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A monologue from the play by Jacinto Benavente
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Plays: Second Series. Trans. John Garrett Underhill. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1919.
We never learn to know each other fully. I am not a poet, but I understand Isabel’s heart better than you do. There was a time when I felt my Carmen’s love grow cold, as Isabel does yours.
Her spirit was dreamy, ambitious, while our life was prosaic indeed. I am a man so blind to idealities that it seems to me a crime not only to dream, but to sleep, unless the provision for the morrow is assured.
My one thought was to work–for the sake of my wife and my children, naturally; but work, which bound me to them most closely, was, as it appeared, that which pushed them farthest away.
So I observed at first a certain wistfulness, an impatience in Carmen, then coldness and indifference, then … then … how can I tell? If I had not been so sure of her honor, I might even have believed that her heart was no longer mine.
I sought to impose myself, my complaints became violent and loud; I turned to threats, but the most that I could achieve was submission, respect, the outward show of love–love still absented itself and grew cold.
So then, I waited; I waited, working on as before, with the same purpose–my wife, my children, and with the same love. I was hers, always hers! Then, one day, as I sat over my books and accounts, I felt two arms steal about my neck, which hugged me tight,
and another face pressed close to mine, looming up over the accounts, and two tears fell upon the page and blotted the figures out, and a voice said to me, and a soul quivered in that voice:
“Ramón, how good you are! And how I love you!” It was love which had returned again, love at last had understood–who knows after how many wanderings?
For the poetry of our lives today, which are barren of swords and lances and princesses and troubadours and Moors, consists in simple duty done and the tasks of every day.
Either you misjudge Isabel, or you misjudge yourself. When love absents itself and grows cold, how detain it in its flight? By threats, perhaps, by force? By murder and sudden death?
When the bird leaves the cage, how recall him as he flies? Either you must shoot him, resolved that he will be yours or belong to nobody, in which case you will surely recover him,
but you will recover him dead, or otherwise, if you prefer him as he was, you have no recourse but to wait–to wait until the cage shall seem sweeter in his eyes than the liberty which he has enjoyed.