Stars & Stripes: Scenes 3-8

SCENE 3: The Canadian Border

Enter the Spirit of America

Spirit
This stage in the age of global affairs
Sends Washington three substantial rivals;
The Mexicans strewn thro’ the arid South,
While East of Mississippi indogenes
Diminish in the folly of the peace
Extended them once happily, & find
Lands of an ancient sacredness desired
By greed-eyed hawks, while to the open north
The mystery of Canada extends,
Where Britain’s battle banner flutters free.

Enter a company of America Soldiers marching to war

YANKEE DOODLE

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

& YankeeI saw a swamping gun
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father’s cattle.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

And every time he’ll shoot it off,
It took a horn of powder,
And made a noise like father’s gun,
Only a nation louder.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

And there was Cap’n Washington,
And gentle folks about him;
They say he’s grown so ‘tarnal proud
He will not ride without ’em.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.

Spirit
Election year, of course, had come around,
The President was losing in the polls
What better than a military jaunt
To rouse indifferent voters for him,
Upon his chest pin Washingtonian
Glory – upon some mercantile pretext,
To Canada he marches mobile arms,
Wasting the properties of Britishers,
So savage act has painted scarlet lines,
Of battle-harden’d veterans of war.

A battle scene between The Americans & the British sees an American retreat.


SCENE 4: The Executive Mansion, Washington

The First Lady, Dolly Madison is with the gardener, John McGraw, John Souissat & her manservant, Paul Jennings

Paul Jennings
I’ve never heard a noise like I’ve just heard,
It seems the Devil’s stepp’d out of his den
& hurl’d his fire & brimstone at our boys,
Strange, infernal, terrifying rockets
Flew at our lines, men dropp’d their muskets, ran
Faster than when a storm’s burst overhead
& you might be one half-mile outta home,
Knowing if you’d sprint back you’d keep best dry –
Faster than that – sweet life was in account;
Ah Carrol comes, he’ll add to my telling.

Charles Carrol
Mrs Madison, Mrs Madison,
I bring ya’ll tidings, with a weeping heart;
The British are coming, a regatta
Of frigates, sloops & schooners; they have fought
A battle up at Bladenburg, they’ve drove
Our legion from the field, twas like a race –
But flight has grown essential, you should flee
The capital, who knows what they’ll enact?
I’ve heard they’re furious at poisonous
Whiskey folks left when emptying the farms.

John McGraw
I say we should sing rally songs & fight,
All thro’ this war we’ve whipp’d the Old Country,
How dare those confounded sarpants anchor
In these fair waters, barges of arm’d men
Frighten good families, all tarnations
To them & their Tory machinations,
I might be Scots-bred but I dare not care
For London’s turpid guile, aye, long erewhile
The Jacobites were brutally repress’d,
Let’s fight, I say, these insults pay with blood.

John Souissat
The city is abandoned by soldiers,
Most ignominiously, officers
Have simply vanished; a sauve qui pert
Situation has arisen, & I
Do not intend to fight these men alone;
I urge you, Mrs President, no sense
There is in staying put, with graceful air
Greet enemies with fineries of state –
Risk grows too great, they might be gentlemen
But you are our First Lady, Heaven sent.

Dolly Madison
Oh! Very well, we’ll go, but not before
The Landsdowne portrait safely pack’d away,
It would become an Eagle of the French
Fallen in English hands, to be uphung
In some captain of Surrey’s sitting room,
No! Break the frame, the screws too tight to move
Within this tiny time, boys break the frame!
Get to it, & then roll the canvas smooth,
Boys, whisk it up to New York ’til the day
We’ll stand back in this room, & unafraid!


SCENE 5: Washington

Enter the Spirit of America & British Redcoats

Spirit
Into the place where this strange war began
By jeers, & cheers, & strokes of inky pen,
A place of magnificent distances,
March the British, whose sharpshooter surprise
Ensures an onset of grim destruction
That has begun already, blazing glow
Floats oer an empty city, in whose streets
Flames surge up doors & windows; nothing spar’d
Whose noblest part, tho’ gutted, parch’d & black,
Defiant stands to dreadful damages!

Arise yon Phoenix palace from the flames,
Emulsion’d in purest absolution,
A promise heaven-sworn in every heart
That beats American; ‘never again
Shall foreign sov’reigns & their armies lord
Among our sacred capital,’ a song
Erewhile composed by captive, Francis Key,
Watching by Baltimore Fort Henry fall,
But soak’d in British blood, him very first
To sing ‘Star Spangl’d Banner’ from the heart.

Francis Key is composing a poem while imprisoned in the belly of a British ship

Francis Key
Let me see that start again… hmmm, yes, By the dawn’s early light, lah-de-dah-de we hailed, at the twilight’s first dreaming – No ! – last… gleaming, yes, that has the ring

STAR SPANGL’D BANNER

Oh say can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.

And thy rocket’s red glare,
Thy bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through thee night,
That our flag was still there.

Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Spirit
Just before Christmas the Treaty of Ghent
Free sign’d; dwindle shadows of man’s ravage,
Reason prevails, an unwinnable war,
Suspended was uti possidetis,
Territory mutually restor’d,
As each side of a Continental line
Two nations branding landage eternal,
Americans, Canadians, at peace
For evermore, ancestrally allied,
Like sisters settl’d on their mother’s street.


SCENE 6: A cottonfield in the Southampton.

The slaves are singing as they work

NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN

Solo
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
& Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah

All
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus {my sweet Jesus}
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah
{Nobody Knows}

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Oh, yes my lord
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground
Oh, oh yes lord

A voice in me is going on slow
Well yes, my lord
& I’ll have my trials heal’d below
O yes lord!

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah

Oh, every day to you I pray
Oh, yes Lord
For you to drive my sins away
Oh, yes Lord

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah

Well yes the devil asked me so
Why & why
Cos he asked me once & he let me
Let you go

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah

Solo (slow)
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
& Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah

The workers in the field transform into slaves, chained in the hold of an Atlantic ship – to one side the young Nat Turner is listening to his grandmother, Bridget

Bridget
The drums, the dancing, the songs, the singing
Were gone – neck-rings, thumbscrews, clinking chains
Were all – hands full of diamonds here wringing
Flesh in dreadful compacts, & as we fused
Pandemonium unveil’d; tears, disease,
Thirst, coughs & curses, far from soft embrace
Of family, kept by smugging mantis,
‘Must keep the Cargo fit,‘ up to seabreeze
Them set to dance, passionless, lacking grace,
To strangest strains of Arkansas shanties.

Several slaves are made to dance to the music of the ill-mannered sailors – the piece is the ARKANSAS TRAVELER by Joe Clark

Sailor
Dance, nigger dance! move them dirty feet or I’ll hack ’em both right off

Enter the Spirit of America

Spirit
Nat Turner sat dumbstruck as granny told
Amazing stories of Africky youth,
Of sailing endless ocean in the hold
Of some spice-ship; into the dark, uncouth
Chains of slave-living, of ravens & scorn,
Nat loved to hear of the lion’s roaring
Watch granny’s right arm swinging like a trunk,
He yearn’d to see the land from which them torn –
Then, when the whole plantation was snoring,
He read his Bible, silent as a monk.

Nat, into major manhood burns each day,
But brutal barbs of slavery all hearts
Have penetrated deep, the cruel flay
Of beatings; as Nat’s bedstead curtain parts
An overseer drags him from his bed
& kicks him with contemptuousity,
Like drunkards booting mutts across the floor;
“Master,” says Nat, “tho you may beat me dead,
My dying breath shall bring eternity,
& Jesus all my liberties restore.”


SCENE 7 : Southampton County

Nat Turner is gather’d with several fellow slaves

Nat Turner
Men, hear me now, this step once wonder’d at,
Flung irreversible twyx steep & lane,
Shall fly just like a leaping thundercat
Namore shall we be forced to work in rain,
Half-starv’d, half-naked, backs cowskin-shredded,
Life drain’d by immental bloodhounds who’ve made
Organised conspiracies to oppress
Our freedom’s right; God in me’s embedded
A sulling soul no beatin’ could degrade,
Willing to burst its physical duress.

Ceasar Jones
Ah aint so sure, ah’ve heard most grievous tales
Of those up in the North, of runaways’
Deplorable conditions, mischievous
Thieves; angst & angry hunger blight their days;
My master told me so, the same I heard
From Little Obie, who last year return’d,
Long complaining that a cold potato,
Was all he ate all day; Nat, its absurd
To risk such sufferance, when I have learn’d
Rough fate awaits us, thus I cannot go.

Nat Turner
Such lies have thread the rope that binds thy mind,
The truth is very different, they cuff
& beat us, keep our hungers close behind,
Til buried doglike in the scour-box rough –
They’ll drip the boiling porkfat on our backs,
They’ll dare not feed us well, nor clothe us warm,
Just gruel & trousers coarsely hack’d from sacks,
Else dreams of comfort, freedom, might intrude –
Atrocity accepted is the norm,
When each day find they barbary more crude.

Zack Edgefield
I hear ya Nat, let us not be like beast;
Hunted, penn’d in some inglorious spot,
While round us barking, slaverdogs releas’d,
Have made a mock at our determin’d lot;
I’m with ya man, we fight a common foe
I’d die for just one moment to be brave,
With battle join’d, by ye on the attack,
Sound, sound the horn & I shall gladly go,
Better to settle in a rebel grave,
Than spend my life serving a maniac

Nat Turner
The White Man preaches he be Christian,
Believe me when I say they live in Hell,
From slavery, nothing but corruption,
All-pervading comes, some licentious spell
Shall vitiate slaveholders & their sons
In lusty visitations thro’ the night,
While mistresses pretend a pantomime
All dwell in dire dens of dead illusions
Which ravages our soul, our children blight,
Aye fight we must, each day no better time.

Spirit
The morning sun is burning bluish-green,
A signal for the slaughterworks to come,
Large hoard of Danite slaves charge to a scene
Where Free Blacks also beat the Akan drum,
As Turner quotes good scriptures & the psalms,
From field-to-field men set their brethren free,
Hatchets, knives & axes send wounds to work,
No paleskin spared, not even babes-in-arms,
As from the mental depths where torments lurk
With righteous, violent fury vengeance rose.

Nat Turner’s soul flew free for sixty days,
As if him angel vapours in a glade,
But like a wee mouse mither’d by a maze,
They dragg’d him from the hole, him swift displayed
On trial, tho’ the verdict all well knew,
When ask’d did he regret things Nat replied
‘Was Christ not crucified,‘ then he did hang,
His corpse was flay’d, beheaded, axes drew
Flesh-bloody quarters, then the knife applied,
As oer Jerusalem the Angels sang!

“The mad dog is dead,” white folks triumph’d home
To irreligious brothels of that vice
Quite wicked, like the civic stain of Rome,
Lusting to enslave all the world’s races;
Shaming progressive lands of libertie,
A country’s fabric bulging at the seams,
The mantra, ‘All made equal,‘ most forget
& yet, as Nat did strike his blameless blow
He’s show the Negro shares a nation’s dreams,
When one of them may walk the West Wing yet.


Scene 8: A sacred pow-wow dance by native Americans

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