above: photograph by the composer

Second Sequence [part of the opening scene]
performed by Jennifer Rhys-Davies (soprano: Tydomin) and Arwel Huw Morgan (baritone: Maskull) with the Celtic Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer 
the relevant passage in highlighted in red in the text below
This opera was specifically written for performance at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff where it was first given by New Celtic Opera in 1983.  The text was adapted from David Lindsay’s novel by Richard Clive Rose; the scoring is much the same as for the earlier chamber opera The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric, with the substitution of trumpet for trombone, piano duet for harp, electronic organ for church organ, and the addition of double-bass and synthesiser or tape to provide various sound effects.

David Lindsay’s novel A Voyage to Arcturus was first published in 1920.  Since that date it has been a seminal influence on many authors. J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis both recognised its power; more recently Colin Wilson has described it as “one of the strangest, and certainly one of the greatest, books of the twentieth century” and predicted that it “will one day take its place as a classic of English literature.”

The book describes a journey—metaphysical, psychological and philosophical—undertaken by the protagonist Maskull. At a fashionable séance in Hampstead he encounters two uninvited strangers, Nightspore and Krag, and is persuaded to join them in a quest to Arcturus in pursuit of the mysterious but powerful Surtur. When they arrive on the distant planet, Maskull is abandoned by his companions and encounters various elemental characters—the graceful and loving Tydomin, the poetic Panawë, the religious mystic Spadevil, and a vision of Surtur himself—and learns the meaning of pleasure and pain, love and death. When he rejoins Krag on the barren shores of the great Ocean, he knows that his own death approaches. Only by his surrender of self in death can Nightspore be reborn; it is Krag, coeval with Surtur, who is the stronger and the mightier.

Unsurprisingly the book has attracted almost as many interpretations as interpreters. Colin Wilson may claim that “there can be no doubt about the meaning of Arcturus,” but his statement that “Christianity is decisively rejected” is itself rejected by Lindsay’s friend and confidant E H Visiak, who proclaims that “the message of A Voyage to Arcturus is a profoundly Christian one.” In translating the book into an opera, one cannot hope to unravel these contradictions, although much of the thought of Lindsay has perforce been condensed and simplified.

Lindsay himself made much use of musical imagery in his book—the encounters with Surtur and Krag are heralded by drums and trumpets, the séance is significantly accompanied by music from The Magic Flute, and the scene in the Wombflash Forest is deliberately based upon the scherzo-finale transition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Similarly in the music a strong melodic, rhythmic and harmonic contrast is drawn between the worlds of pain and pleasure, death and love, Earth and Arcturus. The various scenes that make up the four sequences change kaleidoscopically, instantaneously; much of the music is conveyed in a close imitation of natural speech patterns; the scale of the music is human and interior, not supernatural. In addition there are four ‘visions’ incorporated into the sequences, where the singers remain silent while the orchestra probes the meaning of the action—visions of pain, love, death and finally rebirth.

A collection of criticism on Lindsay refers to him in its title as a “strange genius”; Lindsay himself called Arcturus “an inconceivable world.” It is possibly open to music to make the strange and inconceivable explicit in a manner that is not possible for the spoken or written word.





Prelude   SURTUR

The Curtain rises to disclose an ornate room laid out to accommodate a séance. The medium, Backhouse, is

surrounded by a number of guests: Faull, the owner of the house, Mrs Jameson and Kent-Smith, an elderly gentleman

FAULL   Do you smoke?  No?  Then will you take a drink?

BACKHOUSE   Not at present, thank you. [Pause]

FAULL Everything is satisfactory?  The material-isation will take place?

BACKHOUSE  I see no reason to doubt it.

FAULL   That’s good. I would not like my guests to be disappointed. I have your cheque written out in my pocket.

BACKHOUSE   Afterwards will do quite well.

FAULL   Nine o’clock was the time specified, I believe?

BACKHOUSE   I fancy so.

Mrs JAMESON  What amazes me, if you must know, is not so much the manifestation itself—though that will surely be wonderful—as your assurance that it will take place. Tell me the grounds of your confidence.

BACKHOUSE   I dream with open eyes, and others see my dreams. That is all.

Mrs JAMESON   But that’s wonderful!...

KENT-SMITH    So we are to see wonders tonight?

FAULL    Fresh material for your autobiography?

KENT-SMITH   Ah, you should not have mentioned my unfortunate book. An old public servant is merely amusing himself in his retirement, Mr Backhouse. You have no cause for alarm; I have studied in the school of discretion.

BACKHOUSE    I am not alarmed. There can be no possible objection to your publishing whatever you please.

KENT-SMITH   You are most kind.

Mrs JAMESON   Trent is not coming tonight?

FAULL     I never thought he would. It’s not in his line...

Mrs Trent enters

Ah, Mrs Trent!  The last of our circle. Then I might suggest that we begin?

Mrs TRENT   Did you, or did not you not, say that I might invite anyone I pleased, Montague?

FAULL   Of course I did; but what’s the matter?

Mrs TRENT   Perhaps I have been somewhat presumptuous; I don’t know. I have invited a couple of friends to join us. No, no-one knows them...the two most extraordinary individuals you ever saw. And mediums, I am sure.

FAULL    It seems very mysterious. Who are these conspirators?

Mrs JAMESON   At least tell us their names!

Mrs TRENT   One rejoices in the name of Maskull, the other in that of Nightspore. That’s nearly all I know about them, so don’t overwhelm me with questions.

KENT-SMITH   But where did you pick them up?  You must have met them somewhere.

Mrs TRENT   But this is a cross-examination!  Have I sinned against convention?  I swear I will tell you not another word about them. They will be here directly, and then I will deliver them to your tender mercy.

FAULL    I don’t know them, and nobody else seems to; but of course we will be very pleased to have them... Shall we wait, or what?

Mrs TRENT   I said nine, and it’s past that now. It’s quite possible they may not turn up after all...Anyway, don’t wait.

BACKHOUSE   I would prefer to start at once.

All  move  to  the  séance  table  and seat themselves. Backhouse alone remains standing

Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness a materialization. That means that you will see something appear in space that was not previously there. At first it will appear as a vaporous form, but finally it will be a solid body which anyone present may feel or handle. For this body will be in the human shape. It will be a real man or woman—which, I can’t say—but a man or woman  without  known  antecedents.  If, however, you demand from me an explanation of the materialised form—where it comes from, whence the atoms and molecules comprising its tissues are derived—I am unable to satisfy you. I am about to produce the phenomenon; if anyone can explain it to me afterwards, I shall be very grateful. That is all I have to say.

He seats himself; the lights dim until the table is only dimly visible. The door opens and two figures enter, escorted

by  a manservant

MANSERVANT      Mr Maskull, Mr Nightspore.

Maskull and Nightspore enter and remain standing silently by the door. The manservant withdraws. Mrs Trent

beckons them, and the two men sit. A cloud begins to gather within the room. Slowly the figure of a shrouded young

man with closed eyes becomes visible.

BACKHOUSE   Stop the music. Anyone who wishes may approach the materialisation. You are at liberty to touch.

Mrs Trent starts and draws back, but Faull rises and grasps the hand of the shrouded youth. The figure opens its eyes

and a cryptic smile plays across its mouth. Mrs James rises abruptly from the table and seems about to faint; Maskull

intercepts her and Mrs Trent leads her from the room. Backhouse sits suddenly apart, his face in his hands. Nightspore

advances slowly towards the youth, when the door bursts violently open and Krag enters

KRAG   Ah-ai, gentlemen? So we have a little visitor here?

He advances with menace towards the figure

BACKHOUSE   Be careful of what you are doing!

KRAG   What’s the matter, spirit usher?

BACKHOUSE   I don’t know who are you are, but if you use physical violence towards that, as you seem inclined to do, the consequences may prove very unpleasant.

KRAG   And without pleasure our evening would be spoiled, wouldn’t it, my mercenary little friend?

With sudden force Krag leaps upon the apparition and breaks its neck. There is a faint unearthly scream, and

darkness at once falls across the scene isolating Krag, Nightspore and Maskull

KRAG [turns to Maskull]  Well, Maskull, what you think of it all? Wouldn’t you like to see the land where such fruit grows wild?

MASKULL   What sort of fruit?

KRAG   That specimen goblin.

MASKULL  Who are you, and how did you come here?

Krag   Maybe your friend will recognise me.

NIGHTSPORE   What do you want of me, Krag?

Krag   You see, he does know me...Still the same old gnawing hunger?

NIGHTSPORE   What is doing, these days?

Krag   Surtur has gone, and we are to follow him.

Maskull   How do you come to know each other, and of whom are you speaking?

NIGHTSPORE   Krag has something for us.

Maskull   What brought you to that house tonight, Krag, and what made you act as you did?  How are we to understand that apparition?

Krag   In its native wilds.

Maskull   And where is that mysterious country?

Krag   Tormance.

Maskull   That’s a strange name...but where is it?

Krag   It is the residential suburb of Arcturus.

Maskull   What is he talking about, Nightspore?  Do you mean the star of that name?

Krag   Tormance is its one inhabited planet.

Maskull   You must have invented a new form of humour, Krag.

KRAG   I am glad if I can amuse you, Maskull, if only for a few days.

MASKULL   I meant to ask did you know my name?

KRAG   It would be odd if I didn’t, seeing that I only came here on your account.

MASKULL   On my account?

KRAG   Surely. On your account and Nightspore’s. We three are to be fellow travellers.

Darkness  again  covers  the  stage;  through  this  can  be  dimly  discerned only the figures of Nightspore and

Maskull. A high tower is visible in the distance

MASKULL   What is that tower, Nightspore?

NIGHTSPORE   We sail from the platform on the top.

MASKULL   Tonight?


MASKULL   Then we are looking at the gateway to Arcturus.

NIGHTSPORE   You no longer think it impossible, I fancy.

They have come to the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. Nightspore falls to his knees and peers over the brink

MASKULL   What is interesting down there, Nightspore?

Nightspore remains silent: above the rolling of the surf the sound of a beating drum is heard

We came here solely to hear that?

NIGHTSPORE   It is called the Drum of Starkness. You will not hear that name again, but you will hear that sound again.

MASKULL   And if I do, what will it signify?

NIGHTSPORE    It bears its own message. Only, try always to hear it more and more distinctly...Now we must make haste to meet Krag.

MASKULL   Is he in the tower?  Are you coming up?

NIGHTSPORE   No; I shall wait here.


Vision One    STARKNESS


NIGHTSPORE    Was Krag there?

MASKULL   If we was, I didn’t see him. But I heard a voice.

NIGHTSPORE   What did it say?

MASKULL   Don’t you understand, Maskull, that you are only a tool to be used and then broken?  Nightspore is asleep now, but when he wakes you must die. You will go, but he will return.

A light appears in the tower

Look! Krag must be in the tower, after all.

NIGHTSPORE   Yes; he is getting ready.

MASKULL   I hope he doesn’t expect us to join him there. It was beyond my powers; but why, Heaven knows.

NIGHTSPORE   It is Tormance gravity.

MASKULL    I understand you...or, rather, I don’t...but it doesn’t matter. Who is Surtur?

NIGHTSPORE   We others are but dreamers; he is the Master.

MASKULL   I fancy you are right, for though I know nothing about him his mere name has an exciting effect on me...Are you personally acquainted with him?

NIGHTSPORE [in a choking voice]   It may be...I forget...

MASKULL   Do you know so many extraordinary men that you can forget some of them?  Perhaps you can tell me this: will we meet him, where we are going?

NIGHTSPORE   You will meet death, Maskull...Ask me no more questions. I can’t answer them.

MASKULL [coldly]    Then let us wait for Krag.

Krag appears from the tower, carrying a lantern

KRAG   Are you ready to start?

MASKULL   By all means, if you are.

KRAG [surveying him critically]  I heard you stumbling about in the tower. You couldn’t get up, it seems.

MASKULL   It certainly seems like an obstacle, for Nightspore informs me that the start takes place from the top.

KRAG   You realise that until you are able to climb to the top, you are unfit to face the gravitation of Tormance?

MASKULL   I am quite willing to see what you can do.

KRAG [produces a knife from his pocket]  Remove your coat, and roll up your shirtsleeves.

MASKULL   Do you mean to make an incision with that?

KRAG   Yes, and don’t make difficulties, because the effect is certain, but you can’t possibly understand it beforehand.

MASKULL   Still, a cut with a pocket-knife...

NIGHTSPORE   It will answer, Maskull.

MASKULL   Then bare your arm too, you aristocrat of the universe. Let us see what your blood is made of.

While Nightspore does so, Krag makes a savage slash in Maskull’s arm

MASKULL [scowling with pain]   Do I bind it up?

KRAG [spits on the wound]   Pull your shirt down. It won’t bleed any more. [He also cuts Nightspore, and throws the knife on the floor] That’s finished. Now you can follow me.

They pause outside the entrance to the tower

MASKULL   I heard a voice up those stairs.

KRAG   What did it say?

NIGHTSPORE   That Maskull is to go, but that I am to return.

KRAG   The voyage is getting notorious. There must be ill-wishers about...Well, Maskull, do you want to return?

MASKULL   I don’t know what I want; but I thought the thing curious enough to be mentioned.

KRAG   It’s  not  a  bad  thing  to  hear  voices,     but you

mustn’t for one moment imagine that all is wise that comes to you out of the night world.

The launch platform, a crystalline craft some ten feet long, comes into view

NIGHTSPORE   Maskull will sleep through the journey?

KRAG   And you too, if you wish, my altruistic friend. I am pilot, and you as passengers can amuse yourselves as you please.

MASKULL   And you assert that Surtur is already there?

KRAG   Surtur is where he is. He is a great traveller.

MASKULL   Won’t I see him?

KRAG [looks him in the eyes]  Don’t forget that you have asked for it, and wanted. Few people in Tormance will know more about him than you will, but your memory will be your worst friend.

They mount upon the launch platform, and crouch low upon it. Oblivion veils the scene




The surface of Tormance. Maskull revives alone, with a wind blowing against him. He is sprawled on the red sandy

ground in great pain, as if encumbered with a body of immense weight

MASKULL   Nightspore!  Krag!

There is no reply; a milky vapour lies over the ground as the day breaks. The scene disclosed in alien to earth.

Tydomin, with a cloak spread over her arm, enters and rouses Maskull

TYDOMIN    Do you think you can put it on yourself?  Poor man: how you are suffering!

MASKULL   Where am I?  Is this Tormance?

TYDOMIN   Yes; you are with friends.

MASKULL    This is extraordinary!  What is happening?

TYDOMIN   I am reading your thoughts, as you are reading mine. Still, speech is better, for then the heart can be read too.

MASKULL   They say that speech is given to us to deceive others.

TYDOMIN   One can deceive with thought, too. But I am thinking of the best, not of the worst.

MASKULL   Have you seen my friends?

TYDOMIN   Did you not come here alone?

MASKULL   I came with two men, in a machine. I must have lost consciousness on arrival, and I haven’t seen them since.

TYDOMIN    That is very strange. No, I haven’t seen them; they can’t be here, or we would have known it. I and my husband...

MASKULL   What is your name, and your husband’s?

TYDOMIN   My name is Tydomin; my husband is Panawë. We live a long way away from here. Still, it came to us both last night that you were lying here insensible. We almost quarrelled about which of us should come to you; but in the end I won. I won because I am the stronger-hearted of us too; but he is the purer in perception.

MASKULL   My great thanks, Tydomin!

TYDOMIN     Oh,   why   do   you   say    that?    What

pleasure is greater than loving- kindness?  I rejoiced at the opportunity...But now we must exchange blood.

MASKULL    What is this?

TYDOMIN   It must be so. Your blood is far too thick and heavy for this world. Until you have an infusion of mine, you will never get up.

They exchange blood

What is your name?

MASKULL   Maskull.

TYDOMIN   Where have you come from, with this awful blood?  I feel polluted. Why did you come here, Maskull?

MASKULL   Will you believe me if I say I hardly know?  I came with those two men. Perhaps I was attracted by curiosity, or perhaps it was the love of adventure.

TYDOMIN   Perhaps. I wonder. Those friends of yours must be terrible men. Why did they come?

MASKULL   That I can tell you. They came to follow Surtur.

TYDOMIN   I don’t understand it. One of them at least must be a bad man, and yet if he is following Surtur he can’t be really bad.

MASKULL   What do you know about Surtur?  Have you seen him?

TYDOMIN   No. I have done nothing to deserve it yet. Some day I may have the opportunity to sacrifice myself, and then I may be rewarded by meeting and talking with Surtur.

MASKULL   I have certainly come to another world.

TYDOMIN [points to a mountain in the far distance]  That is my home.

MASKULL   You didn’t come from there!

TYDOMIN   Yes, I did; and that is where we have to go to now.

The scene changes to the reedy margin of a dark green lake. Panawë is seated on a rock; he rises to greet his wife and


PANAWË   The stranger is red-blooded, then?

MASKULL   How do you speak in a tongue you have never heard before?

PANAWË   Thought is a rich, complex thing. I can’t say if I am really speaking your tongue by instinct, or if you yourself are translating my thoughts into your own tongue as I utter them.

TYDOMIN   Already you see that Panawë is wiser than I.

PANAWË   What is your name?

MASKULL   Maskull.

PANAWË   That name must have some meaning...but again, thought is a strange thing. I connect that name with something; but with what?

TYDOMIN   Try to discover.

PANAWË   Has there been a man in your world who stole something from the Maker of the Universe, in order to ennoble his fellow-creatures?

MASKULL   There was such a man; his name was Prometheus.

PANAWË   Well, you seem associated in my mind with that action; but what it all means I can’t say.

MASKULL   There must be some confusion. These are heights beyond me.

TYDOMIN   Think of it as a good omen; for Panawë never lies.

She turns and enters a cave; Maskull looks after her

MASKULL   I can’t believe how I have walked so far in a morning, and she has been twice the distance!

PANAWË   Love flows in her veins instead of blood, and that is why she is so strong.

MASKULL   You know, she gave me some of it?

PANAWË   Otherwise you could not ever have started.

MASKULL   I shall never forget that. Will it disturb her if we talk?


MASKULL   But how do you feel?

PANAWË   I require little sleep. In any case, it’s more important that you should find out something about your new life. If you intend to go through, you ought to be instructed about the dangers.


Vision Two   JOIWIND


MASKULL   That is fascinating. Now I begin to know my way around better. But one thing puzzles me.

PANAWË   What is that?

MASKULL   How does it happen that men here are ignorant of tools and arts, and have no civilization; and yet contrive to be social in their habits, and wise in their thoughts?

PANAWË   Do you imagine, then, that love and wisdom come from tools?  But I see how it arises. In your world you have duller senses; and to make up for the deficiency, you are obliged to call in the assistance of stones and metals. But that is by no means a sign of superiority.

Darkness covers the scene; then Tydomin is seen with Maskull

TYDOMIN   Is this selfishness, Maskull? or are you drawn by something greater than yourself?

MASKULL   We must be reasonable. I cannot settle down here until I have found out something about this surprising new planet. Remember what a long way I have come...But, very likely, I shall return here.

TYDOMIN   Do not promise that; for I shall go with you.

MASKULL   You are a blessed spirit, Tydomin!

In the distance is seen a slender tree in the shape of a three-pronged fork embedded in a pile of rocks

What may that be, Tydomin?

TYDOMIN   It is Hator’s trifork.

MASKULL   And what is its purpose?

TYDOMIN   It is a guide to Sant.

MASKULL   And who, or what, is Hator?

TYDOMIN   Hator was the founder of Sant, many hundreds of years ago. He laid down the principles they all live by; that trifork is his symbol. When I was a child, my father told me the story.

MASKULL   Does it affect you in any way?

TYDOMIN   And why should it?  I am only a woman, and these are masculine mysteries.

MASKULL   A sort of gladness has come over me...

Clouds cover the stage; through the gloom only Maskull is to be seen, isolated at the centre of the stage.  Confronting 

him  is a dimly suggested figure in human form

SURTUR   Maskull: look at me. Who am I?

MASKULL   I think that you are Surtur.

SURTUR   I am Surtur. You know this is my world. Why do you think I have brought you here?  I wish you to serve. Those who joke at my world, those who mock its stern eternal rhythms, its beauty and sublimity (which are not skin deep, but proceed from fathomless roots): they shall not escape.

MASKULL   I do not mock it.

SURTUR   It is necessary for you to serve me. You are my servant and helper.

MASKULL   I shall not fail.

SURTUR   This is for my sake, and not for yours.

The whole stage is completely shrouded in a mist of cloud. Surtur’s form is suddenly elevated skyward and the lights

grow out. A fanfare crashes overhead




An electric storm rages across the stage; the day is cold and dark, and green snow falls. Maskull and Tydomin are


MASKULL   What are those waterspouts in the distance?

TYDOMIN   They are not waterspouts, but mobile columns of lightning.

MASKULL   Then they are dangerous?

TYDOMIN   So we think.

MASKULL   Someone who is wandering there seems to have a different opinion. If there is danger he ought to be warned.

TYDOMIN   He who is anxious to teach will learn nothing.

The two of them watch the actions of the stranger, who now becomes visible. He raises his arms above his head, as if

summoning the columns of lightning. The electric storm discharge themselves with a series of loud explosions;

Spadevil stands erect and uninjured, and they approach him cautiously

TYDOMIN [with wonder and awe]  He must be a Sant man. I have seen no-one quite like him before. [excitedly]  This is a day of days for me.

MASKULL [calmly]  He must be an individual of great importance. If this man is going to Sant, I think I shall bear him company. [with warmth]  We now can part; no doubt you will think it is time.

SPADEVIL [has arrived near to them]  Let Tydomin come too.

TYDOMIN   You know my name; also my sex. It is death for me to enter Sant.

SPADEVIL [with some pride]  That is the old law. I am the bearer of the new law.

TYDOMIN   Is it so, and will it be accepted?

SPADEVIL   The old skin is cracking; the new skin has been forming underneath. The sloughing has arrived.

The  storm  gradually  dies  away;  the  green snows continue

MASKULL   What is your name?

SPADEVIL   My name, Maskull, is Spadevil. You, a voyager  across  the  dark  ocean  of  space,  shall   be my

first witness and follower; you, Tydomin, a daughter of the despised sex, shall be the second.

TYDOMIN   But what is the new law?

SPADEVIL   Until eyes see, of what use is it for ear to hear?  Come, both of you, to me!

Spadevil touches Tydomin on the forehead; she kisses his hand and turns in rapture to Maskull

TYDOMIN   Nothing can injure me now. Oh, Maskull, you and I have been fools together!

SPADEVIL   The future is ours; it starts fresh and clean from this moment. But why do you hesitate, Maskull?  Are you afraid?

MASKULL [goes to Spadevil and touches his forehead]   You were quite right, Tydomin!  We have been fools!  So near the light all the time, and never guessed it!  Always buried in the past or future, systematically ignoring the present; and now it turns out that, apart from the present, we have no life at all!  The new law is an iron devotion to duty. Spadevil, now I mean to follow you to the end. I can do no less.

SPADEVIL   Watch, that you do not lose your gift.

TYDOMIN   You promised that I would enter Sant with you?

SPADEVIL   Attach yourself to the truth, and not to me. For I may die before you, but the truth will accompany you to the end. However, now let us journey together, the three of us.

MASKULL   Spadevil, are you a man, or more than a man?

SPADEVIL   He that is not more than a man is nothing.

MASKULL   Where have you now come from?

SPADEVIL   From brooding. Out of no other mother can truth be born. I have brooded, and reflected; and I have brooded again. Now, after months of absence from Sant, the truth stands forth before me, in its simple splendour like an upturned diamond.

MASKULL   I see it shining. But how much does it owe to ancient Hator?

SPADEVIL   Knowledge has its uses. The blossom was to Hator, the fruit is to me. Hator was also a brooder, but now his followers do not brood. In Sant all is icy selfishness, a living death. They hate pleasure, and this hatred is the greatest pleasure to them.

MASKULL   Your fellow-countrymen, then, are sick with self-love?

SPADEVIL   The men of other countries are the slaves of pleasure and desire, knowing it. But the men of my country are the slaves of pleasure and desire, not knowing it.

MASKULL   And what is Hator’s trifork?

SPADEVIL   The stem is hatred of pleasure. The first fork is disentanglement from the sweetness of the world. The second fork is power over those who still writhe in the nets of illusion. The third fork is the healthy glow of one who steps into icy water.

TYDOMIN   Show me a sign that you are not as other men; that we may know that our blood will not be wasted.

SPADEVIL   I don’t persuade the senses, but the soul. Does your duty call  you  to Sant?    Then   go   there.  Does  it  not  call  you  to  Sant?  Then  go no further. Is that not simple?  What other signs are necessary?

MASKULL   Did I not see you dispel the spouts of lightning?  No common man could have done that.

SPADEVIL   Who knows what any man can do?  But what every man can do is his duty; and, to open their eyes to that, I must go to Sant, and if necessary lay down my life.

A  crimson  cloud  lingers  overhead  in  rapidly darkening twilight. The three travellers come abruptly on the figure of

a manCaticëwho advances towards them, holding a trifork

SPADEVIL   Has the trifork passed to you?  You must be Caticë.

CATICË   Yes. Why have you brought this kiss-lover to Sant?

SPADEVIL   I have brought another thing to Sant. A new law.

CATICË   State it.

SPADEVIL   The truth is simple, even for the simplest men. I destroy Nature, and set up Law.

CATICË   Do you follow Spadevil in his new faith, stranger?

MASKULL   As far as death.

CATICË   With this stone, I strike out one of your eyes. When you have but one, you will see with me; you will remember with Spadevil. You will then choose the superior.

Maskull offers his head to Catice, who responds with a mighty blow to Maskull’s face

TYDOMIN [anxiously]   What do you feel, Maskull?  What do you see?

MASKULL   Henceforth, as long as I live, I shall fight with my nature, and refuse to feel pleasure. And I advise you to do the same.

SPADEVIL [harshly]  Is there no duty?

MASKULL   It seems to me a cloak under which we share the pleasure of other people.

CATICË [with terrible exaltation]  Prove your sincerity!  Kill this man and his mistress, according to the law of Hator.

MASKULL [reluctantly]  Be my witness, Caticë, that this thing was forced upon me.

CATICË [raptly]   Hator is looking, and approving.

Maskull glances at a pile of rocks; he picks up the largest and hurls it at Spadevil, killing him instantly

TYDOMIN   Be very quick, Maskull, and don’t let me keep him waiting.

Maskull hurls the second rock at Tydomin. It hits her in the chest and head. In silence Maskull goes to her and

supports her in his arms. She looks into his face, smiles and dies. Darkness begin to descend

MASKULL [dully]  Tell me, Caticë: if I had elected to follow Spadevil, would you have accepted his faith?  [Caticë makes no reply]  Then these deaths were not a necessity, but a crime!

CATICË [calmly]  His part was played; and henceforth

the woman would have dragged down his ideal, with her soft love and loyalty. Regret nothing, stranger; but go away at once out of this land.

MASKULL [coldly]  Just say this, before we part: why does pleasure seem to shameful to us?

CATICË    Because in pleasure we forget our goal.

MASKULL   And that is?

CATICË   Muspel.


Vision Three   WOMBFLASH

Darkness has veiled the scene




Out of the darkness emerges a desolate scene by the barren seashore of a great Ocean. It is the cold bleak hour shortly

before dawn. As the light grows the misshapen form of Krag may be gradually discerned, crouched by the water’s

edge. Maskull slowly enters and advances towards him

MASKULL   Where in the devil’s name have you come from, Krag?

KRAG   The great point is, I am here.

MASKULL   Where is Nightspore?

KRAG   Not far away.

MASKULL   It seems a hundred years since I saw you. Why did you two disappear in such a damnable fashion.

KRAG   You were right for it. You have run through the gamut...Come! the sun is rising.

MASKULL   How long will it be before the sun rises?

KRAG   Some small time yet.

MASKULL   Shall I live to see it, do you think?

KRAG   Do you want to?

MASKULL  At one time I did; but now I’m indifferent. Why did we come here?

KRAG   To follow Surtur.

MASKULL    Why do you keep up the mystery?  Who or what is Surtur?  Is he a God?

KRAG   Don’t concern yourself about that. You will never know.

MASKULL   What am I to believe of you?

KRAG   Believe your senses.

MASKULL   It seems my senses have been over-whelmed by the pools of blood that I have waded through. I hear the drumming of the world; or is it my heart that beats?  I am to die. Both love and hate condemn the man whose love condemns the one he loves to death. The ocean beckons; lead me to the dawn, and let the rising sun in glory justify my night.

KRAG   You think that you are thoroughly disillus-ioned, don’t you?  Well, that may prove to be the last and strongest illusion of all.

Silence falls between them. Slowly a boat draws towards them across the water, with Gangnet seated in its bows. She

rises with grace and advances towards Maskull

GANGNET   Welcome to the ocean, Maskull. Forget your troubles here, you over-tested man.

MASKULL   What made you expect me, and how do you know my name?

KRAG [roughly]  Haven’t you a greeting for me too, Gangnet?

GANGNET [with some urgency]   Maskull: I know this man better than you. Don’t answer his questions. Say nothing to him. Despise him. If you refuse to notice his existence, he is as good as not there.

MASKULL   I begin to tire of it all. It seems I shall add one more to my murders, before I have finished. Is it here we take to the water?

KRAG   We are going to the ocean.

MASKULL   If you are omniscient, Krag, what is my end to be?

KRAG   Gangnet will murder you.

GANGNET   You lie!  I wish Maskull nothing but good.

KRAG   At all events, he will be the cause of your death...But what does it matter?  The main point is, you are quitting this futile world.

MASKULL   You speak in riddles, and I don’t understand you. Must you go on talking?  I want to be quiet.

Gangnet beckons them into the boat, which sails out into the ocean. The barren bank disappears; slowly the light

reveals fiery waters

The sun is rising, Gangnet.

GANGNET   It begins to trouble you?

MASKULL   It is so solemn—tragical, almost—yet it recalls me to earth. Life is no longer important, but this is important.

GANGNET   Daylight is like night to this other daylight. Within half an hour you will be like one who has stepped from a dark forest into an open sky. Then you will wonder how you could have been so blind.

MASKULL   Are we already on the ocean, Gangnet?


MASKULL   Then nothing remains but my death.

GANGNET    Don’t think of death, but life.

MASKULL   It’s growing brighter—at the same time, more sombre. Krag seems to be fading away...

GANGNET    There is the sun!

The deep glow of the sunrise spreads across the ocean as day begins

What do you feel?

MASKULL   I have set myself against the infinite... Why, Gangnet, I am nothing!

GANGNET    No, you are nothing.

MASKULL    Then nothing can hurt me.

GANGNET    How could it?

MASKULL    I have lost my will; I feel as if some foul tumour had been scraped away, leaving me whole and free.

GANGNET    Do you now understand life, Maskull?

MASKULL    I understand nothing, except I have no will any more. But this is life.

KRAG [rises; his shadow darkens the sun]  Is Gangnet expatiating on his famous blue sun?

MASKULL   What do you want of us, Krag?

KRAG    Don’t you understand, Maskull, that your death has arrived?

He advances towards Maskull. The water disappears, the sunlight is extinguished. The bark is transformed into a

cloud, and Maskullalone on itis floating through the atmosphere. Gangnet has vanished. Down  below,  all  is 

 fire;  the light grows higher and higher, until it fills the whole scene. Throughout this, the great solemn drumbeats

arise, growing ever more and more clangourous

MASKULL    What are you doing, Krag?

KRAG     Beating on your heart, Maskull...

At once the vision vanishes. The ocean is still faintly illuminated by sunlight. Krag stands over Maskull

MASKULL [calmly and gently]  What is this ocean called?

KRAG   Surtur’s Ocean.

MASKULL   Where is Nightspore?

KRAG [leaning over him, very quietly]  You are Nightspore.

MASKULL [almost with fear]   Who...are you?...

Krag maintains a gloomy silence. Maskull dies. Darkness descends. The figure of Nightspore becomes visible, gazing

long and earnestly at Maskull’s body

KRAG [turns his head]   The night is really past at last, Nightspore...The day is here.

NIGHTSPORE   Why was all this necessary?

KRAG [sternly]  Ask Surtur. His world is no joke. He has a strong grasp, but I have a stronger. Maskull was his, but Nightspore is mine.

NIGHTSPORE   You say the night is past; but the night is still here. Am I dead or alive?

KRAG   We are approaching Muspel.

NIGHTSPORE   There is the drumming.

KRAG   Do you understand it; or have you forgotten?

NIGHTSPORE   I remember.

KRAG   There is hard work, and danger, and the risk of total death, waiting for us yonder.

NIGHTSPORE   Have I not finished, then?

KRAG   If you wish it. You have got through. But will you?

NIGHTSPORE   I can’t face rebirth. The horror of death is nothing to it.

KRAG   You are still stupid with earth fumes, and see nothing straight.

NIGHTSPORE   Shall I remember?

KRAG   Yes, you’ll remember.

NIGHTSPORE    Accompany me, Krag, or I shall be lost.

KRAG   There is nothing for me in Muspel.

NIGHTSPORE   I don’t know if I can endure it.

KRAG   Enter in, and lose no time, Nightspore!  Time here is more precious than time on earth. We cannot squander the minutes; there are terrible and tragic affairs to attend to, which cannot wait for us...Go in at once!  Stop for nothing!

NIGHTSPORE   Where shall I go?  I have forgotten everything.

KRAG   Enter, enter!  There is only one way. You can’t mistake it.

NIGHTSPORE    Why do you bid me go in, if I am to come out again?

KRAG    To have your wounds healed.


Vision Four    MUSPEL


KRAG   You have seen everything?

NIGHTSPORE   The struggle is hopeless.

KRAG   Did I not say I am the stronger?

NIGHTSPORE    You may be stronger, but he is the mightier.

KRAG   I am the stronger and the mightier. Surtur’s empire is but a shadow on the face of Muspel. But nothing will be achieved without the bloodiest blows...What do you mean to do?

NIGHTSPORE [looks at him strangely]   Are you not Surtur, Krag?

KRAG   Yes.

NIGHTSPORE   Yes...But what is your name on Earth?

KRAG   It is Pain.

NIGHTSPORE   That, too, I must have known.

They proceed into the darkness