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Lucky Pehr
by August Strindberg
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[Enter Pehr.]

PEHR. [Drops down on a prayer stool, left.] She flees from me, as I flee from my bad thoughts! Alone, forsaken—what more is there for me in life? Naught have I learned of life save its nothingness, and no wishes are left to me but evil ones. My soul would be like an empty shell were it not filled with her! My life—Ah, what has it been? [Pall pounds on floor.] What was that?—Ghosts in the sunshine? That would be a funny sight! [Broom raps on floor.] Again! 'Tis said that one can see ghosts in broad daylight, if one peeps through a door-crack, it is even maintained that one can see oneself. Oneself—! If one could really do that, how easy it would be to evade one's worst faults! I'll try it. [Opens door left and places himself behind it.]

[Pehr's shadow steps up into the pulpit, drinks from the goblet, and turns hour-glass. Pehr stands at door with back to spectators.]

SHADOW. My beloved hearers! [Pall, Broom, Bartholomew and Laurence stir.] My beloved hearers and you, Pehr, who stand behind the door, my sermon will not be long since the hour is already late and it is especially to this so-called Lucky Pehr that I would address a few remarks. Yes, you, Pehr—you have rushed through life like a fool, in pursuit of fortune; all your wishes have been fulfilled—save one and they have brought you no happiness. Pay attention, you who stand behind the door! You have made no leap through life, for on that track one runs well. All the experiences through which you think you have passed were but dreams; for, believe me, one wins no wishes with luck-rings out here in Reality; here one gains nothing without labor. Do you know what labor is?—No! It is something very heavy; but it must be heavy the sweeter the repose—Labor, Pehr, and be honest, but don't become a saint, for then you would be vain, and it is not our virtues but our faults that make us human. Listen well, you who stand behind the door—Life is not such as you saw it in your youthful dreams. It is a desert, that is true; but a desert which has its flowers; it is a stormy sea, but one that has its ports by verdant isles. Heed, Pehr! If you want to go forth into life now, then do it in earnest. But you will never be a real man without a woman—Find her! And now, pay close attention, Pehr, for I shall leave the word to Saint Laurence after dismissing you with the sage's eternally young and eternally old exhortation—Know thyself! Saint Laurence has the word. [Shadow vanishes.]

SAINT LAURENCE. [Presents his grill.] I am the holy Saint Laurence with the grill, who, at Emperor Dicii's command was beaten with thongs seven days in succession and afterwards was broiled on this grill by a slow fire. There is no one who has suffered so much as I!

SAINT BARTHOLOMEW. What is that to speak of! I am the holy Saint Bartholomew with the skin, who, at Emperor Pamphilii's command was flayed alive clear down to the knees; and what miracles happened after my death! You perhaps have never heard of the mysteries or of the devil in woman shape and the prognostication about the volcano?

SAINT LAURENCE. What is that to speak of as compared with mine? I have six miracles: The beam in the church, the crystal chalice, the Nun's corpse—

PALL. [Rises up.] Oh, boast moderately of your sufferings. I am only a pall, but for fifty years I have borne on my back so many corpses, and have seen so much suffering—so many shattered hopes, so much inconsolable grief, so many torn hearts that suffered in silence and were thrust into oblivion without the solace of gilded statues—that you would be silent had you seen one-half of it. Ah, life is so black, so black, so black!

BROOM. [Raps on floor and rustles its straws.] What—you chatter about life, old Pall, you who have seen only death? Life is black on one side and white on the other. To-day I'm only a broom, but yesterday I stood in the forest, so stout and trim, and wanted to be something great. They all want to be great, you see, so it happened as it happened! Now I think like this: What comes is best; since you couldn't be great, you may as well be something else; there is so much to choose from—One may of course be useful, and at worst one can content oneself with being good, and when one has not been given two legs to stand on, one must be happy anyhow and hop on one. [Broom goes bumping along and finally leans against altar.]

PEHR. [Walks rapidly over to holy-water fount, by confessional, takes holy-water sprinkler and sprinkles out into the church.] Away, spectres and evil spirits! [As he lays back sprinkler a noise is heard from the confessional.] Someone is there! Reverend Father, hear me and accept the sighs of a broken heart!

LISA. [In assumed voice—from confessional.] Speak, my son.

PEHR. How shall I leave my dreams?

LISA. Oh, you have dreamed enough and you are no longer young. Think of your missteps—have you not made such?

PEHR. Yes, I have pursued fortune and have sacrificed conscience and honor in order to win fame and power. Now I cannot bear misfortune, and hate myself!

LISA. Then you have ceased to love yourself above all else?

PEHR. Yes.—I would free myself from self—if I could.

LISA. Then, Pehr, you can also love another.

PEHR. Oh, yes! But where shall I seek her?

LISA. [Comes out.] Here! [They embrace.]

PEHR. Now you will not leave me again?

LISA. No, Pehr, for now I believe you love me.

PEHR. What good fairy sent you across my pathway?

LISA. Do you still believe in good fairies? Mark you, when a little baby boy is born into the world, a little baby girl is also born somewhere; and they seek and seek until they find each other. Sometimes they go amiss as to the right one, then it turns out badly; sometimes they never find each other, then there is much sorrow and affliction; but when they find each other, then there is joy, and it is the greatest joy life holds.

PEHR. It is Paradise Found!

[Enter sexton, with staff—The old Man in the tower.]

SEXTON. The church must be closed.

LISA. See, now he drives us from Paradise!

PEHR. That he cannot do.—We carry it with us and lay it, like the verdant isle, out in the stormy sea.

SEXTON. [Lays down his staff.] Alongside the peaceful harbor, where the waves break up and go to rest.

PEHR AND LISA. Father! Father! [Fairy and Elf appear, each in their window.]

CURTAIN.

THE END

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