(Editor’s note: below is Part I of “Crazy Jane” written by author and composer David Crandall. Informed by William Butler Yeats’ poems surrounding the character of Crazy Jane, Crandall’s English-language noh tells the story of a young man, disturbed by dreams of the sea and what befalls him. In the beginning of the play the young man travels to a seaside village and seeks shelter for the night at a church. The church warden brusquely advises him to go elsewhere, because a deranged woman called Crazy Jane is about to make her nightly visit and will surely disturb his rest. Undeterred, the young man enters and finds himself a quiet corner to sleep in.)
An English-language noh
Written and composed by David Crandall
SHITE Crazy Jane
WAKI A Young Man
KYOGEN The Church Warden
A bare stage
I am a young man, traveling.
Place and another place in orderly succession
As though linked to the time that passes
My steps like the ticking of a clock
Or the turning of a waterwheel.
Place, and another place
Coming from or going towards
They are the pattern of my life.
I have come from the mountains
To look upon open water
For the sound of waves
Breaking upon the shore
Has often disturbed my dreams
And so I have taken the seaward road
To see where it may lead.
Early morning fields touched with frost
Gray reflection of the fragile dawn
Announcing a new farewell
Each day pierced with tempered light
Winter on the threshold to pierce the bone
Cutting deep into the solitude
Of brittle stone and aching feet
And a path that beckons me.
Twilight mingles with drifting smoke
Rising from the evening fires
Of those with doors to shun to cold
Who keep a kitchen hearth
The sky too wide to hold in his hands
Shadows guide his moving feet
While echoes caught in darkened stone
Lead him to the sea
Here in a sheltered place overlooking the sea
A village with a church ringing the vesper hour.
I will go and ask for lodgings.
A tired man, seeking shelter. I’ve been on the road since dawn, and need a place to sleep. Let me in, for the night grows cold.
If it’s rest you need, you’d do better elsewhere. This is a church, not an inn.
All the more reason to let me in. I’m as good a sinner as the next man.
And I say again: you’d do better elsewhere. The vesper bell is ringing, and that means Jane will soon be here. Go find an inn, where you’ll be welcomed with hot food and a warm bed. You’ll find no such comforts here, but only the mutterings of an aging woman.
So someone else is given shelter here? How can you let one in and not the other? And if this woman likes to talk, so much the better. I’ve had nothing but my own thoughts for days on end and won’t mind some company. Let me in, for the wind chills me to the bone.
Very well. But I’ve warned you, and will thank you to remember it. When Jane gets here, you may find yourself regretting your own persistence. Come in.
Who is this Jane? Is she someone from the village?
Who she is is anyone’s guess–no one remembers when she first appeared, wandering the streets like a lunatic. The villagers called her crazy, and laughed at her to her face. But when she first came to the church I didn’t have the heart to turn her away…That was many years ago. She comes every night, looking for someone named Tom, though no one knows who that might be. Claims she hears music in the air, or some such thing…Sometimes she even shuffles out a dance, whispering to herself like she was talking to ghosts. When she gets like that I leave her alone-makes me feel uneasy, somehow. I give her food, and shelter when the rains come, or when it’s cold-but she doesn’t take to strangers, and she’s likely to be less than friendly when she finds you here.
Tired legs and an aching back are stronger arguments for staying. Just let me sleep in a corner-perhaps she won’t even notice me.
As you will. I’m already reconciled to another sleepless night. Make yourself as comfortable as you can-it won’t be long till she comes.
(Continued in Part II)