A dramatic game on the life of William Morris, artist, craftsman, poet, and Socialist. The game is organized as a sentence and 4 tropes, presented in 4 acts of a drama.
Characters: Morris, Janey (his wife), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Friedrich Engels, an Icelandic Skald.
Chorus: English workers, Icelandic peasants, medieval ladies.
The stage has in its centre a building behind doors, stage right is a side-street, and stage left is a dock where a ship can be moored.
The texts are taken from Morris’s poems and Socialist writings.
Sentence: a character opens a door and shows another character a new reality that transforms his perceptions.
Walking through the streets of Oxford, Rossetti and Morris come to a Gothic church.
Trope 1: Rossetti opens the doors of the church and shows Morris Janey enthroned in the sanctuary.
They go in. Morris looks at her and says to Rossetti:
Beneath her brows the lids fall slow,
The lashes a clear shadow throw
Where I would wish my lips to be.
Beata mea Domina!
Her great eyes, standing far apart,
Draw up some memory from her heart,
And gaze out very mournfully;
Beata mea Domina!
So beautiful and kind they are,
But most times looking out afar,
Waiting for something, not for me.
Beata mea Domina!
Morris and Rosetti venerate Janey as Beatrice in the Divine Comedy. Morris steps out the doors and addresses the audience:
All men that see her any time,
I charge you straightly in this rhyme,
What, and wherever you may be,
Beata mea Domina!
To kneel before her; as for me
I choke and grow quite faint to see
My lady moving graciously.
Beata mea Domina!
Janey comes out the door followed by Rossetti. Morris turns and kneels before her.
Morris walks through the streets of London with Engels, followed by Janey and Rossetti. Engels is expounding the theories of Marx. Morris addresses Engels:
„Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
Telling a tale not too importunate
To those who in the sleepy region stay,
Lull’d by the singer of an empty day.“
Engels is not satisfied.
Trope 2: Engels goes to centre stage and throws open the doors. Inside is a factory, a “dark Satanic mill”. Engels shows Morris the workers being exploited.
Engels and Morris go in and rouse the workers to revolt. They all come out the doors. Morris addresses the audience:
Many a hundred years passed over have they laboured deaf and blind;
Never tidings reached their sorrow, never hope their toil might find.
Now at last they’ve heard and hear it, and the cry comes down the wind,
And their feet are marching on.
O ye rich men hear and tremble! for with words the sound is rife:
„Once for you and death we laboured; changed henceforward is the strife.
We are men, and we shall battle for the world of men and life;
And our host is marching on.“
Chorus of workers:
Hark the rolling of the thunder!
Lo the sun! and lo thereunder
Riseth wrath, and hope, and wonder,
And the host comes marching on.
Police appear. There is a riot, in which police and workers engage in hand-to-hand combat. Morris is struck down by a police baton. Janey flees with Rosetti, the workers and police disperse into the side-streets, and Morris is left lying unconscious on the ground.
Night grows dark. Midnight strikes. The Icelandic Skald appears and looks down at him, followed by the medieval ladies. At a sign from the Skald, the ladies carry Morris away and lay him in a medieval ship moored at the dock. The ship leaves for Iceland.
The ship arrives in Iceland, where Morris awakes. He looks out and says:
Lo from our loitering ship
a new land at last to be seen;
Toothed rocks down the side of the firth
on the east guard a weary wide lea,
And black slope the hill-sides above,
striped adown with their desolate green:
And a peak rises up on the west
from the meeting of cloud and of sea,
Foursquare from base unto point
like the building of Gods that have been,
The last of that waste of the mountains
all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey,
And bright with the dawn that began
just now at the ending of day.
The skald brings him ashore, and they walk into the village.
Trope 3: The Skald opens the doors of a traditional Icelandic house and shows him the handiwork of the people, men and women.
Morris is consoled and takes heart. He addresses the Skald:
„Tale-teller, who ‚twixt fire and snow
Had heart to turn about and show
With faint half-smile things great and small
That in thy fearful land did fall,
Thou and thy brethren sure did gain
That thing for which I long in vain,
The spell, whereby the mist of fear
Was melted, and your ears might hear
Earth’s voices as they are indeed.
Well you have helped me at my need.“
The two clasp hands. Morris then leaves in the ship to go back to England.
In England, Morris leads the chorus of workers to Kelmscott House.
He addresses them:
„What, however, is art? whence does it spring? Art is the expression of man’s pleasure in the deeds of the present; in his work. Yes, that may well seem strange to us at present! Yet I repeat that the chief source of art is man’s pleasure in his daily necessary work, which expresses itself and is embodied in that work itself; nothing else can make the common surroundings of life beautiful, and whenever they are beautiful it is a sign that men’s work has pleasure in it, however they may suffer otherwise.
„I mean that side of art which is, or ought to be, done by the ordinary workman while he is about his ordinary work, and which has got to be called, very properly, Popular Art. While it lasted, everything that was made by man was adorned by man, just as everything made by Nature is adorned by her. The craftsman, as he fashioned the thing he had under his hand, ornamented it so naturally and so entirely without conscious effort, that it is often difficult to distinguish where the mere utilitarian part of his work ended and the ornamental began. Now the origin of this art was the necessity that the workman felt for variety in his work, and though the beauty produced by this desire was a great gift to the world, yet the obtaining variety and pleasure in the work by the workman was a matter of more importance still, for it stamped all labour with the impress of pleasure.
„I believe people would find, as they advanced in their capacity for carrying on social order, that people would rather be anxious to seek work than to avoid it; that our working hours would rather be merry patties of men and maids, young men and old enjoying themselves over their work, than the grumpy weariness it mostly is now. Then would come the time for the new birth of art, so much talked of, so long deferred; people could not help showing their mirth and pleasure in their work, and would be always wishing to express it in a tangible and more or less enduring form, and the workshop would once more be a school of art.“
Trope 4: Morris opens the doors and shows them the workshop of the Firm, ready for various arts and crafts to be carried out.
„The last claim I make for my work is that the places I worked in, factories or workshops, should be pleasant, just as the fields where our most necessary work is done are pleasant.“
They all go in and set to work with a will.