Franz Kafka

Monday, December 9, 2019

"Consolazione" (Consolation) by Gabriele D'Annunzio, English Translation. Gabriele D’Annunzio: The Collection of Poems in English

Gabriele D’Annunzio: The Collection of Poems in English. The most comprehensive English translation of the poetry of Gabriele D'Annunzio.   Available as eBook on Amazon Kindle and Kobo, and as printed edition on Amazon and Lulu. 



Don’t cry anymore. Is back your beloved son
to your house. He is tired of lying.
Come; let's go out! It's time to blossom again.
You are too pale: the face is almost a fleur-de-lis.

Come; let's go out. The abandoned garden
still holds for us some paths.
I will tell you how sweet is the mystery
that veils certain things of the past. 

Still a few roses are in the rose bushes,
still a few timid herbs are scented.
In the abandonment the dear place still
will smile, if you smile.

I will tell you how sweet is the smile
of certain things that oblivion grieved.
How would you feel if the earth
blossomed under you feet, all of a sudden?

It will happen anyways, although not in April.
Let’s go out. Don't cover your head. It is a slow
sun of September, and still I don’t see silver
on your head, and the parting is thin still.

Why do you refuse with your tired look?
The mother does what the good son asks.
You need to catch some sun,
some sun on that pale face.

You need to be strong; you need
not to think about the bad things...
If we go towards those roses,
I talk slowly, your soul dreams.

Dream, dream, my beloved soul! All,
all will be the same as in the old time.
I will entrust to your pure hand
all my heart. Nothing is destroyed yet.

Dream, dream! I will live of your life.
In a life simple and profound 
I will live again. The light Host that cleanses
I will receive from your fingers.

Dream, for the time to dream has come!
I talk, tell me: does your soul hear me?
See? In the air wafts and lights up
almost the ghost of a defunct April.

September (tell me: does your soul listen to me?)
carries in his scent, in his pallor,
I don’t know, almost the scent and the pallor
of some unearthed springtime.

Let’s dream, for it is time to dream!
Let’s smile. It is our springtime,
this one. At home, later, in the evening,
I’ll open again the harpsichord and play.

Long asleep, the harpsichord! Were missing,
back then, a few chords; a few chords
still are missing. An the ebony recalls
the long, waxy fingers of grandmother.
While through the discoloured curtains
will linger some delicate scent, 
(do you hear me?) something like a weak
breath of violets a bit wilted,

I’ll play some old dance tune,
very old, very noble, also a bit
sad; and the sound will be veiled, faint,
almost as if it came from the other room.

Then for you alone I’ll compose a poem
that can receive you like in a cradle,
upon an ancient metrics, but with a
grace that is vague and much careless. 

All will be the same as in the old time.
The soul will be simple at it was;
and to you it will come, when you want, lightly
as comes the water to the hollow of the hand.

Gabriele D’Annunzio: The Collection of Poems in English. The most comprehensive English translation of the poetry of Gabriele D'Annunzio.   Available as eBook on Amazon Kindle and Kobo, and as printed edition on Amazon and Lulu. 


(from “Poema paradisiaco -  Hortulus Animae” - 1892)

Non pianger più. Torna il diletto figlio
a la tua casa. È stanco di mentire.
Vieni; usciamo. Tempo è di rifiorire.
Troppo sei bianca: il volto è quasi un giglio.

Vieni; usciamo. Il giardino abbandonato
serba ancóra per noi qualche sentiero.
Ti dirò come sia dolce il mistero
che vela certe cose del passato.

Ancóra qualche rosa è ne' rosai,
ancóra qualche timida erba odora.
Ne l'abbandono il caro luogo ancóra
sorriderà, se tu sorriderai.

Ti dirò come sia dolce il sorriso
di certe cose che l’oblìo afflisse.
Che proveresti tu se ti fiorisse
la terra sotto i piedi, all'improvviso?

Tanto accadrà, ben che non sia d'aprile.
Usciamo. Non coprirti il capo. È un lento
sol di settembre, e ancor non vedo argento
su ‘l tuo capo, e la riga è ancor sottile.

Perché ti neghi con lo sguardo stanco?
La madre fa quel che il buon figlio vuole.
Bisogna che tu prenda un po’ di sole,
un po’ di sole su quel viso bianco.

Bisogna che tu sia forte; bisogna
che tu non pensi a le cattive cose...
Se noi andiamo verso quelle rose,
io parlo piano, l'anima tua sogna.

Sogna, sogna, mia cara anima! Tutto,
tutto sarà come al tempo lontano.
Io metterò ne la tua pura mano
tutto il mio cuore. Nulla è ancor distrutto.

Sogna, sogna! Io vivrò de la tua vita.
In una vita semplice e profonda
io rivivrò. La lieve ostia che monda
io la riceverò da le tue dita.

Sogna, ché il tempo di sognare è giunto.
Io parlo. Di’: l'anima tua m'intende?
Vedi? Ne l'aria fluttua e s'accende
quasi il fantasma d'un april defunto.

Settembre (dí: l’anima tua m’ascolta?)
ha ne l’odore suo, nel suo pallore,
non so, quasi l’odore ed il pallore
di qualche primavera dissepolta.

Sogniamo, poi ch’è tempo di sognare.
Sorridiamo. E la nostra primavera,
questa. A casa, più tardi, verso sera,
vo’ riaprire il cembalo e sonare.

Quanto ha dormito, il cembalo! Mancava,
allora, qualche corda; qualche corda
ancóra manca. E l’ebano ricorda
le lunghe dita ceree de l’ava.

Mentre che fra le tende scolorate
vagherà qualche odore delicato,
(m’odi tu?) qualche cosa come un fiato
debole di viole un po’ passate,

sonerò qualche vecchia aria di danza,
assai vecchia, assai nobile, anche un poco
triste; e il suon sarà velato, fioco,
quasi venisse da quell’altra stanza.

Poi per te sola io vo’ comporre un canto
che ti raccolga come in una cuna,
sopra un antico metro, ma con una
grazia che sia vaga e negletta alquanto.

Tutto sarà come al tempo lontano.
L’anima sarà semplice com’era;
e a te verrà, quando vorrai, leggera
come vien l’acqua al cavo de la mano.

Monday, December 2, 2019

"A Trivial Incident" by Anton Chekhov, translated by Constance Garnett. Full text in English.

IT was a sunny August midday as, in company with a Russian prince who had come down in the world, I drove into the immense so-called Shabelsky pine-forest where we were intending to look for woodcocks. In virtue of the part he plays in this story my poor prince deserves a detailed description. He was a tall, dark man, still youngish, though already somewhat battered by life; with long moustaches like a police captain's; with prominent black eyes, and with the manners of a retired army man. He was a man of Oriental type, not very intelligent, but straightforward and honest, not a bully, not a fop, and not a rake—virtues which, in the eyes of the general public, are equivalent to a certificate of being a nonentity and a poor creature. People generally did not like him (he was never spoken of in the district, except as "the illustrious duffer"). I personally found the poor prince extremely nice with his misfortunes and failures, which made up indeed his whole life. First of all he was poor. He did not play cards, did not drink, had no occupation, did not poke his nose into anything, and maintained a perpetual silence but yet he had somehow succeeded in getting through thirty to forty thousand roubles left him at his father's death. God only knows what had become of the money. All that I can say is that owing to lack of supervision a great deal was stolen by stewards, bailiffs, and even footmen; a great deal went on lending money, giving bail, and standing security. There were few landowners in the district who did not owe him money. He gave to all who asked, and not so much from good nature or confidence in people as from exaggerated gentlemanliness as though he would say: "Take it and feel how comme il faut I am!" By the time I made his acquaintance he had got into debt himself, had learned what it was like to have a second mortgage on his land, and had sunk so deeply into difficulties that there was no chance of his ever getting out of them again. There were days when he had no dinner, and went about with an empty cigar-holder, but he was always seen clean and fashionably dressed, and always smelt strongly of ylang-ylang.
The prince's second misfortune was his absolute solitariness. He was not married, he had no friends nor relations. His silent and reserved character and his comme il faut deportment, which became the more conspicuous the more anxious he was to conceal his poverty, prevented him from becoming intimate with people. For love affairs he was too heavy, spiritless, and cold, and so rarely got on with women. . . .
When we reached the forest this prince and I got out of the chaise and walked along a narrow woodland path which was hidden among huge ferns. But before we had gone a hundred paces a tall, lank figure with a long oval face, wearing a shabby reefer jacket, a straw hat, and patent leather boots, rose up from behind a young fir-tree some three feet high, as though he had sprung out of the ground. The stranger held in one hand a basket of mushrooms, with the other he playfully fingered a cheap watch-chain on his waistcoat. On seeing us he was taken aback, smoothed his waistcoat, coughed politely, and gave an agreeable smile, as though he were delighted to see such nice people as us. Then, to our complete surprise, he came up to us, scraping with his long feet on the grass, bending his whole person, and, still smiling agreeably, lifted his hat and pronounced in a sugary voice with the intonations of a whining dog:
"Aie, aie . . . gentlemen, painful as it is, it is my duty to warn you that shooting is forbidden in this wood. Pardon me for venturing to disturb you, though unacquainted, but . . . allow me to present myself. I am Grontovsky, the head clerk on Madame Kandurin's estate."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, but why can't we shoot?"
"Such is the wish of the owner of this forest!"
The prince and I exchanged glances. A moment passed in silence. The prince stood looking pensively at a big fly agaric at his feet, which he had crushed with his stick. Grontovsky went on smiling agreeably. His whole face was twitching, exuding honey, and even the watch-chain on his waistcoat seemed to be smiling and trying to impress us all with its refinement. A shade of embarrassment passed over us like an angel passing; all three of us felt awkward.
"Nonsense!" I said. "Only last week I was shooting here!"
"Very possible!" Grontovsky sniggered through his teeth. "As a matter of fact everyone shoots here regardless of the prohibition. But once I have met you, it is my duty . . . my sacred duty to warn you. I am a man in a dependent position. If the forest were mine, on the word of honour of a Grontovsky, I should not oppose your agreeable pleasure. But whose fault is it that I am in a dependent position?"
The lanky individual sighed and shrugged his shoulders. I began arguing, getting hot and protesting, but the more loudly and impressively I spoke the more mawkish and sugary Grontovsky's face became. Evidently the consciousness of a certain power over us afforded him the greatest gratification. He was enjoying his condescending tone, his politeness, his manners, and with peculiar relish pronounced his sonorous surname, of which he was probably very fond. Standing before us he felt more than at ease, but judging from the confused sideway glances he cast from time to time at his basket, only one thing was spoiling his satisfaction--the mushrooms, womanish, peasantish, prose, derogatory to his dignity.
"We can't go back!" I said. "We have come over ten miles!"
"What's to be done?" sighed Grontovsky. "If you had come not ten but a hundred thousand miles, if the king even had come from America or from some other distant land, even then I should think it my duty . . . sacred, so to say, obligation . . ."
"Does the forest belong to Nadyezhda Lvovna?" asked the prince.
"Yes, Nadyezhda Lvovna . . ."
"Is she at home now?"
"Yes . . . I tell you what, you go to her, it is not more than half a mile from here; if she gives you a note, then I. . . . I needn't say! Ha—ha . . . he—he—!"
"By all means," I agreed. "It's much nearer than to go back. . . . You go to her, Sergey Ivanitch," I said, addressing the prince. "You know her."
The prince, who had been gazing the whole time at the crushed agaric, raised his eyes to me, thought a minute, and said:
"I used to know her at one time, but . . . it's rather awkward for me to go to her. Besides, I am in shabby clothes. . . . You go, you don't know her. . . . It's more suitable for you to go."
I agreed. We got into our chaise and, followed by Grontovsky's smiles, drove along the edge of the forest to the manor house. I was not acquainted with Nadyezhda Lvovna Kandurin, nee Shabelsky. I had never seen her at close quarters, and knew her only by hearsay. I knew that she was incredibly wealthy, richer than anyone else in the province. After the death of her father, Shabelsky, who was a landowner with no other children, she was left with several estates, a stud farm, and a lot of money. I had heard that, though she was only twenty-five or twenty-six, she was ugly, uninteresting, and as insignificant as anybody, and was only distinguished from the ordinary ladies of the district by her immense wealth.
It has always seemed to me that wealth is felt, and that the rich must have special feelings unknown to the poor. Often as I passed by Nadyezhda Lvovna's big fruit garden, in which stood the large, heavy house with its windows always curtained, I thought: "What is she thinking at this moment? Is there happiness behind those blinds?" and so on. Once I saw her from a distance in a fine light cabriolet, driving a handsome white horse, and, sinful man that I am, I not only envied her, but even thought that in her poses, in her movements, there was something special, not to be found in people who are not rich, just as persons of a servile nature succeed in discovering "good family" at the first glance in people of the most ordinary exterior, if they are a little more distinguished than themselves. Nadyezhda Lvovna's inner life was only known to me by scandal. It was said in the district that five or six years ago, before she was married, during her father's lifetime, she had been passionately in love with Prince Sergey Ivanitch, who was now beside me in the chaise. The prince had been fond of visiting her father, and used to spend whole days in his billiard room, where he played pyramids indefatigably till his arms and legs ached. Six months before the old man's death he had suddenly given up visiting the Shabelskys. The gossip of the district having no positive facts to go upon explained this abrupt change in their relations in various ways. Some said that the prince, having observed the plain daughter's feeling for him and being unable to reciprocate it, considered it the duty of a gentleman to cut short his visits. Others maintained that old Shabelsky had discovered why his daughter was pining away, and had proposed to the poverty-stricken prince that he should marry her; the prince, imagining in his narrow-minded way that they were trying to buy him together with his title, was indignant, said foolish things, and quarrelled with them. What was true and what was false in this nonsense was difficult to say. But that there was a portion of truth in it was evident, from the fact that the prince always avoided conversation about Nadyezhda Lvovna.
I knew that soon after her father's death Nadyezhda Lvovna had married one Kandurin, a bachelor of law, not wealthy, but adroit, who had come on a visit to the neighbourhood. She married him not from love, but because she was touched by the love of the legal gentleman who, so it was said, had cleverly played the love-sick swain. At the time I am describing, Kandurin was for some reason living in Cairo, and writing thence to his friend, the marshal of the district, "Notes of Travel," while she sat languishing behind lowered blinds, surrounded by idle parasites, and whiled away her dreary days in petty philanthropy.
On the way to the house the prince fell to talking.
"It's three days since I have been at home," he said in a half whisper, with a sidelong glance at the driver. "I am not a child, nor a silly woman, and I have no prejudices, but I can't stand the bailiffs. When I see a bailiff in my house I turn pale and tremble, and even have a twitching in the calves of my legs. Do you know Rogozhin refused to honour my note?"
The prince did not, as a rule, like to complain of his straitened circumstances; where poverty was concerned he was reserved and exceedingly proud and sensitive, and so this announcement surprised me. He stared a long time at the yellow clearing, warmed by the sun, watched a long string of cranes float in the azure sky, and turned facing me.
"And by the sixth of September I must have the money ready for the bank . . . the interest for my estate," he said aloud, by now regardless of the coachman. "And where am I to get it? Altogether, old man, I am in a tight fix! An awfully tight fix!"
The prince examined the cock of his gun, blew on it for some reason, and began looking for the cranes which by now were out of sight.
"Sergey Ivanitch," I asked, after a minute's silence, "imagine if they sell your Shatilovka, what will you do?"
"I? I don't know! Shatilovka can't be saved, that's clear as daylight, but I cannot imagine such a calamity. I can't imagine myself without my daily bread secure. What can I do? I have had hardly any education; I have not tried working yet; for government service it is late to begin, . . . Besides, where could I serve? Where could I be of use? Admitting that no great cleverness is needed for serving in our Zemstvo, for example, yet I suffer from . . . the devil knows what, a sort of faintheartedness, I haven't a ha'p'orth of pluck. If I went into the Service I should always feel I was not in my right place. I am not an idealist; I am not a Utopian; I haven't any special principles; but am simply, I suppose, stupid and thoroughly incompetent, a neurotic and a coward. Altogether not like other people. All other people are like other people, only I seem to be something . . . a poor thing. . . . I met Naryagin last Wednesday --you know him?--drunken, slovenly . . . doesn't pay his debts, stupid" (the prince frowned and tossed his head) . . . "a horrible person! He said to me, staggering: 'I'm being balloted for as a justice of the peace!' Of course, they won't elect him, but, you see, he believes he is fit to be a justice of the peace and considers that position within his capacity. He has boldness and self-confidence. I went to see our investigating magistrate too. The man gets two hundred and fifty roubles a month, and does scarcely anything. All he can do is to stride backwards and forwards for days together in nothing but his underclothes, but, ask him, he is convinced he is doing his work and honourably performing his duty. I couldn't go on like that! I should be ashamed to look the clerk in the face."
At that moment Grontovsky, on a chestnut horse, galloped by us with a flourish. On his left arm the basket bobbed up and down with the mushrooms dancing in it. As he passed us he grinned and waved his hand, as though we were old friends.
"Blockhead!" the prince filtered through his teeth, looking after him. "It's wonderful how disgusting it sometimes is to see satisfied faces. A stupid, animal feeling due to hunger, I expect. . . . What was I saying? Oh, yes, about going into the Service, . . . I should be ashamed to take the salary, and yet, to tell the truth, it is stupid. If one looks at it from a broader point of view, more seriously, I am eating what isn't mine now. Am I not? But why am I not ashamed of that. . . . It is a case of habit, I suppose . . . and not being able to realize one's true position. . . . But that position is most likely awful. . ."
I looked at him, wondering if the prince were showing off. But his face was mild and his eyes were mournfully following the movements of the chestnut horse racing away, as though his happiness were racing away with it.
Apparently he was in that mood of irritation and sadness when women weep quietly for no reason, and men feel a craving to complain of themselves, of life, of God. . . .
When I got out of the chaise at the gates of the house the prince said to me:
"A man once said, wanting to annoy me, that I have the face of a cardsharper. I have noticed that cardsharpers are usually dark. Do you know, it seems that if I really had been born a cardsharper I should have remained a decent person to the day of my death, for I should never have had the boldness to do wrong. I tell you frankly I have had the chance once in my life of getting rich if I had told a lie, a lie to myself and one woman . . . and one other person whom I know would have forgiven me for lying; I should have put into my pocket a million. But I could not. I hadn't the pluck!"
From the gates we had to go to the house through the copse by a long road, level as a ruler, and planted on each side with thick, lopped lilacs. The house looked somewhat heavy, tasteless, like a facade on the stage. It rose clumsily out of a mass of greenery, and caught the eye like a great stone thrown on the velvety turf. At the chief entrance I was met by a fat old footman in a green swallow-tail coat and big silver-rimmed spectacles; without making any announcement, only looking contemptuously at my dusty figure, he showed me in. As I mounted the soft carpeted stairs there was, for some reason, a strong smell of india-rubber. At the top I was enveloped in an atmosphere found only in museums, in signorial mansions and old-fashioned merchant houses; it seemed like the smell of something long past, which had once lived and died and had left its soul in the rooms. I passed through three or four rooms on my way from the entry to the drawing-room. I remember bright yellow, shining floors, lustres wrapped in stiff muslin, narrow, striped rugs which stretched not straight from door to door, as they usually do, but along the walls, so that not venturing to touch the bright floor with my muddy boots I had to describe a rectangle in each room. In the drawing-room, where the footman left me, stood old-fashioned ancestral furniture in white covers, shrouded in twilight. It looked surly and elderly, and, as though out of respect for its repose, not a sound was audible.
Even the clock was silent . . . it seemed as though the Princess Tarakanov had fallen asleep in the golden frame, and the water and the rats were still and motionless through magic. The daylight, afraid of disturbing the universal tranquillity, scarcely pierced through the lowered blinds, and lay on the soft rugs in pale, slumbering streaks.
Three minutes passed and a big, elderly woman in black, with her cheek bandaged up, walked noiselessly into the drawing-room. She bowed to me and pulled up the blinds. At once, enveloped in the bright sunlight, the rats and water in the picture came to life and movement, Princess Tarakanov was awakened, and the old chairs frowned gloomily.
"Her honour will be here in a minute, sir . . ." sighed the old lady, frowning too.
A few more minutes of waiting and I saw Nadyezhda Lvovna. What struck me first of all was that she certainly was ugly, short, scraggy, and round-shouldered. Her thick, chestnut hair was magnificent; her face, pure and with a look of culture in it, was aglow with youth; there was a clear and intelligent expression in her eyes; but the whole charm of her head was lost through the thickness of her lips and the over-acute facial angle.
I mentioned my name, and announced the object of my visit.
"I really don't know what I am to say!" she said, in hesitation, dropping her eyes and smiling. "I don't like to refuse, and at the same time. . . ."
"Do, please," I begged.
Nadyezhda Lvovna looked at me and laughed. I laughed too. She was probably amused by what Grontovsky had so enjoyed—that is, the right of giving or withholding permission; my visit suddenly struck me as queer and strange.
"I don't like to break the long-established rules," said Madame Kandurin. "Shooting has been forbidden on our estate for the last six years. No!" she shook her head resolutely. "Excuse me, I must refuse you. If I allow you I must allow others. I don't like unfairness. Either let all or no one."
"I am sorry!" I sighed. "It's all the sadder because we have come more than ten miles. I am not alone," I added, "Prince Sergey Ivanitch is with me."
I uttered the prince's name with no arriere pensee, not prompted by any special motive or aim; I simply blurted it out without thinking, in the simplicity of my heart. Hearing the familiar name Madame Kandurin started, and bent a prolonged gaze upon me. I noticed her nose turn pale.
"That makes no difference . . ." she said, dropping her eyes.
As I talked to her I stood at the window that looked out on the shrubbery. I could see the whole shrubbery with the avenues and the ponds and the road by which I had come. At the end of the road, beyond the gates, the back of our chaise made a dark patch. Near the gate, with his back to the house, the prince was standing with his legs apart, talking to the lanky Grontovsky.
Madame Kandurin had been standing all the time at the other window. She looked from time to time towards the shrubbery, and from the moment I mentioned the prince's name she did not turn away from the window.
"Excuse me," she said, screwing up her eyes as she looked towards the road and the gate, "but it would be unfair to allow you only to shoot. . . . And, besides, what pleasure is there in shooting birds? What's it for? Are they in your way?"
A solitary life, immured within four walls, with its indoor twilight and heavy smell of decaying furniture, disposes people to sentimentality. Madame Kandurin's idea did her credit, but I could not resist saying:
"If one takes that line one ought to go barefoot. Boots are made out of the leather of slaughtered animals."
"One must distinguish between a necessity and a caprice," Madame Kandurin answered in a toneless voice.
She had by now recognized the prince, and did not take her eyes off his figure. It is hard to describe the delight and the suffering with which her ugly face was radiant! Her eyes were smiling and shining, her lips were quivering and laughing, while her face craned closer to the panes. Keeping hold of a flower-pot with both hands, with bated breath and with one foot slightly lifted, she reminded me of a dog pointing and waiting with passionate impatience for "Fetch it!"
I looked at her and at the prince who could not tell a lie once in his life, and I felt angry and bitter against truth and falsehood, which play such an elemental part in the personal happiness of men.
The prince started suddenly, took aim and fired. A hawk, flying over him, fluttered its wings and flew like an arrow far away.
"He aimed too high!" I said. "And so, Nadyezhda Lvovna," I sighed, moving away from the window, "you will not permit . . ."--Madame Kandurin was silent.
"I have the honour to take my leave," I said, "and I beg you to forgive my disturbing you. . ."
Madame Kandurin would have turned facing me, and had already moved through a quarter of the angle, when she suddenly hid her face behind the hangings, as though she felt tears in her eyes that she wanted to conceal.
"Good-bye. . . . Forgive me . . ." she said softly.
I bowed to her back, and strode away across the bright yellow floors, no longer keeping to the carpet. I was glad to get away from this little domain of gilded boredom and sadness, and I hastened as though anxious to shake off a heavy, fantastic dream with its twilight, its enchanted princess, its lustres. . . .
At the front door a maidservant overtook me and thrust a note into my hand: "Shooting is permitted on showing this. N. K.," I read.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

"The Masque of the Red Death", by Edgr Allan Poe (1842), Full Text

The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, a well preserved former residence of Edgar Allan Poe.


by Edgar Allan Poe
THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."
It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.
It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven --an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue --and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange --the fifth with white --the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet --a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.
It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.
But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not.
He had directed, in great part, the moveable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm --much of what has been since seen in "Hernani." There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these --the dreams --writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away --they have endured but an instant --and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.
But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise --then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.
In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood --and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.
When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.
"Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him --"who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him --that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!"
It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly --for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.
It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple --through the purple to the green --through the green to the orange --through this again to the white --and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry --and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Monday, November 4, 2019

"Novembre" (November) by Giovanni Pascoli, from the collection "Myricae" (1891)

Edvard Munch. A ploughed Field (‘Pløyemark‘), 1916 (private collection).

"The Poems of Giovanni Pascoli: Translated in English, with Original Italian Text," published by LiteraryJoint Press (2017). Also available as Amazon ebook (Free on Kindle Unlimited!)  and also on Kobo.


Gem-like is the air, so bright the sun
that you seek the blooms of the apricot,
and the bitter scent of the hawthorn
lingers in your heart.

But dried-up is the haw, and the scrawny boughs
weave black threads against the serene blue,
empty is the sky, and when stumped the earth
resounds as hollow.

Silence around: only, at the wind's gusts,
you hear afar, from gardens and orchards,
a frail falling of leaves. It is the cold
summer, of the dead.


Gemmea l'aria, il sole così chiaro
che tu ricerchi gli albicocchi in fiore,
e del prunalbo l'odorino amaro
senti nel cuore…

  Ma secco è il pruno, e le stecchite piante
di nere trame segnano il sereno,
vuoto il cielo, e cavo al piè sonante
sembra il terreno.

  Silenzio, intorno: solo, alle ventate,
  odi lontano, da giardini ed orti,
  di foglie un cader fragile. È l'estate
  fredda, dei morti.

From the collection “Myricae” (1891-1900)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

"Love Unrippled" by Anton Chekhiv, from "Letters of Anton Chekhov to His Family and Friends by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov"


June, 1886.

 (A NOVEL) Part I.

It was noon.... The setting sun with its crimson, fiery rays gilded
the tops of pines, oaks, and fir-trees.... It was still; only in the
air the birds were singing, and in the distance a hungry wolf howled
mournfully.... The driver turned round and said:

“More snow has fallen, sir.”


“I say, more snow has fallen.”


Vladimir Sergeitch Tabatchin, who is the hero of our story, looked for
the last time at the sun and expired.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week passed.... Birds and corncrakes hovered, whistling, over a
newly-made grave. The sun was shining. A young widow, bathed in tears,
was standing by, and in her grief sopping her whole handkerchief....

September 21, 1886.

... It is not much fun to be a great writer. To begin with, it’s a dreary
life. Work from morning till night and not much to show for it. Money is as
scarce as cats’ tears. I don’t know how it is with Zola and Shtchedrin, but
in my flat it is cold and smoky.... They give me cigarettes, as before, on
holidays only. Impossible cigarettes! Hard, damp, sausage-like. Before I
begin to smoke I light the lamp, dry the cigarette over it, and only then I
begin on it; the lamp smokes, the cigarette splutters and turns brown, I
burn my fingers ... it is enough to make one shoot oneself!

... I am more or less ill, and am gradually turning into a dried

... I go about as festive as though it were my birthday, but to judge from
the critical glances of the lady cashier at the _Budilnik_, I am not
dressed in the height of fashion, and my clothes are not brand-new. I go in
buses, not in cabs.

But being a writer has its good points. In the first place, my book, I
hear, is going rather well; secondly, in October I shall have money;
thirdly, I am beginning to reap laurels: at the refreshment bars people
point at me with their fingers, they pay me little attentions and treat me
to sandwiches. Korsh caught me in his theatre and straight away presented
me with a free pass.... My medical colleagues sigh when they meet me,
begin to talk of literature and assure me that they are sick of medicine.
And so on....

September 29.

... Life is grey, there are no happy people to be seen.... Life is a nasty
business for everyone. When I am serious I begin to think that people who
have an aversion for death are illogical. So far as I understand the order
of things, life consists of nothing but horrors, squabbles, and
trivialities mixed together or alternating!

December 3.

This morning an individual sent by Prince Urusov turned up and asked me for
a short story for a sporting magazine edited by the said Prince. I refused,
of course, as I now refuse all who come with supplications to the foot of
my pedestal. In Russia there are now two unattainable heights: Mount
Elborus and myself.

The Prince’s envoy was deeply disappointed by my refusal, nearly died of
grief, and finally begged me to recommend him some writers who are versed
in sport. I thought a little, and very opportunely remembered a lady writer
who dreams of glory and has for the last year been ill with envy of my
literary fame. In short, I gave him your address.... You might write a
story “The Wounded Doe”--you remember, how the huntsmen wound a doe; she
looks at them with human eyes, and no one can bring himself to kill her.
It’s not a bad subject, but dangerous because it is difficult to avoid
sentimentality--you must write it like a report, without pathetic phrases,
and begin like this: “On such and such a date the huntsmen in the Daraganov
forest wounded a young doe....” And if you drop a tear you will strip the
subject of its severity and of everything worth attention in it.

December 13.

... With your permission I steal out of your last two letters to my sister
two descriptions of nature for my stories. It is curious that you have
quite a masculine way of writing. In every line (except when dealing with
children) you are a man! This, of course, ought to flatter your vanity, for
speaking generally, men are a thousand times better than women, and
superior to them.

In Petersburg I was resting--i.e., for days together I was rushing about
town paying calls and listening to compliments which my soul abhors. Alas
and alack! In Petersburg I am becoming fashionable like Nana. While
Korolenko, who is serious, is hardly known to the editors, my twaddle is
being read by all Petersburg. Even the senator G. reads me.... It is
gratifying, but my literary feeling is wounded. I feel ashamed of the
public which runs after lap-dogs simply because it fails to notice
elephants, and I am deeply convinced that not a soul will know me when I
begin to work in earnest.



... You have often complained to me that people “don’t understand you”!
Goethe and Newton did not complain of that.... Only Christ complained of
it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself.... People
understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is
not their fault.

I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you
with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I
value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you,
I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of
softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you
have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts;
you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil.... You
have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This
talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two
millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a
tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things
are forgiven.

You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and
your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it.
That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but _veritas
magis amicitiae...._ You see, life has its conditions. In order to
feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with
them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you
into such a circle, you belong to it, but ... you are drawn away from
it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers _vis-a-vis._

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind,
gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row
because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with
anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say
“nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat
and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.

2. They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for
what the eye does not see.... They sit up at night in order to help P....,
to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.

3. They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.

4. They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in
small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower
position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the
street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler
comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited
confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more
often keep silent than talk.

5. They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play
on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much
of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become
second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar,
stale, false....

6. They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as
knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator’s Note:
Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray
spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns.... If they do a
pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred
roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not
admitted.... The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd,
as far as possible from advertisement.... Even Krylov has said that an
empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.

7. If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women,
wine, vanity.... They are proud of their talent.... Besides, they are

8. They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to
sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad
air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil
stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual
instinct.... What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow ... They do not
ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want
especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the
capacity for motherhood.... They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day
and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they
are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion.... For they want
_mens sana in corpore sano._

And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured
and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to
have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust.” ...

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study,
will.... Every hour is precious for it.... Come to us, smash the vodka
bottle, lie down and read.... Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not

You must drop your vanity, you are not a child ... you will soon be thirty.
It is time!

I expect you.... We all expect you.


Monday, October 7, 2019

"Il bove" (The Ox) by Giovanni Pascoli, from the collection "Myricae" (1891)

Cart with Black Ox, or The Ox-Cart (1884) by Vincent van Gogh

The Ox

Through vague haze, at the thin river
looks the ox, with big eyes: in the pasture
that recedes, to an ever-farther sea
run the waters of a cerulean river;

they magnify in his eyes, in the dust of
the light, the willow and the alder;
on the grass a herd of sheep passes by little by little
and it seems the herd of the ancient God:

wide wings conjure up rapacious sketches
in the air; silent chimeras float,
similar to clouds, in the deep heavens;

the immense sun behind the mountains
sets, tremendously high: they already grow,  black,
the greater shadows of greater worlds.

Il Bove

Al rio sottile, di tra vaghe brume,
guarda il bove, coi grandi occhi: nel piano
che fugge, a un mare sempre più lontano
migrano l’acque d’un ceruleo fiume;

ingigantisce agli occhi suoi, nel lume
pulverulento, il salice e l’ontano;
svaria su l’erbe un gregge a mano a mano,
e par la mandra dell’antico nume:

ampie ali aprono imagini grifagne
nell’aria; vanno tacite chimere,
simili a nubi, per il ciel profondo;

il sole immenso, dietro le montagne
cala, altissime: crescono già, nere,
l’ombre più grandi d’un più grande mondo.

From the collection “Myricae” (1891-1900)