Ora dal bel Permesso,
O città gloriosa,
ch’hai di cristal le mura, in cui vagheggi
la tua beltà, che l’universo ammira,
delle grazie, e d’amor famoso regno,
a ricalcare i tuoi teatri io vegno.
Now I am come from the fair Permessus
to tread the boards of your theatres,
o glorious city,
you with your crystal walls, in which your beauty is
mirrored, a beauty the universe admires,
o famous realm of the graces and of love.
(Francesco Cavalli, L’Ormindo. Libretto by Giovanni Faustini)
Five o’clock and here I am… hoping
To be in the middle of my life,
Or at least somewhere near.
(So far no sign of hippogriffs around)
Half dead, or maybe half alive
Waiting for a muse to come…,
Sitting within these walls, musing
With my cup of tea and ragged skin
Wishing I smoked still.
(I was so much smarter with a cloud of smoke around me. It gave me an intellectual aura… I hope it did!)
Sounds like lovesong.
But do I know what it means?
Nah! I don’t.
To be honest I don’t even believe in Muses
Evil, Gods, and Beauty… all gone—
Just look around, Old Sport:
Only fools are left to rule and copulate the world.
Fools rushed in and bore it away.1 All of it.
Every cloak rolled in blood is burnt.2 Consumed by fire.
I guess I’m just a child of my time one —and quite an ordinary one, to be honest. A confused one at most! I’m allergic to tragedy and addicted to ephemeral pastimes and painkillers… That would be a great name, now that I think about it: “Lord Ephemeral”
Fit for a second-rate villain.
Listen ye heroes
I am Lord Ephemeral.
I’m immune to Madeleine’s power.
Well…, that is pretty pathetic, isn’t it?
Lapsang sounds like lovesong…
I wonder what that means. Might be some kind of omen…
Here I am, a boastful modernist wannabe, caught thinking about omens.
O città gloriosa!
You glorious city!
You magnificent Suleiman! Look at the work of your hands!
Opera manuum tuarum aspice!
Look at it!
Cursed be thy omenddrenched walls.
It’s so hard to be fully modern! But that’s we ought to be, isn’t it? The new white man’s burden. That’s what Arthur said, right? Or who was it? “We must be absolutely modern…” something like that he said. He or someone… maybe Pound or that Wyndham chap… But in French of course! Everything sounds so much smarter in French. I guess.
I guess I do not know what to think or believe in. I just don’t know, and seem unable to ask myself lately. I must be getting old. Or maybe I’m just tired of not having answers…
O città gloriosa,
Look at me! Sitting below your walls.3
What is left for us? What next?
A cross that means?
A song that means…?
Tell me Lethe!
Is there a country of yours?
Is there really a land beyond Lament.4
- Cfr. Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism:
“For fools rush in where angels fear to tread” (Part III, 625).Mathew 11:12 in the Douay-Rheims Bible
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.”The verse is also used by Flannery O’Connor in her novel The Violent Bear it Away.↩
- Isaiah 9:5. ↩︎
- Cfr. T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland:
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the lowest of the dead.) (243-246) ↩
- For the “Land of Lament” cfr. Rainer Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies:
“We were a great clan, once, we Laments. Our fathers
worked the mines in the mountain range. Sometimes
you’ll find a polished lump of ancient sorrow among men,
or petrified rage from the slag of some old volcano.
Yes, that came from here. We used to be rich (“Tenth Elegy”, 57-61) ↩