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ACT IV
OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER, MINUTE

MINUTEAlone.

He enters, clapping with his fingers and hands, and dancing.

Hooray! Where in the world will I find an altar, so that with a sacrifice I can render my thanks to the sun on high, who created this pleasant day loaded with pleasantries? By heavens, I don’t believe as festive sports occur on Olympus as these most festive games we are playing within. For a thousand years or more have passed since I’ve seen Saturn smile even a little, but now in these games (oh the festive day!) he has smoothed his wrinkled front, and wholly, wholly dissolved in laughter. (He spins in circles, and then acts out all the months.) For twisty January has whirled his front and back faces into such circles that you would not say he was January, but rather a potter’s wheel. From his tripod February snarls and for a price he presents January’s tricks to the people. At first, for a bit, March raged with the north-wind’s fury, soon caught the brain-sickness of a fever, and, sallow, is selling lunar wares. April is stuck in doubt, he cries, he laughs, he stands still, he dances, he does neither, both, everything, nothing. May plays with cheeping little birds, he sings, he leads dances, and rejoices in the vernal graces. June is a shadowy man, and through all things he plays the perfect parasite to May. July proclaims that other kinds of grain, darnel and thistles are worthy to be reaped by Saturn’s sickle, he only claims for himself wheat and other earth’s delights. August is in an agony of anxiety, while under the rule of wine September is exiled from his mind and is stomping melons with his feet. Meanwhile August himself is peeking out from behind a shield, like a tortoise, lest Saturn snatch away his life along with his dinner. Thus the months are sporting within, while the old fellow cheers and in his happiness cannot restrain his laughter. At his bidding I have come outside to prod along the final slow-footed triumvirate, October and his companions, if I can find them. (He brandishes a whip.) Here are some learned little conclusions which I shall later urge on the basis of conjoined considerations. I shall argue thus. Ah, indeed this argument has its points, I concede everything. By these they will pay the penalty to me for their laziness. But, spectators, you most choice assembly, one thing torments my heart for your sake. They aren’t that easy for me to persuade. You must call them, in such a manner that tears spring from your eyes. Yet I greatly grieve, I mean I cannot suppose what I should suppose will become of you. You have rolled through this month of Fever, and I cannot predict from where you will return. For when that glutton has devoured his sons, I seem to be seeing you suspended in a vacuum, without months, without time, without motion. And unless Saturn, who devours old things, immediately gives birth to new ones, you are done for, this is very obvious. (Enter October, December, November. Minute hides himself in a corner and listens to their exchanges until he comes out. October, completely covered with leaves, sheds leaves which November eagerly collects and puts in a sack. December follows with slow steps, panting.)
OCTOBER Hurry up, December, Hurry up.
MINUTE Here they are. Lying in reserve, I’ll keep watch until their chatter suggests some tricks by which I can entrap them.
DECEMBER Quickly, but not too quickly. He who sows seed quickly squanders it, sowing for others rather than for himself.
OCTOBER He who sows too late sows what he sows in vain.
NOVEMBER As far as I am concerned he may sow, as long as I can collect what he sows. For me nothing is of so little value that I do not regret spending it.
MINUTE Father Saturn! A sower, a whining grasper, pure and unadulterated buffoons!
DECEMBER Wait a minute. Why are you running, you unmannerly people? It is highly unbecoming for old men to be runners.
OCTOBER Rather we’ll creep along at a tortoise pace.
DECEMBER Let me catch my breath a bit.
NOVEMBER He’s bad off, let him medicate himself with a breath.
DECEMBER October, why invite evil for yourself so hastily? Your little heart has no wisdom. He who would turn a profit by snake-like wiles should creep like a snake.
OCTOBER Your wit is feeble from old age. Profit is no profit which carries with it more harm than good. The tricky old man will have a presentiment of our tricks, and afterwards we will DECEMBER a heavier punishment for our deceit.
DECEMBER What are you chattering about, villain? Have your wits grown feeble? October, you rascally leaf-loser, now your leaves are dropping off. Will the whole tree soon collapse, and will you lie on the ground as a lifeless log?
OCTOBER If the old man is forecasting the truth, I’m being summoned to be burned.
DECEMBER I admit I’m an old man. So have my wits grown feeble, you evil person? [Hits him.]
NOVEMBER Peace, peace, December.
DECEMBER Why peace?
NOVEMBER You’re growing too hot over a cold business.
DECEMBER No, you’re too cold over a hot business. I have completed the two thousand, three hundred and sixty-fifth year since the foundation of Rome, and never before were December’s wits held against him.
MINUTE The ancient old fox! How harsh he is!
DECEMBER Indeed, I’m burning with no small wrath, a whipping is not far distant from either of you.
MINUTE Ha, not far distant is a man who will whip all three of you.
NOVEMBER October, you started this quarrel, you should settle it with some friendly gesture. Put one over on him.
OCTOBER Prudent advice.
DECEMBER You whipping-stocks!
OCTOBER December.
DECEMBER October.
OCTOBER You are taking what I said in the wrong way. Don’t take seriously what slipped out as a joke. I regret my foolish talk.
DECEMBER Ah, you defend yourself with a palinode. So my wits aren’t feeble?
OCTOBER Your thriving wits thrive in a lively breast.
DECEMBER Ah.
MINUTE How these honied words soothe the old man!
DECEMBER Pelias was feebleminded, who wanted to be rejuvenated, boiled with Medea’s potions. Indeed old age is a golden reward.
NOVEMBER December.
DECEMBER You’re tormenting me again, you teller of lies?
NOVEMBER Gods forbid, you eighth wonder of the world. You are Cornucopia herself, in you are all things, you’re worth your weight in gold, December most wisely-potent.
DECEMBER Ah.
NOVEMBER Let us return to ourselves, my Phoebus.
DECEMBER Ah, why have you approached Phoebus to learn the truth?
NOVEMBER With what submissiveness do you imagine we can enter into Saturn’s service?
DECEMBER Ah, since we are equally advanced in age and sagacity, right reason of government demands that we should be chosen as his Privy Councillors, we who will fill Saturn’s heart with deceit and clever schemes. Ah.
MINUTE Ah, now they are beginning to devise whippings for themselves.
NOVEMBER Heavens, I like this oracle.
OCTOBER No, this oracle is bad for my business.
NOVEMBER You’re worthless. Why so?
OCTOBER It is fair that he whom the gods have allowed to be enriched by the spoils of the other months should distribute them. October’s barns are full, stuffed with all the dainties of autumnal feasts. I have before my eyes all that the year has produced. You advise us to enter into service, November, you are subservient so that you may accumulate for yourself. My pleasure is to spend and luxuriate.
DECEMBER This man’s possessions want him to become a bankrupt.
NOVEMBER Indeed, you have little foresight what the late evening will bring. Other habits please me, for thriftiness is dear to my heart. I shall employ all the canniness of a frugal man, by which I can make timely provision for the future. I summon as witnesses these runaway leaves, and thus I shall rightly eat them.
MINUTE Oh. you man skilled at kitchen juiciprudence!
OCTOBER Ha, ha, but you will live only sap, you who are everywhere stuffed with leaves.
NOVEMBER Abundance does no harm, from them I can bequeath some sap to my heirs so that they will turn out to be good men, according to the old lawyers’ maxim. What is a good man? A man who observes the decrees, the laws and juistice of his ancestors.
OCTOBER Provident.
NOVEMBER I shall hunt for rich beard-trimmings and nail-parings which may nourish me.
OCTOBER Clever.
NOVEMBER I want the spiders I keep at home to work on webs for me, and let them make cloaks with which I can dress myself.
DECEMBER Alas, it’s all over for your mice, they should starve to death.
NOVEMBER It will indeed be all over if I find them.
OCTOBER But I scarcely see why you spend gold.
NOVEMBER Ha, ha, you are speaking of sap and blood, they have disappeared to sleep in the veins of the earth. I prove that which the scientists say, that gold is heavier than other metals. It has the greatest weight with me.
OCTOBER But do you ever think about death?
NOVEMBER Very often, for when I grow old enough for my coffin, I’ve decided to commit a capital crime, not to be expiated save with a public death.
OCTOBER But for what reason, pray?
NOVEMBER So I may be buried at public expense, and my burial be turned to a profit.
OCTOBER But can you turn that profit by hanging yourself.
NOVEMBER You are crazy, you want me to buy a rope and die afterwards?
MINUTE Here’s a man who will donate a rope.
OCTOBER This miser will take his wealth to Hell.
NOVEMBER This stubborn man growls about filth and cheap purchases. He’s affixed to this earth by the nail of greed. Another attitude inspires me, another mind. Since I’m a snail, living on my own juice, I shall lead a sluggish life, and surpass the house-carrying snails themselves when it comes to sloth.
MINUTE Monsters of men!
DECEMBER Saturn will never find a more vigilant counselor, out of idleness I’ll drive the sleep wholly from his eyes.
NOVEMBER Rather you’re dreaming, babbling delusions.
OCTOBER Driven by what lunacy will you abdicate your rest?
DECEMBER You blockheads, it can be the case that in my sleep I seem to be running, which would disturb my peace more.
OCTOBER But you won’t run, old age has shackled your feet.
MINUTE Now I’m flying. (At the same time he flies and attacks them.) By the gods, does this haste suit you? You slow-footed, gouty offspring of cattle, you basest of quadrupeds!
OCTOBER (Backing off from them and getting his breath.) It’s Minute, he has come to meet us.
MINUTE [Aside.] I’m shrewdly stirring up my bile, I think it’s necessary.
NOVEMBER Your sluggishness created these woes, December. You go before us, with your venerable hoariness and some oracle you must soothe this furious man.
DECEMBER Ah, Minute.
MINUTE You rash little men.
DECEMBER Restrain yourself. What is it that stirs your soul?
MINUTE Your delay is stirring Saturn’s soul, I tell you. All the others are present, they are awaiting you alone. Plato is snarling and blasting the old man with his wrath, since he fears that that his Year, predicted for so many centuries, is going to be ruined by your negligence.
NOVEMBER Eternal order teaches that we come last.
MINUTE And so it teaches you this sluggish slowness?
OCTOBER We choose to imitate our father. Among the planets, Saturn himself moves at the slowest pace.
MINUTE You cattle, you are showing your father delay, not deference.
DECEMBER Control yourself, Minute, you’re a little too fervent.
MINUTE And with this flail let me favor you for being equally fervent. (He produces a whip.) Get going. Pay the penalty. With these incitements I’ll get your sleepy feet moving.
OCTOBER November, why these Iliads full of woes?
MINUTE These little wretches are in a fever.
NOVEMBER You’ve ruined us, villain.
DECEMBER You should handle innocents more gently, my most elegant man.
MINUTE Away with your flatteries. You are house-carrying snail, living on your own juice. He who wants to be a snail should crack a snail.
NOVEMBER I’m neither a snail, nor a crab, nor an oyster, nor any other kind of foodstuff, but dry, emaciated November, the poorest of the months, oh great Minute.
MINUTE Ha, ha, ha, I’m afraid I must change my name and call myself Maximum rather than Minute.
OCTOBER (October lifts November to his feet.) Buck up your spirits, you brute.
MINUTE But there is another unspeakable crime, to be expiated by nothing but your scourged shoulders.
DECEMBER If we’ve done anything wrong.
MINUTE You should employ your memory better, for memory is a juice for old men to feed upon. It has been over four hundred years ago, on the twenty-ninth day of your government, in your presence, since you allowed God’s beloved Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, to be cut down by the cruelty of his assassins.
DECEMBER Woe’s me, I’m ashamed to remember.
MINUTE And you, November, have always offered yourself as a companion to this parricide.
NOVEMBER Ah, criminally.
MINUTE October, because of your nearness to the evil the evil is near to you. Get going.
OCTOBER The impious traitor! (Minute binds them with ropes and whips them.)
DECEMBER Let us stoutly bear whatever our fate brings.
NOVEMBER It brings it to you as a fool, you have ruined yourself, you have ruined me. Ah, you have ruined everything I have scraped together for my impending old age.
DECEMBER Dunce, Saturn will repay those things with interest.
MINUTE This is for you. (He whips them.)
OCTOBER But pick up your ant-like pace. (Exeunt omnes.)

Finis