Sleep and Shadow
Transcription from the 1989 television airing
Naught can ease my heart-torn sorrows, weeping forth this prayer on
this my wedding day, the Year of Our Lord 1656 . . . Reverend Jonathan Guerdon
dost thou take Abegail for thy wife? . . . Eyes die
first seeing the foul deformity of death.
I have lost my shield, my health, saviour,
Why did He pluck thee from me?
Did I not keep thy word, Lord, preach the Everlasting Gospel? I fought on the side of right, brother
against brother in the Army of the Saints against the Royalist Anti-Christ, King
Charles and his pestilential minions, shouting the Lord's name in the morning
mists of Naseby, the
place of dragons. Many good men died
there but we cleansed out the menstrual rags of Rome
with our blood and renewed
England's Covenant with God to bring order out
Yet I am punished for it: Abegail is dead.
And after the glorious victory, drum muted, trumpet silent, the good Oliver,
Lord Protector, plain Master Cromwell to his friends,
asked me to stay at his side for the Commonwealth's sake. But I turned aside from this great honour. Men
hanker after power but I was not tempted by this world's baubles, yet I am
punished for it:
is dead. I became a simple pastor
here in Southwark, proclaimed the word truly,
administered the Sacraments rightly, maintained
discipline strictly. Yet I am
punished for it: Abegail is
dead. Lord, you struck your cold,
pruning-knife into her warm breast and her shining rays, so full of love, were
snuffed out. This is God's revenge
for some unknown sin. I ask
forgiveness, Lord, and wait and wait and wait for the motion of the spirit. But nothing moves in me.
You sent for me and I'm here! Israel-of-the-Ten-Tribes-No-Less-Yates .
. . You called me away from preaching God's word, running up and down, staring
at folk, gnashing my teeth and proclaiming the day of the Lord throughout London. Strange acts, friend Guerdon, confuting, plagueing, tormenting, skipping, leaping, dancing like a base fool, naked before women, ah! But God was in my mouth burning like an
oven in me, setting my tongue aflame.
God then fell into my pocket making me throw all my gold and silver on the
ground like these empty shells for love of Him.
(Brother?) Yates, I need thee, Abegail is dead.
Now you're hot for me, before
you were hot against me and other holy Ranters. We're simple men who only proclaim God's
word as the spirit moves us day and night in the streets and market places, but
you persecute us up and down, up and down.
You had me whipped out of Southwark, Brother
Guerdon, you called me a mad, bad blasphemer.
And still do when you use
profane language, are lax in conduct, enjoy bawdy, mixed dancing, singing
extemporary songs, wear your hair shaggy, and worse, say that God has told you
that hats should be worn during prayers!
They should! They should!
If Christ would not take off his hat to his earthly father, Joseph, why
should we to our Father in Heaven?
Hats in prayers are a blasphemy!
But I'll still wear 'em
and do all those things you speak of though less sprightly now as my
bones winter. What day did I grow
old, Brother Guerdon? No matter,
I'll still rant with the best of them that God made all men from one mould, and
this land, once lost to the rich and lordly, belongs to the poor and the
forgotten, forever and forever.
We are of one mind there, Brother Yates.
We fought side by side at Naseby against the King for
that. But you're still a notorious
ranting, Lord of Chaos, Israel Yates.
Israel-of-the-Ten-Tribes-No-Less-Yates. So why call on my Brother Guerdon?
Well it's a measure of my
despairing. In normal times I wouldn't have you in my
house. But once we were
comrades-in-arms in the glorious Army of the Saints.
I've got no time to talk of
battles past when there are so many new ones to fight.
Help me Brother Yates! You are a sinner but you have the power
to heal the sick.
If I'm a sinner perhaps my power
comes from the Devil?
No matter God or Devil. Bring her back to me and you can have my
Keep it, it's too small.
Bring her back to salvation, Israel!
I've seen the bright lights of
Buckinghamshire and Leicester, but I've never seen a miracle.
You've seen a King fall, a
Commonwealth rise, and Englishmen standing upright and free.
Yes, that is a miracle.
Then heal my bride Brother
I beg you!
The dead are dead! Cry long, cry
loud. You gather thorns, not vines. I've had five children – three boys, two
girls and they all died. Five pretty
babes in a row . . . five . . . all five . . . five different mothers, but that
did not stop the Lord of Mercy taking them through destruction's gate!
Did you cry?
Whole seas. I told myself that death is only a
short-lived lie, but that didn't help.
So I prayed. Have you prayed?
Hard and long.
Pray harder, longer. Do you believe that Christ lived and died
and rose again?
If you can believe that you can
Have the courage to pray again
that she might live again.
Lord God Almighty, give us the
word of life.
In the name of Jesus who
overthrew the grave, give us comfort. Let Abegail live.
Let her live!
She does not move.
You were right. All things are possible, but not this. Not even the faith that feeds us can
raise the dead, if they are truly dead.
If they are truly dead? Is there hope in that 'if'?
Perhaps she sleeps.
You torment me with 'if' and
In hard winters I've often
encased myself in a sack of feathers to keep warm but they can be dangerous,
feathers can make you sneeze. How
many larks and kingfishers have I missed because I sneezed?
She lies still as death.
The feathers about, look at the feathers about her
face. The rest are
motionless, but one moves. See the
faintest wisp of breath. There, there!
a trick of the light, no, no, no, no it rises and falls. Oh Lord of Life it is a miracle! A single feather moves and I am knee deep
in June! See, see, she lives and
Lives? That's a harder question. Half-dead, in
half-shadow. Catalepsy, Brother
Guerdon. She's fallen into deep sleep.
Sleep is a kind of death, too. I've never trusted it. I say my goodbye to the sun nightly and
I dreamed last night that the
prophet Elijah stopped me and claimed the world was coming to an end. When I objected he tried to sell me a box
of figs. Of course we might have it
all wrong. Perhaps we're truly
asleep when we think we're awake, and those things that give us pleasure and
pain are mere dreams.
Can you wake her to dream?
I must, else she sleep 'til
Why you, not me? I love her and love should bring her back
to life and dreaming.
As long as man sets himself
above other men he has limits and God cannot pour His holiness into him
-- for God is without limits. But I'm not proud, standing five foot ten
in what's left of my stockings, curing carbuncles and hemorrhoids and running up
and down in the gutters of the world.
And so God pours His glory into me.
Wake her, and I'll caper in the
gutters with you.
This quartz must pull her back. As the magnetised
earth and all its bodies are attracted by lodestones in secret and invisible
ways, so the polary power of this humble rock will
attract the soul of Sister Abegail from shadow . . .
Fix your heart and mind on quartz, Brother Guerdon. Together we will make it move . . . God's
will through our wills . . . Now call her Brother Guerdon. . . gently. . .
gently. . . call her back.
Abegail. . . Abegail. . . Abegail. . .
there's darkness above thee, below thee, darkness around thee. . . no world. . .
no people. . . only empty corners. . . for the Lord hangeth
this world on nothing and nothing is what and where you are. . . He sucks thee
back, back, through endless night.. . . Hear the
Abegail?. . . A cock crows. . . a dog barks. . . Now see that spark of light
ahead, there Abegail, there, it grows, the darkness
lifts, and the sun, the sun bursts through the last mists, and see, oh see the colours of our world.
You are home.
Christ is merciful!
His love shines like flowers on
Who raised me from the dead?
Only Christ can raise the dead
so it follows you were but sleeping.
Died August 4th in the
year of our Lord 1653.
Noon, the sun was shining through the bedroom window and the fields of
wheat and the apples turning red.
They gathered around my bed,
weeping, watching when my last breath, and my soul left me.
Sarah, that's Sarah's voice.
My first wife.
Your first wife?
Yes, she died August the 4th,
1653. You've brought back the wrong one!
Ah, yes, well, that can happen.
Who disturbs my rest?
She has possession then.
is possessed by my first wife?
Why didn't you tell me?
How could I? I didn't know you had a first wife. I'm not privy to your domestic
arrangements, Brother Guerdon.
Who disturbs my rest?
No one, Sarah, it was
we wished to disturb, not you.
I see it plain now. Sarah called Abegail
to shadow on her wedding day, made her sleep and takes her place here. We must discover why, else Abegail return to sleep and sleep eternal.
Sarah, it was God's will you die but Abegail cannot die on your will. She loved you as I loved you.
Please, Brother Guerdon, we have certain set
ways of doing this. She'll only
answer under spell of quartz. . . Now, call to her, Brother Guerdon. . . .
Call to her again.
Sarah, answer your husband Jonathan.
Jonathan, are you my husband Jonathan? Did you weep when I died? Oh yes, I saw thee weep, and Abegail weep, you were holding my hand till it turned cold.
How long did you weep Jonathan? How
long did the salt rivers run? How
long, Abegail, till they froze?
Was she still weeping Jonathan, when you first kissed her?
We wept for as long as it was
possible to weep, until the water dried and we could weep no more, Sarah.
I welcomed her into our home an
orphan, raised her as our own daughter.
You were away preaching and fighting to make a new land of this land for our
Lord. And money was scarce,
prospects were poor, as we suffered to endure.
And then, pleasant beams of prosperity broke through the clouds between.
Good years stretched ahead, years of ease.
All lost and stolen from me.
I had only the worst years Jonathan!
The best, Sarah, the years of
struggle, full of pith and purpose when we were up and doing, the spirit shone
in excellency around us. We were young then. Ah, there's a word now – young.
Young. . . Lovely work,
Remember those years, Sarah, they were the
good years. Years which could never
be bettered, never come again.
I remember the April when God struck me down
with the hot sweats. Abegail took on my duties as I lay stricken, gaining
strength even as I was losing mine.
She bloomed and I withered. I knew
my death-day was near and my heart grew heavy, husband, for we had so little
time together. . .
So little time.
Yet you said love was a durable
But despite our love, I knew
you'd raise another in my place after I was gone and I knew in my
heart you'd choose
I grew envious as my last hour
came and I drew you both towards me and you saw me dying and your souls
over-flowed with the sorrow of it.
And I asked you Jonathan to take an oath on the Holy Book not to marry
Abegail. And I died, my soul fled with rushing
wings and my life-breath returned to the place from whence it came. . . But even
before my shadow had faded from the house you'd looked into her eyes as once you
looked into mine, and you understood her as once you understood me. And you could not let her go as once you
could not let me go.
And you pledged yourselves to
each other, you broke your pledge to me. You forgot your oath and my darkness. I could not lay quiet in my death. My strong will came to claim my rights. And my spirit tore at
soul, pulling her into sleep and shadow.
Sarah, release her, for our love's sake.
I keep her for our love's sake.
So much cruelty and all for love's
Brother Guerdon, did you by word, act or thought look profanely on thy
while Sarah lived?
No, I swear it. There is no deceit here to be brought to
daylight. I feel no guilt because
there is no guilt in me.
Abegail, did you look on Brother Guerdon whilst his wife, Sarah, lived?
Never. I swear it.
Sarah, do you know this to be
I know he did not look on her while I lived but after I was gone wishing
to be together they broke their holy oath to me.
Yes, we broke it.
That's why I'm guilty and so
Satan drags me down. Sarah took me
in as her child, she gave me her home, she made me her
family. And I broke my promise to her and God as
Eve did in Eden. I'm guilty.
No, you're innocent.
So God punishes me.
No, we do it to ourselves.
There is no guilt in thee Abegail.
Yet there is no punishment harsh
enough for me to suffer. Believe it.
I never believe a mind in pain. Guilt and punishment,
punishment and guilt. God is
tired of guilt in every corner, punishment in every room. Why nurture tortures within thee? Sting 'em out
and follow me! Loving is the essence
of the joys this world affords and I kissed and hugged the ladies and made the
fiery chariot mount in me, without sin and guilt, not a trace, not a trace.
You are ranting!
And you are dead!
Justice, give me justice. They betrayed my love!
You're dead Sarah, justice is with the
living. For their sake and your
soul's sake, let Abegail go.
I am no longer loved.
That's natural too. You are remembered with love. You cannot ask for more.
Oh it's hard, it's hard.
It isn't easy. . . So give liberty to the
inward woman, Sarah. Let Abegail go.
I can't, I want someone to blame!
This is the hardest of all. There is no one to blame.
Let God speak and confirm it. .
. Oh my children, my sweet Sister in Christ, I am God, the First Mover, and am
moved now to give my verdict. Abegail, you are not guilty. Sarah, let her go.
Out of love, you poor fool.
What have you done?
live or sleep forever?
I know God knows but do you
Sarah's love was too strong. Abegail's gone back to the dark and I am alone.
I was dressing before my mirror.
. . I thought of thee. . . I thought of Sarah. . .I
felt these fingers around my heart, I couldn't breathe. And I was tired. . . Did I sleep
Deep, but now you wake.
When you slept Sister
Abegail, what did you see and hear?
Oh this is a friend, Brother
Israel-of-the-Ten-Tribes-No-Less-Yates., the Lord's true servant who wondrously
guided theee back to life. Abegail, you
were sleeping near to death, so we both ask, did thou see or hear anything on
the far side?
Did God, the Master of Dreams and Death,
transport you to far places?
Did you, did you travel through
Did you see Noah's Ark, Rachel's Tomb, or talk with the
Did Moses stutter or Elijah come down on a
rope or in his fiery chariot and show you all the heavens, worlds, and spheres?
Did you see Jerusalem?
No, only darkness. But now I think on it, I heard a voice. Oh my Brothers, a voice exultant, sweet
and treasured, fine and true.
he who made the world has a voice, yes.
What did He say?
Oh my Sister, my sweet child in
Christ, I am God, the First Mover and am moved now to give my…
No no no, that
That was me.
That was you?
But it was,
it was still the voice of truth. You
were judged innocent Abegail. There is no guilt in thee.
No guilt in me?
Whatever you do in light
and love is light and lovely. If that within you does
not condemn you you shall not be condemned. So live and love and remember to praise
the Lord with a full heart.
Just as I'll remember to praise thee
You have saved us both. If Abegail had stayed in that dark limbo, I too would have lost
the light, despaired and died.
So I'll proclaim thy worth
throughout the streets of Southwark.
Do not Brother Guerdon. We met under strange circumstances just
as we live in strange times when people dreamed of infinite liberty.
And building heaven here on earth.
Those coming after us will
wonder if it happened, that Englishmen turned all things topsy-turvy seeing no
reason why some should have so much and others so little.
And Mistress Joan
of Colnbrooke could tell Archbishop Laud to his face,
'I do not give a pin or a fart for his Lord the Grace of Canterbury.'
What days we've lived through
Brother and Sister. But they're
already fading. And such ranting, holy imbeciles as
Israel-of-the-Ten-Tribes-No-Less-Yates will soon be gone, too. People's great desire now is to sleep and
say nothing. They see their new won
freedoms taken from them one by one.
But they don't care Brother Guerdon, they're consumed
by the greatest sin of all, indifference.
They want to be left sitting in front of a warm fire toasting their toes and
purring. My thorny
never let me sit. But we Ranters who cling to the bright light of liberty and love
are obsolete and worse, dangerous, and must be pulled out by the roots. So stay clear of me, friends. Soon there will be no place left for my
There will be one here.
My thanks, Brother Jonathan, but offers of
help wound the pride of those whose cause is lost.
What will you do?
Continue to act.
Call on us, Brother
Israel-of-the-Ten-Tribes-No-Less-Yates and whatever you would have us do, we
Gladly, that's a good word, Sister. To do things gladly lifts the heart. There can be no happy glad-man compared
to a madman whose mind is free of all care, his fits and his fancies are above
all mischances when joy is his favorite fare. So be mad, mad let
us be, nor shall the sad fiend be madder than me.
Are you well?
I'm shaking off melancholy
soul-dust, Sister. Come, join in, I
would have you sing along
And caper too.
Do you think it proper?
No, well I was rigid with
righteousness but I have now learned that
the only way to save your life is to sacrifice your reputation.
All together now! We laugh at all wise men who really
despise men. Their wisdom we always
decline. Follow me and you'll see,
what you say is frenzy is really but rapture divine.
So be mad, mad let us be, Nor shall the sad fiend be madder than we. So
be mad, mad let us be, Nor shall the sad fiend be
madder than we.