Le Jongleur de Notre Dame

The Juggler of Notre Dame

Act Two

[ Act: I | II | III ]

        SECOND ACT.

(At the Abbey, in the study room which opens on the garden of the abbey. 
Tables, desks, stalls.  Well in sight.  A statue of the Virgin, newly
finished, in a mystic attitude of indulgence and love, which a monk is at
work coloring.  Grouped around the Musician Monk, other monks finish
rehearsing, under his direction, a hymn to the Virgin which he has
composed for the occasion; it is Assumption morning.)

        All the Monks.
        (The musician Monk directs the  vocal ensemble and sings.)
        Ave coeleste lilium,
        Ave rosa speciosa,
        Ave mater humitium
        Superbis imperiosa
        In had valla lacrymarum
        Do robur, fer auxilium.

        Jean (dreaming alone).

The cooking is good at the abbey.
        * * * * * * 
I who did not dine often,
I drink good wine.  I eat fat meats.
        * * * * * * 
        Glorious day.
The Virgin ascends, ascends to
        Heaven this day,
And for her they rehearse a song of
        * * * * * * 
        A song in Latin.
        * * * * * * 
        Queen of angels,
To you, to whom I owe fat meats
        and good wines,
I should like with them to celebrate
        your praise.
        * * * * * * 
But I know not how to sing Latin.

        The Prior (entering).
Brethren, it is very good.

                (To the Musician Monk.)

I compliment the author.

(To the Poet Monk, author of the words, who steps forward jealously.)

The poet, too.

(The monks take up their work and their places: some paint, others model
or chisel, others copy on vellum, others at the end of the garden spade
and cultivate flowers.  In a corner, modestly, Boniface strips

        The Prior (to John).
But, in this solitary corner,
Alone, you do not sing, you, an old

Pardon me, my father;
But, alas, I only know
Profane songs in the vulgar French.

        Several Monks
        (coming near).
--Oh, Brother Jean!  how lazy!
--See how fat he is getting.
                (Touching his stomach.)
        (Intervening good naturedly).
What of it!  Brother Jean loves good things

        The Prior.
To the Virgin, no doubt, he offers
        this morning.
Like a bouquet, the freshness of his
Colored with lilies and roses.

        The Monks.
(The musician, the poet, the painter and the sculptor.)

Brother Jean,
Do you sleep...

Brethren, I know my sad indignity,
Day and night I lament it.
You laugh at me, ‘tis little.  Your
        anger, right here,
Should destroy me; I deserve it.
        * * * * * * 
Since in this prosperous abbey,
Guiding me by her white hand,
The Virgin, helpful mother,
Permits me to eat at my ease,
Have I once earned daily bread?
No, and not one work of merit
Testifies to heaven my love.
Monk ignorant, monk stupid,
I go to the refectory.
Eat and drink, then, drink and eat,
Each one in this holy house
Serves Our Lady with great zeal;
Even the least little altar boy
Knows how to sing to her,
Verse or song at the chapel.
And I willing to die 
With joyous heart for her glory,
Alas, alas, what fearful fate!

I know naught but in the refectory,
To eat and drink, to drink and eat.

        The Monks.
Jean knows only in the refectory
To eat and drink, to drink and eat.

        Jean (to the Prior).
Ah turn me away, my father.
I feat to bring you ill luck...
        Come, juggler,
Take up your baggage and your

        The Sculptor Monk (to Jean).
Juggler, a poor trade.
Why not be a sculptor?
Thou shalt be my pupil.

                (Showing the statue he is limning.)

Look: from the flanks of the marble
Wakened by a pious chisel,
The charm of the Queen with
        delicate front,
I, in my turn, create, I her creature,
Gaining glory with the heavens,
Nothing equals sculpture! 

        The Painter Monk
You forget, my brother, painting...
        Be my pupil, Jean.
The inanimate marble cannot give
But under the all powerful brush,

                (Showing the painted Virgin).

You see her palpitate, shudder,
To the lips she empurples, to the
        eyes in the look.
It is the great art!

        The Sculptor Monk.
The Great Art
Is sculpture!

        The Poet Monk
Not so.  In the place of honor
Only poetry must sit.
‘Tis my Lady, and I am her fervent
Your art is very gross.  Of choicer
The poet, fixing the flight of the
        spirit pure,
Encloses it vibrating to verses of
        heaven's gold
Glory to Poetry.

        The Painter Monk.
Is the Great Art!

        The Sculptor Monk.
The Great Art
Is Sculpture.

        The Prior (intervening).
Brethren, calm yourselves.

        The Musician Monk
For myself, I figure
That my art alone can make you
See with what ardent flight,
While you grovel on Earth
Music goes straight to Heaven.
Voice of the inexpressible, echo of
        the great mystery,
‘Tis the Blue Bird that comes from
        the Eternal Shore,
And ‘tis the White Beam on the
        ocean of Dreams.
What does a seraphim in heaven?
It sings, and again, and always,
        without rest.
Music is a divine art.

        The Sculptor Monk.
No, the great art is sculpture.

        The Painter Monk.
No, the great art is painting.

        The Poet Monk.
Poetry, oh queen of arts!

        The Musician Monk.
Oh, Music, queen of arts!
        * * * * * * 
A talker, the poet!

        The Painter Monk.
Sculptors are only masons!

        The Sculptor Monk.
Painters, mixers of color!

        Jean (frightened).
Great God!  what a tempest.

        The Poet Monk
        (to the musician
        who threatens him).
Music softens the manners.

        The Prior.
What, my brethren, in this place
Discord!... Agitans discordia
‘Tis the saying of Virgil.
By order of Apollo, by order of the
Let the Muse to the Muse offer the
        kiss of a sister.

(The four rivals embrace with poor grace.)

And come all to the chapel,
To the feet of Our Lady, and more
        humble of heart
Pray her to receive her new Image.

(Carrying the Statue the monks retire before the Prior.)

        (seated head in hands.)
Alone, I offer nothing to Mary.

If one must swell with glory,
When I prepare a good repast,
I do meritoriously.
Sculptor, I am in paste.
Painter, by the color so soft of my
A capon, cooked to a turn, is worth
        a thousand poems,
And what a symphony to ravish
        heaven and earth
Is a table where presides
        harmonious order!


        Boniface (fatuously).
But to please Marie
I remain simple.

Simple, alas,
I am too much so.  She loves to be
        prayed to
In this Latin I do not know.

And I so little... Kitchen Latin...
Is that then your trouble.
The Virgin understands the French
        language, too;
Her goodness divinates want.
For the humble Marie is good as a
And I read in a book a history
Where one sees clearly that she
        gave her heart
To the simplest, the most humble
                (Telling a story.)
        Mary with the infant Jesus, by mountains and plains, fled... But
the winded ass could do no more; and not far away, on the side of the
hill,-- suddenly appeared--the bloody cavaliers of the King, the child
        "Oh my son, where hide they weakness!"
        * * * * * * 
        A rose was in flower on the roadside:
        "Rose, beautiful rose, be good: to my child that he may hide,
--open big your calice; --save my Jesus from death."
        But for fear of spoiling the crimson of her dress--the proud one
replied: "I will not open."
        A sageplant flowered on the way;
        "Sage, my little sage,--open thy leaves to my child."
        And the good floweret opened so wide her leaf--that in the bottom
of this cradle the child slept..."

        Jean (tenderly).
Oh, miracle of love!

        Boniface (finishing).
        "And the Virgin blessed among all women--blessed the humble sage
among all the flowers!"
                (Aside, quite convinced).
        Sage is in effect very precious in cookery.

        (aside, eyes raised
        toward Heaven).
If your white hand should bless me
        some day...
Let death come.  Die under your
        eyes.  What a holiday!

We'll celebrate first the dinner I
I must run to my young turkey...
                (Coming back.)
For I please the virgin in looking to
        the oven:
Hath not Jesus, with an equal smile Received from the wise men gold,
        incense and myrrh,
And for the poor shepherd a tune
        on his pipe.
                (Goes out running.)

        (alone, vaguely repeats the
        last words of Boniface.)
And from the Poor shepherd an air on his pipe.
        * * * * * * 
(Changing his tone, with emotion.)

What a sudden ray of light,
And in my heart what joy.
He is right, the Virgin is not proud.
The shepherd, the juggler, in her
        eyes, par the King.

(Advancing, eyes and hands toward Heaven.)

Virgin, mother of love, Virgin
        goodness supreme,
As on the shepherd's tune smiled
        the God-Child,
If the juggler dared honor you the
Deign to smile from the sill of

(Jean remains in an attitude of mystic invocation.)

(The orchestra plays the mystic pastorale that unites the two acts.)

[ Act: I | II | III ]

translation © 1998 Jeffrey A. Klingfuss

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Monday, 08-Dec-2003 21:46:22 PST