Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SHOES THAT DANCED, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH



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THE SHOES THAT DANCED, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Blossoms perish in the snow
Last Line: Even to destruction and to utter death.
Subject(s): Dancing & Dancers; Paintings & Painters; Shoes; Watteau, Antoine (1684-1721); Boots; Sneakers; Shoemakers


SCENE: WATTEAU'S Studio. LANCRET, his pupil, works at a painting.
WATTEAU'S portrait of the QUEEN, which has recently gained for him the
appointment of Court Painter, occupies a prominent
position. There is a
burst of singing, a clamor of voices, and PIERRETTE and
FAUSTINE, ballet
dancers, accompanied by COURTIN, an artist, frolic into the studio.

VOICES (singing outside)
Blossoms perish in the snow
Columbine won't kiss Pierrot.(Shouts)
The New Academician!
Court Favorite
[Enter COURTIN with FAUSTINE and PIERRETTE]
ALL (Singing)
Blossoms floating in the wine,
Harlequin loved Columbine
COURTIN
Watteau!
FAUSTINE
Where is Watteau?
LANCRET
He's out.
PIERRETTE
To-day?
FAUSTINE
Why, sir, to-day the queen comes to the studio
To see her portrait!
COURTIN (looking at WATTEAU'S portrait of the QUEEN)
Oh, majestic Lady!
With all her pride and beauty painted here
As real as life. Insolent loveliness!
And in her hands -- for woman's vanity --
Watteau has sketched the world! What she will have,
That she will have, -- most arrogant of queens,
That never knew denial. God himself
Refuses her not anything at all
Save lovely meekness. So in very truth
This Lady has for hers the great round world
To give or take.
FAUSTINE
To-day she only gives,
And Watteau has the bounty.
COURTIN (saluting the portrait)
To the queen --
That rescued him from an oblivion
Thick as Egyptian darkness. Yesterday
He hired out to a confectioner
And painted little Cupids upon bonbons --
PIERRETTE
On bonbons!
FAUSTINE
Cupids!
PIERRETTE
Watteau's masterpieces!
COURTIN
To buy him bread.
LANCRET
Or painted -- Columbines!
FAUSTINE (indignantly)
The Columbine!
PIERRETTE
What is there in that creature
That artists all pursue her!
FAUSTINE (humming)
Blossoms lead the April in!
Columbine flounced Harlequin!
COURTIN
Now fortune changes, and in one brief day
This portrait charms the eye of royalty,
And makes Watteau the painter to the queen.
FAUSTINE (in acclamation)
Watteau!
PIERRETTE (joyously)
Court painter!
COURTIN
Lancret, you are silent.
LANCRET
I am at work.
FAUSTINE
On what, Monsieur Lancret?
LANCRET
I paint -- the queen.
FAUSTINE
Like great Watteau!
COURTIN
Disciple!
You catch the master's spirit.
LANCRET(morosely)
No -- not yet! --
The dance, the dream, the fire, the poised music!
[WATTEAU enters the studio, and joins the group unseen]
If I could see his heart --
WATTEAU
Look to your own.
FAUSTINE
Watteau!
LANCRET
The master!
WATTEAU
To your own, I say.
And find perchance some spelling writ thereon
By the hand of God. 'T will prove instructive, maybe,
As aught of mine
.LANCRET (pointing to WATTEAU'S portrait)
Nay, master, I can never
Accomplish -- that.
WATTEAU
True! Who in all the world
Can paint such splendor? I am the one Watteau
That Heaven has achieved.
And yet -- poor humdrum!
Thou art not what I dreamed! What is success?
Since all our triumphs are but shadows at noon
Whereby we measure failure. Let it be!
I hate the work of my hands. I am not like God.
I look upon it and do not find it good.
LANCRET
Not good!
FAUSTINE (gazing at portrait)
I beg of you, Monsieur Watteau,
Paint me!
PIERRETTE
Yes -- make us beautiful, Watteau --
The little ballet dancers!
FAUSTINE
Oh, Watteau!
Have you grown scornful now you go to court?
PIERRETTE
He only strives to please great ladies!
FAUSTINE
Called
To deck the boudoir of the queen with Cupids
PIERRETTE
To charm her walls with fauns that dance!
FAUSTINE
To wreathe
Her fan with roses!
WATTEAU
No.
LANCRET
To what then, master,
Has the queen summoned great Watteau?
WATTEAU
My friend,
The queen has bade me to the Sistine Chapel --
FAUSTINE
Never!
PIERRETTE
For what?
COURTIN
What would she have you paint?
WATTEAU
A great Madonna.
FAUSTINE
You!
PIERRETTE
Watteau!
COURTIN
But man --
To paint -- Madonnas!
WATTEAU
Well --
COURTIN
Who could have thought
Watteau had dreamed of this!
WATTEAU
Yet I have dreamed!
COURTIN
But can you do it?
WATTEAU (Producing from a box a pair of satin slippers,
exquisitely painted, and banding one of them to COURTIN)
Look!
COURTIN
But this is --
WATTEAU
Shoes!
FAUSTINE
A lady's slipper!
COURTIN
Watteau turned shoemaker!
PIERRETTE
Blue satin!
COURTIN
For some foolish girl to dance in.
LANCRET
What craft!
WATTEAU
I painted Cupids round the edge.
COURTIN
But man --
LANCRET
He 's mad. Let him alone.
WATTEAU
Why so?
LANCRET
These figures are perfect!
WATTEAU
That is what I thought.
COURTIN
It's worth a thousand francs!
WATTEAU
Indeed!
COURTIN
A thousand?
It's worth a fortune! Show it to the queen,
For what she covets that she surely buys.
LANCRET
The fineness of it! 'T is a masterpiece.
COURTIN
You can do all things!
FAUSTINE
Rosebuds -- butterflies --
And little Cupids round and round about.
LANCRET
How nonchalant he is!
COURTIN
Watteau, you fool --
Be all distraught with it! Roll a frenzied eye!
Shout out, " I did it! " Be inebriate
With the cup of glory. Stagger splendidly.
Shout out, " I did it! "WATTEAU
Have you seen the sole?
LANCRET (turning shoe over)
A Madonna!
FAUSTINE
Ah!
COURTIN
Watteau, this little shoe
Is filled with fortune -- painted o'er with fame
And immortality.
WATTEAU
You compliment me.
LANCRET
You were born for greatness.
WATTEAU
Yes.
LANCRET (examining painting)
But what a face!
WATTEAU
That is my dream, to fill the Sistine Chapel.
COURTIN
There's nothing out of reach. The crucifixion!
Archangels! Ah -- but how that blazoned chapel
Will roar with fiery wings!
FAUSTINE
Drawn on the sole!
WATTEAU
What would you?
COURTIN
Sketched upon a block of gold
In lasting lineaments. Why, satin, man,
Is a most fragile substance.
WATTEAU
So they say.
PIERRETTE
But one time round upon a polished floor
Will ruin this splendor.
WATTEAU
That 's the beauty of it.
PIERRETTE
But a Madonna!
COURTIN
On a lady's slipper!
WATTEAU
To show that she for whom I made this shoe
Owns all my craftsmanship! I painted them
For Columbine to dance in --
LANCRET (jealously)
Columbine!
COURTIN (enthusiastically)
The prettiest dancer in the whole ballet
Rosebuds and Cupids, flower o' thistle down.
[Enter COLUMBINE wrapped in a scarlet mantle]
Most fragile, fine spun, silver, fitful, fair --
COLUMBINE
I thank you, good Courtin! Come here, Pierrette.
Take off my mantle.
PIERRETTE
I will not touch it.
COLUMBINE
How?
She 's jealous! Faustine?
(FAUSTINE makes a gesture of refusal. LANCRET and COURTIN
assist in taking mantle)
Thank you, gentlemen. (She shines resplendent in a ballet gown)
I came between the acts of the rehearsal.
The queen will be there when I dance to-night.
Pray you, does anybody like my gown?
COURTIN
We all admire it.
PIERRETTE
Oh, I hate this girl!
COLUMBINE
She says she hates me!
FAUSTINE
This air stifles me.
COLUMBINE
I make her sick! The good Lord made me so.
Is it naughty, then, to be so beautiful?
Monsieur Watteau -- and have you any news?
WATTEAU
Look at this portrait.(Displays portrait of QUEEN holding
in her hands the world)
COLUMBINE
Well?
WATTEAU
So slight a thing --
Yet it has brought me wealth, preferment, honor!
And that great world I painted in her hands
She gives to me.
COLUMBINE
What -- does she --
WATTEAU
Listen, child.
I am made Court Painter.
COLUMBINE (as if startled)
Oh, Monsieur Lancret!
WATTEAU
The queen has bade me to the Sistine Chapel
To paint -- Madonnas.
COLUMBINE(indifferently)
But, Monsieur Watteau,
Where are the slippers that you promised me
To dance in?
WATTEAU
Child -- but hear me for a moment.
This is the day when all my dreams come true,
And Poverty no longer with a sword
Bids Watteau back from that high Paradise
Wherein are mighty deeds. My hour has come.
Great barren walls that cry aloud for wings!
How I will blazon them with the vast glories
Of Heaven and Earth and Purgatory and Hell
COLUMBINE
Watteau! The painted slippers!
WATTEAU
Columbine,
Just for a moment hear me -- and rejoice!
Be glad for me. My dreams rush on like tempests
Full of great sound and fire. Heaven calls me.
Raphael says come, and Michael Angelo
Thunders affection from St. Peter's Dome.
The air is full of flaming robes of Titian,
And pale sweet faces of Leonardo. Rembrandt
Disturbs my slumber! All the mighty visions
I have dreamed of so long, -- the wings, the haloes, --
And high above the altar, pale with glory,
My great Madonna --
COLUMBINE
Watteau -- my satin slippers.
WATTEAU (putting them in her hands)
Then take them.
COLUMBINE
Beautiful!
WATTEAU
Rosebuds and Cupids!
COLUMBINE
I 'II dance before the queen.
COURTIN
Nay -- on the sole
Is sketched his masterpiece.
COLUMBINE (examining sole)
What --
WATTEAU
The Madonna.
COLUMBINE
Painted for me! Oh! if the queen could see them
How she would envy them -- the satin slippers,
That are the ballet dancer's -- Columbine's.(Shouts are heard outside)
VOICES (outside)
Watteau! Watteau! Court Painter! [Boy runs in]
BOY
Sir, the guild
Of Paris Artists, outside in the street --
VOICES (outside)
Watteau!
BOY
Would honor you!
VOICES
Watteau!
COURTIN (to WATTEAU)
Out, then,
And quiet them.
[WATTEAU goes out with all but COLUMBINE and LANCRET, who
remain in the studio]
VOICES (outside)
Watteau!
COLUMBINE
Monsieur Lancret,
I will be frank with you, since time is brief.
LANCRET(wearily)
So frankness has a reason, Columbine?
COLUMBINE
But tease me not. This portrait rivals Watteau's.
I could not tell the difference.
LANCRET
I have stolen,
As a beggar steals a cloak to hide his rags,
A purple garment for my shabby talent,
The master's style.
COLUMBINE
Who can do, may do, Lancret.
I want the world for you.
LANCRET
Frail Columbine --
Purchased with glories!
COLUMBINE
Glory I will have!
And stars to drink from and the sky to dance on.
Yes, shod with wind, this Columbine would dance,
Dance, dance for centuries. Listen, Lancret,
I die without my splendors. Lancret, listen.
Do you desire me?
LANCRET
Child, what are you worth?
COLUMBINE
I love you, Lancret!
LANCRET
Love?
COLUMBINE
But I have labored
To bring you fortune. Coaxed the great sad painter,
That loves not women but loves Columbine,
To teach you for my sake his mellow glories.
How I have seen you learning day by day
The master's powers and to this very end,
That you should be -- hush! Longed to smile on you,
Yet dared not, lest he see and understand.
My protege I called you, A light boy
Worth helping only -- a sort of studio spaniel
I liked to keep about me. So I won
His favor for you and the golden teachings
Watteau sells at no price but gives to you
To please -- the Columbine. Oh, I have dreamed
Of honors, honors -- such as the world can give --
LANCRET
And stolen from Watteau.
COLUMBINE
Listen, Lancret,
At the opera all the dancers talk of you --
Lancret -- the new Apollo. At the court
Mademoiselle Felise, who dresses hair,
Tells me the boudoirs speak the name of Lancret
Like a love spell. A wit, a beau, a gallant,
Gay chevalier -- a genius too -- great Lancret!
LANCRET
I will not listen.
COLUMBINE
But to-day the queen
Will come to see her portrait, and if then
She chanced to look on yours --
LANCRET
Beside Watteau's
How pale it is!
COLUMBINE
But if the master's hand
Coaxed by the Columbine should touch your portrait
With divine magic -- often he has done so,
To make his meaning clear of light and shadow --
And if the queen -- they tell me queens are fickle --
LANCRET
Even like Columbine?
COLUMBINE
But if the queen
Should see it -- then --
LANCRET
I cannot listen.
COLUMBINE
Nay --
What if the master in a tempestuous mood
Of black despair, such absolute distaste
As takes him like a madness and undoes him
And what he makes -- why, I have seen him bum
A masterpiece one bargained for in vain,
And he half starved, because he said it lacked
Some light, some music, the angels told him what!
You know the moods I mean. Well -- if Watteau
In such a spirit --
LANCRET
Hush!
COLUMBINE
Struck with his brush (Pointing to WATTEAU'S portrait of the QUEEN)
Out, in one minute, that high and haughty smile,
Out, all the insolent glory of her face --
LANCRET (with rebuke)
He is my master.
COLUMBINE (leaning over LANCRET'S portrait)
If the queen's eye fell,
Then, upon this, Lancret
LANCRET
Vainglorious child,
Does splendor purchase you?
[WATTEAU enters. COLUMBINE goes to him]
COLUMBINE
Lancret -- I pledge
My hand to -- the Court Painter.
WATTEAU
Columbine,
Is that a riddle?
COLUMBINE
No -- Monsieur Watteau.
WATTEAU
You love my office?
COLUMBINE
No -- Monsieur Watteau.
(Draws him to LANCRET'S portrait of the QUEEN)
Come! See this portrait. Let us criticize it
And tease the artist for the golden manner
He stole from you. The boy amuses me.
He strives so hard to be Watteau. Come! come!
Instruct my protege.
WATTEAU
Why should I do so?
COLUMBINE
Because I ask you.
WATTEAU
That is cause enough.
Sound logic.
COLUMBINE
Oh, this little me! To think
I am so small and powerful. I feel
Big as a lion. Fear me, great Watteau.
WATTEAU
Well -- so I do.
COLUMBINE
But why?
WATTEAU
White magic! Spell
Of little meaning that the wit denies
And yet the heart believes.
COLUMBINE How well you praise me.
Put out your hand. How big! Now look at mine!
Master, which hand is stronger?
WATTEAU
Columbine's.
COLUMBINE
Speak more such words. What would you?
WATTEAU
Your heart.
COLUMBINE
Why -- so
'T is but a bauble.
WATTEAU
I would die for it.
COLUMBINE
Would you, Watteau? Then teach this silly boy
To learn his lesson.
WATTEAU (curiously)
Delilah? Oh, Delilah.
COLUMBINE
I am not
.WATTEAU
Ah?
COLUMBINE
Master, he is a truant
Not swift at learning. I would have him learn.
WATTEAU
But if the pupil should outstrip the master --
So gracious, fine, fashioned so shapely, fair
To please court ladies!
LANCRET
Master!
COLUMBINE
Oh, Watteau,
Teach him.
WATTEAU
But why?
COLUMBINE
I love his sweetheart
.WATTEAU
True.
That is the very sterling coin of speech.
How could you spend it!
COLUMBINE
She dances next to me
In the ballet. The one in scarlet slippers.
Her name is Anastase.
WATTEAU
But wherefore lie?
COLUMBINE
I promised her to help him.
WATTEAU
Wherefore lie?
Yet such explicit guile is almost truth
It tells so on itself.
COLUMBINE (pleading)
Show him, Watteau.
Look, it needs you.
LANCRET
Master!
COLUMBINE
Then I will love you.
WATTEAU
Sure?
COLUMBINE
Oh, I will! I 'II take the heart of me
And put it in your hands.
WATTEAU
A sugar heart?
With white doves painted on it?
COLUMBINE
No, no, no!
A really, truly, really heart, Watteau.
WATTEAU (to LANCRET)
Lend me your oil.
LANCRET
Master, how you trust me.
WATTEAU
No, no! my son -- I love you well, but never
Think that I trust you.
COLUMBINE (holding oil for WATTEAU)
The oil.
WATTEAU (beginning work on LANCRET'S portrait)
Now learn of me.(He scrutinizes the oil)
Bah! But you keep it clean.
LANCRET
But
WATTEAU
My own oil
Is full of dust; I clean it once a week.
And bits of stick and hair and cobweb too
I keep in it. Let moth and dust corrupt
What's in this world.
LANCRET
But pardon me, Watteau,
Your colors fade the sooner.
WATTEAU
That's why I do it.
I advise that you do likewise.(He has altered the portrait)
Look!
COLUMBINE (in triumph)
He has done it.
WATTEAU
That's all. But just a high light and a line.
A little, little line. 'T was just that much
That made the gulf on the Heaven side of Dives.
By Monsieur Lancret -- portrait of the queen.
As good as mine, I think. (Turning to his own)
Ah -- how I loathe it! (He turns again to LANCRET'S portrait)
I advise you, Lancret, place it where the queen
May see it.
LANCRET
But --
WATTEAU
It may advantage you.
For if she favors it above Watteau's --
COLUMBINE
Above your own, Watteau? (They stand before WATTEAU'S portrait)
WATTEAU
'T is failure.
COLUMBINE
Yet
The world would say success.
WATTEAU
Sweet Columbine --
The heart heeds not the applauding multitude
But its own judgment.
COLUMBINE
Nay --
WATTEAU
It sickens me.
COLUMBINE (scheming)
'T is not your best.
WATTEAU
What?
COLUMBINE
In a conquering mood
Think what you might achieve with such a face!
Would I might see that portrait!
WATTEAU
I hate my work. (Is about to blot it out with his brush)
I will destroy it, (LANCRET catches his arm)
LANCRET
No!
COLUMBINE (passionately)
Lancret
LANCRET
My child,
Would you have had me?
COLUMBINE
Oh, fastidious workman!
'T is that fierce conscience I admire, master,
That tries and burns the creatures of your brain.
'T was just such valiant acts of regal spendthrift
That made me love you first.
WATTEAU
Child!
COLUMBINE
When I saw
Kings could not bribe you -- who would never send
A painting scourged by your own soul's reproach,
To strut before an applauding public -- then
I saw Watteau and loved him.
WATTEAU
Woman! Woman!
Weave on.
COLUMBINE
Watteau, you know how I desire
The world for you. Oh, win it royally
With no concessions. I am shy of him
That stoops to please -- a court.
WATTEAU
I see. I see.
Oh, Columbine, you are a simple version
Of a mysterious tale whose magic thought
In words one syllabled is written large
In a child's primer.
COLUMBINE
'T was a god I loved.
WATTEAU
Or rather, the Court Painter
.COLUMBINE
Court Painter? No!
I know him not. But Watteau, scornful, splendid,
In rags, half famished, with the eyes that look
Through, through -- till I feel helpless as the air,
Transparent, simple --
WATTEAU
Simple as the air,
But yet -- how subtle!
COLUMBINE
Now you have grown precious
Of work you value not. Like other men!
How I should love you if with one bold stroke --
But men are cowards. Yet I would have you brave!
Watteau -- I promise. If you lose it all,
The Court, the favor, here is Columbine!
Yours, yours! All yours!
WATTEAU
I will not take your promise.
I have given you so much. Take back the word
By my free gift that otherwise your hand
Will filch from my soul's casket -- when all's done.
Helplessly intricate! And yet so plain --
As complex things all are when once they are learned.
You are not simple enough to evade my wit
Even though 't is slow. I give you back your word,
One truth -- in spite of you -- as one would give
To a child a priceless gift he values not --
In case you should go up to it -- and bewail
How little you have of honor. Now all's plain.
And I 'II lose all, and you shall pledge your faith
To the Court Painter. Lancret -- here's the brush.
(Pointing to his own portrait)
Now blot it out.
LANCRET
I will not.
WATTEAU
Columbine?
COLUMBINE
No! No! I dare not.
WATTEAU
What -- are you afraid?
COLUMBINE
Let only him destroy it who has made.
WATTEAU
Oh, Columbine! God made you for the truth
You are so explicit. Wherefore weave and weave --
So obvious, so cunning! Ask me straight
For the thing you want of me. Let 's have the truth.
Give me but that. Just for a moment lay
Your soul whole in my hands in a plain speech.
Be just for once clear and articulate,
Out of God's mouth as when he spoke you first,
So I may hear your music. Say, "Watteau,
I love this boy here, and I would have
The world for him and me. The world, Watteau,
That means so much to us and is to you --
Well -- treasure also. Pray you give it me."
COLUMBINE
You do mistake. I do not want the world.
WATTEAU
Why, then, you almost spoil my faith in God,
Who, being perfect, let his hand go astray
And spoiled you in the making. Was it so hard
To fashion you more smoothly? Wherefore break us
To such discredit? Maker of us all,
We do beseech Thee for a perfectness.
Oh, Architect of sighs, doubt, and disgust,
Builder of broken bodies and of souls
That bear the blemish of Thy hand, -- no, no,
I will not think upon the bruised world,
That like the serpent shines beneath Thy heel,
Accursed and beautiful, afflicted, fair,
Bright and vindictive. Rather will I set
My hand to make perfection -- if I may.
Be perfect as you are fair. Say, "Give it me."
Come, speak the words! You will not, even so?
How I desire this honor for you, child.
Is it so hard? What, even as a gift
Bought with no purchase money of your own
But my own blood?
COLUMBINE
I pray you, give it me.
(WATTEAU dashes out the face of the portrait with his brush)
WATTEAU
Vanitas vanitatum! Let it pass.
[A PAGE enters]
PAGE
The queen.
[QUEEN enters with her LADY-IN-WAITING]
QUEEN
Monsieur Watteau, I come at last
To see my portrait. She pauses before LANCRET's painting)
It is changed.
WATTEAU
Yes, madam.
QUEEN
How different! Yet -- I congratulate you.
That touch! How full of you!
THE LADY
Your majesty,
The likeness is most perfect.
QUEEN
Watteau? yourself?
Does it give you pleasure, sir?
WATTEAU
It is well done.
QUEEN
That bold technique! A real Watteau!
WATTEAU
No, madam.
QUEEN
What do you mean?
WATTEAU
'T was not my hand that did it.
Lancret, a friend.(Points to his own painting)
There, madam, is my portrait.
A real Watteau.
QUEEN
What, sir, would you insult me?
Blot out my likeness!
LANCRET
Madam, pardon me.
He compliments you. To his fastidious taste
It was not worthy of you.
COLUMBINE
Lancret!
LANCRET
Dear madam,
Genius is whimsical. In its own ways
It praises or dispraises. 'T was a dream --
Perfection -- took the breath with loveliness.
Unheard of beauty! To his fastidious taste
It was not worthy of you.
QUEEN
Watteau, Watteau!
That was a savage compliment. But still --
Luxembourg waits for you. The Sistine Chapel
Is restless for angels and the great Madonna
I bid you paint there.
WATTEAU (holding out the slippers)
Madam, upon these
I have drawn that great Madonna.
QUEEN (taking the shoes)
Satin slippers!
What butterflies!
THE LADY
What wreaths!
QUEEN
What pretty Cupids.
WATTEAU
I painted a Madonna on the sole.
(QUEEN turns them over)
QUEEN
A Madonna! 'T is a wonder.
WATTEAU
Madam -- I spent
The dreams of many days and wakeful nights
Upon that little shoe.
QUEEN
But this is spendthrift!
One promenade upon a velvet carpet
Would spoil the glory of it.
WATTEAU
Therefore, madam,
I wrought them as they are.
QUEEN
They are just my size.
WATTEAU
The smallest shoe in the kingdom.
QUEEN
I 'II try them on.
WATTEAU
Pardon me, madam.
QUEEN
So --
THE LADY
Monsieur is honored.
May I suggest thrice blessed is that man
That makes the queen a welcome gift?
QUEEN
And why?
WATTEAU
They are not meant for -- this.
QUEEN
I see! I see! (Reaching him her purse)
Well, Monsieur Watteau -- was it meant for this?
WATTEAU
No, madam.
QUEEN
Nay -- but, man, 't is the queen's purse,
With a thousand francs.
WATTEAU
About this little shoe
Is the sweet savor of my midnight dreams.
QUEEN
I triple it.
WATTEAU (holding shoe)
Oh, perfect only thing
That making I have loved, fragile and fair,
I 'II keep you -- so.
QUEEN
But I will have it! Sir --
Five thousand francs.
WATTEAU (fondling shoes)
Sweet dream.
QUEEN
Then twenty thousand!
WATTEAU
I hear the Cupids play their little harps.
QUEEN
Is this another compliment, Watteau?
It savors of insult, like the other. Nay --
A fortune! Name your price!
WATTEAU
Never -- though I
Am hounded with debts clean to the very door
Of the debtor's prison.
QUEEN
Oh, I hate this man!
Give me the shoe. I say -- the shoe I'll have.
A title -- would you? Why -- do you not know
What 't is to raise the enmity of queens?
Down, down, you dog! And lick my hand! A duke,
This will I make you.
WATTEAU (with a smile)
Ah?
QUEEN
Does he not hear?
Sir -- I command you. What, would you be hanged?
I 'II move the powers of Heaven and Earth and Hell
To get these slippers. What I want, I 'II have.
You will not take rewards? Then I will strike.
I banish you from court. Our doors in vain
Shall plead for the wings of angels. Not a dream
Of Watteau's shall come true about the walls
Of the Sistine Chapel. Go and face despair,
Hunger and cold, imprisonment, disaster,
Even as of old before I favored you,
Dependent! Slave! That shall be scourged indeed
By my own hand! Do you deny your queen?
Sell me the shoes -- or I will ruin you!
WATTEAU
You cannot pay their price!
QUEEN
I cannot? What?
Have I not coffers of gold, rich diadems,
Worth a king's ransom, fit to buy my whims?
Is France so poor?
WATTEAU
Ah, Lady, give me then
That gold whereof the streets of Heaven are made,
On which the steps of angels fall as sweet
As silver rain over a shining air,
You cannot buy from me these shoes, Oh, Queen!
France is so poor.
QUEEN
Ah, now, I see! I see!
Artist -- and poet! Such folk must be paid
In magic coin. You are intricate
With your strange courtesies of finer worlds.
Forgive me, sir, that am but a Queen on Earth --
That small and vulgar province in Great Space.
I am not skilled to the urbanities
Of starry cities -- the great gracious ways
Of the far capitals of noble thought.
Pardon the rustic and her bourgeoisie!
She will learn manners. I am rich, Monsieur --
And I will pay, but in more subtle-wise
Than gold or titles. I will give a treasure
Great Kings sigh for in vain. I pray you, sir,
Sell me the shoes -- and I will pay -- a kiss.
WATTEAU
That, gracious lady, is too much to pay.
I cannot tell my Lord, on the Day of Judgment,
That I have stolen their treasure from Great Kings
.QUEEN
Why, man -- I am the queen!
WATTEAU
And I -- Watteau.
QUEEN
So. Then I will be mild. I have behaved
Like a child that cried for a star. Is it so high?
But you can give it, like the god you are.
I will not barter. I will beg. Monsieur --
Give me the shoes.
COLUMBINE
Watteau -- give me the shoes.
WATTEAU
Oh, Columbine, so spun of sorceries
You could not trust me, even at the end,
But needs must win by guile what I would give
Ah, child -- how fair you are! Take them.(Giving her the shoes)
Thereon
Has breathed my soul. It is my masterpiece.
COLUMBINE
I 'II try them on.(Putting one on)
Oh, see my darling foot
LANCRET
Watteau -- oh, master!
WATTEAU
She is of little worth.
And yet -- Lancret -- we needs must love her. So?
COLUMBINE (with both shoes on)
Ha -- ah! I'm Columbine! But these are shoes
In which to run. My feet feel happy in them.
WATTEAU
They are full of thoughts of you.
COLUMBINE
I feel like flying.
WATTEAU
The wings of the butterflies wrought in the satin
Will bear you up.
COLUMBINE
Oh, how I want to dance!
WATTEAU
You feel the tunes the little cherubs play
Upon their harps. Hush - somebody is crying!
It is the tears of Watteau's lost Madonna.
COURTIN
He's mad!
COLUMBINE (dancing and singing)
Blossoms floating in the wine!
Every one loves Columbine!
WATTEAU
Dance! Dance!
QUEEN
Lancret, come to the court to-morrow.
I make you Painter to the Queen.
COLUMBINE (victoriously)
Lancret!
QUEEN
Monsieur Watteau, I bid you an adieu.
(She and her Lady sweep to the door)
I go from your door. But when I go, monsieur,
Hunger and Desolation and Despair
Shall enter in. I pray you, see this man,
Who better loves a foolish Columbine
Than a Madonna! When the centuries
Shall loose their tongues on him, their speech shall be
Monsieur Watteau, great Painter and great Fool.
(She goes out with her Lady)
COLUMBINE (in LANCRET's arms)
But oh, Lancret, Lancret!
WATTEAU
Dance, Columbine.
Upon those little satin shoes are painted
What made night perfect and on a barren day
Shed light. Dance, dance, as Judith danced of old
With the head of Holofernes.
(COLUMBINE dances and sings)
COLUMBINE
Blossoms perish in the snow.
Columbine won't kiss Pierrot!
(Her dance increases in wildness. Her skirts glitter around her)
WATTEAU
Oh, whither? Immortality and Fame,
Fortune and High Endeavor sketched thereon
COLUMBINE (singing)
Blossoms fade and we forget,
She was fairer than Pierrette!
WATTEAU
Whither? ye flowering wreaths and little Cupids,
That play through satin all your subtle tunes?
Oh, whither? roses! whither? butterflies!
Dance - dance!
(COLUMBINE sings and dances)
COLUMBINE
Blossoms lead the April in,
Columbine flounced Harlequin.
WATTEAU
Whither? oh, heart of Watteau, wrought among
The blossoming wreaths and all ye precious, dreams
That made it golden! Rushing of vague wings,
Haloes and tears of Mary -- all of these
That shone in it so long. Dance!
COLUMBINE (faltering)
I am tired!
And -- oh, Watteau!
WATTEAU
Dance! dance! I bid you dance!
(She dances again, more passionately than ever)
Forever and forever! Virgin Mary! --
Dance! dance! Convey my visions to the dust.
Efface my dreams in darkness. Oh, the mad whirl
In which they all go out! Dance them away --
Even to destruction and to utter death.







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