Rembrandt's Wife An Opera Libretto: Sue Smith Composer: Andrew Ford Final: Feb. 1, 2008 Prologue. Rembrandt's House, Amsterdam. 1662 TORQUINIUS In the name of the Chamber of Desolate Boedels of the city of Amsterdam, under the auspices of the High Court of the Netherlands, I solemnly catalogue the worldly possessions of the bankrupt Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn to wit: As Torquinius enumerates the items, he loads them onto a large trolley. TORQUINIUS (CONT'D) One small Adriaen Brouwer two porcelain cassowaries four chairs of Russian leather two naked children one walnut table seven Spanish chairs green velvet seats one marble wine cooler one Carpathian saddle six antique women heads only one elephant tusk one giant's helmet two Indian costumes male and female four longbows twenty arrows forty seven darts three wooden javelins five shadow puppets one Turkish powder horn Rembrandt strolls onto the stage during this. TORQUINIUS (CONT'D) Aristotle one Socrates one Seneca one nose flutes three zithers five gongs two REMBRANDT Partridge in pear tree one TORQUINIUS I don't see this partridge. Nor its pear tree. REMBRANDT Perhaps they're hiding TORQUINIUS Do you hinder the work, sir? A dim view is taken - REMBRANDT It is but a small collection, barely fits a man of note. It will take no time at all. TORQUINIUS Stuffed bird of paradise chinese ceramic twenty eight a little child by Michelangelo horned head-dress Japanese costume Persian carpet four Ovid Horace Bible Pliny Tacitus one apiece Rubens Goltzius Leyden Bruegel Raphael Titian Michelangelo Murghal miniatures one hundred and two no three no five - He continues listing as he begins to wheel the trolley off stage. Leaving Rembrandt alone with the only two remaining objects on the stage: a painter's easel. And a large marble headstone. REMBRANDT Don't forget handguns. Two. (AFTER TORQUINIUS) I may have cause to use them. Rembrandt is left alone beside Saskia's grave. Scene One. 1642. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) No epitaph. What shall I say of you, Saskia? A careless wife who took no heed and lost her life. So what shall I call you, Saskia? Whose job it was to stay breathing young alive. But you: rancid heat inflamed your breast. Upon your goosedown pillow a gush of blood. Bad wife. Faithless, fickle, traitor, liar wife. Tell me your name because I know it not. I know only a nameless girl in a summer hat with milk upon her breath and a flower in her hand SASKIA An honour, Mr van Rijn. REMBRANDT An honour, Miss van Uylenburgh. and what brings you to our fair Venice of the north? My fingers itch, silverpoint on vellum girl in a summer hat flower in her hand kiss curl on her brow tender crease at her wrist. How I shall picture you my golden meadow nymph? The swell of your bosom the dimple of your thigh the textured fold of puppy fat beneath your chin - I will know you SASKIA You will know me REMBRANDT I will know you as you have never been known SASKIA You will know me as I have never been known REMBRANDT/SASKIA As you/I have never been known REMBRANDT But in all the days of my life Miss van Uylenburgh adore you though I must I cannot forgive you SASKIA Nor I Mr van Rijn in all the days of my death can I forgive myself Geertje has entered without being noticed by Rembrandt. GEERTJE Mr van Rijn sir Rembrandt leaps into action, pretending to be hard at work at his easel. REMBRANDT What? I'm busy. GEERTJE Titus is abed, sir, for your goodnight. REMBRANDT Soon, soon. Let him finish his prayers. GEERTJE Sir. REMBRANDT Have him pray for his mother. Geertje goes to leave and turns. GEERTJE Might I have leave, good sir to tell you of the market? REMBRANDT The market? What is the market to me? Rembrandt continues preparing his brushes. GEERTJE The nanny of the Hoogeven clan reported thus to me: REMBRANDT Alert the papers GEERTJE Involving you, my lord. REMBRANDT Involving me - GEERTJE Involving you, my lord. REMBRANDT You have leave, Geertje. GEERTJE There was discussion in the parlour - after Church - of course - REMBRANDT Yes yes - GEERTJE Upon a topic most pertinent, my lord. Our netherlandish painters. The patriarch considers you - he has a small collection, mind - the patriarch considers you REMBRANDT Yes - GEERTJE Our coming man. His very words, "Mark me: young Rembrandt, miller's son though he be, is son and heir to only one, the one they call the Prince " - REMBRANDT Son and heir? GEERTJE Son and heir. REMBRANDT To Rubens. GEERTJE Hair of his head spit of his cheek REMBRANDT To Rubens. Desist at once. You mock a lonely man GEERTJE My lord She goes to leave REMBRANDT What did he say? Exactly. GEERTJE That the majesty, passion, the drama of the great Peter Paul REMBRANDT Paragon of Antwerp GEERTJE arousal and voluptuousness REMBRANDT Prince of painters GEERTJE pulchritude and torment REMBRANDT Painter of princes GEERTJE crashing and dazzling REMBRANDT Yes? GEERTJE is borne anew in the paintbrush of van Rijn. REMBRANDT An honorary doctorate Oxford, no less GEERTJE Knight of the Garter REMBRANDT I heard King Charles did slip the diamond from his own finger upon the hand of Peter Paul GEERTJE I heard his Antwerp house is wreathed in gold, from cellar hold to chimney pot REMBRANDT I heard - GEERTJE I heard - REMBRANDT I heard - GEERTJE I heard - REMBRANDT I heard - GEERTJE I heard a whisper weave and spin from where we stood to market's rim, through milk and meat and flowerbloom and fly aloft upon the wind. The whisper was - I tell you true - no breath of lie from me to you the light of genius lies within the humble palette of van Rijn By now, an entirely different dynamic hangs between them. REMBRANDT Perhaps I'll work no more tonight. Inspiration strikes - elsewhere - tonight. See to my chamber, Geertje, if you will. GEERTJE Sir. REMBRANDT I'll pray with Titus then to bed. Geertje leaves. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) Inspiration strikes elsewhere this night Saskia's voice, as though floating through time SASKIA You will know me as I have never been known Rembrandt hears her voice, hesitates and then rushes to his bedchamber to search for Saskia's jewelled necklace, which he finds. Scene Two. Rembrandt's Chamber. SASKIA (CONT'D) You will know me as I have never ... REMBRANDT My love, you stand unchallenged in my dreams. but a man has needs - Titus enters. Rembrandt conceals the necklace. They kneel, side by side, and bow their heads in prayer. SASKIA Upon these tender heads long known, and loved, and yearned for one prayer: be safe, be just, and don't forget a girl in a summer hat. Suddenly Geertje enters. GEERTJE Forgive me, sir, I interrupt - I must prepare your chamber. Titus goes. REMBRANDT It occurs to me - has occurred - for some time in fact my dear late wife beloved though she was ... is would not wish - Rembrandt is so nervous that he manages to drop a jewelled necklace on the floor. GEERTJE Oh sir, good sir the mistress's jewels - REMBRANDT My dear late wife would not wish her jewels to lie unwarmed by the pulse of life Both Rembrandt and Geertje reach down to lift the fallen jewels. Their hands meet. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) Why, Geertje your tiny hand is - GEERTJE Sir? REMBRANDT Nothing. Damn. Saskia, help me. Remind me how to, what to, say think do - Geertje moves to fold down the counterpane on his bed. Silence. Rembrandt is bursting with irritation at his own inability to act. GEERTJE Will that be all, sir? REMBRANDT Yes. No. Damn. For the sake of the kingdom, woman, put this about your throat and don't argue GEERTJE My lord. I could not. REMBRANDT Nay, Geertje. Nay, foolish girl. The mistress would want it - a shame to leave them unworn unwarmed GEERTJE My lord - REMBRANDT As it is wasteful - wrong indeed - to leave your own beauty uncelebrated unadorned Unwarmed it is a crime GEERTJE I am no beauty, sir I am no prize REMBRANDT Silence girl, raise your eyes Despite her protests, Geertje allows him to place the necklace around her neck. Now she turns to face him. GEERTJE My best years are long spent on a bugler from Edam but I am loyal and I'm discreet REMBRANDT I am a fractious man alone, heedless of all save brush and canvas. I make no pledge but this: inside this chamber these jewels are yours GEERTJE/REMBRANDT No longer unworn unwarmed unadorned Rembrandt leads Gertje towards his bed. As they climb in and draw the curtains: SASKIA Oh sorry night Warmed, adorned and too soon scorned Scene Three. Rembrandt's Household A busy scurrying scene. Rembrandt in his studio, crushing and mixing paints. REMBRANDT I need lampblack I need leadwhite I need lapis lapis lapis blue GEERTJE Can't you hear the master's voice? Black white blue REMBRANDT And crush those lice from Mexico to give me red GEERTJE Can't you hear? And give him red HENDRICKJE The master's bought up big there's no more room GEERTJE And yellow too HENDRICKJE There's paintings, sculptures, antiquities. We'll need to build another house GEERTJE/HENDRICKJE/REMBRANDT For Rubens' son and heir Govert Flinck, Rembrandt's former student, has entered. FLINCK Who's son and heir? GEERTJE/HENDRICKJE/REMBRANDT Rubens' son and heir HENDRICKJE - of course. We'll need to build another house for Rubens' son and heir REMBRANDT Flinck, my boy. FLINCK How are you, my old teacher? REMBRANDT No cheek young man. I'm in my prime. FLINCK I've purchased in these parts myself. A good district. I thought I'll see van Rijn at church. But no such luck as yet. Rembrandt continues with his work. Flinck inspects the painting on Rembrandt's easel, takes in the art, sculpture and antiquities around the house. He glances through some completed canvasses. He is clearly spying. REMBRANDT Your wife is well? FLINCK Quite well. REMBRANDT Your work? FLINCK Of course. Hendrickje enters with a drinks tray and proceeds to serve both men refreshments. Flinck eyes her with some interest. The obsequious song of flattery he now sings is designed to impress, not Rembrandt, but Hendrickje. They raise their glasses. FLINCK (CONT'D) To Karel van Mander, our inspiration. REMBRANDT To van Mander. FLINCK Good sir, I'd like to humbly say, I hold you in esteem, You are the breathing benchmark standard bearer of my dream. No breath of scandal stalks abroad about Rembrandt van Rijn. His heart is pure, he knows within the price one pays for sin Both men let their eyes wander to where an embarrassed looking Gertje is quietly tutoring the child Titus. She glances quickly away. FLINCK (CONT'D) For it was you who taught me of every painter's need: not palette, oil nor maulstick. Simply great van Mander's creed: FLINCK/REMBRANDT An artist great is only born within a godly man of temperance and discipline and morals diamond hard. No drink, no gaming, most of all no softness for a glance from wench or whore, no wandering eye from wife and home and hearth. Flinck's eyes are again following Hendrickje. Rembrandt's too. FLINCK And when my time draws near and I look into heaven's glass I'll pray that I have learned my fill from Rembrandt's master class. If I can emulate van Rijn in painting and in life, stay clean of flesh and pure of heart disciple to my art I'll live a life of saintly worth and pledge myself to heed the catechism Rembrandt taught from good van Mander's creed Flinck, Geertje and Titus exit. Scene Four. Rembrandt's Studio. 1648. Rembrandt is at his easel working with renewed vigour. Hendrickje goes about her housekeeping labours, humming and whistling the melody of "Van Mander's Creed" as she does. Rembrandt tries to stop himself watching her, but he cannot. He is beguiled by her. She is not unaware of his attention. Geertje enters. GEERTJE Hendrickje! Go! Do not disturb the master – REMBRANDT For pity's sake, woman. Can't you see I'm busy? Hendrickje curtsies rapidly and goes. Geertje crumples, and turns to go. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) Geertje. Come. GEERTJE My lord. REMBRANDT Release your bodice. GEERTJE Here? My lord? REMBRANDT Come come, don't be coy. Release your throat. Geertje undoes her bodice. There, glittering at her throat, is Saskia's necklace. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) I find myself troubled - GEERTJE It is under my shirt, sir. No one can see. Our secret as we pledged. REMBRANDT I find myself troubled for Titus, my son. This plague is the devil. It spares sinner nor saint. If you should succumb - god's angels forbid - will my son ever look upon his mother's jewels? GEERTJE My lord? REMBRANDT You are mine I am yours I care only for the birthright of my child. Is it wrong? GEERTJE What would you have me do, sir? Rembrandt withdraws a document from his pocket. REMBRANDT Sign this, is all GEERTJE My lord. I cannot read. REMBRANDT It's nothing, dear girl. Pledges the boy's rights in the event of your tragic, premature, can't-even-be-contemplated demise. Geertje is hesitant. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) You are mine I am yours GEERTJE I am yours you are mine REMBRANDT Adorned and warmed unharmed, adored GEERTJE I am yours She takes the feather from his hand, dips it in the inkwell, and makes her mark on the contract. Then she returns it to him. He clasps it in his hands with immense satisfaction. Scene Five. Hendrickje is bathing - washing her face and arms and breast over a basin, luxuriating in the water. Rembrandt appears, watching her. REMBRANDT Bathsheba. Hendrickje starts, and instantly drops into a curtsy. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) Don't be afraid, little bird. She settles. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) In God's great book Bathsheba set afire the loins of great King David. He watched her bathe, and wrote her: "come to me, my beauty, come to me". And made her his Queen. How should my palette worship, my brush caress. Where shall I find her, Bathsheba? Dare I seek, 'neath plain Dutch roof, this fragile little bird, whose humble labours year by year I 've charmlessly ignored? Is this she - this little bird - is she for whom I search? Bathsheba Let the saints forgive such blindness, for I - yes I - am great King David. And you are Bathsheba, my queen. HENDRICKJE Is it I - the little bird - is it I for whom you search? For you are my King David and ever more have been REMBRANDT/HENDRICKJE And you are my/I am your Bathsheba Bathsheba my/your queen They embrace. Scene Six. Rembrandt's Studio/Courtroom. Geertje wails like a banshee. She races around the studio, overturning canvasses, hurling smaller works across the stage. Finally, she wrenches the necklace from her neck and throws it down. Its jewels scatter on the floor. GEERTJE How could I not see it! I'm only there for you to quell your lust, spill your secretions you never thought to paint me save that for sweet Hendrickje REMBRANDT Hysteric dispositions do not titillate my muse GEERTJE What titillates your muse, van Rijn? self portrait in a hat self portrait in a chain self portrait in an armour plate REMBRANDT Desist. GEERTJE Self portrait as a beggar self portrait as a burgher self portrait at thirty four and twenty three and forty eight REMBRANDT Enough. As Geertje continues this litany of spite, a kind of courtroom forms around her. Hendrickje appears, and the blackclad judge. And, if possible, several local blackclad burghers. GEERTJE Self portrait with a smile self portrait with a frown self portrait as St Paul self portrait upside down REMBRANDT I said enough. Bile is unbecoming. GEERTJE Self portrait as a traitor self portrait as a friar self portrait as a sinner Self portrait as a liar self portrait of a man of ice The judge bangs his gavel. Bang bang bang. JUDGE Madam, what is your charge? GEERTJE Breach of marriage contract. REMBRANDT I never did. GEERTJE You gave me jewels took me to bed REMBRANDT No I never GEERTJE You know you did REMBRANDT I never said it I never did it She can't prove it. She destroys my reputation here before the burghers of my city JUDGE Witness? Your oath? HENDRICKJE I am a godfearing woman I do no harm I swear to tell the whole truth so help me God. I saw no proof she wore no jewels she was never near the master's chamber GEERTJE So help you God. HENDRICKJE So help me God. JUDGE Before God and the sanctity of the laws of earth and heaven we strive in all things to honour our Calvinist family values HENDRICKJE/REMBRANDT/GEERTJE Before God, we strive in all things to honour our Calvinist family values JUDGE Geertje Dircx. You and your effects will forthwith be removed from the house of Master Rembrandt van Rijn GEERTJE So help me God. JUDGE Master Rembrandt van Rijn. You will pay Geertje Dircx two hundred guilders. REMBRANDT Two hundred guilders? JUDGE Per annum REMBRANDT Per annum? JUDGE For the term of her natural life. The gavel. Bang bang bang. The courtroom freezes, remaining on stage, as Rembrandt alone moves to his easel. Scene Seven. Rembrandt's studio. Rembrandt paints - furiously. Splashing paint around. REMBRANDT The term of a natural life can be brief. The term of a natural life can be truncated. The term of a natural life can be deleted, be pulped, extinguished, aborted, sputtered, expunged like a dream His attention slowly focuses on his painting. A kitchen maid. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) dream little maid, dream the turnips washed the meat a-roasting cold coarse fingers warming now in liquid sun, dream lips soft, dream dreaming now precious moments life is passing dream for in an instant it is gone and I will have revenge The courtroom reanimates around him. Scene Eight. Courtroom. Rembrandt brandishes written statements in the courtroom. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) You see, my lords, proof. Statements from neighbours. Even her brother fears for her welfare. Good sirs, I must beg you Calvinists all: the wretch needs protection. And blessed Dutch children need protection from her. And to think, my dear son, only child, at her breast ... I am wracked with remorse. JUDGE Unstable? REMBRANDT Immoral. JUDGE Hysteric? REMBRANDT And worse. My Lords I fear greatly the word that I seek is one I must whisper ... JUDGE Not nymphomaniac? Rembrandt nods gravely. GEERTJE Van Rijn you are the devil. The gavel bangs the table. Bang bang bang. Scene Nine. Rembrandt at Saskia's Grave. SASKIA We walked hand in hand in the grand cobbled Dam We talked of the light - REMBRANDT I wish I'd listened. SASKIA We talked of kindness - REMBRANDT I wish I'd heard. SASKIA We talked of love - REMBRANDT Dammit woman. How I yearned to be good - how I tried. SASKIA We talked of knowing. Your eyes saw me fragile and naked and flawed. With your eyes you would know me through your eyes I would know myself REMBRANDT We walked hand in hand in the grand cobbled Dam we talked of the light we talked of kindness we talked of love SASKIA We talked of knowing. REMBRANDT Your eyes saw me fragile and naked and flawed. REMBRANDT/SASKIA With your eyes you would know me through your eyes I would know myself SASKIA as I had never been known REMBRANDT I have known you as you have never been known SASKIA You have known me as I have never been known REMBRANDT I have known you. My love only love. How I yearned to be good - how I tried. But all that was good in me died with a girl in a summer hat. Girl in a summer hat. Scene Ten. Rembrandt's House/Spinhuis. Hendrickje spins in a smart new dress. Geertje hunches in rags over a wooden spinning wheel. HENDRICKJE Is it too much? Is it? It is. Is it indigo or verdigris? It's retail therapy the master says after all of this unpleasantness. GEERTJE Is it indigo or verdigris? The light's so poor I can barely see. I daren't look up I daren't complain must do the work must bear the pain in the Spinhuis HENDRICKJE On the Breestraat GEERTJE In the Spinhuis HENDRICKJE On the Breestraat of Amsterdam GEERTJE Of Gouda. With the bad and the mad and the vagabonds the bores and the whores and the filthy tramps the lord's prayer and lye and the saints and the sighs and my fingers spun till they're bloody. And I will have my revenge. HENDRICKJE The lord's been kind to a servant girl mistress of the house of the finest painter in Amsterdam But in bed at night when the master sleeps I pray that I not be damned For the strumpet or fool or sinning thief that dear Jesus knows I am. On the Breestraat. GEERTJE In the Spinhuis. HENDRICKJE On the Breestraat of Amsterdam. GEERTJE In the Spinhuis of Gouda there's time to plan and time to curse and may fate take my revenge. Let him lose his health. Let him lose his house. Let him lose his wealth. Let him lose the ones he loves. And if there's justice on this earth, let him lose mind and soul and self. And every day I pray for this, is one more day that's dead until the day my broken frame limps free from the Spinhuis. of Gouda. Scene Eleven. Rembrandt's House. There's the sound of renovations from nearby. Banging and crashing. Govert Flinck, handsomely attired, strolls into Rembrandt's studio and looks around. Rembrandt, stressed and harried, hurries in. REMBRANDT Flinck. Forgive me. This noise wakes the dead. Do you prosper? FLINCK In my humble way, sir, yes though I cannot compare with the master. I have a new commission: the Peace of Munster. REMBRANDT You?! They gave you the Peace of Munster? FLINCK Surprising though it seems. Fifteen hundred guilders I tried for more, but - REMBRANDT Fifteen hundred guilders! FLINCK But talk of finance is so vulgar. Are you well? REMBRANDT This noise. This noise could wake the dead. There's a shriek. HENDRICKJE Rats. More rats. The building sets them free. It's not the vermin, vile though they be. The fleas. The plague. Three more today. FLINCK Your work is fine - REMBRANDT My painting doesn't sell. This noise - REMBRANDT /FLINCK/HENDRICKJE This noise would wake the dead. FLINCK Permit me, sir: Your faces have wrinkles and dogs do their business and monks fornicate in the fields. Your darks are too light and your lights are too dark and your women are ladled with lard. Quite frankly, it's ugly impious by half, and shows hardly a speck of respect for the grandeur of history the Dutch bit, at least. We are, you and I, simply puppets of fashion, and when it's all over it's thus: the tastes of our masters are calling the shots so conform to their wishes, or die. Conform to their wishes, or die. REMBRANDT I will not. Fashion is a canker upon the face of art Each character is isolated on the stage. HENDRICKJE Death is walking in my shadow. Every day I search for his tattoo the purple smudge the tumour of the plague GEERTJE Death is walking in my shadow eating at my soul for hate's a tumour growing feeding cauterising hope REMBRANDT Death is walking in my shadow. Shall I say its name? Fashion is the knife that slays me makes me to submit FLINCK Death is walking in my shadow sooner than I know. One of us will be immortal. Let it be me ALL This winter cold brings talk of death and each man has his plague. The pestilence of debt or fashion sleepless nights or hate. And neither dreams to be immortal nor Calvin's godly ways will soothe a struggling conscience. So tell us, you who've gone before us, how are we to live? REMBRANDT Tell me, girl in the summer hat. How are we to live? Scene Twelve. Calvinist Church Council. Hendrickje walks forward, dressed in white. To face the members of the church council - all black clad men. COUNCILLOR You are Hendrickje Stoffels? HENDRICKJE I am. COUNCILLOR You are accused of living in whoredom with the painter Rembrandt van Rijn. What is your answer? HENDRICKJE I have no answer. COUNCILLOR Admit your guilt. Hendrickje hangs her head. COUNCILLOR (CONT'D) You come before us virgin white with tumbling locks of sin. Your shame will damn your soul to torment. Fall upon your knees in penance for your crimes and his: your shared depravities. Your own indulgences have thrust you far from heavens' care. You will no longer share communion with the pure of heart, and in the supper of Our Lord you henceforth have no part. Hendrickje remains standing, head bowed. But now she raises her head, removes the outer white layer of her clothing and reveals: the red dress of the scarlet woman and, more shocking, her advanced pregnancy. HENDRICKJE You have done your worst, good sirs, and still I stand with pride. For all of Holland's hypocrites, I'll not forsake the man and child I serve. And though my soul may fall from grace, and burn in Satan's fires, I have a comfort you'll not share, for all your kind's desires. My name, my frame, my flesh, my prime, will be remembered yet. On walls in houses not yet built around the spinning globe, will hang the work of great van Rijn. And eyes of children not yet born will gaze at me in awe, that once a man could look upon a woman and bring her forth so tender. And though you spite and smite, and clad yourselves in ash and sackcloth, it's I who'll live as long as time. For I am Queen Bathsheba, and what they look upon is mine. Scene Thirteen. Rembrandt's studio. An auction of artworks. AUCTIONEER Roll up roll up! The collection of a connoisseur to go. Handpicked by Rembrandt out the door today. Lucas van Leyden, I'd buy it myself. What am I bid, gents and ladies? Can I let it go? Rembrandt and Hendrickje approach each other. She carries a baby. Titus walks beside her. REMBRANDT I fear this won't save us. HENDRICKJE We're alive and together, the plague is at bay. REMBRANDT My Bathsheba - AUCTIONEER Going once, gents and ladies, I'm giving it away - REMBRANDT My life's up for sale all that I cared for - HENDRICKJE Alive and together AUCTIONEER Going twice. REMBRANDT Everything lost AUCTIONEER Going three times. All out all done. Sold - REMBRANDT For half its worth - AUCTIONEER To the man in the seventh row. A slaughtered ox is lowered or carried onto the stage. All except Rembrandt himself vacate the stage, leaving him with the ox carcass, his easel. And Saskia's headstone. REMBRANDT A man's life eleven thousand three hundred twenty two guilders and a slaughtered ox. Geertje is dead with a curse on her lips. And I? Slaughtered ox. The plague stalks Bathsheba and Titus my lovely and I will die lonely just like my friend here a most finely sinewed and muscled and fleshed slaughtered ox. He's painting now. With increasing excitement. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) See in the lamplight the seam of fat gleams and the ribs lie so even and the viscera steams and the arms hang so tender, and the legs open too. I am dead but triumphant my murderers: you. You'll never know how I lived. How I frolicked and farted and feasted on pasture and fathered more oxen than you men can dream of. And I loved and I joyed and I rolled in the mud and my ox life was big as the sky. My ox life was big as the sky. He grabs the slaughtered ox, embraces it like a partner and dances with it around the stage. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) And my ox life was big as the sky. Finally, the ox flies away, leaving Rembrandt alone with Saskia's grave. Scene Fourteen. Saskia's Grave. Rembrandt lifts the headstone, moves it aside, and begins to lift a pile of dusty human bones into a hessian sack. A gravedigger with a shovel comes in. REMBRANDT A good price for the grave? You'll give me a good price? She was my wife, you see. GRAVEDIGGER The going rate. No more no less. Hillegondt Willems will lodge here now. One more to the plague. He hands Rembrandt a small fold of guilder notes. GRAVEDIGGER (CONT'D) God keep you. REMBRANDT And you, sir. And you. The gravedigger goes, leaving Rembrandt to continue clearing Saskia's remains from the grave. REMBRANDT (CONT'D) Girl in a summer hat with a flower in your hand. Did you die to make me cruel? Did you die to make me wise? Soon I'll be with you and you shall know me as I have never been known SASKIA I shall know you as you have never been known REMBRANDT As I have never been known. SASKIA I will know you. REMBRANDT And I will come to that place with my weapon in hand. Not sword nor musket nor cannon ball. But weapon made of squirrel hair and sable fur and badger wool. Its scent of linseed oil and vinegar and lead. And I will take as true an aim as mortal man can do at God and man and fakery at fashion and conformity transcendence and mortality and simple innocence. And when I lay my weapon down to join you in that place, I'll raise my arms and proudly cry Rembrandt van Rijn is coming home. And his ox life was big as the sky.
"Rembrandts Wife An Opera"