This is scene 7 from Bertolt Brecht’s play.
Galileo, feeling grim,
A young monk came to visit him.
The monk was born of common folk.
It was of science that they spoke.
Garden of the Florentine Ambassador in Rome. Distant
hum of a great city. GALILEO and the LITTLE MONK of
Scene 5 are talking.
GALI L E O : Let’s bear it. That robe you’re wearing gives
you the right to say whatever you want to say. Let’s
LITTLE MONK : I have studied physics, Mr. Galilei.
GALILEO : That might help us if it enabled you to admit
that two and two are four.
LITTLE MONK : Mr. Galilei, I have spent four sleepless
nights trying to reconcile the decree that I have read
with the moons of Jupiter that I have seen. This
morning I decided to come to see you after I had
GALIL EO : To tell me that Jupiter has no moons?
LITTLE MONK : No, I found out that I think the decree a
wise decree. It has shocked me into realizing that free
research has its dangers. I have had to decide to give
up astronomy. However, I felt the impulse to confide
in you some of the motives which have impelled even
a passionate physicist to abandon his work.
GALILEO : Your motives are familiar to me.
LITTLE MON K : You mean, of course, the special powers
invested in certain comm issions of the Holy Office?
But there is something else. I would like to talk to
you about my family. I do not come from the great
city. My parents are peasants in the Campagna, who
know about the cultivation of the olive tree, and not
much about anything else. Too often these days when I
am trying to concentrate on tracking down the moons
of Jupiter, I see my parents. I see them sitting by the
fire with my sister, eating their curded cheese . I see
the beams of the ceiling above them, which the smoke
of centuries has blackened , and I can see the veins
stand out on their toil-worn hands, and the little
spoons in their hands. They scrape a living, and
underlying their poverty there is a sort of order. There
are routines. The routine of scrubbing the floors, the
routine of the seasons in the olive orchard, the routine
of paying taxes . The troubles that come to them are
recurrent troubles. My father did not get his poor
bent back all at once, but little by little, year by year,
in the olive orchard ; just as year after year, with unfailing
regularity, childbirth has made my mother more
and more sexless. They draw the strength they need
to sweat with their loaded baskets up the stony paths,
to bear children, even to eat, from the sight of the
trees greening each year anew, from the reproachful
face of the soil, which is never satisfied, and from the
little church and Bible texts they hear there on Sunday.
They have been told that God relies upon them
and that the pageant of the world has been written
around them that they may be tested in the important
or unimportant parts handed out to them . How
could they take it, were I to tell them that they are
on a lump of stone ceaselessly spinning in empty
space, circling around a second-rate star? What, then,
would be the use of their patience, their acceptance
of misery? What comfort, then, the Holy Scriptures, which have mercifully explained their crucifixion?
The Holy Scriptures would then be proved full of
mistakes . No, I see them begin to look frightened. I
see them slowly put their spoons down on the table.
They would feel cheated. “There is no eye watching
over us, after all,” they would say. “We have to
start out on our own, at our time of life. Nobody has
planned a part for us beyond this wretched one on
a worthless star. There is no meaning in our misery.
Hunger is just not having eaten. It is no test of
strength. Effort is just stooping and carrying. It is
not a virtue .” Can you understand that I read into
the decree of the Holy Office a noble, motherly pity
and a great goodness of the soul?
GALILEO ( embarrassed) : Hm, well at least you have found
out that it is not a question of the satellites of Jupiter,
but of the peasants of the Campagna! And don’t try
to break me down by the halo of beauty that radiates
from old age . How does a pearl develop in an oyster?
A jagged grain of sand makes its way into the oyster’s
shell and makes its life unbearable . The oyster exudes
slime to cover the grain of sand and the slime
eventually hardens into a pearl. The oyster nearly
dies in the process. To hell with the pearl, give me
the healthy oyster ! And virtues are not exclusive to
misery. If your parents were prosperous and happy,
they might develop the virtues of happiness and prosperity.
Today the virtues of exhaustion are caused by
the exhausted land. For that, my new water pumps
could work more wonders than their ridiculous superhuman
efforts . Be fruitful and multiply : for war will
cut down the population, and our fields are barren!
(A pause. ) Shall I lie to your people?
LITTLE MONK : We must be silent from the highest of
motives : the inward peace of less fortunate souls.
GALI L E O : My dear man, as a bonus for not meddling with your parents’ peace, the authorities are tendering me,
on a silver platter, persecution-free, my share of the
fat sweated from your parents, who, as you know,
were made in God’s image . Should I condone this
decree, my motives might not be disinterested : easy
life, no persecution and so on.
LITT L E MON K : Mr. Galilei, I am a priest.
GAL I L E O : You are also a physicist. How can new machinery
be evolved to domesticate the river water if we
physicists are forbidden to study, discuss, and pool
our findings about the greatest m ach inery of all, the
machinery of the heavenly bodies? Can I reconcile
my findings on the paths of falling bodies with the
current belief in the tracks of witches on broomsticks?
( A pause. ) I am sorry-I shouldn’t have said that.
LITTLE MON K : You don’t think that the truth, if it is the
truth, would make its way without us?
GA LI L E O : No! No ! No ! As much of the truth gets through
as we push through . You talk about the Campagna
peasants as if they were the moss on their huts.
Naturally, if they don’t get a move on and learn to
think for themselves , the most efficient of irrigation
systems cannot help them . I can see their divine
patience, but where is their divine fury?
LITTLE MONK ( helpless ) : They are old !
GA L I L E O stands for a moment, beaten; he cannot
meet the Little Monk’s eyes . He takes a manuscript
from the table and throws it violently on the ground.
LITT L E MONK : What is that?
GA L I L E O : Here is writ what draws the ocean when it ebbs
and flows . Let it lie there. Thou shalt not read.
( The LITTLE MONK has picked up the manuscript. )
Already ! An apple of the tree o f knowledge, he can’t
wait, he wolfs it down . He will rot in hell for all
eternity. Look at him, where are his manners? Sometimes I think I would let them imprison me in a place
a thousand feet beneath the earth, where no light
could reach me, if in exchange I could find out what
stuff that is : “Light.” The bad thing is that, when I
find something, I have to boast about it like a lover
or a drunkard or a traitor. That is a hopeless vice and
leads to the abyss. I wonder how long I shall be
content to discuss it with my dog !
LITTLE MONK (immersed in the manuscript ) : I don’t understand
this sentence .
GALILEO : I’ll explain it to you, I’ll explain it to you.
They are sitting on the floor.
The full PDF can be found here: https://the-eye.eu/public/Books/4chan_pol_Archives/PDFs/Miscellaneous%20Unsorted/Propertarianism%20Library%20-%20The%20Great%20Books%20of%20the%20Aristocracy/9.%20The%20Narrative%20Arts/Plays%20and%20Poetry/Bertolt%20Brecht/Galileo/Brecht%2C%20Bertolt%20-%20Galileo%20%28Grove%2C%201966%29.pdf