Peter Hammill - The Fall of the House of Usher 1991


    The Fall of the House of Usher - An Opera by Peter Hammill (1991)
    Libretto by Chris Judge Smith from the tale by Edgar Allen Poe
                                       
    The Characters:
    THE CHOIR               - Sarah-Jane Morris
    MONTRESOR               - Andy Bell
    RODERICK USHER          - Peter Hammill
    MADELINE USHER          - Lene Lovich
    THE HERBALIST           - Herbert Gronemeyer
    THE VOICES OF THE HOUSE - Peter Hammill
    
    Performed, arranged and recorded by Peter Hammill at Sofa Sound 
    and Terra Incognita
    Except: parts of Ms. Lovich's performance, recorded at H.O.M.E. Studios 
            by Les Chappell.
            Mr. Gronemeyer's performance recorded at Outside Studios 
            by Christoph Matlok 
            
    
    
                                       Act One
                                       -------
    
    THE CHORUS       The chorus has often an unenviable role to play, 
                     often a distasteful task to perform;
                     summoned as witness to uncounted crime,
                     she's the silent accomplice of all,
                     then she turns and comments on the action.
    
                     She hears... observes, but must never betray her emotions
                     She moves, unseen, the characters oblivion of her presence;
                     a simple stage device.
    
                     She cannot hide, cannot take sides.
                     It his curse that she must stay and comment on the action...
    
                     A young man named Montresor lately received an urgent
                     letter from a dear friend of childhood,
                     Roderick Usher by name,
                     In which his friend begged him to come
                     with all speed to the family seat.
    
                     So, during the whole of a dull, dark and soundless day
                     in the autumn of the year,
                     when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens,
                     he had been passing through 
                     a singularly dreary tract of country
                     'till he found himself,
                     as the shades of night drew on,
                     within view of the melancholy house of Usher
    
    MONTRESOR:       That must be the house.
                     There is no other within many miles.
                     But surely not... It's just an empty shell, 
                     devoid of life; 
                     a sterile outcrop of stone amid the mire.
    
                     But there can be no doubt, this is the house!
                     And yet it looks so dark, so forbidding , so dead.
    
                     That great crumbling facade, 
                     windows just like vacant eyes 
                     that peer upon the stagnant, 
                     glistening blackness of the lake...
                     I have never seen anything like it!
    
                     The gloom, the rotting dankness of the place...
                     It must be my imagination,
                     the darkness and the cold...
    
                     Yet still, far beneath the plane of thought
                     and quite against my will,
                     my heart begins to tremble 
                     in mad anticipation of the House
                     and I am forced to recognise 
                     a consciousness of fear;
                     a cold and senseless fear,
                     nameless, formless, chilling to the bone...
    
                     No, it's just the leaden air that makes me 
                     forget myself, the weather and the dusk.
                     This must be all that sets my teeth on edge
                     and the hairs at the nape of my neck to attention.
    
                     And what of his sister?
                     This does not speak of her
                     but I understand she, too, lives with him
                     here in the House of Usher,
                     home of the family for five hundred years or more.
                     It's a strange place, a strange house,
                     an even stranger clan;
                     all either saints or mad, 
                     not an ordinary man among them;
                     geniuses all...
    
                     But, all time-honoured as it is,
                     the Usher race has put forth no enduring branch.
                     And so from sire to son, from sire to son
                     the patrimony and the name have been passed.
                     Through all their ancestry no cousins,
                     aunts of bastards
                     disturb the singular symmetry
                     of the family tree.
    
                     Well then, so I am here; I have come;
                     and it is too late, to dark to run.
                     But what a chilling sight, 
                     this palace crouching in the night...
    
                     Ah, there! A light!
                     I am awaited; I am expected;
                     I shall not disappoint my friend.
    
                                   End of Act One
    
                                       
                                       Act Two
                                       -------
    
    THE VOICES       House. Wet Vaults. Caissons. We breathe...
    OF THE           Undercroft. Abutments. Stones. Wood. Breathe...
    HOUSE            Buttresses. Bressumers. Spandrels. We Breathe...
                     Columns and Pillars. Shafts. Arches. Capitals. Breathe....
    
                     We breathe. We are waiting.
                     We rise. We are waiting.
                     We are Usher. House of Usher.
    
                     Pilasters. Quoins. Piers.
                     Spandrels and columns that shaft through the years.
                     House of Usher.
                     Wainscots. Stairs. Balusters. Cusps and Cornices.
                     Spandrels and Columns the capital years.
                     House of Usher.
    
                     We breathe. We are waiting
                     We rise. We are waiting.
                     We are Usher. House of Usher.
    
                     Beams. Corbels. Joists. Kingposts.
                     Copings and Chimney-shafts.
                     Ridge-ribs. Struts. Stanchions. Parapets.
                     Pediments. Mansards and Gargoyles.
                     The eaves. The dripping eaves...
                     Cupola. Finials. Gables. Tiles. Lead...
    
                     We breathe. We are waiting.
                     We rise. We are waiting.
                     We are Usher. House of Usher.
                     We are Keystone. We are Usher.
    
    RODERICK USHER
    ("The Sleeper")  The lady sleeps. oh, may her sleep
                     which is enduring so be deep!
                     Heaven hold her in its sacred keep!
                     This chamber changed for one more holy,
                     this bed for one of melancholy.
                     I pray to God that she may lie
                     forever with unopened eye
                     while the dim, sheeted ghosts go by.
    
                     My love, she sleeps. Oh, may her sleep
                     as it is lasting so be deep!
                     Soft may the worms around her creep!
                     Far in the forest, dim and old,
                     now may some tall vault enfold her;
                     some vault that oft hath flung its black
                     and winged panels fluttering back
                     triumphant o'er the crested palls
                     of her grand family funerals....
    
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
                                           
                                           I didn't mean to interrupt...
    Montresor, you came!
                                           Did you think I'd ignore your letter?
    Montresor, you're here!
    Come let me help you with your coat.
    Sit down and rest yourself.
    Oh, it's so good to see you here!
    Now tell me all your news...
    I see you've changed a bit, my friend...
    Now won't you have a drink...
                                           Yes, yes
                                           but one thing at a time!
                                           First you must tell me what...
    But I expect I too have changed.
    How many years could it be now
    since last we said farewell?
                                           It must be ten years
                                           since our last meeting,
    Yes, it must be ten years
    since our last meeting                 since our last meeting.
                                           Tell me what is wrong?
                                           Your letter spoke
                                           of a malady;
                                           some desperate trial
                                           you could not face alone...
    Oh, no, you tell me all your doings!
                                           Tell me.
    Tell me
    how you pass your days                 how you pass your days
    Tell me
    from the beginning.                    from the beginning
    Tell me
    everything                             everything
    that's happened
    since we went our                      since we went our
    separate ways.                         separate ways.
    Look at me...
    I have not left these walls 
    these three years,
    I do not dare to do so!
    I am imprisoned and fear is my gaoler.
    Each word I speak 
    seems too dangerous. 
    My slightest act could bring about
    the very thing I fear
                                           But fear of what?
    Hush, and I shall tell you...
    tell you...
    
    USHER            I shun the light,
                     creep in the gloom like a toad, a white worm,
                     tortured by the faintest gleam of sun.
                     I hear...
                     oh God, if you could only know the things I hear!
    
                     I hear the lake sucking at the walls,
                     I hear bats breathing
                     I hear the sky moan to join with the slime!
    
                     And this,
                     all this like thunder to me,
                     like thunder!
    
                     My senses scream at me:
                     Sight... Touch... Sight... Touch...
                     Sound and Taste... Sound and Scent,
                     All torment and claw at my sanity.
    
                     There is no hiding place for me,
                     for even in the quietest of my rooms,
                     I hear the walls in conversation;
                     I hear the palpitations of my heart;
                     I feel all that lives and does not move
                     and know it knows my feeling.
    
                     My only peace lies in my music
                     and then only because it drowns out
                     all other sounds and souls...
    
                     You may think that I am mad, but it is not so.
                     My senses reel beneath the blow of feathers falling
                     and more...
                     But no, I see you do not understand.
    
    MONTRESOR        Oh, my poor dear friend, 
                     you must see you are not well.
                     I've read of this before, 
                     I think it's called Hyperaesthesis.
                     I'm no doctor, but it's clear
                     your nerves have gone to pieces.
                     You need to get away,
                     you need a holiday,
                     you need a change of air!
                     You need an ocean cruise,
                     you need to be amused!
                     I tell you plain, this House 
                     to me seems most unhealthy.
                     You're unattached, you're free to go, you're wealthy.
    
    USHER                      MONTRESOR              THE CHORUS
                               
                               Leave this House.
                               Leave this House.
                               Leave this House 
                               and come away.
                               Leave this House
    I cannot!
                               Leave this House!
    I cannot!
                               Leave this House!
    Here I must stay.
    Here I must stay.
                                                      You are wasting
                                                      your time.
                                                      He will never
                                                      leave...
    I can never
    leave here
    therefore do
    not ask me
    say no more                I've heard of this before
    and let me be              I think it's called Hyperaesthesis
    I can never                I'm no doctor but it's clear
    leave here                 your nerves have gone to pieces.
    therefore do               your nerves have gone to pieces.
    not ask me.
    Say no more
    and let me be
    I cannot leave
                                                      He cannot leave
    The House is I
                                                      The House is he
    We are as one
                                                      They are as one
    And I would die
                                                      and so must die
                               Now you must leave
    I                                                 He cannot leave
    cannot                     Now you must fly
    leave                                             The House is he
                               Now you must run
    The                                               They are as one
    House is                   No-one will die
    I                                                 And so must die
    I cannot leave
                               Now you must leave
                                                      He cannot leave
    The House is I
                               Now you must fly
                                                      The House is he
    We are as one
                               Now you must run
                                                      and so must die
    and so must die
                               No-one will die
    
    USHER                      MONTRESOR              THE HOUSE
                                                      
                                                      We shall
                                                      not let
                                                      him go!
                                                      We shall not
                               Leave                  let him go!
    Do not torture me!         this                   We shall not
    Do not try to persuade!    House                  let him go!
    
                                                      We shall not
                               Leave                  let him go!
    It only brings me grief    this                   We shall not 
                               House                  let him go!
                               Leave this House       We shall not
    I cannot leave                                    let him go!
                                                      We shall not 
                                                      let him go!
                                                      shall not let him go!
    
    USHER            MONTRESOR           THE CHORUS          THE HOUSE
    
                     Leave this House
    I cannot
                     Leave this House
    I cannot
    Leave this House Leave this House
                     and come with me                        We shall not
                                                             let him go.
                     Leave this House
    I cannot                             Never, never
                     Leave this House    never!
    I cannot
                     Leave this House
                     and come with me    Never!              Never, never,
                                                             never!
                                         Never!              Never, never,
                                                             never!
    I can never                                              We are bound
    leave here                                               together
    therefore do     for the last time                       so never
    not ask me       I entreat you       He shall            he shall
    say no more                          never leave         never leave
    and let me be.                                           We are bound
                                                             together
                     for the last time                       so never
                     I entreat you       He shall            he shall
                     Leave!              never leave         never leave.
    Do not
    talk to me                                               Never
    do not try                                               never
    to persuade      Leave!                                  never
                                         He shall            never
                                         never leave
                     Leave this house
    Oh Montresor                                             never never
    I beg of you                                             never never
    I can                                                    never never
    never leave                                              never never
    I can never                                              never never
    leave this house Leave this house                        never never
    I can never                          You are wasting     never never
    leave this house Leave this house    you time            never never
    I can never                          he will never       never never
    leave this house Leave!              leave               never never
                                                             never!
    The House
    is I.
    
                                   End of Act Two
                                                
    
                                      Act Three
                                      ---------
            (Immediately afterwards, Madeline Usher enters, in a trance)
    
    MADELINE         Carriages at seven
                     I shall wear the flower he gave me
                               It's so cold here
                               deep beneath the lapping water...
    
                               The water
                               The water
                     My love
    
                     Head against his shoulder,
                     'cross the lawn I hear the music...
                               Silent blackness,
                               In the lake I'm sinking slowly...
                     Oh, how lovely,
                     nothing could be more becoming...
                               Underwater,
                               floating in the icy darkness...
                     Count the candles
                     'May I dance with you this evening?'...
                               On the surface
                               Swans are feeding high above me...
                     Hold him tightly
                     round and round the floor we're spinning
                               Breathing water
                               I am drowning
                     Watch the sun rise
                     driving home across the meadows...
                               All is darkness
                               I can feel myself dissolving
    
                               The water
                               The water
                               The darkness
                               The darkness
                     My love
    
                     Head against his shoulder
                               Floating in the icy darkness
                     Hold him tightly
                               I can feel myself dissolving
                     Oh how lovely
                               Deep beneath the lapping water
                     Count the candles
                               I am drowning I am drowning
                     Count the candles
                               Floating in the icy darkness
                     Hold him tightly 
                               I can feel myself dissolving
                     Oh how lovely
                               Deep beneath the lapping water
                     Count the candles
                               I am drowning
                     Oh how lovely
                               I am drowning I am drowning
                     Oh how lovely
                     Oh how lovely
                     Oh how lovely
    
    MONTRESOR        Stop, Madeline, look at me!
                     My god, man, what is wrong with her?
    
    USHER            Yes, it's right you should know,
                     She is dying!
                     I have not dared to speak of it.
                     A chronic catalepsy had drained her of her youth.
                     I have watched her waste away and could do nothing!
    
                     A period of health is followed by sudden coma,
                     death-like sleep.
                     It can last a full day or more,
                     no movement, no colour, no flame in the cheeks.
    
    MONTRESOR        What, then of these dreaming visions?
    
    USHER            The recovery, ah, this is even worse!
                     She rises and moves about the house
                     but her mind still sleeps...
                     You see her now a mindless ghost:
                     Beautiful, dead eyes stare in sleep, unrecognising.
                     She speaks in dreams, sees only dreams,
                     she haunts the house in hideous sleepwalking
                     and may not be restrained, for like some automaton
                     she tirelessly thrusts and tears herself 
                     against her fetters,
                     heedless of injury.
                     And so she walks and then she wakes,
                     remembering nothing, so week that she can
                     barely build up strength before she is struck down again.
    
                     Month after month each attack worse than the last.
                     Death will not wait long.
                     Her final days are flickering past.
                     Dear God,
                     helpless,
                     helpless!
    
    MONTRESOR        But what is the word from her doctors?
                     Do they hold out no hope, nor offer any treatment?
    
    USHER                      MONTRESOR             CHORUS
    
    They do not understand
    her case
    and cannot treat a case
    they do not understand
                                                      He does not understand
                                                      You're dealing with a case
                               Who is her doctor,
                               a specialist I trust?
    Yes indeed, one of
    the foremost rank
                                                      You're dealing
                                                      with a case
                               Then he will help her,
    Montresor                  oh, yes,
    no more of this            he surely must         You do not understand
    now
    no more talk                                      He does not
    of cures, please,                                 understand
    Or of doctor.
    I bless you concern,
    but know that she 
    will walk no more tonight. 
    When she wakes soon 
    she will need my care. 
    I must be there, so, 
    dear friend, goodnight.
    
     (Usher exits with Madeline, leaving Montresor alone. The Herbalist enters)
    
    THE HERBALIST    Good evening, sir.
                     And you must be the friend of Mister Usher.
                     I'm so pleased to meet you, sir, 
                     but have little time to spare
                     for knowledge such as mine is wanted everywhere.
                     In poor dwellings, yes, but some as great as Usher's.
                     My card...
    MONTRESOR        'J. Ducrow, Esq. Herbalist,
                     Doctor of Natural Medicine'...
    HERBALIST        At you service, and it could be, sir,
                     that you have need of my panaceas now...
                     I have Mandrake juice that will slake any fever,
                     cures to convince you though you be an unbeliever now...
    
                     Laugh - would you? - at these seeds of mine.
                     You question the cure's causes,
                     but Logic and Reason do not answer,
                     and Nature runs her courses.
    
                     I have purest poppy for the soundest of sleeps;
                     a pure cake of hemp plant
                     that's a warranted surcease of worldly sorrow.
                     Lying words will be believed
                     if perfumed by this pastil,
                     or my elixir's guaranteed
                     to bend the will of fairest womankind.
    
                     Scheme, would you, for a worldly gain?
                     Lust after a frigid virgin?
                     My herbs can grant your secret cravings
                     and my price is modest!
    
    MONTRESOR        No! No!
    
    HERBALIST        And my price is modest...
    
    MONTRESOR        No, thank you! No!
    
    HERBALIST        Oh it's very modest...
    
    MONTRESOR        No, no thank you!
                     No!
                     No thank you,
                     No!
    
    HERBALIST        Perhaps a poultice of Toadbane 
                     for weakness of the manly parts,
                     caused by too much wine or age,
                     perhaps by over-frequent natural indulgence...
    
                     Applied with skill, it will
                     revive the fleshy passions of a corpse...
                     ...of a corpse
    
    MONTRESOR        I said no
                     I meant no!
    
    HERBALIST        Well then, Good-day...
    
    MONTRESOR        So that is Usher's idea of a doctor!
                     That wretched mountebank can't help them.
                     I confront madness face to face!
                     And whatever it's cause, it lies within this place
                     I breathe an atmosphere of sorrow; 
                     an alien despair makes my courage fail,
                     like the collapse of an opium vision,
                     the hideous dropping of the veil
    
    CHORUS           Tormented by a thousand doubts and fancies,
                     he will not sleep tonight.
                     Chilled by the gloom of his surroundings, 
                     mortal, half-dead mortar.
    
    MONTRESOR                              CHORUS
                                           
                                           He will not sleep!
    I see simple solutions 
                                           He will not sleep!
    State them laud and clear, 
    but the echoes of the House            He will not sleep!
    shout 'Unreason!' 
    The one thing that I fear. 
                                           The evil that is done
                                           cannot be undone.
                                           The evil that will come
                                           cannot be prevented.
    
                                           The evil that is done
    Yet somehow I must help
    these two tormented souls,
                                           cannot be undone.
    for if I cannot, who will?
                                           The evil that will come
    These are the friends
    I've loved so dearly...
                                           cannot be prevented
                                           Leave!
    No! What a monstrous thought!
                                           Depart!
    How could I even think of it!
                                           Go!
    Abandon those who have need of me!
                                           Leave!
    Oh, but what a temptation,
                                           Depart!
    to run like a thief in the night,
                                           Go!
    And yet now I cannot
    because it is too late                 Before it is too late,
    I feel myself bound up in              before you are bound up in
    the web of fear and pain,              the web of fear and pain,
    the evil that surrounds me.            the evil that surrounds you.
                                           It cannot be undone.
                                           It cannot be undone.
                                           The evil that will come
                                           cannot be prevented.
    
                                 End of Act Three
    
    
                                       Act Four
                                       --------
                              (The following morning)
    
    MADELINE         That must be Montresor...
                     Good morning! Oh, how lovely to see you -
                     since Roderick told me you were coming
                     I have been so excited.
                     Now you are here, all will be well once more.
                     I was not here last night to greet you,
                     you must think me ill-mannered,
                     but sadly I am not enjoying the good health I used to...
    
    MONTRESOR        Yes.
                     Madeline, I must confess it's hard finding words
                     that say what I feel...
    
    MADELINE         Oh, Montresor, you're being solemn 
                     and it's all quite uncalled for.
                     I feel quite sure I'm growing stronger
                     and the doctor agrees with me -
                     so you see all will be well once more.
    
                     Five years ago we were a very different family,
                     but how things change!
                     Roderick and I were both living abroad when father died.
                     We both returned from Florence 
                     to take up Roderick's inheritance.
                     The House was dark and so full of sadness.
    
                     But you know my brother and how sensitive he is.
                     He lives in the music of his wild melodies.
                     Now as time went by so his songs grew sadder,
                     now he never smiled as he played.
                     Now he sings of death and some things even madder;
                     shuts himself away, brooding to himself,
                     come to me at night,
                     staring at my face 'till I fell afraid.
    
    MADELINE                               MONTRESOR
    
    When I am better we must all 
    holiday together 
    as in the old days.                    Yes, you know
                                           how much I'd love that
    You would be good for us both,
    as good for us both as before
                                           You look so much the same!
    I must confess that you have changed...
    Do you remember?                       Everything.
                                           The fragile hour,
                                           the silent walk with a friend.
    
    MONTRESOR        As we walk so we tread
    & MADELINE       on the words left unsaid
                     I can't say them no matter how hard I try
    
                     We chatter on, then the moment's gone,
                     the one for which I've hoped
                     and I've prayed and I've planned.
                     Stop the clock's advance!
                     I need a second chance,
                     I need that second's glance
                     when my hand touched you hand.
    
                     I'd take you in my arms and say 'I love you'
                     but it won't come back to me.
    
                     It's over now,
                     it's over now,
                     it's over now, you see.
    
                     If I hadn't been afraid to touch you
                     would you have been afraid to fall in love with me?
                     Would it be over?
                     Would it be over now?
                     Perhaps it wouldn't be.
    
                     And each hour limits choice
                     in so gentle a voice
                     'till the hour that we realise no choice remains.
    
                     So we await
                     just one chance to cheat our fate,
                     but then if we hesitate
                     we lose the power to act at all.
                     For once that moment's past
                     we simply stand aghast
                     as life rolls to disaster
                     and we stand an watch it fall.
                     I'd take you in my arms and say 'I love you'
                     but I think we both agree.
    
                     It's over now,
                     it's over now, you see.
                     It's over now,
                     it's over now, you see.
    
                     If I hadn't been afraid to touch you
                     would you have been afraid to fall in love with me?
                     Would it be over?
                     Would it be over now?
                     Perhaps it wouldn't be.
    
                     If I hadn't been afraid to touch you
                     would you have been afraid to fall in love with me?
                     Would it be over?
                     Would it be over now?
                     The way it seems to be.
    
                         (Madeline exits as Usher enters)
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
    
    Yes, she does not know it yet;
                                           Perhaps for the best
    so sure she will recover
    and so full of life                    full of life
    full of life,
    my brave                               my brave
    Madeline                               Madeline
    
    This House devours her
                                           so take her from this place
    preparing the final torment
    of its empty space                     empty space
    a silent, empty space                  silent empty space
    without
                                           without
    Madeline                               Madeline
    Madeline
                                           This is only a house my friend
    
    
    USHER            Which, by dint of long and undisturbed endurance.
                     by its mere form and substance,
                     has obtained an influence, a silent 
                     yet importunate and terrifying hold
                     which, for centuries,
                     has moulded the destiny of my family
                     and now makes of me whatever it is I am.
    
                     The House is Usher and Usher is the House:
                     the two are indivisible.
                     It was born with us, prospered with us, suffered too.
                     And it will, in some way, die with us, soon.
    
                     I am the last of the Usher,
                     mine is the last drop of Usher blood,
                     The last of the Usher!
    
                     The House has told me in midnight breathing 
                     from my chamber walls,
                     the House has told me in the secret murmur
                     of the stones that none can hear save I.
    
                     I am the last of the Usher,
                     my sister's death shall leave me so;
                     I am the last of the Usher,
                     so in Usher's House I will wait alone.
    
    MONTRESOR        Roderick, this is nightmare talk.
                     Come back with me, both of you, while you're yet able
                     You can't stay here and rot!
    
    USHER            There will be no rot!
                     No rot in Usher!
                     We have lived with thunder, 
                     and with thunder shall we fall!
    
    MONTRESOR        I cannot make you come but hear what I say.
                     Send Madeline with me to some healthy place.
    
    USHER            No rot! No rot in Usher!
                     We have lived by lightning 
                     and but lightning shall we fall!
    
                     No slide into slow decay,
                     no shrivelling splendour
                     no gradual ebbing away,
                     no quiet surrender!
    
                     No rot! No rot in Usher!
                     We have lived as Titans and as Titans we must fall!
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
    
    Don't talk of rot
                                           Stop!
    No rot in Usher!
                                           Stop!
                                           Roderick, try and calm yourself
    Just tell me why I should!             this cannot do you good.
    
                                           These thoughts...
    No!
                                           are folly.
    No!
    Everything I've tried to               I have tried to help you
    tell you, you've misunderstood         I've done everything I could.
    
    Come, why should we fight
    this way
    we have enough troubles.
    What was it we used to say?            What was it we used to say?
    A problem shared is doubled!           A problem shared is doubled!
    Ushers do not flee!                    Ushers to not flee! 
    Montresors stand firm!                 Montresors stand firm!
    So we stand together,                  So we stand together,
    stand together                         stand together
    
    By dint of long
    and undisturbed endurance...
                                           we could defeat the House,
                                           my friend.
    
    VOICES OF        We shall not
    THE HOUSE        let him go!
                     We shall not let him go!
    
                                  End of Act Four
    
    
                                      Act Five 
                                      --------
    
    CHORUS           Late that evening the Lady Madeline
                     again succumbed to the power
                     of her dark afflictions.
                     Her brother and her friend sat by her
                     and Montresor, although familiar with many
                     of the gross and wonderful
                     phenomena of morbid flesh
                     marvelled at the depth and completeness of her coma.
                     Life so exactly mirroring death 
                     that only the merest of involuntary pulses
                     betrayed the presence of a Spirit hiding within.
                     In the cold hours before dawn they broke their vigil
                     and Montresor retired to a restless sleep
                     only to be woken as a grey light spread from the east
                     across the leaden tarn.
    
                           (Usher and the Herbalist enter)
    USHER            Montresor,
                     she is dead.
    
                     She is dead,
                     I sat by her,
                     I watched her;
                     I am alone.
    
    USHER,           That she should die so,
    MONTRESOR,       that she should die so young,
    HERBALIST        fate is cruel, fate is hard.
    
                     Why must innocence be punished?
                     Need a flower fall so fast?
                     Why must innocence be punished?
                     Was her soul too good to last?
                     Now the punishment is finished
                     And the fever... the fever called 'Living'...
                     that fever's conquered at last.
    
    USHER            Will you do something for me?
    
    MONTRESOR        With all my heart
    
    USHER            I wish my sister to be entombed
                     in one of the vaults beneath the House.
    
                     The family burial ground is remote,
                     to lead her cortege there would 
                     require a strength of will I do not command.
                     Will you help me bear her?
    
    MONTRESOR        Of course, of course I will...
    
    USHER            Come then, before I fully realise my loss.
    
                                   End of Act Five
    
    
                                       Act Six
                                       -------
    
    CHORUS           Three endless days of bitter grief passed
                     and Montresor abandoned any attempt to cheer his friend.
                     Then came a sudden change in Usher's
                     demeanour, whose significance he was soon to comprehend.
    
                     Now Usher stands for hour on hour
                     with head inclined and eyes half-closed, 
                     as if beneath the deep and sullen silence
                     a sound exists for which he listens; a sound without end.
    
                     Now Usher walks for hour on hour.
                     With ashen face and trembling step, he climbs each stair,
                     He climbs each tower; still hears it there.
    
    CHORUS AND       No. It's only the
    THE VOICES       beating of the heart,
    OF THE HOUSE     heart of the House of Usher,
                     beating of the heart
                     heart of the House of Usher.
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
    
                                           Roderick is that you?
    I could not sleep
                                           Nor I. 
                                           Listen to the storm!
                                           Did you ever hear
                                           such a dreadful sound?
    Indeed.
    Indeed I have!
    But this sound you can hear;
    the tempest beats upon the House
    as it would beat upon a drum,
    that is no sound to fear.
    For the sound to fear
                                           It beats upon the house.
    walk softly when they come
                                           The thunder seems so near
    But it's only the                      But it's only the
    beating of the heart,                  beating of the heart,
    heart of the House of Usher.           heart of the House of Usher.
    
    USHER                      MONTRESOR              VOICES OF THE HOUSE
    
                               Oh the lake is         Beating of the heart,
                               in frenzy, I           heart of the House
                               can feel the waves     of Usher
                               beat on the walls      Beating of the heart
    The breaking of the heart!                        heart of the House
                               These giant stones     of Usher.
                               are trembling          Beating of the heart
                               the savage lashing     heart of the House
                               of the storm           of Usher.
    The breaking of the heart!                        Beating of the heart
                                                      heart of the House
                                                      of Usher
    Why is that other sound                           The House
    not hidden by                                     of Usher
    echoes of the storm?                              shall stand.
                                                      The House
    But understand we only                            of Usher
    hear the House                                    shall stand
    Speaking of a storm                               The House
    This is the storm itself!                         of Usher
                                                      shall stand.
                                                      The House of Usher
                                                      The House of Usher
    
    MONTRESOR        We've seen enough, I'll close the window.
                     The gale is chill and grows yet stronger.
                     These walls are shaking!
                     You shall play something for me;
                     you shall play and I shall listen.
                     So we will pass away this dreadful night.
    
    USHER            Yes I shall play,
                     yes, I shall play!
    
    (The Haunted     In the greenest of our valleys
    Palace)          by good angels tenanted
                     once a fair and stately palace -
                     radiant palace - reared its head.
                     In the monarch, Thought's dominion
                     like a jewel it stood there.
                     Never seraph spread a pinion
                     over fabric half so fair.
    
                     Wanderers in that happy valley
                     through two luminous windows saw
                     spirits moving musically
                     to a lute's well-tuned law,
                     round about a throne where sitting,
                     side by side with his fair queen,
                     in state his glory well befitting,
                     the ruler of the realm was seen.
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
    
                                           Wait!
                                           Did you hear it?
                                           What was it?
    It's nothing.
                                           What was that 
                                           distant sound?
    I say, I heard nothing
    
                     All with pearl and ruby glowing
                     was the glorious palace door
                     through which came flowing, flowing,
                     flowing and sparkling evermore
                     a troop of echoes, whose sweet duty
                     night and day was but to sing
                     in voices of surpassing beauty
                     the wit and wisdom of their king.
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
    
                                           No!
                                           There's something,
                                           I heard it
                                           quite clear,
                                           a voice crying.
    It's nothing 
    I say
    but the wind!
    You heard the wind,
    just heard                             Within the House!
    the wild wind crying.
    
                     But evil things, in robes of sorrow
                     assailed the monarch's high estate;
                     let us mourn for never morrow
                     dawn upon him, desolate;
                     round about his home the glory
                     that had always blushed and bloomed
                     is but a dim-remembered story
                     of the olden time entombed.
    
    USHER                                  MONTRESOR
    
                                           There!
                                           Yes, you heard it!
                                           There is someone else -
    There's nothing                        something else
    I say,                                 down there!
    You hear nothing!
    There's no-one there.
    It is the storm                        Are we
    that you hear.                         alone here?
    
                     Travellers now within that valley
                     through red-litten windows see
                     vast forms that move fantastically
                     to a discordant melody
                     while like a rapid, ghastly river
                     through the ever open door
                     a hideous throng rush out forever
                     and laugh - but smile no more!
                     And laugh - but smile no more!
                     And laugh - but smile no more!
    
    USHER            No! No! No!
    
                     Yes, I hear it! Yes, I have heard it
                     long, long - many minutes, many hours, 
                     but I dared not speak:
                     I tell you I dared not speak.
    
                     No more cant from you,
                     you thick-skinned obtuse fool, damn your compassion!
                     For now I say you will hear the wicked truth
                     We put her living in the tomb!
                     But I dared not, I dared not speak!
                     Yes, have I not heard her footsteps on the stair?
                     Yes, do I not distinguish 
                     the heavy and horrible beating of her heart? 
                     Yes, she is coming.
                     She has woken in the darkness, 
                     in her mindless, relentless strength.
                     Now she has broken from the tomb.
                     Now she has burst from the tomb.
    
                     Days ago I heard her first feeble movements
                     in the hollow coffin -
                     said I not that my senses were acute?
                     I heard the scraping, the scraping of her nails -
                     but I dared not, I dared not speak!
                     Madman! Madman!
                     I tell you that she now comes towards the door!
    
    USHER                MONTRESOR           CHORUS          VOICES OF THE HOUSE
    
                         No, what a                          House 
                         Monstrous thought!                  We 
                         Now the punishment                  breath!
                         is finished.        The evil that   House
                         You said            is done         we are!
                         she was dead...     cannot be       We
                         You watched         undone.         could not
                         her dying!          
    It's over now                            It's over now
                         What evil have                      let
                         you done?           It could not 
                                             be prevented    them go!
                         God, what a 
                         monstrous thought!
    It's over now                            It's over now.  We
                                             The evil that
                         Why must innocence  is done         could
                         be punished?
                         Could this have                     not
                         been prevented?
    It's over now                            It's over now
                         The evil that       The evil that   We
                         is done...          is done         could not
                                             could not
                                             be prevented    let
                         could this have     could never
                         been prevented?     be prevented
                                                             them go!
    I dare not           could this have     it could not
    I dared not speak!   been prevented?     be prevented! 
    Madman!
    Madman!
    I tell you
    that she now stands
    outside the door!
    
    USHER                MADELINE            MONTRESOR       CHORUS
    
                         I'm looking
    Now,                                     No,
    Madeline!                                Madeline! 
                         I have counted
                         to a hundred
                         with my eyes closed
                         and I'm coming
    I am the last        now to find you...                  Leave!
    of the Usher!                                            Depart!
    my sister's death                                        Go!
    shall leave me so.
                         Where are you       It's over now
                         hiding?
    I am                                     If I wasn't so
    the last                                 afraid I'd
    Usher                Roderick            touch her       Leave! 
    I feel               where are you?      It's over now   Depart!
    the sky                                  I see.          Go!
                         Now he sings
                         of death,           the evil        the evil
                         some things even    that is done    that is one
    I feel               madder              cannot be       cannot be
    the sky                                  undone          undone
    moan                 shuts himself away  the evil        the evil
    to join              shuts himself away  that is come    that is come
    with the slime!
                         He shut             could not       could not
                         himself away!       be prevented.   be prevented. 
    
                                 AS THE HOUSE FALLS
    
    THE VOICES  beams       buttresses  plaster     copings     We        We
    OF THE      corbels     bressumers  quoins      chimney-    breath    are
    HOUSE       joists      arches      wainscot    shafts      We rise   Usher
                kin-posts   piers       stairs      parapets
                ridge-ribs  spandrels   banister    pediments
                struts      columns     cusps       mansard
                stanchions              cornices    gargoyle
                king-posts                          eaves
    
                                   End of Act Six
    
    It took Peter Hammill about 20 years to write this opera with Chris Judge Smith. It took me about three hours to type it down in this file (and I'm supposed to be a fast-typist...) I typed this without looking at the screen, and then ran a spell-checker and a grammar-checker, so that it is supposed to be OK. If, however, you find any errors please inform me and I will correct. I highly recommend you to read the lyrics and understanding the idea of the Opera, and I think this could make this album become one of your favourit! Have fun, Ofir Zwebner ofirz1@ccsg.tau.ac.il


Russian Peter Hammill / Van der Graaf Generator Page
Sergey Petrushanko hammillru@mail.ru, 1998-2017