Years ago, when he lived in Italy, he visited the same forest between Ravenna and the Adriatic coastline where a century and a half before Byron and Teresa used to go riding. Somewhere among the trees must be the spot where the Englishman first lifted the skirts of his eighteen-year-old charmer, bride of another man, to find her warmth, willing, wet. He could fly to Venice tomorrow, catch a train to Ravenna, tramp along the old riding-trails, pass by the very place. He is inventing the music (or the music is inventing him) but he is not inventing the history. On those pine-needles Byron had his Teresa - 'timid as a gazelle,' he called her - rumpling her clothes, getting sand into her underwear (the horses standing by all the while, incurious), and from the occasion a passion was born that kept Teresa howling to the moon for the rest of her natural life in a fever that has set one David howling too, after his manner.
Teresa leads; page after page he follows. Then one day there emerges from the dark another voice, one he has not heard before, has not counted on hearing. From the words he knows it belongs to Byron's daughter Allegra; but from where inside him does it come? Why have you left me? Come and fetch me! calls Allegra. So hot, so hot, so hot! she complains in a rhythm of her own that cuts insistently across the voices of the lovers.
To the call of the inconvenient five-year-old there comes no answer. Unlovely, unloved, neglected by her famous father, she has been passed from hand to hand and finally given to the nuns to look after. So hot, so hot! she whines from the bed in the convent where she is dying of la mal'aria. Why have you forgotten me?
Why will her father not answer? Because he has had enough of life; because he would rather be back where he belongs, on death's other shore, sunk in his old sleep. My poor little baby! sings Byron, waveringly, unwillingly, too softly for her to hear. Seated in the shadows to one side, the trio of instrumentalists play the crablike motif, one line going up, the other down, that is Byron's.
'Lucy says you are back in town. Why haven't you been in touch?'
'I do not wish to talk to you. Do not call here again.' and with that he hangs up. Punishment enough ? Perhaps. Go, live with Lucy, let me be. He is not in the mood to entertain the hollow pretense of the heady, intelligently, ellaborately stupid woman. Let others teach her, if they wish, he's well and truly done. But has he ever tried ? He does not care if he did. Whatever it was that he had done, sufficient or otherwise, is what he's done. If it was not enough -- that's fine. There is not another portion, neither in the offering nor in the making. Rosalind is, practically speaking, dead. At least as far as he's concerned.
In her white nightdress Teresa stands at the bedroom window. Her eyes are closed. It is the darkest hour of the night: she breathes deeply, breathing in the rustle of the wind, the belling of the bullfrogs. 'Che vuol dir,' she sings, her voice barely above a whisper - 'Che vuol dir questa solitudine immensa? Edio,' she sings - 'che Sono?'
Silence. The solitudine immensa offers no reply. Even the trio in the corner are quiet as dormice. 'Come!' she whispers. 'Come to me, I plead, my Byron!' She opens her arms wide, embracing the darkness, embracing what it will bring. She wants him to come on the wind, to wrap himself around her, to bury his face in that sweet hollow between her breasts. Alternatively she wants him to arrive on the dawn, to appear on the horizon as a sun-god casting the glow of his warmth upon her. By any means at all she wants him back. Sitting at the piano he harkens to the sad, swooping curve of Teresa's plea as she confronts the darkness. This is a bad time of the month for Teresa, she is sore, she has not slept a wink, she is haggard with longing. She wants to be rescued --from the pain, from the summer heat, from the Villa Gamba, from her father's bad temper, from everything.
Yet despite occasional good moments, the truth is that Byron in Italy is going nowhere. There is no action, no development, just a long, halting cantilena hurled by Teresa into the empty air, punctuated now and then with groans and sighs from Byron offstage. The husband and the rival mistress are forgotten, might as well not exist. The lyric impulse in him may not be dead, but after decades of starvation it can crawl forth from its cave only pinched, stunted, deformed. He has not the musical resources, the resources of energy, to raise Byron in Italy off the monotonous track on which it has been running since the start. It has become the kind of work a sleepwalker might write.
He sighs. It would have been nice to be returned triumphant to humanity, the author of an eccentric little chamber opera. But that will not be. His hopes must be more temperate: that somewhere from amidst the welter of sound there will dart up, like a bird, a single authentic note of immortal longing. As for recognizing it, he will leave that to the scholars of the future, if there are still scholars by then. The proposition seems altogether dubious. In any case he does not trust he will hear the note himself, when it comes, if it comes. He knows too much about art and the ways of art to expect that. Though it would have been nice for Lucy to hear proof in her lifetime, and think a little better of him.
Why does he think Lucy would think better of him ? Stale thoughts of a stale past, a stifling way of life that has destroyed his heart, eaten his soul ; that has destroyed itself, ruined its own future, eaten itself like a mythical snake. Banishing Rosalind, putting Elaine in her place, or rather graciously allowing herself to make the first, late baby steps towards putting herself in her place, none of that is enough, not nearly enough to repay, to reconcile, to redeem, to somehow reconstruct twenty six centuries of impudent girlhood permitted, unconscionably, to run amok. The damage can not be fixed. A lone flower does not make a spring, a lone woman scattered here and there on the endless plain does not make a new world.
Poor Teresa! Poor aching girl! He has brought her back from the grave, promised her another life, and now he is failing her. He hopes she will find it in her heart to forgive him.