lines from the betrothal

In classics long after, quotables on January 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

“Before you is the great veil of the Milky Way. Beyond it stretches the region in which your unborn children are waiting to show you the mother they have chosen.” (Light)

The last of Maeterlinck for right now (next? Phyllis Nagy) ’cause I’m dependent on what I can find at the library – which is why today’s entry relates to the sequel to his alleged masterpiece rather than the thing itself (this – The Blue Bird – I still haven’t read). The Betrothal (or, The Blue Bird Chooses) is described as a ‘Fairy Play’ (there’s something aboout the small magic suggested by that which could be applied to much contemporary drama).

The theme is very much coming-of-age, with our butterfly-winged deus ex machina, the Fairy Berylune returning to one of The Blue Bird‘s child heroes on the edge of manhood to arrange a lifelong lovematch.  And so, in troop a gaggle of village girls he’s lusted politely, distantly, unspokenly after (wonderfully-named: Milette, Belline, Roselle, Aimette, Jalline, Rosarelle), and they’re taken off on a journey to discover which will be his. The Fairy insists it’s predetermined, he should know but can’t seem to choose and, to complicate the hormonal cauldron, there’s one phantom-like girl tagging along who won’t have a face until he remembers her (yeah, I know, you just guessed the ending – but let’s see how they get there).

blue bird

“There are girls in the village, in the town, way back in the forest and in every house. You find them everywhere when your heart’s awake… Which is prettiest?” (The Fairy)

As a means of nixing a world of tiresome interactions, Berylune casts a spell which suppresses all concerned’s everyday selves: “We are now in a sphere in which men and women don’t quarrel or wish one another harm. All of that was merely make-believe and doesn’t exist deep down… If some of them are unhappy because you hesitate in your choice, they will none the less hope on until the end; and they know very well that where there is love there must also be sorrow…” It’s a neat way of forestalling quibbles – sign-posting supernatural additions to the storyworld’s rules of reality excises what would otherwise be obstacles to suspension of disbelief for some poor literalists.

blue bird chooses

“…we have always lived in each other; for you were already living in me when I was on the earth; and now I live in you while you are still on that same earth, which we seem to have quitted…” (The Great Ancestor)

The most intriguing aspect of the play for now is its genetic component – Tyltyl must be helped in his choice first by ancestors (Maeterlinck well-making the point that all family trees contain – relative – successes and failures, herroes and villains) and then by his own descendents: “…we know everything that happens inside you; we’re there ourselves. Besides, there’s very little that separates us from the ancestors: our interests are the same and our paths often meet.” (The Oldest Child)


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