A monologue from the play by August Strindberg
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Plays by August Strindberg. Trans. Edith and Warner Oland. Boston: John W. Luce and Co., 1912.
JEAN: Do you know how people in high life look from the under world? No … of course you don’t. They look like hawks and eagles whose backs one seldom sees, for the soar up above. I lived in a hovel provided by the state, with seven brothers and sisters and a pig; out on a barren stretch where nothing grew, not even a tree, but from the window I could see the Count’s park walls with apple trees rising above them. That was the garden of paradise; and there stood many angry angels with flaming swords protecting it; but for all that I and other boys found a way to the tree of life–now you despise me. You say you don’t, but you despise me all the same. No matter! One time I entered the garden of paradise–it was to weed the onion beds with my mother! Near the orchard stood a Turkish pavilion, shaded and overgrown with jessamine and honeysuckle. I didn’t know what it was used for and I had never seen anything so beautiful. People passed in and out and one day–the door was left open. I sneaked in and beheld walls covered with pictures of kings and emperors and there were red-fringed curtains at the windows–now you understand what I mean–I … I had never been in the castle and how my thoughts leaped–and there they returned ever after. Little by little the longing came over me to experience for once the pleasure of–enfin, I sneaked in and was bewildered. But then I heard someone coming–there was only one exit for the great folk, but for me there was another, and I had to choose that. Once out I started to run, scrambled through a raspberry hedge, rushed over strawberry bed and came to a stop on the rose terrace. For there I saw a figure in a white dress and white slippers and stockings–it was you! I hid under a heap of weeds, under, you understand, where the thistles pricked me, and lay on the damp, rank earth. I gazed at you walking among the roses. And I thought if it is true that the thief on the cross could enter heaven and dwell among the angels it was strange that a pauper child on God’s earth could not go into the castle park and play with the Countess’ daughter. Oh, Miss Julie, a dog may lie on the couch of a Countess, a horse may be caressed by a lady’s hand, but a servant–yes, yes, sometimes there is stuff enough in a man, whatever he be, to swing himself up in the world, but how often does that happen! But to return to the story, do you know what I did? I ran down to the mill dam and threw myself in with my clothes on–and was pulled out and got a thrashing. But the following Sunday when all the family went to visit my grandmother I contrived to stay at home; I scrubbed myself well, put on my best clothes, such as they were, and went to church so that I might see you. I saw you. Then I went home with my mind made up to put an end to myself. But I wanted to do it beautifully and without pain. Then I happened to remember that elderberry blossoms are poisonous. I knew where there was a big elderberry bush in full bloom and I stripped it of its riches and made a bed of it in the oat-bin. Have you ever noticed how smooth and glossy oats are? As soft as a woman’s arm. — Well, I got in and let down the cover, fell asleep, and when I awoke I was very ill, but didn’t die–as you see. What I wanted–I don’t know. You were unattainable, but through the vision of you I was made to realize how hopeless it was to rise above the conditions of my birth.Order now