Episode 1.8: Rolf the Preacher

Writer: Terence Feely


In Mark’s village in Cornwall. Rolf is on his knees, in the middle of a circle of men – including Mark of Cornwall.

Rolf: Yes … The Lord showed me that he who strikes his fellow man is no better than a ravening wolf. And he who lives by violence is already dead in his heart. [He snatches someone’s sword] What did the sword ever bring you but pain and death?

He starts to chant, and everyone except Mark joins in.

Rolf and Villagers: Pain and death, pain and death, pain and death.

Rolf: And what is peace, but life and sweetness?

Villagers join in again.

Rolf and Villagers: Life and sweetness, life and sweetness.

Rolf holds up the villager’s sword.

Rolf: The day the first sword was forged on earth – that day there was weeping in heaven.

Mark looks dubious.

First villager: Shame!

Rolf: I was a killer. I raped, and I plundered. But I was not a happy man. Then the Lord opened my eyes, and took the sword from my hand, and I found peace. Has the sword given you happiness?

Villagers: No!

Rolf: Has the sword given you plenty?

Villagers: No!

Rolf: Do you want to renounce the sword?

Villagers: Yes!

Rolf: [yells] Then cast it out!

Rolf drives the villager’s sword into the ground, grabs one from another villager, and does the same with that one. All the other men, except for Mark, begin drawing their swords and throwing them to the ground, while Rolf continues his exhortations.

Rolf: Cast it out, cast it out!

Mark: Pick them up!

The few men who haven’t thrown their swords away keep hold of them. Mark grabs a villager by the scruff of the neck, and throws him to the ground in the pile of swords.

Mark: I say! What are you? [Mark grabs another man by his shirtfront and gives him a shove] Warriors or bloodless priests? This fool – he’s moonstruck! [Mark takes Rolf’s place in the centre of the circle and addresses them all] Are you going to let him talk you out of your manhood?

Rolf: Man is made strong by strong heart – not by the sword. Cast out the poisoned blade!

Some start to draw their swords, then sheath them again as Mark starts to speak.

Mark: Even now, plunderers are massing against us. And they mean to take what is yours. How are you going to defend yourselves? On your knees?

Rolf: You will conquer them with peace! And friendship! They will come in hate – but they will leave in love. It will be a victory greater than the Celts have ever known.

Rolf crosses his arms over his chest in rapture.

Mark: Yaar, this man booms like an empty wineskin. No man can return love for hate! The world is a battlefield. [to Rolf] You say that violence is wrong.

Rolf: I do.

Mark: [nodding] And you would not defend yourself against an attack.

Rolf approaches Mark, and holds up his wooden cross.

Rolf: I would not.

Mark: [grins at the onlookers] You would not. Then show me what you’d do, if someone did this.

Mark takes Rolf’s cross, drops it, hits Rolf, back-handed, on the right side of his face, knocking him to the ground, then draws his own sword. Rolf gets slowly to his feet, hands raised, then strokes his left cheek, and offers it for Mark to hit.

Rolf: Now this one.

Mark gives him a look of puzzlement and disgust. All the villagers throw down their swords again.



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Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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