If this feline jumps over the dead, it can inhabit the body. When released, this cat is five feet tall and walks upon its hind legs.
There he was, legs straddling wide, peeping through his legs at every car and every single person as they passed. …
‘… Everything seemed so terribly gloomy that I thought I’d have a go at looking at the world the other way up. But it turns out to be just the same, after all.’
(Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Kappa)
El Desdichado (The Disinherited)
I am the darkness – the widower – the un-consoled,
The prince of Aquitaine in the ruined tower;
My sole star is dead – and my constellated lute
Bears the black sun of Melancholy.
You who consoled me in funereal night,
Bring me Posilipo, the sea of Italy,
The flower that pleased my grieving heart,
And the trellis where the vine entwines the rose.
Am I Phoebus or Love?…Biron or Lusignan?
My brow’s still red from the queen’s kiss;
I dreamed in the grotto where Sirens swim…
And twice victorious crossed Acheron:
Plucking from Orpheus’ lyre one by one
The saintly sighs and the faerie cries.
-Gerard de Nerval
BY TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER
The Under Secretary leans forward and draws an X
and her ear-drops dangle like swords of Damocles.
As a mottled butterfly is invisible against the ground
so the demon merges with the opened newspaper.
A helmet worn by no one has taken power.
The mother-turtle flees flying under the water.
Not Waving but Drowning
BY STEVIE SMITH
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
“A Curse Against Elegies”
Oh, love, why do we argue like this?
I am tired of all your pious talk.
Also, I am tired of all the dead.
They refuse to listen,
so leave them alone.
Take your foot out of the graveyard,
they are busy being dead.
Everyone was always to blame:
the last empty fifth of booze,
the rusty nails and chicken feathers
that stuck in the mud on the back doorstep,
the worms that lived under the cat’s ear
and the thin-lipped preacher
who refused to call
except once on a flea-ridden day
when he came scuffing in through the yard
looking for a scapegoat.
I hid in the kitchen under the ragbag.
I refuse to remember the dead.
And the dead are bored with the whole thing.
But you – you go ahead,
go on, go on back down
into the graveyard,
lie down where you think their faces are;
talk back to your old bad dreams.
Sebastian in Dream
For Adolf Loos
Mother bore the infant in the white moon,
In the shadow of the walnut tree, the ancient elder,
Drunk with the juice of the poppy, the lament of the thrush;
A bearded face bent over her in compassion
Quietly in the darkness of the window; and the old household goods
Of the fathers
Lay in decay; love and autumnal reverie.
So dark the day of the year, sad childhood,
When quietly the boy climbed down to cool waters, silver fishes,
Rest and countenance;
When stony he threw himself before raving black horses,
In grey night his star came over him;
Or when he walked at the freezing hand of the mother
In the evening over Saint Peter’s autumnal cemetery,
A delicate corpse lay still in the darkness of the chamber
And the other one raised the cold eyelids over him.
But he was a small bird in bleak branches,
The bell long in the November evening,
The father’s stillness, as in sleep he descended the dusking spiral stair.
Peace of the soul. Lonesome winter evening,
The dark figures of the shepherds by the old pond;
Infant in the hut of straw; o how quietly
The countenance sank in black fever.
Or when he at the hard hand of the father
Silently climbed the sinister Mount Calvary
And in dusking rock-niches
The blue figure of man went through his legend,
Blood ran purple from the wound under the heart.
O how quietly the cross rose up in the dark soul.
Love; when in black corners the snow melted,
A blue breeze cheerfully caught itself in the old elder,
In the shadowy arch of the walnut tree;
And quietly a rosy angel appeared to the boy.
Joy; when in cool rooms an evening sonata sounded,
In the brown rafters
A blue moth crept from its silver chrysalis.
O the nearness of death. In stony wall
A yellow head bent, silencing the child,
When in that March the moon decayed.
Rosy Easter Bell in the burial vault of night
And the silver voices of the stars
So that in showers a dark insanity sank from the forehead of the sleeper.
O how silent a walk down the blue river,
Pondering on things forgotten, when in green branches
The thrush calls a stranger into decline.
Or when he walked at the bony hand of the old man
Evenings before the decayed wall of the city,
And the other one bore a rosy infant in a black coat,
In the shadow of the walnut tree the spirit of evil appeared.
Groping over the green steps of summer. O how quietly
The garden decayed in autumn’s brown stillness,
Scent and gloom of the old elder tree,
When in Sebastian’s shadow the silver voice of the angel died.
Toi qui, comme un coup de couteau,
Dans mon coeur plaintif es entrée;
Toi qui, forte comme un troupeau
De démons, vins, folle et parée,
De mon esprit humilié
Faire ton lit et ton domaine;
— Infâme à qui je suis lié
Comme le forçat à la chaîne,
Comme au jeu le joueur têtu,
Comme à la bouteille l’ivrogne,
Comme aux vermines la charogne
— Maudite, maudite sois-tu!
J’ai prié le glaive rapide
De conquérir ma liberté,
Et j’ai dit au poison perfide
De secourir ma lâcheté.
Hélas! le poison et le glaive
M’ont pris en dédain et m’ont dit:
«Tu n’es pas digne qu’on t’enlève
À ton esclavage maudit,
Imbécile! — de son empire
Si nos efforts te délivraient,
Tes baisers ressusciteraient
Le cadavre de ton vampire!»
— Charles Baudelaire
You who, like the stab of a knife,
Entered my plaintive heart;
You who, strong as a herd
Of demons, came, ardent and adorned,
To make your bed and your domain
Of my humiliated mind
— Infamous bitch to whom I’m bound
Like the convict to his chain,
Like the stubborn gambler to the game,
Like the drunkard to his wine,
Like the maggots to the corpse,
— Accurst, accurst be you!
I begged the swift poniard
To gain for me my liberty,
I asked perfidious poison
To give aid to my cowardice.
Alas! both poison and the knife
Contemptuously said to me:
“You do not deserve to be freed
From your accursed slavery,
Fool! — if from her domination
Our efforts could deliver you,
Your kisses would resuscitate
The cadaver of your vampire!”
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
You, who like a dagger ploughed
Into my heart with deadly thrill:
You who, stronger than a crowd
Of demons, mad, and dressed to kill,
Of my dejected soul have made
Your bed, your lodging, and domain:
To whom I’m linked (Unseemly jade!)
As is a convict to his chain,
Or as the gamester to his dice,
Or as the drunkard to his dram,
Or as the carrion to its lice —
I curse you. Would my curse could damn!
I have besought the sudden blade
To win for me my freedom back.
Perfidious poison I have prayed
To help my cowardice. Alack!
Both poison and the sword disdained
My cowardice, and seemed to say
“You are not fit to be unchained
From your damned servitude. Away,
You imbecile! since if from her empire
We were to liberate the slave,
You’d raise the carrion of your vampire,
By your own kisses, from the grave.”
— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)
Thou who abruptly as a knife
Didst come into my heart; thou who,
A demon horde into my life,
Didst enter, wildly dancing, through
The doorways of my sense unlatched
To make my spirit thy domain —
Harlot to whom I am attached
As convicts to the ball and chain,
As gamblers to the wheel’s bright spell,
As drunkards to their raging thirst,
As corpses to their worms — accurst
Be thou! Oh, be thou damned to hell!
I have entreated the swift sword
To strike, that I at once be freed;
The poisoned phial I have implored
To plot with me a ruthless deed.
Alas! the phial and the blade
Do cry aloud and laugh at me:
“Thou art not worthy of our aid;
Thou art not worthy to be free.
“Though one of us should be the tool
To save thee from thy wretched fate,
Thy kisses would resuscitate
The body of thy vampire, fool!”
— George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)
Thou, sharper than a dagger thrust
Sinking into my plaintive heart,
Thou, frenzied and arrayed in lust,
Strong as a demon host whose art
Possessed my humbled soul at last,
Made it thy bed and thy domain,
Strumpet, to whom I am bound fast
As is the convict to his chain,
The stubborn gambler to his dice,
The rabid drunkard to his bowl,
The carcass to its vermin lice —
O thrice-accursèd be thy soul!
I called on the swift sword to smite
One blow to free my life of this,
I begged perfidious aconite
For succor in my cowardice.
But sword and poison in my need
Heaped scorn upon my craven mood,
Saying: “Unworthy to be freed,
From thine accursed servitude,
O fool, if through our efforts, Fate
Absolved thee from thy sorry plight,
Thy kisses would resuscitate
Thy vampire’s corpse for thy delight.”
— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)
You who, keen as a carving blade,
Into my plaintive heart has plunged,
You who, strong as a wild array
Of crazed and costumed cacodaemons,
Storming into my helpless soul
To make your bed and your domain;
— Tainted jade to whom I’m joined
Like a convict to his chain,
Like a gambler to his game,
Like a drunkard to his bottle,
Like maggot-worms to their cadaver,
Damn you, oh damn you I say!
I pleaded with the speedy sword
To win me back my liberty;
And finally, a desperate coward,
I turned to poison’s perfidy.
Alas, but poison and the sword
Had only scorn to offer me:
“You’re not worthy to be free
Of your wretched slavery,
You imbecile! — For if our means
Should release you from her reign,
You with your kisses would only breathe
New life into the vampire slain!”
— Atti Viragh