Everyone remembers Roy Batty’s monologue from the end of Blade Runner, sometimes called “Tears in the Rain.” Wikipedia even has an entry for it. It’s very short but when you hear Rutger Hauer speak it in the film, it feels timeless.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
Well, today I was listening to The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, and in particular, to the short story “Ulan Dhor Ends a Dream,” and it reminded me of Roy’s monologue. It evoked the same emotion. Aren’t these monologues so much more impressive when performed/spoken?
I have known the Ampridatvir of old; I have seen the towers glowing with marvellous light, thrusting beams through the night to challenge the sun itself. Then Ampridatvir was beautiful — ah! My heart pains when I think of the olden city. Semir vines cascaded from a thousand hanging gardens, water ran blue as vaul-stone in the three canals. Metal cars rolled the streets, metal hulls swarmed the air as thick as bees around a hive — for marvel of marvels, we had devised wefts of spitting fire to spurn the weighty power of Earth … But even in my life I saw the leaching of spirit. A surfeit of honey cloys the tongue; a surfeit of wine addles the brain; so a surfeit of ease guts a man of strength. Light, warmth, food, water, were free to all men, and gained by a minimum of effort. So the people of Ampridatvir, released from toil, gave increasing attention to faddishness, perversity, and the occult.
This made me wonder how many stories have a monologue of remembrance in them? It’s a very powerful trick of fiction, don’t you think? Charles Dickens used it very effectively as the opening to A Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
I believe Heinlein must have been inspired by Dickens when he wrote the opening to Glory Road.
I know a place where there is no smog and no parking problem and no population explosion...no Cold War and no H-bombs and no television commercials...no Summit Conferences, no Foreign Aid, no hidden taxes—no income tax. The climate is the sort that Florida and California claim (and neither has), the land is lovely, the people are friendly and hospitable to strangers, the women are beautiful and amazingly anxious to please— I could go back. I could—
I can’t recall any others at the moment. Can you? If you can, post them in the comments.
James Wallace Harris, 5/29/21
8 thoughts on “Monologues of Remembrances”
There is a lovely poem that is quoted in Michael Shea’s Nifft The Lean about the ages of the world and how much knowledge has been lost to time. Parple’s “Salutation To The Dawn” I think it’s called.
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Is this it?
No, this is one that he wrote for the story. Unfortunately it looks like I only have the audio version at the moment and I can’t seem to find that passage quoted anywhere online.
Parple the Bard’s “Salutation To The World”
Salutation to the world as beheld at dawn atop Mount Eburon
Long have your continents drifted and merged
Jostled like whales on the seas
Then cloven and sundered and slowly diverged
While your mountains arose and sank to their knees
Long, and long were your eons of ice
Long were your ages of fire
Long has there been the bleeding of men
And the darkness that cancels desire
What hosts of hosts, born, grown, and gone
Have swarmed your million Babylons
How many pits has mankind dug
How many peaks has he stood upon
Many and long were your empires of blood
Fewer your empires of light
Now their wisdoms and wars lie remote as the stars
Stone cold in the blanketing night
Now even your wisest could never restore
One tithe of the truths man’s lost
Or even one book of the radiant lore
That so many treasured so long, at such cost
For it’s many the pages the wind has torn
And their hoarded secrets blown
Tumbled and chased through the eyeless wastes
Where the wreckage of history’s thrown
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The closing paragraph of Ursula Le Guin’s “The Stars Below”. Brings me to tears every time I reread (dozens and dozens of times):
“But Bran was an obstinate old man, with a literal and credulous mind; and Per listened to him. One day the two went to the place the astronomer had spoken of, where a great vein of hard light granite that cut down through the darker rock had been left untouched, fifty years ago, as barren stone. They re-timbered the roof of the old stope where the supports had weakened, and began to dig, not into the white rock but down, beside it; the astronomer had left a mark there, a kind of chart or symbol drawn with candle-black on the stone floor. They came on silver ore a foot down, beneath the shell of quartz; and under that—all eight of them working now—the striking picks laid bare the raw silver, the veins and branches and knots and nodes shining among broken crystals in the shattered rock, like stars and gatherings of stars, depth below depth without end, the light.”
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“The Stars Below” is a great story.
And there’s Gully Foyle at the climax of THE STARS MY DESTINATION: “Take a war to make you spend. Take a jam to make you think. Take a challenge to make you great. Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you. Pigs, you! All right, God damn you! I challenge you, me. Die or live and be great. Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me, Gully Foyle, and I make you men. I make you great. I give you the stars.””
Tears in the Rain… there’s so much in this film to love, but that monologue is certainly epic! Thanks for remembering!