Essential Passage 1: Act 1
Where the storm pleases, and when, it directs
The giants of the forest. When friendship summons
Is when the true comrade goes.
Nothing will hold you back?
Nothing. What! Has no one told you yet?
I go to keep my friend and master company.
Who says the mouth does not believe in
‘No, I have chewed all that before?’ I say I have.
The world is not a constant honey-pot.
Where I found little I made do with little.
Where there was plenty I gorged myself.
My master’s hands and mine have always
Dipped together and, home or sacred feast,
The bowl was beaten bronze, the meats
So succulent our teeth accused us of neglect.
We shared the choicest of the season’s
Harvest yams. How my friend would read
Desire in my eyes before I knew the cause—
However rare, however precious, it was mine.
Elesin, the king’s horseman, enters the market on the last day of his life. By tradition and by law, the king’s horseman must commit suicide one month following the king’s death, on the day of his burial, in order to accompany him to the afterlife. Elesin prepares to enjoy this last day before he gives his life. Elesin has long been a loyal servant to the king, a close companion and protector. He has not asked for more than was given him, but rejoiced in the honor of serving. When the king was in want, Elesin was in want. When the king lived in plenty, so did Elesin. The king knew what was in Elesin's heart before Elesin himself did. Thus gladly does Elesin face his own death, knowing that he will spend eternity in the afterlife with his king and his friend.
Essential Passage 2: Act 1
What! Where do you all say I am?
Still among the living.
And that radiance which so suddenly
Lit up this market I could boast
I knew so well?
Has one step already in her husband’s home. She is betrothed.
Why do you tell me that?
[IYALOJA falls silent. The WOMEN shuffle uneasily.]
Not because we dare give you offence Elesin. Today is your day and the whole world is yours. Still, even those who leave town to make a new dwelling elsewhere like to be remembered by what they leave behind.
Who does not seek to be remembered?
Memory is Master of Death, the chink
In his armour of conceit. I shall leave
That which makes my going the sheerest
Dream of an afternoon. Should voyagers
Not travel light? Let the considerate traveler
Shed, of his excessive load, all
That may benefit the living.
Elesin has seen a young girl and immediately decides that his last act will be to marry her, sleep with her, and hopefully leave one last child behind as his legacy and duty to the community. Iyaloja, the “mother of the market” or community wise woman, pauses at this request, because the girl is betrothed to her son. Yet she knows that the king’s horseman, on the last day of his death, is to be granted whatever he wishes. Despite the remonstrations of the market women, Iyaloja says nothing to Elesin. However, she does warn him that he should keep in mind all that he is leaving behind. Not just a child but a reputation is an important legacy, and this legacy is not to be thrown away lightly on a whim, should it turn out to be that this is what Elesin’s fascination with the girl would be. Elesin ignores her warning or does not catch the full meaning. He simply desires to have one last woman. Iyaloja's warning, however, will come back...
(The entire section is 1708 words.)