Hamlet's Mill

Eugene Ostashevsky

Libretto for a drammaturgia for soprano, bass, viola, and cello by composer Lucia Ronchetti.

Inspired by 1969 essay by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend that reconstructs the mythic Norse predecessor of Shakespeare's Hamlet by comparing the version by Saxo Grammaticus, fl. 1200, with analogous myths in other cultures, the resultant Ur-Hamlet interpreted as an encoded lesson in tellucentric astronomy, in particular as an explanation of the precession of equinoxes.

Part 1. Vortices, Voices.


Here the sea is called Amlodhi's mill

There has been a whirlpool in the sea where the water falls through the hole in the millstone

All distinction between air and water is lost, everything seems enveloped in a thick smoke

Sea lung, my top dropped to the bottom of it

Taurus in Aries, Aries in Aries, Pisces in Aries, Aquarius in Aries

The orb of heaven grinds like a millstone

Then we went down to the ship

My top dropped to the bottom of it

Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb

Who entered into the springs of the sea

Who walked in the search of the depth

Then shut up

My top dropped to the bottom of it


He feigned to be obtuse of heart

Bidden to mount his horse, he set himself in such a fashion that he turned his back to the neck and faced about, fronting the tail

He could not tell the parts apart

The hero meets a maiden in the woods, gathering berries. They lie together and realize later in conversing that they are brother and sister. The maiden drowns herself, but the hero throws himself upon his word

It was then that the sea became hiss


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That's crazy

Isn't nature itself only a first custom, as custom is a second nature

That's crazy, shut up

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That's stir-crazy


There is a mill that grinds by itself, swings of itself, and scatters the grist a hundred miles away

The inside is hollowly hollow; the outside is narrowly narrow

The monotonous rattling of this monster, driven by the current of chance, and itself drifting on this current, a mill per se, without builder or miller, in truth a genuine perpetuum mobile, a mill that grinds itself

Maketh such a terrible noise that it shaketh the doors of the inhabitants' houses of the islands ten miles off

Then Saturn enters the first house

Part Two. Amar-Amlodhi, An Eclogue.

It was not sensations or not anything really
That I remember; or whether it was me at all.
It was me, however, I have a photograph to prove it,
Where I am standing next to my brother.
He is looking at the camera, I am not.
It's certainly me, as I never shall be again.
Is that me gone? Or is it still inside me,
On the other side of the border of language,
In the animality of the soul? All is dark there,
So it does not matter if I do not look at the camera.

Don't be so negative. Let us go for a walk,
Let us examine the trees in the park—
Pines, palms, aspen, and junipers—
Let us identify the statues among them
Without heads.

          Wait. I must first understand
Who I am and who you are. Are we
Pronouns? What else holds us together?
Outside language we know practically nothing,
Since whatever we reel in thence
Collapses upon itself and deforms
Under the pressure of exactitude.
Then goodbye, me. I leave you in the dark
In the indistinct company of animals,
In incomprehension so inarticulate
It does not know itself to be incomprehension.
Goodbye. I miss you already.

You said your goodbyes. Let's go. I'm afraid
Your mood presages a change in weather.
There are some whose arthritis starts acting up before a storm
And others to whom migraine auras appear;
It might be you are just another one such
Meteorological sufferer. Perhaps
There's a low pressure system moving this way,
Bringing forty km/hr winds and precipitation.
If we were outside, the swallows might be skimming the ground,
But we are very much inside. Look at these walls.
Many centimeters might fall, followed even by flooding
And we would not be able to go to the park then, would we?
Let us go now, while there is still time.

Is the border of language
In the order of language?
My nurse said to me, This is yours,
A recorder. My father said to me, This is yours
Inasmuch as I order it to be yours.
And then there was something like high school,
Where in zoo-like stench we stood on all fours
Braying braying braying,
Or so I tell myself. Was that so? How can I play it?
Are eyes words, are ears words,
Is nose a word, is mouth a word, are breasts words,
Is vagina a word? I don't understand.

What's there to understand? When do we ever understand
Anything? And will you stop with the afflatus—
You talk like some stoned Niobid
In the Gardens of Leto.

I am alone here. It is beginning to rain.
Let me go paste words upon the furniture.

You're not alone here. I'm here with you.
Why must you always speak of loneliness
To me, Amar?

                    You named me: What
Does that mean? What am I
To do with it? I did not give it

                              Enough. Please.
Let us go picnic by the shores of the Never River,
Feel the brief warmth of sunlight on our faces,
Watch clouds pass over monuments on the embankment:
They're funny, they're the fruits of empire and pain
And human stupidity. Come on, say you're coming.

I cannot go with you.

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