than likely that there is something worse than he has evernexperienced or imagined out there waiting for him.nIt is the very slight, yet somehow ineradicable fear of thenfires of Hell, together with the logical certainty that if therenis a Hell, then he has long since earned himself a place in it,nwhich makes him seem to be utterly fearless, as careless asnany saint amid the dirty, daily business of this fallen worid.nBelieve me, he would as soon kill you as look at your face.nYes. And yet by the same token, he would kiss you full onnthe lips if the spirit moved him to do so. By which I do notnmean to suggest that he is one of your open-handed,nopen-faced, open-hearted fellows, a bag full of the hot windnof gusty feelings and with no kind of decent rectitude aboutnhim. He is not one of those savages of the latest generationnwho neither hold nor allow any reins upon themselves, but,ninstead, run away in whatever direction their thoughtlessnhungers and crippled fancies lead them. Not one of those bynany means. Indeed, that crew and all others like them, mennand women alike, baffle and disgust him. He thinks of themnas wild beasts. For just as the player is, in large part, ancreature of the experience of his craft and vocation, so thisnone, also, a soldier once upon a time and perhaps too long,nis shaped by and clings to the virtues and vices of his trade.nRigor is his closest friend. He long since learned to fix hisnface into a blank mask, ever the same in pain and pleasure,nhope and fear. No one, not his proud betters nor hisninferiors, not his lovers nor his victims, will be given anynsigns or clues as to what he may be thinking or feeling. Innthat one sense, then, his craft is the same as the player’s,nthough it is turned inside out.nHe and the player have that much in common. Withnsome differences.nIf it is the figure of thirst that can define the spiritualnman — and does not Holy Scripture, in the Psalms and innmany other places, summon up hunger and thirst as thenaptest similitudes for ineffable desires of our deepest selves?,nthen it can be said that this soldier satisfies himself inwardlynjust as he has so often done outwardly. Dirty, sweaty,npanting like a dog, with perhaps blood, his own or someonenelse’s, no matter which, flecked and clotted on leather andnarmor, he tosses his heavy helmet aside to kneel down nextnto some stagnant ditch and to plunge his hands through thencoating of scum and slime, up to his elbows in muddy water.nLifts his cupped palms to his lips as careful and ceremoniousnas if he were an anointed Roman priest and as if this werenthe blessed chalice with the blood of Christ Jesus he wasnbearing. Then he drinks it down. Tongue lapping like andog’s. Eagerly in spite of the foul stink of it. Finished, henwipes the back of his hand across beard and lips and thennlooks up, as if to catch your eye, and winks, and laughs outnloud. Laughs as if he were daring the dirty water to work onnhim, to sicken and kill him if it can.nOutwardly he has a face of stone.nThese two, then, and myself.nTogether with some others, both greater and lesser.nOf them all, the greatest voice belongs to the poetnChristopher Marlowe. Who died young and badly enough,nas it was, in the view of many, bound to happen. Died toonyoung and badly, but who wrote words of such power andnshining as to oudast all but a precious few, all but the finestnwordsmiths of his (our) age and many others, before andnafter. He will say next to nothing here, having spoken fornhimself, once and for always and being dead and gone evennas this story begins. It is the murder of this man whichnbecomes the cause for the beginning of this story, becomes,nthe occasion for bringing together the player and the soldiernand others, ghostly lesser voices, though some were inestimablyngrander in life and light than they can be here.nMarlowe, who was a scholar, a poet and playmaker, andnsomething of a spy in his time. It is not the kind of story henwould have created. Yet I do believe that he would have seennthrough the masks and costumes of both the player and thensoldier to the bare and common human nakedness they allnthree shared.nAs for myself.nWhy, that’s nothing for you to concern yourself about. Inam here present as a voice only, a voice from the dark.nHoping by the power of words and words alone (thoughnwords may sometimes cast shadows like sudden wings) tonpermit you to see and to judge for yourself Trust me asnmuch as you dare to.nDespair is the way that he walks in.nHe would not admit and confess that,nnot under brutal duress, evennto himself. He denies it. He simplynallows that he is not and never will be anseriously (foolishly) hopeful man.nHe believes that he has lost much of hisnfaith and, with that loss, has shed the fearnof hellfire. Thinking: “Howncould Hell be anything morenterrible, any worse than sonmany things I have already seennand felt?” And yet knowing,nin his soldier’s hard heart, that therencan always be worse.nOtherwise think nothing of me. For this is in no way mynstory. Except, perhaps, this much. To know what I profess tonhave known and to believe what I have believed, I must havenlived out a watchful life, as awake and alert and as thoughtfulnas I could manage. You can say that I watched and waited,nbided my time until, as Holy Scripture promises and soonnenough fulfills, death arrived and surprised me like a thief innthe night.nIf you insist on figures of speech, then ask if I was thirsty,ntoo. And I will answer yes. But neither for cold well waternnor the dregs of any ditch. Wine was my weakness. Wine tonwarm my heart and my bowels and to brighten myndisposition. And bright it was in the world while the winenlasted.nBut that is altogether another story and has no rightfulnplace here.nnnMAY 1989/19n