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A Musical Adaptation of
Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape

Samuel J. Bernstein
Northeastern University

Scenes   I   II   III   IV   V   VI   VII   VIII


  The firemen’s forecastle of a transatlantic liner an hour after sailing from New York for the voyage across. Tiers of narrow, steel bunks, three deep, on all sides. An entrance in rear. Benches on the floor before the bunks. The room is crowded with men, shouting, cursing, laughing, singing—a confused, inchoate uproar swelling into a sort of unity, a meaning—the bewildered, furious, baffled defiance of a beast in a cage. Nearly all the men are drunk. Many bottles are passed from hand to hand. All are dressed in dungaree pants, heavy ugly shoes. Some wear singlets, but the majority are stripped to the waist.

  The treatment of this scene, or of any other scene in the play, should by no means be naturalistic. The effect sought after is a cramped space in the bowels of a ship, imprisoned by white steel. The lines of bunks, the uprights supporting them, cross each other like the steel framework of a cage. The ceiling crushes down upon the men’s heads. They cannot stand upright. This accentuates the natural stooping posture which shovelling coal and the resultant over-development of back and shoulder muscles have given them. The men themselves should resemble those pictures in which the appearance of Neanderthal Man is guessed at. All are hairy-chested, with long arms of tremendous power, and low, receding brows above their small, fierce, resentful eyes. All the civilized white races are represented, but except for the slight differentiation in color of hair, skin, eyes, all these men are alike.

  The curtain rises on a tumult of sound. YANK is seated in the foreground. He seems broader, fiercer, more truculent, more powerful, more sure of himself than the rest. They respect his superior strength—the grudging respect of fear. Then, too, he represents to them a self-expression, the very last word in what they are, their most highly developed individual.




 STOKERSLocked down here in the bowels of a ship
 What the Hell. What the Hell.
 No one gives a damn if we die or if we live
 What a Hell. What a Hell.
 The air we breathe is filled with soot
 Our skins are seared by flames
 We're covered with grime from head to foot
 But at least we know our names
 We're stokers, bloody stokers, in the hold of a ship
 So we are and we belong
 If you think we'd trade places with you
 You'll find you're flat out wrong
 Shoveling coal from the morn 'til night
 What a Hell. What a smell!
 Shut out cold from the sun's warm light
 What a Hell. What a Hell.
 We stoke and stoke 'till our backs are broke
 And then we stoke some more
 The mates turn their backs if they hear us choke
 And laugh 'til their sides are sore
 But we're stokers, bloody stokers, in the hold of a ship
 So we are and we belong!
 If you think we'd trade places with you
 You'll find you're flat out wrong, wrong, wrong!
        VOICES—Gif me trink dere, you!
’Ave a wet!
Drunk as a lord, God stiffen you!
Here’s how!
Pass back that bottle, damn you!
Pourin’ it down his neck!
Ho, Froggy! Where the devil have you been?
La Touraine.
I hit him smash in yaw, py Gott!
Jenkins—the First—he’s a rotten swine—
And the coppers nabbed him—and I run—
I like peer better. It don’t pig head gif you.
A slut, I’m sayin’! She robbed me aslape—
To hell with ’em all!
You’re a bloody liar!
Say dot again! (Commotion. Two men about to fight are pulled apart.)
No scrappin’ now!
See who’s the best man!
Bloody Dutchman!
Tonight on the for’ard square.
I’ll bet on Dutchy.
He packa da wallop, I tella you!
Shut up, Wop!
No fightin’, maties. We’re all chums, ain’t we?
(A voice starts bawling a song.)
“Beer, beer, glorious beer!
Fill yourselves right up to here.”

  YANK—(For the first time seeming to take notice of the uproar about him, turns around threateningly—in a tone of contemptuous authority.) Choke off dat noise! Where d’yuh get dat beer stuff? Beer, hell! Beer’s for goils—and Dutchmen. Me for somep’n wit a kick to it! Gimme a drink, one of youse guys. (Several bottles are eagerly offered. He takes a tremendous gulp at one of them; then, keeping the bottle in his hand, glares belligerently at the owner, who hastens to acquiesce in this robbery by saying:) All righto, Yank. Keep it and have another.” (YANK contemptuously turns his back on the crowd again. For a second there is an embarrassed silence. Then—)

        VOICES—We must be passing the Hook.
She’s beginning to roll to it.
Six days in hell—and then Southampton.
Py Yesus, I vish somepody take my first vatch for me!
Gittin’ seasick, Square-head?
Drink up and forget it!
What’s in your bottle?
Dot’s nigger trink.
Absinthe? It’s doped. You’ll go off your chump, Froggy!
Whiskey, that’s the ticket!
Where’s Paddy?
Going asleep.
Sing us that whiskey song, Paddy. (They all turn to an old, wizened Irishman who is dozing, very drunk, on the benches forward. His face is extremely monkey-like with all the sad, patient pathos of that animal in his small eyes.)
Singa da song, Caruso Pat!
He’s gettin’ old. The drink is too much for him.
He’s too drunk.

  PADDY—(Blinking about him, starts to his feet resentfully, swaying, holding on to the edge of a bunk.) I’m never too drunk to sing. ’Tis only when I’m dead to the world I’d be wishful to sing at all. (With a sort of sad contempt.) “Whiskey Johnny,” ye want? A chanty, ye want? Now that’s a queer wish from the ugly like of you, God help you. But no matther. (He starts to sing in a thin, nasal, doleful tone:)
        Oh, whiskey is the life of man!
    Whiskey! O Johnny! (They all join in on this.)
Oh, whiskey is the life of man!
    Whiskey for my Johnny! (Again chorus)
Oh, whiskey drove my old man mad!
    Whiskey! O Johnny!
Oh, whiskey drove my old man mad!
    Whiskey for my Johnny!

  YANK—(Again turning around scornfully.) Aw hell! Nix on dat old sailing ship stuff! All dat bull’s dead, see? And you’re dead, too, yuh damned old Harp, on’y yuh don’t know it. Take it easy, see. Give us a rest. Nix on de loud noise. (With a cynical grin.) Can’t youse see I’m tryin’ to t’ink?

  ALL—(Repeating the word after him as one with the same cynical amused mockery.) Think! (The chorused word has a brazen metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a general uproar of hard, barking laughter.)

        VOICES—Don’t be cracking your head wid ut, Yank.
You gat headache, py yingo!
One thing about it—it rhymes with drink!
Ha, ha, ha!
Drink, don’t think!
Drink, don’t think!
Drink, don’t think! (A whole chorus of voices has taken up this refrain, stamping on the floor, pounding on the benches with fists.)

  YANK—(Taking a gulp from his bottle—good-naturedly.) Aw right. Can de noise. I got yuh de foist time. (The uproar subsides. A very drunken sentimental tenor begins to sing:)
        “Far away in Canada,
Far across the sea,
There’s a lass who fondly waits
Making a home for me—”

  YANK—(Fiercely contemptuous.) Shut up, yuh lousey boob! Where d’yuh get dat tripe? Home? Home, hell! I’ll make a home for yuh! I’ll knock yuh dead. Home! T’hell wit home! Where d’yuh get dat tripe? Dis is home, see? What d’yuh want wit home? (Proudly.) I runned away from mine when I was a kid. On’y too glad to beat it, dat was me. Home was lickings for me, dat’s all. But yuh can bet your shoit noone ain’t never licked me since! Wanter try it, any of youse? Huh! I guess not. (In a more placated but still contemptuous tone.) Goils waitin’ for yuh, huh? Aw, hell! Dat’s all tripe. Dey don’t wait for noone. Dey’d double-cross yuh for a nickel. Dey’re all tarts, get me? Treat ’em rough, dat’s me. To hell wit ’em. Tarts, dat’s what, de whole bunch of ’em.

  LONG—(Very drunk, jumps on a bench excitedly, gesticulating with a bottle in his hand.) Listen ’ere, Comrades! Yank ’ere is right. ’E says this ’ere stinkin’ ship is our ’ome. And ’e says as ’ome is ’ell. And ’e’s right! This is ’ell. We lives in ’ell, Comrades—and right enough we’ll die in it. (Raging.) And who’s ter blame, I arsks yer?


  LONG(Singing.) Comrades, listen to me
  All men is born ekal and free
  But as soon as we're on earth
  Some are shoved into the dirt
  That ain't as it ought to be
  The problem is the rotten, greedy, dirty swine
  Who gorge themselves and rob us blind
  Whose cabinets are filled with fancy wine
  Who don't give a damn
  Who don't give a crp
  Think the likes of us are just poor saps
  Who they can disregard anytime
  Comrades, listen to me
  All men is born ekal and free
  But the capitalist class
  What sits upon its ass
  Has destroyed our equality
  The problem is the filthy, stinkin', bloated louts
  Who stuff themselves and leave us out
  Who never work, just freely flit about
  Who don't give a plug
  Who don't give a shit
  Throw the likes of us a few small bits
  While they on caviar are growing stout
  Throw off, throw off our chains
  That's what we must do
  No more will we be slaves
  We'll decimate those few...
  Who own the ships and trains
  Cause all our pain
  Make us eat the dust
  Work us 'til we bust
  Sit upon their ass
  The Damned Capitalist Class!

  (There had been a gradual murmur of contemptuous resentment rising among the men until now he is interrupted by a storm of catcalls, hisses, boos, hard laughter.)

        VOICES—Turn it off!
Shut up!
Sit down!
Closa da face!
Tamn fool! (Etc.)

  YANKStanding up and glaring at LONG.) Sit down before I knock yuh down! (Long makes haste to efface himself. YANK goes on contemptuously.) De Bible, huh? De Cap’tlist class, huh? Aw nix on dat Salvation Army–Socialist bull. Git a soapbox! Hire a hall! Come and be saved, huh? Jerk us to Jesus, huh? Aw g’wan! I’ve listened to lots of guys like you, see. Yuh’re all wrong. Wanter know what I t’ink? Yuh ain’t no good for noone. Yuh’re de bunk. Yuh ain’t got no noive, get me? Yuh’re yellow, dat’s what. Yellow, dat’s you. Say! What’s dem slobs in de foist cabin got to do wit us? We’re better men dan dey are, ain’t we? Sure! One of us guys could clean up de whole mob wit one mit. Put one of ’em down here for one watch in de stokehole, what’d happen? Dey’d carry him off on a stretcher. Dem boids don’t amount to nothin’. Dey’re just baggage. Who makes dis old tub run? Ain’t it us guys? Well den, we belong, don’t we? We belong and dey don’t. Dat’s all. (A loud chorus of approval. YANK goes on.) As for dis bein’ hell—aw, nuts! Yuh lost your noive, dat’s what. Dis is a man’s job, get me? It belongs. It runs dis tub. No stiffs need apply. But yuh’re a stiff, see? Yuh’re yellow, dat’s you.

        VOICES—(With a great hard pride in them.)
A man’s job!
Talk is cheap, Long.
He never could hold up his end.
Divil take him!
Yank’s right. We make it go.
Py Gott, Yank say right ting!
We don’t need noone cryin’ over us.
Makin’ speeches.
Throw him out!
Chuck him overboard!
I’ll break his jaw for him!
(They crowd around LONG threateningly.)

  YANK—(Half good-natured again—contemptuously.) Aw, take it easy. Leave him alone. He ain’t woith a punch. Drink up. Here’s how, whoever owns dis. (He takes a long swallow from his bottle. All drink with him. In a flash all is hilarious amiability again, back-slapping, loud talk, etc.)

  PADDY—(Who has been sitting in a blinking, melancholy daze—suddenly cries out in a voice full of old sorrow.) We belong to this, you’re saying? We make the ship to go, you’re saying? Yerra then, that Almighty God have pity on us! (His voice runs into the wail of a keen, he rocks back and forth on his bench. The men stare at him, startled and impressed in spite of themselves.)




  Oh how I wish, how I wish, I could turn back the hand,
  When I could have once more the youth I left so far behind
  The days at sea
  So fair and free
  Sailors, we
  Were proud to be
  That is the pastthe truththe youthI left so far behind
  When today I close my eyes
  Great clipper ships come into sight
  Their masts so tall and clean and bright
  Their sails a pure and pristine white
  When today I close my eyes
  I see again those summer skies
  I see again the clouds pass by
  The mastheads bathed in brilliant light
  What I wouldn't give to sail again toward Southern climes
  The trade winds at my back
  I cannot begin to paint the joy of Southern nights
  Our vessel on her track
  What I wouldn't give to be again upon the deck
  Bright stars above my head
  Feel the frothy foam blown straight against my neck
  My dreams by nature fed
  Oh how I wish, how I wish I could turn back the hand,
  When I could have once more the youth I left so far behind
  Sons of the sea
  In harmony
  Clippers we
  The ships, the sea
  Sons of the sea
  In Unity
  Living free
  A family
  That is the pastthe truththe youthI left so far behind
  Instead of the black and sooty air that I cannot breathe
  Instead of the jail in which I'm locked away from sun and sea
  Instead of the constant noise of engines sounding on my brain
  Instead of this throbbing, shaking hellthe hours spent in pain
  Instead of the burning furnace fed by this entire crew
  Instead of being caged like an ape inside a bloody zoo
  PADDY—(With a harsh laugh.) Ho-ho, divil mend you! Is it to belong to that you’re wishing? Is it a flesh and blood wheel of the engines you’d be?

  YANK—(Who has been listening with a contemptuous sneer, barks out the answer.) Sure ting! Dat’s me! What about it?

  PADDY—(As if to himself—with great sorrow.) Me time is past due. That a great wave wid sun in the heart of it may sweep me over the side sometime I’d be dreaming of the days that’s gone!

  YANK—Aw, yuh crazy Mick! (He springs to his feet and advances on PADDY threateningly—then stops, fighting some queer struggle within himself—lets his hands fall to his sides—contemptuously.) Aw, take it easy. Yuh’re aw right, at dat. Yuh’re bugs, dat’s all—nutty as a cuckoo. All dat tripe yuh been pullin’—Aw, dat’s all right. On’y it’s dead, get me? Yuh don’t belong no more, see. Yuh don’t get de stuff. Yuh’re too old. (Disgustedly.) But aw say, come up for air onct in a while, can’t yuh? See what’s happened since yuh croaked. (He suddenly bursts forth vehemently, growing more and more excited.) Say! Sure! Sure I meant it! What de hell— Say, lemme talk! Hey! Hey, you old Harp! Hey, youse guys! Say, listen to me—wait a moment—I gotter talk, see. I belong and he don’t. He’s dead but I’m livin’. Listen to me! Sure I’m part of de engines! Why de hell not! Dey move, don’t dey? Dey’re speed, ain’t dey? Dey smash trou, don’t dey? Twenty-five knots a hour! Dat’s goin’ some! Dat’s new stuff! Dat belongs! But him, he’s too old. He gets dizzy. Say, listen. All dat crazy tripe about nights and days; all dat crazy tripe about stars and moons; all dat crazy tripe about suns and winds, fresh air and de rest of it—Aw hell, dat’s all a dope dream! Hittin’ de pipe of de past, dat’s what he’s doin’. He’s old and don’t belong no more. But me, I’m young! I’m in de pink! I move wit it! It, get me! I mean de ting dat’s de guts of all dis. It ploughs trou all de tripe he’s been sayin’. It blows dat up! It knocks dat dead! It slams dat offen de face of de oith! It, get me! De engines and de coal and de smoke and all de rest of it! He can’t breathe and swallow coal dust, but I kin, see? Dat’s fresh air for me! Dat’s food for me! I’m new, get me? Hell in de stokehole? Sure! It takes a man to work in hell. Hell, sure, dat’s my fav’rite climate. I eat it up! I git fat on it! It’s me makes it hot! It’s me makes it roar! It’s me makes it move! Sure, on’y for me everyting stops. It all goes dead, get me? De noise and smoke and all de engines movin’ de woild, dey stop. Dere ain’t nothin’ no more! Dat’s what I’m sayin’. Everyting else dat makes de woild move, somep’n makes it move. It can’t move witout somep’n else, see? Den yuh get down to me. I’m at de bottom, get me! Dere ain’t nothin’ foither. I’m de end! I’m de start! I start somep’n and de woild moves! It—dat’s me!—de new dat’s moiderin’ de old! I’m de ting in coal dat makes it boin; I’m steam and oil for de engines; I’m de ting in noise dat makes yuh hear it; I’m smoke and express trains and steamers and factory whistles; I’m de ting in gold dat makes it money! And I’m what makes iron into steel! Steel, dat stands for de whole ting! And I’m steel—steel—steel! I’m de muscles in steel, de punch behind it! (As he says this he pounds with his fist against the steel bunks. All the men, roused to a pitch of frenzied self-glorification by his speech, do likewise. There is a deafening metallic roar, through which YANK’S voice can be heard bellowing.) Slaves, hell! We run de whole woiks. All de rich guys dat tink dey’re somep’n, dey ain’t nothin’! Dey don’t belong. But us guys, we’re in de move, we’re at de bottom, de whole ting is us! (PADDY from the start of YANK’S speech has been taking one gulp after another from his bottle, at first frightenedly, as if he were afraid to listen, then desperately, as if to drown his senses, but finally has achieved complete indifferent, even amused, drunkenness. YANK sees his lips moving. He quells the uproar with a shout.) Hey, youse guys, take it easy! Wait a moment! De nutty Harp is sayin’ somep’n.

  PADDY—(Is heard now—throws his head back with a mocking burst of laughter.) Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho—

  YANK—(Drawing back his fist, with a snarl.) Aw! Look out who yuh’re givin’ the bark!

  PADDY—(Begins to sing the “Miller of Dee” with enormous good-nature.)


“I care for nobody, no, not I,

And nobody cares for me.”

  YANK—(Good-natured himself in a flash, interrupts PADDY with a slap on the bare back like a report.) Dat’s de stuff! Now yuh’re gettin’ wise to somep’n. Care for nobody, dat’s de dope! To hell wit ’em all! And nix on nobody else carin’. I kin care for myself, get me! (Eight bells sound, muffled, vibrating through the steel walls as if some enormous brazen gong were imbedded in the heart of the ship. All the men jump up mechanically, file through the door silently close upon each other’s heels in what is very like a prisoners’ lockstep. YANK slaps PADDY on the back.) Our watch, yuh old Harp! (Mockingly.) Come on down in hell. Eat up de coal dust. Drink in de heat. It’s it, see! Act like yuh liked it, yuh better—or croak yuhself.

  PADDY—(With jovial defiance.) To the divil wid it! I’ll not report this watch. Let thim log me and be damned. I’m no slave the like of you. I’ll be sittin’ here at me ease, and drinking, and thinking, and dreaming dreams.

  YANK—(Contemptuously.) Tinkin’ and dreamin’, what’ll that get yuh? What’s tinkin’ got to do wit it? We move, don’t we? Speed, ain’t it? Fog, dat’s all you stand for. But we drive trou dat, don’t we? We split dat up and smash trou—twenty-five knots a hour! (Turns his back on PADDY scornfully.) Aw, yuh make me sick! Yuh don’t belong! (He strides out the door in rear. PADDY hums to himself, blinking drowsily.)



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