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Feel free to share on Russian (and other "eastern") symbolists and decadents, post poems, links, whatever we can gnaw and feed ourselves with! Any suggestion on an author worth reading and that we may -- before we turn 80 and/or filthily rich -- , find in a bookstore or online will be warmy welcomed.
One spoiler (Briusov): "Oh, cover your pales legs..."
Vojislav Ilić (Serbian Cyrillic: Војислав Илић) (1862 - 1894) was a 19th century Serbian poet of finely chiselled verse, son of a Romanticist playwright and poet Jovan Ilić.
His poetry exemplifies a classic example of modern Serbian language and features the standard Decadent motifs of the epoch: cruel nature (e.g. cold wind blowing across empty fields), times of Elagabalus (a minor emperor who ruled for just 3 and a half years, known primarily for his sexual extravagance), men falling in love with statues of goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome and the like.
Poets who were younger and more radical ... encountered misunderstandings with the critics, which was a sign of further change. They transformed the initially sombre atmosphere into a gloomy one, and moderate pessimism into despair. In the tedium of Belgrade they first began to reveal the metropolitan spleen which Baudelaire had introduced into poetry. First of all, Sima Pandurovic (1883-1960) almost callously depicted scenes of bodily and spiritual chaos in his collection Post-Humus Honours (1908). Then, Vladislav Petkovic Dis (1880-1917) opened Serbian lyric up wide for irrational substance and images drawn up from the subconscious (Drowned Souls, 1911). All in dreams and intuitions, he paid little attention to the external appearance of his poetry. It was not faultless, especially in its language. Yet, Dis's poetry is among the most musical in the Serbian language. The unusual inversion of images, the change of syntax and the grave intimations foretold new changes in poetry.
(from http://www.serbianunity.net/culture/history/Hist_Serb_Culture/chr/New_Literature... )
1. Na Vardaru / On the River Vardar
with roaring waters and fighting eagles.
2. Untitled, beginning “Sa pogledom ugašenim (Са погледом угашеним)”
spoken by a corpse.
3. U poznu jesen / Late Fall
the wind in the fields mentioned by Wikipedia.
4. Untitled, beginning “Sivo, sumorno nebo (Сиво суморно небо)”
a funeral passing by.
5. Ciganče / Gypsy
the girl reminds the speaker of Bacchus in the Hindu lands.
No statue lovers or Elagabalus though, I'm afraid.
"No statue lovers... , I'm afraid." Maybe here an idea for coming up with an expanded version of the Psychopathia Sexualis: Marmorophilia.
Like Guy de Maupassant's Le Horla, Vrubel's demon captured the panic of the approach of some terrific, annihilating apocalypse. The later paintings in the series, again like Le Horla, were composed in the stages of advanced syphilis. Vrubel, like Maupassant, attempted suicide and ended his days in an asylum. From the madhouse, he completed one his final works, a full portrait of fellow demonographer, Valery Bryusov.
The site itself is an interesting project: a physical - intellectual cartography of the city of St. Petersburg:
His late works are amazing, particularly "The Perl" and his portrait of Bryusov, the last large work he attempted.
I am currently reading The Dedalus Book of Russian Decadence. Many thanks for the info on Blok and Gippius(Hippius).
- and thank you for the link to Lermontov, David.
Syphilis, it seems, used to be viewed as a sort experiential merit badge - a sort of plume. Someone somewhile back set the heartbreak of clap to the tune of Yesterday: "Syphilis/It all started with a little kiss..." la, la and in the words of John Lydon, "I forget the words" (Well, I should, at least).
- Aleksandr Blok
The restaurants on hot spring evenings
Lie under a dense and savage air.
Foul drafts and hoots from dunken revelers
Contaminate the thoroughfare.
Above the dusty lanes of suburbia
Above the tedium of bungalows
A pretzel sign begilds a bakery
And children screech fortissimo.
And every evening beyond the barriers
Gentlemen of practiced wit and charm
Go strolling beside the drainage ditches —
A tilted derby and a lady at the arm.
The squeak of oarlocks comes over the lake water
A woman’s shriek assaults the ear
While above, in the sky, inured to everything,
The moon looks on with a mindless leer.
And every evening my one companion
Sits here, reflected in my glass.
Like me, he has drunk of bitter mysteries.
Like me, he is broken, dulled, downcast.
The sleepy lackeys stand beside tables
Waiting for the night to pass
And tipplers with the eyes of rabbits
Cry out: “In vino veritas!”
And every evening (or am I imagining?)
Exactly at the appointed time
A girl’s slim figure, silk raimented,
Glides past the window’s mist and grime.
And slowly passing throught the revelers,
Unaccompanied, always alone,
Exuding mists and secret fragrances,
She sits at the table that is her own.
Something ancient, something legendary
Surrounds her presence in the room,
Her narrow hand, her silk, her bracelets,
Her hat, the rings, the ostrich plume.
Entranced by her presence, near and enigmatic,
I gaze through the dark of her lowered veil
And I behold an enchanted shoreline
And enchanted distances, far and pale.
I am made a guardian of the higher mysteries,
Someone’s sun is entrusted to my control.
Tart wine has pierced the last convolution
of my labyrinthine soul.
And now the drooping plumes of ostriches
Asway in my brain droop slowly lower
And two eyes, limpid, blue, and fathomless
Are blooming on a distant shore.
Inside my soul a treasure is buried.
The key is mine and only mine.
How right you are, you drunken monster!
I know: the truth is in the wine.
by Alexandru Macedonski (1854-1920)
Dies iraeThey had loved each other since the second day, and in the days to come, as no one had loved before. Their love had been angelic and earthly both in one. Their souls had been suffused by heaven and brought almost to extinction by kisses with no end. They did not need to speak to each other in order to know their inner thoughts. They read each other’s minds by eye-sight, and when they were not looking at each other they could sense what they did not read. They had loved one another in the ancient manner and in the manner of the current day. He had turned into a lamb, and while reclining at her feet he would rest his head in her lap. He’d play frolicsome tricks and refused to eat otherwise than from her palm. His words were red carnations embalming the air in fragrance. Her lulling word had wings. They had felt pleasures a-plenty and had unlocked the mysteries stowed away in their chests. They had penetrated each other so far, through the pores, the lips, the breath, hearing, eyes and souls, that eventually their features had begun to resemble in the extreme. Whoever did not know them could easily imagine that Thalassa was an elder sibling next to the younger.
At first, he had surrounded her with a brother’s care, or a father’s and mother’s at once. Whenever they went somewhere they had to be always together and none of them lost sight of the other. They had always proffered their oblations to the same god: in the sanctuary, in the lighthouse room, at the top of the lighthouse, in the shade of the tall grasses and among the rocks – under the moon and under the sun – under the stars’ clusters and by the sea shore, taking all these as witnesses to their love; and as he undertook to demonstrate to Calliope that she was beyond the fallen nature of woman when in the periodic power of the female predicament, he would change her into a man and, taking the woman’s part, he would make her crazy with his loving and would enable her to make him crazy, too.
But while in their souls the light was waxing stronger and stronger every moment they could also sense, beside the bodily dissimilarities that kept them apart, further differences that prevented the thawing of their selves into each other. They could not perceive, of course, that it had been precisely these differences they had to thank for their irresistible attraction and that these differences had been lying at the root of their love from the very first, though, had they kept their eyes wide open to see the moves that were taking place in their souls, they would have immediately felt exactly how in these dissimilarities,’ slanting towards annihilation, they themselves were drifting farther from each other, actuated by the same power that had contrived their coming so close together.
Their in-dwelling love was fomented precisely by the warring state in which their innermost impulses were steeped.
The ship that was bringing forth the winter supplies for the lighthouse keeper loomed into view against the sea’s expanse and when Calliope saw it, she hid in the hollow of a rock, so as not to be seen by the mates on board the ship.
But the mornings and evenings were becoming chilly and their love was no longer beating its poetic vans either. The close room was becoming oppressive, imprisoning them between its walls, it would cut short their frisking and petting, and the love in the hearth, where the fire burned incessantly, was peeling the skin off their cheeks. Hardly having an occupation of some kind, they would talk to each other endlessly, and they resembled two birds twittering and twittering on the same branch. But after telling one another everything, it so happened that they would take a better look at each other again and again; and whenever the robin’s and nightingale’s song in themselves stopped short and left their minds free to think, they would no longer see each other as godly creatures, neither in body nor in spirit, and they would rather perceive each other as the poor, miserable creatures that so many people actually are – that everyone is, in fact.
Still, habit would replace love, and love’s implacable law would throw them into each other’s arms, though the pleasure they snatched from, or gave freely to, each other at times could no longer compare to the pleasures of the past.
Calliope, for one, in spite of the fact that Thalassa had done his best to reassure her in respect to nature’s injustice to woman, when distinguishing her from man by her bodily make-up – Calliope would not stop thinking, unknown by him, that there was no greater humiliation than the one that dooms woman to be placed lower than man’s vanity, even if she were a queen, pre-ordaining her to get her pleasure from man, over and over again, while also measuring her pleasure by man’s yardstick.
This thought and another one, namely that Thalassa was a man of the lowliest social condition, who was actually venting his anger on her whenever he had her raving in his arms, seeking his lips for kisses; and this anger she thought he derived from the ages-old humiliations suffered by those who were his ancestors at the hands of people of her sake, filled her mind with dark-purple anger.
But directly the boorish villain cast a glance at her, Calliope would nestle back around his neck and Priapus would then drop its spoils back on the altar. Then the boor and the villain presented themselves to her as gods again and she was herself ready to die again through both of them, although she would at the very same time rise in unexpected revolt against them, and stick her nails and teeth deep into the flesh to defend herself.
But eventually, the one to be defeated was no other than herself. And of course she would not get over any of these defeats and would resent the fact that she had again raised Thalassa instead onto the peak where all the peoples elevate their idols; or rather she could not get over his downward transport into the pit where all the rich of this world put the others when they transform them into two-legged beasts, whose only enduring connection with the condition of mankind remains their face and their body. Her senses drew her towards him, but her judgment repelled her from him, and every time useless fits of repentance followed the falls, for she had hardly got over one fit when she would fall a prey to the next.
In Thalassa’s soul a similar process was under way. The childish freshness of the senses felt at the beginning of love had decreased until it had been reduced to naught. Having descended from the world of dream into the world of reality, he wanted to order around the latter as he had the former; but the mere fact that he was in control of Calliope’s body was not enough for him. The enmity to him, that she took no pains to hide now so as to mislead him, or to mislead herself as to her real feelings, made him obstinately seek for her soul among the shreds of the hurt flesh..
Turned into enemies and convinced that they hated each other, Calliope and Thalassa would exchange tetchy, snappish words only or they would keep quiet, as if they could not hear each other. And for all this it would not be long before they awoke into each other’s arms again. But the sin that Thalassa vainly tried to forgive Calliope for, was that through this he had been plucked from his high kingdom, without being granted instead one of those drunken states in which all the awed movements of infinity became embodied.
But she was oppressed by another feeling: the sense that she’d tied herself for ever to a common man, a man she would have felt ashamed of had they been forced to suddenly quit the island.
The mismatches between the two of them, which their mutually consuming fire had effaced for a while, were now beginning to well forth, stirring them in anger against each other, making them hate, curse and love each other – all in one.
It might be that they were quarrelling a lot because they loved each other a lot.
A mere trifle was enough to sharpen their words into daggers or arrows whirring forth from the bow strings to aim straight into their hearts, and hurt them.
The rudimentary bits of knowledge that Thalassa had acquired in time, from hearsay or random readings that he would impart to Calliope, would set her laughing. For instance, he believed that the Gods of Mount Olympus were to be ranked as quite recent and that Alexander the Great had lived 102 years after Christ.
Calliope would poke fun at such figments of his imagination. But he would insist on considering them undisputable historical truths.
They would get from banter to harsh words in no time and the chasms in the soul and in the world that separated them, and over which they’d poured for so long the roses of their burning passionate love, were now gaping pitch dark under their feet. They definitely were not matched to each other any longer. Definitely, they were determined to keep each one their soul aloof from the other’s. He definitely was no more than an illiterate man to Calliope, and a boorish churl in addition, who had only been ordained as a godly creature by the sensuous ravings of the senses; she definitely was not the fairy-land creature, either, as she’d used to be. Yes, she was pretty, but like a girl among several others – more tetchy and snappish than most, too, and bent on evil ways from her cradle, petty in her face and figure – just as she had a petty soul.
To decrease her guilt he did not choose to say to himself that she was actually a child-girl, and that her judgment and her heart could not be any different given the scarcity of her years.
But the change in their souls was something natural: imprisoned in that close room because of the weather, they’d been living too long next to each other and through each other and they’d come to know each other far too well not to have reached a watershed in their lives now…
On the other hand, Thalassa, who would have liked to get rid of reality, hated Calliope with a passion matching the one through which he’d initially summoned her to him.
Still, there is no one who has ever been in the power of such a reality without realizing that the spidery threads woven by it around all people, thin though they appear, may only be torn alongside with the people’s lives.
Calliope kept on talking and while she chatted like this, the sound of her voice came to resemble the creaking of a dilapidated mill spinning away.
Thalassa would hardly manage to say a word when she’d said a dozen. He was telling himself that women probably had a fiddle-stick working under their tongues, and once it came off its hook, it released such a shower of words that there was no man capable to stave them off, no matter what he did. One day, maybe as he’d flown off the handle in response to her endless chattering, or maybe by sheer mistake, he pushed her hence and she hit herself against the corner of the stove. But this occurrence had consequences that both she and he could not guess – for afterwards she always considered Thalassa as no more than an enemy from whom she’d turn away more and more every day, both in her affection and in her body. But the fight in her inner self was not negligible either. For days on end she’d forebear to answer his words while waiting that he show how contrite he was, over and over again, asking her forgiveness again and again, but whenever this expectation was fulfilled, she’d give vent to her obstinacy and kept silent, giving him only vacant looks.
In this way, the tension between them was growing daily. But this very tenseness stirred Thalassa’s sentiments even more. Finding himself at a loss while trying to rid her of her doldrums and muteness by words and exhortation, or by joking, he resorted to yet another solution. He attempted to enclose her in his arms by circling her neck unexpectedly from behind, stealing a kiss from her lips; no matter how adverse she was to him. But she’d invariably break free from his arms, like a serpent slinking away, or she’d defend herself by sticking her nails and teeth into his flesh, she’d smack him over the eyes snapping her words at him – and she’d turn from a kitten into a ferocious predator…
Thalassa himself was turning wild. Purple in the face and in the neck from the numberless bites and scars of old scratches, he’d always come off defeated, and the wave of blood that flooded into his brain of a sudden, darkened his eyes and deprived him of the rational faculty.
Panting and half crazed up, forgetting all else, he nevertheless secured a victory in one of his attempts.
Hit by a few powerful blows in the small of her back, she had finally been compelled to open her clenching teeth, biting into one of his bare shoulders – and seized by no end of tears, she’d expired under the humiliating spasm of the sexual pride.
The day of ire had finally come for the two of them, too – as it is bound to come for every mortal.
April and May enlivened them with a heavenly and earthly youthfulness, with the tenderness of the grass, or filling them with a special bodily laziness; the fiery June saw them running around in a frolicsome mood, when they were not picking trouble and resuming the sworn oaths they’d exchange in turns, promising never to talk to the other again, only to get them talking and loving each other again and again…
But their renewed ascent to heaven would soon be followed by the fall down to earth, awakening in them a sense that – in spite of the times when the pleasurable writhing sucked both of them in the nothingness of physical love – there would never exist between the two of them anything beside the chasm in which the differences in their souls were preserved unchanged. She, moreover, found herself a prey to spleen and then she would say to herself that departure from the island would be the only way to bring them salvation. She’d then speak to Thalassa reassuringly, telling him that her father and her mother who’d always sought to fulfill her every wish, were sure to look favorably upon their love, once they heard that it was he who had rescued her…
Thalassa who was sad and angered, or rather heart-broken, would not bother to say a word to her in response to all this. Or at most, he’d sometimes tell her that he could see what she meant better than she could imagine, for he saw she’d grown sick of the life she led, but as for himself, he belonged on the island as he’d always belonged there. And he added that he had no business being among many other people. What would he be doing in their midst? Would he let himself be drawn to them only to be humiliated? Did he feel and think as everyone else did? Did he have a mother or a father waiting for him some place or another? Had he any siblings? Or friends? Had he real ties with the world? He’d been all alone ever since he was only a babe and he was set on dying equally alone. But her situation was so very different: she’d opened her eyes on riches, she’d been spoilt and raised to be like a queen and so she could not escape being just like all the other women. She’d been celebrated and flattered, she liked being attended to or looked upon as if she were descended from the stars. And then, in the world where she longed to return would she not be met by pleasures galore and by castles whose floors were strewn with thick, rich carpets and whose rooms had jimmy things glittering all about the place? Not to mention the trips that were awaiting her… for she had told him, had she not, what the big cities were – what Vienna was, or Paris, or London – and were all these places not breathing their life amidst the deceitful, luxurious glitter of the theatre halls, or of the alleys and the witty language? Yes, she should go away, her place was not there, on the island, by his side. As the wave had brought her to him, let the wave take her away. And she was not to mourn for anything either. For what was he after all? A roaming creature lost on the earth and who meant nothing for people? But had he meant anything for her? Well, in future she might think about the hours they’d spent together, but she would recall them and feel shame or indifference. She need not say that was not so. He could not be mistaken. He knew better: she was going to follow the thought of him with regret – but which of the things in the world do not get effaced eventually?
As for him, she should not imagine he was going to long for her. Her departure would not bring the tears to his eye… no tears, definitely none.
Not one tear – and they’d throw into each other’s arms crying, hanging on each other’s neck. Not a tear, no, and they’d cry bitterly and took to loving with a fresh pathos.
But if the various states of mind and soul dispositions brought them near, they would now and then become impervious to each other, every one of them in their inner soul. He would keep quiet, she would do just the same. They looked daggers at each other, and yet, had they started talking all of a sudden, they would have been overjoyed.
To invite the intimacies of old he’d start saying to her: “I know you only think about leaving, and I am not saying you are not right; but do not think that if you’ve deceived me as to the love you feel for me. Yes, you’re right – being a woman you are right that I’m to blame for having stopped short and embraced your feet like the horns of the altar. I have only myself to blame for this fate that has me suffering in its net; so, come on, go away and stay content. Go now for you have managed to fulfill the design of the fate ordained to you by birth: you have dragged down a man from his splendid, high kingdom that was his by fate and you have pushed him down into the hell-pit of villainy and loss.
“The swift-winged horse of dreaming, that would carry me into the heavenly altitude, has revenged itself on me. I have been unworthy of keeping its reigns in my hand firmly, and it is only right that it should cast me off its back now and to pursue its way freely through the spaces that I have become unworthy to return to as things are.”
The hesitations that held them in their power were in themselves the subject of an epic song.
The senses struggling with each other in their souls harassed them somewhere between love and hatred – and they had got so far as to be unable to judge for themselves whether what they felt was love or hatred rather. They’d throw the most offensive words at each other only to end up within the space of a few minutes kissing more passionately than ever. But now for one thing, now for another, the bloody feuds would take possession of their hearts. He would push her violently or would hit her even, she would stand up to him or she jumped like a panther, in an attempt to tear his cheek to shreds. In short, one could say they’d come to realize that that was the only way in which they were still allowed to love each other. But she’d go even further: given the hatred that she bore to him, or only believed she bore to him – she would hide a quite dangerous dagger in the folds of her garment, a dagger that had been left behind in the lighthouse room by the old keeper, and with which she swore she would kill him once he dared approach her again.
But the attempt that she put into practice one unbearably hot afternoon brought her back rolling at Thalassa’s feet, pressed down by some unknown powers that were nevertheless nothing but the blows he’d manically dealt to her when bringing her level with the ground. Calliope was hit with the feet and the hands, she was savagely dragged over the boards, lifted from there and thrown down on the edge of the bed like a useless cloth all in tatters; when she came to after that half fainting fit, a panting breath was on her lips and heaving her chest – and she loved Thalassa fully and truly for the first time in her life.
Has anyone found any more information on Ilić? More translations perhaps? I don't have enough time to learn Serbian right now and from the Wikipedia description quoted by benwaugh he sounds entirely like my cup of tea.
by Scarlat Cantucuzene (Romania)
MY fear beyond the door has sped.
(Art thou dead?)
Thou wilt rise up with shining head,
Lips pouting red,
With snow-white lilies at thy breast,
Perchance heart-wrung, distressed,
With sorrows welling in thine eyes,
Thy wayward tresses redolent of smiles and sighs,
Lifting thy heart,
Where joy and fear together smart
And Love keeps watch apart.
Art thou dead?
The open door shall quench my dread . . .
I need thee; thou must not be dead.
Ah, I shall find thee, whom I vowed to wed,
No dirge shall moan for thee.
Thy bosom's snow I fain would see
Incarnadined with love for me.
I ache to foot the lovers' way,
O Dearest, howsoever dull the day
Of Paris vast and grey,
Our Paris palpitating warm,
Encircling so thy slender form,
We two were wont to walk in May.
I'll enter, even as I said . . .
Nay, for it may be thou art dead!
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