Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mysterium Tremendum

Perhaps, creating the Page 
and earlier, self-publishing all the fiction about the undead, I’ve lost face in eyes of serious writers, and personally I don’t read fantasy fictionbut… a grain of mystique in a narration always seemed nice for me. The essay is a part of my novel La Arme Blanche. 
Anthony finds his old essay and shows it to our dear boy Jocelyn.

Mysterium Tremendum

Cultural memorials in the form of ancient written or verbal creative works are parables and allegories, for the most part, be it the story of King Arthur and his Round Table or scriptural parables. Homer’s story of Ulysses and his travels and Myths of Heracles’ Labours show us an allegorical path of every hero towards his ascent. In the erotic and romantic stories of Adepts of Love and the Old Testament, in the myths of Osiris and Isis, in writings of Dante and Omar Khayyam, we can find ciphered descriptions of Creation of the world. The ancients knew what they wanted to say by means of the language of symbols; and Spirit, which “breathes where it wants”, is mighty every time when it revives the symbols and rites, giving them back their lost sense and entire initial power.
To all of us, who speak different languages, the legends were given in order that we could teach as well as learn to find and go on the path that leads towards our true vocation. Not a mere flight of fancy, symbolism of the ancients acts a double part: keeping truths from the uninitiated and at the same time discovering the truths for those who understood the language of symbols. Those who cannot tell difference between lies and truth will see only a fairy-tale. And a wise man can draw the curtain open and perceive the point.
We shall draw the curtain open now, in order to research some aspects of symbolism and the origin of so-called folklore.
The cosmogonic and mysterium-related myths, which survived in the form of tales, parables and legends, often relate to creative works by a folk, but contents of the folklore evidently indicate the myths’ descending from spiritual teachings which include universal symbols. We shouldn’t regard nature of folklore as a source of spiritual traditions: like an individual mentality, the collective mentality is reduced to memory, in other words, it can conserve and save, which folklore’s function is in, but it is not able to produce anything, especially on the transcendental level. The folk saves the lore or information, without its own knowledge, functioning as a subliminal collective memory, and the folk’s natural unawareness of a true sense of the lore, which the folk passes verbally or in writing, from generation to another, and which is clad in the bright dress of symbols, is a good guarantee of saving the spiritual legacy intact, in its true value, till the times when someone is able to understand it.
It’s known that many spiritual orders, like anybody else, trying to survive in their difficult times, often used this way of saving their system of symbols. Ultimately, it could be the only way of the last bearers to save their teaching, at least partly. For example, it’s reckoned that in this way domino, cards and Tarot have survived till our time, being entrusted by the ancient Egyptians initiated to human “vices” of passions and fear of the future.  Knowing laws and capabilities of the emotional and vital powers, adepts could wittingly choose fearsome symbols for better guarantee of saving a spiritual system. Also, it must be said that in their small circle, the initiated never stood upon ceremony with mental notions, and in this connection, there may be one more version of the origin of some symbols, which are so inadequate to the Puritan ideas of Good and Evil. When a spiritual order was disintegrated for some reason, all contents of its spiritual “cuisine” well might be thrown out to history. For example, calling a body “coffin”, the initiated named their scientific and charitable activity among laymen “adorning coffins and tombs.” About mother-nature, hardly forecasted and unruly therefore sacred and fearsome to the most of humans, the initiated could simply say as about a “whore, eating carrion and blood”, meaning the chaotic processes adopting experience and spending human vitality. Therefore we’ll take as guidance the words: “There is nothing secret that cannot be evident; there is nothing hidden that cannot be discovered,” and we’ll discover mysteries and restore sense of symbols, treading in footsteps of enlightened people of all centuries. We’ll try to penetrate in symbolism of one ancient spiritual system, which was robbed of a proper attention of philosophers and esoterics, supposedly because of the excessive exploitation of its symbols and fantasies by fine art makers and their ignorant fans.  The point in question is vampires.
Regardless of the true origin of the words (which is not ultimately known), I venture to suggest that “vampire” comes from “empire”, all the more that the further researching a vampire’s habits well corresponds to the sense of the word-symbol.  Who could the initiated call “imperious”, “grandiose”, “great”? Obviously, these and other titles indicate the one who has achieved a grandiose, that is a great, whole and illumed consciousness. To those who, using a traditional spiritual teaching, woke, carried a Great Work and reached their goal, the point, where the teaching of mystery itself has become the means and method of achievement, because mysteries always were and still are an institution, established for transforming a mere ignorance to the precious enlightenment. Therefore a vampire, in other words, a man with illumed mind and whole consciousness is almost immortal -- which is perfectly natural -- and almost omnipotent, since he has an enormous strength and supernatural powers. He commands spirits of nature and animal instincts as powers of consciousness.  He “lives alone”, that is, he realizes and fulfils his own individuality and wholeness. He “hunts alone”, that is, he is aware of his own responsibility for his choice.  A vampire’s works indicate activity of all secret societies, such as Rosenkreuzer or alchemists; they know and foretell things to come, penetrating in mysteries of nature and life (the story of Frankenstein), turning metals in gold, making the elixir or cure-all, and looking for the philosophic stone. Thus, by all these signs, we see the question is a direct description of attributes and ends of a whole divine consciousness and illumed mind. And we have only to decipher all the rest notions of this kind of folklore.
“A vampire feeds upon human blood.” Blood is a universal symbol of vital energy and strength of resurrection. A whole consciousness can live consuming the spiritual energy that flows through human consciousness. A whole consciousness can transform an ordinary consciousness, which ordinarily suggests death of a brain or mind sponging on the blood is an inevitable process.
 “On a full moon night, a vampire is especially dangerous.” As a body that reflects the sunlight, the moon is a symbol of subconsciousness that reflects the light of spirit. At a full moon night, at the most favorable moment of a fully reflected light of truth, an ordinary man can get enlightenment, and it goes without saying that any vampire is ready for offering his help to save any human from ignorance. A sad empiric cannot be more inspired and inspiring.
 “From a vampire’s bite a human dies, and then he returns to life as a vampire.” From a contact with a whole consciousness, an ordinary mind transforms, experiencing a symbolic death and consequently becoming whole too. A vampire’s bite on a neck or carotid artery of a victim symbolizes the influence of the illumed consciousness upon the ordinary one via the speech and ear, which leads to throwing back the former ideas or notions, at first, and to death of a human as a “welter of contradictions”, and then to his resurrection as an immortal and mighty entity, that is the next vampire.
 “A vampire sleeps in a coffin by day, and he goes for hunting by night.” For a human who has a whole consciousness, the revealed universe or “day” is a “coffin”, in which one can only sleep seeing the illusive dreams about “realization of wishes”. “Night” or internal world, on the contrary, is a field for activities of the illumed mind, for creative works or “hunting” as listening to divine intentions.
Also there is a version that a vampire sleeps “head down”, which is right too, because for a whole mind, the usual world is as though turned over. The mind creates when leaning on the heaven, and its logic, ends and values often are contrary to an ordinary mind’s.
 “A vampire can be recognized by the fact that he doesn’t reflect in a mirror.” The one, who has achieved the whole consciousness, reflects in the mirror of the world no longer; he has neither the past nor his personal history, nor the future.  He wholly belongs to spontaneity and magic of the current moment. Although living in the world, the human is free from limits of time, expanse and human notions.
 “A vampire can be killed by driving a silver stick or silver bullet in his heart.” Silver is a symbol of the material or female. All spiritual teachings warn their neophytes: if a human with whole consciousness is “tempted” being fascinated with a material end or thing, forgetting of the fact that he is the light, center and heart of all, then his “fall to life” takes place, and consequently, his loss of wholeness and immortality.
 “The sunshine does harm to a vampire.” According to spiritual systems, the daylight is only a reflection of a true source -- spirit or the “midnight sun” of adepts. Although the earthly human notions, which give life and assurance to ordinary humans, mean nothing for the enlightened man, but he has to defend his body (soul) and eyes (divine sight of beauty) from the influence of cruel emissions of the world’s “Augean stables” in disguise of pop-culture.
 “From a vampire’s attack a human can defend with garlic, holy water, prayer-bead and crucifix.” Garlic is a good herb for cleaning a human organism. Holy water is a symbol of purifying a human mind. A crucifix in hands or on a neck may be regarded as a reminder of the union of spirit and material. A crossing of streams of strength. Telling beads is a symbol of a purposeful concentration upon creation and of a discipline of mind. However, we shouldn’t think of any defence from a mighty vampire. That’s amusing, at least.
Even such a detail as a vampire’s hairstyle bears an important symbolic sense. The long curly hair of vampires and vampiresses, cascading on their shoulders, is an ancient symbol of wisdom and playfulness of a free illumed mind.
A story of a vampire-hunter describes a mystery of a search of his own wholeness. The hunter is an ordinary but fearless man, who has sublime ends, and who has to wish to kill a vampire, and as a rule, he has to spend much time in search of the “monster”. When his desire leads him finally to a vampire, he has to begin fighting with the “monster”. A result of the fighting is predestined, because the vampire is unconquerable, so the hunter becomes a vampire. Thus, mortals achieve the wholeness of mind through conjoining with their own divine ego.
It looks like all symbolists have chosen the labour (“adorning tombs”) on the summit of “sofia”, clearing for us the hidden sense of symbols and metaphors. In our time of information, integration, communication and open knowledge, there is no use of wasting time for some unfounded superstitious fears or energy-wasting contradictions. The highest summits must be visible; the call must be heard; and the path towards them must become a realized aim of a human. So, an offer to become a “vampire-hunter” should not seem so absurd for us any more. To search and to find him in order to act our divine part.
All of us are flame-born children of the galaxy. Around the flame, we build shields that hide the light. Becoming pupils or hunters, we can find our place among the true insiders of the universe, those who have given themselves to the search for the sake of the ancient flame that burns within them.
P. S.
The full moon approaches. Vampires are waiting.

[ the end of the essay ]

Monday, August 20, 2012

from stories of the traveler

J. J. Winckelmann is a secondary character in my historical fiction A Handful of Blossoms.
On the way to Rome, he is on a visit to Constantine-Leopold, Prince of Askanier-Hortz, who is Consort of my main character Constance-Otilia-Alexandrine, Princess of Anhalt-Welf, whose Diary the reader has a chance to read. After the supper party, in the Castle, the group of table-mates began story telling. One of two stories told by Mr Winckelmann.
Not fond of the 18 century, unlike many fine art lovers, I used the 18 century as setting for my story solely in order to use the image of Mr Winckelmann and, accordingly and necessarily, to mention the name of Antinous.

Read more at :

The storytelling at the party, in my novella, is not like that in “The Decameron”, by Boccaccio, since it’s not a time of the Black Death outside, around the Castle, and nothing frivolous or playful is in the tales told by the table-mates. The story tellers are two: Prince Constantine and his guest Mr Winckelmann. It’s like a contest, but whose heart the contestant would like to win? My heroine Constance-Otilia knows that not hers. Rather Sylvian’s. Sylvian is Constantine’s nephew and one of two listeners. She is the first to leave the party, and it remains unknown to her how the party ends, and even I, the Author, don’t know. I merely can say that it could end anyhow, from the storytelling getting more and more sublime to an orgy.
Constance-Otilia is going on 17; her relatives call her “Tilia” which is one of names of the lime-tree. The lime-tree I regard as my weird tree because it is abloom at the time of summer when my birthday approaches; thus, giving her the name of Wilde’s wife, I never forget of myself, though. Tilia is not my second-self, and yet I give her my features, which is perfectly natural too, in my view. And so, the young thing learns the world. While living at her Consort’s (if the life of the two could be called “family”) she makes her choice, meanwhile, at leisure, falling in love with her husband, first. Not for long. There are a lot of handsome gentlemen her husband’s precinct. After the disappointment in her husband, which happens at the supper party, mentioned above, she dreams of men, as usual. But the love story is not over. One mysterious and dangerous stranger comes in the life of the Castle.
The mental work going on; at leisure, between the events and adventures, she can’t come to a decision about the only man whom her heart took to -- but what more interesting is that all the 3 handsome men, among who she seeks to make her choice, are equally indifferent to her which circumstance cannot stop her young imagination, and in the end of the book, she makes her choice.

The manuscript of her Diary ends with the man’s name, and the reader cannot know whether the choice is fatal to her or not, but I, as the Author, can say that it’s fatal.
After a certain dangerous adventure, she begins feeling dubious about her own virginity, and she remains uncertain about it till the books’ end, but I can say that her doubt is unfounded and she is virgin till the book’s end. No wonder, for the men are indifferent to her.

It must be said, by the way, that as a reader, I always hated reading fiction in the form of a diary, unless it’s non-fiction or a diary is a part of a novel like the tremendous narration of “The Moonstone” (1868) by Wilkie Collins. As an author, I find the genre is nice.

read the first reviews for my 6th book of fiction A Handful of Blossoms--
at Elisa Rolle Reviews
at Sam Kasbrick's Reviews

My Mysterious Dark Man

[ excerpt of the historical fiction A Handful of Blossoms, by Lara Biyuts. A manuscript of a true story of the main personage's consort. ]

* * * 
What a felicity of phrase! Reading, I went upstairs, and now, I am about to copy the essay. But the story, first. It must be said that the manuscript of the true story was untitled, and I entitled it “My Mysterious Dark Man.” The manuscript sounds much more detailed than the author’s verbal telling:

The violent knock on the door of my apartment made me startle and drop a book. What wonder? The hour was late; I was alone and contemplative; moreover, lost in thought, over the book of fiction, though the fiction was bad by any standards. 
My dreams were elegiac but not amorous. That winter, when some business brought me to the city of Brno, I was a student of the University of Prague, in other words, a young man, but no one of females was on my mind and none of them could be a mistress of my heart; never a female’s fastidious personifications disturbed my heart which always was ruled by sober mind and sober thoughts, my own as well as borrowed. True, I wrote amorous songs, but it was not traditional romance, and my feelings, thoughts and ends could not be called chaste or fatally passionate or disinterested. I neither burnt incense nor idolized; I simply chose a living plaything and enjoyed till it pleased my eye and manhood. Life and borrowed thoughts taught me to look for neither anything ideal nor an ever-faithful heart. Life and time taught me to wish only something pleasing and ordinary which could be easily reached and easily left. From my tender age I learnt that Unfaithfulness could not hurt those who had the magic talisman in form of the simple rule: “Be the first to leave not to be left.” Death could not do any harm to my love affairs either, since those were but fleeting liaisons, as Death watched True Love alone, taking care of Unshared Love and disuniting Perfect Unions, and it hardly ever visited the prim and proper arrangement of society, knowing that the connections were ephemeral as they were, created by chance or vagary, easy conjugating, easy parting, and it hardly visited the small circle of my interests and enjoyments, maybe knowing that much in the circle was quite artificial and subjected to me alone. No, Death never robbed me of anything dear, and to my ex-lovers I was obliged only by beautiful instants, having no thought of crying or regretting of them. No, a reason of my melancholy and insomnia was that I could not finish my latest anacreontic. 
Several cups of coffee, which I had had on the night, little helped my imagination, unless it got ready for accepting anything unacceptable, unexpected or weird, and yet – no inspiration, therefore I was about to read somebody else’s. So, picture me, my reader, alone and studious, when there was the knock on the door. I was about to call my manservant, but the guy snored so loudly in the kitchen that this sound didn’t permit to expect his quick help. I went to the door. “Who’s that?” I asked.
Believing that the knocking only seemed to me, I was about to return to my study, but the doorbell began ringing somewhere overhead, so suddenly and violently that I startled again, reached to unlock and unbolt the door, and opened it.   
Before I had time to look round the dusky landing, something black and glossy slipped in, along with the frosty wind, rustled through the dark drawing-room and disappeared behind the door of my lit study. Shutting the door with a bang, I rushed after the strange phenomenon. 
In the study, in one of my low chairs, a black-masked Capuchin was sitting. Although the countless folds of the glossy black satin hang on his shoulders like a cardinal’s gown on a hanger, but the shining black colour wonderfully matched to the ochre upholstery, and the Capuchin’s pose was so graceful, with his black gloved hands looking so shapely that his beautiful exterior could suggest that his mask covered a friendly face, perchance nice-looking.
“What’s going on?” I spoke on the move to the easy chair the Capuchin was leaning back in and crossing his legs, “Is it a mystification? Who are you, sir?” 
“Mystification?” Lifting his head, he looked at my face, and his black mask and eyes twinkling in the eye-slits produced a chilling impression. “It’s Ball-Masquerade time in the town, and I am masked.” 
“But sir…” I said dryly, because the visitor’s voice I heard never before, “…This is my apartment here and not the Town Hall or Gentry Assembly!” 
“The ball is at Gentry Assembly, today, and I am from there,” he said letting me know the information as though I asked for it, “So crowded! Splendid revelry. At the exit, it was so crowded that I could not wait till my overcoat was within my reach again, and I came here, being wearing this costume and bareheaded. Luckily, sir, your house was nearby. Otherwise, I could catch cold. Tell me oh tell me why you are not at the Ball!”
“Tell me your name!” I said.
“What for?” Capuchin shrugged impatiently, “I’ve come neither for borrowing nor for proposing to your cousin, nor for introducing to your wife. However, you have nothing of the kind.  You are a bachelor, alone tonight, that’s why I invite you to go to Ball-Masquerade. I guarantee the night will be full of fun. Let’s hurry, for time flies. Don’t waste your time on vain questioning.”   
I said, “Even if I had a slightest wish to be at the Ball tonight, which is against my habits by the way, then by the moment when I finish dressing…”     
“…the Ball is finished,” the visitor caught up, “That’s why you’ll be wearing simply and lightly, only a domino and mask.” 
“But I have not any,” I said, “And I am not about to wake up my manservant to send him for the costume, at this late hour.”
Before I finished speaking, the gumptious visitor jumped up from the chair like a cat, threw off his black gown and began dressing me. “It’s an excellent fit,” he murmured when fastening the hooks and tying ribbons. But something other surprised me much more than his act: the persistent inviter had another Capuchin on, a violet one.
“I am unshaven…” I said, “I can’t go there without a mask.” 
In another instant, the visitor threw off his mask and gave it to me… with he himself remaining in another mask, crimson.  
I said, “Well, that’s odd! You have one more mask on!”
“Everyone has more than one,” he said, “However, this idea is too old and developed by others, and we may leave it, today. Let me help you…” He put the black mask on my face, pulled a string on back of my head, and the mask got close fitting. 
I said, “But I don’t feel certain that I’m going…”
“You’ll feel certain later on, and now, let’s go, sir!” Capuchin sounded so cheerfully, “Call your valet and tell him to lock up the door behind us!”
“I’d like to hear your name though…”
“All right, all right! My name is Monsieur Maupertuis.” 
Believing it’s not his real, I was not about to call him by this strange name and I shall name him “Capuchin” in this story. 
“Not real?” the stranger said as though in reply to my unspoken thought, “One may thing you would like the idea of being known as one of the notorieties of your home town!”
Appreciating his common sense, I said nothing in reply.
Shaken out of slumber, my manservant was scared seeing two strangers wearing the bizarre clothing, one black-faced and another crimson-faced. Eventually, I succeeded in making the guy understand that one of the strangers was his master and he had nothing to worry about unless taking care about my overcoat and then the door – but the guy glanced at my masked companion timidly and in an inimical manner while helping me to put on my raccoon coat and hat, and then he shut the door with a bang behind us.   
As we quickly walked in the snow-covered street, with me realizing that my going out on the night was at most a folly, my companion Capuchin, who looked like a rascal or romancer, took my arm and began whistling gaily a song that sounded familiar. Next, he began talking, “Your valet…” He quizzed at my face, “…your valet took me for… I don’t know what, perhaps, for one of the prankish entities, who enjoy confusing humans in every extraordinary way, confusing, infatuating, enamouring, taking away a shoe thrown out gates at a Yule-tide divination, or saying a name of a hateful man to a sentimental damsel’s question ‘What’s your name?’, or making funny and monstrous grimaces from behind shoulders of a widow, who does a mirror-gazing exercise in the hope of seeing a face of her new husband, by night, in a cold bathroom. All this is misleading, I agree, and this often causes some imbroglios and funny misunderstandings, but -- nothing more serious. In short, this cannot cause any disaster therefore quite innocent, and simple people are wrong, fearing this. We are not like they, aren’t we?” Here we came up to the main entrance of Gentry Assembly, and he carried me in the spacious vestibule, where the door-keeper took my raccoon coat and hat, unwillingly, since there was no room for more clothes. 
On the top of the banister of the broad, carpet-covered staircase a la Louis XIV, a bronze chimera held out her forepaws with lamps in her claws. Going up the stairs I stumbled, because my feet tangled in the skirt of my loose costume, and I leaned on my violet companion’s hand. He whispered in my ear, “Tonight, you should touch hand of masks as lightly as possible. Do you know why?”
“No, I don’t,” I said.
“You’ll know, later on. Take a piece of advice… Act bravely and with confidence tonight, leaving all your ideas about good or evil geniuses, for a while. Your stature and given name is rather usual and quite usual for many, which may cause a lot of happy and funny coincidences. To score an advantage, answer all questions by uttering Humm. Do you take me, sir?”
“Not in the least.” 
“You’ll take my meaning later on. I suppose you know the legend of the wise scholar?” 
“What a scholar?”
“He was so wise that to any question he replied by saying, Humm.”
“But why?!”
“Who knows… Now, hurry up!” Here, the violet Capuchin paused to give tickets to the porter, and I entered to the hall. 
As though for the purpose, the orchestra greeted my coming with the deafening tutti. The sound of talking, shuffling, laughter and squeaky voices of masks blended with each other and merged with the music. At the door, the mingle-mangle of masks squeezed me on all sides, as though trying my bones’ endurance, and began moving me to the right, to the left, backwards and forwards -- till the fidgety movement brought me to a saving space between two pillars, where I could take my breath and look round.  
The air was full of lights and it seemed steaming overhead. Although muffled up from head to foot, the most of the masquers stood aside, at the walls, hanging around the doors, shrinking into corners, less lit and more crowded, with the middle of the hall remaining almost empty. Anybody’s vivid poetic imagination could see an air of mystery in that, suspecting some fatal secrets, dramatic scenes and passionate talks, but not mine: however much I strained my ears, I could overhear nothing but the trivial phrase “I know you, oh beau masque!” or something of the kind, the same banal. Despite the dull, monotony and insipid chatter, the masquers seemed uncommonly cheerful and totally fascinated by their masked ladies and the Ball in whole; many roared with laughter, indulging in their childish delight. However impressive and curious the sight was, very soon, I got bored.
Even the good orchestra could not improve my low spirits, because, actually, it was a time in my life when my thoughts were only a little lighter than my black costume; in other words, I felt especially gothic-minded. Besides, I hardly could understand a reason of the excited laughter heard from all sides; eventually I thought that a reason was that the poor young men, who were pushed and elbowed on sides, almost continuously, became excessively sensitive to tickling, in this special place. In their midst, my eyes tried to find my companion’s crimson face. I was about to give a telling-off for his pulling me out of my den and slumberous state, which state could give me a dream or vision, which dream or vision could be of use and much more exciting than the masquerade. Here, I saw a black crêpe domino gazing at me from the shade of a pillar. Disliking the manner, I cast my eyes down, then looked up suddenly and began gazing at the masked stranger too. 
The excessive pallor of her skin seen through the lace of her mask, the phosphorescent gleam of her eyes, her thinnest waist and strange motionless lent her image a fantastic oddity of an unearthly vision. Puzzled, I averted my eyes, but my attention was attracted by some golden glitter and I noticed another motionless masquer standing close against the wall, at a distance, to the right of me. 
The masked figure was motionless but the golden stick jerkily moved in the gloved hand as thought it alone got impressions of all around, all what the eye and the ear brought to it, like the two enumerated messengers did to a human’s soul. The mask didn’t let read any thoughts but at least the golden stick hinted about some covert emotions of the masked stranger. At first, the stick was twirled like a sort of a scapegoat for its owner’s caprice, jocundity or vexation; now, it dangled along the masquer’s figure, glittering against the black velvet, as though obeying the order to give the place to the other plaything. I could not know whether  the pictures of somebody else’s festivity touched the masquer’s soul or not, whether beauty or ugliness was behind the mask, but not all secrets of the world were known to the “mage with the magic wand”, since the entire figure and strained motionlessness showed a huge curiosity and intention to watch. 
Meanwhile, the masked woman in black crêpe moved, came out of the shade and went towards me. Approaching, she lifted her hand and I saw a bunch of red camellias in her hand. Reckoning myself a gentleman, I accepted the offered flowers, and before I found the right thing to say, she took my arm. With my eyes I tried to find the masquer in black velvet with the golden stick, but in vain, the stranger was nowhere about -- and I had no choice but to lead the woman in black crêpe somewhere. 
On our way, from time to time, she gave a start and constrained sigh; from time to time, she gazed round the playful and fussy crowd, and her eyes showed either fear or ill-will. Walking with her, I felt ill at ease, because my new companion seemed so mysterious that it seemed to me that she could fly away or fall through the floor, at any moment. My confuse mind could guess that the strange poetic occurrence was temporary, and the sad shadow was to vanish, soon, leaving only a vague remembrance or nothing. Meanwhile, walking slowly from one room to another, we reached a remote cabinet, and there, in a wall lamp light, the woman in black crêpe left my arm, stood in front of me and began talking in an emotional tone, “Constantine! Do you remember our past?” The voice rang with notes of despair, but it was not familiar to me. 
“Beautiful mask!” I replied politely, “The one, who ever heard a word from you, could not forget you.”  But futile was the beauty of the phrase, because, as soon as the masked woman heard my voice, she recoiled in horror, dashed out of the cabinet and disappeared in the dark steamy stream of masquers. “Well that’s odd!” I thought to myself, “The mysterious woman took me for somebody else.” My violet companion was right telling me to answer Humm to any question. Really, which woman was entitled to begin a talk about my past? For my past hardly had relation to a woman’s, unless it’s my late mother or some fine art procreations, at most.  “If only I could reach the damned door to the staircase…” I said to myself, while maneuvering among masquers whose attacks became especially active and shrill for some reason, “…then nobody in the world will be able to make me return to the dubious feast.”         
“Hello!” a masquer squeaked, “You’ve changed! So thin! Have you been flattened by your wife’s thumb?”  
“What ugly flowers!” another masquer burred, pointing to the red camellias in my hand, “Did your wife drop them, and you picked up?”
“Really, where did the ugly red flower come from?” a small frisky domino turned up, as if from nowhere, or to be more exact, from behind my shoulder, snatched the flowers out of my hand and tore them in pieces. Before I had time to come to myself, the domino tiptoed and whispered in my ear, “I’ll come at 2, without fail. Wait for me!” Then the masquer slipped away merging with the crowd from where she came from. 
“What a fidget!” I said and paused, because I heard the familiar whistling.
To be more exact, somebody whistled a song and I recognized it, remembering of it twice, if one may say so. Firstly, I had heard the whistling tonight, from my companion crimson-faced Capuchin. Secondly, I recognized the catchy melody. So-called “A Hanged Man’s Song”, the old English song whose refrain was “Your hat is lost…” which tells a story of a man, the vagabond who was sent to the gallows and whose only fault was that he lost his hat and walked bareheaded. The well-known melody whose gallows humour is lesser known. But the cheerful whistling either stopped or died away, and I never saw the familiar crimson mask in the crowd.  But I saw the desirable door! 
I began moving towards the door, but the music stopped and trumpets resounded all around which didn’t seem a great surprise for anyone but me. Looking up at the gallery, where the trumpeters showed their art, I remembered what day it was today. 
The masquerade was one of the last balls before Lent. The trumpets announced midnight and it was the death knell for any public entertainments of the sort. 
Oh Lent, the long train of days, colourless and insignificant in society, after the eventful and nosy hours of the crazy winter; the time when communication becomes less, parties hardly possible, when most of your fashionable friends are out of your sight, hidden under the cover of their hearth and nolens volens getting accustomed again to the abandoned shelter -- however, nothing is healthier than boredom and sleep; the sleep therapy is necessary, from time to time, especially to ladies and poets: somnolence in mind and boredom in heart obliterate weariness, physical as well as mental, and make ladies ready for new triumphs and poets for new aspirations.  
And so, the trumpets announced midnight, the end of public entertainments and beginning of Lent. It took me some time to tread my way through the mobbing masquers, with me being about neither to listen to their false shrill voices, nor to catch their inviting words in the air or in my ear, nor to look for any images, unveiled and catchy. Eventually, at the staircase, I saw the mob was yet denser: black dominos and Capuchins seemed to be on every step, from top to bottom, looking like an army of onyx statues. Joining the army, I had to wait, before making the next step. 

* * *
(the end of the excerpt)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


7 poems, translated or retranslated by Lara Biyuts

The Butterfly
by Afanasy Fet (1820-1892)

You’re right. An outline of Air
I am so sweet.
My velvet with its living blinking --
only two wings.
Don’t ask me whence, what brought me,
where I speed.
I light the flower down, here,
and now I breathe.
How long, so aimless, so effortless,
I want to breathe?
That’s it now, flashing, raising wings

I fly away.                   

Godsby Henri de Regnier (1864-1936)

I dreamt gods talked with me:
one god--streams- and seaweeds-clad;
one more--with vines and ears of wheat;
one more--winged, inaccessible
and beautiful in his nude;
and one more--with covered face;
and one more--he who plucks omegas and pansies, singing,
and two snakes enwind his gold thyrsus;
and others…
And then I said: here are flutes and baskets--taste my fruits,
listen to humming of bees and the humble rustle of willows and reeds.
And also I said: Listen, listen--
there is someone who speaks by echo’s mouth,
who is lonely amidst the world’s life,
who holds the double bow and torch,
he who is so inconceivably we…
O sacred face! I coined you as medallions
of silver, soft as autumn dawn,
of gold, hot as the sun,
of copper, gloomy as night,
of all the metals that sound clear as joy,
that sound fatal as glory, love or doom;
but the best medallions I’ve made of clay.
Smiling you will count them one by one,
and say, They are skillfully made; and smiling you’ll pass by.
So, no one of you saw my hands tremble from tenderness,
and the world’s great dream lives in me to come to life in them.
No one of you realizes that I’ve coined my gods of good metals,
that they are a face of all sacred, what we feel
in the forests, grass, sea, winds and roses,
in all phenomena, and in our body,
and that they are divinely we.

Mystical Evening Twilight
by Paul Verlaine

Memory and Evening Twilight
redden and tremble at the glowing skyline
of expectations in flames that retire
and thus enlarge, of which partition
mysterious or repeated bloom
--dahlia, lily, tulip, banewort--
climb around the trellis, and circle
amidst the morbific exhalations
of warm and disturbing perfumes, which is poison
--dahlia, lily, tulip, banewort--
flooding my senses, my soul and my reason,
they mix, into immense languor,
Memory and Evening Twilight.

Artist by Ivan Bunin

Pebbles rustling underfoot. Through the slopping garden,
he walks, glances round the basins
and subsides on a bench… Behind the new white house
the Yayla mountain range so close and heavy.
Heat-wearied, looking crayon-drawn,
the crane is standing in the bush, tail down,
a cane-like leg… He says, “What, Bird?
It’s nice at Volga now! At Yaroslavl!” Smiling,
he begins thinking of his own funeral,
how they will carry his coffin outdoors, how gray
the vests will be in the hot sunrays,
how yellow light, how white the house against the blue.
“From the porch, a fat old priest goes downstairs.
The choir follows him… Frightened and clicking,
the crane takes wing off the old fence and dances,
and with its beak it knocks on the coffin.”
A tickling in his breast. Dust rushes from the highway,
hot and especially dry.
He takes off his pince-nez and thinks while coughing,

“Yes, vaudeville… and all the rest is guille.”

La Lune Blanche
by Paul Verlaine

The white moon
shines in the woods;
from each bough
comes a voice
under the branch…
Oh, beloved.

The pond reflects,
deep mirror,
the silhouette
of the black willow
where the wind cries…
Let’s dream, now is the hour.

A vast and tender
seems to descend
from the firmament
as an iridescent orb...
It’s the exquisite hour.

To Myself, by Leopardi

And so, you’ll quiet down for ever,
o my poor, tired heart.
The deception’s perished--final, ultimate,
which I reckoned immortal within me.
I feel that not only the hope
of the dear deceptions has died,
but the desire for them has gone out.
Calm down, for ever. You thrilled enough.
There is nothing worthy of your
pulsing, and the earth is not worthy of the sighs.
Our life is melancholy and bitterness, no more;
the world is dirtiness. Quiet down and stop.
Despair for the final time. Fate doesn’t give us
other gift than dying.
From now on, despise itself,
the nature,
the insulting strength
that covertly bosses the show
of the universal vice,
despise the futility
of it all.

from the Epigrams by Marcus Valerius Martialis

“King of the birds, tell me whom you are carrying?”            
“The Thunderer.”
“Why he has not thunderbolts in his right hand?”                             
“He’s in love.”
“Whose fire did smite him?”                                                             
“A child’s one.”
“Why are you looking at god, your beak is half-open?”
“I’m whispering of Ganymede.”

* * * 

some of the poems are published as a part of my collected notes and essays The Sunless Parlour. Notes, stories and translations by author of the novels Forever Jocelyn and La Arme Blanche. Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy, Kuzmin, Clodt, Henri de Regnier, Verlaine, Chekhov, Stéphane Mallarmé, poetry, humor. “…in a sunless parlour where an old clock ticked in the shadows and a cat slept by the empty grate.” (Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited)