Wednesday, 29 July 2009

DEATH SPEAKS by W SOMERSET MAUGHAM

(A quick flash for you. See the impact achieved in such few words.)

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

4 comments:

Miguel said...

Hi,

Sorry to bother, but where was this taken from? I quite like Maugham and this is excellent.

Thanks

TOM J VOWLER said...

I've no idea, Miguel. I first heard it read online and found the text through a search.

Miguel said...

Thanks. I've decided to do some digging online myself, and in case you're interested, it seems it's a quote from "Sheppey", which is his last play. (I can't actually confirm as my copy of his plays is in parents' house)

The "Death speaks" seems to be the stage direction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheppey_(play)

Alexander said...

It is indeed from Maugham's last play Sheppey, though the primary source is actually One Thousand and One Nights.