THE HAIRY APE
by Eugene O'Neill
INT: THE FIREMEN'S FORECASTLE OF A TRANSATLANTIC LINER AN HOUR AFTER SAILING FROM NEW YORK FOR THE VOYAGE ACROSS.
Paddy is an Irish sailor.
Oh, to be back in the fine days of my youth, ochone! Oh, there was fine beautiful ships them days-clippers wid tall masts touching the sky-fine strong men in them-men that was sons of the sea as if 'twas the mother that bore them. Oh, the clean skins of them, and the clear eyes, the straight backs and full chests of them! Brave men they was, and bold men surely! We'd be sailing out, bound down round the Horn maybe. We'd be making sail in the dawn, with a fair breeze, singing a chanty song wid no care to it. And astern the land would be sinking low and dying out, but we'd give it no heed but a laugh, and never a look behind. For the day that was, was enough, for we was free men-and I'm thinking 'tis only slaves do be giving heed to the day that's gone or the day to come-until they're old like me.
(With a sort of religious exaltation.)
Oh, to be scudding south again wid the power of the Trade Wind driving her on steady through the nights and the days! Full sail on her! Nights and days! Nights when the foam of the wake would be flaming wid fire, when the sky'd be blazing and winking wid stars. Or the full of the moon maybe. Then you'd see her driving through the gray night, her sails stretching aloft all silver and white, not a sound on the deck, the lot of us dreaming dreams, till you'd believe 'twas no real ship at all you was on but a ghost ship like the Flying Dutchman they say does be roaming the seas forevermore widout touching a port. And there was the days, too. A warm sun on the clean decks. Sun warming the blood of you, and wind over the miles of shiny green ocean like strong drink to your lungs. Work-aye, hard work-but who'd mind that at all? Sure, you worked under the sky and 'twas work wid skill and daring to it. And wid the day done, in the dog watch, smoking me pipe at ease, the lookout would be raising land maybe, and we'd see the mountains of South Americy wid the red fire of the setting sun painting their white tops and the clouds floating by them!
(His tone of exaltation ceases. He goes on mournfully.)
Yerra, what's the use of talking? 'Tis a dead man's whisper.
(To Yank, resentfully.)
'Twas them days men belonged to ships, not now. 'Twas them days a ship was part of the sea, and a man was part of a ship, and the sea joined all together and made it one.
Is it one wid this you'd be, Yank-black smoke from the funnels smudging the sea, smudging the decks-the bloody engines pounding and throbbing and shaking-wid divil a sight of sun or a breath of clean air-choking our lungs wid coal dust-breaking our backs and hearts in the hell of the stokehole-feeding the bloody furnace-feeding our lives along wid the coal, I'm thinking-caged in by steel from a sight of the sky like bloody apes in the Zoo!
(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?