Princess Ida


You are here: Archive Home > Princess Ida > Web Opera > Act II

Dialogue following No. 10

Jean Hindmarsh as Princess Ida, 1950s & 60s

Women of Adamant, fair Neophytes –
Who thirst for such instruction as we give,
Attend, while I unfold a parable.
The elephant is mightier than Man,
Yet Man subdues him. Why? The elephant
Is elephantine everywhere but here, (tapping her forehead)
And Man, whose brain is to the elephant’s
As Woman’s brain to Man’s – (that’s rule of three), –
Conquers the foolish giant of the woods,
As Woman, in her turn, shall conquer Man.
In Mathematics, Woman leads the way –
The narrow-minded pedant still believes
That two and two make four! Why, we can prove,
We women – household drudges as we are –
That two and two make five – or three – or seven;
Or five-and-twenty, if the case demands!
Diplomacy? The wiliest diplomat
Is absolutely helpless in our hands.
He wheedles monarchs – Woman wheedles him!
Logic? Why, tyrant Man himself admits
It’s a waste of time to argue with a woman!
Then we excel in social qualities:
Though man professes that he holds our sex
In utter scorn, I venture to believe
He’d rather pass the day with one of you,
Than with five hundred of his fellow-men!
In all things we excel. Believing this,
A hundred maidens here have sworn to place
Their feet upon his neck. If we succeed,
We’ll treat him better than he treated us:
But if we fail, why, then let hope fail too!
Let no one care a penny how she looks –
Let red be worn with yellow – blue with green –
Crimson with scarlet – violet with blue!
Let all your things misfit, and you yourselves
At inconvenient moments come undone!
Let hair-pins lose their virtue: let the hook
Disdain the fascination of the eye –
The bashful button modestly evade
The soft embraces of the button-hole!
Let old associations all dissolve,
Let Swan secede from Edgar – Gask from Gask,
Sewell from Cross – Lewis from Allenby!
In other words, let Chaos come again!
(coming down) Who lectures in the Hall of Arts to-day?


I, madam, on Abstract Philosophy.
There I propose considering, at length,
Three points – The Is, the Might Be, and the Must.
Whether the Is, from being actual fact,
Is more important than the vague Might Be,
Or the Might Be, from taking wider scope,
Is for that reason greater than the Is:
And lastly, how the Is and Might Be stand
Compared with the inevitable Must!

Princess. The subject’s deep – how do you treat it, pray?

Madam, I take three possibilities,
And strike a balance, then, between the three:
As thus: The Princess Ida Is our head,
the Lady Psyche Might Be, – Lady Blanche,
Neglected Blanche, inevitably Must.
Given these three hypotheses – to find
The actual betting against each of them!


Your theme’s ambitious: pray you bear in mind
Who highest soar fall farthest. Fare you well,
You and your pupils! Maidens, follow me.

Princess Ida (Winifred Lawson) and Lady Blanche (Bertha Lewis), 1922

Previous Page Previous Song Opera Home Page Top of Page Next Song Next Page

Archive Home  |  Princess Ida

Page Created 28 February, 2006