Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Columbia Workshop
Show: John Brown's Body
Date: Jul 20 1939

CAST:
ANNOUNCER
JACK ELLYAT, young man of the North
1ST NARRATOR, formal
2ND NARRATOR, poetic
CLAY WINGATE, young man of the South
JOHN BROWN, abolitionist
3RD NARRATOR, conversational
SHEPHERD HEYWARD, has a big death scene (2 lines)
VOICE (1 line)
FATHER, of Ellyat
MOTHER, of Ellyat (3 lines)
JAKE, Pennsylvania farmer
MINNIE, his wife (2 lines)
JIM, rebel
LUKE, Jim's cousin
BAILEY, Union soldier
GUARD (1 line)
MELORA VILAS, who loves Ellyat
BILLY-BEN, Confederate soldier
SALLY DUPRE, who loves Wingate (3 lines)
BABY, Melora's (2 lines)
JOE, stretcher-bearer
JERRY, stretcher-bearer (2 lines)
BLUE CHIN (1 line)
PASSERBY (1 line)

and VARIOUS CROWDS -- ABOLITIONISTS, SOUTHERN MEN AND BOYS, PRAYING WOMEN, A TRAIN STATION MOB, A CHORUS OF SINGING WOMEN, and UNION PRISONERS-OF-WAR.

MUSIC:

INTRODUCTION ... QUOTES MELODY OF "JOHN BROWN'S BODY" (A.K.A. "THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC") ... THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

The Columbia Broadcasting System presents, for the third program of its current Columbia Workshop festival series, Stephen Vincent Benét's famous American epic poem "John Brown's Body." Norman Corwin, who made the adaptation of the poem for radio, will direct tonight's performance, which will be of a full hour's duration rather than the customary half hour. And now -- "John Brown's Body."

MUSIC:

UP, OMINOUS ... CHANGES TO A PASTORALE ... THEN OUT GENTLY BEHIND--

ELLYAT:

(WHISTLES, LOUDLY, TO DOG) Here, Ned! Here, Ned! Never mind that rabbit track now. Come here, fella! (MORE WHISTLING)

1ST NARR:

Jack Ellyat had been out all day alone,
Except for his new gun and Ned, the setter.
It was October and Jack Ellyat felt that turning of the year
Stir in his blood like drowsy fiddle-music.
He was glad to be Connecticut-born.
With his back against a tree, he stared
At the pure, golden feathers in the West
Until the sunset flowed into his heart.
There was a fairy hush everywhere.
Then--

MUSIC:

AN UNEASY STIRRING ... BUILDS TO AN OMINOUS PEAK AND THEN FADES INTO DISTANCE BUT PERSISTS IN BG--

1ST NARR:

--something broke the peace.
Like wind it was, the flutter of rising wind,
But then it grew until it was the rushing
Of winged stallions, distant and terrible,
Trampling beyond the sky.
Ellyat roused. He thought--

ELLYAT:

(UNEASY REALIZATION) Why, they're going South.
I wonder what this is. And what it means.

MUSIC:

GENTLY OUT

1ST NARR:

He stared at the sky, confused. It was empty and bleak.
But still he felt the shock of the hooves on his heart --
The riderless horses never bridled or tamed
As they drove South. Jack wondered:
Who had set them free? Who drove them out in the sky
To carry a portent the length and breadth of the Union?
Weren't the North and South at peace?
So Ellyat wondered,
Walking back home with the October moon,
And Ned, the setter.

ELLYAT:

(WHISTLES, LOUDLY, TO DOG) Here, Ned! Come here, Ned!

SOUND:

DURING ABOVE, ELLYAT SLAPS HIS LEG A FEW TIMES ... DOG APPROACHES

ELLYAT:

Ah, that's the boy.

What do you think of it, old boy?

We're abolitionists, I suppose, and Father
Talks about Wendell Phillips and John Brown
But, even so, that doesn't have to mean
We'll break the Union up for abolition,
And they can't want to break it up for slavery--
It won't come to real fightin', will it, Ned?

Will it, old boy?

(MOVING OFF) Come on, Ned. Come on, dog.

1ST NARR:

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Clay Wingate dreams.

2ND NARR:

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Clay Wingate dreams.
Clay Wingate checks on his horse's rein
With a hand as light as a butterfly
And drinks content in body and brain
As he gazes for a moment at the sky.

WINGATE:

This is my Georgia, this my share
Of pine and river and sleepy air,
Of summer thunder and winter rain
That spills bright tears on the window-pane.

Oh Georgia ... Georgia ... this careless yield!
The watermelons ripe in the field.
The mist in the bottoms that tastes of fever
And the yellow river rollin' forever.

2ND NARR:

So Wingate sees it, vision or truth,
Through the colored window of his own youth.
He drinks his fill of air, and then,
Is just about to ride on again
When--

MUSIC:

AGAIN THE UNEASY STIRRING ... BUILDS TO AN OMINOUS PEAK AND THEN FADES INTO DISTANCE BUT PERSISTS IN BG--

WINGATE:

What is this thing? Ridin' the wind
Like cavalry beyond the sky?
Why have my hands grown cold?
Why do I suddenly feel old?

MUSIC:

GENTLY FADES OUT BEHIND--

2ND NARR:

The horses, burning-hooved, drive on toward the sea,
But, where they pass, the air is troubled and sick.
There is a whisper moving the air all night,
A whisper that cries and whimpers about the house
Where John Brown prays to his God, by his narrow bed.

BROWN:

(OVERLAPS BRIEFLY WITH ABOVE, A FERVENT PRAYER)
Omnipotent and steadfast God,
Who, in Thy mercy, hath
Upheaved in me Jehovah's rod
And his chastising wrath,

For fifty-nine unsparing years
Thy Grace hath worked apart
To mould a man of iron tears
With a bullet for a heart.

I saw Thee when Thou did display
The black man and his lord
To bid me free the one, and slay
The other with the sword.

Get up, get up, my hardy sons,
From this time forth we are
No longer men, but pikes and guns
In God's advancing war.

And if we live, we free the slaves,
And if we die, we die.
But God has digged His saints a grave
Beyond the western sky.

And should the Philistine defend
His strength against our blows,
The God who does not spare His friend,
Will not forget His foes.

BIZ:

MURMUR OF ABOLITIONISTS ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

3RD NARR:

They reached the Maryland bridge of Harper's Ferry
That Sunday night. There were twenty-two in all,
Nineteen were under thirty, three not twenty-one.
For better or worse
They were all strong men.

They tied up the watchmen and took the rifle-works.
Then John Brown sent a raiding party away
To fetch in Colonel Washington from his farm. [X]

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS TRUDGE ALONG DIRT ROAD ... THEN IN BG

3RD NARR:

At half-past-one, a man named Shepherd Heyward,
Free negro, baggage-master of the small station,
Well-known in the town, hardworking, thrifty and fated,
Came looking for someone.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS UP BRIEFLY, THEN IN BG

VOICE:

Halt!

3RD NARR:

But Heyward kept on, not hearing or not understanding.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS FILL A PAUSE ... THEN GUNSHOT

HEYWARD:

(GASPS)

SOUND:

HEYWARD FALLS TO GROUND

3RD NARR:

He fell by the station-platform, gripping his belly,
And lay for twelve hours of torment, asking for water,
Until he was able to die.

HEYWARD:

(STRANGLED, DESPERATE, PITIFUL) Water! Water! Give me water! (CONTINUES BRIEFLY IN BG) Water! Water! Water! Water!

3RD NARR:

Brown did not know at first that the first man dead
By the sword he thought of so often as Gideon's sword
Was one of the race he had drawn that sword to free.
It had been dark on the bridge. A man had come
And had not halted when ordered. Then the shot
And the scrape of the hurt man dragging himself away.
That was all. The next man ordered to halt would halt.
Brown's mind was too full of the burning judgments of God
To wonder who it had been. He was cool and at peace.

So the night wore away, indecisive and strange.
The raiders stuck by the arsenal, waiting perhaps
For a great bell of jubilation to toll in the sky,
And the slaves to rush from the hills with pikes in their hands,
A host redeemed, black rescue-armies of God.

It did not happen.

Meanwhile the whole countryside was springing to arms.

BIZ:

ECHOED VOICES OF SOUTHERN MEN AND BOYS SOBERLY REPEAT "Give me my gun. ... Give me my gun. ... Give me my gun." OVER AND OVER ... SINGLY AT FIRST, THEN OVERLAPPING ... BUILDS TO A MODEST CLIMAX BEHIND FOLLOWING STANZA ... THEN FADES OUT

3RD NARR:

They were boys and men.
They had no uniforms but they had weapons.
Old squirrel-rifles, taken down from the wall,
Shot guns loaded with spikes and scraps of iron.
They started for the Ferry.
In a score of other sleepy, neighboring towns
The same militia assembled.

The Ferry itself was roused and stirring with dawn.

SOUND:

VOLLEYS OF DISTANT GUNFIRE ... CONTINUES IN BG

3RD NARR:

And the firing began again.
A queer, harsh sound
In the ordinary streets of that clean, small town,
A desultory, vapid, meaningless sound.

SOUND:

GUNFIRE FILLS A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG

3RD NARR:

God knows why John Brown lingered.
His men, who held the rifle-works
All morning, sent him messages urging retreat.
They had the weight of common sense behind them.
But John Brown neither replied nor heeded.
Of course they were cut off. The whole attempt
Was fated from the first.

SOUND:

GUNFIRE, NO LONGER DISTANT, BUILDS TO A CLIMAX ... THEN FADES OUT BEHIND--

3RD NARR:

Meanwhile, back in Connecticut,
In a small living room surveyed by a big clock,
Jack Ellyat put his book down with a slight
Impatient gesture.

There was Mother, knitting
The same grey end of scarf while Father read
The same unaltered paper through the same
Old-fashioned spectacles with the worn bows.

He glanced at the clock.

Two minutes to nine.

It will strike the hour and then go on.

Another dull evening.

Nothing would ever happen.

His father turned a creaking page of paper
And cleared his throat.

SOUND:

RATTLE OF NEWSPAPER BEHIND--

FATHER:

(CLEARS THROAT) The Tribune calls Brown's raid the work of a madman.
Well, they're right.

MOTHER:

Are they going to hang him, Will?

FATHER:

It looks that way.

ELLYAT:

(PROTESTS) But, Father, when a man--

FATHER:

Oh, they have the right, my son. He broke the law.

MOTHER:

But, Will! You don't believe--?

FATHER:

I didn't say I thought he was wrong.
I said they had the right to hang the man.
(FIRM) But they'll hang slavery with him.

3RD NARR:

A quick pulse
Beats in Jack Ellyat's wrist. Behind his eyes
A bearded puppet creaks upon a rope.

SOUND:

THE CLOCK STRIKES NINE BEHIND--

MOTHER:

I prayed for him in church last Sunday, Will.
I pray for him at home here every night.
I don't know -- and I don't care -- what laws he broke.
I know that he was right. I pray to God
To show the world somehow that he was right
And break these Southern people into knowing!
And I know this. In every house and church,
All through the North, women are praying for him --
Praying for him! And God will hear those prayers.

FATHER:

Yeah, He will, my dear.
But what will He answer?

3RD NARR:

Jack Ellyat's pulse beat faster.
Women praying,
Praying at night, in every house in the North,
Praying for old John Brown until their knees
Ached with stiff cold.

BIZ:

VOICES OF WOMEN FERVENTLY WHISPER "JOHN BROWN!" OVER AND OVER, IN BG

3RD NARR:

Innumerable prayers
Inexorably rising, till the dark
Vault of the night was so thronged and packed
The wild geese could not arrow through the storm
Of terrible, ascendant, women's prayers.

BIZ:

WOMEN'S VOICES REACH CLIMAX ... THEN FADE OUT BEHIND--

1ST NARR:

No one can say
That the trial was not fair. The trial was fair,
Painfully fair by every rule of law.
The law's our yardstick, and it measures well,
Or well enough, when there are yards to measure.

You can weigh John Brown's body well enough,
But how and in what balance weigh John Brown?

John Brown was a stone,
A stone eroded to a cutting edge
By obstinacy, failure and cold prayers.

He had no gift for life, no gift to bring
Life but his body and a cutting edge.

But he knew how to die.
And yardstick law
Gave him six weeks.

Listen. The bearded lips are speaking now.
Here is the voice, already fixed with night.

BROWN:

(OVERLAPS BRIEFLY WITH ABOVE)
I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say.

In the first place I deny everything but what I have all along admitted -- of a design on my part to free slaves.

Had I interfered in the matter which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved ... had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, or the so-called great ... it would have been all right.

Every man in this Court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do unto me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me further to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction.

I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done, in behalf of His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.

Let me say one word further. I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the circumstances, it has been more generous than I expected. But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated from the first what was my intention -- and what was not.

Now I've done.

3RD NARR:

(BEAT) A month between the sentence and the hanging.
A month of endless visitors, endless letters.
A Mrs. Russell came to clean his coat.
A sculptor sketched him.

The North had already now begun
To mold his body into crucified Christ's,
Hung fables about those hours -- saw him move
Symbolically, kiss a negro child,
Do this and that, say things he never said,
To swell the sparse, hard outlines of the event
With sentimental omen.

It was not so.

He stood on the jail-porch in carpet-slippers,
Clad in a loose ill-fitting suit of black,
Tired farmer waiting for his team to come.
He left one last written message:

BROWN:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty
land will never be purged away but with Blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.

3RD NARR:

At last the clear warm day, so slow to come.

SOUND:

FOOTSTEPS UP WOODEN STAIRS

3RD NARR:

The gallows-stairs are climbed, the death-cap fitted.
Brown does not hear the prayer. The rough black cloth
Of the death-cap hides his eyes now. He has seen
The Blue Ridge Mountains couched in their blue haze.

BROWN:

This is a beautiful country.

3RD NARR:

Perhaps he sees them still, behind his eyes--
Perhaps just cloth, perhaps nothing any more.

BROWN:

I shall look unto the hills from whence cometh my help.

3RD NARR:

The hatchet is raised to cut the cord.

SOUND: CHOP! OF CORD ... CLUNK! OF TRAP

3RD NARR:

The trap has fallen.

MUSIC:

FOR JOHN BROWN'S DEATH ... THEN IN BG

BIZ:

WOMEN'S VOICES WHISPER, "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave."

2ND NARR:

(SMUG CERTAINTY) He will not come again with foolish pikes.

BIZ:

WOMEN'S VOICES WHISPER, "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave." ... REPEATS OVER AND OVER IN BG

2ND NARR:

Already the corpse is changed, under the stone,
The strong flesh rotten, the bones dropping away.
Slaves will be slaves next year, in spite of the bones.

BROWN:

(FILTER, GHOSTLY) The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood.

2ND NARR:

Nothing is changed, John Brown. Nothing is changed.

BROWN:

(FILTER, GHOSTLY) Bind my white bones together -- hollow them
To skeleton pipes of music. When the wind
Blows from the budded Spring, the song will blow.

BIZ:

WOMEN'S VOICES OUT

MUSIC:

OUT

2ND NARR:

The year rolls back.
It is only winter still, not spring.
The snow still flings its white on the new grave.
Nothing is changed, John Brown.
(UNCERTAIN) Nothing is changed, John . . . Brown . . . ?

SOUND:

OVERLAPS WITH ABOVE ... TREMENDOUS APOCALYPTIC SWELL OF THUNDER ... OUT DURING FOLLOWING--

1ST NARR:

Sumter!

The stone falls in the pool, the ripples spread.
The ripples reach Clay Wingate at his room
At night, in Georgia.

It is long past twelve, and the night is deep
With moonlight and silence and wind and sleep.

Clay goes to the window, looks at the far
Bayonet-point of the fixed North Star,
Stands there a moment, wondering.

WINGATE:

(ANGRY) North Star, wasp with the silver sting,
Blue-nosed star on the Yankee banners,
We're comin' against ya to teach you manners!
With crumbs of thunder and wreaths of myrtle
And cannon that dance to a Dixie chorus,
With a song that bites like a snappin'-turtle
And the tiger-lily of Summer before us,
To pull you down like a torn bandanna,
And drown you deeper than the Savannah!

1ST NARR:

And still, while his arrogance makes its cry,
Clay shivers a little, wondering why.

WINGATE:

(THOUGHTFUL) But what happens to men in war?
Why are they all goin' out to war?

I'm positive it isn't slavery,
That stale red-herring of Yankee knavery,
Nor even states-rights, at least not solely,
But something so dim that it must be holy.
A voice, a fragrance, a taste of wine,
A face half-seen in old candleshine,
A yellow river, a blowin' dust,
Something beyond ya that you must trust,
Something so shrouded it must be great,
The dead men building the living State.

2ND NARR:

But Wingate thinks of more than war.

WINGATE:

(LOVING) Sally Dupré, Sally Duprré,
Eyes that are neither black nor grey,
Why do you haunt me, night and day?

Sally Duprré, Sally Duprré,
Heart and body like sea-blown spray,
I cannot forget you, night or day.

2ND NARR:

So Wingate ponders in Wingate Hall,
And hates and loves in a single breath,
As he tries to unriddle the doubtful scrawl
Of war and courage and love and death.

It's late, and he really should be asleep --
For tomorrow they march -- to a two-months chasing
Of Yankees running away like sheep
And peace in time for the Macon racing.

Clay gets into bed. The moonlight lies like frost on a sleeping sword.

MUSIC:

ROMANTIC BRIDGE ... TURNS MARTIAL ... THEN CONTINUES IN BG

2ND NARR:

Do you hear, men? Men of the North and South?
Do you hear, Jake Diefer, you barrel-chested Pennsylvanian?
Do you hear this summons,
Roused out of your wife's arms?
The sun is up now,
The spilt-milk-mist of mornings on the farm.
Now, hurry, Jake! And tell your wife goodbye.

JAKE:

(AWKWARD) Well, good-by, Minnie.
Don't you hire any feller for harvest without you writin' me.
And if any more of those lightnin'-rodders come around,
We, uh, don't want no more lightnin'-rods.
I, er--

MINNIE:

(SOBS)

JAKE:

(HIGHLY UNCOMFORTABLE) Ah--

MINNIE:

(SOBS) Jake--

JAKE:

Uh, I better go. G'bye, Minnie. (CLICKS TONGUE, TO HORSE) Hep!

SOUND:

HORSE MUTTERS ... HORSE AND CART MOVE OFF

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A MARTIAL TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG

NOTE:

THE FOLLOWING EXCHANGE IS PLAYED FOR COMEDY

JIM:

(GUARDED) Goin' to town, Luke?

LUKE:

(ALSO GUARDED) Uh-huh, goin' to town. You goin', Jim?

JIM:

Looks as if I was goin'.

LUKE:

Looks as if you was after squirrels.

JIM:

I might be. You goin' after squirrels?

LUKE:

I might be, too.

JIM:

Not so many squirrels near town.

LUKE:

No, I reckon there's not.

JIM:

Might go along a piece together.

LUKE:

I hear the Kelceys are goin' to fight in this here war.

JIM:

Yeah. I heerd that, too. (AN ADMISSION) I might be goin' myself sometime.

LUKE:

(WRY, RELAXES) We-uns don't like the Kelceys much.

JIM:

(CHUCKLES, RELAXES) We-uns neither. Say, Luke. You know who we air goin' to fight outside? I heard it was the British. Air that so?

LUKE:

Hell, no. I dunno as I rightly know just who they air. But it ain't the British. It's some trash-lot of furriners, that's shore. They call 'em Yankees near as I kin make it, but they ain't Injuns neither.

JIM:

Well, reckon it don't rightly matter, long as the Kelceys take t' other side.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A MARTIAL TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG

BIZ:

BOISTEROUS MOB AT TRAIN STATION ... THEN IN BG

3RD NARR:

Do you hear, Jack Ellyat of Connecticut,
You, marching between blue shoulders and
A blur of faces? Do you hear the summons?
Do you see all these faces you know,
Suddenly different,
Faces somehow turned into one crowd-face?
Do you see your Mother and Father and Old Mrs. Cobb --
And Mother looks tired to death --
And Ellen Baker is crying; her mouth is wet with tears?
Do you see the station and the train
And the engineer wearing a flag in his coat-lapel?
And the engine with "On to Richmond!" chalked all over it?

SOUND:

TRAIN WHISTLE ... TRAINS STARTS TO CHUG AWAY

BIZ:

MOB CHEERS

2ND NARR:

And now the packed train starting to move -- to the war?

BIZ:

MOB HITS A PEAK ... THEN FADES OUT

MUSIC:

PICKS UP RHYTHM OF CHUGGING TRAIN ... A TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--

2ND NARR:

Let us praise while we can what things no praise can deface.

Not the silk flag and the shouts, the catchword patrioteers,
The screaming noise of the press, the preachers who howled for blood,
But a certain and stubborn pith in the hearts of the cannoneers
Who hardly knew their guns before they died in the mud.

North and South they assembled, one cry and the other cry,
And both are ghosts to us now, old drums hung up on a wall,
But they were the first hot wave of youth too-ready to die,
And they went to war with an air, as if they went to a ball.

Dress-uniform boys who rubbed their buttons brighter than gold,
And gave them to girls for flowers and raspberry-lemonade,
Unused to the sick fatigue, the route-march made in the cold,
The stink of the fever camps, the tarnish rotting the blade.

These men were much like the men you know,
Under the beards and the strangeness of clothes with a different fit.
They wrote mush-notes to their girls and wondered how it would go,
Half-scared, half-fierce at the thought, but none yet ready to quit.

Georgia, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, Florida, Maine,
Piney-woods squirrel-hunter and clerk with the brand-new gun,
Thus they were marshalled and drilled, while Spring turned Summer again,
Until they could stumble toward death at gartersnake-crooked Bull Run.

MUSIC:

OVERWHELMED BY--

SOUND:

DULL THUDS OF CANNON AND RIFLE FIRE ... THEN IN BG

BROWN:

(FILTER, GHOSTLY) The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood.

SOUND:

CANNON AND RIFLE FIRE FILLS A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG

LUKE:

(SCOFFS) Huh! Armies ain't such a much!

1ST NARR:

Luke Breckinridge, the mountaineer,
Sees stuffed dolls in blue coats and baggy trousers
Go down like squirrels under rifle-cracks.
His eyes glow as a bullet rips his sleeve,
And he feels well.

LUKE: Armies ain't such a much.
There're too dang many orders; there's too much salutin',
And too many officers you ain't allowed
To shoot when they talk mean to you 'cause
They're your officers, which don't make no sense.
But this fightin' is somethin' I kin understand,
Except for those dirty stinkers of big guns.
It ain't right to shoot you with big guns.
But it's a good scrap 'ceptin' for that.
Though men are hard to miss when you're used
To squirrels.

1ST NARR: His eyes are narrow. He hardly hears
The officer's voice. The woods in front of him
Are full of Kelceys he's going to kill,
Blue-coated Kelcey dolls in baggy trousers.
It's a beautiful and sufficing sight.

SOUND:

CANNON AND RIFLE FIRE FILLS A PAUSE .. THEN IN BG

3RD NARR:

To Connecticut's Jack Ellyat,
It is a deadly fair in a burning field
Where strange crowds rushed to and fro and strange drunkards lay
Sprawled in a stupor deeper than wine or sleep,
A whining noise you shrink from and wanted to duck at,
And slow blood sopping the clothes like the blood on a shot duck's breast.

SOUND:

CANNON AND RIFLE FIRE FILLS A PAUSE .. THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

To Clay Wingate of Georgia,
There is a single instant of pure, fierce hating
When the charge comes down like a cataract
On a long blue beach of broken sand,
And Thought is nothing, but all is Act,
And the sabre seems to master the hand.

SOUND:

CANNON AND RIFLE FIRE FILLS A PAUSE .. THEN FADES OUT DURING--

1ST NARR:

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.

MUSIC:

SHIMMERING ... THEN IN BG ... FOR AN IMPRESSIONIST MONTAGE

SINGERS:

John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.

NARRATORS:

(TAKE TURNS INTONING LISTS OF NAMES) Johnston, Beauregard, Sykes.

Lincoln, McDowell, Greeley.

Jefferson Davis, Buell, Wallace, Lincoln, Davis.

MUSIC:

WEIRD, OMINOUS ACCENT ... OUT BRIEFLY FOR--

BROWN:

(FILTER, GHOSTLY) The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood.

MUSIC:

RETURNS WITH A QUICKER TEMPO WHICH THE SINGERS AND NARRATORS MATCH--

SINGERS:

John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave. (CONTINUES IN BG)

NARRATORS:

(TAKE TURNS INTONING LISTS OF NAMES) The Monitor, the Merrimac, U. S. Grant.

J. B. Brody, Shiloh Chapel, Jefferson Davis.

The Army of the Potomac, Robert E. Lee, Pittsburg Landing.

Bragg, Vicksburg, Sheridan, Sherman.

Lincoln, Old Mother Bickerdyke.

Jackson, Early, Lee.

Petersburg ...

MUSIC:

WEIRD, OMINOUS ACCENT ... DROWNS OUT SINGERS AND NARRATORS ... CROSSFADES WITH BATTLE NOISE DURING FOLLOWING--

SOUND:

CANNON AND RIFLE FIRE ... AT A DISTANCE ... FADES OUT BEHIND--

3RD NARR:

The prisoner's column straggled along the road
All afternoon. Jack Ellyat marched in it numbly.
He was stiff and sore. They were going away from the battle
But they could still hear it.

Some of the prisoners try to joke with the guards.
Some walk in silence, some speak out now and then,
As if to explain to the world why they are here.

BIZ:

PRISONERS MURMUR .. THEN IN BG

BAILEY:

Say, Ellyat. I got a hunch where we're goin'.

ELLYAT:

Where, Bailey?

BAILEY:

Well, we're headed for Corinth I guess.
Corinth first -- then some filthy prison-camp.
Won't be good grub.

ELLYAT:

Won't, huh?

BAILEY:

Bacon and hominy-grits. They don't eat right.
They don't eat nothin' but bacon and hominy-grits.
Gad, I'm goin' to get tired of bacon and hominy-grits!

BIZ:

PRISONERS' VOICES FADE OUT

3RD NARR:

It is night now. The column still marches. But Bailey and Ellyat
Have dropped to the rear of the column, planning escape.
There are few guards and the guards are as tired as they.
Two men could fall in the ditch by the side of the road
And get away, perhaps, if they picked a good time.
Well -- now is as good a time as any.
In a moment, they'll drop together into a ditch.

SOUND:

TWO MEN SLIDE INTO A DITCH

ELLYAT:

Are we all right?

BAILEY:

I guess so.

ELLYAT:

They haven't missed us yet.

BAILEY:

Let's get into those woods before they can find out we've escaped and start chasin' us.

ELLYAT:

Yeah, let's.

BAILEY:

Make as little noise as you can now.

SOUND:

THEIR FOOTSTEPS TRUDGE THROUGH BRUSH

GUARD:

(OFF) Halt! Halt, there!

SOUND:

VOLLEY OF RIFLE AND GUN SHOTS

BAILEY:

Run! Run, Jack!

SOUND:

ELLYAT'S RUNNING FOOTSTEPS ... IN BG

BAILEY:

(RECEDING) They'll never catch ya! Run, Jack! They'll never catch ya!

SOUND:

ELLYAT'S RUNNING FOOTSTEPS ... FILL BRIEF PAUSE ... THEN HIT A PEAK AND STOP BY THE END OF NEXT STANZA--

3RD NARR:

Deep into the woods he runs.
Deep enough to become lost for days and nights --
Days and nights of terror, and of hunger, and of rain.

SOUND:

RAIN POURS DOWN

3RD NARR:

Jack Ellyat is lost and famished and fatigued and wet.
And the rain keeps falling.

SOUND:

RAIN AND ELLYAT'S HALTING FOOTSTEPS FILL A PAUSE

MUSIC:

BRIEF, FORLORN BRIDGE ... THEN IN BG, FADES OUT BY [X]

1ST NARR:

Melora -- Melora Vilas, rising by candlelight,
Looked at herself in the bottom of the tin basin
And wished that she had a mirror.

MELORA:

If only I had a mirror, maybe I'd know
Something. I don't know what, but something important,
Something like knowing my skin and I are alive.
But I'll never know it unless I can get a mirror.
And we'll never get a mirror while we're hiders.
And we're bound to be hiders as long as the war keeps on.

Pop doesn't believe in fighting.
Still, I like this way -- I even like being hiders.
It's exciting -- especially when the guns
Cough in the sky as they did all yesterday, [X]
And I know there are armies stumbling all around us,
Big, blundering cows of armies, snuffling and tramping
The whole world with their muddy, lumbering hoofs,
Except the little lost brushpile where we're safe.

There are guns in the sky again today. Big armies.
An army must be fine to look at. But Pop
Will never let me do it -- or understand.

1ST NARR:

Melora has to call the hogs this afternoon.
You have to call them once or twice a month
And give them food or else they ran too wild
And never come for butchering in the Fall.

MELORA:

Here, piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy!
Here, piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy! (CONTINUES IN BG)

3RD NARR:

The gleaming call
Floats the air like a bright glassy bubble,
And Ellyat, lost and desperate in the wood,
Hears it. He stumbles toward the music.

MELORA:

Here, piggy, piggy, piggy!
Here, pig-- (STARTLED, TENSE) Who are you?!

ELLYAT:

(WEAK) Why, I've been out in the woods. In the rain.
Lost for days. I'm all done in.

MELORA:

You can't come in here.

ELLYAT:

Please let me come in.

MELORA:

(REALIZES) Why, you're starving.

ELLYAT:

(INDISTINCT, AS HE FAINTS) Please, help--

SOUND:

ELLYAT COLLAPSES

3RD NARR:

That was Ellyat making a noise in his throat.
He fell, trying to touch her.

MUSIC:

BRIEF, HOPEFUL BRIDGE ... THEN IN BG

3RD NARR:

So Ellyat swam back to life, swam back to warmth
And the smell of cooking food. Tonight he's lying in a lax
Idleness, warm and hungry, not wanting to move.

Melora's mother is cooking mush in an iron pot.
The smell of the mush is beautiful, the shape of the pot
More beautiful than an urn carved from sunken marbles.

Melora comes into the room upon light, quick feet.
He stares at her, solemnly. She is young and thin.

She sees his eyes open and comes over to him,
Not shyly, but not concernedly. Their eyes meet.

MELORA:

Well, you look better now.

ELLYAT:

Yes.

MELORA:

You didn't say who you were. You just fell.
You better tell who you are, Pop'll want to know.
Pop won't want to keep you, but
I reckon we'll have to keep you here for a piece;
You're not fit to travel yet and that's a fact.
What's your name?

ELLYAT:

Jack. What's yours?

MUSIC:

UP, ROMANTIC ... FOR BRIDGE ... THEN IN BG, FADES OUT BY [X]

3RD NARR:

Six days later, Jack Ellyat wondered about things.
The world had come back to its shape. He was well and strong.

ELLYAT:

(TO HIMSELF) Of course, I ought to be fighting for the North, [X]
I am really a skulk, but -- things are different here.
I can't reason about the difference in words
But I feel it inside my skin.

Still, I'll have to get back to the regiment pretty soon.
I can't stay here. They none of 'em want me here.

I can't stay here and fall in love with Melora.

2ND NARR:

No, he can't stay here and fall in love with Melora.
But why, five days later, does he look at her a certain way,
While a filled pail stands on a stone by the edge of the brook?
They had forgotten the pail.

SOUND:

RUNNING BROOK BACKGROUND

MELORA:

We ought to go back, Jack.

ELLYAT:

Not yet, Melora. Not yet, Melora.

MELORA:

You'll be going away soon.

1ST NARR:

Ellyat touches her shoulder.
She lets the hand stay but still she gazes at the brook.
Now, she turns.

ELLYAT:

(LOVINGLY) Melora--

1ST NARR:

Their mouths fuse.

MUSIC:

GRAND ROMANTIC BRIDGE ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

SOUND:

BUZZ OF BIRDS AND INSECTS IN THE WOOD

3RD NARR:

He wasn't going away when he went to the wood.
He told himself that. They had cut the heart on the tree.
The jack-knife cut two pinched half-circles of white on the green bark.
The tree-gum bled from the cuts in sticky, clear drops,
And there you were.

He has marked a tree to be his own. He has loosed
A dryad out of the tree to chain him with wild
Grapevines and forest trailers forever and ever.

And now, when he would be free, he is free no more.
But he is thinking of practical matters.

ELLYAT: (TO HIMSELF) There ought to be
A preacher and a gold ring and a wedding-dress,
Only how could there be?

No, it isn't like that. Never could be like that.

If I could only go away without going away
And have everything turn out just as it ought to be
Without rings or hiding.

(HELPLESSLY) But-- Melora.
Aw, I'm all mixed up.
My thoughts are going round and round like rats in a cage.

(REALIZES) But, gosh, how long have I been walking?
I wonder how far I've come?
Oh, let me see now, when I started out, the sun was behind me.
I wonder if I'm lost.
No, there's the way.
Yeah, there's the way.

Yes, I'll go back to Melora -- to the cheesecloth veil and the preacher.
I'll ask her this evening where you can find such preachers.
I'll be gettin' back through this brush to Melora now.

SOUND:

ELLYAT'S FOOTSTEPS THROUGH BRUSH

ELLYAT:

(HUMS VERSE OF "JOHN BROWN'S BODY")

JIM:

Reach for the sky, Yank, or I'll nachully drill yuh!

SOUND:

ELLYAT'S FOOTSTEPS STOP

JIM:

Now, stay facing t' other way.
(BEAT, WITH SCORN) You're a fine a scout. Ya ain't even got a gun.
Yep, you can turn around now.

SOUND:

ELLYAT TURNS AROUND SLOWLY

JIM:

Well, I'll be switched! You're a young 'un all right.

ELLYAT:

(TREMBLING) I - I ain't no scout. I--

JIM:

(AMUSED) Oh, don't take it so hard, Bub. Our boys get captured, too.
(CALLS) Hey, Billy! Got a Yankee scout!

BILLY-BEN:

(OFF) Huh? Where are ya?

JIM:

O'er here!

SOUND:

BILLY-BEN'S FOOTSTEPS APPROACH THROUGH BRUSH

BILLY-BEN:

(CLOSE) Why, say, he ain't no scout. He's one of their lousy spies.
Don't he look like a spy? Let's string him up to a tree, Jim.

JIM:

Shucks, no. He's a scout all right. What makes yuh so savage, Ben?
You're always hankerin' after a necktie-party. Who captured the kid anyway?

BILLY-BEN:

(RELUCTANT) Well-- Well, all right. Anyhow, he's got good boots!

JIM:

Yeh, and, as for them boots,
No Arkansas catfish ain't gonna take 'em away from Jim Breckinridge!
I captured this kid and his boots is mine!

ELLYAT:

(WORRIED) But, look, men, I - I've got to get back. I--

JIM:

Oh, you'll get over it, Bub. It ain't so bad.
You won't have to fight no more.

BILLY-BEN:

I tell you,
If we just strung him up it'd make things a whole lot easier.
He's a spy for sure. Everyone strings up spies!
We got a long piece to go yet and he's jest a nuisance.

JIM:

Aw, shut yore face!
You can hang any Yanks you ketch on a piece a dishrag.
You ain't caught no armies yet.
(TO ELLYAT) Come on, Bub, let's get goin' to a nice prison camp.

MUSIC:

BRIEF BRIDGE ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

John Brown lies dead in his grave and does not stir.
It is nearly three years since he died and he does not stir.

SINGERS:

John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave. (REPEATS, THEN FADES OUT BEHIND--)

2ND NARR:

There is no sound in his bones but the sound of armies,
And that is an old sound.

MUSIC:

FADES OUT WITH SINGERS

SOUND:

TREMENDOUS THUNDEROUS ROLL OF GUNS, CANNON, ET CETERA ... THEN FADES OUT BEHIND--

1ST NARR:

Continual guns, be silent for a moment!
Be silent, now! Now we would hear the voices of men and women
For a little while.

Where is Jake Diefer now? Jake Diefer,
Who left his wife and the spilt-milk mist of morning on the farm?

JAKE:

I'm in the fightin' on the peninsula.
The weather bothers me more'n anything.
I know it's not the same sort of weather down here,
But every day when I wake up, I look at the sky
And try to figure out what it's like back home.

1ST NARR:

And Luke Breckenridge, the mountaineer?

LUKE:

(DISMISSIVE) Aw, I'm jest out here on picket in the woods.

1ST NARR:

And Jim Breckenridge?

JIM:

(CHEERFUL) I'm out in the West,
Ridin' a horse and capturin' Yankee scouts.
Caught a Yank named Ellyat jest t' other day.

1ST NARR:

And Clay Wingate?

WINGATE:

(WEARY) I'm ridin', fightin', and sleepin' in my cloak.
When I sleep, I dream of a girl
With Sally's face and know that when I awake,
It'll be to the noise of continual guns.

1ST NARR:

And Sally?

SALLY:

I'm at home in Appleton,
Wonderin' if Clay'll ever come back to me.

1ST NARR:

And Ellyat?

ELLYAT:

Yes, where am I? In prison deep in the South,
Gaunt, bearded, dirty -- lyin' on my back
And starin' at the flies on the wall
And tryin' to remember a green place lost in the woods.
I gotta get out of here.
I can't just rot away and die like the rest of 'em.
I've got a girl and she doesn't know where I am.
I got a girl and she doesn't know where I am.

MUSIC:

MOURNFUL ... THEN IN BG, GENTLY OUT AT [X]

1ST NARR:

And Melora? What of you?

MELORA:

Oh, I'm all right. Except I'm lonely.
It's getting-in time. It's getting-in time, [X]
Time to put things in barns and sit by the stove,
Time to watch the long snow and remember your lover.

He isn't dead. I know that he isn't dead.
Maybe they've changed his body into a tree, or a cloud
Or something that sleeps through Winter.
But I'll remember.
I'll sleep through Winter, too.
We all sleep then.
My body holds the ripe grain. I can wait my time.
I can wait my time in spite of Mom being sad
And Pop looking fierce and sad when he sees me walk
So heavy, and knows I'll have to walk heavier still
Before my time comes.

We cut the heart on the tree.
I've got my half and he's got his,
He'll come back when Winter's over or else I'll find him.

SOUND:

TRANSITIONAL PAUSE

3RD NARR:

Jack Ellyat has been released from prison
In exchange for some rebel prisoners,
And is back home in Connecticut, recovering from prison.
He sleeps badly at times
When his flesh recalls certain smells and sights that were prison.
But he's getting well. And, as a matter of fact,
He'll be returning to the front pretty soon.
To Gettysburg -- where armies of the North and South
Will come together with a sound like a falling sky.

But Jack cannot envision Gettysburg just now.
He speaks to Ned, the setter, sleeping by the stove--

ELLYAT:

Ned? Wake up, old fella.
I'm surprised at you, sleeping all day beside the stove.
Come here. That's the boy.

Say, Ned, I told a girl about you, back in a wood.
You'd like that girl. She'd rub the back of your ears.
You want to go to war, Ned?

(BEAT, CHUCKLES) You're right, old fella. You go ahead and yawn.
You get too mixed up in war. You better stay here.
God, I'd like to sleep by that stove for a million years.

MUSIC:

SNEAKS IN, IN BG

ELLYAT:

Melora! Melora, what's happened to you?
Melora! Melora, what's happened to you? (CROSSFADES WITH--)

BABY:

(CRIES, THEN IN BG)

1ST NARR:

After the child was washed, they showed it to Melora,
Breakable, crumpled, breathing, swathed and indignant,
With all its nails and the hands that moved of themselves--

MELORA:

(BREATHLESS, PLEASED) He's got - blue eyes.

BABY:

(CRIES, CUT OFF BY--)

MUSIC:

UP BIG, FOR A MARTIAL TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG

1ST NARR:

Gettysburg!

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... SNARE DRUM ROLL ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

1ST NARR:

Now you are back there fighting, Jack Ellyat!
Behind that hill, across from you, is Clay Wingate!
And you are part of the two crab-armies fumbling for each other,
A hundred and sixty thousand
Breathing men, set down on hostile ridges!
There is a battle already begun!
And, after three slaughterous days on these bloody acres,
We come back to find you, lying wounded on a field at night, Jack Ellyat.
And you with a hole torn through your leg, Clay Wingate,
Screaming and delirious. [X]

3RD NARR:

Ellyat is lying on Cemetery Hill.
His wounds have begun to burn.
There is something cool on his face and hands.
It's dew. He lies on his back and remembers dully the charge.
The charge came. They beat the charge.
Now it is moist dark sky and the dew and his pain.
He tries to get his flask of water, but he can't.
That makes him afraid.

ELLYAT:

(WEAK) I - I want some water.

3RD NARR:

He turns his head through stiff ages. Two feet away
A man is lying quietly, fast asleep,
A bearded man in an enemy uniform.

ELLYAT:

Hey, Johnnie? Got some water?

3RD NARR:

Now he sees that Johnnie has only half a head,
And frowns because such men cannot lend canteens.
But now he sees a lantern, bobbing along through the clumped dead men.

ELLYAT:

(WEAK) Help me. I'm alive. Here. I'm alive.

JOE:

Jerry, you're hearing things,
I've passed that feller twice; he's dead all right,
I'll bet you money.

ELLYAT:

(DESPERATE) I - I'm alive, damn ya! Can't you hear - I'm alive?

JOE:

(CHUCKLES) All right, Bub. We'll take your word for it.

JERRY:

Get hold of him, Joe.

JOE:

Yes, sir.

JERRY:

Easy there.
That's two and a half you owe me, Joe.
You're pickin' 'em wrong tonight.

JOE:

Ah, poor suckers. All the same,
If this one doesn't last till the dressing station,
The bet's off.

ELLYAT:

(MOANS IN PAIN)

JOE:

Take it slower, Jerry; it hurts him.

ELLYAT:

(MOANS, FADES OUT)

SOUND:

TRANSITIONAL PAUSE

WINGATE:

(WAKES AND SCREAMS)

2ND NARR:

Wingate wakes from a bloodshot dream.
They were touching his leg and he heard his scream.
Through his delirium, he vaguely knew
A blue-chinned man said a word or two.

BLUE CHIN:

(FADES IN, ECHO EFFECT) Well now, Johnny, you ought to do
Till the sawbones comes with his movin'-van,
And you're lucky you're livin', little man.
But why in heck didja act so strict,
Fightin' like that when you know you're licked,
And where's the rest o' your dang brigade? (FADES OUT)

2ND NARR:

(BEAT) The voice died out as the ripples fade
Into the flow of the running stream,
And Wingate sank to the bloodshot dream.

SOUND:

TRANSITIONAL PAUSE

2ND NARR:

Two generals meet in a farmhouse;
Lee erect in his best dress uniform,
Chunky Grant in his mudsplashed private's gear.
They talk a while of Mexico
And then the terms are stated.

It is over now.

The arms are stacked from the war.

MUSIC:

BRIDGE ... FORLORN STRINGS ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

SOUND:

RICKETY WOODEN CART PULLED BY WEAK HORSE ... THEN IN BG

1ST NARR:

Melora, the heart-faced girl with the big eyes,
Roves now from little town to little town with her child
Looking for her soldier.

SOUND:

CART ROLLS TO A STOP

MELORA:

Do you know a soldier named - Ellyat?

PASSERBY:

Ellyat? Why, no, miss.

SOUND:

CART STARTS ROLLING AGAIN ... THEN IN BG

1ST NARR:

The rickety cart moves on
Like a tired insect, creaking through the dust.
There's another day behind them now
And any number of such days ahead.

SOUND:

ROLLING CART FILLS A PAUSE ... THEN FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE

2ND NARR:

Sally Duprré, waiting at Appleton in Georgia,
On an autumn day,
Felt her heart and body burn
As she hummed the lesson she had to learn.

SALLY:

Comfort the old and pity the wise
And see your lover with open eyes.
Mend the broken and patch the frayed
And carry the sorrow undismayed
When your lover limps home in the fallin' rain,
Never quite to be whole again.

2ND NARR:

She smiled a little and turned to see
A weed-grown path and a scarlet tree
And Wingate coming there, painfully.

SALLY:

Never quite to be whole again.
Never quite to be whole again. (FADES OUT)

SOUND:

THE CLOCK STRIKES NINE ... OUT BEHIND--

3RD NARR:

Back home, back in Connecticut again,
Jack Ellyat walked from the town, one day of melting ice.
He carried still
Wounds of a sort, some healed into the scars
And some that hardly would be healed awhile,
Being in stuff few surgeries can reach,
But he was well enough, although the wind
Felt colder than it had in other Springs.

ELLYAT:

Oh, yes, I guess that I'm all right.
I guess I'm lucky. I remember once
Coming along this road with poor old Ned
Before they fired on Sumter.

Well, it's over.

I was part of it.

3RD NARR:

He has a picture of Melora's face,
Dim with long looking-at, a carried image,
He tries to see it now, but it is faint.

ELLYAT:

I tried to find her. But I couldn't find her.
I couldn't get any news while I was sick,
And then, at last, the news that they were gone.
That, and no more -- and nobody knew where.
And here I am, out walkin' on this road
For no more reason than a crazy yarn I heard about --
About some woman
Goin' through town and lookin' for a soldier.

3RD NARR:

He moves away
Out toward the crossroads, where the wagons pass,
And when he gets there, waits patiently
Under a windbreak of three elms
Half-hidden from the road.

SOUND:

ROLLING CART APPROACHES

3RD NARR:

So he perceives
A slow cart creaking up a slope of hill,
Drawn by a horse as gaunt as poverty
And driven by a woman with great eyes.

MUSIC:

BRIDGE .. THEN IN BG

SINGERS:

John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave.
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave. (THEN IN BG)

1ST NARR:

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.
Spread over it the bloodstained flag of his song,
For the sun to bleach, the wind and the birds to tear,
The snow to cover with a pure fleece
And the New England cloud to work upon
With the grey absolution of its slow rain.

John Brown is dead, he will not come again,
A stray ghost-walker with a ghostly gun.
Let the strong metal rust
In the enclosing dust
And the consuming coal
That was the furious soul
Grow colder than the stones
While the white roots of grass and little weeds
Suck the last hollow wildfire from the singing bones.

SINGERS:

(FADE OUT)

MUSIC:

UP GRANDLY, FOR "JOHN BROWN'S BODY"

SINGERS:

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth goes marching on!

MUSIC:

TO A FINISH

ANNOUNCER:

You have just heard Norman Corwin's adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benrét's epic poem of America, "John Brown's Body." The role of John Brown was played by Ray Collins; Ellyat by Everett Sloane; Clay Wingate by Luis Van Rooten and the principal narrators were Arnold Moss, Charles Carroll, and David Gothard. Leith Stevens composed the score and conducted the orchestral accompaniment to the poem, and the entire production was directed by Norman Corwin.