‘Beyond the Horizon’ is a play about the tensions between beautiful dreams and practical realities. Robert, a poetic young man, and Andy, a pragmatic one, are brothers. They are both in love with the same woman, Ruth. In this speech, Robert reminisces to Ruth about his sickly childhood, in which he allowed his heart to wander ‘beyond the horizon’ where wonder, mystery and enchantment beckoned….
So I used to stare out over the fields to the hills, out there—[He points to the horizon] and somehow after a time I’d forget any pain I was in, and start dreaming. I knew the sea was over beyond those hills,—the folks had told me—and I used to wonder what the sea was like, and try to form a picture of it in my mind. [With a smile.] There was all the mystery in the world to me then about that—far-off sea—and there still is! It called to me then just as it does now. [After a slight pause.] And other times my eyes would follow this road, winding off into the distance, toward the hills, as if it, too, was searching for the sea. And I’d promise myself that when I grew up and was strong, I’d follow that road, and it and I would find the sea together. [With a smile.] You see, my making this trip is only keeping that promise of long ago.
Those were the only happy moments of my life then, dreaming there at the window. I liked to be all alone—those times. I got to know all the different kinds of sunsets by heart—the clear ones and the cloudy ones, and all the color schemes of their countless variations—although I could hardly name more than three or four colors correctly. And all those sunsets took place over there—[He points] beyond the horizon. So gradually I came to believe that all the wonders of the world happened on the other side of those hills. There was the home of the good fairies who performed beautiful miracles. [He smiles.] I believed in fairies then, although I suppose I ought to have been ashamed of it from a boy’s standpoint. But you know how contemptuous of all religion Pa’s always been—even the mention of it in the house makes him angry.
He’d bullied Ma into being ashamed of believing in anything and he’d forbidden her to teach Andy or me. There wasn’t much about our home but the life on the farm. I didn’t like that, so I had to believe in fairies. [With a smile.] Perhaps I still do believe in them. Anyway, in those days they were real enough, and sometimes—I suppose the mental science folks would explain it by self-hypnosis—I could actually hear them calling to me in soft whispers to come out and play with them, dance with them down the road in the dusk in a game of hide-and-seek to find out where the sun was hiding himself. They sang their little songs to me, songs that told of all the wonderful things they had in their home on the other side of the hills; and they promised to show me all of them, if I’d only come, come! But I couldn’t come then, and I used to cry sometimes and Ma would think I was in pain. [He breaks off suddenly with a laugh.] That’s why I’m going now, I suppose. For I can still hear them calling, although I’m a man and have seen the other side of many hills. But the horizon is as far away and as luring as ever. [He turns to her—softly.] Do you understand now, Ruth?