark me. AMERICAN RECRUITER [Offering paper.] Here then. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And will I serve the King a good turn, if I assign this? AMERICAN RECRUITER Ay, if you disturb his sleep enough to give him a turn. But truly, sir, you can do the King's service no better service than to remove yourself from his. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY And I will be among English again, if I go my name here? AMERICAN RECRUITER Ay, I have said so. You'll be thick among the thick. TIM RIDDLE And what was our aim among 'em? AMERICAN RECRUITER Why, if it's a right good aim, to rid the land of them all by death or expulsion. TIM RIDDLE Back to England? AMERICAN RECRUITER Ay, or hell. TIM RIDDLE Oh, well then, you were a constable in Exeter, were ye not? JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Ay. TIM RIDDLE And you will be back among the pushers to Exeter then. JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY Oh, and I will be at the front of the pushers, policing my fellow Englishmen back to district, as was my wont at home. Oh, now, if this is my duty again, sign me up, and God save the foundation! DICK CIVIC And I might be a legal spy, among the Englands, with no threat of the interminable? AMERICAN RECRUITER If we end this conversation, and you all sign, there is no more interminable thing on earth that has ended. DICK CIVIC I see your meaning hidden plain. Sign me up too, Johnathan. TIM RIDDLE Ay, me too. I cannot mark to write, whether I will or no, so mark me-- I am as loyally suspect as either of you two! ALL: God save the King! [They sign.]
[At General Howe's Long Island Headquarters. The three man troop escort in this scene are the same three new recruits from previous scene.] PRESCOTT At Bunker Hill and Breed's demoralizing debacle we showed his highness' ass-men something of our toughness. FRANKLIN But we were defeated! ADAMS I'd sell them a thousand such hills, such defeats, if they paid such a price for each overweening tiptop. PRESCOTT We wouldn't crouch and scat at the first smacking. FRANKLIN Indeed. We hissed a something spectacular from the advantage of our barricades. While we held them. ADAMS And now we are off to the foul Howe dispatched by the snatching patch-work of Congress ambastardored to sew our mini-victories into this truce-rag of defeat. We come to combine our bilious biles in one puke of peace, nothing more. It's foul, I say. FRANKLIN Then be the watchdog, Adams, and, if things issue foully, lick back up such peace to its initial indigestion. ADAMS If I must, I shall. FRANKLIN Tom Paine put a pretty piece of the populace behind our designs with his invective. PRESCOTT My brother signed up the moment he finished his first read-through of Tom's lopsided Common Sense. ADAMS I have offered my corrections to his ill-digested ideas as Publius Civis; there's no way we can live with his spastic democratic demands. PRESCOTT And yet, without him, we'd be almost armyless. I can't tell you the crowd of talk his pamphlet shouted out of hiding. FRANKLIN And such a groundswell re-geared the keel of our Continential Congress, Adams. You know it. The July Fourth resolution for independence would never have passed without that tippling inch of doing pressure undoing our tentative members' insecurities. ADAMS Yes, yes. The man's a genius demagogue; I'm just glad he's on our side. FRANKLIN And now we have a real war on our hands. PRESCOTT Speaking of which, I don't like the way our sullen Sullivan came limping back captured from our host Howe's enemy camp so fat and feted, legging it to Philly all hot and ready to pant a peace and plant upon our honors a king's kiss. FRANKLIN We're well to walk here warily, inching our steps. It's certain no compelling king, in his habit of command, ever gave his executing general his full mind since time and kings began. ADAMS You step into my argument like a trace-horse, Franklin, and make my meaning race at double-speed. Let's circuit our commission to its finishing here and now and decide against Howe's howsoever persuasions before he licks us nickering to a different ribbon. To whatever he says, we'll be Yankee stags, and bray all nays. PRESCOTT Yea, I say, if ye'll have me stamping after your quick fetlocks, Mr. Adams. FRANKLIN Too fast, too fast! My coursers, discourse! Often has a score of words done more good than blood. [Inside Howe's Headquarters, as a servent lets the Americans in.] HOWE Bunker Hill was not worth the blood that muddied it, all with sour redcoats harshly sauced. We're alone on a continent of able axes anxious to hack at us. Our detatched detatchment runs too ruinous a progress against the tartness of their muskets' invective; force of arms, so detatched, is too gruesome a prospect to assure our royal appetite's respite. Where's dinner? These cordial colonials who served us comeuppance in the cups of our own heads are coming mustered now to my marooned house in strategic Long Island, stepping to the drum-tap I command. With a swelled sweetness will I greet them, and with honeyed words defeat them. There's enough lush fat in this America to go round! Take the damned lamb off its twisting spit at once, Pierre! We'll throw these rough-housing, somber blue boys a tax break and mate them back to the hungry bum of our loving monarch: a king's kiss! God save the king! [HOWE toasts. Party enters.] FRANKLIN We had some difficulty in finding you. HOWE Old grievances are like old shoes and make every new step painful. ADAMS We'd gladly give you the royal boot so you would only be forced to paddle back to England, and not march on to war. HOWE Your tongue's too sharp-- upon my soul! ADAMS Do not make it slash practice upon your heart or you shall bleed for it. HOWE Come, let's to dinner, and bury our hatchets in some four-footed meat. This Paine of yours, with his Common Sense, prates like another Pericles, but instead of honorable union with his King, his tears and tearing protestations rip a fetidness from fertile fields and from the bludgeoned dead of cold Concord draws out in dark and dusk the musky fungus Discord, and lets set florescing the million attendant lichens of intolerable Democracy. Surely such a scheme set rotting in so pure and wide a garden as America is anathema to gentlemen such as yourself. ADAMS Democracy's a mob in a garish coat of laws so patched and pinched with imperfections the crazy wind of Anarchy will chill its wearer to the bone. HOWE There's the fellow! FRANKLIN Not all of us are of a color to tinge our constitutional formulation to his solution. HOWE There's the fellow! So, know from me that the King shall all his purse of taxes pour back out upon these shifting shores and leave to the discretion of yourselves all nattering money matters in the future. PRESCOTT So Sullivan said, who jogged to jar all our apprehensions with your words. HOWE If Parliament permits, of all this I can assure you. FRANKLIN That smacks of a start. ADAMS If the King is willing to resign in principle his sovereign right to tax without consent.... HOWE In principle? Never; how could he lose those rights that God and all law's precepts align to grant him? But he shall relent in the unspecified interregnum and let your novus ordo seclorum play alone along these shores' as-yet-untested serrations. FRANKLIN Let's taste more. HOWE Here's another slice: but re-swear your royal loyalties to crown and England as we down this swish of wine-- and all the rebels shall stand with a pealing repeal of soveraign pardon upon their clamoring crimes. ADAMS Come you here with the power to pardon? So you may say. But you are wrong. You have not that power. He who can pardon can only pardon one who has by erupting interruption of some hallowed right done some wasteful wrong. Since we did give no such offense your presumptive pardon lacks its puissance. HOWE Not swear back again to the King? How then could you be his loyal subjects? How then could the fraternal breach be healed? What other budding buss should be our business if not that? ADAMS And should we swear our allegiances to this King and against our sacred Liberties? I think that each man-jack among us would rather die today and be free. FRANKLIN Our enduring liberty is to live and be self-deciding, self-governing, and free. HOWE The King himself is now more royally aware of all your colonial gripes and groanings; should he now go deaf to them? But trust his majesty! He feels your pain. ADAMS Should the mugged man trust the cut-purse? One who then, to palliate the offense promises to pardon those he has offended? Only the drug-addict and his pusher continue in mutual love when all basis for trust is cut. I'm not so high on the purled word Sovereignty to muster up my trust for absent kings absent the gravest assurances. HOWE Grave assurances shall we all have in eternity if we four cannot conduct a living peace to this entreating table tonight. FRANKLIN Yet you yourself declared your guarentees provisional to Parliament's approbation. HOWE How could it be otherwise? I own not a man of them. They are free to vote their conciences before the King. FRANKLIN You see my point then. ADAMS They vote freely, and with free voices, while we are bound in a virtual reality. HOWE But they shall approve at home what I do say in the field; I know it. I know they will. I have the King's consent in this, and his voice shall over-master their static, if they profess any. ADAMS One voice is no voice if it rules others to silence, but is itself rather a sort of pestilent silence, choking all. HOWE But the King is the State. FRANKLIN If that state is a desert. HOWE I am a man of worth, and a worthy gentleman; my voice will float upon the controversy of these waters and oil to a calmness the place of Parliament-- My voice and impress shall not there be ignored. Mercy or annihilation is mine to procure. ADAMS And yet, you have no power to say the last. HOWE Dash it! I am an honorable gentleman! And that is enough; or else there is no England for you to spurn or rejoin. PRESCOTT Any who would consent to these bribing bids loves not himself, and deserves not his Liberty. HOWE Let your rebellious feet leave my premises and walk alienate from soveriegn sod forevermore if you are all of a mind to decline this overture. ADAMS My Liberty is not so cheap as your threats. FRANKLIN Nor is mine available at the price of your promises. HOWE [To an aide-de-camp.] I hereby proclaim a general amnesty to all American troops; post it on every tree. Any who would come in to us, bring in, and in they shall dart, back to the royal right; oh they'll come, and at a run, to the fraternity they had so unbrotherly abandoned. And you shall all be hung on the yardarm like damned pirates, without so much dignity as a peasant who expires in the dirt. Get out. ADAMS Come. We'll pull ourselves away. [They exit.] PRESCOTT Howe's amnesty could scuttle all our hopes, and leave us with not a man at the yawning gunwales of our ship of state. FRANKLIN Ought we to have been so obdurate, Adams? Perhaps our perversities will scurvy us on these ominous high seas of independency. ADAMS Our fruits at least shall be of our own growing and not vined tentacle-like from glum London's emcumbering Parliamentary hothouse garden. FRANKLIN We'll go forward then, and not froward. PRESCOTT Damned be any backward hand now.
[By a campfire.] PAINE I sit here, in seared hearing of this bleak defeat of stormed Fort Washington across the bleary Hudson, tapping out my day's thoughts atop a resting drumhead with my slim measure of ink and brain. There's England, arterially red, pulsing well against our held position, crashing in on our cornered troops. Gate's smashed; the flimsey picket fence is overrun with stumblers and others. My ambling hands stain with this useless soot of words while those patriots gore the earth with blood. Did certain sniping words of mine send out certain men the English shot? I've nibbed my quiet quill to loud killing, and redden my shameful papers with unlucky deaths, haphazard as a rash of dotted i's. Its what I wanted, non? And yet: to win is all. To half-carry our half-escape hunchbacked into raw dawn and not to win by our hard-bearing turtle-crawl I count a sin against myself that I cannot grave in any shape of peace. We must win. We must. How to do it, though? That's the fucking crux--- and my dreams all harshly in my lumpen throat cry me quiet until I wake unworlded, and quite wordless. How much harder will it be for us to win free? I follow my boyhood dream of liberty like a beir from funeral to funeral.... How long til it's my own? Our boys tumble in the grass with graceless playlessness and speed toward the imagined safety of the dark. We haven't the boats to nip across the uneven Hudson and tuck our losing men back into New Jersey's nighttime. As thin and blue a line as my retreating vein scatters from the hazard of the onslaught, a blood splotch of advancing redcoats; all green's blotched black in the firelight's withering fritter of light. Tiny legs, tiny arms, tiny, silent screams that only roar back awake in my rearing dreams. What deserveless death is coming to those humble ones? All the hard hopes I had stitched together in a gale to reach these unimpeachably peachy shores are forced apart oh so easily in the deadly breeze. I watch these snows thunder silence upon the dead. [A BOY enters.] BOY Sir, Genr'l Washington's requestin' your presence respectf'lly next time he hits a camp in the sticks. PAINE That'll be Hackensack or some such. Danke, boy. BOY Danke? What's that? PAINE German for "Thank You." Something to say when the Hessians overrun our frail position, our wickedly thin picketline of foundling blood. Not your own, I hope, of course. BOY Nor you neither, sir. [Pause.] With respect, sir.... PAINE [Thinking.] Yes? You still here? What is it? BOY Am I dismissed, sir? I think I gotta drum retreat. PAINE Hmm. Yes. [Hands BOY the drum.] Scat!
[At WASHINGTON's tent.] PAINE Today I shall wowingly reimagine my swatted world and its crookedly connived constitution with truth's force; divinity, with a little human imagination, can get the job done. These are the times.... I shall orate an augerful of frothing truth and not swallow back a word while I live! This dirty tent, thrashed in the back-sizzle of new hail, tied frozen down in these grimy woods, here's a place to lay sweet newness on the earth, inaugurate a heart to the swift weird will of one, here's a place, an altar of activity to actively announce my grown-tough truth, a fabled place, perhaps, where future disaster or glory laps at circumstance and sheer human will overturns all the tides that meet! Ha ha! I in my mock coracle-cockle will toss the turbulence in my humanly mouthed direction on towards perfection, and not drop dropsey-sick into the old worm trails that so lovingly lattice the past with irking defeats, the benighted unlightedness of my predecessors. What have they ever lived to light their way to besides death and the present tyranny? This present tyranny and trumpeting injustice that makes me curl curdled against it and call to the remote sky: I must! I must! Can Justice exist when all are not free to imagine it into some hammered shape of perfection? Come rain, come storm, come snow, withering blizzard or puffing drift, I see the forecasted crests' shapes and do not spurn my own straightness of purpose! I'll knock at the tent-- and may that tent let me enter! [Crowing:] I've come! I've come! I've come! WASHINGTON [Waking up.] In God's name, who the hell is that!?!! PAINE Tis I, in the blaming name of no God but my own: Thomas Paine. I was sent for, and adjudged the cause, and, having backhanded the winter that would stop me, I have arrived. WASHINGTON Out of the rocks themselves, it would seem. PAINE Out of the furious snow storm, certainly. WASHINGTON Sir, you have arrived with the chill swiftness of a ghost swirled from the white nightmares of my dead sleep. Even this midnight entrance brings my writhing mind to the one thing, one problem constant as a drumbeat: desertion. My ranks are as thin as Franklin's pate and as hungry as if he had sucked up all their suppers. General Hamilton corralled his men on Boston Commons and harangued them in a shaming speech to ask 'em if they'd extend their rebel enlistments by a stretch of even four days forward from the new year nearly here, and not one in four stepped forward. A general amnesty now would unman us down to zero. I thank the Deity that Howe had lied to Adams and them on Long Island; our cause could not survive his generosity today. This is our first hard year of winter, man, and is like to be our last. Our cause in bloody abortion stands, and the restless snows are cherried with our deaths. Exhaustion cannot rest, but churns on harrassing dreams even in ditched sleep. We cannot win. We must not lose. What brave words do you bring to one so confused? PAINE That liberty is no ghost, genr'l, but our only reality; as alive as the men and women that imagine it. WASHINGTON As fiery as your pamphlets, Paine. I wonder, are you as soon burnt when tossed into the crossways rash heat of war's crucifying fire? PAINE The test! The test! My tongue itself's a flame and my heart smoulders knowingly enough aghast against cold England's distant injustice, heart-pressed by the eager evil of those Tory lords to our honest American breasts, jammed by that pampered tyrant rattle-ranting from his damned castle to pull our pitch of mutual coalition back into the spastic Atlantic. WASHINGTON This damned seige of defeat has the men down and near drowned. They won't take it, and it's hit them hard in the balls, by God. PAINE Self-slavery will hit them harder. WASHINGTON Well, if the troops could be fed upon long letters, I would believe we have the best commissary on earth. Until that time.... PAINE If they live long enough to take their ease after a beating defeat by the Despot (those who don't go hanged, or bang-banged by a squad), they will live to sire enslaved great-grandsons on an English fiefdom, a Parliamentary playground carouselling their dear ideals into bright, shining lies. They'll mint their new mine of liberties to cuffs and not coins of free exchange for their inheritors. WASHINGTON It's hard watching your soldiers starve. Nursed in the pilgrim night by three generations' crazy liberation, I don't think they're ready to back out blackened in the eye and soul by imperial men. PAINE I'd hope no man so backward and willful against his own golden chance. This hour'll not come round again in our winding down, Washington. This glad hour must be held aloud and told on every wind or die soundless as a tear in a velvet coffin. WASHINGTON Still have to shoot 'em if they go south on you, can't have commiseration turn to dissolution, shoot 'em in the back if they won't turn round and take it; damned hard to take, giving out the orders for that, and their own blood frozen on their broken feet, swaddled in scraps, feet looking like bloody babies, both the feet of them that get shot, and those that do the shootin'. Nothing good in any of it. Can't even bury the ones you shoot, really, pile ice over the snow, call any whiteness sticking up ice and hope you're not in the same place same situation come spring. There was one we near buried just today, how young was his soft-seeming face turned brutal-hard. I looked down at him, the neutral shovel splashed the lime like powdered light upon him, down on his face, down his shoulders, and on down. Little hope and great heartache. And the Brits sit in fine fettle, fat Hessians eating Christmas goose and other potables denied us in this war. Stings, hurts; too tough to tell of, even to speak a word, in some ways. War's not for honor. Little accomplishment, vain days blizzarded against us. No gentleness left in nature or ourselves.... PAINE No gentleness.... WASHINGTON So, you're the demented Brit who gloveless shoved the demos-rabble toeward towards sabre-rattling self- emancipation. So, what do you think of the present situation? PAINE My divine mind, in uncluttered creation of itself, followed out the currents of the current, royal knot and proceeded by hard thought to daringly undo each weave-waver of the fiber that I could back to the looming first pluck and spool of their dreaded threads, the initial conditions that made tyranny the inextricable inexorable tangle of that spun thread's outcome; primary causes and first principles alone I allowed my by-myself mind to trace, fingeringly unravel and sinlessly unstitch. Let us begin as I myself had started: since the king is as cipher-zero without his thousands of subjects (and since my ton of words is a weightless nullness in his Highness' lead-adapted ear, a nothing of disgruntlement) I interviewed those who knew of their self-soveriegnty. And in this I came to the native wildness of individual Liberty, the unsold self we each reach into the create a god or nod to a soveriegn, or rebellingly unleash a quicksilver rain of disdain on these things that had kited over us in the temporary high-wind of our self-ignorance! The clowning crown has clasped these freedoms to crow a know-nothingness of impressive feats and feasts and dangling fates down the echo-alleyway of tin-eared history: here a man is pinned to a rickety stick on Golgotha, there a Spartacus rises whip-angry against a reviled slaver's salveless hand. In the caved-in carved tomb of our own commonwealth there is glorious evidence and incident enough to black the tides with ink of their telling. But these secret histories of freedom's shouts I'll not relate beneath your tent tonight. To those others who knew it not, I reminded them that they are born free and only sell themselves into the ruined pool of subjugation by their actions: the daily prayers to resign their wills to a blank diety, the dread repeat of illegal laws obeyed, and not examined, like a stupid boy camp-following a dumb drum for its deaf, mesmerizing beat, and not because he knows the red fields of timeless agony he's entering. By these simple repetitions a life is lived--- and if it makes me spit my charming heart like a ravaged, bloody flag upon the nation-stick of my invective pen... well, then, that's the least I could do, moved to make a human sound at all I see and feel. WASHINGTON You know, don't you, that I never toasted "King and Country" after I had read your damnable scribble? PAINE A sound decision. Redounds unbounded to your inevitable credit as a freethinker, Genr'l. WASHINGTON Oh, things redound to me from all directions, Mr. Paine. Hundreds of things come cannon-balling my way daily. It's a fell acre of hell out there. Fell indeed. PAINE Your Americans need you, Washington. WASHINGTON My Americans! Fuck, I need a drink. The rum, Tom. To splash my unbelieving eyes with horrored sights and tear out my clear hearing with death-sighs seems this war's only purpose. I swear this retreat eats out our hearts before the Brits can shoot them out of our chest, via the spine. To all tyrants' demise! [They drink.] PAINE Tyrant and subject, master and slave.... WASHINGTON Master and slave are the old world's vaunted divisions. PAINE A vision of divisivness! Old blind-maid Fate! Such a damned dumb mummery, an antique peep show unfit for the finer feelings of mankind. Why would I rape my innocent innards simply to be declared, by my own owned slave, the winner? WASHINGTON A thin satisfaction for an enslaved brain, I agree. PAINE Where's the meat for a heaving heart in that withered domninion? WASHINGTON I don't know. I don't know. It seems an unreal disease to me, a Macbeth infliction, going to bed on empty ambitions to awake in nightmare. Its a dirty world, and Hackensack is the center of it. Now it seems, at least. But you are a fine man with a pen, Paine. You're Common Sense united a nation, named it, gave it a sense of itself, etc., etc. Can you turn the trick again on my demoralized boys? They'd like a vigorous victory, a proud hour upon the field of honor, but if we took on England full force to force in coercing battle, we'd be down and out in a minute, bayonetted embarrasingly back to colonial status. This retreat through New Jersey has been a heartbreak to every barefoot dogface shivering with us. PAINE I'd love to, but I'm plumb out of rum. WASHINGTON [Opening a trunk, pulling out a bottle of rum.] Sit your cockney ass down and have a few; we'll warm the warning ink over the fire here. PAINE I always keep a juicy pouch in my crotch-pocket; if it freezes down there, I'd just as soon snap off my whole career as a pen-man, monseuier. WASHINGTON Have another. PAINE To the survival of the ideal in the real. WASHINGTON What can we do for each other but get dunking drunk? PAINE Fabius, baby, the best of life is but inebriation. WASHINGTON You know, don't you, that after I read Common Sense I could no longer toast 'Long live the King?' PAINE Go to bed, Washington, go to bed. Your head's in a rum sack, and my heart's far too tense-excited to beat asleep now anyway. I'll write, I'll write, and give these fragments of a dream hard words. Let no tyrant sleep tonight but that some oppressed slave goes by his bed breathing nightmares upon his naked neck. Open wide your restless eye, for I shall be a scampering Scavola, I swear, with a rib-tickler of heart-stopping razor words. [Pause.] WASHINGTON [Dead drunk.] I'm going to bed. PAINE [Also drunk.] Master and slave, master and slave, what ideals are these that I, I Tom Paine, give my rewinding, revolutionary mind a flickering minute's undecided pause? Oh, I'll do it as an exercise for my right mind, to think on the world as I wouldn't want it, as it really is without our devout success: all sliced into that dicotomy of master and slave, saved and burned, trashed and polished, sweet and sour... heh heh. That'll clear my brain for the real theme free selves, even stuffed in slave-skins, tragic masks of forced labor wearing gulag scalplocks, get crucified on the high wire of history for: Liberty. If I were a wailing slave, a murderer and a bum, what would my outlook look like? I'd sing: I trod to prison on burning feet Accompanied both before and back By squadroned angels in heaven's black Receding into the abject divine; They ferry souls upon their backs; I was trussed against the horizon's line But had no captors I that could see But my squad of angels to accompany me. I am John Brown and will not come down; Cold murder of the one or the all. Spartacus defied when hard men called And deified more angels than God. My hands were bound in threads of blood; I struggled against harsh cordage once And was blinded by a golden hood. My guilt has come and gone many times As I recalled or forgot my crimes,--- Yet all about me I feel the wings Of my locust angels on everything. The Executioner flips his lash In mockery of innocence: Irrational murder has made him One with the common tide Raising his spade with the bladed wave That falls to his own side; By every blue, angelic face he may erase, By every thought he kills, he's less. I am dead but still can chant All a passing artist's passions out: Interior echo of the outward shout. Spartacus defied when hard men called And crucified more angels than God. Are my grim limbs, hanging inverted here, Above the midnight chrurchyard's grave Above all that ghostly-priestly rant and rave All exalted sacrifice has won All ecstatic triumph has known? All scatters backwards madness-chased Into a rolling blizzard-ball; Insect angels surround my ground And their wailing wings buzz-sing: Whore or chaste, the world's laid waste Come kill the one or the All. These are the times.... [PAINE begins writing.]
[At the tent the next morning.] WASHINGTON In God's name, Paine, get your fucking ass out of bed! [WASHINGTON kicks PAINE in the head.] PAINE In God's name, never. On my own account, well, I'm still too curious to see how the sun goes round to not get up. I suppose. WASHINGTON Hmm. That was one fuck of a twister we had on ourselves last night. Hmm. Got your damned words? PAINE Yes, yes. They're all here. I'll need a windless spot where I can be tender with the stiff sheets, though, the midnight ink froze on the pages before it could dry right. WASHINGTON Stand in the shadow of my horse's ass. That should almost be cover enough. The men are trembling assembled in the field outside. God, what a poxy lot! Yet I need more of their innocent number if we're to remain free in theory, and grasping after the fact. Wipe your sandy eyes and read, Tom. PAINE [Reading.]
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his
country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks
of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have
this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious
the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly: ‘Tis dearness
only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price
upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as
Freedom should not be highly rated.”
TROOPS [Singing, sort of.] Rum and water for old Tom Paine, With rum and water he'll save our ass again; The angels he'll entreat To parliament and debate--- Convinced they don't exist, They'll dissipate for shame!! PAINE I am a glorious boy and spiral where I will, giving ground to none on history's high dunghill.
[Seven years later. PAINE and WASHINGTON are on a small skiff at Rocky Hill, testing the waters there for marsh gas.] PAINE Fart in the jar, George. WASHINGTON Thomas, hand me the fucking wine. PAINE We only have champaign; you know that. [There is a loud, resounding sound.] WASHINGTON This patriotic celebration is costing us a fortune. PAINE [Hurrying, knocking WASHINGTON out of the way.] Cap it! Cap it! We'll have to seal this with wax as soon as we paddle back, duck and stroke home to test the gas' composition and capacity. WASHINGTON Yes, Tom, yes. By all means, immortalize my farts. PAINE Ah, George, can you really believe its all over? WASHINGTON Oh, I can. I can. PAINE What's next then for our interminable freedoms, our unfinished zip to achieve and be? What new-foliaged laurel shall we yearn to pursue, where will our dragonfly likes alight? What driven-down or under-rated item shall we ressurrect to its original worth and virtue as we have the Roman Civitas regained, regained and raised to a serious, religious, real and human highness? WASHINGTON Good God, Tom, do you really need a cause beyond the simple one of peace? Look around-- our continent and countrymen are at liberty; we do as we choose in loose co-mutuality. Ain't that enough to subdue your rough wishes and manicness? I could live a thousand years on a simple acre. And if we keep this acre free, I shall. PAINE My future includes a rupture of the ancien regime and a spectacularly faceted new Republic for France. WASHINGTON I've heard of the stacatto of disturbances from over there. You'll have to be quick. PAINE They themselves have seen our experiment go aright. They themselves have helped it come to be. WASHINGTON Their country's perhaps high-tide high enough to try. PAINE They elevate the meaningful mind to a fair height. WASHINGTON I believe they might marshall a martial example from the flying bayonet involvement thay had here. PAINE Layfette and his flueur-de-lis lisp took some narcotic quench of our opiate trip and trapses to try his new tropes against the Paris galleries' rope. WASHINGTON Salons and sinister men. Old guard Admirals fin the dry land like sharks there, Tom. You be careful. PAINE If I take my naked innocence with me who can denude it? I'll add my optimistically throated note to their plangent Plantagenet choir. We'll uncrown a king and set a fresh French 'mister' on his feet. WASHINGTON Nothing like seeing how unhinged reality really is to buck up those with a new good thing to begin to believe in. PAINE Amen. [Pause.] And I've an iron bridge design I'd like to place across the commercial twirl of a swinish seine over there. Someone may buy into it. WASHINGTON I wish you well with your ungovernable, fanatic fondness for newfangledness. Harness it as best ye may. PAINE I shall. I think each day somehow has a new, untried trueness in store for me, if I can but strike an aim at its burning center, release myself, and fly fast enough to the alarming target. WASHINGTON Perhaps your iron bridge will arrow you there. Good thing we weren't trying to unrivet one of those things as we retreated from the British! We might've lost the war if your ingenuity had quicker tempo, Tom. PAINE Some new solution for it dissolution would've come to dismantling hand at the time. Of that I haven't the slightest doubt. WASHINGTON Neither the Continental Congress, nor any private subscription among the victors in this contest has been ferreted to light to fund you Tom or underwrite out of sheer gratitude your existence. PAINE It figures. Just as well I'm on my way then. In fact, I might construe my dear adieus as overdue. WASHINGTON This ingratitude of an entire nation, and that nation my own, and yours, the nation we invented.... well, it shames me deeply, and I am weak against the shame, dear man. PAINE I gave every penny-ounce of my thousands of pounds earned by my copyrights of Common Sense and the Crisis Papers to buy wool mittens and good socks for our soldiers. I don't regret that for a second. WASHINGTON You gave the cause all. And now they'll let you starve. It sheds a low dishonor upon our high enterprise. PAINE History and latter ages will whip 'em with it. Ingratitude's a monster. And folks love a good monster-show. WASHINGTON If I catch 'em first, I'll tan their asses and pick their clicked wallets to the last centavo. By my word, Tom, I will. PAINE We'll spat first. After all, I'm a real bastard, don't forget. WASHINGTON I will never forget you. [Pause.] PAINE Here I sway, myself a slender reed near under, assailed by restless visions, atop my mass of swamp and lurching as much as any church from my crow's nest tip of tippling star-farsightedness; yet out my mechanical uncertainty I'll fix up a metronome of reform and dance its spectacular minuet until all the thin paper-writ music is trashed to my stamping, and then revives, recomposed as ashes! Beyond this midnight miasma, past the trinking taunts of revellers drunk in their assumptions or dear friends ready to measure their coffin-acre of sweet peace and lie quiet down until (all egregious through torn lips) their skeleton-smiles appear, I see a certain city arise, arise and assert itself in the indefinate halo of a final outline amidst this subtle shower of soft-starring sparks. Amongst the plush pastures of memory, and still here in this present dark of work and hope I see a filiment-winsome construct of pure light arise and flicker about me over the sussurations of these reeds. O barbarous clearness in this evening's dark! I see great cities of new men and new women, full of free sex, free life, kindnesses, harlots and cymbals! But of their dancing souls they have made no whores; hazeless lightness and two million souls alight and free.... When morning's blue minute ticks over me, her hands fallen gently upon my upward dreaming face, her few, revolutionary rays tempt me from the haze, her igniting light reviving the shapes of angels in sculptured flight, cracked as this faint lake in the river, whose soft sounds fall lonely and proud on ears so attuned to softness, they seem of stone. Tonight, the Alleghanies sharpen our idea of the sky, and each unknown height we arise to lifts our expectations higher than ever the simple fickle breeze allowed. What pealing vistas now sound me out from core to pore, each real thing I see sprouts me new inward eyes to view the renewing of my own blue-black soul! Tonight, newborn and pure, there are angels in my heart's moist architecture. Hyped on the hypnotic caliber of my ressurrected senses' insistence to feel and be free, I spot about and find myself the solo founding clown of this: the uninheritable! A dynasty of wishes, with each free man or woman their own subaltern of want, the maker of their own aching, where the capacity to make tidal-waves above our cloud-shrouded heads unimpeded! The sea's free step mingles music with my quick swishes. I am a pounding Poseidon commanding nothing but the high wet wailing of my own hard-held heart, a thing never suspected before in history! Now, and for the first time (ever!) we arise aroused--- unknown music vibrates in booming theaters of real sound; our bones flare out in trumpet-expectation. Shall we squeal revealed, and arise in no reprise, but first and then forever, born unchristened and new? Hopes dome a billion glass minarets of spinaretted thinking. My tongue injects the sky; each soveriegn tongue carols its own beloved self-knowingness into new skies, each cry an alternate universe electrified to life! We walk amazed, with new muds upon us, of new births, new daring, new enterprise, new eyes staring to new noons; forever unsettled in our wish to wish again. WASHINGTON Ah, yes, yes, Tom, how could any world deny you her churn of womb as genesis-crucible for such fierce dreaming? I pray I don't see this infernal globe decompose to such an eviscerate, infertile dryness, friend. A few brief, blind sighs bind us to this life; and oh if those sighs moaned out all meaningless, how could I even in this accident be reconciled to live? My eyes take leave of their dryness once again; I'll baptismal your departing hope with their wet graces. And now you transfigure each dark thing with such a harnassed wash of wanting, Tom. The light, the light! I am diamond-shot with stardust. Only our awkward continent's tough, abrupt newness can shove above the watermark as mountain enough for the discovering blues of your high-stepping eye. I myself love the unlevelled tripping of your whim. I myself feel somewhat more guyed and bouyed toward the honeyed fire-frets and fangles of the sky than I had been before in my drowsy daze of peace. Yet still, I think, I'll stay here, and if your iron bridge steps you to a wider France where armed Liberty in her brightened gown contests Champagne plains with Kings, and her blooming bubbles are all of vilest violet blown from bleeding mouths, as restless then as my self-imposed repose shall then become, still I'll stay here and endure an unmourning peace, nor moult a doublet of fresh eagle feathers for my mounting spirit but stay here by my doughty rounded hill and look up at our old stars in dewy-new happiness still. PAINE Let us harnass our unmarked stars tonight and rip the quiescent swamp with light, as we've made this empty outlined nation take our chosen colors of the limitless. WASHINGTON Torches aloft! [They raise their rasping torches on the quiet set.] PAINE Liberty Tree, o Liberty Tree What ye are ye know well, but oh, What ye mean to be! Listen, flusterless swans of the swamp! Oh hear the tale, hear! Never was one so drear, Of how all the tyrranical powers, Kings, Commons, Lords and sours, United on the hour And at one stroke Had thought to choke Our Liberty Tree, our Liberty Tree. But then, and then, hee hee! From North to South Called the trumpet's mouth And when we'd gathered With ourselves in a lather We united on the hour With all of our power And far and near Conjoined at a cheer In defense of our Liberty Tree! WASHINGTON You do make the worst ditties, Tommy. PAINE [Picking a fight.] Take your teeth out and say that! WASHINGTON If I take my teeth out now, it'll be to keep myself from biting your fool head off. PAINE [Shrugs.] The marshlights are coming up in a uniform blue to the left there. See ye? WASHINGTON I see. A soft spot of color on the eye. PAINE Let us conclude the experiment. WASHINGTON We heave ourselves beyond experience with this! [They throw their torches in high arcs that fall in a swale of light into the soon-blooming swamp. The swamp catches fire.] PAINE Everything is illumination in God's suspiring fire.
===FIND THE ORIGINAL LINE!!=== WASH speaks of death-fears. Paine replys: These irrational itchings are as nothing to my sainted clarity; my clear cerebration shall not scab its supple greys with superstition. PAINE Like Pericles, I shall not perish from my time but live on, an ever-ringing voice of high snap, regular to the regular folks, a jolt to those nuzzle-nursed on the old fogy ideas dead-past, accepted ways batted into raw heads and kept out of tired habit and petty custom for the sake of that nappy slap-happy pontifex, Farce. Today I shall wowingly reimagine my swatted world and its crookedly connived constitution with truth's force; divinity, with a little human imagination, can get the job done. I shall dance to my own tough and jangled, mangling jingle, ice skate over the void, here in the sweet salt aftermath of creation, my own, the sweated spray every individual makes and spades from torpor, his own mossy square acre of oceanic freedom. Only Poseidon, of the old gods, stood by Prometheus as I recall, the welter salt spray of water okaying the backdraft spread of the englightened flame; he saw their realms as mutually imperishable, no doubt, the flounce and rash flash of flame no threat to the underwater underworld wavery haze-vision of Neptune's misted mirth, the roly-poly water god girdled in frowning sea-coral fronds and crowned with a spiked squid petrified by the old wet man's honor in choosing it from his wonderous habidashery. Ai! Electric eels squeeled in dry delight at Prometheus, friend of the free-- they, whose dear god took every shape and sweated ecstatic up to heaven to weep back down in the ramming rain. I am wild lightning in those black swells, and a fire on the highlands of this first and best time of men! These are the times.... I shall orate an augerful of frothing truth and not swallow back a word while I live! This dirty tent, thrashed in the back-sizzle of new hail, tied frozen down in these grimy woods, here's a place to lay sweet newness on the earth, inaugurate a heart to the swift weird will of one, here's a place, an altar of activity to actively announce my grown tough truth, a fabled place, perhaps, where future disaster or glory laps at circumstance and sheer human will overturns all the tides that meet! Ha ha! I in my mock coracle-cockle will toss the turbulence in my humanly mouthed direction on towards perfection, and not drop dropsey-sick into the old worm trails that so lovingly lattice the past with irking defeats, the benighted unlightedness of my predecessors. What have they ever lived to light their way to besides death and the present tyranny? This present tyranny and trumpeting injustice that makes me curl curdled against it and call to the remote sky: I must! I must! Can Justice exist when all are not free to imagine it into some hammered shape of perfection? Come rain, come storm, come snow, withering blizzrd or puffing drift, I see the forecasted crests' shapes and do not spurn my own straightness of purpose! I'll knock at the tent-- and may that tent let me enter! [Crowing:] I've come! I've come! I've come! FROM SCENE TWO If an upright fellow speaks low, why the poor word's discredited and given some high sheen of his moral height and more sober quality, against the insistence of its syllable; and if a man, a base, a twisted, a poor and lunatic soul to whom the phasing moon is monitor and mirror of his unsteady moods and inconstant thoughts, backlighting the weird proceedings of his strange eye turned blank inward on a sick imagination, if such a man, a vile, distemperate wretch should speak in clear ululation, as even the reckoning of God on his last Judgement Day (when all is overtaken by his mystery of mercy) would have all men speak, in accents to shame the angels with his bright crystal syllables and sweet tricks, why then the very heavens themselves take a taint, a very palpable taint, from his silent loud-spoken bastardry. His very perfidy will roar him down, though he sing a hummingbird to stillness. No matter how clean, no matter how absent of evil go his words to their intended hearts they shall inherit an afterburn all of black and burnt miming umber umbrage by his stooping use of those chosen words, and not others, those words until all that was thought fit for tender human ears is blasted, blocked, confounded, drowned in deaf tones, poured void upon the incomprehension of the world, erased from the tight mating poets crave of sound and sense. The entire penning tenor of my trial of life is to the language of its use blameless stranger in this respect, and pleads in tongues a real nearness at the docket of the hours every day, a nice binding of human man and mouth-motion which no other ordination I know of so obdurately requires.