Microphone Plays‎ > ‎


The Columbia Workshop


Jun 22 1941


PILOT, our narrator




LEM, New England

MANNY, New England

MAN, with Southern accent

ATTENDANT, with Noo Yawk accent

BOY, Oklahoma

GIRL, Oklahoma





NICK, Italian

STEWART, drunk





WOMAN, unserious

OFFICER, patient

HANS, Swiss

PETER, Swiss

MUSIC. [Prelude, continuing under.]

PILOT. A day grows older only when you stand and watch it coming at you. Otherwise it is continuous. If you could keep a half degree ahead of sunup on the world's horizons, you'd see new light always breaking on some slope of ocean or some patch of land. A morning can be paced by trailing night. This we shall do: where we begin we shall return to, circling the earth meanwhile.

MUSIC. [Up full, then into Variation Number 1, continuing under.]

PILOT. We are at latitude 40° north and longitude 25° west. We will come back here at the circle's end. But now beneath us there is water, nothing else: the long Atlantic, flowing to the north: cirrus clouds resembling herringbone, high up. Along the curving fringe, ten thousand miles from top to bottom of the globe, are only islands, very far apart; some atolls in the South Atlantic, icebergs off the Sandwich archipelago. The rim of light is touching now one continent alone, of all the mainlands it will overtake today: the eastern shores of Greenland. Southwest of the Cape Verde Islands there's a thunderstorm--not much: a little rain: some grumbling from a cumulus.

[Fade in thunder after the words, "Cape Verde Islands."]

PILOT. Through it, unruffled, plows a tramp from Capetown, headed for the Caribbean. There is a hint of day to starboard, and a smudge of night to port; thunder above. The striking of the hour is expected momentarily inside the wheelroom. Meanwhile the course is west nor'west. See for yourself. 


[Fade in light wind, water, thunder M.F., and low, muffled motor of tramp steamer.

Ship's bell striking eight. Wheelhouse door open and shut--neat click of lock, and closing.]

MATE. Okay, Johnnie, I'll take over now.


MATE. You look as though you could use some shut-eye.

JOHNNIE. Hasn't been a bad stretch. Storm's not much.

MATE. Gimme some tobacco before you go, will you?

JOHNNIE. Sure, take the rest of this can. Have some more in the locker.

MATE. Thanks. What's the course?

JOHNNIE. Eleven point six by thirty-one point four. Course west nor'west, two degrees. Steady as she goes.

MATE. Right. [Yawning.] Well--I hope the old man's in a better humor than he was on my last watch. Thought he was goin' to eat the glass right outa the binnacle lamp.

JOHNNIE. [Chuckles.] Yeah, he's been on the prod for the last three days. Well, see ya later.

[Door open and shut. Fade entire background effect down and out as:

MUSIC. [In; up; and behind.]

PILOT. The tramp's a hundred miles behind us now--as quick as that; the thunder also. Now the sun's antennae reach another five degrees yet west of Greenwich. Nothing now but water south of Greenland, clear down past the humid zones of the equator, down the easy ground-swells to the barriers of ice in the Antarctic.

MUSIC. [Segue to Variation Number 2 and quicken under.]

PILOT. That dark shape coming toward us is the bulge of South America, the coastline of Brazil. Now you can smell the spices in the offshore breeze. That's Pernambuco over there; the green light 'way below us is the airport at Natal.

Now in succession come the mountain ranges, like slow-turning gears. That string of lights is Rio. The coast spreads wider, north and south, and for the first time you begin to sense this is a continent, rotating hugely toward the sun. The endless forests in the Matto Grosso, they are tipped with light; the jungle life's astir, the birds a-twitter; to the north, the great mouth of the Amazon yawns wide, the islands in it looming suddenly.

MUSIC. [Fading under.]

PILOT. Yet at this very moment day is touching on the continent of North America--the shores of Newfoundland. Fog's drifting in from the Grand Banks; we cannot see the chimneys of St. John's.

[Faint foghorn.]

PILOT. The whole Atlantic seaboard, Eastport to Key West, is still in darkness. Further down the hemisphere, light picks its way among the Lesser Antilles, spreads out down Venezuela, down the Gran Chaco, the Pampas of the Argentine--stirs sleepers in their sleep in Buenos Aires. In the Sertao of Bahia, beyond the reach of tourists and authorities, the forbidden dance of the mecumba pauses while a priestess invokes the spirit of the dawn.


[Silence for a moment after song.]

PILOT. Back further in the jungle, where the Negro River cuts a swath, the tropic black is still unbroken. [Pause.]

MUSIC. [Variation Number 3.]

PILOT. But north again, north-north, beyond the rain, the mountains, over the rooftops of Caracas, over the Indies, dawn is coming now to Hancock County, Maine. There in Penobscot Bay, a lobster fisherman rides home with light of day behind him, and a lighthouse just ahead. On his way in he meets a neighbor pulling up lobster pots.

[One-cylinder putt-putt of a small fishing boat.]

LEM. How they runnin', Manny?

MANNY. Only eight so far in two strings. Crabs mostly. They eat the danged bait till they ain't nothin' left for the lobsta.

LEM. Same with me. Guess the bottom's dryin' up, dang it.

MANNY. My old lady said she'd throw me outa the house if I di'n bring one home.

LEM. Well . . . [Motor picking up.] good luck, Manny. Hope you fill 'er to the scuppers.

MANNY. So long, Lem.

MUSIC. [Variation Number 4.]

PILOT. Even as we lingered, day has trickled down the coast, past Portland, past the rocking spars of fishing boats in Gloucester, over the dam at Lawrence, and the gas tank in Lynn; and on Shore Drive at Winthrop jogs a milkcart, going about its business on rubber tires.

[Horse hooves in. Cart stops. Footsteps on stone; footsteps upstairs; bottle clinks. Downstairs; steps on stone. Cart resumes. So does:

PILOT. And this young light which makes milk bottles pink in Winthrop, and begins to lift the land-fog from Cape Cod, also at this very moment reddens the high peak of Aconcagua in the Andes of the Argentine--the highest peak in all the ranging hemisphere.

MUSIC. [Variation Number 5 begins under the words, "land-fog from Cape Cod."]

PILOT. It washes over narrow Chile, too, and skips across the triple mountain ranges of Peru, to gleam at last from breakers on the long Pacific shore.

Cape Horn and Sandy Hook are tinctured now; Magellan's windy straits, Columbus' San Salvador, and Henry Hudson's river all are lighted by the same oncoming dawn. The highest mountain and the highest building meet the morning in the same hushed moment. Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan is awash with prophecy of day. A little north by east of where the Empire State is, underground at Madison and Fifty-third, a stranger in Manhattan tries to find his way. 

[Slight echo in for hollow sound of empty subway at night. Footsteps descending metal-stripped stairs; train up and out of station well in background. Click of coin.]

MAN. [Heavy Southern accent.] Change, please.

Several coins slid along counter.

MAN. Can y'all tell me whut train Ah take for the George Washington Bridge?

ATTENDANT. Lessee. . . . Go down to the first level. Take any train. If it's an F train, get off at the next stop, Fiftieth and Sixth Avenoo . . .

MAN. Look, Mister, I want to go uptown!

ATTENDANT. Yeah, Mac, but these trains all happen to go downtown, so you hafta change. So get off at Fiftieth and Sixth Avenoo an' then cross over to the uptown side. Then take a train marked D an' get off at Columbus Soicle--Fifty-ninth Street. Then wait fer an A train on the same track, an' that'll take ya right to the bridge at 179th Street.

MAN. [Rehearsing.] Change at Fiftieth and Sixth Avenue--take a train marked D to Columbus Circle--an' then what?

ATTENDANT. Then the A train to 179th.

MAN. Oh yes, A to 179th Street. Thank yuh, Mister.

ATTENDANT. Wait a minute. That's only for one of the trains. If the first one through here's an E train, take 'er down to Eighth Avenoo and Forty-second Street . . .

MAN. Yuh mean Ah hafta go downtown before Ah can go uptown?

ATTENDANT. Well, you hafta get hungry before you can eat, doncha?

MAN. Yeah, but . . .

ATTENDANT. Well, all right then; so go to Forty-second Street, cross over, an' catch the A train same as before. Only difference is, here you hafta go down farther to do it. Okay? . . .

PILOT. The morning is beyond the bridges of the Hudson now and slanting through the passes of the Appalachians. The seaboard's brightening; a wind is playing with the tide off Hatteras; Miami looks alert; street lamps are turned off in Ottawa. There's drizzle over part of Lake Ontario, but Buffalo is clear; and downstream a few honeymooners are awake to see day rising on Niagara Falls. It rises also now on two canals: the Erie in New York State, and the Panama. It's the same slip of morning to both ditches, though they lie two thousand miles apart.

Detroit lights up now, and the Smoky Mountains, and Key West. Three of the five Great Lakes have caught the fire; but just as dawn arrives in Dayton, it departs beyond the western shores of South America into the waiting sea. In northern Indiana flames are spitting from the forges of the mills at Gary. Under the stacks and sooted roofs, the night shift labors on the final stretch.

[Literal machine sounds (crane, ore cars, etc.) and suggestion of power and machinery in music, but with sound standing out in relief.]

PILOT. The Mississippi's winding out of darkness now from top to bottom of the land; the saints are all awake--St. Paul, St. Louis, St. Joe, St. Francisville. And down the very same meridian, cross-cut by the equator, sharp in the inclination of the fragile light, is the dry archipelago of the Galápagos.

MUSIC. [Segues into Variation Number 7.]

PILOT. It's snowing now on mystic Boothia, the northernmost peninsula of North America; but morning overrides the storm. Here's the magnetic pole, which keeps all of the world's compasses aquiver. While Boothia is freezing, there's a light dew brewing west of Omaha, warm winds at Dallas, and gray-green reflections in the water at the docks of Veracruz.

Long-brooding Popocatepetl rears his head above a zone of nimbus clouds and looks around to see if all is punctual. Now one vast sweep of plain, a sea of flatlands tilted upward toward the still dark Rockies, quietly and calmly takes on day. Hundreds of rectangle counties, county after county, come into the fold of morning. In the town of Guthrie--Logan County, Oklahoma--on the porch of a house near the Cottonwood, a boy observes the heavens getting pale. 

MUSIC. [Out.]

Birds in.

BOY. Betty--ya 'sleep?

GIRL. [Sleepily.] No, I'm awake.

BOY. It's getting light.

GIRL. [Stirring lazily to go.] Yeah, gosh. I better get in before Mom wakes up, or I'll catch it.

BOY. Aw, gee, don't go.

GIRL. I gotta.

BOY. Your mother won't be up for two hours.

GIRL. [Makes a sound of comfortable pleasure--a sort of chuckling noise. She is snuggling up to the Boy.]

BOY. Know something, Betty? I never been up all night in my life before.

GIRL. Me neither.

BOY. When a feller likes a girl, he likes to sit up with her.

GIRL. Well, if a girl likes a feller, it's about the same thing, ain't it? I mean, in the same way, sort of?

BOY. Yeah. Gosh, it's all one and the same thing, no matter how you look at it, I guess.

GIRL. I agree with you. [Pause.]

BOY. Ain't the sky pretty, though?

GIRL. It's breathtakingly beautiful.

BOY. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do this every night?

GIRL. It would be divine.

BOY. [Touched.] You really mean that, Betty?

GIRL. Absolutely.

BOY. Gosh. [Gulps.] Thanks. I didn't expect you to say it would be divine. That's saying a lot.

GIRL. Well--I--I don't take back a word of it.

BOY. Well, gee, Betty, thanks a lot.

MUSIC. [Variation Number 8, proceeding under:

PILOT. While love awakens on a porch in Guthrie, the somber Rocky Mountains watch the stars burn out above the great plateaus. Ranges rise to block the passage of the day, but not for long.

Dawn vaults them all, these mountains with Spanish names--spreads out on the square states, rolls over into Arizona.

[Idling airplane motors in.]

PILOT. At Tucson's airport last night's New York plane has taken on some breakfast boxes for still sleeping passengers who will awake above the desert and drink orange juice at seven thousand feet. The charts have all been checked, the weather verified, the pilot gone up front; the stewardess has closed the door. Next stop, Los Angeles.

[Twin motors start; takeoff. Cross to interior motor sounds under:

PILOT. The plane is fast, but not as fast as we, for even now we're over the Grand Canyon, riotous with reds and purples--chilling with its silence and its majesty a group of tourists watching sunup from the southern rim.

MRS. PROTHERIDGE. It certainly is all it's cracked up to be, isn't it, Mrs. Stuben?

MRS. STUBEN. It's gorgeous. I seen it once before, but it seems to be more gorgeous every time I see it. Look at that!

PERRY. [Life of the party.] Nothing like this in Brooklyn--hey, Eddie? [Laughs hard.]

EDDIE. You got something there, Perry. . . . You know, if somebody painted this you wouldn't believe it.

MRS. STUBEN. That's absolutely right.

MRS. PROTHERIDGE. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't like to fall down off one of them cliffs.

EDDIE. Me neither. [Pause.] Ain't the silence wonderful?

PERRY. Did you know that this place can be deafening with noise sometimes?

EDDIE. Is that right?

MRS. STUBEN. It can?

PERRY. Sure--when it makes a noise like a canyon! [Roars with laughter, which holds until cross-fade to music.]

MUSIC. [Variation Number 9, continuing under:

PILOT. Death Valley comes to life. Mount Whitney yawns and stretches. Ancient redwood trees look up with boredom at another day. An owl screams in the woodlands of Yosemite. The sea fog's sitting on Los Angeles, but Palos Verdes and the top of Catalina float above the mists. Rain in Seattle, heavy in Snohomish County; routine fog in San Francisco, lifting. In a cafe on the Embarcadero the dregs of night still linger.

MUSIC. [Sloppy piano in after the word "Embarcadero."]

NICK. Sorry, Mr. Stewart, but you willa hafta go home. We closa uppa now.

STEWART. G'wan away, li'l man, I'm greatest composer since-a days o' Yasha Masha Pasha.

MUSIC. [Piano stops.]

NICK. [Exasperated.] Looka--looka! Gotta close 'em up, da cops taka my license if I don'. Now be good guys, g'wan, be good guys. It's-a gettin' light already, look see.

STEWART. Jesh one more piece. Stacatto and fewgwee by Johann Sebastian Strauss . . .

NICK. "One-a more, one-a more"--at's-a what you said before!

STEWART. Well, thish time, I'm man o' my word, Nicky, ol' boy. I'm the man behind the man behind the man o' my word, see? Jesh one more.

MUSIC. [Playing begins anew.]

NICK. [Hopefully.] Wella--all right. Justa thisa one.

STEWART. [Over music.] Jesh thish one, jesh thish. Now take it easy, Nick, ol' boy, you sit an' lissen . . .

MUSIC. [Piano cross-fades to Variation Number 10, under.]

PILOT. The snow fields of the Yukon and the Klondike mountains lie face up, interpreting the soundless and mysterious code of the aurora borealis. The streamers, green and orange, shimmering in the black Arctic night, yield occultly to new light from behind the frozen ranges to the east.

The dawn is piqued and pinched here in Alaska; it is fuller on the endless swells of the Pacific to the south--the Pacific, flowing now in space so prodigal that only stellar seas could understand. The hemisphere is falling back. McKinley passes in the great processional; Alaska's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes turns steaming to the sun from which its planetary fire was drawn down. The roar of Katmai, angriest volcano of them all, abates none, scorning the eruption of such placid stuffs as mornings.

[Sound of volcano faded in after "angriest volcano of them all." Roar up full, diminishing under.]

PILOT. South as the crow flies--flying just about two thousand miles--is another such volcano, set about by sea--Mauna Loa, monarch of the glistening Hawaiian Islands. It stands frowning down on fields of its own lava.

These islands are romantic at night, to all romanticists, but now at dawn in Honolulu, where the trade wind stirs the cocoa palms, a practical procedure's taking place inside a hospital. Beneath the white glare of the operating lamps a surgeon meets with an emergency.

[Fade in quick, efficient bustle of several people moving around. Intermittent click of surgical instruments.]

ANESTHETIST. Doctor, the pressure's falling rapidly, and the pulse is becoming thready.

SURGEON. Get that transfusion set ready. Doctor Jones, you scrub for transfusion.

JONES. Right, sir.

SURGEON. Is the donor outside, and has he been cross-matched?

NURSE. Yes, sir.

SURGEON. All right, start the transfusion and give him a hypo of adrenalin. [Pause.] Get the large kidney clamps and the heavy ligature ready. [Pause.] Suction.

[Sound of suction in. (This is steady hiss of air with fairly steady gurgle of liquid being sucked up a tube.) Pause. Sound of clamp being applied. (Clamp has ratchet-catches like a handcuff but makes a smaller, cleaner sound.)]

SURGEON. Sponge. [Pause.]

JONES. The pulse is becoming imperceptible . . . heart sounds very feeble.

SURGEON. Inject some coramin into the veins.

JONES. Yes, sir. [Pause.] Doctor, the heart sounds are not audible.

SURGEON. Massage his heart. [Pause.] Sponge.

ANESTHETIST. Pupils are widely dilated, Doctor.

JONES. There's no response from the heart at all.

ANESTHETIST. Doctor, the patient has ceased breathing.

SURGEON. Well . . . we did all we could.

PILOT. Northward at the moment of this dawn death, the night's pushed back entire from the face of North America. It's west of Bering Strait now, in Soviet Siberia, pursued across the stepping-stones of the Aleutian Islands. Daybreak has reached the 180th meridian, where man, in spite of all his quarreling, agrees by international accord that here his calendar divides today from yesterday. A liner headed for San Pedro crosses this imaginary line. On B deck a woman is awake to greet the moment.

[Sound of water in; steady, calm sea.]

WOMAN. You mean we're crossing at this very moment, officer?

OFFICER. Yes, ma'am.

WOMAN. Oh, it's so thrilling! Just think, a minute ago it was Sunday--now it's Saturday! [Laughs.]

OFFICER. Yes, ma'am. International date line.

WOMAN. Does that mean we are a day ahead of the rest of the world?

OFFICER. [Startled.] Oh, no! Where'd you get that idea?

WOMAN. Well, that's true, isn't it?

OFFICER. No, no, it merely means that . . .

WOMAN. Well, five hours ago it was midnight Saturday, and so it became Sunday. And now it's Saturday again. Is that fair?

OFFICER. Well, you see, madam, it works like this . . .

WOMAN. I don't understand it very well.

OFFICER. I think I can explain it. Now, a ten-day voyage from San Francisco to Yokohama will show eleven calendar days. But on the return trip, when we cross the international date line eastbound, like we just did, we go back one day on the calendar, into the old day, so that means a ten-day trip eastbound will show nine calendar days, whereas the westbound voyage shows eleven calendar days.

WOMAN. [Plaintively.] But doesn't the ten-day trip ever take just ten days?

OFFICER. [Patiently.] No, ma'am. [Fading.] Now let me begin again. I think I can explain it all right. . . . You see, ordinarily the day changes with the passing of midnight. But there are always two calendar days on the earth's surface at all times. This means that . . .

MUSIC. [Comes up, crossing with the Officer. It backs the following:

PILOT. New Zealand, now, at the antipodes, diagonally across the world from Greenwich. The east coast of Australia catches day as did the east coast of Brazil twelve hours back. The sun now gilds the gold fields; the sands of the interior are tinted too, the Great Victoria Desert curving into the dry day.

Three thousand miles up the meridian, a pilgrimage ascends the slopes of Fuji. Those winding lights below us are the lanterns of the faithful, lanterns named for those who carry them, the Japanese. And to the north, there's Vladivostok looming up with lights across the sea; and now the coast of China.

Night trails its kites across the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo. Deeper into China, up the Yangtze, past Hankow it spreads. But wait: those flicks of flame you see far, far below are not the Chinese glowworm--those are men at war, the first such spectacle since morning joined us at the twenty-fifth meridian.

[Rifle fire in; hold very briefly. Cross-fade to:

MUSIC. [Variation Number 11, under:

PILOT. All quiet on the Gobi desert to the north. Southward the night is gone from Java and Australia too. The guns of Singapore are vigilant, and scrutinize the straits. Mandalay lies under heavy rain clouds; otherwise you'd make it out. Now Everest sees the coming day before all Asia to the west. In fact, it is a tight squeeze for the morning, getting by the peak which roofs the planet.

Five hundred million people sleep in India, Afghanistan, the Union of the Soviets. Dawn comes to each of them, to each one's window, arches over each one's head. It's in the tundra in the north of Russia, also in the streets of Takhta-Bazar, and the market at Termez. At Troitsk, the workers soundly sleep.

MUSIC. [A sudden change of color to underscore:

PILOT. Now in a sweeping arc the dawn cuts through three continents: still Asia, in the Urals; Europe, where the Soviets draw a line; and Africa, at easternmost Somaliland. The same light spans the Caspian, the Persian Gulf, the wildest desert of Arabia.

[Artillery up through music fragmentarily for following phase:

PILOT. Below us in the Syrian morn there's movement: men and guns afoot. [Guns out.] There's stealthy shipping in the foggy Bosporus. [Medium ship whistle.] The power plant at Dneprostroy is working through the dawn.

[Dynamos in after "Dneprostroy"; out after "dawn."]

PILOT. The rim moves on to Finland now, at the same time it crowns the pyramid of Cheops. In the scarlet break of day the tombs of the Egyptian kings are tipped with red lights, warning airplanes.

Warring Europe starts up from a fitful sleep. The Congo in the heart of Africa awakens tranquilly. The morning, being a celestial thing, cannot begin to comprehend. This is the bleak meridian of trouble: Norway, Poland, Germany, Russia, the Balkans, Libya.

[Muted bugle call--reveille--in background.]

PILOT. Great camps and barracks in each land anticipate the day. But to the fields and lakes and rivers and the partly stormy sky, it's all the same--it always is the same.

Slip down the middle length of Africa: far at the southern tip, two albatrosses circle lazily above the sparkling waters off Good Hope. Capetown looks at night across the South Atlantic--night--the very night now solid in Brazil.

Two farmers meet in Switzerland, where their adjoining pastures slope down toward the valley. They say the same thing they've been saying now for twenty-seven years of mountain mornings.

HANS. Morning, Peter.

PETER. Morning, Hans.

HANS. Nice day.

PETER. Yes, very nice.

HANS. All well?

PETER. I can't complain. And you?

HANS. Fine, fine.

PETER. Good. See you later.

HANS. See you later, Peter.

MUSIC. [Variation Number 12.]

PILOT. The North Sea and the Mediterranean are both lit now, and London comes up out of cover. Greenwich gives the day a careless nod and signals it the go-ahead to climb the west meridians. In vasty hushes the fresh morning cleans the traces of the dark out of the mid Sahara. Off the Gold Coast of deep-brooding Africa, in the wide Guinea Gulf, there is a fight between two sharks, just at the mighty intersection where longitude and latitude each reach zero. Here the equator meets the mean meridian. The green Atlantic does not know it, though. The fighting sharks don't care.

The Irish Sea, Gibraltar, and St. Helena swim up out of the Afro-European night. Lisbon and Morocco and Liberia come next; Dakar and the Canaries; and now all of both continents are in full day. It's all in the Atlantic now, this far-flung fringe of daybreak. We're moving west of Greenwich once again.

Now we are back at latitude 40° north, and longitude 25° west. And this is where we started from. Beneath us there is water, nothing else: the long Atlantic flowing to the north.

MUSIC. [Finale treatment.]