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SCENE 2. A PRIVATE ROOM IN A TAVERN, WITH A PIANO.
Mozart and Salieri at table.
Salieri
What makes you look so gloomy?
Mozart
          Gloomy? No.
Salieri
Mozart, there's surely something on your mind.
The dinner's good, the wine is excellent,
but you, you frown and brood.
Mozart
                                I must confess it:
            I'm worried about my Requiem.
Salieri
                  Oh, you're writing
a Requiem? Since when?
Mozart
          Three weeks or so.
But the queer part… didn't I tell you?
Salieri
                        No.
Mozart
                                Well, listen:
three weeks ago I got home rather late —
they told me someone had been there to see me.
All night — I know not why — I lay and wondered
who it could be and what he wanted of me.
Next day the same thing happened: the man came;
I was not in. The third day — I was playing
upon the carpet with my little boy —
there came a knock: they called me, and I went;
a man, black-coated, with a courteous bow,
ordered a Requiem and disappeared.
So I sat down at once and started writing.
Now from that day to this my man in black
has never come again. — Not that I mind.
I hate the thought of parting with my work,
though now it's done. Yet in the meantime I…
Salieri
You what?
Mozart
          I'm ashamed to say it.
Salieri
                                   To say what?
Mozart
I am haunted by that man, that man in black.
He never leaves me day or night. He follows
behind me like a shadow. Even now
I seem to see him sitting here with us,
making a third.
Salieri
                Come, come! what childish terrors!
Dispel these hollow fancies, Beaumarchais
was wont to say to me: «Look here, old friend,
when black thoughts trouble you, uncork a bottle
of bright champagne, or reread „Figaro“».
Mozart
Yes, you and Beaumarchais were boon companions,
of course — you wrote «Tarare» for Beaumarchais.
A splendid piece — especially one tune —
I always find I hum it when I'm gay:
ta-tá, ta-tá… Salieri, was it true
that Beaumarchais once poisoned someone?
Salieri
                                               No,
I doubt it. He was much too droll a fellow
for such a trade.
Mozart
                  And then he was a genius
like you and me. And villainy and genius
are two things that don't go together, do they?
Salieri
You think so?
He pours the poison into Mozart's glass.
          Drink your wine.
Mozart
                         Your health, dear friend:
here's to the frank and loyal brotherhood
of Mozart and Salieri, sons of Music.
He drinks.
Salieri
Wait, wait! You've drunk it off. You've left me out.
Mozart (throwing his napkin on the table)
                                Enough:
I've eaten.
He goes to the piano.
            Listen to this, Salieri:
my Requiem.
He plays.
              Are you weeping?
Salieri
                         These are tears
I've never shed before — painful yet anodyne,
as if I had discharged a heavy debt,
as if the surgeon's knife had lopped away
a sick and throbbing limb! These tears, dear Mozart…
You must not mind them. Oh, play on, make haste,
flooding my soul with sound…
Mozart
                                  If all could feel
like you the force of harmony! But no;
the world would crumble then; for none would care
to bother with the baser needs of life;
then all would seek art's franchise. We are few,
the chosen ones, the happy idlers, we
who have no use for what is merely useful,
who worship only beauty — do we not,
dear friend? — But I'm not well — some leaden languor…
I must have sleep. Adieu!
Salieri
                                Until we meet.
Alone.
Your sleep will be a long one, Mozart! — Nay,
it cannot be that what he said was true,
and I no genius. «Villainy and genius,
two things that do not go together». Wait:
that's false — for surely there was Buonarroti.
— Or is that but a legend, but a lie,
bred by the stupid mob, by their inane
vulgarity, and that great soul who wrought
the Vatican had never sunk to murder?
<21 апреля 1941>
97
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