Blesok no. 30, January-February, 2003
Theatre Play


Lepa Angelina
Translated by: Dragi Mihajlovski and Richard Gaughran

Blagoja Risteski - Platnar



DRAMATIS PERSONAE


Lepa Angelina
Bolen Dojchin
Sveta Nedela
Zholta Evreina
Mitre Pomorjanche
Pavle Pletikosa
Ezakij
Jovan Angel
Irina
Simeon Lakapin
One Old Woman
Three Old Women
Roman Mistik
Corporal I
Corporal II
Guard I
Guard II
Libyan Soldiers, Monks.




Scene 1


The interior of the “Sveta Nedela” church in Salonica. The church is amply decorated. Everything has a gilded surface, but the candlesticks, chandeliers, iconostasis, and woodcarvings are dusty and covered in cobwebs. A yellowish half-darkness. With a bang the entrance door opens. The draft produces a cloud of dust. Enter Bolen Dojchin, Pavle Pletikosa, Mitre Pomorjanche, and Zholta Evreina. They stand in the middle and look around in silence.

BOLEN DOJCHIN
(He looks impressive: with long hair and a fur cap on his head. On his left thigh he wears a Damascus saber, on his right a shining dagger. He is clad in armour.): As Eftimij, the prophet of Kutmichevica said, somewhere down under this white marble lie hidden the valuables of Perun. His spear, a bolt of lightning untouchable, and his shield, in battles unyielding… Search!
ZHOLTA EVREINA
: Should we, Dojchin? Must we?
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: A rumour is spread under Salonica's walls, a rumour insidious like grains of sand, and it piles up in the conches. Hear it, Zholta Evreina, my robust brother: from the other side, beyond the wide sea, the Libyan army is preparing to attack. They are arming a hundred three-leveled cedar galleys, a hundred three-leveled ebony rowboats, a hundred bronze ships with black sails. They are arming them and waiting for the right moment: a cold wind to blow, a sign for them to move hither. When they arrive, what will they find?… just us few defenders of the fortress.
ZHOLTA EVREINA
: Aren't we enough?
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: For death too many, for hope just enough, for victory too few… Long ago, under the city of Byzantium, our phalanx was routed, because our leader did not discern the warnings. Blinded by the battle, he did not direct his army towards the seven walls of Constantinople, and there was no other hero to fight, to rise and kill the damned beast. Since then, we haven't mustered a strong army, merely, now and then, a single hero, slaughtered before his time. Therefore, search! If anything can save us from the Libyan monster, it is the weapons of our Lord.
PAVLE PLETIKOSA
: When Dojchin's word demands a search, then we must search.
MITRE POMORJANCHE
: Where? How?
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: Like this. (He draws his dagger, kneels, and with its handle starts tapping carefully on the floor.) Hear whether the void resounds, whether the bronze pierces your ear. If you hear a dull sound, you search in vain. If you hear a hollow tone, that which we seek is there.
MITRE POMORJANCHE
: And what if we fail to find it?
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: Even the oldest inhabitants of Salonica do not remember when the gates of the fortress were overlaid with heavy iron closed with twelve sturdy locks. A man of our faith would never forsake such splendour. He would do his best to utter a prayer in front of the treasure, the ancient work of men of old. Here lies hidden a thing beyond compare, something horrible, unbearable to the followers of Christ. And nothing is more horrifying for them than the treasures of Perun. It is only this that can make their faith a laughingstock.
(They all bend and begin to knock with the handles of their daggers on the floor, searching.)
MITRE POMORJANCHE:
If we find the weapons of Perun, is it you, Dojchin, my warring star unreachable, that will wear them?
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Yes, until you know a better man.
MITRE POMORJANCHE:
Such a hero does not live, nor has ever lived. There is no one I know, from the white Danube to the Salonica plain, who is worth a quarter of you. Hector is one, and you make two… I just wonder, a doubt devours my soul, whether you can manage? Can you wear this bulkiness immense? Only a god can wear the weapons of a god.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: And a mortal, if the owner so orders. Our supreme lord, Perun everlasting, the first among other gods in heaven, knows if I am able to brandish his spear and his shield, a fiery iron pan radiating from above…
PAVLE PLETIKOSA
: Listen! This plate echoes in a different way.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
(stands up and listens): A purified voice of a supreme knowledge. (He kneels by Pavle Pletikosa and strikes with the handle of his dagger. An echo is heard that gradually turns into a melody of the angels.) Hark! What a wonder! The skies sing through the mouth of this stone! The celestial strings, stretched across heaven and tightened from hereunder, produce music that can please the ears of god!
ZHOLTA EVREINA
: The ringing comes not from a bell, but from a source unknown, and it pains me. As if someone, in here, in my loins, with tender fingers fit for stroking, tore my veins apart. He touches me softly, but pierces me deeply. (he is in pain)
MITRE POMORJANCHE:
Stop striking, Dojchin, our virtuous leader, or we will wish that this melody mercifully crush us! (he also is in pain) Oh, this bewitching pain! Oh, my shining dagger, my sharp heavenly spike, finish me off!
PAVLE PLETIKOSA
: Stop striking, Dojchin, my winged horseman, my leader chosen by God. Too easy is death when it comes of hearing. If the angelic song does not cease, then the cry of the wailers, the destroyer of mountains, will commence! (he too is in severe pain)
BOLEN DOJCHIN
(Stops striking. Music fades out gradually.): Why is it me, and only me, that is not in pain? There is just this intensity in my body, in my forehead. This song has opened all my pores. Never before in dream or in dream of a woman have I hovered above myself. But the melody that has sprung from this marble has split me into the one listening and the one above the audible, who trembles, watching a white endlessness, invisible, in transience… Interpret, Zholta Evreina, my unread book.
ZHOLTA EVREINA
: You know yourself, Dojchin, that what enrages us you laugh at, what we love you disdain, what hurts us you welcome as happiness. You are the one, chosen among all men, who is to tell the people what the spheres intend. You are not a guest at the place where the gods have their feast, but neither do you sit where mortals eat. It may be that immortality has not been granted you, but death, that cunning adulteress, runs away from you as well.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: You have gone too far; I am nothing more than you, my equals in each exploit, are. Only that now all my senses are tense, and I receive the meaning that usually escapes… Get down to work now: remove the rock, this harp of the omnipotent, and let us see what it hides.
MITRE POMORJANCHE
: Shall we not thus arouse anger and rage, committing a sin that will mark us? Whoever so fashioned this hiding place did not do it lightly, but in a state of great peril, no doubt.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
You are afraid, Mitre Pomorjanche. This is the first time that I have seen you, the fearless, in the claws of fear.
MITRE POMORJANCHE:
This cannot be called fear, the collapse of conscience before an augured death, but what has gripped me, Dojchin, is something else, something nigh impossible to utter or interpret. This rock here, when you struck it lightly with the handle of you dagger, did not a melody, but a message emit, a message audible enough to confound us, a message even simple and direct, as if it said, “Search no further!”
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Or else, the salvation of your people lies hidden under me. Eftimij, the prophet of Kutmichevica, was never wrong. He foretold the sickness of Reljo [estokrilo, the pestilence of the livestock, that mountain of a surge over Salonica, the seven hungry years, the three thousand barren brides when at high noon a deadly darkness fell… Remove the marble! Thereunder lie the weapons of Perun.
PAVLE PLETIKOSA:
When Dojchin says remove it, then we must remove it. (The three men bend and, striving, lift the plate. They place it near the opening. Nothing happens at first. Then, suddenly, a dazzling white light springs up. Slowly, from the opening, emerges Sveta Nedela. All step back in terror but Dojchin, who remains and gazes at her.)
SVETA NEDELA
(looks at if in a dream): For three hundred years now this church has been closed, and three hundred chosen heroes have tried to open its sturdy gates. No one succeeded; they all paid for their effort with their heads. Who are you that you can with a light strike of your right knee break the chains and the straps, the bolts and the keys?
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: I am Dojchin of Salonica. I have come to claim what belongs to us. Who are you, a woman or a deception? A pencil of rays, yellow fog, a base fraud of the deceitful eye?
SVETA NEDELA:
There is nothing yours here, only the deception of prophets, which for centuries they have offered to credulous people… Away you go.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Not before we fulfill the task fitting for the threat of the Libyan rage, not before, oh woman, or whatever you are.
SVETA NEDELA
: You broke the holy gates and committed a sin that will be ascribed to your slow-witted youth and forgiven. You removed the plate and committed a severe transgression, but that will be forgotten, according to God's will. But if you go on searching for something that does not exist you will draw yourselves into a deadly trap.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Is this a threat, that deadly error because of which virtuous men have lost their heads?
SVETA NEDELA:
No, Dojchin of Salonica. My word is just a plea, and I wish it to be an obstacle impassable for you. To halt your next stride, stepped out in imprudence, because it will be your last one.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: I have not come here to prattle with a void that assumes the image of a women, with a ghostly beauty born of darkness and destruction of mind… (to the others) Go on searching. If necessary, pluck, ransack, destroy! But never surrender before the splendour of this appealing craftsmanship. The painters, wood-carvers, blacksmiths, and goldsmiths will return and restore the former glory of place, if we gain Perun's favour and save them.
SVETA NEDELA:
Wait! I am Sveta Nedela, the patron of this temple, and I tell you that you will not find here what stirs your intention. Such a thing does not exist, except in your heresy. Go away before my patience is lost and destruction, and enraged water that chases to the grave, gushes instead.
MITRE POMORJANCHE:
Dojchin, adviser of wisdom, let us go. This woman, I perceive, this pure face, radiates sheer truth.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: You, Mitre, you who for the first time turn to me a cheek of shame, may leave… And you two also, for whom silence is a shelter. I'll find the weapons alone. The thunder of the Almighty, a directing beam, will show me the place where it is hidden… Out, I said! (the three of them set out to leave)
ZHOLTA EVREINA
(before he leaves): I know that you can succeed alone, yet we will wait outside, worrying badly that you will send a sign for us to return and lend you a hand.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Go, Zholta Evreina, my robust brother. Whatever happens, the end will be all right. (The three of them exit. Dojchin approaches the opening from which Sveta Nedela came and gazes within.)
SVETA NEDELA:
Are you looking for those holy things in my dwelling-place? There you cannot even think of finding the valuables of your fictitious god.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Do you live here in this cold crypt, in this gilded vault?
SVETA NEDELA:
No, you man of Salonica, my existence cannot be called life.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: Then what?
SVETA NEDELA
: To display man's insignificance before His infiniteness, God has given man a few words, but these cannot describe the essence of my existence. The earthly word is insufficient for ethereal phenomena. But still, perhaps eternity is the word that you know. That word might help you understand my state of being. Or just a moment of eternity which lasts for ever, without recognising time or measuring it.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
I perceive your intent: with word obscure, unclear, to tempt me to prevent me. (He draws his dagger and begins to strike lightly on the floor.)
SVETA NEDELA:
Stop knocking! With the dagger of destiny you strike, a dagger to its liver and its heart. A dire curse hovers over you. In the middle of your road chasms of devastation open, fiery crevasses that will engulf you. God is enraged, Dojchin of Salonica. He has lost his patience.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
The god in whom you believe means nothing to me, and he cannot prevent me from getting the spear and the shield of my god…
SVETA NEDELA:
Do not blaspheme, Dojchin. There isn't “my god”, “your god”. God is one and all-present.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: You that call yourself Sveta Nedela, maybe you do not lack beauty; but reason, which rules the cosmos, you certainly lack… The god of whom you speak, has he got a name?
SVETA NEDELA:
Can you name the visible and the invisible, the comprehensible and the incomprehensible, the absent hovering over the present, but beyond all and further still?
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Against your will, in a fascination ingenuous, you, the beautiful, told me the whole truth: If your god is everything, then he is also nothing. There is not a boundless, shapeless property without image. No matter what kind of godlike, exemplary being–nothing that acts can last. Perun, our supreme lord, wears distinct properties: he is god of the sun, the sun-god, the creator of thunder, the thunder-tamer, the thunder-ruler, who, for the sake of man, separates heavy night from day. And there is heavenly blue Da`bog, who equals the sky in vastness. And Svarog, Perun's brother, creator and master of the earthly fire. And Veles, the good-hearted shepherd who protects our livestock from pestilence and our homes from disaster. And Stribog, dwelling in running waters. And Rgel, Moko{, and Rod, who fends for our offspring, and…
SVETA NEDELA:
The gods of which you speak were born in the unenlightened mind of your tribe. Your spiritual inability to merge in faith with the sole God, with the whole universe–this weakness, I am sure, has created these gods to serve you, but you were not made to serve them. Oh, what extravagance, oh what vain wish to have a god for a shepherd, a supporter and a servant, in order to hide your nothingness and inferiority, the sticky mud from which you were formed and to which you surrender in death.
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Oh woman, with whom I dispute over nothing, know that our gods resemble us in shape and senses, but not in mind and power. For a small sacrifice: a cock, a lamb, or a calf, a chosen word, a sacred flower–the iris for Perun–without hesitation he will pour down blessings to deliver us, to save us, to prevent evil and devastation. But your god, that void in the repentant conscience, hates mankind. They say he created people out of mud and left them down in the same substance to wallow, while he rejoices in the heavens at the wretchedness of his work…
SVETA NEDELA:
With each word, each thought, with each strike of your dagger, you are closer to the curse that I, in misery, must utter. So, stand still, oh man that breaks women's hearts! From the moment they see you, they can never drive you out of their dreams. Stand still and return to your world, where you have no peer among any living being, a world fit for you and your power. You do not need ethereal weapons. The Libyans will never conquer the shore on which you stand. Even if you count three hundred ships when they arrive, they will be too few for strength and your pride… Depart, I tell you. I might not be a woman, but, still, I am not a cold rock without some secret womanish tremour…
BOLEN DOJCHIN:
Oh holy creature, light unapproached, did I understand you well, or has hope, that dark pang, clouded my mind?
SVETA NEDELA:
Do not ask. Depart.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: Answer me and I will leave.
SVETA NEDELA:
Down my throat, a flute of God, the Cursed One passed, and the deceiver found a chance to say what you heard.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
:  Beauty cannot lie, for truth, by nature, is its ally. Not your words, but your face reveals meaning, like a ray at dawn before sunrise, like a red cloud portending a windy day. (moves towards her) Oh desired woman, unravished woman, loved in the imagination by all men, who can tell whether I am not the one chosen to embrace you and hear what eternity declares?
SVETA NEDELA:
If your hand, moved by love, touches my arm or my thigh, devils innumerable will be loosed. Time infinite will thicken in a moment and crush you.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
: Oh pain unbearable, let mild death seize me. I do not fear what will happen to me; I am only worried that you might, as when a sacrifice is made, ascend among the vestal virgins and vanish for good; that from my touch, a pebble thrown in a whirlpool, your reflection might expand and slowly vanish into eternity… But my muscles are taut, the whole of my body is a stretched bow aimed at your fragile being. Not lust but unforeseen tenderness drives me towards you. Let your face fall on my warm chest and leave a trace in the blue vastness.
SVETA NEDELA:
Come no closer, Dojchin, I cannot escape, for your look has nailed me to the ground; the evil called mercy will spring up and drown us both… Do not approach me, you creature of a starry clay created. It has not been granted us to live as husband and wife in perfect juncture. Oh ethereal holiness, oh tight robe of the moon, till now a gift of God, but from this time a severe punishment in which, till the end of memory, I will suffer.
BOLEN DOJCHIN
(approaches and embraces her): To be deprived of a chance to surrender to love, a pomegranate plucked from the tree of the universe, is the more severe punishment… Do not retreat, do not leave; the whole of my being wants to have you… I want your lips, the base of bliss… (he kisses her)
SVETA NEDELA
(she presses herself against him): It is over, Dojchin. You drank the poison. Where the nectar of delight which leads to physical pleasure was supposed to be, there you swallowed snake's venom. (Dojchin falls in pain)


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