Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BRUTUS LIVES AGAIN IN BOOTH, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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BRUTUS LIVES AGAIN IN BOOTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What time is it?
Last Line: (he rushes off. Great confusion.)
Subject(s): Assassination; Booth, John Wilkes (1838-1865); Ford's Theater, Washington, D.c.; Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865); Presidents, United States


FIRST STAGE HAND

What time is it?

SECOND STAGE HAND

Time for the curtain nearly.

FIRST STAGE HAND

There's Miss Keene in the wings

(The orchestra starts up; the audience sings:

Honor to our soldiers,
Our Nation's greatest pride,
Who 'neath our Starry Banner's folds,
Have fought, have bled and died.
They're Nature's noblest handiwork,
No king as proud as they.
God bless the heroes of the land,
And cheer them on their way.

Scene II. The White House.

Colfax Oglesby Lincoln

LINCOLN

This for you, Colfax.
(Hands him a pass)

Come in at nine to-morrow.
I'm off soon for the theatre with my wife --
A little party. Grant was going too;
Has changed his mind, goes north with Mrs. Grant.
There'll be an audience to see the hero
Of Appomatox.

OGLESBY

Well, rather you, I think
Who picked Grant for the work, and brought the war
To end, as it has ended.

LINCOLN

Oh, not me.
I am familiar as an old shoe here.
I'd say the war is ending. There may be
Some battle yet.

COLFAX

Mere sputterings of the flame.

LINCOLN

Well, something's on. I had my dream last night
Which I have had before, so often, always
Before some great event: I'm in a boat,
And swiftly move toward a shadowy shore.
I had this dream preceding Bull Run, Vicksburg,
Gettysburg, Antietam. It may be
A battle's on this minute. I think so.
It must relate to Sherman. For I know
No other great event to follow my dream.

OGLESBY

Our dreams are made of days lived long ago:
Your boat's perhaps your flat boat at New Salem.

COLFAX

I'm happy to live now, the war is won.
God bless you, Mr. President, keep you too.

LINCOLN

You will excuse me, gentlemen. I go,
For Mrs. Lincoln waits.
(He goes out.)

OGLESBY

The other day
Lincoln was with Charles Sumner down the James,
Was reading Shakespeare, read aloud three times
Those lines which read: "Duncan is in his grave,
After life's fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treason has done his worst: nor steel nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further."

COLFAX

Did you note to-night
He looked those words: "Nothing can touch him further"?
These months before how ghastly gray his face!
What droop of melancholy in his eyes!
What weariness without words, what ultimate woe!
And now to-night he stood transfigured here
Clothed in a great serenity and a joy
As if his life had wrought what he would have it.

OGLESBY

Yes, he is changed. Shall we go on?
(They go out.)

Scene III. The entrance of Ford's Theatre.

BOOTH

(Passing the doorkeeper without a ticket.)
Is this all right?

DOORKEEPER

All right for you.

BOOTH

Can you leave,
Go with me for a brandy?

DOORKEEPER

No.

BOOTH

Why not?
The play's commenced, and everyone is here.

DOORKEEPER

Not everyone -- the presidential party!

BOOTH

They enter without tickets.

DOORKEEPER

Yes, I know.
Go in and watch Miss Keene a little, John.
You might get wakened up to play again,
Marc Antony to your brother's Brutus.

BOOTH

No!
Never with him again. And as for that
My next part will be Brutus.

(He goes into the theatre.)

Scene IV. Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln Driving to the
Theatre.

LINCOLN

Mary, the war is over. We have had
Hard times since we came here. But now, thank God,
The war is over. We may hope for peace,
And happiness for the four years that remain,
While I close up my work as President.
Then back to Illinois to rest and live.
I have some money saved. Wrote recently
To friends to find a house for me in Chicago --
We can live there, or Springfield. Law again,
At least enough to keep us.

MRS. LINCOLN

That's my dream,
And from this night we start to live, rejoice.

(They drive on.)

Scene V. The stage of Ford's Theatre.

(Laura Keene as "Florence Trenchard"; John Dyatt as
"Dundreary" in dialogue in Tom Taylor's "American
Cousin.")

FLORENCE

"Can't you see the point of that joke?"

DUNDREARY

"No, really."

FLORENCE

"You can't see it?"

DUNDREARY

"No!"

(Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln and party enter the box.)

FLORENCE

(Making a profound courtesy to Lincoln.)
"Everyone can see that!"

(The audience breaks into great applause. The band
plays "Hail to the Chief." Lincoln bows to the
audience.)

Scene VI. Back of the stage.

FIRST STAGE HAND

Whose horse is at the door?

SECOND STAGE HAND

Booth's!

A VOICE

Ten twenty-five.

FIRST STAGE HAND

Ten twenty-five.

SECOND STAGE HAND

Ten twenty-five.

Scene VII. The Presidential Box.

LINCOLN

Oh, no! No persecution, bloody work,
How to articulate the states again,
Just how to handle the states that left us -- well,
There will be problems up from day to day,
During my term, at least. But no revenge,
No hate, no hanging, killing -- rather shoo!
Like Hannah Armstrong used to shoo her chickens.
Let the obstreporous, unreconciled
Go clear to -- Halifax -- get out! But, Major,
My feeling is to treat the Southern people
As fellow citizens. To be their fellows
And not their masters is my way.

MAJ. RATHBONE

We need
Your genius, Mr. President, for the work
Of reconstruction more, if that may be,
Then we had need of you to push the war.

MRS. LINCOLN

How do you like the play?

LINCOLN

Oh, very good.

Scene VIII. Dress Circle.

FIRST AUDITOR

(Gazing at the Presidential box.)
What's keeping General Grant? I came to see
The conqueror of Lee.

SECOND AUDITOR

He will not come.
Too late now.

FIRST AUDITOR

(Looking at his watch.)
Yes, ten twenty-five.

SECOND AUDITOR

Who's that?

FIRST AUDITOR

Who?

SECOND AUDITOR

Why, a man as pale as snow
Or ivory, with hair black as a horse's tail
Passed back of the seats there, and approached the entrance
To Lincoln's box.

FIRST AUDITOR

A secret officer,
With message of a battle. Oh, perhaps
Sherman has vanquished Johnston!

Scene IX. In the passageway leading to the Presidential box.

BOOTH

Right or wrong, God judge me -- never man.
Liberty is dead -- I would not live,
Beyond my country's life. Oh, Liberty!
Brutus, sustain me!

Scene X. The Presidential box.

MAJOR RATHBONE

(Observing Lincoln rise.)
Can I get something for you?

LINCOLN

I want my coat.
I felt a chill and shudder down my back.
(He gets his coat and is seated.)

Scene XI Booth at the door of the Presidential box aiming a pistol.

BOOTH

Brutus! (He fires. The President's head falls upon his
breast. Booth rushes into the box, slashes Major
Rathbone with a dagger, leaps from the box to the stage.
Falls, arises.)
Scene XII. On the stage.

BOOTH

Sic semper Tyrannis! The South is avenged!

(He rushes off. Great confusion.)





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