Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “Pygmalion and Galatea”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

William Schwenck Gilbert 1836–1911

From “Pygmalion and Galatea”


SCENE.—PYGMALION’S Studio, containing a Statue of GALATEA, before which curtains are drawn.

Pygmalion.“The thing is but a statue after all!”

Cynisca little thought that in those words

She touch’d the key-note of my discontent.

True, I have powers denied to other men;

Give me a block of senseless marble—well,

I ’m a magician, and it rests with me

To say what kernel lies within its shell;

It shall contain a man, a woman—child—

A dozen men and women if I will.

So far the gods and I run neck and neck;

Nay, so far I can beat them at their trade!

I am no bungler—all the men I make

Are straight-limb’d fellows, each magnificent

In the perfection of his manly grace:

I make no crook-backs—all my men are gods,

My women goddesses—in outward form.

But there ’s my tether! I can go so far,

And go no farther! At that point I stop,

To curse the bonds that hold me sternly back;

To curse the arrogance of those proud gods,

Who say, “Thou shalt be greatest among man,

And yet infinitesimally small!”


Pyg.Who called?


[PYGMALION tears away curtain and discovers GALATEA alive.

Pyg.Ye gods! It lives!


Pyg.It speaks!

I have my prayer! my Galatea breathes!

Gal.Where am I? Let me speak, Pygmalion;

Give me thy hand—both hands—how soft and warm!

Whence came I?[Descends.

Pyg.Why, from yonder pedestal!

Gal.That pedestal? Ah, yes! I recollect

There was a time when it was part of me.

Pyg.That time has passed forever: thou art now

A living, breathing woman, excellent

In every attribute of womankind.

Gal.Where am I, then?

Pyg.Why, born into the world

By miracle!

Gal.Is this the world?

Pyg.It is.

Gal.This room?

Pyg.This room is portion of a house;

The house stands in a grove; the grove itself

Is one of many, many hundred groves

In Athens.

Gal.And is Athens, then, the world?

Pyg.To an Athenian—yes.

Gal.And I am one?

Pyg.By birth and parentage, not by descent.

Gal.But how came I to be?

Pyg.Well—let me see.

Oh—you were quarried in Pentelicus;

I modell’d you in clay—my artisans

Then rough’d you out in marble—I, in turn,

Brought my artistic skill to bear on you,

And made you what you are—in all but life;

The gods completed what I had begun,

And gave the only gift I could not give!

Gal.Then this is life?

Pyg.It is.

Gal.And not long since

I was a cold, dull stone? I recollect

That by some means I knew that I was stone:

That was the first dull gleam of consciousness;

I became conscious of a chilly self,

A cold, immovable identity.

I knew that I was stone, and knew no more!

Then, by an imperceptible advance,

Came the dim evidence of outer things,

Seen—darkly and imperfectly, yet seen—

The walls surrounding me, and I alone.

That pedestal—that curtain—then a voice

That call’d on Galatea! At that word,

Which seem’d to shake my marble to the core,

That which was dim before came evident;

Sounds that had humm’d around me, indistinct,

Vague, meaningless, seem’d to resolve themselves

Into a language I could understand;

I felt my frame pervaded by a glow

That seem’d to thaw my marble into flesh.

Its cold, hard substance throbb’d with active life;

My limbs grew supple, and I mov’d—I liv’d!

Liv’d in the ecstacy of new-born life!

Liv’d in the love of him that fashion’d me!

Liv’d in a thousand tangled thoughts of hope,

Love, gratitude,—thoughts that resolv’d themselves

Into one word, that word Pygmalion![Kneels to him.

Pyg.I have no words to tell thee of my joy,

O woman—perfect in thy loveliness!

Gal.What is that word? Am I a woman?


Gal.Art thou a woman?

Pyg.No, I am a man.

Gal.What is a man?

Pyg.A being strongly fram’d

To wait on woman, and protect her from

All ills that strength and courage can avert;

To work and toil for her, that she may rest;

To weep and mourn for her, that she may laugh;

To fight and die for her, that she may live!

Gal.[After a pause.]I ’m glad I am a woman.

Pyg.So am I.[They sit.

Gal.That I escape the pains thou hast to bear?

Pyg.That I may undergo those pains for thee.

Gal.With whom, then, wouldst thou fight?

Pyg.With any man

Whose deed or word gave Galatea pain.

Gal.Then there are other men in this strange world?

Pyg.There are, indeed!

Gal.And other women?

Pyg.[Taken aback.]Yes.

Though for a moment I ’d forgotten it!

Yes, other women.

Gal.And for all of these

Men work, and toil, and mourn, and weep, and fight?

Pyg.It is man’s duty, if he ’s call’d upon,

To fight for all: he works for those he loves.

Gal.Then by thy work I know thou lovest me.

Pyg.Indeed, I love thee![Embraces her.

Gal.With what kind of love?

Pyg.I love thee[recollecting himself and releasing her]as a sculptor loves his work!

[Aside.]There ’s a diplomacy in that reply.

Gal.My love is different in kind to thine:

I am no sculptor, and I ’ve done no work,

Yet I do love thee: say, what love is mine?

Pyg.Tell me its symptoms, then I ’ll answer thee.

Gal.Its symptoms? Let me call them as they come.

A sense that I am made by thee for thee;

That I ’ve no will that is not wholly thine;

That I ’ve no thought, no hope, no enterprise

That does not own thee as its sovereign;

That I have life, that I may live for thee,

That I am thine—that thou and I are one!

What kind of love is that?

Pyg.A kind of love

That I shall run some risk in dealing with!

Gal.And why, Pygmalion?

Pyg.Such love as thine

A man may not receive, except indeed

From one who is, or is to be, his wife!

Gal.Then I will be thy wife!

Pyg.That may not be;

I have a wife—the gods allow but one.

Gal.Why did the gods, then, send me here to thee?

Pyg.I cannot say—unless to punish me

For unreflecting and presumptuous prayer.

I pray’d that shouldst live—I have my prayer,

And now I see the fearful consequence

That must attend it!

Gal.Yet thou lovest me?

Pyg.Who could look on that face and stifle love?

Gal.Then I am beautiful?

Pyg.Indeed thou art.

Gal.I wish that I could look upon myself,

But that ’s impossible.

Pyg.Not so indeed.

This mirror will reflect thy face. Behold![Hands her a mirror.

Gal.How beautiful! I ’m very glad to know

That both our tastes agree so perfectly;

Why, my Pygmalion, I did not think

That aught could be more beautiful than thou,

Till I beheld myself. Believe me, love,

I could look in this mirror all day long.

So I ’m a woman?

Pyg.There ’s no doubt of that!

Gal.Oh happy maid, to be so passing fair!

And happier still Pygmalion, who can gaze,

At will, upon so beautiful a face!

Pyg.Hush, Galatea! in thine innocence

Thou sayest things that others would reprove.

Gal.Indeed, Pygmalion? Then it is wrong

To think that one is exquisitely fair?

Pyg.Well, Galatea, it ’s a sentiment

That every other woman shares with thee;

They think it, but they keep it to themselves.

Gal.And is thy wife as beautiful as I?

Pyg.No, Galatea, for in forming thee

I took her features—lovely in themselves—

And in the marble made them lovelier still.

Gal.[Disappointed.]Oh! then I ’m not original?


That is—thou hast indeed a prototype;

But though in stone thou didst resemble her,

In life the difference is manifest.

Gal.I ’m very glad I am lovelier than she.

And am I better?

Pyg.That I do not know.

Gal.Then she has faults?

Pyg.But very few indeed;

Mere trivial blemishes, that serve to show

That she and I are of one common kin.

I love her all the better for such faults!

Gal.[After a pause.]Tell me some faults and I ’ll commit them now.

Pyg.There is no hurry; they will come in time:

Though, for that matter, it ’s a grievous sin

To sit as lovingly as we sit now.

Gal.Is sin so pleasant? If to sit and talk,

As we are sitting, be indeed a sin,

Why, I could sin all day! But tell me, love,

Is this great fault, that I ’m committing now,

The kind of fault that only serves to show

That thou and I are of one common kin?

Pyg.Indeed, I ’m very much afraid it is.

Gal.And dost thou love me better for such fault?

Pyg.Where is the mortal that could answer “No”?

Gal.Why, then I ’m satisfied, Pygmalion;

Thy wife and I can start on equal terms.

She loves thee?

Pyg.Very much.

Gal.I am glad of that.

I like thy wife.

Pyg.And why?

Gal.Our tastes agree.

We love Pygmalion well, and, what is more,

Pygmalion loves us both. I like thy wife;

I ’m sure we shall agree.

Pyg.[Aside.]I doubt it much!

Gal.Is she within?

Pyg.No, she is not within.

Gal.But she ’ll come back?

Pyg.Oh, yes, she will come back.

Gal.How pleas’d she ’ll be to know, when she returns,

That there was some one here to fill her place!

Pyg.[Dryly.]Yes, I should say she ’d be extremely pleas’d.

Gal.Why, there is something in thy voice which says

That thou art jesting! Is it possible

To say one thing and mean another?


It ’s sometimes done.

Gal.How very wonderful!

So clever!

Pyg.And so very useful.


Teach me the art.

Pyg.The art will come in time.

My wife will not be pleas’d; there—that ’s the truth.

Gal.I do not think that I shall like thy wife.

Tell me more of her.


Gal.What did she say

When last she left thee?

Pyg.Humph! Well, let me see:

Oh! true, she gave thee to me as my wife,—

Her solitary representative;

She fear’d I should be lonely till she came,

And counsell’d me, if thoughts of love should come,

To speak those thoughts to thee, as I am wont

To speak to her.

Gal.That ’s right.

Pyg.But when she spoke

Thou wast a stone, now thou art flesh and blood,

Which makes a difference!

Gal.It ’s a strange world!

A woman loves her husband very much,

And cannot brook that I should love him, too!

She fears he will be lonely till she comes,

And will not let me cheer his loneliness!

She bids him breathe his love to senseless stone,

And, when that stone is brought to life, be dumb!

It ’s a strange world—I cannot fathom it!

Pyg.[Aside.]Let me be brave and put an end to this.

[Aloud.]Come, Galatea—till my wife returns,

My sister shall provide thee with a home;

Her house is close at hand.

Gal.[Astonished and alarmed.]Send me not hence,

Pygmalion—let me stay.

Pyg.It may not be.

Come, Galatea, we shall meet again.

Gal.[Resignedly.]Do with me as thou wilt, Pygmalion!

But we shall meet again?—and very soon?

Pyg.Yes, very soon.

Gal.And when thy wife returns,

She ’ll let me stay with thee?

Pyg.I do not know.

[Aside.] Why should I hide the truth from her?[Aloud.]Alas!

I may not see thee then.


What fearful words are these?

Pyg.The bitter truth.

I may not love thee—I must send thee hence.

Gal.Recall those words, Pygmalion, my love!

Was it for this that Heaven gave me life?

Pygmalion, have mercy on me; see,

I am thy work, thou hast created me;

The gods have sent me to thee. I am thine,

Thine! only and unalterably thine!

This is the thought with which my soul is charged.

Thou tellest me of one who claims thy love,

That thou hast love for her alone. Alas!

I do not know these things—I only know

That Heaven has sent me here to be with thee!

Thou tellest me of duty to thy wife,

Of vows that thou wilt love but her. Alas!

I do not know these things—I only know

That Heaven, who sent me here, has given me

One all-absorbing duty to discharge—

To love thee, and to make thee love again!
[During this speech PYGMALION has shown symptoms of irresolution; at its conclusion he takes her in his arms, and embraces her.