Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Then to the elements be free

Be cheerful, Sir.
Our revels are now ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on: and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Surely one of the most beautiful passages in all of dramatic literature, these lines of Prospero in Shakespeare's Tempest. They have a particular resonance with me because I was once involved in staging the "insubstantial pageant" and playing a part –- Ariel, that tricksy spirit.

And now the actual pageant fades. The actors –- friends and contemporaries -- are melting into thin air. Hardy a week goes by that word does not come of another acquaintance slipping away. A sadness, yes. But Prospero whispers, "Be cheerful, Sir." And then those tender lines, so sweet and reassuring: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little lives are rounded with a sleep."

The sea. The air. The teeming creatures. Of dust and sunlight we are conjured up. A dream, each one of us, brief and fleeting and beautiful. Like flowers, like mayflies, like the Sun itself, we flourish and fade. No pageant without us. No cloud-capp'd towers, palaces or temples. We are the dream of the Earth. In us the Earth become self-aware, the universe becomes conscious.