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Entries from February 1, 2012 - February 29, 2012

Wednesday
Feb292012

Le bonheur dans le crime (part 4)

Part four of a story ("The happiness in crime") by this French writer.  You can read the original here.

"Oh they were hard, all these losses!  And there were so many reasons to recur to the memory of that irreproachable Hauteclaire, a more or less muddy torrent of supposition!  And these reasons all arose.  Apart from a few high-and-mighty country squires who, like her godfather, the Count of Avice, had seen the child and who, in any case, were not moved by much, most people simply determined she had found a better shoe to fit her foot than the fencing master sandal with which she was once shod.  Hauteclaire Stassin, in disappearing, had no one to call her own.  She had offended everyone’s self-esteem; and young people held the greater grudge and were more roused against her because she had not run away with any of them.  

"And for a long time this was their great grievance and anxiety.  With whom had she run away?  Many of these young people would spend a month or two of winter every year in Paris, and two or three of them claimed there to have seen and recognized her – on stage in a show or on horseback on the Champs-Elysées.  She was ‘seen’ both alone and accompanied – but they couldn’t be sure.  Nothing could be confirmed.  She was the one and yet could very well not have been; but the preoccupation persisted.  No one could refrain from thinking about this girl whom they had once admired and who, by disappearing, had forced this fencing town into mourning – this town for which she had been a great artist, a diva, a ray of light.  Once the ray was extinguished, that is to say, in other words, after the disappearance of this famous Hauteclaire, the city of V. fell in the languor of life and the dimness of all the small towns that do not have a center of activity in which passions and tastes converge.  Its love for fencing weakened.  Formerly roused by all this martial youth, the city of V. became sad.  Young people who when they lived in their castles would come every day to clank iron, exchanged the foil for the rifle. They became hunters and remained on their land or in their woods, the Count of Savigny acting no differently than all the others.   He would come less and less often to V.  And if I did happen to run into him on occasion, it was with the family of his wife, for whom I was the doctor.  Not suspecting at this time that there could be something between him and this Hauteclaire who had disappeared so abruptly, I had no reason to talk about this sudden disappearance, on which silence, the progeny of tired tongues, began to expand.   Nor did he ever speak to me about Hauteclaire and the times we would see one another at her fencing hall.  In fact, he refused to make the slightest reference to these times, even indirectly."

"I can see this coming from a mile away," I said to the doctor, using a local expression from my own region, which happened to be the same region the doctor was talking about.  "It was he who had spirited her away!"

"Well, actually not at all," said the doctor.  "It was better than that!  You will never suspect what it was …"

"What is more – in the provinces, especially – any abduction would not have been easy considering one secret: that the Count of Savigny, since his marriage, had not moved from Savigny castle.  He lived there, to the knowledge of everyone, in the intimacy of a marriage which resembled an indefinitely prolonged honeymoon.  And as everything is cited and rated in the provinces, Savigny was both cited and rated as one of those husbands so rare as to be burned (a joke in the provinces), whose ash was then to be scattered on others.  God knows how long I myself would have been fooled by this reputation, if, one day – more than a year after the disappearance of Hauteclaire Stassin – I hadn’t been urgently summoned to the castle of Savigny, whose lady was  ill.  I left immediately, and, upon my arrival, I was introduced to the Countess, who was indeed suffering from a very vague and complicated ailment, more dangerous than a severely characterized disease.  She was one of those women of the old breed – jaded, elegant, distinguished, haughty – who, from the bottom of their pallor and their emaciation, seem to say: 'I have overcome time, just as my breed has; I am dying, but I despise you!'  And deuce take it, as plebeian as I am, and although such a sentiment is only faintly philosophical, I cannot help but find it beautiful. 

"The Countess was lying on a daybed in a type of parlor with black girders and white walls, very large, very high, and decorated in ancient art pieces which did the highest honor to the taste of the counts of Savigny.  A single lamp illuminated this large room, and its light, made more mysterious by the green lampshade which veiled it, fell on the face of the Countess and her cheeks aflame with fever.  She had been sick for a few days already and Savigny, to watch over her better, had had a small bed placed in the parlor next to the bed of his beloved better half.  This was when the fever, more tenacious than all his attempts at care and healing, had shown a determination on which he had not counted and he had decided to send for me.  He was standing there, his back to the fire, with a concerned and somber air to make me believe that he passionately loved his wife and that he believed her to be in danger.  But the concern that burdened his brow was not for her, but for another, someone I did not suspect in the castle of Savigny, and whose sight simply dazzled me.  It was for Hauteclaire!"

"The Devil take it!" I said to the doctor.  "That is daring!"

"So daring," he said, "that when I saw her, I thought I was dreaming!  The Countess had asked her husband to ring for her lady in waiting, from whom she had requested, prior to my arrival, a potion that I had specifically come to prescribe for her.  And, seconds later, the door was opened:

"'And my potion, Eulalie?' said the impatient Countess with a curt tone.

"'Here you are, Madam!' said a voice that I thought I recognized, and which had no sooner hit my ear than I saw emerge from the shadows drowning the deep edge of the parlor and move forward onto the light circle traced by the lamp on the bed none other than Hauteclaire Stassin – yes, Hauteclaire herself!  She was holding in her beautiful hands a silver platter on which sat the steaming bowl requested by the Countess.  Such a view was enough to take your breath away!  Eulalie!  Fortunately, this name of Eulalie pronounced so naturally told me everything.  And it was like the blow of an ice hammer which made me return to a presence of mind that I otherwise was going to lose, to my passive attitude as doctor and observer.  Hauteclaire had become Eulalie and the lady in waiting to the Countess of Savigny!  Her disguise – if such a woman could really disguise herself – was complete.  She was wearing the costume of the female laborers of the town of V., and their hairstyle which resembled a helmet, and long curls falling upon her cheeks, those curls which preachers at that time called snakes to put people off the pretty girls, without ever having been able to do so successfully.  Beneath this disguise she was of a beauty full of reserve, and a nobility of lowered eyes which proved that they did whatever they wanted to do with their damned body, these female vipers, whenever the slightest interest struck them.  Having caught on to the rest of it and being sure of myself as a man who had to bite his tongue not to let out a cry of surprise, I nevertheless felt a small weakness: to show this bold girl that I recognized her.  And so, as the Countess drank her potion, her forehead in her bowl, I fixed my two eyes on her eyes, as if I had pressed two sticky tabs upon them.  But she had just lowered her eyes.  Her eyes – that evening, like those of a doe in their softness – were firmer that those of the panther.  She did not raise her eyebrows.  A small earthquake, almost imperceptible, had only passed in the hands that took the tray.  The Countess was drinking very slowly, and when she was finished:

"'That’s fine,' she said.  'Take this back.'

"And Hauteclaire-Eulalie turned; and with this turn I would have recognized her among the twenty thousand turns of the daughters of Ahasuerus, and she took back the tray.   I confess that I sat a moment without looking at the Count of Savigny because I sensed what my eyes could be for him at such a moment.  Yet when I risked a glance, I found all the power of his own stare pinned upon me, and his look passed from that of the most horrible anxiety to an expression of deliverance.  He had just seen that I had seen, but he also saw that I didn't want to see anything of what I had seen, and he breathed in again.  He was sure of impenetrable discretion that he would probably explain (but I couldn’t have cared less!) by the interest of the physician who was not keen on losing a patron like him.  When, in truth, there was nothing there but the interest of the observer who did not wish to have closed upon himself the door of a house in which – unbeknownst to all the Earth – there were such things to observe.

Monday
Feb272012

Le bonheur dans le crime (part 3)

Part three of a story ("The happiness in crime") by this French writer.  You can read the original here.

"The whole day through, a foil in her hand, her face beneath the mesh of her fencing mask rarely removed, she did not often leave her father's fencing hall.  Her father was starting to show his age and she frequently gave lessons in his stead.  She very seldom ventured out on the streets, and proper women could only see her there or on Sundays at mass.  But even on the streets or at Sunday mass she was almost as masked as she was at her father's fencing hall, the lace of her black veil even darker and tighter than the mesh of her iron mask.  Was there any affectation in this manner of showing or hiding herself which, in turn, excited curious imaginations?  This was quite possible.  But who knew?  Who could say?  And so, regarding this girl, who remained masked by her veil, was her character even more impenetrable than her face, as subsequent events would show?

"Of course, my dear sir, I am obliged to hasten through all the details of that time, so as to gain more quickly that juncture at which this story really begins.  Miss Hauteclaire was about seventeen years old.  The former Adonis, the Pointe-au-corps, had become quite an old man: a widower; morally slain by the July Revolution, which had left the nobles in mourning for their castles and emptied out his fencing hall, he plied himself in vain with medication, which did not fear to send its covert signals, and went trotting off to the cemetery.  For a doctor making the diagnosis, things were quite clear.  You could see it.  I had just told him that it would probably not be long now when, one morning, he was brought to his fencing hall by the Viscount of Taillebois and the Chevalier of Mesnilgrand to meet a young man from the far-off high country who had returned to live in the castle of his recently deceased father.

"This was the Count Serlo of Savigny, the so-called 'pretendant' (in V.'s small town vernacular) of Miss Delphine of Cantor.  The Count of Savigny was certainly one of the most brilliant and the most foot-stompingly impatient young people among a generation of young people who all shared, by degrees, this impatience, because there was (in V. as there was elsewhere) true youth in this old world.  There are no more people like that at present.  He had heard a lot about the famous Hauteclaire Stassin and wanted to behold this miracle with his own eyes.  He found her as she was: an admirable girl, prickly and as provocative as the devil in her knitted silk shoes, which foregrounded her Athena of Velletri shape, and her black Morocco blouse which, as it cracked, pinched her robust and unfastened waist – one of those waists which Circassians can only achieve by imprisoning their daughters in leather belts that nothing other than the development of their bodies can break.  Hauteclaire Stassin was as serious as Clorinda.  He watched as she gave him the lesson and asked to cross swords with her.  But he was hardly the Tancred of the situation, this Count of Savigny!  Miss Hauteclaire Stassin repeatedly bent her sword into a sickle on the chest of the handsome Serlo, yet she was not touched once.

"'You cannot be touched, mademoiselle,' he said gracefully.  Could it be an omen?  And was the young man's self-esteem, from that evening on, defeated by love?

"From that evening on, as it were, the Count of Savigny came by every day for a lesson in the fencing hall of Pointe-au-corps.  The castle of the Count was only a few leagues away, and he devoured this distance either on horseback or by coach.  And yet this went unnoticed in this chatty nest of a small town where the smallest things were pieced together on the tip of the tongue, but where the love of fencing explained everything.  Savigny did not confide in anyone.  He even avoided having his lesson at the same time as the town's other young people.  He was a boy who did not lack for depth, this Savigny.  What happened between him and Hauteclaire, if it happened at all, no one at the time knew for sure or even suspected.  His marriage to Miss Delphine of Cantor, stopped by the parents of both families years before, but now too advanced not to conclude, took place three months after the Count's return.  And even this was an opportunity for him to live a month in V., close to his fiancée, with whom he systematically spent every day.  But every evening, from this same location, he went very regularly to his lessons.

"Like everyone else, Miss Hauteclaire had heard in the parish church of V. the banns proclaimed for the Count of Savigny and Miss Cantor.  But neither her attitude nor her physiognomy revealed that she would take any interest in these public statements.  It is true, however, that no one present had been assigned to watch for such behavior.  Observers on this question had yet, so to speak, to be born – that is, on the question of a possible link between Savigny and the beautiful Hauteclaire.   Once the marriage had been celebrated, the Countess went with her husband very quietly to settle into her Castle.  Yet the Count did not give up his urban habits and still came to town every day, which was, anyway, what many castle owners of the region did.

“Time passed.  The old Pointe-au-corps died.  After being closed briefly, his fencing hall reopened.  Miss Hauteclaire Stassin announced that she would continue the lessons of her father and, far from having fewer students after his death, she now had many more.  Men are all the same.  Strangeness on the part of one man towards another displeases and wounds them.  But if the strangeness comes from someone in a skirt, they go crazy for it.   A woman who does what a man does – even if she doesn’t do it as well as a man might – will in France always have a marked advantage over a man.  But Miss Hauteclaire Stassin, for what it was she did, did it much better than any man.  She became a much greater fencer than her father.  As a demonstrator during the lesson, she was magnificent; and in the grace and elegance of her game, she was incomparable.  She had irresistible strikes – movements as rarely learned these days as the proper touch of a violin bow or how to shift your hand on that selfsame instrument to reach the highest notes – things that no amount of instruction can place at the disposal of the learner. 

"At the time I, too, clanked some iron, as did everyone whom I knew in that little world, and I confess that, in my capacity as an amateur, several of her moves enchanted me.  She had, among other things, a disengagement of high inside to high outside that had the feel of magic.  This was no longer a sword that hit you, it was a ball!  The fastest man in the parry could only whip through the wind, even when she had warned him that she was about to disengage; and without fail, the thrust would hit him in the shoulder and the chest.  His foil crossed no iron!  I’ve seen fencers lose their minds over this blow, which they called an illusionist’s legerdemain and could have swallowed their foils in fury!  If it had not been a woman one would have picked a fight with him for that blow.  If it had been a man, it would have resulted in a score of duels. 

"Moreover, apart from this phenomenal talent so scarcely granted to a woman – a talent from which, one should add, she lived nobly – another sidelight about this poor girl was quite interesting.  By dint of the fact that she was without another resource other than her foil, she found herself hobnobbing with the richest young people of the city (among whom, it should be said, were some very bad subjects and some very smug subjects) yet her good reputation did not suffer.  No more about Savigny than about anyone else; the reputation of Miss Hauteclaire Stassin was never grazed.  'But she seems like an honest girl,' proper women would say, as they would have said of an actress. 

"And since I started to talk about myself, I, who love playing the observer, was of the same opinion as the entire town on the subject of Hauteclaire’s virtue.  I would sometimes go to the fencing hall, both before and after the marriage of Mr. Savigny, and there I never saw that girl as anything but serious, fulfilling her function with simplicity.  She was very impressive, I must say, and she made everyone respect her on equal footing, neither being overly familiar nor abandoning any part of herself.  Her physiognomy, extremely proud, did not at that time evince that passionate expression which, as you must have just noticed, was very striking.  Nor did it betray any sorrow, concern, or anything ultimately that might have led us – even in the most remote way – to suspect the surprising thing which, in the atmosphere of a small town both quiet and routine, had the effect of a cannon blast shattering all the windows.

“Miss Hauteclaire Stassin had disappeared!

"She had disappeared:  How?  Where had she gone?  It was not known.  But what was certain was that she had disappeared.  First there had been a cry followed by silence, but the silence did not last long.  Tongues began to wag.  Tongues that had been held too long – like water in a lock which, once the sluice has been opened, rushes forth and spins the wheel of the mill with fury – began to froth and blather on about this unexpected, sudden, and incredible disappearance which nothing could explain, because Miss Hauteclaire disappeared without saying a word to anyone.  She had disappeared like one disappears when one really wants to disappear.   This was not a disappearance that still left behind something, a trace, which others might take to explain the disappearance.  She had disappeared in the most radical way.

"She did not, however, 'make a hole in the moon,' that is to say, empty the coffers and run off with embezzled money or escape from her creditors, since she left behind as many debts as anything else – in other words, none at all.  But one may reasonably aver that she did ‘make a hole in the wind.’  The wind blew through and did not bring her back.  The mill of tongues did not turn any less so as not to stop turning, and began cruelly to grind this reputation that had never given anyone the leverage to denigrate it.  It was reconsidered, examined with a fine-tooth comb, sifted through and carded.  How and with whom did this girl, so proud and so correct, depart?  Who took her away?  Because, of course, she must have been taken away.  For this there was no answer.  

"It was enough to make the town go mad with fury and, indeed, that is what happened to V.  And there were so many reasons to be angry!  First, the town lost what was not known.  Then it lost its hopes on account of a girl whom it thought it knew, and whom it actually did not know, since she had been deemed incapable of disappearing in this way.  Then, again, it lost a girl it thought it would see grow older and get married, just like the other girls of the village, interned in this chessboard box of a provincial village like horses in a ship’s steerage.  Finally, it lost, in losing Miss Stassin, who was no longer this same Stassin, a fencing hall celebrated all around which had been the distinction, the ornament and the honor of the town, its cockade on the ear, its flag on the bell tower.   

Saturday
Feb252012

Le bonheur dans le crime (part 2)

Part two of a story ("The happiness in crime") by this French writer.  You can read the original here.

And he took me along the large walkway of trees bordering, on this side, the Jardin des Plantes and the Boulevard de l’Hôpital.  Here we sat down on a bench with a green backrest and he began:

"My dear fellow, here is a story for which one must search far and wide, like a bullet lost in the flesh of a felled animal.  For oblivion much resembles the flesh of living things reshaped through events, impeding us, after a certain period of time, from seeing or suspecting anything at all, even the place.  It was in the first years following the Restoration.  A regiment of the guard went through the city of V.; and, having been forced to remain there for two days for who-knows-what military reason, the officers of this regiment decided to perform a salute in honor of the city.  And indeed, the city had everything it needed for these officers of the guard to lavish it with honor and celebration.  It was, as was said then, more royalist than the King.  Proportionally speaking (this was a town of barely five to six thousand souls), it was abounding with nobility. More than thirty young people from its best families were serving at that time, either in the Gardes-du-Corps, or in those of Monsieur, and in V. they knew practically all the officers of the regiment.

"But the main reason for this martial celebration was the reputation of the town as 'swashbuckling,' in fact, as the most 'swashbuckling' town in France.  The 1789 revolution had stripped nobles of the right to wear the sword.  In V. they proved that if they could no longer carry arms, they could still be used.  The martial celebration by the officers was brilliant.  Here one saw all the dashing swordsmen of the country, and even all the amateur enthusiasts, the younger generation who had not cultivated, as was once cultivated, an art as complicated and difficult as fencing.  And all showed such enthusiasm for the handling of the sword, the glory of our fathers, that a former Marshal of the Regiment, who had done three or four tours of duty and whose arm was covered with chevrons, thought that it would be a good place to open a fencing hall and spend the rest of his years.  The colonel with whom he communicated approved his plan, and he was issued his leave and left for that place. 

"The Marshal's family name was Stassin; but in the military he was nicknamed the 'Pointe-au-corps,' and there in V. he had an idea that was simply genius.  For a long time there had not been a properly maintained fencing hall in V.; it was even one of these things discussed wistfully between these nobles, obliged to train their sons themselves or hand them over to a friend recently returned from military service, who barely knew or who knew not what he taught.  The inhabitants of V. liked to put on airs of being difficult.  In reality they were enthusiastically devoted to their vocation.  For them it was not enough to kill their man; they wanted to kill him cleverly and artistically, in accordance with their principles.  For them it was necessary, above all, that a man, as they said, be a dashing and graceful fighter, and they professed a profound contempt for those clumsy, robust fellows, who could be very dangerous in the field, but were not in the strict and true sense of the word what they called fencers.  The Pointe-au-corps was a very handsome man in his youth and had retained his good looks.  On the fields of Holland, still very young, he had thoroughly bested all other marshals and won a prize of two foils and two masks mounted in silver.  As it were, he was one of those fencers who could not be produced by any school or academy if nature had not already exceptionally prepared them.  Naturally, he was the admiration of V.  And soon much more than that.

"Nothing equalizes like the sword.  Under the old monarchy kings ennobled those men who taught them how to put a sword to fine use.  If I remember correctly, didn't Louis XV give his master Danet, who would leave us a book on fencing, four fleurs-de-lis between two crossed swords for his heraldic crest?  These gentlemen of the province, who still smacked of the monarchy, were soon on equal footing with the old Marshal as if he had been one of them all along.

"Up to that point things had been good, and there was nothing to do other than congratulate Stassin, dit Pointe-au-corps, on his good fortune.  But unfortunately, this old Marshal only had a heart of red morocco leather on a padded plastron of white skin with which he covered his chest.  Yet when he so brilliantly gave his lessons, he found that he had another heart beneath it.  A heart, one should say, which would soon get out of hand in the town of V. where he had come seeking merely a safe haven for life.  It seems that the heart of a soldier is always made with powder.  For when time has dried out the powder, the heart catches fire even more quickly.  In V. women are on the whole so pretty that sparks were teeming amidst the dried powder of my old Marshal; and his story would also turn out just like the story of many an old soldier. 

"After having traversed all the countries of Europe and stolen the hearts of all the girls that the Devil had conspired to place in his way, this erstwhile soldier of the first Empire consummated his last love affair by marrying, now past fifty years of age – with all the formalities and the sacraments of the thing, in both the municipality and the Church – a young laborer from V.  Whom, of course, I knew, as I know the women laborers of that country; I've delivered enough of them to know them!  He was given a child, well and truly at the end of nine months to the day.  And this child, who was a daughter, is nothing less, my dear sir, than the woman with the aura of a goddess who just passed by and grazed us insolently with the wind from her dress, taking no more notice of us than if we had not been there at all!"

"The Countess of Savigny!" I cried.

"Yes, the Countess of Savigny in the flesh!  O, do not look closely at origins, any more for women than for nations.  Never scrutinize anyone's cradle.  I remember seeing in Stockholm the crib of Charles XII, which resembled a horse feeder broadly colored in red, not even sturdy on its four pickets.  It is from there that he emerged, that tempest of a man!  Fundamentally, all cribs and cradles are cesspits whose laundry one is forced to change several times a day.  And this is never poetic, for those who believe in poetry; and even less so with regard to the child."

To support his axiom, the doctor at this point in his narrative struck his thigh with one of the buckskin gloves he was holding with his middle finger.  The buckskin's thick snap demonstrated to those who understood music that the fellow was still rudely muscular.

He waited.  I did not have anything to contradict his philosophy.  Seeing that I had nothing to say, he continued:

"Besides, like all old soldiers who love even other people's children, the Pointe-au-corps went predictably crazy about his own.  Again, there is nothing surprising about this.  When a man already getting on in years has a child, he loves it more than he would have had he been young.  Why?  Because vanity, which doubles everything, also doubles paternal feelings.  All the old soldiers whom I have seen having a child late in life simply adored their offspring.  They were almost comically proud of them as if the whole thing had been a most remarkable feat.  The persuasion of youth that nature, which had mocked them, ran through to their heart!  I do not know a more exhilarating happiness or a more curious pride: this is when, instead of a single child, an old man in one fell swoop in fact makes two!  The Pointe-au-corps did not possess the paternal pride of two twins; but it would be true to say that there was enough to carve two children out of his own. 

"You have just seen his daughter, so you know whether she fulfilled her promise!  She was a wonderful child in strength and beauty.  The first matter of concern for the old Marshal was to find a godfather among all the nobles who perpetually haunted his fencing hall.  From them he chose the Count of Avice, the dean of all the fencing-obsessed layabouts, who during his exile was himself Marshal in London at several guineas the lesson.  The Count of Avice of Sortôville-en-Beaumont, already knight of Saint-Louis and captain of the dragoons before the revolution – he was at least, then, a septuagenarian – was still scoring 'touches' on young fencers, giving them what is called, in the lingo of the fencing hall, 'lovely hoods.'  He was a wry old fox who in action fiercely ridiculed his opponents.  For example, he loved to pass the square tip of his foil through the flame of a candle; and when he had thus hardened the blade he insolently dubbed this hard foil – which no longer folded over and instead shattered your sternum or ribs when he scored a touch – the 'rogue-catcher.'  He held the Pointe-au-corps in high regard, and was on informal terms with him.  'The daughter of a man like you,' he told him, 'cannot be named after anything other than the épée of a valiant man.  Call her then Haute-Claire!'  And this was the name that he gave her.

"The parish priest of V. grimaced a bit at this unusual name, which he had never heard of in all his experience with baptismal records.  But due to the fact that, on the one hand, the godfather was the Count of Avice and that there will always be, despite the liberals and their chirps and squeals, an indestructible closeness between the nobility and the clergy, and that, on the other hand, one noticed on the Roman calendar a saint by the name of Claire, the name of the sword of Olivier was passed on to the child without the town of V. getting too excited by the information.  Such a name seemed to announce a destiny.  The old Marshal, who loved his profession almost as much as his daughter, resolved to teach her and leave her his talent as a dowry.  A sad dowry!  A meager pittance, with the modern morals that this poor devil of a fencing master did not foresee!  Therefore as soon as the child was able to stand, he began plying her with fencing exercises.  And because this girl was a solid kid with fasteners and joints of stainless steel, he developed her in so strange a manner, that at ten years old, she seemed already to be fifteen, and she admirably did her part with her father and the strong fencers in the town of V. 

"In fact, the only conversation topic in town was young Hauteclaire Stassin, who would later become Miss Hauteclaire Stassin.  What arose, as you might well imagine, particularly on the part of the young damsels of the town, in whose society she – the daughter of Stassin, dit the Pointe-au-corps – could not possibly venture although she was on good terms with their fathers, an incredible, or rather a very believable curiosity, commingled with spite and envy.  Their fathers and brothers spoke with astonishment and admiration for Hauteclaire in their very presence, and they would almost have wanted to behold from up close this female Saint-Georges, whose beauty, they said, equaled her talent for fencing.  But they saw her only from a distance. 

"It was at that time that I arrived in V., and I was often witness to this ardent curiosity.  The Pointe-au-corps who, during the Empire, had served in the Hussars, and who with his fencing hall was earning a great deal of money, was allowed to buy a horse to give riding lessons to his daughter.  And since that year he was breaking in young horses for some of his hall's regular patrons, he was often out on horseback with Hauteclaire on roads radiating from the city and its surroundings.  I met them many a time returning from my house calls.  And it was during these meetings that I could especially gauge the interest this fine young girl, so hastily developed, had evoked in the other girls of the region.  I was always traveling during that time, and frequently encountered the coaches and carriages of their parents headed – with their daughters in tow – on visits to all the castles in the vicinity.  Well, you will never be able to imagine with what avidity, and even with what imprudence, I would see them rushing to the door as soon as Miss Hauteclaire Stassin appeared, trotting or galloping in the vantage of a road, shod in buskins with her father. 

"Yet it was almost unnecessary.  Sitting in on my house calls to their mothers the next morning, it was almost always disappointment and regret that they expressed to me.  They were never able to discern more than the shape of that girl born to be a horsewoman, who carried that shape – you just saw her after all – as you might imagine.  But her face was always more or less hidden behind a coarse, overly thick blue veil.  Miss Hauteclaire Stassin was little known to anyone apart from the men of the town of V.

Thursday
Feb232012

Le bonheur dans le crime (part 1)

Part one of a story ("The happiness in crime") by this French writer.  You can read the original here.

At those delicious times when there is a true tale to tell, one may well believe that it was the Devil who dictated it.

One morning last autumn I was out strolling in the Jardin des Plantes in the company of Dr. Torty, certainly one of my oldest acquaintances.  When I was still but a child Dr. Torty practiced medicine in the city of V.; but after about three decades of this enjoyable occupation, with all his patients now dead – his farmers as he liked to call them, those who had brought him more than most farmers bring their masters, on the best lands in Normandy – he had not taken on any others.  Already getting on in age, and swelling with independence like an animal who had always stepped on his bridle and eventually snapped it, he had come to immerse himself in Paris, I believe, there in the vicinity of the Jardin des Plantes, rue Cuvier.  Now only for his own personal enjoyment did he practice medicine, in which, as it were, he still took great pleasure because he was a doctor in his blood and bones, and, moreover, an excellent physician and a great observer.  Not to mention his many other straightforward physiological and pathological cases.

Perhaps you've had, on several occasions, the opportunity to meet Dr. Torty?  He was one of those bold and vigorous spirits who did not wear fingerless mittens for the very good and proverbial reason that a "gloved cat does not get the mouse."  He had always borrowed an immense amount, and always sought to take more, from that wily race, so powerful and so fine.  He was the type of man I liked a lot, and I firmly believe (after all, I know myself!) that I liked him for precisely those qualities with which he most displeased others.  In fact, he was displeasing enough when he behaved himself, this brusque, original figure, Dr. Torty.  But once those who most disliked him fell ill, they would salute him with Salaams, as the savages saluted Robinson Crusoe's rifle which could kill them – not for the same reason as the savages, but for, as it were, the opposite reason: he could save them!  Without this overriding consideration, the doctor would have never gained twenty thousand pounds of annuity in a small, devout, aristocratic and prudish town, which would otherwise have stranded him at his carriage door before its hospices, had it listened even briefly to his opinions and unfriendly sentiments.

This, however, he realized; and as he always maintained a high level of composure, it amused him.  "They had to choose," he said mockingly, "between me and the Extreme Unction.  And devout as they all were, they preferred me even to the chrisms."  As you can see, the doctor was not annoyed: he had a slightly sacrilegious sense of humor.  An unabashed disciple of Cabanis in medical philosophy, he was, like his old comrade Chaussier, of that terrible school of physicians devoted to absolute materialism.  And like Dubois – the first of the Dubois – to a cynicism which degrades all things, is immediately overfamiliar with duchesses, and addresses the Empress's ladies of honor as "my little mothers," neither more nor less than what he would have said to fishmongers' wives.  To provide you with an idea of Dr. Torty's cynicism, it was he who said to me one evening in the circle of the Ganaches, lustfully taking in with a dominating glance the dazzling quadrilateral of a table and its one hundred and twenty guests: "It is I who makes all of them!"  Moses could not have been more proud, exhibiting the baton with which he changed rocks into fountains.   "What do you want, Madam?" – he did not have any phrenological bump for respect.  He even claimed that precisely where it could be found on the skull of other men, there was merely a hole in his own. 

Old, already past seventy, but square, robust and as gnarled as his name; of a sardonic face and, under his very smooth, very glossy light brown wig and very short hair, of a penetrating eye, unsullied by glasses; almost always dressed in grey or that shade of brown which for a long time was known as "Moscow smoke," he did not resemble the physicians of Paris in style or dress: proper, white-tied like the shrouds of their death!  He was a different man.  With his buckskin gloves, his thick-soled boots with high heels which resounded with his unsteady step, there was something alert and cavalier about him.  Yes, cavalier's the word, because he had remained (for many more years than thirty!) with his military riding pants buttoned on the thigh, and on horseback as if he were on the warpath to break some centaurs in two.  And one divined all this from the way he still arched his back and large chest, screwed on to kidneys that had not moved and balanced on strong legs free of rheumatism that arched like those of a former postman.  Dr. Torty was one of those leatherstocking equestrians, who had lived in the mires of the Cotentin as Cooper's leatherstocking had inhabited the forests of America.  He was a naturalist who, like the hero in Cooper, scoffed at the laws of society, but like Fenimore Cooper's man had not replaced them with the idea of God.  He had become one of these ruthless observers that could not but be a misanthrope.  This is fatal, and so it was.  He only had the time, while he was making his horse's bloody belly drink the mud of crooked, wrong paths to plough through the other mires of life.  This was not a misanthrope like Alcestis.  He did not become indignant virtuously; he did not become angry – no!   He despised man as quietly as he took his pinch of tobacco, and enjoyed doing both in equal measure.

Such a person was he exactly, this doctor Torty, with whom I was strolling.

That day happened to fall in one of those gay and clear autumn periods that deterred the swallows from leaving.  At noon Notre-Dame sounded, and the solemn ringing of its bell appeared to pour out above the green, moiré river and its piers and bridges; and just above our heads the jostled air was pure, trembling long and brightly.  The garden's red foliage was, by degrees, wiped clean from the blue fog that drowned them on these vaporous October mornings, and a lovely, late autumn sun pleasantly warmed our backs with a wad of gold.  The doctor and I had stopped to look at the famous black panther, who would die the following winter like a young girl from an ailment in its chest.  Scattered here and there were the usual visitors to the Jardin des Plantes, that special demographic segment of soldiers and children's nannies who loved gawking before the cages' grid and amusing themselves by tossing walnut shells and chestnut peelings to drowsy animals and those sleeping behind their bars.  We had arrived before a panther lurking in his cage who was, if you recall, of that species unique to the island of Java, the country in which nature was at its most intense.  Indeed, the entire land seemed itself to be some great tigress, untameable by man, whom it fascinates and bites in all the manifestations upon its terrible and splendid soil.  In Java flowers are imbued with more brightness and fragrance, fruits with more taste, animals with greater beauty and power than in any other country on earth.  And nothing can convey an idea of this violence of life to those who have not experienced firsthand the harrowing and deadly sensations of a realm at once enchanting and poisonous, at once Armida and Locusta!  Casually spreading her elegant legs before her, her head upright, her emerald eyes unmoving, the panther was a magnificent specimen of the redoubtable creations of her country.  Not a patch of brown besmirched her fur of black velvet – a black so deep and so dull that the light, in sliding off it, did not itself shine but was instead absorbed like water is drunk up by a sponge ...  When, from this ideal form of supple beauty, of terrible force at rest, of impassive and royal disdain, our gaze returned to the human creatures who were looking at it timidly, who were contemplating it with round eyes and gaping mouth, it was not humanity who had it easier, it was the beast.  And she was so superior that it was almost humiliating!  I was making a comment to that effect in sotto voce to the doctor when two people suddenly split from the group gathered before the panther and planted themselves right before her.  "Yes," replied the doctor, "but now watch!  The balance between the species will be reestablished!"

These two were a man and a woman, both tall, and from the first look I cast upon them I had the impression of belonging to the elite ranks of the Parisian world.  Neither one nor the other was young, but nevertheless they were perfectly beautiful.  The man had to be going on forty-seven if not more, and women on at least forty.  Thus they had, as the sailors back from Tierra del Fuego might say, passed the line, the fatal line, more wonderful than the equator, which once passed one may never pass again on the seas of life!  But they seemed to be hardly concerned about this circumstance.  Nowhere, on their brow or anywhere else, were there signs of melancholy. 

Slender and with a patrician air in his tightly buttoned black frock coat like that a cavalry officer, as if he were wearing one of the costumes that Titian bestowed upon his portraits, the man looked, by his hooked shape, both effeminate and haughty, his moustache like the whiskers of a cat that had begun to grey at the tip, a fop from the time of Henry III.  And to make the similarity even more complete, he had short hair, which in no way prevented a glimpse of the two dark blue sapphires that shone in his ears.  They reminded me of the two emeralds that Sbogar wore in the same place.  This ridiculous (as people would have said) detail notwithstanding, which showed enough disdain for the tastes and ideas of the day, everything was simple and dandy as Brummell would have wished – that is to say, unremarkable – in the dress of this man who only drew attention on his own merits.  And he would have seized our attention completely had he not been on the women's arm, which, at this time, he was. 

Indeed, the woman gained more attention than the man who accompanied her, and she captivated us longer.  She was as tall as he was, her head almost reached his.  And as she was also dressed all in black, she recalled, in the extent of her shape, in her strength, and in her mysterious pride, the large black Isis of the Egyptian Museum.  A curious thing: when one approached this beautiful couple it was the woman who had the muscles, and the man who had the nerves!  I could only discern her profile; but the profile is either the pitfall of beauty or its most brilliant certificate.  Never, I think, had I seen beauty purer or haughtier than hers.  As for her eyes, I could not judge, fixed as they were on the panther, which, no doubt, received from them a magnetic and unpleasant impression.  Already unmoving, the panther seemed to be sinking more and more into this rigid immobility as the woman, having come to behold the beast, looked at it.  And, like those cats caught in blinding light, without its head budging an inch, with only the fine end of its whiskers trembling, the panther, after having blinked several times and being unable to take it any more, slowly withdrew, beneath the casings of its eyelids, the two green stars in its gaze, as if it were shutting itself away.

"Ho, ho, ho, panther against panther!" said the doctor in my ear.  "But the satin panther is stronger than the velvet."

The satin panther was the woman, who had on a dress of this shimmering fabric, a dress with a long train.  And the doctor's vision had not betrayed him!  Black, supple, as powerful in articulation as she was royal in attitude, of equivalent beauty in her own species and of a still darker charm, the woman, the stranger, was a human panther, erect before the panther animal that she dwarfed – which was what the beast sensed, no doubt, when it had closed its eyes.  But the woman – if she were indeed one – was not satisfied with this triumph.  She lacked generosity.  She wanted her rival to open its eyes and look upon its humiliator.  And so, undoing without a word the twelve buttons of the purple glove that cast her beautiful forearm, she took off this glove and, audaciously passing her hand between the bars of the cage, whipped the short snout of the panther, who made but one movement – but what a movement!  A snatch of teeth as fast as lightning!  A scream came from the group where we were standing: we all thought the wrist had been bitten off.  But it was merely the glove the panther had devoured it.  Outraged, the magnificent beast had reopened its horribly dilated eyes and its nostrils pulsated even more.

"Are you mad!" said the man, who had seized this beautiful wrist, which had just escaped the sharpest of bites.

You know sometimes how we say "are you mad"?  He said it precisely that way; and then he kissed the wrist angrily.

As he was on our side, she turned three quarters of the way to behold him kissing her naked wrist, and I caught a glimpse of her eyes...  Those eyes that fascinated tigers were at present fascinated by a man; her eyes, two large black diamonds, designed for all the dignities of life that expressed more in looking at him than all adorations.  They expressed love!

Those eyes were there and they contained a poem.  The man had not let go the arm, which must have tasted the panther's feverish breath, and, holding it folded on his heart, he led the woman through the large walkway of the garden.  They crossed it quietly, all the while indifferent to the murmurs and the heckling from the masses who were still emotional over the danger that the reckless woman had just run.  As they passed by the doctor and me, their faces were turned towards one another, huddled flank against flank as if they wanted to enter each other, he in her and she in him, and from the two of them create a single body by looking at nothing but themselves.  Observing them walking by in this manner one would have said they were higher, superior creatures who did not even perceive in their toes the land on which they walked, and who crossed the world in their cloud as did, in Homer, the Immortals.

Such things are rare in Paris, and for this reason we remained there to watch them leave, this master couple: the woman dragging the black train of her dress through the garden's dust, like a peacock, dismissive even of its plumage.

As they moved away in this manner, beneath the rays of the noonday sun, in the majesty of their intertwining, these two beings were superb.  And at length they regained the garden gate's entrance and clambered into a coach, glittering brass and coupling, that had been waiting for them.

"They have forgotten the universe!" I said to the doctor, who understood my way of thinking.

"Ah, they care quite a lot about the universe!"  he replied in his biting voice.  "They see nothing in creation, and, what is even more damning, they even walk by their own physician without seeing him."

"What?  You, doctor!"  I shouted.  "But then, my dear doctor, you are going to tell me who they are."

The doctor made what is called a pause with the desire of producing an effect, because he was cunning in everything, the old devil!

"Well," he said simply, "they are Philemon and Baucis.  There you are!"

"Damn it all!" said I.  "Philemon and Baucis, with a proud appearance and hardly resembling their ancient namesakes.  But doctor, these are not their names.  What are they called?"

"What!" replied the doctor.  "In your circles, in which I scarcely venture, you've never heard of the Count and Countess Serlon of Savigny as a fabulous model of conjugal love?"

"Upon my word, no," I said.  "One speaks rarely of conjugal love in the company I keep, doctor."

"Hmm, hmm, quite possibly," said the doctor, answering his own thoughts more than mine.

"In such a world, which also happen to be theirs, many things occur that are more or less correct.  Yet in addition to their having a reason not to keep such company, they live almost the whole year through in the old Castle of Savigny in Cotentin.  Such rumors once circulated about them, all the way to the district of Saint-Germain – where a certain solidarity among the nobility persists – that one would prefer to keep quiet than to talk about them."

"And what were these rumors, then?  Ah, now you've interested me, doctor!  You must know something about them.  The Castle of Savigny is not far from the city of V., where you were once a physician."

"Now, about these rumors," said the doctor, pensively taking a pinch of tobacco.  "Well then, one thought them to be false!  All this is in the past ... And yet, although a marriage of inclination and the joys it brings remain the provincial ideal among all romantic and virtuous family mothers, they were not able – at least those whom I knew – to talk their daughters out of this one!"

"Nevertheless, doctor, you say that Philemon and Baucis ..."

"Baucis, Baucis, harrumph, my dear sir," interrupted Dr. Torty, violently passing his finger over the entire hooked length of his parrot nose (one of his gestures).  "Do you not find that this girl has less of a Baucis air to her than an air of Lady Macbeth?"

"Doctor, my dear and lovely doctor," I said again, my voice filled with tender caress, "are you going to tell me what you know of the Count and Countess of Savigny?"

"The physician is the confessor of modern times," said the doctor with a solemn tone of quiet irony.  "He has replaced the priest, my dear sir, and is bound to the selfsame confessional secrecy."

He looked at me maliciously because he knew my respect and love for the objects of Catholicism, of which he was the enemy.  He blinked his eyes; he thought that he had stopped me.

"And he will remain bound to it, just like the priest!" he added dramatically with his most cynical laughter.  "Come over here, we are going to have a little chat."

Thursday
Feb162012

Borges, "Edgar Allan Poe"

A work by this Argentine man of letters about this American writer.  You can read the original here.

These marble splendors, black anatomy,
Which injure worms upon their sepulchres,
The glacial symbols of death's victory,
He would assemble, by fear undeterred.

It was the other shadow, love's, he feared: 
That common fortune and its common woes. 
Resplendent metal did not blind him sheer,
Nor did sepulchral marble; 'twas the rose. 

He, from the mirror's other side, alone 
Succumbed then to his complex destiny
As the inventor of all nightmares known.

And so perhaps, from well beyond death's shroud,     
Shall he keep building, still alone and proud,
These splendid, wicked wonders endlessly.

Friday
Feb102012

Die Moskauer Schuhputzer

A short essay ("The Moscow shoeshiners") by this German author, on what would have been this composer's eighty-fifth birthday in 1965.  You can read the original in this collection.

Moscow shoeshiners, both female and male, take their time and have the time to take.  Their booths, as tall as a man, lockable, with the surface area of a narrow bed, are small temples of dignity which, if one were to call it human dignity, would be the very prerequisite of dignity.  In these holy halls one has already gone further.  Those who engage there in a seemingly demeaning activity all resemble one another, as if they were mothers and sons, siblings.  Their eyes, the narrow faces with long noses, these profiles I all know from fresco and vase reproductions.  I thought Syrian, perhaps Assyrian – gleaned, I suppose, from school books with short narratives about the history of Asia Minor; later I heard that one did not know for sure.  Probably from what is now Lebanon, Maronites, forced migrants from one of the largest forced migrations after the First World War.  Shoeshining seems to be their privilege, their fief, an unwritten law, just as the sale of roasted chestnuts in Rome seems to have been the privilege of the Apulians.

In these booths the passer-by can do more than simply have his shoes shined.  A stain remover is available to clean dirty clothes; a sewing kit to re-attach ripped-off buttons is there for the borrowing; scissors exist in order to cut off fringes and tamper with briefcases and shopping bags.  Shoeshining, the main activity, proceeds without haste, without the implication of subjection or lowliness, without any attempts on the part of the shiner to ingratiate himself.  Rushing customers who evince impatience and wish that the ritual be abridged are asked by a dark-eyed look and a gentle shake of the head to indulge in the ritual's full, uncut length.  Woe is woe, dignity dignity, shoes are shoes, and here one can learn what the word "application" means, which might come closest to correctly translating "sacrament."  (Marriage would then be the application of love.)

Carefully, in an appropriate manner, are bootlaces tucked in and socks protected by paper cuffs.  Left shoe on the footrest: with brushes of varied toughness dirt and dust are removed, fluid shoe polish is applied from a bottle.  Right shoe on the footrest: the same application.  Left shoe: brief polishing with a special rag for the liquid shoe polish, the same fate then befalls the right foot.  Left shoe on the footrest: solid shoe polish applied from a can, the same occurs with the right foot.  Left and right foot: blacked shiny with a soft brush.   A shake of the head, a gentle request from a pair of dark eyes: one more time must both shoes be placed, one behind the other, upon the footrest.  Then, from a special bottle, a special blacking is applied which again – left foot, right foot – is rubbed on until it shines.

The ritual application is over.  The time that one believes one has lost comes back doubled from that pair of dark eyes.  Gained, not lost.

More I do not know about Moscow shoeshiners.  They are forced migrants who have found a homeland here.  They return lost time to us with one hundred percent interest.  Their profiles seem familiar to me, from vase and fresco reproductions about which I once read in school books.  I would like to know more about Moscow shoeshiners – everything, in fact – and will try to do so.  I envy them.

Sunday
Feb052012

The Red Moon of Meru

It was not long ago – not long ago at all, in fact – that colonies, empires and slavery were accepted by the majority of the Western world as an integral part of history.  That is to say, the white man's burden was to help those so constricted by their barbaric ways as to have no alternative but subjugation to more enlightened minds (I hope it is clear what type of nonsense such a viewpoint entails; if it does not, it might be better for the still-confused to migrate permanently to other pages).  As we have moved into the second century of forgiveness and tolerance towards cultural differences, there has persisted the not unrelated question of religious freedom.  To wit, each can worship his own god, in his own temple, as long as I am allowed to do the same, and as long as no one is judged for doing or not doing so.  Yet the notion of religious freedom to a true believer must come with a smirk: if he truly believes in his faith then he knows all others are untrue, and his accession to religious freedom quickly becomes his consent for widespread delusion.  The more ecumenical among us have sought to remedy this sensational paradox by insisting that there are far more than ninety-nine, or even ninety-nine thousand names of God.  In other words, all those of faith are worshiping the same being because if God does truly exist then He is everything: He is the universe or billions of universes or He is nothing at all.  What He is most certainly not is Australia or the South Pole, a distant, generally unknowable or unreachable part of our world that claims to be its master.  The problem is that cultural relativism has led, among many pseudo-intellectual imbeciles, to attempts to destroy cultures with the argument that everything is a social construct (a more nebulous term could not be devised), from knowledge to god to gender, and so forth and so on until we all collapse in boredom.  Nothing has any meaning, nothing really makes any sense, so let's divide up the money, support all the minorities and call the whole world even.  What postmodernism and its parallel puppet shows of charlatans do not account for is true, everlasting genius that cannot be relativized, and there is nothing of greater genius than what created us all.  Should we then shudder and squawk at religious relativism?  A question not so much answered as caressed in this tale.

You will know the detective by his cassock, so we'll get to him in a moment.  Our characters, gathered for a charity event that might simply be yet another gambit at tax evasion, are fivefold: Lady Mounteagle, the hostess; Lord Mounteagle, the host in name only and a devoted follower of Eastern beliefs – whatever that means might depend on whatever Lord Mounteagle thinks you might like to hear; two visiting gentleman, the rather ambitious young politician James Hardcastle, and Lady Mounteagle's rather surly, contrarian cousin, Tommy Hunter, a doubting Thomas when it comes to the otherworldy; and last and somehow least, Phroso the Phrenologist, "a lean, shabby, sunburnt person, with an almost improbably fierce black moustache and whiskers."  If you know something about British literature, you will know that Phroso is very likely not what he appears to be because his physical description exactly matches a stereotype for someone completely different.  Apart from this quintet, we have two men of religion.  One is a confirmed monk of intellectual bent who is all too often ignored or underestimated because he is deemed a slave to his faith and because, doubtless, a small, lumpy fellow who usually comments in a quiet mumble is not going to inspire fear in most casual observers.  The second is "a great religious leader in his own country, a Prophet and a Seer," and his name is the Master of the Mountain. 

We may ask what mountain, although Lord Mounteagle and those of like conviction would deem such a simple question too simple for their man, but we do need to explain our title.  Meru's blood moon is a gem, one of those gigantic rubies we may imagine once adorned a maharaja's headgear or a silk pillow in a cool, shadowy palace chamber.  The jewel is on display chez Mounteagle because lord and lady are, well, "mad,"  a "popular way of saying that she and her husband were interested in the creeds and culture of the East," and in making sure that everyone admires them for these selfsame interests.  It is also on display for the implied reason that it would be unsafe anywhere else, when precisely the opposite would be true: once an item is placed in a museum, even in a pompous fraud's private collection, it becomes a thousand times more valuable in the eyes of insatiable capitalists (satiable capitalists, a far less destructive species, would never have anything to do with jewels or jewel thieves).  We know from the story's onset that the moon will be stolen, it is only a matter of culprit and motive.  And when the ruby finally goes missing and the Master of the Mountain himself is wrestled into captivity, he is quick to degrade his captors:

'You are learning a little,' he said, with insolent benevolence, 'of the laws of time and space; about which your latest science is a thousand years behind our oldest religion.  You do not even know what is really meant by hiding a thing.  Nay, my poor little friends, you do not even know what is meant by seeing a thing; or perhaps you would see this as plainly as I do .... If you were to be utterly, unfathomably, silent, do you think you might hear a cry from the other end of the world?  The cry of a worshipper alone in those mountains, where the original image sits, itself like a mountain.  Some say that even Jews and Moslems might worship that image; because it was never made by man.  Hark!  Do you hear the cry with which he lifts his head and sees in that socket of stone, that has been hollow for ages, the one red and angry moon that is the eye of the mountain?'

Since this is a Chesterton tale, we know what befalls those with preternatural pretensions.  We are also relieved to see our detective, small and humble as he always seems to be in physical appearance, already addressed by Lady Mounteban – I mean, Mounteagle – on page two of our story.  Unfortunately, Father Brown is asked the one question that no man of faith can answer with a straight face or without some inward sorrow.   And if, by the end, one person will regret having committed the crime and another will regret not having done so, we may decide to forgive them both.  After all it's the ecumenical thing to do.

Friday
Feb032012

Rilke, "Wir wollen, wenn es wieder Mondnacht wird"

A poem ("As moonlit night again shall reign") by this Austrian poet.  You can read the original here.

As moonlit night again shall reign, 
So sadness leaves; the city waits. 
And we embrace the stifling grates
That keep us from the garden's mane.

Who knows it now that saw it then,
Replete with child, hat, summer wear; 
Alone in bud, who knew it bare,
Those open ponds in sleepless pen. 

And standing mute in shadow'd sleeves,
Shapes gently seem to straighten, rise;
And brighter and more stone-like eyes
Guard alleys' entrances like eaves. 

These paths exist like tangled flares,
Nearby and peaceful, with one aim. 
To meadows does the moon move fast;
The wind these petals coats like tears,   
And fountains fall to owners past, 
Cool traces of their game will last,
Amidst the moonlit nighttime air.