Music by Mark Zuckerman

Act II Libretto

12/22/13

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ACT TWO, SCENE ONE

 SAULíS CAMP, HILL COUNTRY IN PHILISTINE TERRITORY

Saul and his men are encamped. His tent is stage left; a campfire burns stage right. Armor lies in piles here and there, not as neatly arranged as we saw in the court. Zerubbabel and Jonathan sit beside the campfire.

ZERUBBABEL

[looking at the stars, uncharacteristically subdued]

Strange night. Strange black night.

JONATHAN

[exhausted]

No stars, the blackness presses down.

ZERUBBABEL

Black black night, the big battle tomorrow,

first time I feel a trembling in the camp.

JONATHAN

The fire sighs against the blackness.

We need David to fight with us.

ZERUBBABEL

By my beard, Davidís betrayed us this black night.

JONATHAN

Fatherís obsessed by his David hunt,

dragged us deep into Philistine country.

ZERUBBABEL

Weíre boxed in. Black night.

Been beside the king

all my life and never seen him so strange.

JONATHAN

The hunt is blackness, drives out judgment.

[as if trying to explain to himself]

The king pursues himself in David

óhis only necessary loveó

as if to kill the fear within.

ZERUBBABEL

The king must snuff the fire of betrayal.

JONATHAN

Even though he chased me out, like David,

I wonít betray my father. O David Ö

ZERUBBABEL

Strange black nightóthe rebel, the kingís rampage.

JONATHAN

Obeying, Iím betrayeróbeast,

the royal prince, a loyal hound.

My heartís a stranger to meóblackness.

ZERUBBABEL

David, fighting for the Philistines,

the people call him ďoutlaw.Ē I say ďtraitor!Ē

[confused and deeply disturbed, his world coming undone]

Betrayal. Obsessionóbad sign this black night.

<<SAUL enters carrying his spear, tired but talkative. JONATHAN and ZERUBBABEL rise from sitting by the fire. >>

SAUL

No wind, the stillness of the dead

out there, the men asleep. Iím dead

tired myself.

JONATHAN

                        Our spies returned?

Are we surrounded?

SAUL

                        The hand I fear

falls against me. Have to laugh

I hunt the man I need to hunt

the Philistines tomorrow daybreak.

JONATHAN

Forgive, and stop the hunt. Send word.

SAUL

Iím an eagle, sky turned to glass;

a fish, the foaming sea to flint.

I must rest.

[strangely resigned]

                        At dawn decided.

Night so thick, will I dream?

JONATHAN & ZERUBBABEL

Weíll tend the fire, keep watch.

[Saul moves to the shadows in front of his tent, sticks his spear in the ground above his pillow (at the same angle as in the opening scene) and prepares to lie down. Jonathan and Zerubbabel sit again by the fire.]

SAUL

I used to know things from my dreams.Ö

Where are the voices that tell whoíll die?

O the voices Ö when my life

was precious in the Deciderís eyes.

They are silent now. Betrayed me?

What have I offended, who?

Is David chosen to sing and to live?

And I left only to laugh and to die?

[again resolute, gestures toward the Philistines beyond his camp]

At dawn they die.

And then the outlaw.

ZERUBBABEL

[sleepily, to Jonathan]

Remember his lullaby of comfort and blood?

JONATHAN

I can hear David on battleís eve.

ZERUBBABEL and JONATHAN

Now welcome slumber, honeyed sleep.

            Youíll hack your enemies

To the cheekbone and break the teeth

            Of the wicked Philistines.

ZERUBBABEL, JONATHAN, and SAUL

Fear not the arrow that flies by day

            Nor the terror by night.

ZERUBBABEL, JONATHAN, SAUL, and DAVID

[Davidís voice offstage]

Let black night cloak and not betray,

            Be armor for the fight.

SAUL

[drifting off to sleep, as Jonathan and Zerubbabel fall into dreamy silence]

A dream of life Iíll hold in hand

driven to discover death.

HANNAGAIL

[in Saulís dream]

Old men dream dreams. Young men see visions.

Dream dreams now of things an old man knows.

<<Unseen by JONATHAN and ZERUBBABEL, DAVID enters stealthily, brandishing a knife as he moves toward the sleeping SAUL.>>

DAVID

No need to sic my thugs

on the guard, for songís more potent than drugs.

[stands over Saul, speaking almost tenderly]

My king, no rebellion in my hand.

By the Deciderís will Iím here.

<<While David approaches and stands over him, Saul dreams, hearing the voices of HANNAGAIL, JONATHAN, ZERUBBABEL, and DAVID. During Saulís dream, David speaks a conflicted monologue and does not hear any of the dream voices, nor does Saul hear David speaking over him.>>

SAUL

[dreaming]

Chosen. Unchosen. Agag betrayed! Ö

my severed head laughing, laughing Ö

black sounds Ö

JONATHAN

[in Saulís dream]

            Loyal, thus I

must betray. Ö

SAUL

[dreaming]

                                   Your hand, your hand

drawing the lyre string of David

cocked with my spear, bow aimed

right at my heart. Ö

ZERUBBABEL

[in Saulís dream]

From the hills, the traitor David watching, watching.

HANNAGAIL

[in Saulís dream]

Ten thousand Davids, ten thousands ten thousands.

DAVID

[conflicted, rationalizing]

Mockery like robbery

it seemed to you, the people chanting,

but the lot kindled me, become

precious in the Deciderís eyes.

You raised me high, my father, then

betrayed and drove me into the hills.

HANNAGAIL

[in Saulís dream]

Your hand, your hand decides to do, to do.

SAUL

[dreaming]

                          Precious, precious,

my life cupped in the Deciderís

betraying hand. Ö

HANNAGAIL

[in Saulís dream]

Is the blackness without order betrayed by fire?

DAVID

[accepting that he decides, sadly]

I am your son today and forever,

but let you live,

                         and I will die.

SAUL

[dreaming]

                         Hands, my hands!

chopped off, still clinging to my spear.

SAUL, DAVID, JONATHAN and ZERUBBABEL

[in Saulís dream]

Blackness served in cups where fire Ö

Hands still clinging to the spear Ö

Ten thousand goblets of desire Ö

Severed hands as still as fear Ö

SAUL and DAVID

[in Saulís dream]

Father, son, Ö

JONATHAN

[in Saulís dream]

                                    or friend betray?

ZERUBBABEL

[in Saulís dream]

Trusted general Ö

DAVID and JONATHAN

[in Saulís dream]

                                    or friend betray?

SAUL and ZERUBBABEL

[in Saulís dream]

Eyes that follow Ö

SAUL and DAVID

[in Saulís dream]

                                    all betray?

SAUL and JONATHAN

[in Saulís dream]

Blackness silence Ö

SAUL

[in Saulís dream]

hand betray?

SAUL, DAVID, JONATHAN and ZERUBBABEL

[in Saulís dream]

Voices out of blackness laughing Ö

Light like dead of night demands Ö

Chosen sons and fathers clashing Ö

Ten thousand severed hands Ö

DAVID

 [raises his knife to kill Saul]

Now. Now.

                   No satisfaction.

Iím driven to discover life.

[lowers the knife,  overcome with anguish]

Why is it meant for me to destroy

whom I love?

[raises the  knife]

                        I must act

on orders from the Order itself,

loyal as the stars in their courses.

In my hand now Ö

[lowers the knife]

                           and yet my love;

no Deciderís dupe, today

I decide to show my power.

[bends over Saul and gently cuts a piece from the edge of his robe]

O father, who set me on this path

of desire, revealed me to myself,

the Deciderís taken a new lover.

[He sheathes his knife and with the piece of cloth in one hand, takes Saulís spear in the other and starts to leave, passing by Zerubbabel and pausing for a long moment in front of Jonathan, as if to speak, but then turns to go.]

JONATHAN

[jumps up]

Halt! Who goes there?!

[pauses and stares, as if heís hallucinating]

                                    David. David!

DAVID

[quietly]

Yes David, come to leave a message.

ZERUBBABEL

[awakes, grabbing his sword and scrambling  up, sees David with a piece of Saulís robe in one hand, his spear in the other, and assumes the worst]

Outlaw. Traitor! Betrayer and now murderer!

[looking at the cloth, raises his sword and hisses contempt]

You slink away with your abominable trophy

like those bloody foreskins you took from the dead for Saul.

JONATHAN

[raises his hand]

Put down your sword. My brother walks.

DAVID

Though in my hand, the king is free.

I stayed my hand because I am

his chosen son and treasure him

though turned on me. For the people loved me.

Iím not the partridge. I am the hunter.

I will prevail because Iíve snared

myself, my own ambitionís hand.

If not I for myself, who then?

And being for myself, what am I?

ZERUBBABEL

[with repressed fury]

You loved the king. Fight with us or leave the spear.

We go out tomorrow; heís dead without his spear.

JONATHAN

[sadly]

Leave the spear. You love the king.

DAVID

Great is the space of desolation

we shout across,

[gesturing toward Saul]

                           his words in the dust.

But my words fly and move my men.

JONATHAN

Leave the spear. What can it mean?

DAVID

The spear in my hand means the lot

[raising the spear]

is fallen on the outlaw singeró

who was hunted now the hunter.

ZERUBBABEL

[as if to himself in a daze]

I go out and put on the black night like a cloak.

Wandering and confused, I wrap it around meÖ.

DAVID

[Brandishing the spear, he moves toward Saul while chanting as if casting a spell. In the background, faintly, Zerubbabel repeats the phrase ďwandering and confused.Ē]

House will fall. Sun will rise.

[stands over the king, laying the spear down beside him]

Hereís your spear. See who dies.

[crosses back to Jonathan and Zerubbabel, Saul still asleep, and addresses them]

The corner of this robe in my hand

signifies the new command.

JONATHAN

[quietly, an echo of David]

New command.

                        Fear I know.

The hand that played, now grips a knife.

ZERUBBABEL

[as if in prayer, to no one in particular]

Stalwart there, all stretched out lank and still,

my king sleeping, not hearing the bloody traitor. Ö

JONATHAN

[as if heíd not entertained the idea before]

A king can die.

                        My father can fall Ö

ZERUBBABEL

[tenderly]

I lay the black night gently on my king

black night like a robe to deceive the ravens.

Let us put on the night like armor and go out.

Let us put on the night like armor and go out.

[Zerubbabel nods off.]

JONATHAN

and the house fall. And your loyalty?

DAVID

My brother, at my side forever.

O we were larking companions together.

Remember my beats!? Itís women weather.

They pitch their tent and charge no rent.

DAVID

[mock serious]

With my rod Ö

JONATHAN

[in kind]

            and my staff Ö

DAVID & JONATHAN

                        we had our women.

DAVID

Remember when you scaled that cliff

and strangled the guard. Ö.

 JONATHAN

                        And you descended

on the jackals from the other side.

DAVID & JONATHAN

We closed together like scorpion pincers.

DAVID

Together, our raven-feeders slashing.

JONATHAN

You bathed my wounds. I cooled your fever.

Brothers forever?

DAVID

                        I hear the people.

I know my love for you but feel

the steely drumbeat of my will.

[snatches of Zerubbabelís incantation sound faintly in the air though David and Jonathan donít hear]

JONATHAN

I know my love for you but feel

your will like fire on my face.

DAVID

The Great Decider will decide.

JONATHAN

[more accusation than question]

And your will is the same as theirs!?

DAVID

No satisfaction, only action

and reaction now.

JONATHAN

                        And life? Affection?

DAVID

We are brothers to the last.

I am chosen. The lotís been cast.

JONATHAN

In these hills you bare your rhymes like talonsó

bright, hard. Youíre a new man.

DAVID

My will is a spear already in flight.

JONATHAN

I cooled your fever.

DAVID

                                    I bathed your wounds.

DAVID & JONATHAN

[They come closer, quietly but matter-of-factly speaking. Again, Zerubbabelís incantation is in the air, unheard by David and Jonathan]

You have found favor in my eyes.

JONATHAN

A footstep between us and death.

DAVID & JONATHAN

[Closer, louder but simply declarative, as David tucks the cloth into his belt, and they embrace.]

I love you with the love for myself.

 [We hear Zerubbabelís incantation again, as David and Jonathan slowly separate, hands still touching, then David backing away until heís almost off stage.]

DAVID

A footstep between us and death.

<<DAVID EXITS>>

JONATHAN

[Zerubbabel echoing faintly in the background]

Gone. Ö Ah David, to dissolve

back into the hills Ö but Iím Prince

to fight beside my father at daybreak.

Tomorrowódistant steely drumbeat?

[resolute]

I will put on the armor of night.

I will go out to the deciding.

<<CURTAIN>>

ACT TWO, SCENE TWO

DAVIDíS CAMP, PHILISTINE TERRITORY

Davidís tent is stage left, decorated with a few pennants and stripes. A field-court, in effect, its open flap reveals rugs and pillows arranged inside reminiscent of Saulís court. David stands before his tent to one side of the opening. Hannagail is in the shadows.

DAVID

[Holding up the piece of cloth cut from Saulís robe and squinting in the risen sun, he moans.]

Woke up this morning at break of day.

Who knows did Saul survive the fray.

[shaking the cloth, comforting himself]

Cutting his robe would wound his manhood,

not bring him down. Ö

HANNAGAIL

Like Saulís anointing hand, your hand withdrawn.

Your will or the Deciderís, how construe?

DAVID

[defensive]

                        Ö The Decider absent.

HANNAGAIL

Not taking in your hand, you have taken.

DAVID

[despairing]

My fatherís life? Jonathanís!?

HANNAGAIL

Sometimes the lot falls by accident.

DAVID

They did escape.

                        No. Easy prey

without my hand and band of men.

But you can change the storyís end.

HANNAGAIL

Birth, will, diceóforever the same.

DAVID

No, Jonathan knew another David.

Iíve taken your hard guiltless knowledge.

HANNAGAIL

The sun goes down. The sun comes up. Thatís all.

DAVID

[raises the cloth]

A lion roaring inside meómy story.

[opens his hand slowly, drops the cloth]

My will and the Deciderís tight

as man and wife, as sun and light.

HANNAGAIL

You know yourself the day you know your story.

DAVID

I know it is Ö a hard tale.

[though in pain, singing with a strange confidence]

Woke up this morning Saul on my mind.

Woke up with Jonathan on my mind.

Ravens on the field whatíll I find?

HANNAGAIL

You know yourself the day you know your story.

DAVID

Tried to hide from the sun my cheek.

Tried to hide from the sun my cheek.

O thereís blood on the ravenís beak.

HANNAGAIL

You know yourself the day you know your story.

 <<ZERUBBABEL staggers into camp, bloody and ragged, dragging Jonathanís broken bow.>>

ZERUBBABEL

[almost incoherent, mumbling]

You stand in the light. Ö And I approach from darkness.

My gear is gone, Ö scattered in the field,

and the spear and the bow Ö only my loyalty Ö

[realizing whose presence heís in]

My Lord, first of warriors, would you were with us.

[falling to his knees]

Hear me. Hear me now I beg of you.

[Wanting the news but dreading its confirmation of what he already knows in his heart, David hesitates, then nods to Zerubbabel who is grief-stricken as he forces out the words.]

O this day the towering oak cut down.

DAVID

[to Hannagail]

I felt the earth shudder Ö

HANNAGAIL

The sun goes down. The sun comes up. Thatís all.

DAVID

[to Zerubbabel, visibly disturbed but maintaining his calm]

What has happened?

ZERUBBABEL

[pouring out his words, a dam of emotion burst]

Surrounded, we attacked before dawn on the flat,

then the earth quaking as horses and iron chariots

bore down on us, a wave of roaring destruction Ö

HANNAGAIL

[an elegiac refrain]

The going out, the deciding at daybreak.

ZERUBBABEL

and panic as the earth shook and we fled to the high ground Ö

DAVID

[upset, offended as a soldier-strategist and pricked by his conscience]

Where you shouldíve stayed. Damn you!

ZERUBBABEL

[not about to be interrupted]

the archers pursuing usóarrows from earth and sky.

Jonathanís last arrow flying, his bow breaking,

and Saul sorely wounded Ö

HANNAGAIL

It is decided. Decided at daybreak.

ZERUBBABEL

                                                    O we fell

like wheat to the scythe, Saul leaning on his spear. Ö

[as if he comes out of a trance, does a double take, then angry]

You, his chosen son. And you withdrew!

DAVID

I spared Saulís life. I was the hunted.

ZERUBBABEL

[confirming his worst fears]

You were bodyguard to a Philistine lord,

itís true,

              who gave this very land to you,

the land that your abandoned father died on Ö

HANNAGAIL

The breaking at daybreak, daybreak.

ZERUBBABEL

[almost a sneer]

while you retreated to your tent and hid.

The king was right. You betrayed him. Traitor!

DAVID

Hold your tongue! Know Iím king

and can have your head nailed to a wall.

ZERUBBABEL

Worse to live. All Iíve lived for is dead.

I only am escaped alone to tell you,

to keep my promise to Saul and Jonathan.

Saulís spear lies shattered on the hills,

[holds out the broken bow]

and Jonathan sends his broken bow to you,

token of what he hoped and despaired.

DAVID

[shaken, realizing Saul and Jonathan are dead]

How did Saul die? And Jonathan?

ZERUBBABEL

About to be overrun, Saul looks to the sky

and calls on the Decider that the hand

hold up Saulís spear so he could fall on it but failed Ö

HANNAGAIL

It is decided at daybreak, daybreak.

DAVID

My Father. My brother what have I done?

 [abruptly cool and controlled]

They cannot be gone from earth.

ZERUBBABEL

[ignoring David, slowing in his telling, visibly disturbed]

and he said    if I loved him    Iíd prop up his spear Ö

<<The ghost of SAUL enters.>>

SAUL & ZERUBBABEL

Help me die before the Philistines torture Ö

DAVID

[astonished]

Is that you my Lord? Ghost come to torment?

ZERUBBABEL

[bent on finishing his story, ignoring Davidís seeing a ghost]

And I did.

                 And while I held the spear, Jonathan stood

took an arrow in his heart and slumped down, saying Ö

 <<The ghost of JONATHAN enters >>

JONATHAN & ZERUBBABEL

The lyre and the spear are doomed

to enmity, but go to David,

give him my words:

                             He has found favor

in my eyes; David has found favor.

DAVID

[reeling]

The face of my brother? Ghostly reproach.

[as if excusing himself]

Iím chosen from before the world Ö

JONATHAN

[abruptly interrupts]

Believing you had to withdraw from us,

[sarcastic]

commanded by the Order itself?

HANNAGAIL

At daybreak it is decided, at daybreak.

DAVID

Something discovered itself in me.

JONATHAN

Convinced the Deciderís will is yours.

[passionate]

O poisonous conceit of kings

that the people always swallow, and die.

DAVID

[softening]

Sweet bowman, dodger once of the lot.

JONATHAN

And so our thoughts can be no longer

ours, my brother,  Ö

DAVID

[loses himself in the memory evoked]

                                  feeding each

of us in talk, discovering Ö

JONATHAN

what neither of us could discover

by himself, Ö

DAVID

                        exploring what

neither knew within himself Ö

DAVID & THE GHOST OF JONATHAN

before we teased out something true

from ourselves we never knew.

HANNAGAIL

At daybreak it is decided, at daybreak.

ZERUBBABEL

[obsessed with his story, interrupts David & Jonathan]

And then Saul fell on his spear and cried out: Ö

SAUL & ZERUBBABEL

The wind has died. The thunder ceased.

My words trampled by my tribe.

DAVID

[shaken]

My father. Iíve abandoned you.

[abruptly to Zerubbabel, mixed guilt, grief and anger]

How dare you give death to the anointed!

You must die.

[hesitates]

                      Yet lift my hand

against honest Zerubbabeló

who fought with us, shielded us with your body?

SAUL

And must the kingóthe one calledókill

the one approaching with slow steps?

DAVID

I live in a ruthless taleóthe House

of David. I speak as king. Iíll act.

HANNAGAIL

The armor-bearer approaches with slow steps.

DAVID

I do what my hand decides to do.

ZERUBBABEL

[rises and approaches with dignity, speaks calmly]

I know that people die when the Decider speaks. Ö

DAVID

Approaching to reproach, how dare you.

HANNAGAIL

The armor-bearer approaches with slow steps.

ZERUBBABEL

I know that people die when a prophet speaks. Ö

DAVID

[angrily]

I will fulfill your prophecy.

ZERUBBABEL & THE GHOSTS OF SAUL AND JONATHAN

[Raises his hand in mockery but not toward Hannagail, whom he doesnít see or hear.]

Listen! The voices saying now: ďWithdraw,

leave Zerubbabel from the House of Saul?Ē

DAVID

[takes the bait]

You murdered the king! My brotherís cut down.

ZERUBBABEL

[again composed, speaks calmly]

I know that people die when a king speaks. Ö

DAVID

One in the kingóthe word and the act.

[slow dirge rising in intensity]

Now they are gone. Father is lost.

Gone to the dark. Brother no more.

[David plunges a sword into ZERUBBABEL who slumps to the ground.]

Cry to the east. Cry to the west.

Blood in the sun. O it is done.

HANNAGAIL

Praise the act of a king, the chosen one.

DAVID

Destroyed whom I would not destroy!

But I create myselfóthe king.

Iíve made my tale that will be told

till the world burn up. I break the law

but listen, Ö thunder and a wind.

GHOST OF SAUL

[in hubbub of voices]

The one approaching with slow steps.

HANNAGAIL

[in hubbub of voices]

Praise the act of a king, the chosen one.

GHOST OF JONATHAN

[in hubbub of voices]

A footstep between us and death.

ZERUBBABEL

[in hubbub of voices]

Only death when a traitor speaks, death.

DAVID

[The first line of Davidís sincere but paradoxically triumphant lament starts to rise like a wisp of smoke, becoming intelligible as the background hubbub of voices falls silent; then his refrain rings out, high above.]

O mountains, let there be no dew or rain on you.

            For there lie Saul and Jonathan.

            How the mighty have fallen.

ZERUBBABEL

And here Zerubbabel lies downórejoins them.

[Zerubbabel dies]

DAVID

O daughters of Israel weep for the warriors.

[Hannagail echoes]

            How the mighty have fallen.

I grieve for you my father and brother. O Jonathan

            More dear to me your love

            Than the love of women.

Slain on the heights in battleóSaul and Jonathan.

How the mighty have fallen

            And the gear of battle is lost.

GHOST OF JONATHAN

[among voices]

Foot-step, footstep death.

GHOST OF SAUL

[among voices]

Slow steps slow steps.

HANNAGAIL

[among ghost voices]

The act of a king, praise the chosen one.

DAVID

[looking toward the invisible Hannagail, not upward, he clasps one open hand in the other]

I take the Great Deciderís hand!

<<BLACKOUT>>

   

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