The h2g2 Literary Corner The Rising of the Moon, by Lady Gregory

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Another month, another fascinating corner of the literary world to delve into. (We're gonna miss you, Charlotte!)

This month has St Patrick in, so we're going to turn the spotlight on the Irish. They've got a lot to teach about self-expression. Oh, and history.

The Rising of the Moon, by Lady Gregory

Lady Gregory

Augusta, Lady Gregory was a dear sweet thing, and she helped found the Abbey Theatre with William B Yeats. Lady Gregory had a miraculous ear for dialogue, and her one-act plays are full of well-observed characters and sharp wit.

In 'The Rising of the Moon', some policemen are looking all around the docks for an escaped Fenian prisoner1. There's a price on his head, and they might ge t a promotion if they find him. The police sergeant stays behind while his men put up wanted posters. The sergeant gets into conversation with an itinerant ballad peddler. (Now, where else would we find a cast like this?) They get kind of sentimentally patriotic singing old tunes about Granuaile and the Sean Van Vocht, and then…

Man: Sergeant, I am thinking it was with the people you were, and not with the law you were, when you were a young man.

Sergeant: Well, if I was foolish then, that time’s gone.

Man: Maybe, sergeant, it comes into your head sometimes, in spite of your belt and your tunic, that it might have been as well for you to have followed Granuaile.

Sergeant: It’s no business of yours what I think.

Man: Maybe, sergeant, you’ll be on the side of the country yet.

Sergeant: (Gets off barrel.) Don’t talk to me like that. I have my duties and I know them. (Looks round.) That was a boat; I hear the oars.

(Goes to the steps and looks down.)

Man: (Sings) –

O, then, tell me, Shawn O’Farrell2,

Where the gathering is to be.

In the old spot by the river

Right well known to you and me!

Sergeant: Stop that! Stop that, I tell you!

Man: (Sings louder) –

One word more, for signal token,

Whistle up the marching tune,

With your pike upon your shoulder,

At the Rising of the Moon.

Sergeant: If you don’t stop that, I’ll arrest you.

(A whistle from below answers, repeating the air.)

Sergeant: That’s a signal. (Stands between him and steps.) You must not pass this way.... Step farther back.... Who are you? You are no ballad-singer.

Man: You needn’t ask who I am; that placard will tell you. (Points to placard.)

Sergeant: You are the man I am looking for.

Man: (Takes off hat and wig. Sergeant seizes them.) I am. There’s a hundred pounds on my head. There is a friend of mine below in a boat. He knows a safe place to bring me to.

Sergeant: (Looking still at hat and wig.) It’s a pity! It’s a pity. You deceived me. You deceived me well.

Man: I am a friend of Granuaile. There is a hundred pounds on my head.

Sergeant: It’s a pity, it’s a pity!

Man: Will you let me pass, or must I make you let me?

Sergeant: I am in the force. I will not let you pass.

Man: I thought to do it with my tongue. (Puts hand in breast.) What is that?

(Voice of Policeman X outside:) Here, this is where we left him.

Sergeant: It’s my comrades coming.

Man: You won’t betray me ... the friend of Granuaile. (Slips behind barrel.)

(Voice of Policeman B:) That was the last of the placards.

Policeman X: (As they come in.) If he makes his escape it won’t be unknown he’ll make it.
(Sergeant puts hat and wig behind his back.)

Policeman B: Did any one come this way?

Sergeant: (After a pause.) No one.

Policeman B: No one at all?

Sergeant: No one at all.

The sergeant gets rid of the policemen. Then the ragged man comes back.

(They go out. Man comes from behind barrel. He and Sergeant stand looking at one another.)

Sergeant: What are you waiting for?

Man: For my hat, of course, and my wig. You wouldn’t wish me to get my death of cold?
(Sergeant gives them.)

Man: (Going towards steps.) Well, good-night, comrade, and thank you. You did me a good turn to-night, and I’m obliged to you. Maybe I’ll be able to do as much for you when the small rise up and the big fall down ... when we all change places at the Rising (waves his hand and disappears) of the Moon.

Sergeant: (Turning his back to audience and reading placard.) A hundred pounds reward! A hundred pounds! (Turns towards audience.) I wonder, now, am I as great a fool as I think I am?

Abbey Theatre, Dublin

P.S. Did we mention that Augusta, Lady Gregory, was part of the elite that's usually threatened with being 'the first against the wall when the revolution comes'? That's why we like her.

P.P.S. Almost forgot. You want to read the rest of this, plus a few more one-acters by Lady Gregory? Take a look over at Gutenberg.

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

07.03.16 Front Page

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1Frankly, we think he sounds like a Socialist. Eugene V Debs might have liked him.2Contrary to modern belief, the song does not say, 'Tell me, tell me, Colin Farrell, tell me why you went to Bruges…

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